Some thoughts on the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team playing UConn and the Bills’ playoff chances ... albeit remote.
A COUPLE of years ago, Bona women’s coach Jim Crowley was speaking to my sports writing class at SBU, as he does every semester.
During the question-and-answer segment, one of the students asked him if he would ever want his team to play Connecticut.
Crowley’s answer was emphatic ... no, he wouldn’t, due to the potential emotional fallout from being thrashed by the country’s No. 1 team.
I reminded him of that statement last week, just before his team headed for Connecticut to play Monmouth and Boston U. in Storrs and UConn at Hartford as part of the Hall of Fame Challenge.
Crowley managed a smile, rolled his eyes and admitted that was the price for getting four games — including next Sunday’s meeting with Marist (2-3) at Springfield, Mass. — and a 31-game regular-season.
However, the schedule broke perfectly for Crowley’s crew, playing Connecticut last of the first three Challenge games after beating Monmouth (61-55) and BU (65-64).
He surely knew what was coming. The Bonnies’ men’s team would have a much better chance against No. 1 Michigan State than the women against the country’s premier program.
The Huskies beat Boston U. by 58 and Monmouth by 54. It figured Bona, which had beaten both, albeit close, would lose by fewer ... and SBU did. But Sunday’s 88-39 defeat was hardly a moral victory ... not losing by 49.
Still, Crowley is a realist.
It’s not a stretch to suggest that not a single Bona player could make UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s 11-woman roster.
And, against the three overmatched Challenge foes, he was limited in how much he could substitute, being down two injured front-court players.
What Crowley knows, though, is this ... at 6-2, his team has the absolute best record possible, a quarter of the way into this season.
The 70-47 defeat at North Carolina St. in the opener and the loss to UConn were preordained.
And yeah, four of those six victories were by a half-dozen points or fewer, but it beats the alternative. Next up are Marist on a neutral court, plus Canisius (3-2) and Binghamton (0-4) on the road ... all winnable games.
At very least, come New Year’s Day at Duquesne and the start of the Atlantic 10 season, the 15-game non-conference schedule should have the Bonnies ready for it.
WELL, WITH the bye weeks used up, and five games to play, the Bills, 4-7, remain mathematically alive for the AFC’s sixth, and final, playoff spot.
Indeed, Buffalo’s lone hope is to earn the conference’s second wild-card berth.
However, with only Houston and Jacksonville eliminated, the Bills are one of nine teams bidding for that final post-season opportunity.
Right now, they’re only one game behind Tennessee (5-6), the team which currently holds that spot. And how about the idea that if the Titans win out, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, guard Andy Levitre and safety George Wilson, all with Buffalo last year, would make the playoffs for the first time in their combined 21 seasons?
Here’s the problem for the Bills.
Tennessee is merely one of six 5-6 teams in the AFC, along with the Jets, Miami, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and San Diego.
Even 4-7 Cleveland and Oakland, along with Buffalo, are still alive.
Asking the Bills to climb over eight teams to snatch that last playoff berth is a hefty request, even with a seemingly soft schedule.
To close out the season, Buffalo “hosts” the Falcons (2-7) in Toronto, visits Tampa Bay (3-8) and Jacksonville (2-9), entertains Miami and finishes at New England (8-3).
But that schedule is only beneficial if it’s taken advantage of.
Atlanta appears to have quit, however, the Buccaneers and Jaguars aren’t the patsies they appeared to be when they were both 0-8. Tampa Bay has now won three straight and Jacksonville has prevailed in two of the past three.
Bills fans love to have the Dolphins at “The Ralph” in December while the finale will totally depend on whether the Patriots need to win the game.
In short, the schedule isn’t as soft as it appeared a month ago.
Thus, Buffalo’s odds remain long ... but at least there still are some.
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)