ST. BONAVENTURE — In 13 days, it will again, finally, hopefully, be about basketball.
That’s when the St. Bonaventure men’s hoops team is scheduled to start official practices for the 2020-21 season, as recently mandated by the NCAA.
Until then, it continues to be about the numbers, dates and headaches that have come with trying to figure out how to navigate a season under a far narrower set of parameters in the middle of a global pandemic.
Two weeks ago, the NCAA set in motion the initial gears for the coming campaign by announcing a start date of Nov. 25. That began the clock on a season countdown that, until then, nobody was certain would come.
At the moment, what we have are those figures. Bona, per this year’s rules, can play up to 27 games, including a multi-team event (speaking of: CBS’ Jon Rothstein reported Wednesday that in lieu of the abandoned Paradise Jam, Bona will take part in an early-season “MTE” at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut). It can open practice on Oct. 14 and, as a result of things being pushed back, the allotment for conditioning/individual instruction between Sept. 21 and Oct. 13 has been extended to 12 hours per week.
That means that, as of today, practice begins in 13 days and the season commences in 55 days.
In the meantime, here’s a different kind of countdown, a 10-1 list involving Bona facts and figures, to help hold you over:
10 — Dominick Welch finished tied for 10th in the league in rebounding during Atlantic 10 play last season (7.8 per game), good for fourth-best among guards, two of whom have graduated. The 6-foot-5 senior led the Bonnies in double-doubles (6) and was their leading rebounder a team-best 12 times.
9 — Bona has taken nine-straight over Fordham dating back to 2014, its longest current win streak against any A-10 foe. It’s faring nearly as well against a host of others, though, having won eight-straight over UMass, nine of 10 against George Mason, five of six over George Washington and, most impressively, 12 of 13 versus Saint Joe’s.
8 — Bona returns eight players from last year’s 19-win team, including its entire starting five, top six scorers and Miami (Ohio) transfer Jalen Adaway, who was able to practice in his year-off season. Incredibly, it now also boasts an eight-player junior class — five returnees from last year, plus Adaway and juco transfers Eddie Creal and Jalen Shaw.
7 — On Feb. 9, 2019, Bona hit the low point under its current core, suffering a 30-point home loss to VCU to drop to 9-14 overall. Since then, it’s lost just seven times with its “Big 3” of Welch, Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi in the lineup, compared to 27 victories, with two top-five finishes and a trip to the 2019 A-10 championship game.
6 — Schmidt now sits sixth all-time in Atlantic 10 coaching victories with 229, having surpassed his buddy John Giannini (212 wins) for that spot last season. The 14th-year boss is No. 2 among current coaches, behind Richmond’s Chris Mooney (274), and also trails only John Chaney (516), Phil Martelli (444), Gale Catlett (333) and former Bona coach Jim Baron (315) on the all-time list.
5 — The Bonnies have finished fifth or better in the Atlantic 10 standings in five-straight seasons, easily their best run since joining the league in 1979. Included in that is their three-way tie for first in 2016, a second-place finish in 2018 and another top-four ‘bye’ campaign in 2019.
4 — A year ago, Bona had one of the youngest rosters in the nation, with just one scholarship junior and senior, making its on-court success that much more impressive. In the end, it finished fourth in the country in terms of percentage of points from underclassmen (92 percent), behind only UNC-Asheville (97), Memphis (96) and USC-Upstate (94).
3 — Proof the Bonnies have, indeed, become a league heavyweight: they’ve won 72 A-10 games since the 2014-15 season, tied for third-most in the conference with Rhode Island and trailing only VCU (73) and Dayton (81). Included in that are six-straight seasons of 10-plus wins, the longest such stretch in the conference.
2 — Bona is one of just three teams (alongside Richmond and Saint Louis) that will return at least two all-conference selections, with Lofton (First Team) and Osunniyi (Third Team) earning the distinction as sophomores. Lofton paced the league in assists while the latter was the only A-10 player to finish fifth-or-better in rebounding, blocks and field goal percentage.
1 — Continuing the tradition of Iron Men guards under Schmidt, Lofton finished No. 1 nationally in minutes played last year at 38.2 per game. Indeed, the Hillside, N.J., native not only established himself as one one of the better point guards in the country, also finishing No. 18 nationally in assists, but almost never left the floor while doing so.
(J.P. Butler, Bradford Publishing Company group sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)