ST. BONAVENTURE -- By this point, ordinarily, things are relatively straightforward.
The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team is generally playing for, or looking to solidify, a top-four seed and double bye at the Atlantic 10 Tournament. In some years (this being one of them), it’s hoping to strengthen its resume for an at-large position in the NCAA Tournament.
Quite often, it’s this time of year in which Bona is playing its best basketball of the season.
But this, of course, is anything but an ordinary season.
In an already topsy-turvy campaign, the league on Thursday, and then again on Friday, welcomed even more upheaval, bringing the unpredictable nature of 2020-21 to a fever pitch. First, it made the announcement that it was moving the bulk of the conference tournament up a week, from March 3-6, but keeping the championship date of March 14 and moving that contest to Dayton. Then, it used that opportunity to essentially reset the league-wide schedule down the stretch.
And now, for a program like Bona, especially, chaos again takes hold.
THE BONNIES are scheduled to play four games over the next eight or nine days -- home-and-home with Davidson (in the Reilly Center on Sunday; in North Carolina Wednesday) and home against both George Washington (Friday) and Dayton (next Sunday or Monday).
With the final week of the regular season being eliminated, Bona did lose an opportunity for perhaps another game or two. But it’s understanding of why the A-10 made the decision to move up the league’s marquee event.
“I think what they’re doing is smart,” coach Mark Schmidt said in a Zoom call Friday. “I don’t know all the details, but I know that they’re trying to move it up so that some team that (potentially) gets the virus, there’s time for them to get through it. I think that’s smart.”
He added: “It will be interesting what you do (in the week between the semifinals and championship). If we’re lucky to be in the final game, what do you do for that week to get ready for the game?
“This year has been challenging and unique. And this is another situation that, as a coach, it’s the first time, so it will be interesting how we approach it. And hopefully we have that opportunity.”
YES, the league wanted to allow for more wiggle room to complete the tournament -- and for its potential NCAA teams to be cleared -- in the event of a COVID-related pause. It moved the title game to Dayton so that the winner and automatic qualifier can then make the short trek to Indianapolis, where the entire NCAA Tournament is being held.
But many questions remain.
Chief, perhaps, among them: Would it be possible for teams that are eliminated in the early rounds of the A-10 Tournament to schedule a “regular season” league game in that March 6-14 window?
Schmidt is dubious of that possibility.
“I don’t know,” he repeated a couple of times. “If you’re concerned about the virus and that’s why you moved the tournament up, I guess one of the reasons why you wouldn’t play (again) is the concern of the virus.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen that week off, if we can play additional games. I think it would be really hard to try to schedule those. And it would come down to the Atlantic 10 because everybody would want a home game, so there would be, I think, a lot of disagreements.”
He reiterated that, for whatever’s lost in that first week of March, moving up the tournament was the right move.
“I think they’re doing what they feel is best for student-athlete welfare,” he said. “Maybe other reasons will come out, but right now, it’s the whole pandemic and making sure kids are safe, and making sure that if some team, some player (gets it), that we can get through the contact tracing and those teams that make the NCAA Tournament are allowed to play, which is a smart move.”
--- Schmidt also addressed the fact that his name has been linked by several outlets to the Boston College opening. He said he hasn’t paid any attention to those reports and that he’s treated it like his team would any perceived distraction: by “blocking it out.”
“Yeah, I don’t worry about that stuff,” he said. “My concentration is on Davidson, all that stuff … is just noise. I tell our team all the time, you gotta block out the noise; its the same thing with the coaching. You block out the noise, you just concentrate on the next opponent and that’s what we’re doing.”