College Basketball Mid-Major Report: Breaking Down Fresno State, St. Bonaventure & Richmond
Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images. Pictured: Osun Osunniyi (St. Bonaventure)
Third Edition of 2021-22 Mid-Major Report
One of the best parts about March Madness is the Cinderella stories that win over the hearts of America and destroy everyone’s brackets.
A prime example is Loyola Chicago, which had odds of 250-1 to win the NCAA Tournament in 2018 when it reached the Final Four.
With conference play just beginning, it’s a good time to evaluate some potential mid-major programs that could be next in line to try on the glass slipper.
|Current Overall Record||10-4|
|Current ESPN Bracketology Seed||N/A|
Fresno State made its money beating up on bad teams and losing to the top of the Mountain West last season. The group only won one game in its eight matchups against Colorado State, Boise State, Utah State and San Diego State.
The Bulldogs have followed a similar pattern this season, finding nine of their victories over opponents that rank outside the KenPom top 100. The group opened conference play with a 10-point defeat against Boise State.
Justin Hutson’s team is built around seven-foot center Orlando Robinson. The big man has averaged 19 points and eight rebounds per game and he’s scored double digits in all but one game this season. However, the supporting cast surrounding Robinson has been less than efficient.
The Bulldogs rank 352nd in terms of tempo, which has led them to the third-best scoring defense, allowing less than 56 points per game.
It’s tough to see the Bulldogs making a deep run come Big Dance time, as they will likely need to win the Mountain West Tournament to get a ticket.
Until Fresno State proves it can beat one of the big dogs in the MWC, it is best to stay away from any futures that involve it.
|Current Overall Record||8-3|
|Current ESPN Bracketology Seed||First Four Out|
St. Bonaventure won both the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament titles last season while making the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time. That run was short lived, as the Bonnies were bounced in the first round by LSU.
The group has its eyes set on a longer run this season, and returning all five senior starters certainly helps its chances. The Bonnies own a well-balanced offense that has every starter averaging double digits in scoring.
Point guard Kyle Lofton is a true shotmaker, who is putting up 15 points per game.
6-foot-10 Osun Osunniyi is a monster in the paint, who is averaging 10 points and seven rebounds per game. Osunniyi is a rim protector, as he has totaled 33 blocks in his 11 games this season.
The group has struggled early in this new campaign — only covering the spread three times — mainly because the defense hasn’t been quite the same as last year. The Bonnies are allowing 69 points per contest after owning the seventh-best scoring defense last season.
The lack of depth is a bit concerning, but we saw the Bonnies dominate late in the season last year. With all the key pieces returning, I anticipate a similar effort this year.
After dropping two games in a row to top-25 opponents in Connecticut and Virginia Tech, this may be a good time to buy low on St. Bonaventure. The odds of +140 to win the Atlantic 10 are a bit low for me to buy into, but keep an eye on the Bonnies during the back half of the season.
|Current Overall Record||9-6|
|Current ESPN Bracketology Seed||N/A|
The Richmond Spiders were close to dancing in March last season before a loss to Duquesne in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament crushed their chances.
Now, the group returns most of its production — with the exception being Blake Francis.
Richmond’s forwards Tyler Burton and Grant Golden are the strength of the starting lineup. The two have combined to average 35 points and nearly 14 rebounds per outing. The duo can light it up from outside, as they are hitting over 42% from 3-point range.
5-foot-9 point guard Jacob Gilyard is lightning quick and has 94 assists in his 15 games this season.
Richmond has struggled so far this year, starting the season 3-4 before beating up on six teams in a row that rank outside the top 100. Since then, the group has dropped both of its Atlantic 10 games to Saint Joseph’s and Saint Louis.
This is the final run for this experienced group that starts three graduate students.
Richmond has struggled on the defensive end of the floor, ranking outside the top 200 in defending both 2 and 3-point shot attempts. The group has allowed over 70 points per game, and will need to fix that before the conference tournament rolls around.
There is some time for Richmond to put the pieces together, and buying low at +1000 to win the Atlantic 10 isn’t a bad look.
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