Behind the Wolfpack: Bonnies finally earn respect
[Photo courtesy of gobonnies.com]
By Ryan Lazo, Co-Editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13
The respect has finally trickled down to Olean, N.Y.
Snubbed the past two weeks by the Associated Press, St. Bonaventure has cracked the Top 25 for the first time in program history.
It’s unfortunate it has taken this long for the voters to be aware of the magical season that the Bonnies (22-2, 9-0) are in the midst of.
For some it’s hard to fathom: the smallest school in the Atlantic 10 Conference among the Top 25, undefeated in conference play.
However, spend only one practice around this program, and it’s easy to see that the success starts with the Bonnies coach.
Jim Crowley has instilled an attitude in the program, one that has prompted a complete 180 degree turnaround. Starting his career with a 57-119 record, Crowley has since gone 119-57 with three-straight 20-win seasons, culminating in three WNIT berths.
Many point to Crowley reading Moneyball as the reason this program turned around. But it can even be traced back to a blowout loss to Bowling Green during the 2006-07 season.
“In practice the next day, the team was joking around,” Crowley said last season. “I told them that this is not the way we’re going to play. We can’t go into a game expecting to lose.”
Since the impromptu speech, the Bonnies have won 119 games, flip flopping their coach’s record. Yet, no one has taken notice.
The AP is right to have the Bonnies among the Top 25, but it should have been done weeks ago.
The numbers are there for everyone to see.
St. Bonaventure is the best road team in the country with a 10-0 record. Only two other teams are unbeaten on the road.
The Bonnies are 10-2 versus top-100 RPI teams, giving them more wins than any teams ranked No. 13-25 in the AP Top 25.
They also have only two losses. They came against Delaware, #6 in the RPI and Villanova, #15. In both games, the Bonnies were missing a starter due to injury.
Yet the perception is they are not among the elite.
“People still think we are a scrappy team,” Crowley said after a victory over George Washington. “No, we’re not a scrappy team, we’re a good team.”
These Bonnies have weapons everywhere you look.
Senior guard Jessica Jenkins, averaging 17.9 points per game, can shoot over a skyscraper if she had to.
Senior Megan Van Tantenhove averages 12.9 points per game, giving the Bonnies an inside presence that frees up shooters.
Then there’s sophomore Doris Ortega who is the best off-the-bounce player the Bonnies have.
Each player knows her role and plays it to the best of her ability.
It’s an attitude, a winning one, that finally has the Bonnies earning the respect they deserve.