The Bonnies were merely an afterthought when the Atlantic 10 tournament started. Now, they've secured the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
St. Bonaventure beat Xavier 67-56 to secure the Atlantic 10's automatic bid to the Dance. Andrew Nicholson scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, headlining a great day for the Bonnies.
With the Bonnies' victory, the bubble is expected to shrink because Bonaventure added another team to the Dance. Xavier is expected to steal an at-large bid, so teams like Drexel, Seton Hall and Washington have more to stress about in the hours leading up to the Selection Show.
Bonaventure made 22 of 25 free throws, while Xavier made just 14 of 19. The Bonnies out-rebounded the Musketeers 37 to 25, and second-chance points were huge for Bonaventure.
Once the Bonnies started knocking down shots and forcing turnovers early, they were able to build a big lead. The Bonnies drew fouls and kept possessions going with 12 offensive rebounds, and although Xavier came back in the second half, the Bonnies were able to get enough buckets down low to hold off the pesky Musketeers.
Now, for the first time since 2000, Bonaventure is in the Dance. They could do damage, as their three-point shooting was superb and their defense was great in the A-10 title game.
Bubble teams St. Joseph's and UMass were eliminated by the Bonnies, then Xavier was defeated. Bonaventure has won seven of their last eight games, and when they get hot they're dangerous.
Nicholson, the Conference Player of the Year, dominated the paint, scoring and rebounding at will. He also blocked eight shots, a season-high.
Demetrius Conger is a great shooter and rebounder. His 22 points and 10 rebounds helped Bonaventure beat UMass in the semis, and he can present a great threat in the Dance.
There's no doubt that the Bonnies have talent. If they use their talent wisely, they can go far in the Dance and become the VCU of 2012.
With Nicholson, Conger and a great supporting cast full of rebounders, scorers and defensive standouts, there's no reason to think the Bonnies can't go far. They know how to control a game, draw fouls and beat good teams.
So watch out, college basketball.
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