Two quality mid-majors face off in the Legends of Basketball Showcase in Akron and St. Bonaventure. Which team has the edge in this matchup?
TV schedule: Saturday, December 30th, 4:00 pm ET (approx). ESPN+
Arena: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio
The Dayton Flyers have looked like the favorites to win the Atlantic 10 this season but a few contenders have emerged through the non-conference. One of them is St. Bonaventure (8-3), who has won 6 of the last 7 games, including a 90-64 blowout win over Binghamton.
The Bonnies have seven players averaging at least 6.7 ppg and have gotten great production from the team's two newcomers. Bryant transfer Charles Pride (12.0 ppg and 6.3 rpg) and leading scorer Mika Adams-Woods (15.2 ppg and 4.4 apg) have been even better than expected, while Chad Venning and Moses Flowers remain double-digit contributors.
St. Bonaventure has been a highly efficient offense, ranking in the top 50 from three-point range and top 20 from the FT line, though they don't shoot a ton there. Coach Mark Schimidt's defense remains stout and if it wasn't for an early loss to Canisius, they'd have a real at-large case.
But to avoid another setback, they must beat Akron (8-3). The Zips have won four straight games, including a 94-90 win over Gardner-Webb in a shootout. Butler transfer Ali Ali had a game-high 29 pts but the star was Enrique Freeman, who produced 20 pts and 20 rebs. Freeman is averaging 18.0 ppg on the season and a nation-leading 13.5 ppg. And with Ali eligible for the rest of the season, the Zips have a real shot at winning the MAC.
St. Bonaventure is going to have to find a way to slow down Freeman both in the paint and on the boards. Forward Yann Farrell will get the main matchup and Barry Evans, who has been a nice spark off the bench so far, will also be tasked with Freeman.
This is going to be a highly entertaining matchup and maybe the best out of the Legends of Basketball Showcase. Unless Ali can go off again, I like the depth of the Bonnies more to squeak out a win.
Prediction: St. Bonaventure 75, Akron 74