Bona to play Virginia Tech in HOF shootout | Sports activities

ST. BONAVENTURE – The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team has mostly done a commendable job of strengthening its non-conference schedule in years it expects to compete for the NCAA Tournament.

It assembled a solid slate in both 2011-12 and 2017-18, years that ended with an Atlantic 10 Tournament title and an NCAA at-large berth. It had nearly completed another last year before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped away that progress and essentially forced it to start over.

This, however, after a pair of recent additions, might be its best early-season schedule to date under coach Mark Schmidt.

Bona, on Thursday, officially added another big-ticket matchup to its 2021-22 out-of-conference slate – a contest against Virginia Tech on Friday, Dec. 17 in the Basketball Hall of Fame Shootout at the Charlotte Spectrum Center. A day earlier, CBS’s Jon Rothstein reported that Bona and Northern Iowa will begin a home-and-home series this season in the Reilly Center.

And that’s in addition to the Bonnies’ presence in the 2021 Charleston Classic, an eight-team event that will include, among others, Marquette, Ole Miss, Clemson, Temple and West Virginia.

BONA’S GAME against Virginia Tech will be part of a special neutral floor quadruple-header at the home of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. Also on the docket are contests between N.C. State and Richmond, Charlotte and Wake Forest and East Carolina and Liberty. It’s the second time in three years that Schmidt’s team will compete in a Hall of Fame-sponsored event after Bona memorably beat Rutgers, 80-74, in Toronto’s ScotiaBank Arena in the 2019 James Naismith Classic.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to play Virginia Tech in Charlotte this December,” Schmidt said in a statement. “This game gives us another great challenge on our non-conference schedule against an ACC team that is on the rise and is extremely well-coached.

“Being in Charlotte and an area that is filled with St. Bonaventure alumni, we look forward to playing in an arena full of Bonnies colors. We know Bona Nation will be on full display and showing their Bonnies pride.”

The Virginia Tech contest gives Bona another needed game against a Power 5 opponent and marks a matchup of teams that were good last season … and could be even better next winter.

BONA WENT 16-5 en route to both an A-10 regular season and tournament title, finished just outside the final Associated Press Top 25 poll, advanced to the NCAA Tournament and boasted the league’s Coach of the Year in Schmidt. The Hokies, meanwhile, went 15-7 (9-4 league), checked in at No. 25 in the final AP poll, made the Big Dance and also touted its league’s COY (Mike Young).

It also has the potential to be an early-season Top 25 showdown, as both were ranked in ESPN’s “way too early” Top 25 for next season – Bona, with all five starters back, at No. 22, and Virginia Tech at No. 16.

It’ll be the first meeting between the former A-10 foes (VT had a short-lived stint in the league from 1996-00) since playing a de facto home-and-home a decade ago. Bona took the Hokies to overtime before falling, 76-68, in Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena in December 2010 while VT topped the Bonnies, 73-64, in Blacksburg, Va., the following season.

“We look forward to competing in the Hall of Fame Shootout in December,” Young said. “We certainly have a challenging matchup with the reigning A-10 champion, and I have the utmost respect for Coach Schmidt and the job he’s done up there in New York.”

ENTERING the first summer school session (for which all but two scholarship players are reportedly present), Bona’s non-league slate has begun to take shape.

If the home-and-home cycle with its annual opponents holds after a year off, Bona would take on Siena, Buffalo and Canisius at home and Niagara on the road. Additionally, it would get a return trip from Middle Tennessee, host Northern Iowa and get three games in the Charleston Classic, plus the neutral-site contest with VT.

That would leave up to three more dates to fill – perhaps a road contest in a home-and-home series, an RC game against a low-major and another potential “buy” game versus a Power 5 foe.

Northern Iowa, which went 10-15 last season, is expected to be one of the top teams in the Missouri Valley Conference next winter after welcoming back 6-foot-4 wing A.J. Green (22.3 points), who played just three games in 2020-21 due to a hip injury.

Bona will reportedly make the return trip to Cedar Falls, Iowa, in 2022-23.

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