By Robbie Lastella
The #11 FAU Owls will have 2 matchups this week. First on Wednesday, at home against FIU and then back to New York, playing Saturday at St Bonaventure.
These 2 matchups are at an interesting point in the early season for FAU, as both could be considered trap games. The Owls are looking to bounce back following a tough defeat at MSG to a good Illinois team. FIU, a crosstown “rival” could be looking to play spoiler in paradise, while St.Bonaventure has been a very capable non power 5 this season and will be looking to add a Q1 win to their resume.
Taking a look at FIU’s record it can be easy to overlook them, coming in at 3-7- however the Panthers have played some tough competition and have had some close losses. This FIU team is a scrappy and defensive minded team. They force a turnover percentage of 27.1%- good for second in the nation and a steal percentage of 18%, best in the nation according to Ken Pom.
Where the team could struggle defensively Vs FAU is a lack of height- Seth Pickney is their only player above 6’10 and he has played less than 40% of minutes so far this season. If the big man doesn’t step up or the Panthers are unable to cue up a defensive game plan to address their lack of height- big games could be in store for Vlad Goldin and Giancarlo Rosado.
The team is led by Arturo Dean offensively and defensively as he leads the team in Scoring, Rebounding, and assists- while also having a 10 steal performance against FGCU on his resume early in the season. Dashon Gittens has scored in double figures every game for the panthers, but outside of those two they have been unable to find offensive consistency and it has cost them early in the season.
The Panthers aren’t going to out-shoot you, charting a 3 point percentage under 30% and have struggled from the line shooting 65.2 % early on. If the Owls offense is clicking, that could lead to a tough matchup for FIU.
It’s going to be a tough battle for FIU, between the size disadvantage and the lack of offense- this could be a game where FAU runs away early and looks to bounce back strongly following a tough defeat to Illinois. FIU could manage to stay in the game with a strong defensive effort but it will not be easy. I expect the Owls to win and bounce back in preparation for a tough 3 game road stretch.
St.Bonaventure, a respected non power 5 program, has been successful so far again this season- coming in with a record of 7-2. That record includes a win over power 5 Oklahoma St. and the two losses are a neutral site loss to Auburn and a 3 point home loss in the Franciscan Cup to rival Siena. Their strong season has been highlighted by strong performances on both ends of the court, competing strongly both offensively and defensively.
The Bonnies have been an offensive machine early on in the season, shooting well and holding the 2nd best offensive steal percentage in the nation, only turning it over on 5.7% of possessions. They are solid from the line, shooting as a team 77% and having 3 players shooting over 80%. St.Bonaventure also tends to grind the shot clock, finding the best possible shot every possession- which slows down the game and can limit offensive opportunities for their opponents. The team is led offensively by Chad Venning and Mika Adams-Woods, however it can be a team effort a lot of time for the bonnies with 7 players averaging at least 6 points per game.
Defensively for the Bonnies, they are overall middle of the pack stats wise, but have only given up 70 points twice this season- both in losses. St.Bonaventure lacks height, having no players over 7 feet tall and their big man Noel Brown plays less than 40% of minutes. Goldin and Rosado could be in store for big games once again for FAU.
The Bonnies don’t force teams off of the arc, which could be dangerous against FAU, if the Owls are shooting well. What makes them solid defensively is that they are successful at forcing teams to shoot difficult shots, and it shows as teams are shooting just over 30% from 3 against them.
This is going to be a battle of two well coached teams who both can compete with each other on the offensive and defensive ends of the court. Where FAU has the advantage is their overall depth and ability to shoot and once again height. If FAU is shooting how they have in most games this season and Vlad is able to win the paint battle- FAU should be able to handle the Bonnies. On the road against a hungry non power 5 program however, it will not be an easy victory by any stretch- and look for St.Bonaventure to bring their A game against the Owls.
This is an extremely important game preparation wise for FAU as it proceeds their matchup with Arizona- but the Owls can’t look forward too much as this game is a challenge on its own. I expect this to be a close game, but one the Owls can win and use as an important building block as the season develops.