With an overall record of 13-4, and more importantly, a perfect conference record of 6-0, some could say the Bryant Bulldogs have already exceeded expectations in Tim O’Shea’s fifth season. When it’s all said and done, Bryant’s turnaround will most likely be the best story and improvement of the college basketball season and there still are 12 regular season games to be played.
Since beating Robert Morris in Moon Township in their NEC opener and then dominating the suddenly struggling Wagner Seahawks last week, local fans have become fully cognizant of Bryant’s newfound improvement. But now it seems the national media is beginning to catch on too.
Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports The Dagger blog wrote an excellent piece illustrating the sudden rise of Bryant Bulldogs basketball. In his piece, Jeff talks with O’Shea and Frankie Dobbs on the struggles of transitioning a Division II team into a Division I club capable of beating mid-major power Lehigh and regional ACC foe Boston College. The article is definitely worth your attention.
Looking ahead, Bryant has an interesting week of basketball in front of them. Tonight, they take on the somewhat surprising 4-2 Pioneers, who are most likely without the services of senior forward Justin Swidowski for the game. Both teams have a short bench, but for different reasons. Bryant’s bench is thin thanks to the difficultly O’Shea had in recruiting D-I ready players to a program in transition. Sacred Heart’s depth has seriously eroded because of season ending injuries to Chris Evans and Evan Kelley, which by now is common knowledge. Foul trouble could undoubtedly swing the outcome of the game.
On Saturday, Bryant will host the two-time defending champion LIU Blackbirds, of course without their reigning POY Julian Boyd. Nonetheless, the atmosphere will probably be the most electric the Smithfield, RI gym has ever been, even more so if Bryant continues their undefeated NEC run after tonight. If you’re ready for an up-and-down offense battle, then I suggest you tune in!
With Bryant in unchartered territory now, every game must feel like a new challenge as the Bulldogs must adapt to going from a hapless and significant underdog to league favorite. How the team adjusts and how O’Shea keeps his players fresh – Dobbs, Dyami Starks, Alex Francis, and Corey Maynard are all averaging more than 31 minutes per game – throughout the season could ultimately decide if Bryant can crack the NCAA tournament in only its fifth D-I season.
If everything goes according to O’Shea’s plan, I will be making the really long drive up from Maryland to Smithfield in order to cover the NEC finals.