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This is the most balanced St. Bonaventure team of Mark Schmidt’s tenure

Jaren Holmes and Jalen Adaway have elevated their games

NCAA Basketball: St. Bonaventure at Dayton David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

In an Atlantic 10 Conference once again deep with hardwood talent, St Bonaventure is one of a handful of teams that has legitimate NCAA Tournament hopes this season.

With free-scoring floor general Kyle Lofton, 3-and-D wing with a knack for cleaning up the glass Dominick Welch, and the best rim-protector east of Lake in Erie Osun Osunniyi, Mark Schmidt’s team has accumulated a 23-13 record in A-10 play over the last two full seasons.

Now in their third season together, the Bonnies junior trio accounts for 59% of the team’s returning points, 65% of its returning rebounds, and 73% of its returning assists this year.

All three are playing about as well as they did last season, but it is the emergence of two secondary players — Jared Holmes and Jalen Adaway — who have taken the Bonnies from a good A-10 squad to a team capable of winning the conference.

While both junior wings stuff the stat sheet, each brings a unique skillset to this St Bonaventure squad.

Holmes joined St Bonaventure last season after spending his freshman year at Ranger Community College in Texas and hit the ground running. He was the Bonnies’ second leading scorer in 2019-20, posting 11.9 points per game and reaching double figures 16 times. But since he was mostly a secondary scorer, Holmes did not always receive the same hype as the Bonnies’ “Big 3.”

Holmes was most efficient when shooting from three, where the transfer shot nearly 40% and attempted just under 2.5 shots per game.

This year, his three-point percentage has stayed consistent, but Holmes has doubled his number of tries from deep, shooting 4.7 per game, while also seeing his usage rate on offense increase from 19.9% to 24.3%. His overall scoring has likewise increased and now sits at 14.7 PPG — second on the team.

Against Saint Joe’s earlier in the year, Holmes hit 8 of 12 three-point attempts while finishing with a career high 38 points. A week later, Holmes shot 5-7 from behind the arc on his way to 26 points, still better than any single game total from his sophomore year.

More than 91% of Holmes’ made threes are assisted, but he is not just a spot-up shooter. An explosive player, Holmes is just as capable creating his own shot off the dribble, as just 29% of his two pointers are assisted.

The fellow swingman Adaway stands just an inch taller than the 6-4 Holmes, but Adaway’s style of play is the perfect foil for his St Bonaventure teammate.

While Holmes’ game starts at the three-point line, Adaway toils away inside the arc. He uses his quickness to avoid taller defenders in the lane and uses his athleticism to grab rebounds amongst the giants. Adaway is often seen cutting in from the right baseline to throw down one of his acrobatic backdoor alley-oops — a staple in the Mark Schmidt playbook.

A transfer from Miami (OH), Adaway averaged 7.5 PPG on 50.5% shooting and grabbed 5.0 rebounds per game for the RedHawks in 2018-19 before sitting out last year.

Now a redshirt junior, he is averaging 11.1 PPG while also grabbing 6.4 boards per contest — a big reason the Bonnies are ranked in the top 20% nationally in rebounding margin.

Like Holmes, Adaway also had his best game of the season against Saint Joe’s, where he finished with 24 points on 11-12 shooting, including 7-7 on shots at the rim.

His offensive numbers might not always jump off the page because of his low usage rate, but Adaway has quietly been one of the most efficient players in the A-10. He leads the conference in offensive rating, boasts the third-lowest turnover percentage, and ranks seventh in true shooting percentage.

Adaway’s low usage percentage also means that he spends a lot of time off the ball; 69.8% of his made field goals have been assisted and he also leads the team in offensive rebounds. His quiet efficiency and effort off the ball make him one of the glue guys on this Bonnies’ roster.

The Bonnies currently sit 39th in the NCAA’s NET Rankings and are 10-2 overall with an 8-2 mark in A-10 play. With so few games played — and even fewer opportunities for résumé-defining wins — their margin for error is slim.

Barring rescheduled games, Friday’s matchup at VCU will be St Bonaventure’s third and final Q1 game of the season.

Bonnies fans will be nervous come March given their team’s dubious history with the selection committee, and rightly so. But this squad is different.

While the 2017-18 squad (First Four) was focused on the two-pronged attack of Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, and the 2015-16 Bonnies (NIT) featured a younger Adams alongside seniors Marcus Posley and Dion Wright, this year’s team might have the most well-rounded starting five of any squad during Mark Schmidt’s tenure.

All five starters offer a unique offensive threat and average in double figures. They rebound as a team and allow the fewest points in the A-10. And the scary part? They are all juniors.

The trio of Lofton, Welch, and Osunniyi were known variables entering this season, but the emergences of Holmes and Adaway have elevated this team to elite mid-major status.

That will also make them a scary matchup for any power conference school come March.