Breaking Down Joe O’Shea’s Three – To Foul or Not to Foul?

To foul or not to foul up three, that is the question. When Sacred Heart elected not to foul, the Pioneers set up the moment that made SportsCenter’s top 10 plays and led to an unlikely comparison between Joe O’Shea and Russell Westbrook. Continue reading “Breaking Down Joe O’Shea’s Three – To Foul or Not to Foul?”

Three Thoughts: Sacred Heart 84, Bryant 75 (OT)

From Opening Day, heck probably months before that, Sacred Heart coach Anthony Latina has preached that defense was the way his team would improve on his first season in charge, a 5-26 campaign that saw the Pioneers win just twice in NEC play. Continue reading “Three Thoughts: Sacred Heart 84, Bryant 75 (OT)”

NEC Power Rankings, Version 3

It’s been a month since our last version of the NEC Power Rankings, so with eight conference games now completed, now was a perfect time to access the league and see where each team stands. With that in mind, enjoy our latest edition! Continue reading “NEC Power Rankings, Version 3”

NEC Team Primer: #5 Bryant Bulldogs

Head Coach: Tim O’Shea, 6th year (39-111)
Last Season: 19-12, 12-6 (NEC), Lost First Round of the CIT to Richmond, 76-71
RPI/KenPom: 242/182
NEC Preseason Poll: 2nd out of 10 teams (tied with Robert Morris)
State of Programs: NEC Contender
Starters Returning: 3

Key Loss(es): Frankie Dobbs (13.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.2 A/TO), Vlad Kondratyev (5.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 58.5% FG%)
Incoming Players: Bosko Kostur (F), Declan Soukup (G), Daniel Garvin (F), Ellis Williams (PF/C), Justin Brickman (PG)

Bulldog_headProjected Starting Lineup:
PG: Corey Maynard (9.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.0 A/TO)
G: Dyami Starks (17.7 ppg, 40.8% 3PT%, 84.8% FT%)
F: Joe O’Shea (8.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
PF: Alex Francis (17.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 56.9% FG%)
PF: Claybrin McMath (0.9 ppg, 0.8 rpg)

Key Reserves: Shane McLaughlin (PG), Bosko Kostur (F), Declan Soukup (G), Andrew Scocca (PF/C), Ellis Williams (PF), Daniel Garvin (F), Curtis Oakley (F)

Major Storylines:

  • A New Floor General – With the underrated Frankie Dobbs no longer in Smithfield, Tim O’Shea will rely on a familar face to handle the point: Corey Maynard. The senior guard is more than capable – last season he posted an assist to turnover ratio of 2.0 while stuffing the stat sheet elsewhere. Now with the ball in his hands all the time, however, the question remains if he can lead a high octane Bryant attack. Health will also be a moderate concern; last season Maynard struggled throughout the year with a bum ankle.
  • Shoring Up The Depth – After racing out to a 6-0 start in the NEC, the Bulldogs began to breakdown, and with good reason. O’Shea was forced to rotate six to seven players every game night and over time the team’s performance predictability began to wane. Now in his sixth season at the helm, O’Shea has a roster full of Division I talent for the first time ever. The second team may go through some growing pains early, but O’Shea fully expects to have a very capable eight to nine man rotation by January. Those legs will feel a little better come February, which could go a long way toward making a run at the title.
  • Surviving the Non-Conference Slate – I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Bryant possesses a fantastic, yet very difficult non-conference schedule. O’Shea isn’t shy about challenging his team in November and December, but with games versus Gonzaga, Ohio State, Notre Dame, North Dakota State, Vermont, and Harvard, his Bulldogs could get overexposed with a rough stretch of games.

The Skinny:
The Bryant Bulldogs greatly exceeded expectations in their first season of full Division I eligibility. Paired with veterans Alex Francis, Dobbs, and Maynard, transfers Dyami Starks and Joe O’Shea helped transformed the Bulldogs from a laughing-stock into a contender, essentially overnight. After shocking the nation with road upsets over Boston College and Lehigh, Bryant carried the momentum into the conference season, eventually earning a home game in the first round of the NEC tournament.

The offense, in particular, was outstanding with the Bulldogs scoring 117 points per 100 possessions, easily the best mark in the league. They had a dynamic playmaker (Dobbs), a three-point assassin (Starks), two glue guys (O’Shea and Maynard), and a double double waiting to happen every night (Francis). Quite simply, everything was clicking on that side of the ball.

In order to make that next jump, however, Bryant will need to bolster their depth and defense. Yes, their offensive firepower is impressive, but giving up 109.4 points per 100 possessions and allowing opponents to shoot 51.1% from inside the arc is problematic. Luckily for O’Shea, he’s collected an intriguing group of young interior big men who could possibly protect around the rim. Fifth year senior Claybrin McMath will start, but it’s the young guys behind him that may have the bigger impact. It remains to be seen who will contribute down low out of the Andrew Scocca (he was a medical red-shirt last season after only playing eight games), Daniel Garvin, and Ellis Williams combo. All three are long and in Garvin’s case, incredibly athletic.

The backcourt, on the other hand will be productive and somewhat deep. Shane McLaughlin will back up Maynard ant the point and looks to rebound after a somewhat disappointing freshman campaign. Dyami Starks is primed to have a monster season. And perhaps the biggest wildcard of this team is the coach’s nephew, Joe O’Shea. All preseason reports indicate that the versatile 6’5″ stretch forward will have a breakout type of year. Then again, O’Shea was the most efficient player on Bryant’s roster last season, despite being surrounded by three all-conference players.

Finally there’s Alex Francis, who may have the best opportunity of anyone in the NEC to average a double double. He’s a star offensively; a player who’s crafty around the rim yet can blow by opponents off the dribble. If he can somehow improve his free throw percentage – he does a great job of getting to the line – then the sky’s the limit for the Bronx native. Backing him up will be Bosko Kostur, who O’Shea gushed about during NEC Media Day. He has a chance, playing the “3” and “4”, to have an impact season as a red-shirt freshman.

Coach’s Quotes:

“If I started Shane McLaughlin (at the point), that makes us really small. And my nephew, Joe O’Shea has been playing so well that it was imperative to get him into the starting lineup to give us some real size. So I talked to Corey (Maynard) about playing the point… so he was really comfortable making that move.”
– O’Shea, on why he decided to start Corey Maynard at the point guard position

“Bosko Kostur is a kid that has a chance to really have an impact as a freshman. He’s a real talent.”
– O’Shea, when asked who out of his freshmen class with contribute in their first season

“We needed to get bigger in the interior… Alex Francis used to score at will in practice, now he has a hard time scoring because of the added size and length that we brought in.”
– O’Shea, talking about why he believes his interior defense will be much improved compared to last season

Predictions:

Ryan – I was really concerned about their point guard position, until O’Shea unleashed his plan to insert Maynard there. With a core four of Maynard, Starks, O’Shea, and Francis, this team will absolutely be in contention. How much so? I think they’ll land in the top four and find themselves in the NEC title game. (17 wins, 10-6 NEC)

John – Sure, Maynard is going to play the point. He’ll probably do well there. I’m just worried that Bryant’s lack of depth will catch up again with them this season. Teams that take a big leap forward one season often take a little step back the next. The Bulldogs are talented, but could definitely end up in that category. (16 wins, 9-7 NEC)

Other NEC Team Primers:
#10 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
#9 St. Francis (PA) Red Flash
#8 Sacred Heart Pioneers

#7 St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers
#6 LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds

Bryant, Tim O’Shea Asking Corey Maynard to Play Point Guard

What a difference a year can make for Bryant head coach Tim O’Shea. At this point last season, the Bulldogs future was uncertain, coming off a dismal two-win season in the final year of an arduous Division I transition. Sure, the 2012-13 roster was instantly upgraded with the addition of transfers Dyami Starks and Joe O’Shea, but the long time coach was still unsure how everything would pan out.

“I knew we were going to be a lot better, but my apprehension coming (to NEC media day) last year was we were going to be picked last (in the NEC preseason coaches poll),” admitted O’Shea. “You never want to be first, and you certainly don’t want to be last. We were at the point where we needed to turn a corner and the hardest thing to shake off after a transition is – and Pat Duquette (at UMass-Lowell) is going to go through this – all the losing. How do you take a losing mentality and start to develop a winning mentality?”

Fast forward one year later. Bryant, along with Towson, had engineered one of the greatest turnarounds in Division I history by winning 17 more games than they did in the previous season. The Bulldogs also won twice as many conference games as they lost, thanks to a wonderfully efficient season scoring the basketball. In league play, Bryant scored 117 points per 100 possessions, easily the best mark in the NEC for quite some time.

Forging ahead, O’Shea must go on without point guard and NEC all-conference third team selection, Frankie Dobbs. The do-everything floor general masterfully ran the offense in his senior season, finishing in the top 15 of the conference in points (13.4 ppg), assists (5.3 apg), steals (1.2 spg), and assist to turnover ratio (2.2). How exactly can that superb production be replaced?

While an unconventional choice, Corey Maynard gives Bryant leadership and stability at the point.
While an unconventional choice, Corey Maynard gives Bryant leadership and stability at the point.

Look no further than veteran guard Corey Maynard.

“I talked to Corey about playing point – and he had always done that when he played for the Australian national team,” said O’Shea. “He’s really looked good in practice. Corey knows how to play that position, he’s crafty. He’s really a good player.”

The statistic similarities between Maynard and Dobbs – who both stand at 6’3″ – are striking. Both posted A/TO ratios of 2.0 or greater, while filling up the stat sheet in a variety of ways. Both guards can score anywhere on the floor, add toughness rebounding the basketball, and are crafty and creative enough to make their teammates better. The latter point will be especially important for Dyami Starks and Alex Francis, the two focal points of O’Shea’s high-powered offense.

While Maynard’s presence at the point gives Bryant the experience of a grizzled upperclassman, it also allows O’Shea to field a bigger lineup. It’s nothing against freshman Justin Brickman or sophomore Shane McLaughlin, who has also looked good this preseason. 

“(This move) allows Joe (O’Shea) in the starting lineup, which now gives us a chance,” explained O’Shea. “Basically what happened was Shane McLaughlin was doing a nice job, but if I started Shane, Dyami and Corey, that’s makes us really small. And Joe O’Shea was playing so well, it seems to me imperative to get him in the starting lineup to give us some real size.”

As a 6’5″ swingman, O’Shea is coming off an underrated season, to say the least, by posting an impressive, team high 115.7 offensive rating. His versatility and ability to get to the free-throw line, while limiting his turnovers (14.0% turnover rate, 280th best nationally) should optimize Bryant’s starting lineup. In addition, O’Shea can also stretch the defense with his perimeter scoring, much like teammates Maynard and Starks.

With a starting lineup featuring Maynard, Starks, O’Shea, Francis, and fifth year senior Claybrin McMath, it remains to be seen how the team will respond on the defensive side of the ball. The team’s lack of depth and athleticism in their first Division I postseason eligible season led to rather porous defensive effort, one that allowed opponents to score 107 points per 100 possessions. That ranked eighth among 12 NEC clubs last season.

O’Shea, however, is encouraged with the frontcourt depth he’s added, even if it’s unknown who will emerge to fill his bench minutes. Whoever rises to the top, whether it’s red-shirt freshman Andrew Scocca, sophomore Curtis Oakley or freshmen Ellis Williams, Daniel Garvin, and Bosko Kostur, O’Shea feels they’ll be better prepared to defend the paint.

The head coach agrees, “We needed to get bigger in the interior. Alex (Francis) used to score at will in practice. He has a hard time scoring in practice, because of the added size and length that we’ve brought in.  There, at least, are those kinds of options where a year ago, there were no options.”

“The hardest thing is I’m going to get it down to eight or nine guys and three to four guys – who are legitimately good players – will have to wait until their time comes. That’s going to be the challenge chemistry wise.”

It’s certainly a good problem to have if you’re O’Shea, considering the Bulldogs had difficultly fielding a starting lineup of Division I capable players just two seasons prior. Now, as a preseason number two ranked team (tied with Robert Morris), Bryant is in a position they’ve never been in before. And they’re counting on the versatile Maynard to lead them as the facilitator.

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride