Thoughts on Bryant, Dyami Starks’ Shooting Slump

After putting a legitimate scare into Notre Dame a few days ago, the Bryant Bulldogs laid an egg against Ohio State. The lopsided defeat wasn’t all that surprising; after all, Corey Maynard sat out the contest due to a bum wrist. It left Tim O’Shea with the inexperienced point guard combo of Shane McLaughlin and Declan Soukup, never an easy proposition against a top five KenPom opponent. Continue reading “Thoughts on Bryant, Dyami Starks’ Shooting Slump”

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


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

Unbalanced NEC Schedule Garners Mixed Reaction Among Coaches

Over the past few seasons, the NEC and their athletic directors have done an excellent job promoting their basketball league. There’s been the wonderful advent of NEC Front Row, a free online streaming service that Big Apple Buckets recently profiled. Using social media, the NEC has been aggressive in successfully promoting its product. Thanks to league initiatives, the technology in all NEC gyms has improved as well. Overall, you’d be hard pressed to find someone upset with the recent decision-making of the NEC. Continue reading “Unbalanced NEC Schedule Garners Mixed Reaction Among Coaches”

Recruiting Recap: Incoming Freshmen Give Bryant, Tim O’Shea Much Needed Depth

Daniel Garvin's athleticism may be the most impressive aspect of Tim O'Shea's 2013 recruiting class. (Photo credit -
Daniel Garvin’s athleticism may be the most impressive aspect of Tim O’Shea’s 2013 recruiting class. (Photo credit –

With the possible lone exception of Mount St. Mary’s, no team in the NEC surprised pundits more than the Bryant Bulldogs last season. A veteran lineup supplemented with two promising transfers in Dyami Starks and Joe O’Shea helped elevate Bryant to an unprecedented 19-win season.

The 17-win turnaround from the season prior made NCAA history, even though Bryant finished their 2012-13 campaign with only six victories in their final 14 games. A small rotation and average at best athleticism inevitably did Tim O’Shea’s group in, and that was no more evident than during their February road loss to the aforementioned Mountaineers. After the defeat, a candid O’Shea admitted his team’s athleticism, depth, and defensive prowess wasn’t where it needed to be.

Now, however, O’Shea could be faced with a new “problem”. The sixth Division I season in Bryant’s history may result in the most depth the program has ever seen. After struggling to find production off the bench, is it possible O’Shea has too many backup options?

“It’s amazing how things have changed in just a couple of seasons, because in the past I couldn’t scrap together what I thought was a credible top five, let alone a top eight,” said O’Shea. “Now I think I have good players, one through 13 on scholarship. I have a lot of options. I guess it’s a problem, but it’s a good one.”

Of course, there’s the top four of Starks, Alex Francis, Corey Maynard, and Joe O’Shea, but after that it’s an open competition for rotation spots five through ten.

The biggest question heading into the offseason is how O’Shea compensates for the loss of All-NEC third teamer Frankie Dobbs. The point guard was instrumental in Bryant’s success, so the challenge will be replacing his minutes, and superb production. Sophomore Shane McLaughin, who averaged 1.0 point and 1.3 assists per game as a freshman, will have an opportunity to make an impact. Red-shirt freshman Declan Soukup, an Australian native, should also compete for minutes at the point.

Can Justin Brickman match the success of his brother as a freshman? (Photo credit -
Can Justin Brickman match the success of his brother as a freshman? (Photo credit –

The third member of the point guard competition happens to be the most notable freshman of O’Shea’s incoming class – 5’9″ point guard Justin Brickman. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Justin’s older brother, Jason, has been terrorizing NEC opponents for the past three seasons as a member of the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds.

While it seems lazy to use Jason Brickman as a player comp to his brother, it’s likely the most suitable. Like his brother, Justin profiles as a heady floor general with excellent court vision, an impressive handle, and the ability to knock down the long-range jumper. Despite the success the Brickman family has had playing Division I basketball – older brother Jordan also played one season for Navy – O’Shea is tempering his expectations for the youngest Brickman in season number one.

“It’s so hard, when kids are going from high school to college, you never know how (their game) translates,” O’Shea cautioned.

Behind Alex Francis, there’s an impetus of high upside youth in O’Shea’s front court, highlighted by Australian native Bosko Kostur and Connecticut product Daniel Garvin. Both players, listed at 6’7″ and 6’8″ respectively, possess impressive athleticism and come advertised with unique talents.

“High skill level, and a good first step,” said O’Shea when asked to describe Kostur, his latest player from the Land Down Under. “He has a good feel for the game like all my Australians and is a tough kid. All signs point to a guy who could be a really good player in our conference.”

While Kostur has excellent perimeter skills that could make him a “stretch four” in the NEC someday, Garvin may very well be the freshman with the highest ceiling of this recruiting class. The 6’8″ power forward, who could transition into a small forward at the collegiate level, displayed tremendous above-the-rim athleticism at Bethel High. Even though the competition for the western Connecticut school wasn’t top-notch, it was impossible to ignore Garvin’s ability to rebound, defend, and create havoc around the rim.

“(Garvin) is a tremendous athlete,” said O’Shea. “He’s so gifted physically – he has great athleticism and instincts – but he played in a low-level, in terms of high school competition. Making that transition, that’s going to be the key.”

The last recruit is Ellis Williams, a 6’8″ banger down low. With a wide frame and broad shoulders, the physical Williams has an opportunity to occupy the minutes lost with the graduation of overachieving center Vlad Kondratyev. Red-shirt freshman Andrew Scocca should compete for minutes with Williams at the “5” when O’Shea isn’t implementing a small-ball type of roster. Now healthy, Scocca only played nine games in his first season as a Bulldog, due to an unusual bacterial infection.

In total, nearly half of Bryant’s scholarship players are freshmen, yet O’Shea is excited about the team’s short-term prospects. Despite the youth movement, Bryant has enough veteran leadership at the top to consider the Bulldogs a worthy challenger to the NEC title. With more athleticism now at O’Shea’s disposal, the long time head coach is certainly optimistic about the position of his program.

“I like our chances. We have the chemistry. We’re going to have a tough non-conference schedule, but if we get through that OK, then I think we’ll be fine and in the mix the whole way.”

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

Season In Review: Bryant Bulldogs

Losing 99 basketball games in 119 tries will take a lot out of you, even if you have the legitimate excuse of overseeing your program transition from Division II to Division I athletics. Such was the case for Bryant head coach Tim O’Shea, who after succumbing to four seasons of recruiting purgatory, was fighting to stay optimistic. When he signed on the dotted line to become Bryant’s leader in 2008, O’Shea had pegged the program’s transformation as a five-year plan. Year five was supposed to be the pivotal season when Bryant made their move toward competitive basketball inside the Northeast Conference.

To say Bryant made a move would be an understatement. After procuring shocking road wins over Boston College and Lehigh, Bryant sprinted out to a 6-0 start in the NEC. When the smoke finally cleared, the Bulldogs had engineered one of the greatest turnarounds in Division I history. Their 19 wins was a 17 win improvement over a dismal 2011-12 season that found them ranked 333rd out of 345 teams in KenPom’s ratings. Despite the historic turnaround, O’Shea wanted just a little more when he reflects back on the season.

“I’m proud (of Bryant’s season), but honestly I’m also a little disappointed in the sense that we got into position to win the league and we came up a little bit short,” said a candid O’Shea. “I don’t think it was a lack of effort, but whenever you get in position like that – it’s hard to do – you want to finish it off and take it to completion and we didn’t do that.”

O’Shea then added, “In hindsight, after what we’ve been through in this transition, how could I not be proud? Especially for a guy like a Frankie Dobbs who hung in there the whole way and had great leadership. Vlad Kondratyev had a great year for us.”

Even in the lean seasons, Bryant boasted three above average talents in Dobbs, Alex Francis, and Corey Maynard, yet it was their depth, or lack thereof, that made winning such a chore. It’s tough to win when a majority of the roster is comprised of Division II talent, but that was the case for the first four years under O’Shea. For year five, however, the insertion of transfers Dyami Starks and Joe O’Shea – Tim O’Shea’s nephew – did wonders for giving Bryant a complete Division I lineup ready to compete with the likes of Robert Morris, LIU Brooklyn, and Wagner.

Due to insertion of Starks – an All-NEC second team selection at season’s end who made 40.8% of his three-point attempts – Bryant’s offense posted a league best 1.14 points per possession (PPP) in NEC play, a stark improvement over their 0.90 PPP mark for the 2011-12 season. The Bulldogs shot 47.9% from the floor, aided by Francis’ excellent 56.9% mark on 371 shot attempts. After several seasons of serving as the NEC’s doormat, Bryant was lighting up opponents on the offensive end.

Near the end though, Bryant’s short bench and average defense struggled to close out games late, but it was a masterful season nonetheless. Bryant finished in a three-way tie for second place in the conference, and hosted a game in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) tournament, falling to Atlantic-10 foe Richmond after a hard-fought battle.

With the arduous transition to Division I now in the rear view, O’Shea can rest easier knowing that he has guided the Bulldogs into the thick of the NEC elite. He may be a little disappointed Bryant couldn’t finish their otherwise spectacular season off, but it was surely an unforgettable year in O’Shea’s eyes. “Other than making the NCAA tournament or the NIT, I don’t know if it could have gone much better.”

Best Moment – Take your pick. I select their 80-79 victory over the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, the same Mountain Hawks who had upended Duke in the second round of the 2012 NCAA tournament the previous season. Shortly thereafter, Bryant surprised a hot Robert Morris club with a terrific offense display at Moon Township. The normally stout Colonials defense gave up 1.15 points per possession in the contest, thanks to the outside shooting capabilities of Starks and Dobbs. The Bulldogs were now officially relevant in the eyes of everyone.

Worst Moment – When recapping a drastically improved team, it’s difficult to pinpoint a truly awful moment. But if I had to choose a setback, it would be their home loss to Robert Morris in the last week of the regular season. A victory would have inevitably secured a #1 seed in the NEC tournament, not to mention drew a much weaker opponent in the first round (as opposed to a scorching Mount St. Mary’s club). Unfortunately for Bryant, Robert Morris’ execution down the stretch sent the vociferous sellout crowd in Smithfield home disappointed.

Saying Goodbye

Frankie Dobbs – Words can’t truly capture the sincere gratitude O’Shea has towards Dobbs, who patiently spent three long seasons – one as a redshirt – on an undermanned Bryant team waiting for relevancy. Dobbs’ decision to transfer to Bryant surely was pushed by the presence of D.J. Cooper on Ohio, yet the point guard could have chosen a different program nonetheless. In Dobbs’ fifth and final season, he was selected to the All-NEC third team selection for his excellent efforts. Bryant’s remarkable turnaround wouldn’t have occurred without the leadership of Dobbs, who O’Shea says is the definition of a program cornerstone. (13.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.2 spg, 2.2 A/TO)

Vlad Kondratyev – The overlooked big man made his presence felt throughout the season with terrific rebounding rates of 8.8% (offensive) and 18.3% (defensive). He was practically the only cog in the paint when freshman Andrew Scocca went down. Kondratyev may have been foul prone, committing nearly six fouls per 40 minutes, but his overall steadiness made things easier for O’Shea in dealing with a short bench. Along with his team, the 6’8” center exceeded expectations as a Bulldog his senior year. (5.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 58.5% FG%)

Looking Ahead to the 2013-14 Season
In spite of the late heartbreak, Bryant will come back in year six of O’Shea’s master plan with much higher expectations. Maynard, Starks and Francis are all returning, so the talent is there to continue a run of excellence. Of course, Dobbs’ departure raises a deserving question regarding their point guard position, but O’Shea is confident that someone from the three-man competition of sophomore Shane McLaughlin, freshman Justin Brickman (you may know his brother, Jason Brickman of LIU Brooklyn) and redshirt freshman and fellow Australian Declan Sukoup will emerge. If one of those three does just that, and O’Shea’s freshmen and sophomore class helps solidify their depth, Bryant has as good a chance as any to capture their first NEC crown. A difficult, yet compelling non-conference schedule including road matchups versus Gonzaga, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Delaware and home tilts with Lehigh, North Dakota State, and Vermont should harden the Bulldogs’ resolve heading into NEC play for January of 2014.

Our NEC Individual Awards for the 2012-13 Season

Rather than have John and I release our consensus NEC individual awards, we decided to give each of us a say in who we would choose. As you’ll see, there was some disagreement for a couple of the categories, and we here at Big Apple Buckets support the First Amendment! Onto the five major awards… Continue reading “Our NEC Individual Awards for the 2012-13 Season”

Bryant Bulldogs Garnering National Attention

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.

Dyami Starks making a difference for Bryant

Peruse the current Northeast Conference basketball standings and you’ll find an unfamiliar team near the top. The Bryant Bulldogs, in their first season as a full-time Division I program, have turned some heads by winning six of their first ten games. It doesn’t sound like much, until you realize the Bulldogs have already tripled their win total from all of last season, when they finished at the bottom of the conference with an unsightly 2-28 record. Continue reading “Dyami Starks making a difference for Bryant”