Bryant Hoops RI’s Best Kept Secret
Monday, January 21, 2013
What do Jim Boeheim’s 3rd-ranked Syracuse Orange and Tim O’Shea’s Bryant Bulldogs have in common? Both teams are currently (6-0) in their respective conferences this season.
It comes as no surprise that the ‘Cuse is (6-0) in the Big East thus far. But Bryant being (6-0)? That’s a shocker!
Heading into Thursday night’s game at Sacred Heart, the Bryant Bulldogs are (13-4) overall and atop the Northeast Conference Standings with their perfect (6-0) record. Not bad for a team that was picked to finish 10th in the NEC’s preseason poll.
“We’re only a third of the way through the conference schedule,” said Bulldogs coach Tim O’Shea. “But, how can you not be happy with (6-0)?”
Believe it or not, this is all part of O’Shea’s plan. When Tim O’Shea left Ohio University and the MAC to take over Bryant in the much lower profile NEC, he knew things weren’t going to be easy right away.
The school had announced that it was making the transition from being a division two program up to division one, but that involved a 4-year probationary period where the Bulldogs were not eligible for their conference tournament or any type of postseason play.
“Our plan from the day I took this job was, even though we knew the early years were going to be brutal and we were going to lose a lot, but we set a goal that in year 5 we would be very competitive in the NEC,” O’Shea said.
“Am I surprised at how well it has gone so far? Yes. I never would have thought 5 years ago that we would have been in a position to beat an ACC team like Boston College or a tournament team like Lehigh on the road, but that’s occurred.”
In 2010, the Bulldogs won a grand total of one game on their way to a (1-29) record and last year finished (2-28). Therefore, it is not a stretch to say that O’Shea is engineering one of the biggest single season turnarounds in college basketball history.
Before the start of the season, O’Shea told GoLocalProv.com that his primary goal this season was to finish in the top 8 of the Northeast Conference and thereby earn a berth into the league’s conference tournament. With a (6-0) start in conference play, has he readjusted that initial goal?
“Publicly, being in the top 8 of our league was our number one goal, but I always told our players that we had other goals in mind,” he said. “In our league, the top 4 seeds get to host a tournament game and the top seed gets to play at home as long as they keep winning. So we always wanted to win enough games where we could potentially host a postseason game.”
Senior point guard Frankie Dobbs has been here for a few years and has experienced the difficult times which makes him appreciate what’s going on this season that much more.
“I knew we had a chance to be good this year with the transfers (Dyami Starks and Joe O’Shea) we had sitting out,” he said. “They’re good shooters who can score and adding them to the guys we already had was big.”
Dobbs also said that a big part of this team’s success is having multiple players who can handle the basketball.
“We’ve got so many different guys that can handle the basketball so when we get the rebound, it’s get it and go,” he said. “We can get right out in transition which is kind of our style. That’s why we focus on defense so we can do that.”
The Bulldogs have some big games coming up over the next week. Thursday night’s game at Sacred Heart will be a great test. The Pioneers are tied for second in the league at (4-2). Following that game, Bryant returns home to face LIU Saturday. The Blackbirds were the preseason pick to win the league.
Given the state of college basketball in Rhode Island over the past few years, it will be nice to have some meaningful games played within our borders. What would be even nicer would be to see college basketball fans fill the 2,600-seat Chase Athletic Center in Smithfield.
“There’s plenty of room on our bandwagon to climb on board,” O’Shea said. “The quality of basketball in the NEC is real good. We’re looking to establish a fan base and a home court advantage which can only be done by having people in the stands. It’s a great environment to bring young kids into. It’s family friendly and very inexpensive. And to think of what these kids have done coming back from a 2-win season and being two years removed from a 1-win season, these kids have done a lot and deserve a lot of credit. They’re good kids, good students, they’ve got great character, so there’s a lot to support there. I hope a lot of college basketball fans in Rhode Island give it some thought about coming over and watching us play a game.”