Bulldogs reach all-NEC postseason teams
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
To say it has been some kind of season for the Bryant Bulldogs would be an understatement.
It's not over yet, as the Bulldogs will face Mount St. Mary's Wednesday at home in the opening round of the NEC Tournament. At stake - for the conference champ - an automatic ticket to the NCAA Tournament. In Bryant's first year of competition for the Northeast Conference crown, that's an accomplishment certainly worth noting...along with a 19-10 record and a 17.5 game improvement from last season (2-28).
Tuesday, the NEC released it's all-conference teams and accolades, and the Bulldogs are well-represented on the all-star units. Head coach Tim O'Shea was named the NEC/Jim Phelan Coach of the Year, leading the Bulldog program through the arduous NCAA reclassification process, but has also producing a one-year transformation that will go down in the history books.
Following a 2-28 season a year ago, Bryant was picked 10th in the NEC preseason poll, but served notice with breakthrough non-league wins over Boston College and Lehigh. Armed with two impact transfers and a number of talented veterans, once the Bulldogs jumped out to a 6-0 start in NEC play, fans at the Chace Center began to take notice and a contender was born. By season’s end, O’Shea and his team had claimed the #4 seed in the NEC Tournament in its first year of postseason eligibility and finished with a 19-10 overall record.
The Bulldogs can now boast of the best single-season turnaround in NCAA history entering Wednesday’s quarterfinal matchup (17.5 games) and they also lead the nation in pure win improvement, earning 17 more victories in 2012-13 than a season ago. The 17-win jump is also the biggest in NEC history, eclipsing CCSU’s 15-win jump from 1997-98 to 1998-99, and the 11-win bump in NEC play is the most in league annals, one better than LIU Brooklyn’s 10-win improvement from 1995-96 to 1996-97.
On the NEC first team, Bryant junior forward Alex Francis is joined by the NEC Player of the Year, Jamal Olasewere from LIU...and Sacred Heart senior guard Shane Gibson, Robert Morris senior guard Velton Jones and Central Connecticut sophomore guard Kyle Vinales. Francis is a former NEC Rookie of the Year, and has developed into a dominant interior force for the Bulldogs during his tenure. The 6’6” forward currently ranks in the NEC top-five in four categories: scoring (17.1, fifth), rebounding (8.7, third), field goal percentage (.574, third) and double-doubles (10, tied for first). Francis has accumulated 1,449 points and 713 rebounds in his three years, and with a big senior season could become the first player in league history to finish with 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
Also earning post-season honors are sophomore guard Dyami Starks (2nd team) and senior guard Frankie Dobbs (3rd team). Starks led the Bulldogs with 17.7 points per game, and Dobbs finished fifth in the NEC in assists, 7th in free throw shooting.
Bryant faces Mount St. Mary's Wednesday night at the Chace Athletic Center in Smithfield, at 7:00 pm in the quarterfinal round of the NEC Tournament, with the semifinals taking place Saturday, and the conference title game set for Tuesday, March 12 on the home floor of the highest remaining seed.