Quinnipiac University men’s basketball looks to take another step in the right direction

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Quinnipiac University men’s basketball looks to take another step in the right direction

Photos: Liz Flynn

Photos: Liz Flynn

Photos: Liz Flynn

Photos: Liz Flynn

Matt Nygaard

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The Quinnipiac Bobcats men’s basketball program has made great strides under head coach Baker Dunleavy the past two seasons. In Dunleavy’s initial season, the Bobcats finished 12-21 overall with a 7-11 record in the MAAC. Quinnipiac made it back over .500 last year, going 16-15 overall and flipping its MAAC record to 11-7, good for the team’s first winning season since 2014.

Despite a couple of major losses from graduation, the Bobcats enter the 2019-20 season looking to build on the winning year.

Key Losses:

It was an amazing last two years for Cameron Young. After transferring from Arizona Western College after two seasons, Young played just eight minutes and scored no points in his junior season under former head coach Tom Moore. Young went on to become one of the most legendary players in the history of Quinnipiac after winning the MAAC Player of the Year last season to go along with some impressive accolades.

Photos: Liz Flynn

He became the 41st Quinnipiac player to have 1000 points, and he also had 55 points at Siena in a triple overtime victory. While Quinnipiac will try and re-tool the offense to fill its biggest hole, Young will continue his basketball career playing professionally in Italy for Pallacanestro Cantu in Lega Basket Serie A.

In addition to Young, former big man Abdulai Bundu is also pursuing a professional career. Bundu recently signed with the Westchester Knicks and is currently playing in the G-League. Bundu will leave a big hole in the paint for the Bobcats since he was a massive defensive presence and shot blocker. The Bobcats also lost twins Andrew and Aaron Robinson to graduation, but their basketball careers are not over either – they took a graduate year and are currently playing at Coppin State in Maryland. There is an opening moving forward to fill the 3-and-D role that both Robinsons thrived in.

Key additions:

One of the major differences made by Dunleavy has been improved recruiting. Quinnipiac has found a lot of hidden gems throughout the last few seasons, which is a product of Dunleavy’s wanting “the right players, not the best players” for the program. They look to continue that trend with this next upcoming class that features a very interesting group.

The Bobcats have added three freshmen, including 7’1″ center Seth Pinkney, who is the tallest player in Quinnipiac program history and comes over after spending a post-graduate year at Montverde Academy. They also added 6-foot-6 forward Jamill Riggins and 6-foot-7 forward Brendan McGuire. All of these players will add significant size to a team that did lose a few key big men, so Dunleavy did a great job of recruiting to fill holes that would be left by graduated seniors.

 

The Bobcats also brought in post-graduate forward Aaron Falzon, who graduated from Northwestern last May with an extra year of eligibility. He will add a fantastic three-point game to the team after making 118 during his time with the Wildcats. He averaged 8.4 points-per-game as a freshman against stout Big Ten Conference competition, so the talent is there.

The Bobcats will also add a couple of redshirts to the squad that were around the team last year and used it for development. Matt Balanc and Savion Lewis are two guards that are going to see a huge uptick in minutes now that they’re officially playing in games and Young has moved on. Lewis was New York’s Mr. Basketball, an award that has gone to NBA stars like Tobias Harris, Lance Stephenson, Kevin Huerter and Elton Brand before. Lewis has seen major development in his size and growth, while Balanc will add feisty defense as an energy player off the bench. He also has some of the best jumping ability on the team, as he proved last year during warm-up dunks. 

Player to watch:

Photo: QU Athletics

Savion Lewis is poised for a breakout campaign. He averaged 34 points a game in his senior year of high school, and led Half Hollow Hills East to its first ever Suffolk County title. It truly seems as if it is the perfect storm for Lewis, who has seen a formidable role open up before his eyes.

Following Young’s departure, there will be a huge scoring void that is open to be filled, as well as an experienced point guard in Rich Kelly running the show. Kelly is experienced and poised when running the offense, and patiently awaits for the correct play. He is a very cerebral player who should compliment Lewis’ game well if he gets him the right touches in the right spots. Add that to the fact that he has a redshirt season of practice, being around the team and lifting weights, and Lewis seems like a good bet to emerge as the next big-time scorer for Quinnipiac.

Best Case Scenario:

Winning the MAAC title. After two years of major progression, the Bobcats are now looking to take the next step. The 2017-18 Quinnipiac Bobcats had a mediocre regular season but made a surprise run to the MAAC semifinal and lost to Fairfield. The 2018-19 Bobcats had a much better regular season, but a premature ending when they lost in the quarterfinals to Monmouth.

The way the Bobcats can take that huge leap forward is continuing the progression that Dunleavy started, and that begins with maintaining consistency and his favorite term, attitude. The Bobcats have the talent to win the MAAC title in 2020, but the deciding factor comes down to having the right attitude, staying consistent, and not beating themselves. 

Worst Case Scenario:

Another quarterfinal exit. The Bobcats look much more mature and are one of the top four teams in the MAAC for regular season play, but the lack of experience and seniority in the big-time games could be too much. Other teams like Iona and Rider have been there before and have the seniors that take over games. The Bobcats do not have enough upperclassmen, and as college basketball expert Jon Rothstein always says, experienced players win big games, not just talent.