Bryant Notebook Part 2: Week 1 in the books & Week 2 outlook
Updated: May 10, 2022
The Bryant Notebook is back and better than ever. All things college basketball will be hosted on House Enterprise’s brand-new College Hoops Digest brand this season, and we couldn’t be more excited to give it to you.
The Bulldogs appeared to have picked up right where they left off in an excellent 2020-21 campaign, but their desire to notch marquee Atlantic 10 and ACC wins was stymied rather quickly by two tough groups in Rhode Island & Clemson. We saw both Peter Kiss and Chris Childs return from team violations, a stint of the flu & strep throat, and - somewhere in the middle - a dismal 22.6% field goal clip in a half they’d like to forget.
Let’s clean out some pages of the Bryant notebook.
Jared Grasso, embarking on his 4th season at the helm of Bryant, stands idle in a 122-54 win over Fisher on November 9th. PIC: Will Tondo
Taking Care of Business: Sure, write it off if you must, but Bryant cruised over Fisher (an NAIA opponent) in its season opener. The Bulldogs exploded for 122 points, 68 of which came in the second half, to kick off their 2021-22 campaign. They had 5 players reach the double-digit mark, including former George Mason starter Greg Calixte, who has emerged as a reliable option in the paint. Bryant finished its 122-54 win over Fisher with a whopping 49-for-85 mark from the field, 11 of which came from downtown. The statistics got a bit skewed towards the end - as longtime broadcaster Jon Wallach accurately described, it became “a total layup drill” for the Bulldogs in the late stages of the second half. Regardless, if Bryant can keep its foot on the gas pedal.
Downed in an In-State Showdown: The stage was set, and the storyline was all-too-good to be true. Bryant had an opportunity to knock off its third Atlantic 10 opponent in three years. Surely, it wouldn’t end here...right?
After a solid first half in which the Bulldogs managed to play the Rhode Island Rams to a 37-37 tie, things were certainly looking up...especially as Bryant got off to a 7-1 run to start the second. But then, 15-straight missed field goals led to a 24-4 run in favor of URI, and it spiraled out of control from there.
Lots went wrong in the second half against URI, but none worse than a 22.6% mark from the field. Hall Elisias went 2-for-7, Erickson Bans went 1-for-5, and Tyler Brelsford - who played 37 minutes - only made 1 of the 12 shots he took. Rhody took a 55-31 advantage in rebounds, and outscored the Dawgs 42-12 in the paint.
Sure, losing is inevitable, but the Bulldogs had some major areas of concern in the 83-64 loss on Friday.
Kiss & Childs both return: All we know from Jared Grasso is that NEC Player of the Year favorite Peter Kiss and sharpshooter Chris Childs missed time due to “team violations.” Speculate as much as you’d like, but it’ll be a moot point as they both returned this week - Childs first against URI, then Kiss against Clemson. They both haven’t skipped a beat, either; against Clemson, they combined for 39 points...Childs went 5-for-5 from beyond the arc. It’s clear that their presence was missed, despite their combined record of 0-3 when they’ve suited up this year.
Peter Kiss made his season debut and scored 24 points against Clemson on Monday. PIC: Shay O'Brien
More of the same against Clemson: It was certainly nice having both veterans back to take on the Tigers on Monday, but ultimately Brad Brownell’s ACC powerhouse was too large of a pill for the Bulldogs to swallow with their current team. Bryant’s defensive strategy seemed to be to take the pressure off the shooters, hoping to draw them into making open shots. Turns out, Clemson proved they were quite good when given the space. The Tigers shot nearly 57% from the field, and 56% from 3-point-land, highlighted by a 30-13 run spanning nearly 10 minutes of gameplay.
Tyler Brelsford can shine when he wants to. The George Washington transfer started his season with a double-double against Fisher, laid an egg against URI as he struggled to find his place, but chipped in 8 against Clemson. But when creating for others, he’s the guy. “Playing out in the open is my game,” he told us after the win against Fisher. “Getting guys involved, hitting open shots...I love it here.”
Greg Calixte is much-needed paint depth. The Mason transfer is already proving his worth, racking up 15 points off the bench against Fisher. He was one of 7 plagued by the flu & strep throat against URI & Clemson, so look for Calixte to have a standout weekend if he is 100%.
The starters need a shake-up. Maybe this was Grasso’s wake-up call that the Bulldogs need a bit more size consistently out on the floor, so hopefully this reflects in the starting lineup. My dream lineup is…
Guards: Brelsford, Pride, Childs
Forward: Kiss, Elisias
Hall Elisias is close to a milestone. Let’s hope Hall can break Dan Garvin’s program record of 148 blocks this weekend against Daytona. He needs only 6 to tie it. What a bizarre statistic, considering Elisias will go down having played one full season less than Garvin did...
Coach's Desk: Jared Grasso's Comments
On the team’s composition & performance: “We're not a very good team right now. We've got a lot of work to do. We're not where we need to be right now at all.”
On the sickness that ran through the team: “'There's a sickness running through our campus; we have the flu & strep. We’ve had 7 players sick in the last 10 days, we're kind of a run-down bunch. But we're not very good right now. It was hard today with Greg (Calixte). He could barely walk about 12 hours ago. I don't know who has what. Our doctor's going to be on campus when we get back. We're going to have everyone with any symptoms see him.”
On lack of confidence in the rotation: ''I have no feel for a rotation right now to be honest with you. I'm still finding my way with this team. I hate to say I felt this coming, but I did. In multiple spots right now, I have to figure out who should play minutes where.”
On Peter Kiss returning: ''I just wish he had the same emotion on defense as he did when he scored. Obviously, he's a really good basketball player, but I need to get more from him on the other side of the court.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Sunshine Slam
Multi-Team Event in Daytona Beach, FL
Saturday 11/20 and Sunday 11/21
Matchup 1: Bethune Cookman
Take care of business against the fourth-worst team in college basketball. The Wildcats had a dismal 112.9 defensive efficiency rating through 3 games this year, which is second-worst in the nation, only in front of Mississippi Valley State (2-22 last year). A matchup of the #4 team in adjusted tempo (Kenpom) and a team that is statistically among the worst defensive programs in the USA should not end well on paper. Finish the job.
Matchup 2: Air Force or Holy Cross
Air Force is projected to beat Holy Cross, but the margin is thin. It was another brutal season for the Falcons, who haven’t had a winning season since 2013. If freshman Ethan Walker can be kept at bay, Bryant shouldn’t have a problem steamrolling Air Force. I’m oddly a bit less confident about Holy Cross, solely for the way the Patriot League was forced to play last year. They played Colgate and Army four times each, and took on Boston University a whopping SIX times. Oddly enough, the Crusaders split the series against a BU team that was much better than them on paper. I think Holy Cross is a bit worse this year, but don’t count them out if they can get some wind in their sails...i.e. an upset win over Air Force.