Since our first rendition of the Bryant Notebook, the Bulldogs have taken 3 victories - two against Northeast Conference foes, and another against an Atlantic-10 opponent. Let's clean out the notebook and dive into Bryant's successes as we head into 2021.
RESULTS TO DATE (7-2 Overall, 3-1 NEC)
11/27 - L 85-84 @ Syracuse
12/1 - W 93-85 @ New Hampshire
12/5 - W 138-83 vs. Rhode Island College
12/8 - W 101-82 @ St. Francis Brooklyn *
12/9 - L 93-91 @ St. Francis Brooklyn *
12/12 - W 81-72 vs. Stony Brook
12/16 - W 74-62 vs. Wagner *
12/17 - W 81-75 vs. Wagner *
12/21 - W 93-88 @ UMass
* denotes conference opponent
1. Yes, the Dawgs really did take down the Minutemen. That’s not a typo – the Bryant Bulldogs notched their 7th tick in the win column this year with a 93-88 win over UMass on Monday. There were certainly lots of impressive statistics to digest, but certainly none more noteworthy than the 58% shooting mark from the field. Most of the Bulldogs’ success came from sophomore Michael Green III’s career day (which we’ll digest shortly), but it also came by way of the paint – they out-rebounded UMass 35-31, and had 38 paint points to the Minutemen’s 28. Per Jared Grasso, here was the strategy: “We wanted to trap the post and get the ball out of Tre Mitchell’s hands, and we wanted to run the three-point shooters off the line. The pace of the game is going to be high-scoring - I think we got stops when we needed to, and I think our guys did a better job guarding the ball in the second half. I’m really glad that our guys were able to make adjustments out of timeouts on the fly - that’s something that you have to be able to do. When teams make adjustments, you need to be able to adjust too.”
2. The Bulldogs are now 2-0 against the Atlantic-10 Conference in the past two years. All athletes know the feeling…you’re playing a team you know you can beat, but it seems as though everything goes in their favor. They have the touted prospects, the flashy uniforms, and the higher-rated prospects. Jared Grasso was certainly not blind to the fact that this effect was in play against UMass: “A lot of our guys know these players,” he remarked. “They know how good Tre Mitchell is supposed to be. They know a lot of these guys, because these are guys who have higher reputations than our guys. For our kids, it’s a chance to prove something. These are kids that were recruited higher than them, and have bigger reputations than them, so our guys came in with a chip on their shoulder and had something to prove. Those are the kind of guys I want to be around.” With a win against Fordham last year, the Bulldogs are 2-1 against A-10 programs in Jared Grasso’s three years at the helm, and undefeated in the past two years. Expect them to schedule (and beat) more A-10 opponents in years to come.
3. Bryant currently resides 8th in the nation with 92.8 points per game. Only seven teams are scoring more per-game than the Bulldogs – Gonzaga, Iowa, and Baylor are three of them. That’s certainly some good company for Bryant, who has scored at least 90 points in more than half of their nine games, and has cracked the century-mark in two of them (St. Francis-Brooklyn and Rhode Island College). The Bulldogs can thank many, but Peter Kiss seems to be one of the shining stars as we begin the year. He’s now scored double-figures in all but one of the Bulldogs’ nine games – six of those efforts yielded a 20-point day for the redshirt-junior. Sharpshooter Chris Childs has scored at least 10 in all nine games he’s appeared in. It’s a total team effort for Bryant.
4. Mike Green III is emerging as this team's best offensive weapon. Arguably the scrappiest and quickest guard that Bryant has enjoyed in recent history, Mike Green III is finally becoming the “diamond in the rough” that Jared Grasso was expecting him to be. Green’s story is one of perseverance and belief in his own abilities – Grasso was the only Division I coach to offer him a scholarship. Other regional coaches are kicking themselves for not buying stock in MG3 before it was cool. Green scored a career-high 33 points against UMass on 12/21 and became the program’s first player since Bulldog great Adam Grant back in February 2019. MG3’s performance was the sixth-best offensive output in D1 program history. We asked Jared Grasso what it means for Green to have had a career day against a team that typically recruits higher-caliber talent than Bryant – his response was one of gratitude and hope. “It means he found the right place, and we found the right guy,” said Grasso. “All that ‘ranking stuff’ and internet recruiting means nothing – I think it shows on a night like tonight, where a kid like Mike Green who had no scholarship offers comes in and is hands-down the best player on the floor.”
Mike Green III is standing out in his sophomore campaign so far. PIC: Bryant Athletics
Grasso went onto rave about Green, and the leaps & bounds he made as a player this offseason. “We worked his tail off in the summer to get stronger…he takes hits better, he can stay on the floor for longer stretches, and he’s grown. He’s put so much time and work into it that he’s expanded his game. He watched a ton of film with our staff getting ready for games. He wants to be a professional basketball player...and that’s how he’s treating it. That’s why he’s having the results he is.”
Ask Mike Green, and he’ll attribute it all to the team. “Team chemistry is very important,” he said. “We’ve just gotta be locked in as a team - we all have to be on the same page. We all have to know each other. But we’ve grown, and we’ve built that team chemistry, and we’ve practiced it every day.”
5. Charles Pride is worthy of his captainship. We asked Grasso on the resolve this team has showed over the past few weeks – getting out to leads, seeing them shrink, and persevering in the final minutes to earn a hard-fought win. We saw it come up just short in the losses against Syracuse (85-84) and St. Francis Brooklyn (93-91), but also saw it pay off against Stony Brook (81-72), the second game of a back-to-back against Wagner (81-75), and now the Minutemen. Grasso is attributing this newfound chip-on-the-shoulder to the vocal leadership of his captains – none more than sophomore swing guard Charles Pride. “It’s a different presence in our huddle now,” said Grasso. “Our guys have been there before now. We’re learning what it takes to win, and we’re learning how difficult some of these games are going to be. Charles Pride in every huddle is talking about winning [the next] four minutes, and the things we need to do to finish the game, and it’s becoming a player-coached team, which is what I want. Those guys are our leaders. We’re only going to go as far as they lead us.” Pride was highly touted out of Putnam Science Academy, but was relatively lost in the shadows of Mike Green last year. They’re clearly sharing the spotlight in 2020-21.
Charles Pride is finding his role in a crowded Bulldogs offense. PIC: David Silverman, @DSPicsPhoto
6. Unlike many other programs, the Bulldogs were able to go home for Christmas. With coronavirus implications alive and omnipresent, most college programs kept opted to keep its players on campus for Christmas with the hopes of limiting exposure to the virus. Providence was one – Ed Cooley was devastated for his team, but knew what he had to do – to paraphrase: “we have to keep them here – we can’t risk it.” The Bulldogs, though, had an ample window between games where they could afford to send players home for a few days without minimizing time for workouts & practices. Grasso also tells us that LSU reached out to the Bryant staff at the “last second,” to which he replied he “absolutely would’ve done,” but the window was simply too small for the two teams to arrange the logistics. LSU, who is 5-1, had games against New Orleans, North Texas, and VCU scheduled for last week – all were cancelled.
Grasso believes that Bryant is “all done” with non-conference play, but the message remains steady: “We’ll play anybody and anywhere,” he reiterated on Monday. "Right now, my biggest concern is trying to keep our guys getting better. That’s one of the things I’ve always been about. I want our guys to play good teams, and I want our guys to have great opportunities to play at great venues.”