The past few weeks have been a far cry from the wild successes the Bryant Bulldogs enjoyed to start the year. Since our last edition of the Bryant Notebook, it's been a 1-3 skid, with the lone win coming as the second game of a back-to-back in Loretto against the St. Francis Red Flash. A positive COVID-19 test among Tier 1 personnel (confirmed Wednesday evening) has Bryant heading for a pause of at least 10 days, cancelling a pair of double-headers against Mount St. Mary's and Sacred Heart.
Let's dive into the Bryant Notebook.
RESULTS TO DATE (10-5 Overall, 6-4 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
1/7 - W 93-68 vs. Central Connecticut *
1/8 - W 76-64 vs. Central Connecticut *
1/14 - L 89-82 @ St. Francis Univ. (PA) *
1/15 - W 72-63 @ St. Francis Univ. (PA) *
1/30 - L 81-79 @ Fairleigh Dickinson *
1/31 - L 95-84 @ Fairleigh Dickinson *
* denotes conference opponent
1. Loretto is still doing Loretto things. Jared Grasso's last victory in Loretto came in his playing days - his win against the Red Flash as Quinnipiac's point guard in 2002 was the last win at DeGol Arena. If you asked NEC experts - and Vegas - that streak would've ended in Game 1 on Thursday 1/14. Instead, Bryant suffered its tenth straight road loss agains the Red Flash - the Bulldogs went 0 for 8 from beyond-the-arc to start the game, and dug themselves an early hole they just couldn't quite overcome. In stark contrast, they started 6 for 12 the next night, took a lead into the locker room, and earned themselves their first win in Loretto in the Grasso era. Hall Elisias grabbed 20 boards in the Game 2 win, while Mike Green III put up 25 points in Game 1. A split was good enough for Jared Grasso, who said "Our ride home will be a lot better than the rides we usually have from Loretto."
2. Was it the sage? Grasso broke out the herbs from his wife's drawer to try to rid DeGol Arena of whatever spirits had been dragging down the Bulldogs for the past ten years. Clearly, it worked - but they're going "back in the drawer where they belong," he told us after the game.
3. Back to regularly scheduled programming - your routine national rankings check-in. Bryant is still nationally ranked in quite a few offensive categories, and they're certainly in good company. Their 88.1 points per game is behind only Gonzaga (94.3) and Iowa (89.4), and outscores the Baylor Bears (87.0). Two of those teams are undefeated (not without the Zags being spooked by Pacific on Thursday night). The Bulldogs are also sitting pretty at 3rd nationally in offensive tempo and 6th-shortest in average possession length (14.5 seconds). Not too shabby for a small business school in northern Rhode Island...
4. After two weeks off, Fairleigh Dickinson had its way with Bryant last weekend. Bryant got a glimpse into its dreary past against Fairleigh Dickinson on their road trip to New Jersey this past weekend, in which they dropped a pair of games to the Knights - 81-79 in Game 1, and 95-84 in Game 2. Game 1 was a total toss-up, and despite the Bulldogs leading most of the game, All-NEC point guard Jahlil Jenkins hit a clutch 3 to give the Knights the lead - one which they'd hold the rest of the game. The very next day, FDU held off a mid-second half run from the Bulldogs - in which they cut the FDU lead to three - and cruised to an eleven-point win. The Knights converted a mind-boggling 68% of their shots from the field in the second half, while Bryant took a whopping 41 three-pointers...which Jared Grasso says "right now, for us, that's a little too many."
"We lost to a better team. They outplayed us, both games," said Grasso. "That falls on me - I have to figure out a way to get this team right. We have to find our way again - that's my job."
Grasso takes full credit for not preparing the team enough to beat what he called a "really good team" in Fairleigh Dickinson, but it comes with a big caveat. "I never find silver linings in losses," he said. "There's a winner and a loser, and we were the loser both games. This is my program, this is my team, and I have to figure out how to get this group right. We have to figure it out quickly. Hopefully we play our best basketball late - everyone goes through a lull and we have to get out of this lull right now."
5. That "lull" may last a while, though - COVID-19 finally hit Bryant's program. It was announced Thursday morning that the Bulldogs will be taking a pause due to a positive COVID-19 test among Tier 1 personnel. The test was uncovered as part of the team's routine testing protocols; Jared Grasso confirmed to the media that a player was informed on Wednesday night that he had tested positive for the virus. Grasso, who admittedly is a die-hard basketball guy, knows how hard these next few days will be for his players: "The biggest thing for me right now is my guys' health," he told us Thursday. "Their mental health is also a big concern," citing that most players will either be isolating in the Holiday Inn Express (about a mile away from Bryant) or in vacant dorms across the Bryant campus. One thing is for sure - Grasso's priority will always be his players.
Grasso told us that the team was watching other NEC games tonight while they settled into their new temporary living situations. With Merrimack and LIU on the schedule for late February, it's a good bet to assume SFU-Merrimack and LIU-Fairleigh Dickinson were on the docket.
In a consummate "Player's Coach" move, Grasso made sure his guys had the essentials to work out in their rooms, even without a hoop. Do we love this, or do we love this?