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Bona Hoops

I'll be heading down to Olean with Bob DiCesare on Wednesday night to do a column on the St. Bonaventure men, who host Atlantic 10 power Dayton in a conference game. (Yes, I know the Bona women are the best team in the area, and I'll try to catch them at some point this season, maybe in the NCAAs).

This will be my first chance to see the Bonnies in person this season. They need to play well against a Dayton team team that is currently rated 16th in the RPIs, the highest of any A-10 school. Dayton is 2-0 in the conference and has won four in a row. They won at Temple on Saturday, 87-77, three days after Temple beat Duke. The Flyers have rebounded nicely since getting blown out at home by UB on Nov. 30.

Bona was picked fourth in the A-10 in the preseason poll. They haven't done much to justify that sort of optimism. They've split their first two league games, but laid an egg Saturday at Duquesne, shooting 33 percent in a dreary, 66-52 loss. Andrew Nicholson scored only 11 points in 24 minutes.

Nicholson has to play better. Late last season, I thought he could be a borderline lottery pick in this year's NBA draft. His production has dropped off considerably in the first half of his senior season. Nicholson is averaging 14.1 points a game. He led the A-10 a year ago at 20.8 ppg. Yes, he's drawing double- and triple-teams whenever he touches the ball in the low post. But a great college player should be asserting himself, scoring against tough defenses and getting to the foul line.

In Bona's six losses, Nicholson is 11-for-20 from the foul line. That's pathetic for a big man of his skills. He should be getting to the line 5-6 times a game at least. It's one thing to avoid forcing shots and being a team player, but he's the best big man to play in this area in years. At some point, he needs to start producing like a star and carrying the Bonnies against the better teams. Otherwise, they have no shot at an NCAA tourney berth -- which is a reasonable hope if they're really the fourth-best team in the Atlantic 10.

In the most recent NBA mock drafts, Nicholson is still listed somewhere between 30th (the end of the first round) and 35th. He's probably going to be drafted. He has the ability to play in the NBA. But he's a college senior and needs to perform like an elite senior. Wednesday would be a good time to start.

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