The Bryant Bulldogs became a Division 1 College Basketball team in the 2008-2009 season and have yet to notch an NCAA Tournament bid. Since becoming a Division 1 team, the Bulldogs hailing from Rhode Island have only had two winning seasons, both under Tim O’Shea. O’Shea was let go following the 2018-19 season, and the search for a Coach for a school that is still somewhat new to D1 hoops, has no history in terms of D1 Basketball, and the search ended with Iona Assistant Jared Grasso. And the first two seasons didn’t go great, but you could tell with the talent coming in, big things were in store. Iona was the true first team to hit the transfer portal often, and Grasso helped bring a lot of transfers to play for the Gaels during his tenure being an assistant to Tim Cluess. And the same formula has become a thing for the Bulldogs, bringing in three significant transfers, Peter Kiss, a Rutgers transfer, Luis Hurtado from UAB, and Melo Eggleston from Arkansas State. Still, Eggleston was lost to injury after one game this season. Not only was Bryant my NEC favorite coming into the season, but their now the heavy favorites and can give a team a scare in the NCAA Tournament, a berth in the Big Dance that would mark the programs first.
We have also seen Bryant’s ability to go on the road and play great against teams that most expect to easily win those games. In the opener, Bryant led Syracuse for nearly the entire game, Syracuse took an 85-84 lead, and Peter Kiss missed a three on a good look. That loss against Syracuse was tough because of how well they played, and Cuse currently looks to be one of the better teams in the ACC.
The next one was on the road against UMass. The Bulldogs went into UMass led by double-figures at half, and UMass came back, but the Bulldogs held on for a 93-88 victory. Bryant shutdown Tre Mitchell in the game; Mitchell is one of the top players in the A-10. The fact that Bryant went into UMass’s arena and won, shows how good this team truly is.
The Bulldogs play a rapidly fast pace, 5th in adjusted tempo on KenPom, and they have some legitimate scorers.
Michael Green III, the star of the team, a do-it-all guard from the Bronx, is averaging 18.7/4.1/4.7 this season while shooting 37% from three. Despite Green being undersized, the guard is one of the toughest players you’ll see. Green is not afraid to get to the paint and draw contact. Green could be the conference POTY this season.
Getting Peter Kiss to come over in the transfer portal is a program changing move. Kiss started his career as a prolific scorer for Quinnipiac before starting a fair amount of games for the Scarlet Knights in 2018-19. You don’t often get a former B1G starter to come to the NEC, and he has become one of the top players in the conference. Kiss is such a talented player, averaging 17.4 PPG, and leads the team with 2.2 steals a game. Kiss can score from anywhere, a true three-level scorer that is also in the competition for conference POTY, an excellent issue to have.
The JUCO transfer Chris Childs, from Indian Hills CC. Childs played for Coach Hank Plona and was a teammate of Kansas’s Tyon Grant-Foster, Oregon State’s Maurice Calloo, Wyoming’s Drake Jeffries, San Francisco’s Samba Kane, Kent State’s Malique Jacobs, Jacksonville’s Loseni Kamara. Quite a lot of company that Childs had in JUCO and is now one of Division 1 College Basketball’s best shooters. Childs is shooting 47% from three while averaging 15 PPG. JUCO transfers are always integral to mid-major teams, but Childs was a diamond in the rough that any high-major team has to annoy that they missed out on.
Speaking of JUCO transfers Hall Elisias, was another complete steal for Jared Grasso. Elisias last season proved to be one of the better shot blockers in the country, and he’s showing that once again this year, averaging 3.3 BPG. Having someone that makes it challenging in the paint is so important to a winning team. By far the best post-defender in the NEC.
Charles Pride is enjoying a breakout sophomore season with 14.0 PPG, 7.8 RPG this season. Pride’s shooting has improved in a big way this season, but Pride is an immensely valuable player due to his rebounding ability, a 6’4 player that plays the wing. All the different things Pride brings to the table is enormous, and Pride is a winning Basketball player.
You won’t find NEC teams with this level of talent very often.
So, where can this team go?
I absolutely think Bryant wins the NEC tournament, getting them a spot in the Big Dance for the first time; the only team I think could compete is St Francis (BKN), a team they split within their earlier series. Almost every season, the NEC winning team is either in the first four as a 16 seed, or a regular 16 seed. Could Bryant break that trend? I could see them playing their way to a 14 or 15 seed, but even if they are a 16, that offense has the ability to scare a one seed. I’m not saying Bryant will beat a one seed if it comes to that, though I think it’ll be an entertaining game mostly due to those four players I listed earlier. If you haven’t checked out a Bryant game this season, you have to watch. The offense is a thing of beauty.