St. Bonaventure should embrace opportunities play-in game will offer

St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt draws a play for his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball semifinal game against Davidson in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament, Saturday, March 10, 2018, in Washington. Davidson won 82-70. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

With the new selection show format, St. Bonaventure fans found out very early on that they were going to the Big Dance for the first time since 2012 and the third time this century

That excitement was followed quickly by dismay, as the selection committee placed the Bonnies in one of four play-in games (or First Four, as it has been branded by the NCAA) in Dayton, where they will meet the UCLA Bruins on Tuesday, meaning they were one of the last four at-large teams in the field.

I found the outrage a bit confusing. Sure, this is a team that won 12 games in a row at one point and finished the season at 25-7. Their best win is at Syracuse, a team that barley got in the field, while they lost to the likes of Niagara and Dayton . It’s a team that’s No. 69 ranking via KenPom is the worst of the at-large teams in the field and is ranked dead last by Las Vegas sportsbooks among at-large teams in their power rankings.

They do have metrics in their favor, such as a top 30 RPI ranking, but the purpose of this piece isn’t to reflect on the strengths or weaknesses of their tournament resume, because every team on the bubble has both.

They’re in now.

What does matter is that they are playing UCLA tonight, with the winner to meet Florida on Thursday in the first round in Dallas.

Instead of complaining, Bonaventure fans should be happy about this.

You have the opportunity to play in front of a national television audience in primetime as a marquee game that won’t be competing for viewers with other games.

Say they win and Jaylen Adams has a big game, which the All-Atlantic 10 guard has been known to do with regularity. You gain more of a national following because fans who don’t follow the Bonnies all of a sudden will tune in to see them.

This happens quite often come March, and Bonaventure could potentially reap the benefits this season.

There’s also the fact that they’re playing a national brand in UCLA that will bring even more eyeballs to this game than it normally would if than if they were playing a program with less prestige and a smaller fan base.

For a program that hasn’t had much of a recent NCAA Tournament history, playing in the smallest market in the Atlantic 10 (a conference that ranks 11th in RPI behind the MAC and Mountain West, among others), I honestly don’t see any negatives here.

Alright, so maybe there are a few, but they are relatively minor compared to the potential benefits and opportunity I think they have.

And I think the players, as well as Mark Schmidt and the coaching staff, will approach this game with the same attitude.