By: Mark Chalifoux
Andrew Nicholson is the best player who shouldn’t be in the NCAA tournament. He was supposed to be one of the best players in the NIT. Instead, he willed his St. Bonaventure Bonnies to an Atlantic-10 championship and secured an at-large bid that literally ripped the hearts out of six teams waiting for an at-large bid.
The A-10 championship game was the last game with bubble implications as the Bonnies needed a win to get into the NCAA tournament and they faced a less-than-inspired Xavier team that had punched its ticket the day before. If the favored Muskies won, then Drexel, Miami (Fla.), Oral Roberts, Seton Hall, Mississippi State and Nevada would’ve been put up for a vote for the last at-large spot.
Instead, Andrew Nicholson, the A-10 Player of the Year, put the Bonnies on his back and sparked the upset. He put up a dominant 26 points,14 rebounds and eight blocks in the win. He also earned a first-round date with the No. 3-seeded Florida State Seminoles. While it may be a longshot, the Bonnies may have potential for an upset in the first round and it’s solely because of Nicholson.
ESPN NBA Draft expert Chad Ford has Nicholson as his sleeper to watch when it comes to future stars in that region and the 6-foot-9 power forward has shown all the skills necessary to compete at the next level. He averaged 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game this season and he’s a long, athletic forward who can throw down with the best of them.
He’s definitely improved in his rebounding and averages two blocks per game. Most importantly, he’s improved his jump shot. Nicholson sparked St. Bonaventure early by hitting two three-pointers early in the contest before doing most of his damage inside. Nicholson shoots nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc, which is a dramatic improvement over his junior season.
He’s the workhorse for the No.14-seeded Bonnies but he has St. Bonaventure in the tournament for the first time in more than a decade and the future pro will be a handful for Florida State to shut down.
Andrew Nicholson dunk-And-1:
Andrew Nicholson tribute video:
Mark Chalifoux is a contributing writer to CBS Digital. He can be reached at email@example.com and @markchalifoux on twitter.