COLCHESTER, Vt. – St. Michael’s College men’s basketball senior Matt Bonds (Accokeek, Md./North Point) is one of eight entrants to advance to the quarterfinal round of the seventh annual State Farm Insurance Dark Horse Dunker contest, as announced on Tuesday by event producer Intersport. The winner of what was originally a 16-player bracket receives an invitation to the 29th annual State Farm College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships on March 30 in Phoenix, with the competition broadcast live on ESPN at 10 p.m. Fans will chose who advances through the four-week Dark Horse Dunker by voting online, which continues Wednesday at 1 p.m.
Each student-athlete will try to advance through a 16-player bracket that is comprised of head-to-head matchups, with outcomes determined by online fan voting at darkhorsedunker.com, where a profile and highlight reel for each player is housed. Fans are each limited to one vote per browser per device each day for head-to-head bracket matchups. In the unlikely event of a tie in voting results, a winner from such tie will be selected through a random drawing. To view Bonds’ highlight reel, visit youtube.com/watch?v=VWnvlfKG2vA&t.
Intersport touts the contest as being “stocked with under-the-radar players who possess the power, creativity and hops to compete against college basketball’s stars in the College Slam Dunk Championship.” Bonds is one of two NCAA Division II players remaining, joining Austin Rettig from the University of Tampa, while six Division I student-athletes complete the field. In the opening round, Bonds knocked off Xavier Smith of NAIA Oklahoma City University, 50.78 percent to 49.22 percent, the closest margin among the eight matchups. The original bracket included 10 mid-major NCAA Division I players, three from Division II, one from Division III and two from NAIA.
Bonds averages 21.9 points and 12.4 rebounds as a senior, placing fourth in Division II in rebounding, second in double-doubles (18) and tying for third in offensive rebounding (4.7). The 6-foot-5 forward is fifth in Northeast-10 Conference history with 1,089 rebounds, and sits 13th at Saint Michael’s with 1,507 points. He has gone for 19 20-point games this season while throwing down 20 dunks, dunking at least once in 15 of 25 contests.
The quarterfinal round of voting begins Wednesday at 1 p.m. and ends on March 1 at 12:59 p.m. Bonds squares off with 6-foot-7 Syracuse native Denzel Gregg of Division I Saint Bonaventure University, and the winner takes on either Murray State University’s Damarcus Croaker or Southeast Missouri State University’s Antonius Cleveland in the semifinals. Both hail from Division I institutions. The semifinals take place between 1 p.m. on March 2 and 12:59 p.m. on March 9, and the championship round runs from 1 p.m. on March 10 to 12:59 p.m. on March 17, with the winner being announced that day at 1 p.m. Three of the first six Dark Horse Dunker contest winners later claimed the College Slam Dunk Championship titles.
A committee selected the 16 finalists based upon their demonstrated skillset, statistics, character and leadership qualities. Each finalist must be a current college student in good standing who is on track to graduate at the end of the 2016-17 academic school year, or otherwise have completed their college basketball career or exhausted their eligibility, and be 18 years of age or older and a legal resident of the United States.