COLCHESTER, Vt. - Saint Michael's College men's basketball senior Matt Bonds (Accokeek, Md./North Point) is one of 16 contestants for the seventh annual State Farm Insurance Dark Horse Dunker contest, as announced on Tuesday by event producer Intersport. The winner 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. ET. Fans will chose who advances through the four-week Dark Horse Dunker by voting online, which begins today at 1 p.m. ET.
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 device per calendar day for each head-to-head bracket matchup. 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 here.
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 three NCAA Division II players in the competition, joining Romond Jenkins of Tartleton (Texas) State University and Austin Rettig from the University of Tampa. The bracket is rounded out by 10 mid-major NCAA Division I players, one from Division III and two from NAIA.
Bonds averages 22.0 points and 12.5 rebounds as a senior, placing fourth in Division II in rebounding, second in double-doubles (17) and third in offensive rebounding (4.7). The 6-foot-5 forward is fifth in Northeast-10 Conference history with 1,067 rebounds, and sits 13th at Saint Michael's with 1,466 points. He has gone for 18 20-point games this season while throwing down 19 dunks, dunking at least once in 14 of 23 contests.
The first round of voting begins today at 1 p.m. ET and ends on Feb. 21 at 12:59 p.m. ET. Bonds squares off with 6-foot-9 Texas native Xavier Smith of NAIA Oklahoma City University, and the winner advances to take on the winner between Division I Saint Bonaventure University's Denzel Gregg and Division I University of South Alabama's Nick Stover. The eight-man quarterfinals occur between 1 p.m. ET on Feb. 22 and 12:59 p.m. ET on March 1 before the semifinals takes place between 1 p.m. ET on March 2 and 12:59 p.m. ET on March 9. The championship round runs from 1 p.m. ET on March 10 to 12:59 p.m. ET on March 17, with the winner being announced that day at 1 p.m. ET. 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.