Checking In On… the Atlantic 10Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2009
Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.
- Rhode Island (4-0)
- Richmond (6-1)
- Duquesne (5-1)
- George Washington (4-1)
- Xavier (4-2)
- Charlotte (4-1)
- Temple (4-2)
- St. Bonaventure (4-2)
- St. Louis (4-2)
- Dayton (3-2)
- La Salle (3-2)
- Massachusetts (2-4)
- Saint Joseph’s (3-4)
- Fordham (1-4)
Early Season Invitational Tournaments, Part 2
The early season invitational tournaments have come to dominate the November schedules of many D1 conferences. For the Atlantic 10 Conference, these tournaments make an offer conference members can rarely refuse. Aside from the allure of playing fall basketball in exotic locations (ok, Cullowhee, N.C., Philadelphia and Chicago in November may not be that exotic…), they provide the A10 with a mix of high and mid-major opponents who, despite pressure from the NCAA, are often reluctant to sign equitable home-and-home agreements. If the locations are not exotic, the preliminary round games are often local (within a day’s drive or a 1 – 2 hour flight) if not at home (see Richmond, Massachusetts & St. Louis), while the final round games are scheduled (for the most part) on neutral courts, thus mitigating home court advantages sought by high-major opponents.
For the A10, 11 members participated in invitational tournaments this past November. The tournaments ranged from the (relatively) prestigious preseason NIT (Charlotte) to tropical locations like the Virgin Islands (St. Joseph’s), to continental destination cities like Charleston (La Salle) to the MVC-hosted (and insurance-sponsored) Traveler’s (St. Bonaventure).
Meeting the Challenge
Richmond (South Padre Island Invitational, 4-0; 2-0 this week). Richmond rolled Tennessee-Chattanooga 75-49, and beat Longwood 65-52 in preliminary rounds played in Richmond on 11/22 and 11/24. The Spiders then traveled to South Padre Island, TX, to finish the job last weekend. They took down two BCS conference powers — teams that went to the NCAAs last spring, edging the Bulldogs of Mississippi State on Friday night, 63-62 on a jumper by guard Kevin Anderson with 10 ticks left. The Spiders pushed their lead out to 14 twice during the 1st half, taking a 3 point lead into halftime. Mississippi State tied the game at the 10:28 mark of the 2nd half, and neither team could create a separation of more than three points for the next 8 minutes. After tying twice more, the Bulldogs pushed their lead out to 5 at the 2:07 mark, but the Spiders, led by Ryan Butler and Kevin Anderson’s shooting and Dan Geriot’s rebounding (and a crucial block by Kevin Smith), scored the last seven points to close out contest. Putting Mississippi State on the free throw line was a good strategy, as Dee Bost missed 2 free throws at the 0:28 mark that gave Richmond the chance to set up the game winner from Anderson. The Spiders had less trouble putting down the Tigers of Missouri on Saturday, leading much of the 1st and 2nd halves. The Tigers managed to tie the game twice in the 2nd half, and took a two-point lead on free throws from JT Tiller at the 4:45 mark of the 2nd half. Mizzou held the lead for all of 13 seconds, as senior David Gonzalvez took it back rather unceremoniously with a Kevin Anderson-assisted 3 pointer at the 4:32 mark. Kevin Anderson, David Gonzalvez and Dan Geriot went 5-6 from the charity stripe in the last minute of play to secure the win. Richmond will host Old Dominion on Wednesday night, then play Virginia Commonwealth in the Farm Bureau Insurance Black & Blue Classic, followed by a trip to Columbia, SC, to play South Carolina.
Charlotte (Preseason NIT, 2 consecutive weeks, 3-1; 2-0 this past week). After going 1-1 in the Duke-hosted pod in Durham last week (11/13 & 11/14) the 49ers journeyed to Hempstead, NY to participate in the consolation bracket where they ran the table, beating Yale (88-74) and then “host” Hofstra (80-72) on successive nights (11/23 & 11/24). Junior transfer Shamari Spears score 97 points in the 4 NIT games, 54 in the 2 games last week (28 points in 26 minutes versus Yale, which tops his 23 points in 23 minutes versus Elon). He has averaged 5 rebounds per game over the 4 games. After scoring 0 points against Yale on Monday, freshman Chris Braswell recorded his 2nd double-double of the season (15 points and 11 rebounds) against the Hofstra Pride on Tuesday. Charlotte’s 2 starting guards, Derrio Green (18 points) and DiJuan Harris (11 points to go with 6 assists) also scored in double digits versus Yale. The 49ers host East Carolina Wednesday night then travel to Louisville for a Saturday game against the Cardinals in another attempt to get the A10 off the schneid with the Big East.
Duquesne (CBE Classic, 2 consecutive weeks, 3-1; 2-1 this past week). Despite beating Iowa (Big Ten) in a cliff-hanging 52-50 contest in Iowa City, IA, the Dukes were routed to the sub-regional at Cullowhee, NC, home of Western Carolina. They disposed of a badly depleted Binghamton squad (American East) 77-52, had a near-death experience with D2 Arkansas-Montecello before putting the Boll Weevils down in overtime 53-50, only to fall to host Western Carolina 83-77 the next night. The Dukes returned home and beat Radford on Sunday. Through 2+ weeks of play guards Eric Evans and Jason Duty, along with wings Damian Saunders and Bill Clark, have logged major portions of the available time. Saunders and Clark have emerged as two of go-to guys in the Dukes’ offense, each taking about 25% of the shots (Clark takes about 25%, Saunders about 28%) when they are on the court. Though he has not logged as many hours (he was a DNP in the Dukes’ first game), 6-5 195 pound ‘tweener B.J. Monteiro makes an impact when he plays. Monteiro takes “go-to guy” level shots — 29.4% — when he is on the court. He is converting at a high enough rate (eFG% is 58.2, even as his PPWS is 1.08) to justify the touches and role he has assumed. Montiero hit the two free throws at the end of regulation that put Duquesne into overtime with Arkansas-Fort Smith, thus allowing the Dukes to put up the win at the end of overtime. Duquesne will meet Pittsburgh in the downtown Mellon Arena Wednesday for bragging rights to the city.
Temple (Philly Hoops Classic, 3-1). Temple took 2nd place in the Philly Hoops Classic with a win over Virginia Tech (of the ACC, 61-50) in the BCS Bracket followed by a loss to St. John’s (of the Big East, 55-48) in the finals. The Owls swept their two preliminary round opponents Delaware (CAA, 76-56), followed by Siena (MAAC, 73-69) earlier in the season, giving them a 3-1 record for the tournament. Coach Fran Dunphy looked to Ryan Brooks, Juan Fernandez and Levoy Allen for offense. The combination has been effective with the right opponents, but playing two games in 24 hours meant Coach Dunphy had to reach deeper into his rotation for fresh bodies. Junior forward Levoy Allen notched a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds) in 40 minutes of play against Virginia Tech, but could only post 9 points and 4 rebounds in 31 minutes against St. John’s in the Championship game the next day. Freshman Rahir Jefferson and sophomore Ramone Moore had their numbers called for bigger minutes versus the Red Storm. The Owls took a one point lead into the half, but could not sustain the lead through the second half, losing by 7 (55-48). Temple took to the road again Tuesday night, and beat Western Michigan (MAC) 76-70. Ryan Brooks was the high scorer, 17 points. Next up for the Owls – Penn State (Big Ten) on Saturday.
La Salle (Charleston Classic last week 2-1; 0-1 this week). The Explorers returned from their Southern sojourn no doubt enthused with prospects for the 2010 campaign. With six days to prepare for their Big 5 debut versus Villanova (Big East), Dr. John Giannini developed an interesting game plan that centered on controlling the boards and turning Villanova’s tendency to overplay the press against them. The first part worked to a “T” as junior forward Jerrell Williams teamed with freshman center Aric Murray to nearly outrebound the entire Villanova squad (30 to 34). The two frontcourt players notched double-doubles, Williams scoring 15 points while snaring 16 rebounds. Aric Murray scored 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to make his argument for the A10 Freshman of the Year. This was Murray’s second double-double in his 5 games as an Explorer. The second part of Dr. Giannini’s plan misfired badly in the first half, as Williams and Murray combined with guards Rodney Green and Kamini Barrett to commit 15 of La Salle’s 19 1st half turnovers. The Explorers lost nearly half of their possessions without taking a shot. Everyone caught their breath in the locker room and managed to cut turnovers in half in the 2nd half, but their shooting went cold and they conceded another 10 points to Villanova’s 1st half lead of 8. The Explorers host the Leopards of Lafayette (Patriot League) on Thursday night.
St. Bonaventure (Basketball Travelers Classic, 2-1). The Bonnies traveled to Normal, Illinois, home of the Illinois State Redbirds of the Missouri Valley Conference, and beat Southeast Missouri State (67-44) and Norfolk State (98-71), before bowing to the host in the final, 80-77. This might be renamed the Chris Matthews Showcase, as the 6-4, 205lb guard, who hails from Washington DC, scored 63 points over the 3 games. Or maybe the Andrew Nicholson Showcase, as the Bonnie big scored 46 points, grabbed 29 rebounds and 4 blocked shots over the 3 game tournament. Nicholson might have been more productive had he not seen very limited action (15 minutes) in the Championship game due to foul troubles. The sophomore picked up 2 fouls in 45 seconds about halfway through the 1st half (12:02) and had to sit the rest of the period. The Bonnies were up by 4 when Nicholson left the game; they took a 2 point lead (39-37) into the locker room. Nicholson started the 2nd half, but picked up #3 at the 16:14 mark, and #4 (at the 15:28 mark) seconds later. Coach Schmidt benched him for 7.5 minutes, bringing him back in at the 7:25 mark (the Redbirds up by 5) only to see him DQ’d 85 seconds later, the first time this season Nicholson has garnered more than 3 fouls. Guard Malcolm Eleby, a 6-3 guard out of Philadelphia stepped in and picked up the scoring slack, putting 14 points on the board. Eleby also picked up 9 rebounds and dished 4 assists in the game. Also notable was Jon Hall’s 39 point, 12 assist (and more importantly…) 5 turnover tournament. The Bonnies will travel to Starkville to face the Mississippi State (SEC) Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon. Should make for a good side-by-side with Richmond.
Taking a Hard Look
St. Louis (Chicago Invitational, 2-2, 0-2 in Chicago). St. Louis hosted Kennesaw State (11/22) and Mississippi Valley State (11/24) in their first 2 rounds of the Chicago Invitational, before heading off to Chicago to complete the bracket. They must have been more comfortable in Chaifetz Arena, because they swept the Delta Devils (75-39) and Owls (76-66) by a combined 46 points, but dropped their semifinal game versus Iowa State 65-54 on Friday, before losing to Notre Dame 64-52 in the consolation game on Saturday. The 2 losses came by a combined margin of 23 points. Coach Rick Majerus’ team played the tournament for a rock-steady 62 (or so) possessions, coaxed to go a bit faster by the Hawkeyes, but in turn systematically picking the Delta Devils apart at a very methodical pace. The Billikens were among the lowest possession teams in D1 last season, and this season it seems will be much the same. Coach Majerus’ offense runs through the trio of Willie Reed, a rail-thin 6-9 forward from Kansas City, MO, 5-10 point guard Kwamain Mitchell and 6-6 forward Brian Conklin, who combine for 85.2% of the shots when they are on the court together. The keys for their success however, may be Mitchell’s assist rate (best if it is at least 2:1) and Christian Salecich’s presence on the 3 point line. Salecich’s 14% shot rate labels him as the 3rd/4th option in the Billiken offense, but if he is hitting, St. Louis is rolling. Salecich has gone 9-23 from beyond the arc in St. Louis’ 4 wins. That is the equivalent of shooting .587 from inside the arc while scoring 44 points. In the Billiken’s 2 losses Salicich shot 0-7 for 3s, scoring 4 points total. St. Louis will travel to Athens, GA to play the Bulldogs Wednesday evening, then back to St. Louis to host Southern Illinois on Saturday.
Dayton (Puerto Rico Tip Off last week, 1-2; 1-0 this week). The Flyers limped home from Puerto Rico, rested for 5 days and then beat the Towson Tigers of the CAA 74-69 at home. Next up for the Flyers — a road trip to Oxford, OH to face the Redhawks of Miami of Ohio (MAC).
Xavier (1-2 Old Spice Classic last week). The Muskateers flew into Orlando, FL for the Old Spice Classic sporting a 3-0 record through the 1st week (more or less) of D1 play. They limped out of Orlando, absorbing 2 losses, compliments of Marquette (Big East, 71-61) and Baylor (Big 12, 69-65). The X men beat up on Creighton of the Missouri Valley Conference, 80-67, who were earlier beaten by Dayton, (90-80). The high-scorer honors were distributed among big man Jason Love (21 points, 19 rebounds versus Marquette), Jamel McLean (17 points versus Baylor) and Jordan Crawford (22 points versus Creighton). Xavier returns home to shake off the memories of Orlando with a game against Kent State on Friday night (RTC Live will be there).
Saint Joseph’s (Paradise Jam, 1-2 last week, 0-1 versus Rider this week). After taking Boston College in the opening round of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, everything was looking up for the Hawks. A second round loss to the Big Ten’s Purdue 85-60 may have come as no surprise, but losing the 5th place game to DePaul of the Big East 58-51, had to be a disappointment. The Blue Demons, shut out 0-18, in Big East play in 2009, was universally expected to finish at the bottom of the conference again this season. Returning to Phildelphia to take a 7 day breather, the Hawks traveled to Lawrenceville, NJ to play Rider of the NEC. The Hawks dropped their 3rd game straight 81-73. Junior Idris Hilliard led the Hawks with 13 points, while freshman Justin Crosgile chipped in 12. The Hawks take another 5 day break before going to Ithaca, NY to play Ivy League favorite Cornell on Sunday.
Massachusetts (Legends Classic, 2 consecutive weeks, 1-3 overall; 0-2 this week). The only good news for the Minutemen was hosting one of the preliminary pod sites. They lost to Cornell (Ivy League) 74-61 in a game that served as their home opener, before disposing of D2 Arkansas-Fort Smith 94-68, also at home. The Minutemen traveled to Atlantic City, NJ, to compete in the Championship Bracket. They lost to Rutgers (Big East) 83-75 on Friday night. They played natonal runner-up Michigan State on Saturday, falling by the rather lopsided tally of 103-68. Massachusetts faces Quinnipiac of the NEC next on Wednesday night, before traveling to Worchester to face the Crusaders of Holy Cross (Patriot League) on Saturday.
The strongest showings, considering the team records and the level of competition, would have to go to Richmond, Temple and St. Bonaventure. If Temple benefited from the familiar surroundings, St. Bonaventure may have suffered for lack of the same. Losing Nicholson for the first time this season was bad timing. They could have used him down the stretch against Illinois State. Charlotte is something of a paradox, until the magnitude of the 49ers loss to Duke is considered. A 3-1 record should have earned the 49ers a more favorable differential, but dropping a 42 point decision is bound to leave scars. The magnitude of the efficiency differentials for Saint Joseph’s and Massachusetts may be an early season hint of troubles to come this season.
Stayed at Home This Time
Rhode Island (1-0 this week). Rhode Island played in no invitationals this season, but the Rams traveled to Davidson, NC, and took down the Southern Conference power 75-65. Coach Jim Baron’s team was paced by senior guard Keith Cothran’s 15 points, pinning the Davidson Wildcats with their 4th loss in their 5 game season. The Rams will host Virginia Commonwealth on Wednesday night.
George Washington (0-1 this week). If the Colonials did not play in an exotic location, they did host an exotic guest when they clashed with (and lost to) the Oregon State Beavers at the Charles E. Smith Center Saturday. President Obama, the First Lady and their two daughters watched as the Colonials fell 64-57, to Beavers. Mrs. Obama’s brother, Craig Robinson, is the head coach of Oregon State. GW will clash with the Patriots of George Mason Wednesday night.
Fordham (0-1 this week). Playing in no invitational tournaments, the Rams locked horns with city rival Jaspers of Manhattan University, taking the short end of a 68-44 decision. Fordham was paced by forward Chris Gaston’s 15 points. Gaston is a 6-6 freshman from Newark, NJ. Fordham has dropped 2 straight, the second time this season the Rams have lost 2 in a row. Coach Dereck Whittenburg’s squad will host Bowling Green (MAC) on Saturday, and will hopefully get back on a winning track.
Games to Catch
Duquesne vs Pittsburgh (Wednesday 12/2) – The Panthers took their first loss to Texas early last week. It was an ugly 16 point loss. The Dukes will want to push the pace, but the Panthers will want to take their time. The contrast in styles should be interesting, particularly if both teams are hitting their shots.
St. Bonaventure at Mississippi State (Saturday 12/5) – The Bonnies will put their sophomore Andrew Nicholson up against State’s senior Jarvis Varnado. Hopefully the referees will let the players decide the game.
Charlotte at Louisville (Saturday 12/5) – The 49ers have a shot at a Big East team. This could be tough, but might be useful as a measuring stick.
Rhode Island vs Providence (Saturday 12/5) – Another bragging rights game that will catch little, if any, notice outside of Rhode Island and New England, but it is important for what it might tell us about each team’s progress.
Penn State vs Temple (Saturday 12/5) – A rising Big Ten team comes to play Temple. This is a great opportunity for a quality win for the Owls.