Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by jstevrtc on December 10th, 2009

checkinginon

Joe Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Standings (as of 12/9/09):

  1. Richmond (8-1)
  2. Charlotte (7-1)
  3. George Washington (6-1)
  4. Rhode Island (6-1)
  5. Temple (7-2)
  6. Duquesne (6-2)
  7. Dayton (6-2)
  8. La Salle (5-2)
  9. Xavier (5-3)
  10. St. Louis (5-3)
  11. St. Bonaventure (4-3)
  12. Massachusetts (4-5)
  13. Saint Joseph’s (3-4)
  14. Fordham (2-5)

Changes.   Change is in the air throughout the Atlantic 10 Conference very early this season.  Xavier, Dayton and Temple have all hit early road bumps in their out of conference (OOC) schedules — each has already logged a second loss.  Charlotte, Rhode Island and Richmond on the other hand, have been strong coming out of the gate, Richmond’s early season loss to William & Mary notwithstanding.  La Salle has had the strongest start in several seasons.  St. Bonaventure logged a couple of strong outings…before their rendezvous with Mississippi State.  And Fordham departed from long precedent by “releasing” 7th year head coach Dereck Whittenburg five games into their season. For Saint Joseph’s and Massachusetts however, change has not been a good thing.  Coach Phil Martelli may have finally found his guards, and Coach Derek Kellogg may have his athletic wings, but they are all very, very young.

Team Rundowns:

Charlotte — Coach Bobby Lutz has a very potent inside force in the form of Samari Spears, a 6’6 245 pound 4 who tranferred in from Boston College.  Spears, a decidedly “inside” player has logged a 56.4 eFG% so far, taking a whopping 41.8% of the 49ers’ shots when he is on the floor (about 57% of the time).  Spears has combined with guard Dario Green (a 6’2 sophomore) to form a lethal inside/outside attack.  Green steps back and takes about 20.7% of the squad’s shots when he is on the court, but is hitting at a 48.4% (eFG%) clip.  Green takes about 75% of his shots from beyond the arc, and uses his touches to set up other players too — his 14 assists are 3rd on the team. Though he has played only 27.1% of the available minutes, 6’3 freshman guard Shamarr Bowden has not wasted any time when he gets the chance. Bowden, like Spears, takes >40% of the shots when he is on the floor, hitting at a eye-popping 57.5 eFG%.  What makes Bowden effective however, is that he takes 96% of his field goal attempts as threes.  Though he has played <30% of the time at the off guard spot, Bowden is the third leading scorer on the squad, with 30% of those points coming against Louisville alone.  The 49ers opened December with a double-digit win over East Carolina, and then, led by 6’8 freshman forward Chris Braswell (21 points) and Bowden (17 points) along with Green (20 points), ran a young, but well-regarded Louisville squad off of the Cardinals’ home court.  The score, a decisive 22-point win, earned Charlotte 18 votes in the AP poll last Monday, the first in-season ballots cast for a 49er squad in 2 seasons.  Charlotte will host Gardner-Webb on Saturday (and hopefully prepare for them), then take a week off.

Dayton — The Flyers have put together a four game winning streak since returning from Puerto Rico, three games coming in the last week.  After finishing November by beating Towson (CAA, 2-4), 74-69, the Flyers beat Miami (OH)on the road, then home to beat the Lafayette, and back on the road to scrape by George Mason (CAA, 4-5) 56-55 — a score very similar to the one posted by #3 Villanova when the Pats and Wildcats hooked up in Puerto Rico.

Duquesne — Suffered a two-overtime loss to Pittsburgh, 67-58, last Wednesday (12/02).  The Dukes led by double-digits going into the locker room at half-time, 34-20, and stretched the lead to 16 early in the 2nd half before allowing the Panthers back into the game.  They took their revenge on Savannah State, 58-44, on Saturday.  Duquesne will take to the road to play West Virginia (Big East, 5-0) on Wednesday 12/09, then return to Pittsburgh to host in-state rival Robert Morris (NEC, 3-4) on Saturday, followed by Canisius (MAAC, 4-3) the following Wednesday, 12/16.

Fordham — Closing out November with a double-digit loss to cross-Bronx rival Manhattan was the last straw…for sophomore guard Jio Fontan, who returned to Rose Hill very reluctantly last summer, and for Fordham’s seventh year coach, Derick Whittenburg, who was issued his walking papers by Fordham’s AD, Frank McLaughlin.  Assistant coach Jarrod Grasso has been appointed interim coach and will finish out the season on Rose Hill, but Fontan, who left the team and could not be persuaded to return, has been given his release and will transfer at the end of the semester.  Perhaps still reeling from the housecleaning, the Rams dropped a 21-point decision to Bowling Green.  But in Coach Grasso’s second game, the Rams came out running and up-ended Stony Brook (American East, 6-3) by 16, 93-76. Coach Grasso is 1-1, a place Coach Whittenburg had not been in a while.  Fordham will face city rival St. John’s on Sunday.

George Washington — Beat George Mason (CAA, 4-5) easily, 66-49, then sunk Navy 81-69 to bounce back from their November-ending loss to Oregon State.  Are the Colonials back on the rise?  Wednesday night’s matchup with Providence of the Big East should be a good bellweather and opportunity to compare with Rhode Island.  George Washington then travels to Towson to take on the Tigers Saturday.

La Salle — After dropping their Big 5 game with Villanova, the Explorers got back on the winning track with double-digit wins over Lafayette and Hartford.  Against the Leopards, senior guard Rodney Green posted a game high 19 points even as three other starters (Mbala, Murray, and Barrett) posted 13 apiece.  Extending their outstanding rebounding work from Villanova into another game, the Explorers managed to rebound 50% of their own misses, and 71% of Lafayette’s.  Against Hartford, La Salle’s high scorer was another senior guard, Kimani Barrett, while Green, Murray, and Mbala again posted double-digit points.  The Explorers again dominated the boards, limiting the Hawks to 10% of their own misses, even as the La Salle frontcourt captured 37% of the their own.  La Salle will provide a good side-by-side versus Big 5 and A10 rival St. Joseph’s as they too travel to Lawrenceville, NJ to take on the Rider Broncs tonight.

Massachusetts — The Minutemen managed to scratch their way back to 0.500 in December’s first week, scraping by Quinnipiac, 62-58, following with a double-digit win against Holy Cross, 84-63.  Holy Cross is expected to challenge for the Patriot League title this season.  They tangled with Seton Hall at the Rock on Monday night, scoring a paltry 19 points in the first half, and went into the locker room down by 25.  The Pirates toyed with them in the 2nd half, allowing Massachussets to close to an eventual deficit of 20 points, the final margin of defeat.  The three pointers were not dropping; the Minutemen went 9-29 (31%), virtually all in the 2nd half when the game was out of reach.  Anthony Gurley, Ricky Harris and freshmen guard Freddie Riley collectively took 41 shots (54.7% of Massachusetts’ shots), converting only 31.7% of them.  Massachusetts will host Grambling State on Friday, which should get them back to .500 for next week.

Rhode Island — The Rams opened December with a loss to Virginia Commonwealth, their first of the 2010 season, but followed it with a squeaker over in-state rival Providence, 80-82, and a double-digit win over Quinnipiac.  The Rams will continue with their All-New England rivalries next week when they host Northeastern (CAA, 2-4) on Thursday and then travel to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College (ACC, 6-2) on Sunday.

Richmond — Richmond played a single game, a 67-60 win over Old Dominion in Richmond last week.  The Spiders take to the road this week with games at Virginia Commonwealth (CAA, 5-2) on Saturday and South Carolina (SEC, 6-2) next Wednesday.

Saint Joseph’s — Coach Martelli’s young squad stretched their losing streak to four on Sunday, dropping a 12-point decision to Cornell.  The Big Red are expected to repeat as victors in the Ivy this season and represent the Ivies at the NCAA.  The streak continued as the Hawks faced #3 Villanova in the 2010 edition of their Big 5 rivalry on Wednesday night (12/9), losing 97-89.  The Hawks have a road trip to Minnesota on Saturday.

St. Bonaventure — The Bonnies’ season was really taking shape in November as they suffered two close losses to well-regarded St. John’s and host Illinois State in the Traveller’s Tournament.  Then the trip to Mississippi State and Jarvis Varnado happened last Saturday.  St. Bonaventure took a 52 point beating at the hands of the Bulldogs.  The dogs shut down Andrew Nicholson, Chris Matthews and Jon Hall (combined to go 5-22, 22.7%, from the field), leaving Malcolm Eleby, Ogo Adegboye and Michael Davenport to try and pick up the slack.  Those three managed to shoot 12-29 (41.4%), but the gap was too huge.  The Bonnies better not overlook D2 Le Moyne in their last exhibition, to be played on Thursday, as the Sharks have already beaten Syracuse.  St. Bonaventure follows by hosting Savannah State (4-5) on Saturday.

St. Louis — Coach Rick Majerus took his squad to Athens, Georgia and dropped an eight-point decision to Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs (SEC, 4-3), 64-56, last Wednesday.  The Billikens returned to Chaifetz Arena and were very poor hosts, dumping the Southern Illinois Salukis (MVC, 3-2) 71-61, on Saturday.  St. Louis will finish out it’s exhibition slate by hosting Rockhurst University on Saturday.  They then host Belmont (Atlantic Sun, 7-2) next Wednesday (12/16).

Temple — The Owls are 3-0 in December, beating fellow football conference mate Western Michigan (MAC, 2-3), 76-70, on 12/01, then scraping by Big Ten contender (and in state rival) Penn State (6-3) 45-42, last Saturday, and finally taking to the road again to beat Miami (OH) (2-6) — another MAC-mate — 64-42, on Tuesday.  Temple will host Big 5 rival Villanova on Sunday.

Xavier — The Musketeers had a bounce-back game against Kent State (MAC, 5-3), 77-61, then traveled to Manhattan, Kansas to take on the Kansas State Wildcats.  A side-by-side with Dayton (the Flyers played Kansas State in Puerto Rico) suggests the X-men offense is still developing.  While both teams played K-State for about 70 possessions, the Flyers were able to score about 1.04 points per possession; the Musketeers struggled (their ppp was about 0.80, well below their numbers from last season — 1.07) by comparison.

Games To Catch:

  • Duquesne at West Virginia (Big East, 5-0), Wednesday 12/09 — Duquesne, Pitt and West Virginia form a mini-conference of sorts as the three play an annual series.  Tonight is Duquesne’s turn with the Mountaineers, and if the Dukes can make a game of this one, it should give them a lot of confidence going into conference play.  (Update:  Duquesne didn’t have two key players, including their leading scorer Melquan Bolding, and this one was a 68-39 blowout.)
  • Rhode Island at Boston College (ACC, 6-2), Sunday 12/13 — The Golden Eagles and Rams have 3 losses between them.  Should be a good test for the Rams.
  • Temple vs Villanova (Big East, 7-0), Sunday 12/13 — The Owls and Wildcats renew their Big 5 rivalry on Sunday. Among the Big 5 teams’ series, this one is the closest historically.  Temple is down by a slight 39-42 (26-28 in the City Series) margin.  Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad holds the best (and last…) chance to break Villanova’s winning streak in the City Series this year.
  • Richmond at South Carolina (SEC, 6-2), Wednesday 12/16 — The Gamecocks will be in the race for an SEC title and an NCAA bid come March.  Anderson and Gonzalez will have their hands full with South Carolina’s senior backcourt of Devan Downey and Brandis Raley-Ross.
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