Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on January 7th, 2010

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

Looking Back/Looking Forward

The Atlantic 10 conference season has begun (literally) — the first games were played Wednesday 1/6, and next weekend will find virtually every conference team playing a conference schedule. How did the conference fare in the out of conference portion of the season? I have pulled together efficiency statistics from Ken Pomeroy’s web site and combined them with each team’s record (through January 5) and the difference of their offensive efficiency and their defensive efficiency (expressed as points per possession). To provide a context for the team’s won/lost record and efficiency difference, I have also provided (from Realtime RPI) each team’s current SOS (through January 4).

I did not credit St. Louis and St. Bonaventure with their in-season wins over their D2 opponents (Rockhurst and Le Moyne, respectively) because the possession-based stats from those games were not included in those team’s OOC stats, nor were they included in those teams’ SOS computation and ranking.

The order is mildly surprising — Temple remains at the top of the list, Kansas blowout notwithstanding, and Xavier holds the second spot, despite 4 losses. Some things never change it seems. Preseason favorite Dayton holds a very respectable spot, but I feel a little disappointed in that I thought the Flyers would do a little better, taking another game in Puerto Rico, or maybe the New Mexico game. Rhode Island‘s won/lost record appears to be confirmed by the Rams’ SOS, efficiency differential and recent results (their win over Oklahoma State last weekend). Richmond‘s SOS also invests credibility in their won/lost record and efficiency differential. It’s not clear from the table, but an element to factor when calculating the Spiders’ conference season prospects (and by inference, their postseason prospects) is their road record, where at 1-4, they seem overly sensitive to hostile environments. Optimism based on their out of conference records seems a bit premature for George Washington and Charlotte. Their efficiency differentials when juxtaposed with their respective SOSs, suggests these two teams may struggle in conference play. Charlotte was easily handled at Tennessee last night, while the Colonials will be tested early with a visit from Xavier this evening.

Standings as of 01/06/10

  1. Temple (12-3) (#21 AP)
  2. Rhode Island (12-1)
  3. Dayton (11-3)
  4. Charlotte (10-4)
  5. George Washington (11-3)
  6. Richmond (12-4) WC
  7. Xavier (8-5)
  8. Duquesne (9-6)
  9. St. Louis (9-5)
  10. St. Bonaventure (7-7)
  11. La Salle (7-6)
  12. Massachusetts (7-7)
  13. St. Joseph’s (4-9)
  14. Fordham (2-11)

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

Charlotte thumped Mercer 91-80, last Wednesday (12/29), to close out 2009, but dropped a 9-point decision to Georgia Tech, 76-67, to open 2010 last Saturday (1/2). Dario Green and Shamari Spears led the 49ers with 23 points apiece against Mercer, but Green, with 31 points in 35 minutes of play, was only 1 of 2 Charlotte players (DiJuan Harris, with 13 points was the other) to score more than 10 points against the Yellow Jackets. The 42 point loss at Duke was embarrassing, but not fatal to Charlotte’s postseason prospects. The 49ers have a solid win at Louisville (#55 RPI). Coach Lutz’s squad missed three top 100 win opportunities, at Old Dominion (#41 RPI), and versus Georgia Tech (#63 RPI), and at Tennessee last night. They show no bad losses to this point. Perhaps an outstanding A10 record, combined with a strong showing at the A10’s postseason tournament will be enough to swing the Selection Committee. The Atlantic 10 Conference Offices recognized Dario Green as the co-player of the week and Chris Braswell as the co-rookie of the week.

The 49ers open their A10 slate on Saturday (1/9) when they host St. Bonaventure.

Dayton

Coach Gregory’s squad dropped their New Year’s Day game to New Mexico 68-66. Chris Johnson scored a team-high 21 points, 11 coming in the last 55 seconds of the game (three 3s and a 2). The Flyers were down seven when Johnson decided to make his run, but were not able (until Johnson’s last three closed the game) to cut the Lobos’ lead to less than four. Neither team was particularly efficient at converting possessions into points, but shot defense failed the Flyers as it did in the Kansas State game, and the Flyers could not keep the Lobos off the free throw line. New Mexico had nearly twice as many FTAs as Dayton. The Lobos took it to the cup at every chance, especially in the 2nd half. They were rewarded with over 1 FTA for every FGA they took (107.5), high even for the Lobos (see the New Mexico Game Plan page at Ken Pomeroy’s website). New Mexico earned 38.2% of their points at the line, high for a D1 team. Dayton did get votes in both polls Monday, enough to rank the Flyers #34 in the AP poll (placing them behind Temple and Rhode Island). With Tuesday’s 24-point blowout versus Ball State, 59-35, the Flyers close out their out of conference schedule with a 11-3 record. On a night when only three players logged more than 20 minutes (50% of the available playing time at their position), Chris Wright was the game-high scorer with 10 points. Coach Gregory emptied his bench and passed 14 different players through the game. Only two logged a minute of playing time, and a third logged less than five minutes. Postseason prospects will depend more heavily on their conference record than I anticipated in my season preview. The Flyers go into their conference slate with no signature (Top 25 RPI) wins. Their best wins are against Old Dominion (RPI #43 in Dayton) and Georgia Tech (RPI #63 in Puerto Rico). Their three losses are on the road or in neutral sites, all to top 25 RPI teams.

Dayton will host Duquesne in their A10 opener on Saturday (1/9).

Duquesne

The Dukes dropped a 9-point decision, 63-54, to the Monarchs of Old Dominion on Wednesday. Freshman guard Sean Johnson posted a career-high 17 points as he led the Dukes. Damian Saunders, Eric Evans and Bill Clark all scored in double digits as well, but the freshman posted an efficient 58.3% eFG% in the losing effort. The good news is that injured Melquan Bolding has been cleared to practice and will hopefully see some playing time in the next week or so. Odds for an NCAA invitation hang on a strong A10 record, which was given an early jolt with a loss at home to Richmond last night, 80-68. Given their difficulties on the offensive side of the ball (shot making, turnovers and very average offensive rebounding) against average (OOC) competition, I wonder how effective the Dukes will be in conference play. A relatively young team, they have struggled on the road (efficiency differential for road games is -0.147). That may not change much in conference play, despite Bolding’s return (remember he is not 100% nor is he in game condition at this point). The Dukes have a single notable (top 100 RPI) win, and that is against Radford (RPI #90). All of their losses are against top 100 teams. No ugly losses, but no signature wins (despite several chances) either.

Duquesne travels to Dayton to play the Flyers on Saturday (1/9).

Fordham

The Rams’ Southern Road Trip was a study in disappointment as Fordham dropped a 79-66 game to Kennesaw State last Tuesday (12/29) and another to Hampton, 78-54, on Sunday (1/3). Against Kennesaw State Chris Gaston (26) and Brenton Butler (25) scored 51 of Fordham’s 66 points. Against Hampton, Butler was the only double-digit scorer for the Rams, posting 21 points, about 38.9% of Fordham’s total production. Last night Fordham lost a 2-point heartbreaker at UMass.  Lacking consistent offense (Fordham is last in the A10 for offensive efficiency right now), prospects beyond Atlantic City are bleak. Ironically there are a number of A10 teams with worse defense, and even a few with worse offensive turnover rates and rebounding rates. But no team converts FGAs less efficiently than Fordham. Chris Gaston (who takes 37.4% of the team’s FGAs) and Brenton Butler (who takes 24.5%), their two principal threats, have eFG%s of 48.0 and 38.5 respectively, very tough conversion rates if the Rams expect to win. The Rams take about 69.2% of the FGAs as 2-point shots, which is pretty smart given they convert their 3s at a 24.2% rate. In other words they pose no serious threat from the perimeter. Defenses can collapse and concentrate on stopping lane penetration from Gaston (Butler takes 49.8% of his FGAs from beyond the arc). Hopefully Coach Grasso can use the season to experiment with the offense and develop/adopt a system that will make the most of the roster’s strengths, setting the foundation for next season. And Chris Gaston will decide he wants to be a part of the rebuilding. Gaston was named co-rookie of the week for the 2nd time this season.

Fordham will travel to Saint Joseph’s on Saturday (1/9).

George Washington

The Colonials were 1-1 on their New England Holiday Sojourn. After beating Holy Cross they dropped a 66-53 decision to Harvard on Wednesday (12/30). Damian Hollis scored 11 points (5-14, 0-6, 5-8 & 1-1) to lead George Washington. GW returned to Washington, DC, and beat Howard 81-63 on Saturday (1/2), paced again by Damian Hollis (18 points & 8 rebounds, both team-high) and Tony Taylor (13 points). Last night the Colonials got a 78-71 road win to open conference play against St. Bonaventure.  The 11-3 record looks promising, but it comes against competition with an SOS ranked #291. There are no signature wins in the offerings, with two of the three losses coming against their toughest competition (Harvard ranked #26 RPI & Providence, ranked #78 RPI). Their loss to Oregon State (#209 RPI) is bad. Against mediocre competition the Colonials have come to own the conference’s second worst (tied with Duquesne, ahead of only La Salle) turnover rate. They lost 21.9% of their possessions. Field goal efficiency is lower than the conference average, which, given GW’s SOS, raises a yellow flag for conference play. The Colonials have to rely on the strength of the conference (assuming they compile a good record in conference play) to bolster their credentials for the NCAA Selection Committee. Not a great plan.

Coach Hobbs’ squad will play their home opener against Xavier on Sunday (1/10).

La Salle

La Salle closed December with a loss to Ivy League favorite Cornell, then opened January with a catastrophe, a 5-point loss (66-61) to Binghamton on Saturday (1/2). Rodney Green’s 20 points (backed by Kimmani Barrett’s 17 points) was not enough to turn back the Binghamton Bearcats, shut down freshman Aaric Murray, limiting him to 4 (2-2-4) rebounds and 3 points over 33 minutes of play. The prospects for life after Atlantic City are bleak at this point. Though their resume lacked a signature win, the Explorers could at least plead their losses as having all been at the hands of top 100 teams. Until the Binghamton Bearcats. Like George Washington, La Salle will have to create a (NCAA) tournament-worthy resume on a strong conference showing. Risky business that may rely too heavily on a conference tournament run that would require an adjective like “miraculous,” “magical” or “remarkable” to accurately describe the effort.

The Explorers open their A10 season on Thursday (1/7) as they host Xavier. The squad will then take to the road for a game at Massachusetts on Sunday (1/10).

Massachusetts

Coach Kellogg’s squad dropped a 2-point decision to Davidson, 63-61, on Wednesday (12/30). Senior guard Ricky Harris and junior guard Anthony Gurley split the scoring duties, posting 21 and 17 points respectively. Sophomore center Sean Carter collected 10 rebounds (4-6-10), matching a career-high. Last night the Minutemen got a solid home win to begin conference play versus Fordham.  If tournament prospects are bleak, the Minutemen’s progress from this time last season is encouraging. The team headed into conference play with a 5-8 record, as opposed to this season’s 6-7 record. As the table below suggests their offense improved in the face of poorer shooting, on the strength of better rebounding, improved ball handling and more aggression getting to the basket. Massachusetts’ record would be (much) better if they had garnered 2009’s defensive numbers. Progress for the Minutemen might be better measured in getting more road wins and asserting a stronger home court advantage (and improving those defensive numbers), rather than post season bids.

Massachusetts will host La Salle on Sunday (1/10).

Rhode Island

Rhode Island continued to build it’s resume with a 4-point win over Oklahoma State, 63-59, on Saturday (1/2). Played more like a chess game than a basketball game, the teams took 61 possessions each (a pace more to Ok State’s liking than Rhode Island’s). If the game was not an offensive masterpiece, the Rams nevertheless posted some of their best defensive numbers of the season, as they limited the Cowboys to 0.97 points per possession and exploited the Cowboys systemic lack of rebounding. Delroy James, Keith Cothran and Stevie Mejia all posted double digit points, with Delroy leading the way with 14 points and 9 (7-2-9) rebounds. The effort did not go unnoticed, as the Rams upped their 5-vote 12/28 total in the AP poll to 52 votes in the current (1/4) poll. They need another 95 or so votes to break into the Top 25. Given their 5-point road win, 68-63, at Akron on Tuesday (1/5) perhaps a few more voters will remember them on their ballots next Monday. With 4 wins over top 100 RPI teams (Oklahoma State — #36, Northeastern — #67, Providence — #77 and Boston College on the road — #100) against a single loss (also to a Top 100 RPI team, a road loss to VCU — #37), Rhode Island has used their out of conference schedule to position themselves very well for postseason consideration. A strong showing in conference play (1 – 3 losses versus the better competition) should have them in the NCAAs.

Coach Baron’s squad opens their A10 schedule Sunday by hosting a marquee opponent, Temple, in a game that should have immediate repercussions in the conference race.

Richmond

The Spiders dropped a New Year’s Eve overtime decision at Wake Forest (74-68), Kevin Anderson leading the way with a career-high 31 points. Justin Harper was the only other Richmond player to post double-digit points as he scored 10 points on 3-8 (2-4, 1-4) and 2-4 shooting. They swung north to Lewisburg, PA to beat the struggling Bison of Bucknell on Saturday (1/2) 59-50, Anderson again led the team in scoring (the 7th time in 15 games) with 25 points on 9-17 (2-5, 7-12) and 5-7 shooting. Starting forwards Justin Harper and Ryan Butler chipped in 13 and 11 points respectively. Coach Mooney’s squad picked up four quality wins (ODU — #42, Mississippi St — #69, Missouri — #71 and Florida — #76) in their out of conference schedule. Their four losses, all to Top 100 RPI opponents were missed opportunities, one or two of which (that 20 point loss to South Carolina for example?) might be cause for regret come Selection Sunday. Their defense has been surprisingly effective (ranked #4 in the conference versus the #6 most difficult schedule) suggests they can do well in conference play if they can find a little more offense (calling David Gonzalvez…). Congratulations to Kevin Anderson who was named co-player of the week by the Atlantic 10 Conference. The article cited his career-high against Wake Forest and his point total against Bucknell.

Richmond opened their A10 schedule with another extended road trip that matches them against two of the A10’s youngest teams. First stop was Pittsburgh where Richmond handled Duquesne easily (80-68) Wednesday, followed with a stop in St. Louis for a play date with the Billikens on Saturday (1/9). Richmond has struggled in other team’s arenas; this trip will be a good test to see where they stand in the conference.

Saint Joseph’s

St. Joseph’s started a new losing streak, currently standing at two, as they dropped a game to Princeton over the weekend (Saturday 1/2) 70-62, at home. An Alpha and Omega combination, freshman Carl Jones came off the bench to lead the Hawks with 17 points on 6-13 (1-5, 5-8) and 4-5 shooting, coupled with starting senior Darrin Govens who chipped in 13 points on 5-14 (1-6, 4-8) and 2-2 shooting, led the team in scoring. Coach Martelli is working with a young team this season, and it is clear from the out of conference record that this will be a rebuilding year. With a 3-2 home record, the first step may be to establish a home court advantage in conference. And develop those young guards.

The Hawks open their A10 schedule with three games in 8 days. First they flew across town to get waxed by the Temple Owls last night 73-46, then they host Fordham on Saturday (1/9) and travel to Kingston, RI, to play Rhode Island the following Wednesday (1/13).

St. Bonaventure

Coach Schmidt’s squad beat Little Three rival Canisius 82-75, on Wednesday night (12/30). Jon Hall posted a 20 point night, leading the Bonnies. Hall grabbed 7 rebounds and dished 6 assists (and 0 turnovers) to boot. Chris Matthews notched 15 points. In all, five St. Bonaventure players scored double-digit points. They closed out their out of conference schedule on a down note, falling to Marshall 80-61, in Huntington, WV, on Saturday (1/2). While the Bonnies’ efficiency stats, both offensive and defensive, are good, their 6-6 record juxtaposed with their efficiency difference of 0.044, suggests they lack game-to-game consistency. The Bonnies are about a year (and a sure-handed point guard) away from the postseason. Among their six losses, only the Niagara loss (the Purple Eagles are ranked #114 in the RPI) is considered bad.

St. Bonaventure lost at home to George Washington on Wednesday 78-71, and will then travel to Charlotte to play the 49ers on Saturday (1/9).

St. Louis

The Billikens closed out their out of conference slate with a loss to Bowling Green, 59-50, on the road. Kwamain Mitchell and Ohio-native Jon Smith paced St. Louis with 13 and 11 points respectively. The Billikens’ record as the visitor in hostile arenas is 0-2 (true a small sample, but not because of NCAA scheduling). And for a postseason bid, therein lies the rub. A 9-0 home record (that includes a win over D2 Rockhurst) will not impress the Selection Committee, especially if compared to their 0-4 record when playing away from Chaifetz Arena.

St. Louis opens their A10 season with a home game against Richmond on Saturday (1/9), followed by a road game at Charlotte the following Wednesday (1/13).

Temple

The Owls closed out 2009 with another win, this one at Northern Illinois. Temple sports a 4-0 record versus MAC opponents (can they claim the conference’s automatic bid?). It was Juan Fernandez’s turn to go off, and the Argentine put up 26 points on 7-12 (4-7, 3-5) and 8-8 shooting. Ryan Brooks put up 19 points on 7-18 (0-6, 7-12) 5-7 shooting. Lavoy Allen harvested (4-7-11) 11 rebounds. The Kansas Jayhawks ran them out of the Liacouras Center Saturday (1/2), hanging an ugly 32 point loss (84-52) on the Owls. Kansas dominated the boards (43 vs 31) and outshot Temple (30-55 versus 16-64) badly enough to negate a very modest turnover advantage held by the Owls.

Coach Dunphy’s squad hosted the Hawks of Saint Joseph’s Wednesday night and handled them easily, 73-46, and will then travel to Kingston, RI, to tackle the Rams of URI Sunday (1/10). The following Wednesday (1/13) Temple will take care of some Big 5 business as they take on the Penn Quakers at the historic Palestra on Penn’s campus.

Xavier

The X-men lost to Wake Forest Sunday (1/3) in the inaugural play of the Skip Prosser Classic, dropping a 4-point decision, 96-92, after 2 overtimes. Jordan Crawford led all scorers with a career-high 31 points, while Jamel McLean and Terrell Holloway chipped in 21 and 13 points apiece. Despite lacking the seasoning playing together several seasons might provide, Xavier has done well with a demanding out of conference schedule. The offensive/defensive differential (+0.144) ranks the Musketeers second in the conference despite the loss of five games. Though they lack a Top 25 win and have a loss to Marquette (RPI rank #108), Xavier’s prospects in conference seem good, and a resume-building signature win in conference (Temple and Rhode Island offer opportunities) is possible. Going into conference play the Musketeers sport an 0-2 record against Top 25 competition, and a 2-2 record versus top 100 competition.

XU will travel to Philadelphia to open their A10 season Thursday (1/7) at La Salle, then extend the road trip with one more stop, in Washington DC to play George Washington in Sunday (1/10), before returning home to Cincinnati to host Charlotte the following Wednesday (1/13).

Games to Catch

  • Xavier at La Salle Thursday 1/7 — Had La Salle had a better out of conference showing, this early season matchup would have garnered some national attention. For those who have not seen La Salle’s Rodney Green and Aaric Murray and Xavier’s Jordan Crawford and Terrell Holloway, this one might be worth a look. (CBS College Sports)
  • Richmond at St. Louis Saturday 1/9 — The best of Saturday’s three conference games, the Billikens have been tough at Chaifetz Arena, but the Spiders need some road wins if they want to keep their postseason hopes alive. Both coaches have installed complex, motion-based offenses (Moody is a Princeton Offense coach, Majerus is a 4 out 1 in motion coach) that when working properly, can be very efficient. This one should remind spectators of a chess game played with a ball and five players per side.
  • Temple at Rhode Island Sunday 1/10 — Starts off the conference slate with a bang, the consensus two best teams coming out of their out of conference schedules lock horns in the 1st weekend of full conference play. (Cox Cable).
  • Xavier at George Washington Sunday 1/10 — A significant game for both teams. Xavier does not want to fall too far this season, but GW wants to recover the standing they had three seasons ago. The Musketeers have not traveled well in the out of conference season, so this game, as the closer on their extended road trip, can help set a different tone on the squad. If the Colonials hope to regain their standing, defending the home court is a first step. (CSS, FSN Ohio & Comcast Sportsnet).
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