Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on January 13th, 2010

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

First Night

The Atlantic 10, though large at 14 teams, maintains a 16-game conference schedule. Conference play can be scheduled easily into the 10 weeks between New Year’s and Conference Tournament Week (roughly the second week in March). Sixteen games in just under 10 weeks allows for about two conference games (more or less) with a spot or two for another out of conference game. This is good news for the Philadelphia teams (La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and Temple), because it allows them to schedule one of their Big 5 rivals (Penn) into the latter part of the season, thereby sustaining a bit of suspense in their annual City Series. If a 16-game season cannot accommodate a balanced schedule (A10 teams would have to play 26 games; the season most likely starting in late November), it can sustain the idea of an inaugural day of conference play. This season’s First Night fell on Wednesday, January 6, as eight teams opened their conference season with four games. A ninth team, Charlotte, finished out their out of conference season against Tennessee, and two others, La Salle and Xavier, opened their conference slate (against each other) on Thursday (1/7). Opening night winners included George Washington (over St. Bonaventure), Massachusetts (over Fordham), Richmond (over Duquesne) and Temple (over Saint Joseph’s).

Home Court Advantage

The records and efficiency differentials include both out of conference and any conference games played to last Sunday. Both Xavier and Richmond appear quite formidable at home, a bit of a contrast to their performance on the road. Games those two can pick up out of their own house will benefit their conference records greatly. For teams who dream of getting to conference’s upper division, maximizing the advantage provided by a home arena is crucial. Fans have turned out in large numbers and been very vocal for the hometown team. For Fordham, Saint Joseph’s, La Salle and Massachusetts, whose records suggest no significant advantage is given for home games, we find the notion is bolstered by a low differential. Rhode Island shows a strong winning record, but a weak differential advantage. The Rams need to rebound better and get a hand in the shooter’s face.  Temple is an enigma. The Owls show a better differential away from home rather than in Philadelphia. It seems the Kansas game (not to mention the seven point loss to St. John’s at the Palestra) left a few scars.

Standings (as of 01/12/10)

  1. Temple (13-3, 2-0, #19 AP)
  2. Xavier (10-5, 2-0)
  3. Dayton (12-3, 1-0)
  4. Charlotte (11-4, 1-0)
  5. St. Louis (10-5, 1-0)
  6. George Washington (11-4, 1-1)
  7. Richmond (12-5, 1-1)
  8. La Salle (8-7, 1-1)
  9. Massachusetts (7-8, 1-1)
  10. Saint Joseph’s (8-9, 1-1)
  11. Rhode Island (12-2, 0-1)
  12. Duquesne (9-7, 0-2)
  13. St. Bonaventure (7-8, 0-2)
  14. Fordham (2-12, 0-2)

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

Coach Lutz’s squad closed their out of conference schedule with another road loss, this time to Tennessee on Wednesday (1/6). The score, 86-71, was especially disappointing given the suspension of four scholarship players on gun, achohol and drug charges the previous Friday. One would think the turmoil, the absence of a starter (Tyler Smith) a crucial rotation player (Cameron Tatum) and the primary backup point guard (Melvin Goins) would diminish the Vols’ effectiveness. The 49ers missed a good opportunity for a quality win as the Vols used to playing complementary roles to Tyler Smith stepped up to fill the void (and basket). Though Charlotte held a 3-point lead early (14-11), Tennessee took two 14-0 runs in the first half to put Charlotte back on its heels, and took a 51-29 lead into halftime. It got a little ugly at the end, as both Shamari Spears and Tennessee center Wayne Chism drew a technical with about 5:00 left in the 2nd half (Tennessee up 80-54). The 49ers returned home to host St. Bonaventure on Saturday (1/09). They beat the Bonnies 57-54 in a game not decided until the last minute. After Marquise Simmons dunked to cut the lead to one, a Bonnie turnover and foul put junior guard Charles Dewhurst on the line to settle matters. Dewhurst hit both free throws to push the lead to three with two ticks left.

Charlotte goes back to work on Wednesday (1/13) with a trip to Cincinnati, OH, and a game with Xavier. The 49ers will host St. Louis on Sunday (1/17), then travel to Richmond to play the Spiders the following Wednesday (1/20).

Dayton

The Flyers’s 6’6 Chris Johnson shared Player of the Week honors with Xavier’s Jordan Crawford. Johnson posted career-high points (26) and rebounds (20) as he led Dayton to a 78-72 overtime win at Duquesne in Dayton’s home conference opener on Saturday (1/9).

Dayton takes in the Big Apple on Wednesday (1/13) as they play Fordham at Rose Hill, then out to Cincinnati to take on Xavier on Saturday (1/13).

Duquesne

Duquesne opened conference play with a loss at the hands of Richmond, 80-68, on Wednesday (1/6). This was a home game for the Dukes, which makes it especially difficult. Coach Everhart’s squad then traveled to Dayton and dropped their second conference game to the Flyers, 78-72 (OT), on Saturday (1/9). Damian Saunders (21), Sean Johnson (14), Melquan Bolding (13) and Jason Duty (12) all scored in double digits. Saunders made it a double-double with 11 rebounds.

The Dukes host St. Louis Wednesday (1/13), then take a one week break to get ready for the Rhode Island Rams (1/20).

Fordham

The Rams opened on the road, dropping a 78-76 decision to Massachusetts last Wednesday (1/6). Brenton Butler led all scorers with 31 points on a very efficient 12-23 (6-11, 6-12) and 1-4 shooting. Chris Gaston (16) and Lance Brown (11) also scored double-digit points. Gaston logged his ninth double-double in this, his freshman season. Fordham then traveled to Philadelphia and lost their second A10 game to Saint Joseph’s, 82-69, at the Hagan. Freshman center Fahro Alihodzic, a 6’10, 235 pound native of Great Britain, scored a career-high 16 points in the losing effort.

Fordham will host Dayton on Wednesday (1/13), then Rhode Island on Saturday (1/16).

George Washington

The Colonials opened their A10 schedule with a road win, 78-71, over St. Bonaventure on Wednesday (1/6). Guard Lasan Kromah led all scorers with 23 very, very efficiently scored points on 9-11 (5-7, 4-4) and 0-0 shooting. Kromah’s eFG%, 104.5%, should turn a few heads (and change a few game plans) around the conference, and in fact earned Lasan the Freshman of the Week honors for January 10. A 65% eFG% is considered terrific. Coach Hobbs’ squad returned home and dropped their home opener to Xavier, 76-69, on Saturday (1/9). Damian Hollis led all scorers with 23 points on 8-22 (2-8, 6-14) and 5-6 shooting.

GW faces La Salle in Philadelphia on Wednesday (1/13), then takes a seven-day break to prepare for Dayton on Wednesday (1/20).

La Salle

Dr. Giannini’s Explorers opened at home against the Musketeers last Thursday (1/7), dropping their first conference game 68-62. A 20-2 second half run brought La Salle close, 54-56, but they could not get the next stop, and were shut out the final 2:03 of the game. The Rodney Green-Jordan Crawford duel went to the visitor, 22-20. The Explorers traveled to Massachusetts and beat the Minutemen 80-74 to square their conference record at 1. Freshman center Aaric Murray scored the team-high 18 points while teammate forward Jerrell Williams snagged 12 rebounds. Murray missed his fourth double-double of the season by a single rebound.

La Salle will host George Washington on Wednesday (1/13), and then travel to Richmond to play the Spiders on Saturday (1/16).

Massachusetts

Massachusetts beat Fordham, 78-76, to open their A10 schedule on Wednesday (1/6), then dropped a 80-74 decision to La Salle on Saturday (1/9). Senior guard Ricky Harris’ 21 points paced the Minutemen against Fordham, while freshman guard Freddie Riley did the honors against La Salle, scoring 21 points on 7-15 (6-14, 1-1) and 2-2 shooting.

The Minutemen travel to Richmond to play the Spiders on Wednesday (1/13), then to Philadelphia to play Temple on Saturday (1/16).

Rhode Island

The rankings above are deceptive. The Rams’ loss was to #19 ranked Temple 68-64 in overtime, on Sunday (1/10). A few ESPN/USA Today voters recognized the effort, as the Rams garnered 7 votes (#37 in the poll). Delroy James and Keith Cothran dominated the Rams’ offense, taking between them over 75% of the available shots when they were on the floor. That might have made defending them too easy. James had a relatively efficient 52.9% eFG% with a 1.05 PPWS. Cothran by contrast, had a rough night. The senior guard could muster only a 35.3 eFG% with a 0.82 PPWS. The Rams were very average on the offensive boards, and had difficulty keeping the Owls (i.e., Lavoy Allen) off the offensive boards.

Things should turnaround quickly, as the  Rams host Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday (1/13), then travel to the Bronx to play Fordham on Saturday (1/16).

Richmond

Coach Mooney’s Spiders opened the A10 season with a two game road trip. First stop was Pittsburgh where the Spiders drubbed the Dukes 80-68, on Wednesday. David Gonzalvez led all scorers with 19 points. Gonzalvez and four other Spiders (Kevin Anderson 18; Ryan Butler 14; Justin Harper 12; Dan Geriot 11) all logged double-digit points. Next stop was St. Louis where the Spiders dropped a 5 point decision (63-58) to the Billikens on Saturday (1/09).

Richmond will host Massachusetts on Wednesday (1/13), then host the Explorers of La Salle on Saturday (1/16).

Saint Joseph’s

The Hawks dropped their first A10 game to crosstown (and Big 5) rival Temple 73-49, on Wednesday (1/06). No Hawk scored more than eight points, though two, sophomore guard Scott Prescott and freshman guard Carl Jones logged eight points. They managed to even the record with a visit from Fordham. They beat the Rams 82-69, on Saturday (1/09). Four Hawks managed to score more than 10 points (junior center Todd O’Brien with 20; senior guard Garrett Williamson with 10 and freshman guard Carl Jones with 15), with senior Darrin Govins leading the way with 21.

Saint Joseph’s takes on it’s second Ram in five days when they travel to Kingston, RI, to play Rhode Island on Wednesday (1/13). The road trip has one more stop, in Olean, NY as the Hawks take on the Bonnies on Saturday (1/16).

St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure opened the season as hosts to the Colonials, and dropped that decision 78-71, on Wednesday (1/6). Sophomore forward Andrew Nicholson scored 16 points to lead St. Bonaventure. Three other starters, all guards contributed 10 or more points to the effort. The Bonnies dropped their second A10 game, 57-54, this one on the road, to Charlotte, on Saturday (1/09). Freshman forward Marquise Simmons’ dunk brought the Bonnies to within a point, 55-54, with 0:45 left. Charlotte burned two 30 second timeouts and missed a jumper with 0:10 seconds left. A Jon Hall turnover and foul put a Charlotte junior guard on the line. Charles Dewhurst hit both free throws to push the lead back out to three with two seconds left.

The Bonnies will host St. Joseph’s on Saturday (1/16).

St. Louis

Coach Majerus’ squad hosted Richmond to open their A10 season, and beat the Spiders 63-58 on Saturday (1/9). Sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell scored a team-high 16 points on 7-12 (2-3, 5-9) and 0-0 shooting. Also posting double digit points for the Billikens, sophomore forward Brian Conklin (12 points) and, playing in his first collegiate game, freshman forward Cody Ellis (10).

The Billikens hit the road for two games, the first at Duquesne on Wednesday (1/13), the second on Sunday (1/17) at Charlotte.

Temple

Temple opened their A10 slate by hosting, and beating Saint Joseph’s 73-46, on Wednesday (1/6). Their offense went through Juan Fernandez, Lavoy Allen and Ryan Brooks (as usual). Fernandez had a horrific night from the floor, going 0-10. He managed 4 rebounds, 2 assists (and 3 turnovers) and 3 steals in 33 minutes. The team as a whole converted at a 48.5% (eFG%), as Allen (with a double-double 20 and 11) and Brooks (13 points) were the heros. Sophomore Michael Eric scored 13 points in 15 minutes. They traveled to Kingston, RI, and beat the Rams 68-64 in overtime on Sunday (1/10). Fernandez was back in his zone, leading the team with 18 points on 7-16 (3-3, 4-13) and 1-2 shooting. Brooks contributed 16 points, just better than his season average 15.3, while Allen his second consecutive (and fifth of the season) double-double, with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

The Owls take a break from their conference schedule on Wednesday (1/13) as they play the Penn Quakers of the Ivy League (and Big 5) in the historic Palestra on Penn’s campus. On Saturday (1/16) it’s back to conference play as they host Massachusetts.

Xavier

Congratulations to Jordan Crawford who shared the A10 Player of the Week honors with Dayton’s Chris Johnson, for his efforts in X’s loss to Wake Forest on 1/3 and his 22 points in the Musketeers’ 68-62 win over La Salle last Thursday (1/7). The Musketeers traveled to Washington, DC, and beat the Colonials 76-69 on Sunday (1/10). Senior forward Jason Love led Xavier with 19 points.

Coach Mack’s squad hosts Charlotte on Wednesday (1/13), then Dayton comes calling on Saturday (1/16) for a noon (ET) game.

Games to Catch

  • Charlotte at Xavier – Wednesday 1/13 — Charlotte wants to move up in the conference and has played well (forget about Tennessee) on the road. For the Musketeers to maintain their standing in the conference they need to hold serve at home. This one will pit Shamari Spears against Chris Wright in what should be a good matchup.
  • St. Louis at Duquesne –  Wednesday 1/13 — Two teams fighting for a place in the A10’s upper division match up as the Billikens travel to Pittsburgh to play the Dukes. Coach Majerus’ very deliberate 4-out-1-in motion offense (about 64 possessions per game) matches against Coach Everhart’s uptempo style (about 71 possessions per game). St. Louis has not traveled well this season, an inexperienced squad the most likely cause. After starting hot, the Dukes have cooled down. Maybe rehabbed Melquan Bolding can help them regain momentum. Both teams play good defense, so the game may go to the team that can make a shot.
  • Dayton at Xavier - Saturday 1/16 — Dayton was the preseason favorite, but Xavier had a surprisingly good out of conference run. Is this an instance of the Changing of the Guard, or of Some Things Never Change? Jordan Crawford and Chris Wright should be a lot of fun to watch.
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