Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on February 3rd, 2010

Efficiency Differentials

Updated to reflect games through Tuesday February 2, Xavier looks as if they are separating from the pack, but realize the Musketeers played Fordham and Duquesne last week. The differentials will tighten as Xavier plays Dayton next week, and Charlotte and Richmond in the following 2-3 weeks. Dayton and Charlotte seem to be anomalies. By the Pythagorean winning percentage, Dayton should have another win (or two), while Charlotte should have another loss. The 49ers still have games with Dayton (away), Xavier (home), Rhode Island (away) and Richmond (home closer) on tap. If Coach Lutz can run that gamut with a decent efficiency differential, Charlotte may be looking at a postseason in a four-letter tournament. Fordham continues to lag far behind the rest of the conference. The gap grows larger with each week.

Standings as of – 02/03/10

  1. Xavier (7-1, 15-6)
  2. Temple (6-1, 18-4, #17)
  3. Charlotte (6-1, 15-6)
  4. Rhode Island (5-2, 17-3)
  5. Richmond (5-2, 16-6)
  6. Dayton (4-3, 15-6)
  7. St. Louis (3-3, 12-8)
  8. La Salle (3-4, 11-10)
  9. St. Bonaventure (2-4, 9-10)
  10. George Washington (2-5, 12-8)
  11. Duquesne (2-5, 11-10)
  12. Massachusetts (2-5, 8-13)
  13. Saint Joseph’s (2-5, 8-13)
  14. Fordham (0-8, 2-18)

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

Coach Lutz’s squad ran their winning streak to four last week with wins over Massachusetts and, more importantly, Temple. Tagging the Owls with their first conference loss brought the team from Philadelphia back to the pack and put the 49ers in a small (numbering three) cluster of teams with a single conference loss. Charlotte holds a tie-breaker edge over Temple, but more importantly, virtually every D1 bracketologist marks their 74-64 victory as a good win that puts this Carolina school in the conversation for an NCAA bid. Sophomore guard Darrio Green was cited as the A10 Player of the Week for the second time this season for his role in Charlotte’s two wins. Freshman Chris Braswell also earned a mention in the conference’s weekly recap. Braswell provides a solid presence on the boards for Charlotte, a presence that puts Charlotte among the top three teams for defensive rebounding percentage in conference games.

Next up, the 49er’s host George Washington on Wednesday (2/3), then journey to New York City to play the hapless Fordham Rams on Saturday (2/6). Road wins are important for Charlotte, as they continue to lag with a offensive/defensive efficiency differential of (off 1.04, def 1.05) -0.01 for games not played in Halton Arena. Much of that comes from an early-season drubbing at the hands of Duke, but the 49ers also have away-neutral losses to Tennessee and Xavier.

Dayton

Nothing like a trip to Olean, NY to stop the bleeding. The Flyers halted their skid at two with a 75-58 win over the Bonnies last Saturday (1/30). Despite an off night from Chris Wright and Rob Lowry, the Flyers’ defense shut down the Bonnies while Kurt Huelsman and Chris Johnson stepped up with efficient (and prolific) shooting/scoring. The Flyers dominated the boards over both baskets, a key for them going forward, especially if they have trouble with consistent offensive production.

If Dayton is to get back in the A10 conference race, this is the week to start. Visits by Xavier and Charlotte, both teams above the the Flyers in conference standings, provide a great opportunity for Dayton to regain some ground lost in January. XU comes to Dayton on Saturday (2/6), with Charlotte following on Wednesday (2/10). Xavier has not been especially assertive on their offensive boards, a characteristic the Flyers should be able to exploit to limit the Musketeers’ second chance opportunities. Xavier has concentrated on the defensive boards in conference games, an area (their offensive boards) where Dayton has dominated (especially useful if you squad is having an off night on scoring).

Duquesne

Duquesne split the last week, 1-1, dropping their road game to Xavier 86-50, but bouncing back against Saint Joseph’s with a 74-71 win last Sunday (1/31). Games away from the Palumbo Center have been a real problem for the Dukes this season, as the team’s offensive/defensive efficiency is a dismal -0.18. Coach Everhart’s squad has a 1-7 road record this season, 0-3 in conference road games. The next two games are on the road, abd beating George Washington (surprising Temple might be too tall an order at this point) in DC would do wonders for the Dukes’ confidence.

The Dukes travel to Philadelphia to play Temple on Wednesday (2/3) and then down to Washington, DC, to play the Colonials of George Washington on Saturday (2/6).

Fordham

Coach Grasso’s one bright spot on the squad, Chris Gaston, earned his third citation as the A10 Rookie of the Week. But the Rams continue to lose, having dropped two more games last week. Pomeroy projects a 63% probability that Fordham may go winless in conference play. Though Fordham managed to hold their home loss to La Salle to single digits, Coach Grasso will be pressed to maintain morale in the face of month-ending 48-point road blowout at the hands of Xavier.  

Next up for Fordham, a visit from Charlotte on Saturday (2/6).

George Washington

The Colonials finished January with a 3-5 record, 2-5 in conference play. The four-game losing streak was broken, but it took an overtime (home) game with St. Louis. The celebration was a short one, as GWU dropped their next game, a road trip to Kingston, RI, 72-66, on Saturday.

The Colonials will try to turn it around on Wednesday (1/27) when they host St. Louis. The weekend game, a visit to Rhode Island on Saturday (1/30), may not be a promising place to break their losing run.

La Salle

La Salle dropped two straight to teams at the top of the conference last week. Cross-town rival Temple beat the Explorers 64-52 on Saturday (1/30) and Rhode Island beat them Tuesday (2/2) 90-83. Offense is not really a problem right now, Coach Giannini’s squad is ranked #6 in the conference for offensive efficiency (ahead of Charlotte), but with a defensive efficiency of 1.05, they are ranked #11. In Rhode Island they were able to score at a 1.11 rate, in the hands of just about any other team that would be good enough to win, but they gave the Rams 1.20 points per possession, thereby dropping the decision. Only Fordham forces turnovers in conference at a rate less than La Salle. The conference named Aaric Murray the co-Rookie of the Week (with Fordham’s Chris Gaston), mitigating somewhat the disappointments on the court. Murray has won the honor three times this season.

The Explorers host the Billikens at the Gola on Saturday (2/6) and then take a week to prepare for a road game at Duquesne. The Billikens offer a solid chance for La Salle to break their losing run. Coach Majerus has assembled the youngest squad in the conference, the combination of a lethargic offense and a hostile environment should mask La Salle’s weakness. A win would put La Salle back into the middle of the conference.

Massachusetts

The Minutemen snapped their losing streak with an uncaharacteristic 87-80 win over Saint Joseph’s at the Hagan. The Minutemen have compiled a 2-9 record away from Amherst, keyed by a fatal combination of poor shooting (their eFG% in those games was 43.4%) and poor shot defense — they have allowed opponents to complete at a 52.7% (eFG%) clip. They could not, however, hold serve against a visiting Charlotte squad on Saturday (1/30), suffering a near-blowout 72-58 loss.

Massachusetts extends their home stand by a game as they host Xavier Wednesday (2/3), then travel to Kingston, RI, for a game with fellow New Englander Rhode Island Saturday (2/6). Shutting down Rhode Island’s shooting offense will be a challenge for Coach Kellogg’s squad. This could be a very rough week for the Minutemen.

Rhode Island

The Rams have to be happy about Temple’s slip last week, After dropping their second conference game to Xavier on 1/23, Rhode Island has since resumed the pace with a critical road win over Dayton. Last week they had two more wins over lesser conference opponents, George Washington (72-66) and La Salle (90-83). Neither was a dominant, put them away, performance, but they have an opportunity to pad their wins when they host Massachusetts on Saturday. They need to work on their conference defense of 0.984, which slipped to 1.11 in their game with La Salle. Taking the game on Saturday gives the Rams three days to prepare for Richmond, which also has two conference losses. Rhode Island has to look after their shot defense, a bit below average for the conference (eFG% is 49.1% vs the conference average of 47.1%), but even less aggressive at home (50.6%). This should not be a problem versus Massachusetts, a shot challenged team when on the road, but it could spell trouble when Richmond comes to town.

The Rams should be able to keep pace next week as they host George Washington on Saturday (1/30), then travel to Philadelphia for a game with La Salle on Tuesday (2/2).

Richmond

Coach Mooney’s squad bounced back from their loss to Charlotte (71-59, 1/20) with two wins versus struggling teams, the latest against road-challenged St. Louis, 62-36, on Saturday (1/30). The score is unusually low, even though Richmond and St. Louis are two of the lowest possesion teams in the conference. St. Louis managed a horrific 0.56 points per possession that night, far and away the worst performance in a conference game this season (that includes Fordham).

Next up for the Spiders, a visit with Saint Joseph’s Wednesday (2/3), then host Temple on Saturday (2/6). The Temple game is an oppertunity to tighten the conference race, but the Spiders have to take care of the Hawks first.

Saint Joseph’s

The Hawks dropped two games last week, an 87-80 home loss to Massachusetts and a 74-71 road game at Duquesne. Weak board work and shooting hurt Coach Martelli’s efforts to make Saint Joseph’s competitive in the conference. The Dukes and Minutemen were able to exploit the Hawks’ board problems. That a team with two senior backcourt players has a freshman (Carl Jones) taking over 25% of the team’s shots is not a good sign. Especially when the freshman is not converting efficiently.

Saint Joseph’s opens a three game homestand on Wednesday (2/3) when Richmond comes to town. They will follow with St. Bonaventure on Saturday (2/6).

St. Bonaventure

Coach Schmidt’s squad suffered a double digit loss to Dayton, 75-58, Saturday (1/30). The turnover problems, combined with lack of offensive rebounding undercut the Bonnies’ shooting efficiency (48.5%, a point above the conference average). But if St. Bonaventure is to make a second half run this season they will need to cut down on fouling. They should be able to get a start on that as they host St. Louis, one of the least aggressive offensive teams in the conference, Wednesday (2/3), followed by a trip to Philadelphia to take on the Hawks Saturday (2/6). The Hawks’ FTA/FGA in conference play is a relatively modest 32.2%.

St. Louis

St. Louis comes off of their worst offensive performance of the season, a stunning 62-36 defeat at Richmond. Failing to crack 40 points can play with a team’s confidence. The Billikens have suffered through bad shooting nights (Notre Dame, Charlotte) without losing contact with their opponent. Turnovers killed Coach Majerus’ team. Paradoxically, St. Louis has logged a better than average eFG% in conference games, but turnovers (the Billikens lose better than one in five of their possessions) undermine their offensive efficiency. Ah youth. The good news about freshmen is that they will become sophomores.

The Billikens host St. Bonaventure on Wednesday (2/3) then go back on the road for a game with La Salle on Saturday (2/6). Both the Billikens and Explorers are looking for conference credibility and a strong finish.

Temple

The Owls dropped their game in Charlotte, an ugly 74-64 scramble, on Wednesday (1/27). They bounced back with a 12 point win over La Salle on Saturday (1/30). Projected by Ken Pomeroy to finish strong, the Owls need offense from Ryan Brooks and Juan Fernandez (with help from Lavoy Allen and Scootie Randall).

Temple hosts Duquesne on Wednesday (2/3), and then back on the road for a conference showdown with Richmond on Saturday (2/6). Taking the Saturday game would put distance between Temple, Xavier and Charlotte, and the group nipping at their heels, Richmond and Rhode Island.

Xavier

The Musketeers stayed ahead of the pack with two more conference wins last week, an 86-50 drubbing of the Dukes on Thursday (1/28), followed by a 108-60 destruction of Fordham on Saturday (1/30). Those games closed a three game home stand for Xavier, as the Musketeers take to the road for a game with Massachusetts on Wednesday (2/3) followed with their mirror game with Dayton on Saturday (2/6). While Jordan Crawford draws a lot of defensive attention, Jamel McLean and Jason Love are cleaning up with very high scoring efficiencies. Terrell Holloway’s shooting efficiency is less impressive, but the sophomore guard does a great job of setting up his teammates for scores. Holloway and Crawford both are top 500 players in assist rate and turnovers (they don’t). Two characteristics that a winning team looks for in their back court.

Games to Catch

  • Xavier at Dayton Saturday 2/6 — The Musketeers come to call on the Flyers in a game with conference and postseason implications. Lose this and Xavier gives ground in the loss column to Temple and Charlotte, but should Dayton fail, the Flyers, heavy preseason favorites to take the regular season title, would fall three games off the pace, and leave more than a few wondering if Dayton will, even in an off year in the BCS conferences, get back to the Dance. Rhode Island snapped Dayton’s 30 game home winning streak last weekend. How likely is that Dayton will drop a second home game this season?
  • Temple at Richmond Saturday 2/6 — The Owls have a strong road record, 8-2 overall, 2-1 in conference. Richmond, located in the two-loss cluster behind Xavier, Temple and Charlotte, cannot afford to drop another loss off the pace. The Spider backcourt will have their hands full with senior Ryan Brooks, who has been hot since December. If Juan Fernandez gets on a roll from the perimeter, Richmond may have trouble keeping up. David Gonzalvez will have to have a good day.
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