Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2010

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

Conference Offensive and Defensive Efficiencies

The efficiencies delineate the conference’s upper and lower division rather clearly…with one or two exceptions. Richmond, Temple and Xavier cluster clearly as top tier, consistent with, if not identical to, their conference records. Joining them as an outlier is Dayton, the team that entered the season with great expectations, but has fallen a bit short. St. Louis and Rhode Island form the next tier, with Charlotte next in line, but grouped with the lower division teams. Charlotte in particular is a paradox. The 49ers have had a number of very bad outings, particularly on the road (though in fairness they have had a good out of conference win on the road too). Charlotte has been a “better than average” team at home, but more a wimp than a warrior on the road. Among the lower division teams George Washington stands apart. The Colonials have, looking at all games this season, a surprisingly strong away efficiency differential, but a weaker than expected home differential. The differential suggests they should have a better record (by about 2 wins) than they do. Looking ahead, the Pythagorean winning percentage formula (conference games only) suggest the Colonials will sweep their remaining games. With closing games at Rhode Island and versus Richmond, I do not see a sweep as a likely outcome.

The Races Within the Race

The three-way (#1 & #2/#3 — Richmond and Temple/Xavier) race at the top of the conference represents only one of several heated standings races as the conference regular season enters it’s last two weeks. Rewards going to the winners of those mini-battles include seeds and pairings in Atlantic City, possible postseason invitations and for a few another opportunity or two to redeem irredeemable seasons. Just below the three leaders stand four teams battling it out for seeds #4 through #7. Theoretically St. Louis or Charlotte may be able to overcome one or more of the top tier teams, but their remaining schedules, loaded with fellow second tier opponents, makes those schedules seems less like a stepping stone and more like an elimination process. Charlotte has only one top tier team remaining, but must face an also hopeful Rhode Island team that would welcome every win it can gather at this point in the season. St. Louis still has Temple and Xavier to play, and as a bonus gets them both in the friendly confines of Chaifetz Arena. They also have to take to the road for their last game — Dayton, before heading out to Atlantic City. So the Billikens could hand another loss on both the Owls and the Musketeers, but still fall behind them by losing to Dayton. Should the Billikens lose either or both of those games, their season-closer in Dayton becomes even more important to both teams, as it could well be a battle that decides the #5, #6 and #7 seeds in the conference tournament. Fordham has largely lost contact with the rest of the conference, but George Washington, St. Bonaventure, Massachusetts and La Salle are all within a loss of each other in spots #8 through #11, with Saint Joseph’s just another loss (at 10) behind that cluster. Within that group only George Washington has a winning record, and an outside chance at a post season bid (NIT or CBI possibly). An inopportune losing would sink the Colonials. A late season surge by the Bonnies on the other hand, could put Coach Schmidt’s squad over the .500 mark, and lend promise to an otherwise very uneven season.

Standings as of – 02/23/10

  1. Richmond (11-2, 22-6 #24 AP)
  2. Temple (10-2, 22-5, #18 AP)
  3. Xavier (10-2, 19-7)
  4. St. Louis (9-3, 18-8)
  5. Charlotte (8-4, 18-8)
  6. Rhode Island (8-5, 20-6)
  7. Dayton (7-5, 18-8)
  8. Duquesne (6-7, 15-12)
  9. George Washington (4-8, 14-11)
  10. St. Bonaventure (4-8, 11-14)
  11. Massachusetts (4-9, 10-17)
  12. La Salle (3-9, 11-15)
  13. Saint Joseph’s (3-10, 9-18)
  14. Fordham (0-13, 2-23)

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

Charlotte lost two more games last week. The A10′s leader earlier this month has now dropped back to join Rhode Island and Dayton at the bottom of the upper division. The heretofore reliable Shamari Spears and Derrio Green have faltered, and with them, the 49ers’ fortunes. For the Dayton, Duquesne and Xavier games, the two players have taken 66%, 59% and 76% of the shots when they have been on the floor together. Having 40% of your rotation take 60% and more of your field goal attempts makes defense much easier. Having freshman Chris Braswell and junior An’Juan Wilderness (and virtually the rest of the squad as well) struggling offensively does not take the pressure to drive the offense off of Green and Spears. Rush the Court bracketologist Zach Hayes lists the 49ers among the last four out in his February 22 column.

If the turnaround is to happen for the 49ers, it will have to start this week. Charlotte will host Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday (2/24) and travel to DC for a Saturday (2/27) game with George Washington. The homestretch includes games with Rhode Island and Richmond before taking off for Atlantic City and the conference tournament. Beating both the Hawks and Colonials will be necessary to stay ahead of Rhode Island, and keep Charlotte in position to move up should any of the top three (Richmond, Temple and Xavier) stumble at the end.

Dayton

The Flyers beat a crippled La Salle team Thursday (2/18) 68-54, but inexplicably dropped their road game with Duquesne 73-71, on Sunday (2/21). Three losses behind the conference leaders with four games to play means Coach Gregory’s team is nearly (mathematically) out of the race for the regular season conference title. They may still have games to play with Temple (Wednesday 2/24) and Richmond (Thursday 3/4), but at this point in the season, with their RPI drifting into the mid-high 40s, RTC’s Zach Hayes has them listed among the last four in with good reason.

Next up is Temple in Philadelphia on Wednesday (2/24) — a win would probably cinch their spot in the field of 65 — then a Saturday (2/27) home game with Massachusetts.

Duquesne

The Dukes decided to play spoiler last week, beating contenders Charlotte in Charlotte 83-77, on Wednesday (2/17), then returning to Pittsburgh to beat Dayton, 73-71 on Sunday (2/21). After a disappointing 2-5 in January, Coach Everhart’s squad has put together a 4-2 (and counting) February. The revival will not be enough to get them back into the postseason conversation, but they can force another squad or two to join them in an early off-season.

Duquesne has two road games this week. First stop is the also-hot St. Louis on Saturday (2/27), and then a trip to Olean, NY, for a tilt with St. Bonaventure on Wednesday (3/3).

Fordham

Two more games tallies to two more losses for Coach Grasso’s team. The Rams’ biggest challenge in the last four regular season games will be to find their first A10 win. The prognosis grows gloomier by the game; Pomeroy puts their probability of going winless at 78.5% as of Tuesday (2/23). Fordham’s last best chance comes quickly — St. Bonaventure, at Rose Hill, on Wednesday (2/24).

George Washington

The Colonials beat Massachusetts in DC 66-60 on Wednesday (2/17), but dropped their road game in a 74-70 squeaker, to Richmond on Saturday (2/20). GW is one loss out of a three-way tie for ninth place. With hope for life after Atlantic City largely reduced to the NIT (or CBI?), Coach Hobbs has to, in the back of his mind perhaps, look to what experience the underclassmen can get as preparation for next season. Freshman Lasan Kromah, co-winner of his third Rookie of the Week citation, has to be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year honors. Several sophomores have shown potential as well, so the nucleus may be in place for an upward move in 2011.

George Washington will host La Salle on Wednesday (2/24), and Charlotte on Saturday (2/27).

La Salle

Another week through which the crippled Explorers have to pass to get to the end of the season. The good news is no additions to the injured list. The bad news was two more losses.

Next up for the Explorers is a trip to DC and a game with George Washington on Wednesday (2/24) and home to host Temple in their Big 5 game on Sunday (2/21). The preseason expectation for the Temple-La Salle match was that this game would be an excellent game with which to close the City Series this season. La Salle’s casualty list has deferred the exciting matchup for another season perhaps.

Massachusetts

The Minutemen dropped two games last week, a 66-60 loss in DC to George Washington last Wednesday (2/17) and a 69-56 loss to St. Louis last Sunday (2/21). Coach Kellogg’s squad will travel to Dayton to take on the Flyers Saturday (2/27), then head into their last full week of play against La Salle and Rhode Island.

Rhode Island

Freshman Akeem Richmond shared Rookie of the Week honors (the second time he has been named) for averaging 19 points in the two games Rhode Island played last week. Unfortunately, the Rams finished the week 1-1, rather than 2-0. The loss, 62-57 to St. Louis last Wednesday (2/17), extended their losing streak to three. Their weekend 101-75 win over Fordham last Saturday (2/20).

Rhode Island travels to St. Bonaventure for a game Saturday (2/27) before taking on Charlotte and Massachusetts to close out the season.

Richmond

The Spiders moved up to #24 in the AP Top 25 this past Monday, as Coach Mooney’s squad continues to jockey with Temple and Xavier for top ranking in the conference. Richmond holds a half-game advantage by virtue of an additional win, but that should even out as the others complete their schedule. Adding to the honors, junior guard Kevin Anderson was recognized as co-player of the week for the second time. The announcement cited his 19-point effort against Fordham and his 24-point night against George Washington. Richmond’s efficiency differential has them ranked #3 in the conference, largely on their offense. The Spiders’ weakness is offensive rebounding, a statistic which suggests they have rebounded only 24% of their misses, the lowest rebounding margin in conference play. The lack of board presence (they are ranked #11 for defensive rebounding percentage, slightly better than their #16 ranking for ORebs) is a common feature in teams that employ perimeter-oriented offenses like the Princeton Offense favored by Coach Mooney. RTC bracketologist Zach Hayes moved Richmond up to a #6 seed, assigned to the Salt Lake City Region, in his February 22 column.

Richmond gets back to business this week with a game at Xavier on Sunday (2/28) and a last home game with Dayton on Thursday (3/4).

Saint Joseph’s

Saint Joseph’s losing streak has extended to four games with a two-loss week. The Hawks suffered a 38 point beating, 88-52, at the hands of Xavier in Cincinnati last Wednesday (2/17), and an overtime loss in their Big 5 game with Temple 75-67, on Saturday (2/20). For the Hawks and Coach Martelli, the opponent may well have become despair, rather than Big 5 or A10 opponents. Rumors on Hawk Hill have freshman guard Carl Jones mulling a transfer to USC in the off season. Jones, the brightest light in the 2010 entering class for Saint Joseph’s, would be the third guard in the last three seasons to transfer after his freshmen year.

The Hawks travel to Charlotte for a game Wednesday (2/24), then to DC for their last conference road game this season next Wednesday (3/3) with George Washington.

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies lost to Temple 73-55, last Wednesday (2/17), but beat a staggering La Salle squad 77-66, on Sunday (2/21). The road win was promising, as the Bonnies have found the road not very kind at all this season. They have to run the table to level their conference record at 8-8, but a road game with Fordham on Wednesday (2/24) should, if all goes well, go down as their second consecutive road win, a promising sign going into Atlantic City (and next season). They return home to host Rhode Island, a one-time conference leader whose February record so far is a disappointing 3-3, on Saturday (2/27). Four wins in hand with a good chance for number five coming against Fordham leaves the Bonnies with three opportunities to notch number six, and match last season’s conference win total, and a possible ninth place finish.

St. Louis

Coach Majerus’ team beat Rhode Island 62-57, on Wednesday (2/17), which put another loss between Billikens and the Rams in conference play. Every loss (and win) counts. They ran their February winning streak to six on Sunday (2/21) with a road win, 69-56, at Massachusetts. Two more February games, Wednesday (2/24) they host top tiered Xavier and Saturday (2/27) they host and close out their mirror series with Duquesne. Winning both may well put St. Louis into the NCAA conversation, as Xavier would be a quality win. They are not on anyone’s radar at this point. St. Louis is 18-8 right now, even finishing the conference with a 2-2 run would give them 20 wins, an 11-5 conference record (along with, most likely, a four seed in the A10 Tournament) and life beyond Atlantic City (if not the NCAA, then the NIT or CBI). Given their ninth place, 18-14, 8-8 finish last season, this would be progress.

Temple

The Owls won both of their games last week pushing their conference record to 10-2 and keeping pace (in the loss column) with Richmond. They moved up to #21 in the AP poll, and continue to be listed as “in” Wednesday (2/17) they beat St. Bonaventure, 73-55, and then crossed town on Saturday (2/20) to Saint Joseph’s 75-67, and take their Big 5-designated game in overtime.

Coach Dunphy’s team will host Dayton on Wednesday (2/24) and close out their Big 5 series with a home game against La Salle on Sunday (2/28). Should the Owls beat the Explorers they would take their first outright Big 5 title in 14 seasons. Temple shared the title with Villanova in 2008 and 2005.

Xavier

The Musketeers jumped to the top of the efficiency differential with two strong, double digit wins last week. They beat Saint Joseph’s by 26 points 88-52, on Wednesday (2/17) and Charlotte by 14 points 81-67, on Saturday (2/20).

Xavier travels to St. Louis for an important game with St. Louis on Wednesday (2/24), then back to Cincinnati for a Sunday (2/28) game with rival Richmond. The Musketeers can finish either second (if they win) or third (if they lose).

Games to Catch

  • Xavier at St. Louis – Wednesday 2/24 — The Billikens are challenging for one of the top three seeds at the A10 Tournament and some consideration for the NCAAs. The Musketeers have to win to keep pace with Richmond in the loss column, and keep their fate in their hands.
  • Richmond at Xavier - Sunday 2/28 — Should Richmond win, the Spiders take the conference regular season title and the #1 seed in the A10 Tournament and Xavier comes in third. Should Xavier win, the Musketeers will finish second in the conference and take the #2 seed in the A10 Tournament, while the Spiders most likely finish third.
  • Charlotte at Rhode Island - Wednesday 3/3 — This is a match between two NCAA bubble teams, in the A10′s in conference version of Bracket Buster Wednesday.
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