Checking In On… the Atlantic 10Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2011
The Week That Was:
How They Measure Up: Results by Conference
The A-10 teams played 51 games from November 9 through November 22 against teams from 22 conferences and an independent. The overall record, 34-17 (0.667) may leave fans optimistic as last season’s final winning percentage was 0.589, but the season is very, very early with less than 25% of the schedule in the books. Whether conference members can draw a fourth (or even a third?) bid depends to a considerable degree on how the conference as a whole fares against the power conferences and against schools that will form the pool of at-large candidates.
Conferences not played have been omitted. A few oddities should catch the reader’s attention. First, only Saint Bonaventure has engaged a MAAC school so far, unusual for the conference. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference is largely made up of private colleges (many of them Catholic) located in a footprint that stretches from the Capital Region in New York State, west to Lake Erie and south through metropolitan New York down to Maryland. Many MAAC schools share basketball traditions with Fordham and St. Bonaventure, and many of the other A-10 members from New England and Philadelphia. Second, the A-10 is killing the CAA this season, notching a 5-1 record so far. Granted less than a third of the scheduled games have been played, but A-10 teams had to close with a rush of wins to bring last season’s head-to-head record to 7-10, and conference fans watched with mixed emotions as the second CAA team in four seasons advanced to the Final Four last March. While only George Mason from among the CAA’s elite teams has been engaged (and GMU squeaked by, beating Rhode Island in overtime), the early returns are promising. The winning percentage against the power conferences is much lower than last season’s 0.469, but again the season is early as the conference has completed only 20% of their anticipated slate. Excluding the ACC where the A-10 holds a 2-0 edge so far, the conference’s only other power conference win came Sunday against Washington. While the lopsided record compiled against the CAA is the largest influence in the composite record, the A-10 has compiled an 8-1 record versus conferences with a similar profile (the CAA, CUSA, MWC, WAC and MVC), conference teams have sustained winning records against MWC and CUSA competition as well as the CAA.
Notable Early Season Individual Performances
The conference front office issues their Player/Rookie of the Week press release every Monday, and while the folks in Newport News give credit where credit is due, sometimes the press release takes on the flavor of a touchy-feely session. The following performances through the season’s first fortnight did turn a few heads in the national media (and internet).
- Rhode Island’s senior guard Jamal Wilson scored a career-high 38 points in 41 minutes of play during the Runnin’ Rams season opening 90-92 overtime loss to George Mason, on November 11. Wilson shot 13-22 (1-2 from beyond the arc, 12-20 on two-pointers) from the field, chipping in an additional 11-12 from the free throw line for a 61.4% eFG%. Combined with his free throw rate, Wilson was money, scoring (on average) 1.37 points every time he took a field goal attempt.
- Rhode Island had a second bright spot in their GMU loss, as freshman forward Jon Holton recorded a double-double in his collegiate debut for Coach Baron’s squad. Holton shot a lethargic 2-11 from the field that included a three point bucket, but redeemed himself at the line with a 7-10 performance. There can be no dispute about the quality of his board work however, as the 6’7” rookie grabbed two offensive boards to go with his 12 defensive rebounds. He also dished three dimes, unusual for a rookie front court player. Rhodi has a keeper.
- Massachusetts point guard Chaz Williams earned a double-double the hard way when UMass hosted Northeastern on November 14. Williams dished 10 dimes to pair with his 20 points. The Hofstra transfer converted 7-13 from the floor (2-4 from three point land, 5-9 on two point attempts) to go with a perfect 4-4 from the line. Though he committed three turnovers, he softened the damage with a steal and a block.
- Three 49er players logged double-doubles in Charlotte’s 77-75 overtime win over Western Michigan (11/15). Chris Braswell paced Charlotte with 22 points while also grabbing 10 rebounds. Guards Javarris Barnett (17 points, 12 rebounds) and DeMario Mayfield (15 points, 10 rebounds) backed Braswell in the rebounding bonanza as Charlotte outrebounded the Chippewas 53-40 in the 45 minute road game.
- Carl Jones scored 38 points in 40 minutes, but the Hawks dropped a seven point decision to Seton Hall in their second round game in the Charleston Classic. Jones shot 12-17 (4-6 from three point land, 8-11 inside) from the field to go with a 10-11 night from the line. Jones is averaging 25.5 points through Saint Joseph’s first three games.
- Xavier (3-0) – Xavier keeps rolling, off to a 3-0 start against low majors. Dulled perhaps by two blowouts (+11 vs. Morgan State and +23 vs. IPFW) the Musketeers looked sluggish when instate rival Miami (OH) came to visit. Tu Holloway had an off night and the Muskies were not able to build a double digit margin over the Red Hawks. For those wondering what will happen should an opponent shut Holloway down, the answer is Mark Lyons (18 points) and Kenny Fraese (13 points, seven rebounds). This is SEC Week for Xavier. Coach Chris Mack’s squad will host Georgia on Friday, then travel to Nashville for a game against Vanderbilt on Monday.
- Saint Louis (3-0) — The Billikens’ 13-point win over Washington Sunday set the national media off for the tail end of an already eventful weekend. College Basketball Prospectus geek John Gasaway ccommpared the A-10’s best three teams to those of the Pac-12 in the moments after the score was official (and final). The Billikens picked up votes in both the AP and Coaches polls on Monday. Saint Louis was by 25 at the half and by as much as 30 at times in the last 20 minutes, but relaxed enough to allow that the Huskies closed the gap with an under five minute push. Junior Brian Conklin, the scoring leader through the Bills’ first three games, led again with a rare combination of high utilization (30% shot rate, 33% possession rate) with high efficiency (60.0% eFG%, 1.35 points per weighted shot). Remarkably, Conklin’s performance did not include a three point field attempt. The forward left that to guards Kwamain Mitchell (4-9 from beyond the arc), Kyle Cassity (2-3 from three point land) and 7’0” center Rob Loe (2-3 for three-pointers). The Bills registered an extremely effective 9-21 on three point attempts (equivalent to a 64.3% conversion rate for two point attempts).
- Temple (3-1) – Owl fans who wondered how coach Fran Dunphy’s squad would cope with the loss of rebounder and offensive mainstay Lavoy Allen got their first glimpse of the future as the 2012 edition has logged a single loss against three wins. The loss, an eight point 85-77 decision, to Purdue in the second round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, was a 50-foul hackfest that saw both center Eric Michael and point guard Juan Fernandez sit with five fouls. Dunphy is using a frontcourt rotation of Michael, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson and Anthony Lee with wings Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt especially active (for guards) on the glass. Michael has started all four game (he is healthy) but picked up an average of 4.3 fouls per game and was disqualified from the Purdue game. One of the pleasant surprises is Juan Fernandez. The Argentine has started fast, stepping up as the team’s first option on three point attempts, logging a very respectable 38.5% conversion rate on three point attempts, second highest on the squad. The entire slate has been played on neutral or opponents’ sites so far. Do not expect things to change over December, as only three of the next eight games will be played at the Liacouras Center.
- St. Bonaventure (2-1) – Do not be overly concerned with the three point loss to Cleveland State in St. Bonaventure’s second game. In addition to being on the road, consider the Vikings have three wins against Division I teams so far, including a road win against Vanderbilt. When Andrew Nicholson fouled out with three minutes left in regulation, the Bonnies’ offense stalled. Though freshman Eric Mosley has started all three games and scored ten or more points in two of them, he has more turnovers than assists to this point and is clearly still learning about the position. Charlon Kloof, a late July pickup has an assist-to-turnover ratio greater than 1.0, but has not been a prolific scorer. Coach Mike Schmidt will no doubt use both going forward, and look to protect his All-Conference center.
- Dayton (2-1) – Those anticipating the Flyers’ offense would devolve into the Kevin (Dillard) and Chris (Johnson) Show had to wait until game 3 to see how it would work. Against the UNC Wilmington the result was a 19 (Johnson) and 18 (Dillard) outburst. Both converted efficiently, posting eFG% of 94.4% (Johnson) and 60.7% (Dillard). Coach Archie Miller started Kevin Dillard, Chris Johnson, Josh Benson and Matt Kavanaugh at the #2 through #5 spots. For the first two games he started red shirt senior Josh Parker at the point. For UNC – Wilmington Miller switched to senior Paul Williams, himself something of a scorer rather than a passer. The search may not be over, do not be surprised if Miller tabs Parker again, or stays with Williams (again). Would he tab the only other guard on the squad not named Kevin Dillard? Junior Brian Vonderhaar is not ready, but Parker or Williams need to improve between now and January.
- Saint Joseph’s (3-1) – The Hawks’ season opened with two promising wins – over Western Kentucky on the road (the Hilltoppers beat the Hawks by 28 to open last season at home) and a 13 point neutral court win over Georgia Tech at the Charleston Classic. Saint Joseph’s is on their way, but the road is not without a bump or two, as their loss to Seton Hall (the third game) was by eight and on that same neutral court. Coach Phil Martelli’s squad managed to secure a third place finish in the tournament with a four point win over Tulsa. Four of the five starters are fixtures, Carl Jones, Langston Galloway, C.J. Aiken and Halil Kanasevic have started all four games. The fifth spot has been taken (temporarily?) by 6’8” freshman Papa Ndao, a native of Dakar, Senegal. Sophomore Daryus Quarles, a forward who started the Western Kentucky game, has been sidelined with a foot injury and is expected to miss another week. Martelli will have to rely a bit more on reserves Ronald Roberts and Chris Wilson to provide minutes and points.
- Massachusetts (4-0) – Coach Derek Kellogg has settled into a starting lineup that features transfer Chaz Williams at the #1, Freddy Riley at the #2, Javorn Farrell at the #3, Terrell Vinson at the #4 and Sean Carter at the #5. Those wondering if Chaz Williams was the right combination of scorer and passer have to feel optimistic this week with the Minutemen squad’s win over Boston College in Chestnut Hill. Williams is averaging 17.3 per game while also averaging 8.0 assists per game. Farrell has kicked in better than 3.0 assists per game as well, and together the two have kicked started the staff’s dribble drive motion system. True the Eagles are in the midst of a complete makeover directed by head coach Steve Donahue and have several other losses marring their resume. UMass on the other hand has won their four games by an average of 21.8 points. Are the Minutemen on their way? Probably not, remember UMass did not lose last season until their eighth game, but went 8-15 the rest of the way. Kellogg will need to avoid that trap this season.
- Richmond (3-2) – The Spiders’ uneven start is not a surprise given the minutes and points lost from the 2010-11 squad. The good news amidst losses to Davidson and Illinois is freshman Kendall Anthony’s second consecutive Rookie of the Week award from the conference. Chris Mack brings Anthony off the bench, maintaining the starting five of Cedric Lindsey at the #1, Darien Brothers at the #2, Francis Martel at the #3 (stepping into Justin Harper’s shoes), and a low post rotation of Derrick Williams and Darrius Garrett that he has used from the beginning of the season. Mack has a deep bench and is not afraid to use it. He typically uses 11-12 players in his rotation.
- George Washington (3-1) – Coach Mike Lonergan uses Tony Taylor at the #1 with Lasan Kromah at the #2. The frontcourt includes three forwards with Jabari Edwards taking the #5, John Kropriva at the #3 and Nemanja Mikic at the #4. Though Lonergan’s rotation can go ten deep, most of the minutes are distributed to Aaron Ware, David Pellom and Brad Byrnes. The Colonials’ loss to California (on the road) was not surprising, but the margin, 27 points (81-54), is not a good sign for those who believe Lonergan will improve the teams standing in conference play this season. The Colonials have struggled rebounding their own misses and getting to the line.
- Duquesne (3-2) – The Dukes are not sneaking up on anyone this season. Their two losses came to Arizona (in the first game of the season) and to Valparasio, their latest game this season. Everhart starts T. J. McConnell, Eric Evans and Sean Johnson in the back court. B. J. Monteiro and Andre Marhold are tabbed for the front court. Neither Marhold nor Monteiro is even 6’8” and neither has shown the defensive talents of Saunders. There are taller/bigger bodies available, Everhart has called numbers for both Mamadou Datt (6’8”) and Derrick Martin (6’9”) – among others, giving the Dukes a deep, but not much taller, rotation.
- Rhode Island (0-3) – Coach Jim Baron might be channeling John Chaney when he accepted the invitation to participate in the Legends Classic in the visitor’s bracket. Consistent with Temple’s retired coach, whose motto was “Any time, any place” Baron drew three road games to open the season. Their two point loss to George Mason University was understandable given the success of the conference last season and Rhode Island’s relative inexperience. Even the ten point loss to Texas could be understood as a loss to a more athletic opponent. The 20 point loss to Nebraska of the Big 10, however, could be a sign that it is time to come home and refocus the team. Baron has penciled in freshman Mike Powell for the point, and the 5’11” Chicago native has struggled. Jamal Wilson, who racked up an impressive 37 points in the season’s first game has started at the #2 while Nikola Malesevic has started at the #3, Orion Outerbridge the #4 and freshman Jonathan Holton the #5. Rhode Island’s rotation has gone nine or ten deep, with two or three of the non-starters drawing double digit minutes. Rhode Island will host one of the Legend subregionals this week, giving the Runnin’ Rams three consecutive home games. Andre Malone and Billy Baron cannot become eligible soon enough.
- La Salle (2-2) – Four of Dr. John Giannini’s five starters have been consistent. The Explorers have started Tyreek Duren at the point, Sam Mills at the off guard, Earl Pettis at the wing and Jerrell Wright at the power forward spot. Ramon Galloway was tabbed to start as a fourth guard, in the Explorer’s season opener with Lafayette. Galloway suffered a head injury in the first period and has not played since, leaving the starting job in the last three games to Devon White. White’s contribution has been largely rebounding with some scoring to complement the offensive-minded guard contingent. Visions of a faster, quicker lineup will have to wait on Galloway’s return. Though Giannini has called up to five additional players into a game, only Taylor Dunn and D. J. Peterson have consistently drawn double-digit minutes.
- Charlotte (2-2) – The 49ers opened their season with a 16 point win over North Carolina Central in a romp that featured a number of highlight moments (see video below). Chris Braswell missed the 59ers’ third game (at Lamar) because of the flu and the result, an 18 point loss (72-54) hints at the value the 6’9” forward has to the team. The line up developed by coach Alan Major included Pierra Henry at the point, Darrio Green at the offguard spot, DeMario Mayfield and Javarris Barnett in the forward spots and Braswell anchoring the defense. K. J. Sherrill subbed for Braswell in the Lamar game, but the junior big returned for the Tennessee State game, and the resulting two point loss. The staff has typically used between nine and twelve players through their first four games, consistent with the large recruiting class the staff has at their disposal. Braswell has already logged two double-doubles in three of the games he played in. The two point loss on Tuesday night to Tennessee State, at Halton Arena on the Charlotte campus has to throw a damper on expectations in the 49er Nation. How the team responds will be an indication on where their season will go.
14. Fordham (1-1) – The Rams’ record is even through two games and Coach Tom Pecora is sorting through the players he has recruited over the past several seasons. Mainstays Chris Gaston and Branden Frazier have been joined by Devon McMillan, 5’ 10” guard out of Brooklyn, NY who has averaged 30.0 minutes in games this year. The seniors, Alberto Estwick and Kervin Bristol, continue to start, but are logging less than 20 minutes per game apiece.
- Massachusetts vs Florida State – Thursday November 24. This first round game in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament pits the #20 team in the Coaches poll against the resurgent UMass program. Chaz Williams and the Minutemen would take on the best defense in the nation.
- Dayton at Wake Forest – Thursday November 24. Wake Forest struggled in Jeff Bzdelik’s first season, but the Demon Deacons are 3-0 this season and a Flyer win would definitely garner some national press. The game is at Wake, a particular challenge for Dayton.
- Xavier vs Georgia – Friday November 25. Mark Fox’s Bulldogs go to the Cintas Center for a game with the Musketeers. The X-men usually schedule a power conference opponent later in the season. Coach Chris Mack’s squad will bolster their national standing with a win over a 4-1 SEC team.