Checking In On… the Atlantic 10Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2011
Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @(vbtnBlog)
The Week That Was
- Rivalry Week – the Out of Conference Edition: Throughout the East, in the years before the rise of the conferences, the season was the warm-up for the season ending finales – games with the local rivals. The conferences changed that dynamic, as teams from the same media markets found themselves locked in races for conference titles that increasingly translated into NCAA postseason bids. And local rivals find their matches relocated to the earliest parts of the season. As the fall semester (or quarter) winds into final examinations, the weeks leading in have become the non-conference equivalent of “Rivals Week,” and had ESPN looked at the A-10 schedule, they would have found over one-third of conference members squaring off with their most-often faced local opponents.
- Brawl City: Xavier and Cincinnati have played 79 times, meeting annually since 1947, in what has become known as the “Cross Town Shootout”. Though Xavier won three of the last four meetings, last season’s 66-46 Bearcat rout at Fifth Third must have gone to Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick’s head. In what will no doubt become a teaching point for future Mick Cronin teams, Kilpatrick, in the run-up to the game, opined on local radio that Xavier’s All-American candidate, senior guard Tu Holloway, was probably not good enough to start on the Cincinnati team. Bad move, Sean. The 2011 A-10 Player of the Year responded with a stellar 17-point performance that include going 5-for-10 (1-of-5 three-pointers, 4-of-5 two-pointers) from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 from the line to go with a game-high six dimes. In the post game press conference the clearly agitated Holloway told the assembled scribes that “you do your talking after the game, not before…”. If only Holloway had followed his own advice. With less than 30 seconds to play, during what most likely would have been Cincinnati’s last possession of the game, the obviously incensed Holloway, still in the game for reasons unknown, passed by the Cincinnati bench (the 1:30 mark in the video below), and taunted the Bearcat bench with, “this is MY CITY”.
- Additionally: As Cincinnati freshman guard Ge’Lawn Guyn, Holloway’s defensive assignment, put himself between Holloway and the bench, the two went chest-to-chest and Holloway raised his arms as if to strike Guyn. Xavier freshman forward Dezmine Wells, however, beat him to it, throwing the first punch in a bench clearing brawl that has to be the low point in this season. Xavier senior center Kenny Frease suffered a black eye (and no doubt a ripping headache the day after), the result of a sucker punch from Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates and a kick to the head delivered by Cincinnati center Cheikh Mbodj. Both Cincinnati players were suspended for six games. Cronin and the Cincinnati AD also suspended freshman forward Octavius Ellis for four games, and Guyn for one game. Xavier doled out suspensions to Wells (four games), Landen Amos (four games), junior guard Mark Lyons (two games) and Holloway (one game). Cincinnati holds a 58-41 edge in the series. The other four rivalry games may have been every bit as intense, but no centers were harmed in the playing of the games.
- Temple hosted Villanova in their annual Big 5 game Saturday evening, and beat the Wildcats by 11, 78-67. The game was close with Villanova holding a one-point, 36-35, lead at halftime and the teams knotted at 54 with 8:46 left to play. The Owls’ 13-4 run, fueled by Ramone Moore’s nine point contribution, put Temple in the lead for good and brought home the win. Temple’s win puts the series at 27-26 Villanova.
- Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth renewed their Black and Blue Classic series on Friday night. The Rams carried the day, recording a 22-point win, 73-51, over the Spiders. Though Richmond has played Division I ball since 1914, the upstart Rams, Division I members since 1974, own a 41-25 lead in the series.
- Saint Bonaventure and Canisius renewed their Little Three rivalry, a series that, like Philadelphia’s Big 5 features round robin play involving three of Western New York’s three Catholic colleges. A recognized conference for about a decade in the late 1940s through 1950s, Niagara, Saint Bonaventure and Canisius continue to play annually with the rivalry expanded to include the University of Buffalo. The Bonnies won, 81-62, completing 2/3 of their Little Four slate with a 2-0 (they beat Buffalo, 66-60, the week before).
- Duquesne and Robert Morris squared off on Tuesday night (12/6), with Robert Morris taking the win, 64-60, on free throws in the waning minutes of play. The series is young as Robert Morris fielded a Division I program beginning in 1976, and the two met for the first time in 1981. The series has typically taken a hiatus after playing five-to-seven games. Duquesne leads overall, 14-6.
- Fordham and Manhattan have played 102 games going back to 1911-12 with Manhattan holding a slim two game advantage. Manhattan bumped that advantage to three games when they beat the Rams 81-47 last Wednesday.
Dayton, Massachusetts, Saint Louis and Temple recover some momentum while Saint iBonaventure continues to search for a point guard…and Rhode Island searches for wins.
- Xavier (8-0) #8 AP – The Muskies logged two more wins, an impressive road win versus mid-major darling Butler 73-61, then returned to the Cintas Center to host Cincinnati in this year’s ill-fated Cross Town Shootout (see above). Mark Lyons paced all scorers with 19 points on 6-11 (3-5 on threes, 3-6 on twos) shooing from the field and 4-4 from the line. Looking Ahead: Chris Mack’s squad will take 10 day break before hosting a tune-up versus Oral Roberts (December 18) before heading into their first round game with Long Beach State in the Diamond Head Classic next Thursday (December 22).
- Saint Louis (9-1) – The Billikens hosted Vermont and then Division II Illinois-Springfield, beating both by double digits. Losing by two at the half, Saint Louis no doubt wondered if they would be the latest in a disturbing pattern of non-Division I upset victims. A 12-point second half rally “restored order”. One clue that Coach Majerus was nervous – the veteran used a nine man rotation, but allocated double digit minutes to only seven players. Looking Ahead: Saint Louis has scheduled a single game, versus the Alabama State, over the next nine days. The Bills will face the Hornets on Saturday.
- Temple (6-2) – The Owls capped a 2-0 week with an 11-point win over Big 5 rival Villanova on Saturday. The week started with a road win over MAC opponent Toledo, 77-58, in a game that featured significant contributions from the squad’s younger members. Sophomore guard Aaron Brown came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points on 7-10 (5-8 from beyond the arc, 2-2 from inside) shooting. Freshman front court player Anthony Lee grabbed a game-high nine rebounds while starting in place of the injured Eric Michael. Against Villanova, senior guard Ramone Moore paced all scorers with 32 points (8-21 overall, 2-6 three pointers, 6-15 two pointers and 14-15 from the line) in 34 minutes of play, contributing a crucial nine points in the run that the Owls used to take control of the game. Looking Ahead: Temple takes a southwest tour, traveling to Austin to play Texas on Saturday (12/17) and Rice on Monday (12/19).
- Saint Joseph’s (7-3) – The Hawks posted a 2-0 week, beating Boston University 75-68, then knocking off #17 Creighton 80-71, both games scheduled at Saint Joseph’s. Carl Jones posted a game-high 29 points 9-17 shooting (1-1 from the three point line, 8-16 inside the line) and 10-11. Looking Ahead: Saint Joseph’s scheduled one game in the 11 day break between Creighton on 12/7 and Coppin State on the 12/21, and that game is with Villanova on the 12/17 (Saturday), to be played for the first time in their on-campus facility, The Hagan Arena.
- Dayton (7-3) – The Flyers were flying high after their win over #15 Alabama, 74-62, and continued with a win over 72-68 against South Carolina Upstate. Looking Ahead: Coach Archie Miller’s squad hosts Florida International on Saturday (12/17) followed by Seton Hall the following Wednesday (12/21).
- Richmond (6-4) – The Spiders have dropped two straight, losing to cross town rival Virginia Commonwealth 51-73 (see video below after power rankings), and then to Iona of the MAAC on Wednesday, 79-88. Versus VCU, Cedrick Lindsay posted a game-high 22 points on 7-10 (1-4 from beyond the arc, 6-6 inside the arc) shooting from the field coupled with a perfect 4-4 from the line. Looking Ahead: The Spiders are counter programming — while the rest of the conference is winding down for examinations week, Richmond is taking an even bigger load, playing three games over the next eight days. They start on Friday (12/17), versus Bucknell , then Old Dominion on Tuesday (12/20), finishing with UCLA on Friday (12/23).
- Massachusetts (6-3) – The Minutemen logged a 2-0 week to close out the fall semesters, registering “W”s versus East Carolina (in Greenville, NC) and Siena in Springfield, MA. The saga of the bipolar back court continued, as Coach Derek Kellogg’s charges posted a 0.84 point per possession efficiency on offense versus East Carolina. Freddie Riley came off of the bench to score 14 points on 5-7 shooting (4-5 for three pointers, 1-2 on twos) from the field. With a possession rate of 19.7% and a shot rate of 28.2%, Riley is pretty much a catch-and-shoot player, whose overall efficiency will hang on his three point conversion rate. Chaz Williams’ high assist rate (34.8% #46 per Ken Pomeroy) reinforces the notion that Massachusetts is indeed his team. Looking Ahead: Massachusetts, on a six day exam-induced hiatus, returns to action to host Quinnipiac Saturday.
- St. Bonaventure (4-4) – Coach Mark Schmidt appears to have decided that he wants the pass-first guard (Charlon Kloof) rather than a lead scoring guard (Eric Mosley). After starting Mosley in Saint Bonaventure’s first five games Schmidt has tabbed Kloof for starts against Buffalo, Illinois and Canisius. The Bonnies are 2-1 with Kloof averaging 60.7% of the available minutes at the point and Mosley pulling down 35.0% (an average of about 24.7 MPG vs. 14.0 MPG). Though both have improved their assist-to-turnover ratios in those games, each is still “under water” for the season. Turnovers have been the major issue for St. Bonaventure this season. The Bonnies’ offensive and defensive efficiencies are good per Ken Pomeroy (ranked #87 and #102 respectively through Sunday 12/11), but the Bonnies offensive turnover rate is a troubling 23.1% (ranked #255), suggesting the Bonnies could do (much) better offensively if the turnover rate was closer to the Division I average (about 21.3%, or 2-3 turnovers per game). Looking Ahead: The Bonnies take most of the week for finals and resume play Sunday (12/18) when they host Loyola Marymount, followed by a game in Buffalo versus North Carolina State on Tuesday (12/20).
- Duquesne (6-4) – Ron Everhart’s squad concluded their Pittsburgh-centric rivalry games by losing, 60-64, to Robert Morris Tuesday night, but they rebounded with a win over Penn State, 66-59 , on Saturday. Eric Evans led the team in scoring in both games. Those wondering how T.J. McConnell would handle the extra defensive attention should know that in these games McConnell dished 16 dimes while committing 7 turnovers. Looking Ahead: The Dukes will travel to Kalamazoo, MI to play Central Michigan on Saturday, then take a seven day break and return to action against George Mason (in Fairfax, VA).
- La Salle (5-3) – Dr. Giannini’s squad posted their second consecutive 2-0 record last week, beating Towson by a whopping 38 points, 89-51, then disposing of Army by 12, 76-64. The backcourt trio of Sam Mills, Earl Pettis and Ramone Galloway have emerged as La Salle’s offensive engine, with one or two consistently leading the team in the last two games. The two wins brings the Explores’ current winning streak to five. Looking Ahead: La Salle takes the next two games on the road. First up is Delaware, when the Explorers take on the Blue Hens on Monday (12/19).
- Charlotte (6-2) – The 49ers added two more wins to their current run, bringing the total to four straight since the beginning of the month. The last two victims, Radford on December 6, (57-49) and then Davidson last Saturday (84-61 – very impressive given Davidson’s own 6-3 record) illustrate how much progress Coach Alan Major’s team has made in the young season. While junior forward/center Chris Braswell led the squad in scoring in these last two games, wing DeMario Mayfield along with guards Javarris Barnett and Pierria Henry traded places as the second and third scorers. Though bad news for senior wing Darrio Green, the fact that he has not been a factor in the wins suggests the 49ers’ offense will not stall if Green has an off night. Looking Ahead: Charlotte will take a very long weekend, and not return to action until December 22 when they face Miami of Florida in Florida.
- George Washington (4-5) – The Colonials dropped two more games last week, 55-65 to Loyola of Maryland, then an even worse 50-85, to Syracuse. The slide has reached four straight and the staff responded by dropping Tony Taylor from the starting lineup in favor of junior Bryan Byrnes for the Syracuse game last Saturday. All conference rookie (in 2010) Lasan Kromah averaged only 10.5 points in the last two losses. The four losses strongly suggest a breakdown on both offense and defense in December. The Colonials’ offense has scored an average of 0.82 points per possession while yielding a whopping 1.09 points per possession on defense. Coach Mike Lonergan’s offensive system is not producing good shot making opportunities as neither Tony Taylor nor Lasan Kromah have been effective in the run. On defense, George Washington’s shot defense has given up 49.8% eFG%, not fatal, but combined with not forcing turnovers (GWU’s opponents had a 20.1% turnover rate in the last four losses) and allowing those opponents to rebound a whopping 39.1% of their own misses translated into many more scoring opportunities than the Colonials. Where to start? Probably defense. Looking Ahead: George Washington will host Bradley Thursday, then take a one week break before returning to action.
- Rhode Island (1-9) – The hits keep coming for the Runnin’ Rams as they dropped two more games last week. The first, a loss to Virginia Tech, 78-67, was tough, but the second, a 32 point loss to Georgia State of the CAA, was simply ugly. Though Coach Jim Barron’s team will typically post a headscratcher in the out of conference part of the schedule, this loss will bring out the boo birds again. The losses extend the Runnin’ Rams’ losing streak to six. Looking Ahead: Rhode Island hosts Virginia Tech Wednesday, then travels to Atlanta to play Georgia State Saturday.
- Fordham (4-5) – The Rams went 1-2 on the week, dropping decisions to Manhattan (see above) and Monmouth, but beating Siena by 25, 74-59. Looking Ahead: Coach Tom Pecora’s charges take on Texas State next Thursday (12/22) before taking another seven day break.
Several games I will watch for this week:
- Temple at Texas, Saturday, 12/17, at 2:30 pm – The Long Horns are not a Top-5 team this season, but the Owls will earn a lot of credibility and national recognition with a win. The rotation is shallow and the front court frighteningly young, but Dunphy can out coach Rick Barnes in his sleep.
- Seton Hall at Dayton, Wednesday, 12/21, at 7:00 pm – A good test for the Flyers as the Pirates are projected to finish somewhere in the middle eight (#5 through #12) in the Big East. If the Pirates finish in the upper half of the conference and Dayton is in the running for an at-large bid come March, this one could translate into a resume win.
- Saint Bonaventure vs. North Carolina State, Tuesday, 12/20, at 7:00 pm – Both teams could be in the hunt for an at-large bid come March and a win would serve the Bonnies well. The game will be played on a neutral court, the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY.
- Villanova at Saint Joseph’s, Saturday, 12/17, at 8:00 pm – The Holy War will be played in the Hagan Arena for the first time, as Coach Phil Martelli, possibly the strongest proponent of Big 5 traditions, could not pass up the chance to maximize his squad’s advantage in what should be the most closely competitive game in the 2012 edition of the series. A Saint Joseph’s win will most likely mean the title is Temple’s to lose, while virtually assuring Villanova no better than a 3rd place finish in the series.