Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on January 4th, 2012

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)

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • No A-10 Teams in the Top 25, Again: The latest round of the AP and Coaches polls (January 2) show no Atlantic 10 team that gathered enough support nationally to be ranked … for the second consecutive week. Saint Louis missed a good opportunity to impress when the Billikens dropped a four-point decision to New Mexico on Saturday, picking up their second loss in the process. With the next six teams showing three or four losses, the conference is out of the Top 25 conversation for the next few weeks. The other name brands, Xavier and Temple, did not help their causes this past week. Xavier dropped their third game in the last four, this time to Gonzaga in what might have been a good “comparison” game for the Selection Committee. Temple won their third straight, but the last two have not been especially impressive. The Owls may get the conference’s last good chance for some noise when they host #3 Duke tonight.
  • Conference ComparisonsNearly 90% of the out-of-conference games are on the books and the Atlantic 10 has posted a 62.6% winning percentage:

  • Against the six power conferences, the conference has logged a respectable 22-26 (0.458) record. Highlights include .500 or better records against the ACC (7-6, 0.538 – note Temple hosts Duke tonighit, see below), the Big Ten (4-4, 0.500) and the SEC (4-1, 0.800). Conference members logged their strongest numbers against the teams within the conference footprint – those traditional opponents during the out-of-conference portion of the schedule, posting a 63.8% (30-17) winning record against teams located throughout New England, the Middle Atlantic and upper Midwest regions. Against those conferences most likely to compete for the at-large bids not allocated to the power conference teams, the A-10 posted a strong – but deceptive – 23-12 (0.657) record, largely at the expense of the CAA (15-5, 0.750) and C-USA (4-3, 0.571); both show improvement over the 2010-11 season when, through the end of December, the A-10 went 7-10 versus the CAA and 2-5 with C-USA.
  • Conference Play Commences: The conference maintains their traditional “opening night” tipoff with five conference games and a sixth game to be played on Thursday night. Saturday will feature six conference games with the seventh game to be played on Sunday. By next Monday, every member will have logged at least one conference game.

Despite A Tough Start, Tu Holloway And Xavier Will Be A Major Challenger For The A-10 Crown (AP)

Power Rankings

With only a few games scheduled, and those yielding mixed results for the teams at the top of last week’s power ranking, the conference appears to be sliding sideways. Massachusetts disposes of their last out of conference opponents fairly easily to move up a spot, while Temple finishes the month 6-1 and Fordham upsets a ranked team.

  1. Saint Louis (12-2) – The Billikens ended the week 1-1 — the loss coming at the hands of New Mexico (WAC) at the notorious Pit, UNM’s homecourt. Rick Majerus’ crew smothered Texas Southern with defense in a 71-39 win on 12/27, limiting the Tigers to a paltry 0.57 points per possession (or PPP, with 68 possessions per team calculated), about half a point per possession, just over half of the Division I average. Saint Louis’ own 1.04 point per possession hints at the ongoing point production problem with Saint Louis, but when a defense holds an opponent under 0.6 PPP, the team does not need a very efficient offense to win. Brian Conklin earned an Honorable Mention for his 35-point performance over the two games which yielded an average of 17.5 points per game with an eFG% of 68.4%. Very impressive numbers indeed. The Lobos were a different matter, as the Billikens were down two at the half, and gave up another two points in the second half. Saint Louis opens conference play at Dayton Wednesday, then returns home to host George Washington on Saturday.
  2. Temple (9-3) – The Owls finished out December with a 6-1 record, the road loss to Texas the only blemish. They did not break back into the Top 25 most likely because the two wins racked up last week were both squeakers against struggling teams. It took overtime to beat 6-4 Buffalo, 87-85, at the Liacouras Center on 12/28. Freshman Anthony Lee, thrown into the deep end with the injury to Michael Eric, scored the winning bucket (his only field goal in the game) with 0.3 ticks on the clock. The result against 5-7 Delaware, 66-63, in a Newark (Delaware) road game, was equally as modest. Lee went on to score 12 points against Delaware and earn a piece of the Rookie of the Week award from the conference. No official word on Scootie Randall, still sidelined after surgery last spring, nor Eric, injured last month. Both are unofficially expected back around the middle of the month, too late for the Duke game or the open of conference play. Temple hosts Duke on Wednesday before starting conference play with a visit from Dayton on Saturday.
  3. Xavier (9-4) – The Musketeers only game last week was a 72-65 home loss to Gonzaga (of the West Coast Conference). Since the postgame brawl with Cincinnati on December 10, Xavier has gone 1-4 in one of the more disappointing closeouts to the non-conference schedule in recent memory. Tu Holloway paced Xavier with 15 points, but Kenny Fraese tied Holloway and freshman forward Justin Martin for a team-high two assists, a total of nine only posted by the entire team. Chris Mack’s squad opens conference play in Philadelphia, versus La Salle on January 4, then travels to New York to play Fordham on Saturday, January 7.
  4. Massachusetts (11-3) – Since their loss to Miami (FL) on December 3 the Minutemen have run off five straight wins and closing out December with a 5-1 record. The won/loss record is impressive, a statistical break down via Ken Pomeroy suggests the Minutemen may struggle in conference play. Eight of UMass’ opponents are ranked #200 or lower in Division I (345 teams total in Division I), with three ranked #300 or lower. Nevertheless, the team showed an uncharacteristically strong offense in their win 97-65 over Central Connecticut State on December 30 (their only game of the week). Derek Kellogg’s squad posted 1.15 points per possession – fourth best offensive display the CCSU Blue Devils saw so far this season in the game, and earned a bulked-up sophomore forward Raphiael Putney a conference Honorable Mention and some local press. Massachusetts will open against Fordham on Thursday, then travel to Philadelphia for a game with La Salle on Sunday (1/8).
  5. Saint Joseph’s (10-4) – The Hawks posted a sideways, 1-1 week with a 31 point, 81-50, win over Morgan State and a five-point, 74-69 road loss to #23 Harvard. The Joes took a 10-point, 48-38 lead into the halftime intermission, but could not close out the Crimson, as Tommy Amaker’s team stormed back with impressive shot defense in the second half which, along with a cold 9-15 (60%) from the free throw line, doomed Saint Joseph’s. The Hawks open their conference schedule Wednesday with a trip to Pittsburgh to face Duquesne, and then return to the Hagan to host Charlotte on Saturday (1/7).
  6. Dayton (10-4) – The Flyers’ only game last week was a big one, a 12-point 64-50 win over Mississippi of the SEC. Paced by senior forwards Chris Johnson’s 16 points – which included a base line three at the half time buzzer – Dayton stretched a five-point halftime lead (28-23) out to 12 with an early second half run, then pushed several Rebel rallies off to preserve the victory, their second over an SEC squad this season. The win came with a price as starting forward/center Josh Benson left the game 11 minutes into the first half with an injury to his left knee. Subsequently diagnosed as an ACL tear, the junior is gone for the season. Given that Benson has already taken a red shirt, it is unlikely that he will be able to take a second one and maintain a second season of eligibility after he returns. Archie Miller’s squad hosts Saint Louis in the conference opener for both on Wednesday (1/4), then travel to Philadelphia for a game with Temple on Saturday (1/7).
  7. Richmond (9-6) – The Spiders knocked off Liberty 77-61 on 12/28 and UNC-Greensboro 78-58 on 12/30 to close out their out of conference slate on with a 4-1 run. In an early season test for the young squad, Richmond opens their conference slate with two road games. Chris Mooney’s squad travels to North Carolina for a game Charlotte on Wednesday (1/4), then up to Kingston, Rhode Island for a tilt with the Runnin’ Rams on Saturday (1/7).
  8. St. Bonaventure (7-5) – Mike Schmidt’s crew squeaked by Niagara, 72-70, on December 30 (Thursday) to take the Little Four title this season. Demetrius Congers scored a game-high 27 points as the Bonnies, who took a 13-point lead into half time, had to survive a furious 45-34 Purple Eagle comeback in the second half to preserve the win. The Bonnies host George Washington on Wednesday (January 4) to open their A-10 schedule, then travel to Pittsburgh for a game with Duquesne on Saturday (January 7) .
  9. Duquesne (9-5) – Ron Everhart’s squad broke out of their “lose-win” pattern last week to post two consecutive wins, a 10-point, 86-76, decision over Bowling Green State, and a whopping 36-point, 118-72, beat-down of Houston Baptist before turning their attention to conference play. Senior forward B.J. Montiero scored 52 points over the course of the two wins, securing a double-double versus Houston Baptist, to earn the conference Player of the Week award. Montiero posted a 68.3% eFG% with 1.37 points per weighted shot (PPWS) suggesting that he was not only prolific but also efficient with his shooting. Duquesne takes a three game winning streak into conference play. They will need efficient scoring as they open conference play Wednesday with a two game home stand. First up is Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday (1/4) Saint Bonaventure on Saturday (1/7).
  10. La Salle (10-4) – Dr. Giannini’s squad finished out December with two more wins last week, a 17-point, 70-53 win, over Boston University followed by an 18-point win, 73-55, over Hartford. The Explorers posted a 6-1 mark in December as they look ahead to conference play. Freshman forward Jerrell Wright earned his fifth mention from the conference (four Honorable Mentions, one Rookie of the Week) for his consistent play, while sophomore point guard Tyreek Duren earned his third Honorable Mention. Both should be in the mix for end of the season conference teams should they keep up the good play. The Explorers host Xavier to open conference play Wednesday, in what might be, given the relative disarray of the Musketeers after the Cincinnati brawl, to pick up a big conference win. La Salle then closes out their two-game conference home stand with a game versus Massachusetts on Sunday (1/8).
  11. Charlotte (7-5) – Alan Major’s unit continued their losing ways, dropping two more games last week, 80-67 to Arkansas and 67-58 to Memphis, courtesy of a two-game road swing, to close out the out of conference schedule. The losing streak now stands at three, with a 4-0 December becoming a less impressive 4-3. The 49ers open their conference schedule by hosting Richmond Wednesday (1/4) and then travel to Philadelphia to take on Saint Joseph’s on Saturday (1/7).
  12. George Washington (5-8) – The Colonials stopped the bleeding with a 1-1 week, complements of the Delaware State Hornets. The week started badly with a loss to Alabama-Birmingham on December 28 (Wednesday), but Mike Lonergan’s squad bounced back with an 18-point, 77-59 win over DSU December 30 (Saturday). Sophomore guard Lasan Kromah earned an Honorable Mention for scoring 30 points and grabbing 12 steals (a school record nine in the UAB loss) and 10 assists over the two-game run. George Washington opens with a two-game road swing that starts at Saint Bonaventure’s on Wednesday (January 4) and then Saint Louis on Saturday (January 7).
  13. Fordham (7-6) – The Rams went 2-0 to close out their out of conference slate. Their 60-54 win over #21 ranked Harvard is the most impressive win of Tom Pecora’s tenure, and the first win over a ranked team in over a decade (65-64, vs St. John’s, 12/09/2000). Freshman Bryan Smith posted a game-high 22 points in what will most certainly earn him the Rookie of the Week honor next Monday. Chris Gaston earned his sixth Honorable Mention from the conference this season on the strength of his 23-point, 17-rebound performance against Georgia Tech on December 29. Gaston leads Division I players with 10 double-doubles this season. Fordham will travel to Massachusetts to open their A-10 schedule on Thursday (1/5) and then return to New York City to host Xavier on Saturday (1/7).
  14. Rhode Island (3-12) – The Runnin’ Rams posted a 2-1 week as they went 1-1 in Central Florida’s year end tournament, beating James Madison 79-60 before bowing to the hosts 65-54. They used the momentum from Florida to beat regional rival Boston College, 78-72, in a double overtime marathon. Freshman guard Mike Powell earned Rookie of the Week honors from the conference front office for his 31-point performance in the James Madison and UCF games. His 25-point performance versus Boston College however, was the most impressive of the three and will likely earn him another nod. Transfers Andre Malone and Billy Baron have spent little time on the bench since becoming eligible for play. Malone started all three games last week, averaging 22.3 minutes per game over the run. Baron averaged 30 minutes coming off the bench, while posting a season-high 25 points versus Boston College. Baron has averaged 15.7 points over the last three games. Rhode Island opens the conference portion of their schedule by hosting Richmond Wednesday (1/4), after which they travel to Washington D.C. for a game with George Washington on Saturday (1/7).

Looking Ahead

Conference kick off promises some big tests early… and an interesting out of conference match up (all times EST):

RIck Majerus And Saint Louis Opens A-10 Play At Dayton (USA Today)

  • #3 Duke at Temple, Wednesday, 1/4, 7:00 p.m., ESPN2 – The conference’s last best chance to put a team in the Top 25 before attrition in the power conferences creates a few open slots. The Blue Devils bring a Top 5 squad that features freshman Austin Rivers along with juniors Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins will provide the biggest challenge to date for Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt and Juan Fernandez. A very thin Owl frontcourt will have to contend with the Plumlee twins and Ryan Kelly, a very tall order.
  • George Washington at Saint Bonaventure, Wednesday, 1/4, 7:00 p.m. – The Colonials have stumbled after a strong start while the Bonnies did not start as strongly as anticipated. Home court should give the Bonnies an advantage in this game, but the key to a bye seed in Atlantic City is win at home.
  • Saint Louis at Dayton, Wednesday, 1/4, 8:00 p.m., – Can the first conference game really be a “must win” game? The Billikens have to hit the ground running as they travel to Dayton for a game with the Flyers. Both teams should finish above .500 in conference play and will probably contend for a bye spot in the conference tournament in March (and a post season bid?). This game will provide the winner with a solid tie breaker and an advantage when they play their rematch on February 4.
  • Dayton at Temple, Saturday, 1/7, 4:00 p.m., CBS Sports Network Regional coverage, – This could be a very good or a very bad week for Dayton. Josh Benson’s loss evens out the absence of Scootie Randall and Eric Michael, but the Owls will have to figure out how to shut down Chris Johnson and Matt Kavanaugh.
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