RTC Live: Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2012

The Atlantic 10 quarterfinal round has already opened up with top seed Temple losing to Massachusetts earlier this afternoon. Among tonight’s teams, Xavier, Dayton, and St. Louis all have dreams of at-large bids, while La Salle is thinking tournament title. It should be an equally competitive and fun evening from Atlantic City tonight down on the Boardwalk.

Games #77-78. Seed prevailed Tuesday night in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Fans will be treated to seven games over three rounds that should be the most closely matched tournament in the conference’s last five postseasons. Friday evenings two quarterfinal games will pit four teams with combined records of 82-24 in two games that will decide who will meet in Saturday’s second semifinal.

#7 seed La Salle will meet #2 seed Saint Louis in the 6:30 PM game. The Explorers were here last March, but faced fellow Philadelphians (and then #2 seed) Temple and could not overcome the Owls’ experience and poise to advance. Saint Louis is advancing to a quarterfinal round game for only the second time in Coach Rick Majerus’ five year tenure, so the Dr. John Giannini’s charges will have the “experience factor” in their favor…and the fact that Philadelphia is located about 15 hours closer to Atlantic City than Saint Louis. Tournament exposure versus little exposure, the contrasts do not end there as the Billikens play at a deliberate pace (ranked #12 in conference games with 62.5 possessions per game) as their offense searches for three-point opportunities. La Salle (ranked #2 in the conference with 69.0 possessions per 40 minute game) prefers a more brisk pace while their defense is ranked #3 in the conference for limiting three-point attempts. Whether the Bills have to “play up” to the Explorer’s pace, and can convert their threes efficiently are two numbers to track Friday night.

The nightcap will pit two teams whose rivalry predates their A-10 membership. #3 seeded Xavier and #6 seeded Dayton have traded blows (figuratively speaking) nearly annually since 1920, when Dayton was logged as Xavier’s first “official” game as a member of the NCAA. The two traded wins this season, Dayton blasting Xavier by 15 in January, with Xavier exacting revenge with a three-point win, in overtime, barely three weeks ago. Every game now is a must win for Xavier’s NCAA hopes, but the Musketeers are rated no better than a toss-up by Ken Pomeroy. Previous conference matchups have produced games talked about for weeks afterward, in the 2010 tournament Dayton mounted a dramatic comeback that was derailed by a technical assessed in the waning minutes of play, and Dayton came back to knock off a heavily favored #1 seeded Xavier squad to open the quarterfinal round last March. Expect no less every time these old opponents meet, so join RTC Live as we go to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey for the evening session of the Atlantic 10 Conference quarter-finals.

Philadelphia’s Ever Shrinking Presence

The speculation through much of the week swung from an one All-Philadelphia semi-final to an All-Philadelphia final. That story line evaporated around 2:25 pm Friday afternoon when Massachusetts upset #1 seed Temple 77-71. To those following the conference (more closely than ESPN…) the outcome should not have induced heart failure as the Minutemen took the Owls to an overtime period on February 29 before falling two points short (88-90) on Temple’s home court. The point spread was within the home court advantage (by consensus worth about four points), which suggested the Owls were vulnerable to an upset.  The All-Philadelphia final speculation ended when Saint Bonaventure beat Saint Joseph’s 78-71 in the quarter-finals’ second game. That game went to the 39th minute before it was decided. The Hawks dropped a five point, 98-93, decision to the Bonnies at the Reilly Center, on February 29, not close apparently to entertain dreams of an upset. Saint Louis put dreams of any Philadelphia team in the finals (much less the semi-finals) when they took a 14 point run to erase a 2-0 La Salle lead. The Billikens never trailed again as they countered every La Salle push with one of their own. The final score, 78-71, does not do justice to the Explorers’ (ultimately futile) effort that kept the gap within two possessions from the 8:54 mark down to the 0:04 mark of the second half.

Two, Three or Four?

Speculation over the number of bids the conference will get seems to be a product of the ink media’s hopes rather than hard analysis. Going into the quarter-final round the consensus was two (Temple and Saint Louis) with Xavier a possible third. Temple a consensus #5/#6 seed and Saint Louis a consensus #8 seed are secure no matter what happened on Friday. Temple may slide down a seed line or two as a result of their showing in the tournament, but there is no chance they will slide 24 spots on the S-Curve. Saint Louis’ cushion is smaller, but there are not enough upset possibilities out there to slide the Billikens down the 18-20 spots on the S-Curve that would drop them out of the tournament field. Xavier is a different story. Ironically had La Salle beaten Saint Louis, the conference would have been guaranteed three bids as the top two (both guaranteed spots in the tournament field) seeds would have fallen.  Either Saint Bonaventure or Massachusetts will advance to the final, but with Saint Louis still in the field, there is no guarantee that, should the Billikens advance to the finals. the Selection Committee will not simply put together a “best-guess” bracket that creates a #12/#13 seed for the winner of the conference tournament.

rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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