CIO… the Atlantic 10 ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on December 6th, 2012
Rick Majerus, 1948-2012 – Former Saint Louis Billikens head coach Rick Majerus succumbed to his chronic heart condition Saturday in California while undergoing extended treatment. Deteriorating health forced the 25-year veteran to take his first medical leave in 2003-04 when he coached the Utah program. He resigned during the 2004 season. After a three-year hiatus that included a stint behind the microphones at ESPN, the coach returned to the bench at Saint Louis University to begin a rebuilding process that earned the Billikens their first NCAA bid since 2000.
“The entire Atlantic 10 family is grieving tonight over the loss of coach Majerus. His undeniable knowledge and love of the game was known to all, and he was an excellent teacher committed to the student-athlete. This passion made his impact on A-10 basketball over the past five years immeasurable,” said Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade. “He will be missed at Saint Louis, within the A-10 and nationally; our prayers and condolences are with coach Majerus’ family and the Saint Louis University community.” said Atlantic 10 Conference Commissioner Bernadette McGlade in a press release late Saturday night.
Though he had not been on campus since the end of the 2011-12 season, the first public notice was an announcement in July that he was in California seeking treatment for his heart. St. Louis issued a Friday afternoon announcement in late August that he would take a medical leave for the 2012-13 season, followed by another Friday afternoon press release nine weeks later that heart problems would preclude his return to the Billikens bench at all. Over the course of a head coaching career at four schools (Marquette, Ball State, Utah and Saint Louis) that dates back to 1983-84 (Marquette), the coach developed a resume that included a 517-216 lifetime record, only one sub-.500 season, 15 20-win seasons, 19 postseason bids (12 NCAA, 6 NIT, 1 CBI) and a Final Four appearance with the Utah Utes in 1998. Those mentored by Majerus over the course of his career include consensus All-Americans Andre Miller (Utah) and Keith Van Horn (Utah), along with Boston Celtic Coach Doc Rivers (Marquette).
Versus Other Conferences – Nearly 60% of the A-10’s non-conference games are in the books and the conference has posted a very power conference-like winning percentage of (about) 63%. The conference’s sluggish start, often recorded on neutral courts in invitational tournaments, appears to be offset by a combination of home court wins and strategic road wins. Current for games through Wednesday December 5, the table below shows how the conference did head-to-head with the other Division I conferences. The summary at the bottom breaks out the A-10’s record versus the six power conferences, versus other non-power conferences with similar profiles (i.e., the Missouri Valley Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the West Coast Conference, Conference USA and the Colonial Athletic Association) and the other 20 Division I conferences (and independents):
The conference’s approach is textbook – try to play the power conferences even, and beat everyone else. The “high mid-major” summary is misleading – the CAA contributed a whopping 12 wins (and one loss) to that category’s 18-7 record, leaving the A-10’s record versus the others at 6-6. A few good – and bad – surprises:
- The A-10’s record against the CAA – 12-1 to date – is an astonishing turnaround from the head-to-head record of season’s past. Virginia Commonwealth’s presence in the A-10 is definitely a contributor to the reversal. Not only do the Rams bring a winning program (though their 3-3 record to date is a bit underwhelming), but more importantly, their historic record vis-à-vis A-10 teams no longer contributes to the CAA head-to-head record.
- The Big East record should be cause for optimism as the conference compares favorably to date with the power conference with which it shares a footprint. The A-10 draws most of its games with conferences with whom the A-10 shares a footprint – the CAA (18 games), the Big East (16 games), the MAAC (16 games) and the MAC (16 games). To date the A-10 has posted a 26-12 (0.684) versus those conferences.
The Hawks and Billikens stumbled, scrambling last week’s conference power rankings. Meanwhile, Butler, VCU, Dayton, Richmond and the 49ers continue to win, bringing a bigger than expected shakeup to the power rankings this week.
- Temple (6-0) – The Owls continue to cruise through their early season slate, disposing of Big 5 rival Villanova at Villanova by 15 (76-61), despite being down by four (32-36) at the half. Sophomore center Anthony Lee is proving to be “good enough” as Fran Dunphy’s offense continues to come from the backcourt pair of Khalif Wyatt and Scootie Randall. They continue to lead the team in scoring, with averages of 15.2 and 16.7 points respectively. Lee’s “deep end of the pool” education last season is paying dividends now. Saturday’s game with Duke, on the neutral court in New Jersey, will, in the form of Mason Plumlee, be Lee’s biggest challenge to date.
- Butler (5-2) – The opposition (Ball State and IUPUI) did not impress, but the winning margins (14 and 32 points respectively) were good enough. Roosevelt Jones and Khyle Marshall posted efficient offensive numbers, giving coach Brad Stevens a lethal combination from 12 feet and in. Though Rotnei Clarke shot 3-12 from beyond the arc versus Ball State even as six other Bulldogs combined for an abysmal 1-11, Butler chances were not damaged as Ball State was actually worse, converting only two of 11 three point attempts. The difference maker was turnovers as the Cardinals committed 19 turnovers to the Bulldogs’ five. Against IUPUI, the Bulldogs gave their fans a taste of the damage that three point offense can do once it is on track. Butler’s 11-21 three point conversion rate throttled the Jaguars, running them into a 41-13 hole that the Jags could not climb out of. Two Big Ten opponents (Northwestern and Indiana) are coming up over the next two weeks. Bulldog fans have to hope Clarke, freshman guard Kellen Dunham and junior forward Erik Fromm do not cool off.
- Xavier (5-1) – The Musketeers continue to roll – their latest win, a 63-57 road win over Purdue of the Big Ten – which should help their fans forget that stumble versus Pacific last month. On the strength of his last two outings where he came off the bench for 62 minutes scoring 18 points while collecting 13 rebounds, junior forward Isaiah Philmore may force Chris Mack to tweak the starting five he has gone with for the last six or so games. Freshman guard Semaj Christon is making a strong case for freshman of the year consideration, scoring 41 points in his last two outings (Drake and Purdue). The Xavier pipeline may be as strong as ever.
- Saint Joseph’s (5-2) – The Hawks’ loss at Creighton over the weekend provides some insight into the kinds of problems Saint Joseph’s may have against better teams this season. A combination of cold shooting and five turnovers in the team’s first 11 possessions put Coach Phil Martelli’s squad into a 14 point hole. Faced with a double digit deficit on the road team settled for three point attempts, taking 15 attempts (and making four) in the first half alone. The Jays scored 18 points in the paint in the first 20 minutes, countered by only six by the Joe’s. Down by 27 at the intermission, Saint Joseph’s was out of the game early, much as they were versus Florida State in November. Martelli’s motion system looks for those three point plays, but without a credible low post threat (both Halil Kanesevic and Ron Roberts picked up two fouls in the game’s first 10 minutes) the three point attempts become too predictable.
- Virginia Commonwealth (5-3) – Coach Shaka Smart’s HAVOC defense took another head again over the weekend and took down a very good Belmont (OVC) team by 10 points (75-65) in the process. Ken Pomeroy calculated the possession rate at 70 (each team had about 70 possessions for the game), which made Belmont’s 24 turnovers — a 34% turnover rate — a devastating blow to the Bears’ offensive efficiency. Put another way, Belmont scored about 1.2 points on every field goal attempt they made (roughly the possessions they did not lose by turnover), but losing more than one in three possessions put them in a hole too deep. Kudos to junior forward Juvonte Reddic and sophomore guard Treveon Graham powered the offense with 17 and 19 points respectively. Senior starting guard Darius Theus, sidelined with a knee injury sustained in the November 28 Stetson game, is expected back for the Friday showdown with in state rival Old Dominion.
- Dayton (6-2) – Winning on the road was always a problem for Brian Gregory-coached Flyer squads. Does Dayton’s win 73-67 win over Alabama signal a change? Flyer faithful have to hope so as the second year coach’s record away from UD Arena this season is now 3-1. Against power conference opponents Miller has put together an identical 3-1 record so far. Benefit of those wins will be shared with other conference teams once conference play is underway. The offense is developing a deadly inside-outside balance with thanks to seniors Josh Benson (forward/center) and Kevin Dillard (point guard), with strong assistance from junior transfer Vee Sanford (guard) — who is making his own case for newcomer of the year consideration – and junior forward Devon Oliver.
- Charlotte (8-0) – Coach Alan Majors’ squad has compiled a nice looking record, but it lacked a “credibility win”, a win over a name brand, hopefully under trying circumstances. That the team has two freshmen starters (wings Willie Clayton and Darion Clark) while more established players, DeMario Mayfield and Chris Braswell have yet to break back into the starting lineup after season-beginning suspensions, has not helped the 49ers make the case for their run. With the win against Davidson (73-69), on the road no less, that may change. Trailing by four at the half (29-33), Charlotte charged back in the second half, outscoring the Southern Conference power by eight (44-36) to take the win. Charlotte has games with ACC contenders Miami and Florida State before they start conference play, but coming back on the road has to be a confidence builder for this young squad.
- La Salle (5-1) – The Explorers look to their three guard lineup, Tyreek Duren, Ramon Galloway and Sam Mills for points, and the three do not disappoint, as their latest win, an 82-57 drubbing of Penn State at the Palestra Wednesday night, again demonstrated. The three combined for 57 of La Salle’s 82 points (69.5%). Up by two in the early moments of the second half, the Explorers exploded for a 30-10 run over 12 minutes, with the trio combining for 23 of their team’s 30 points. Galloway also dished an assist to sophomore guard D. J. Peterson who capped the run with a trey. Two wins over power conference opponents should help build this squad’s confidence, a dangerous proposition once conference play begins.
- Richmond (7-2) – Ten Spiders have appeared in seven or more of Richmond’s first nine games. Though the starting lineup has remained stable with Anthony Kendall starting two games for the injured Cedrick Lindsay (Lindsay is back, scoring 38 points in the last three games), Chris Mooney rotates nearly five additional players into the game with four, Kendall, sophomore guard Wayne Sparrow, red shirt freshman Trey Davis and freshman forward Deion Taylor averaging from just under 10 to upwards of 23 minutes per game. Scoring is fairly evenly distributed as well, with four (including three starters) players averaging 10 or more points per game. Mooney will most likely shorten the bench as the season goes on, but take the early returns as a sign that Richmond has depth this season.
- Saint Bonaventure (5-2) – Coach Mark Schmidt adjusted his starting five in the last two games, exchanging 6’ 7” junior forward Marquis Simmons, one of two two red shirt players from last season, for 7’ 0” sophomore center Youssou Ndoye. Simmons responded with a double-double versus Siena in the Bonnies’ last outing. Turnovers continue to plague the team, as junior guards Matthew Wright and Charlon Kloof, along with senior forward Demitrius Congers each averages two or more turnovers per game, along with about the same number of assists. A road game with Arkansas State over this weekend should give the backcourt another opportunity to get the turnovers under control.
- Massachusetts (4-3) – The Minutemen beat Northeaster Tuesday night 72-66, the last game before they take a nine day break for fall semester final exams. Coach Derek Kellogg has a few things to work on over the break. Although Massachusetts went 2-1 over their last three games, the wins were not pretty (by one point over Siena and by six over Northeastern) and the loss (at home to Miami by 13) was a bit ugly. Saint Bonaventure beat Siena by 15 Wednesday night, about a week after UMass squeaked out a one point win in Albany. Kellogg’s offense breaks down when the guards cannot score. The system encourages the backcourt to take the ball and create, but if the guards cannot convert the offense tends to stall. Guards Chaz Williams and Jesse Morgan combined to shoot 12-23 (including 6-10 from beyond the arc) against Northeastern, but the duo struggled with a 13-37 night (5-19 from three point land) against Siena. The numbers versus Miami, 6-27 (1-11 on three point attempts) was catastrophic. The tendency for the guards to resort to volume shooting/scoring seems very much like the struggling Minutemen teams of 2010 and 2011. Time to distribute the ball?
- George Washington (4-4) – The newcomers continue to emerge as the scoring nucleus of the Colonial program, but despite a double-double by transfer Isaiah Armwood (12 points and 12 rebounds) and a late scoring flurry by freshman wing Patricio Garino (a 24 point career night), coach Mike Lonergan’s squad dropped a four point decision (68-72) to Bradley of the Missouri Valley Conference in their last outing. The newcomers can score, but Armwood, Garino and freshman guard Joe McDonald must value the ball more if GWU is to convert possessions to points. The team has turned over about 26% of their possessions so far this season, with those three (and senior guard Lasan Kromah) losing at least 23% of their individual possessions.
- Duquesne (4-4) – Sean Johnson and Quevyn Winters are the two most efficient players available to Coach Jim Ferry right now. The two players do not seem to get enough touches on the ball as yet. The Dukes are not shooting well enough, nor do they value the ball enough to win against the more talented teams on schedule, as their latest loss, a 21 point drubbing at the hands of Pittsburgh (45-66), attest. Swapping freshman Jeremiah Jones for Jerry Jones at the off guard spot has had a limited effect as both turn the ball over very little while scoring very efficiently. Freshman point guard Derrick Colter is a typical of the dilemma Ferry has to resolve. Colter has a terrific assist rate, among the best in Division I, but the freshman also has a very high turnover rate, virtually negating the advantage his assist rate gives the Dukes.
- Rhode Island (2-6) – After stumbling badly out of the gate with three double digit losses, the Runnin’ Rams appear to be making progress. Over the next five games they have taken two wins and cut their losing margin in the three losses to an average of 4.0 points. A three point loss to Seton Hall on a neutral suggests Coach Dan Hurley’s squad is becoming more competitive. The six point win over Auburn was followed by a three point loss to George Mason, and a stronger 10 point win over Vermont. Andre Malone has matched season high scoring totals in two of the last three games. Freshman center Jordan Hare has started the last five games and has managed to post stronger minutes played and (very slowly) and improve his scoring. Hare may well be the key to rebuilding the Rhodi program. The Providence game should be interesting.
- Fordham (1-6) – Since losing senior forward Chris Gaston on November 13, Tom Pecora has shuffled the line up to find a competitive combination. His first move was to go smaller and start 6’2” senior wing Khalid Robinson alongside the three guards (Jermaine Myers, Brandon Frazier and Bryan Smith) and forward (Travion Leonard) he fixed on to start the season with Gaston. As the loses have piled up Pecora has continued with another combination, as he benched Smith in favor of the freshman Thomas and Leonard in favor of Canty. Though Harvard was a foul-fest (Fordham picked up 29 total fouls with Canty, Leonard and Smith fouling out), the score was a bit tighter, 64-73. Frazier has shouldered a larger scoring role, but expect more changes.
- Xavier vs. Vanderbilt (Thursday 12/6 at 9:30 pm ESPN2) – The ‘Dores are struggling, unable to mount an effective field goal defense, but have neutralized the problem (slightly) with very good defensive rebounding, so this could get pretty ugly for the visitors (or pretty for the hosts) early. Look for the Jeff Robinson/Rod Odom rebounding battle under XU’s basket. Travis Taylor and Justin Martin will have to have big rebounding nights if the Musketeer shooters are slow to get rolling.
- Northwestern vs. Butler (Saturday 12/8 at 8 pm BTN) – A chance to take a road win against a power conference opponent is too good to pass up. The Wildcats are an average defensive team on the three-point line, which may be good news for a Bulldog backcourt that continues to struggle converting three-point attempts. Butler can take advantage of Northwestern’s poor offensive rebounding. The Wildcats won’t win the Big Ten this season, but their RPI will improve as they play out their conference schedule, and should Butler win, they can piggyback on Northwestern’s rise.
- Duke vs. Temple (Saturday 12/8 at 3:15 pm ESPN) — A “neutral site” rematch of the game that put Temple back on the national radar last season. Can the Owls do the same in 2012-13? Coach Fran Dunphy’s back court is arguably better with both Khalif Wyatt and Scottie Randall healthy and playing well together, but the question will hinge on whether Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson and Anthony Lee can contain Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly… and whether Wyatt and Randall can do the same to Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon.