CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2013

CIO header

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic-10. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Looking Back

The Conference Within a Conference - Another round of Philadelphia’s historic City Series, better known as the Big 5, was played at Saint Joseph’s Hagan Arena Saturday night. At one time every game in the round robin series was played in the Palestra, the landmark arena located on campus of the University of Pennsylvania. In true Big 5 fashion, Saint Joseph’s beat Temple by a single point, 70-69, rallying from a nine point deficit to take the lead, 68-66, on a C.J. Aiken layup with 0:25 left on the clock. A shot at the buzzer by Temple’s Khalif Wyatt clanged off the rim as the Owls fell to 3-4 in (A-10) conference play and a 2-1 tie in the Big 5. With a two games left in the series (Saint Joseph’s vs. La Salle and La Salle vs. Temple), only La Salle – should the Explorers sweep – can still win outright. The “standings”:

Team

W

L

Pct.

La Salle

2

0

1.000

Saint Joseph’s

2

1

0.667

Temple

2

1

0.667

Villanova

2

2

0.500

Pennsylvania

0

4

0.000

Efficiency Margins, Week 5 – With two-to-three more conference games on the books, the margins continue to provide insight on how the conference will evolve. With a few exceptions, teams with a winning record have positive (offensive-defensive) difference margins while teams with losing records have negative margins. “Order restored” or so it would seem. The exceptions do tend to draw our attention, however (records through Tuesday, February 5):

Table01130205

  1. St. Louis’ two wins last week, the most impressive over Butler last Wednesday, helped the Billikens leapfrog both Butler and VCU (and three other teams…) to the top of the chart. The conference SOS, however, suggests the Bills have more work to do.  Butler, with the best conference record and the strongest conference SOS, is still the team to beat going into the second half of conference play.
  2. Dayton was ranked #2 on the difference margin chart last week, even though the Flyers were two games under 0.500. Their drop in the difference rankings this week, the result of another loss, suggests their difference margin will begin to dovetail with their record (rather than the record upgrading to coincide with their difference margin). The outlook for coach Archie Miller’s squad is not good.
  3. When Charlotte loses in conference, it is a rout. The 49ers’ average winning margin is 6, while their average losing margin is 24. Ouch. Coach Alan Majors’ squad has played the easiest schedule so far according to Pomeroy’s conference SOS, which suggests there are more losses ahead.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

Rotnei Clarke Hasn't Missed A Beat Since Returning For Butler.

Rotnei Clarke Hasn’t Missed A Beat Since Returning For Butler. (AP)

  1. Butler (19-4, 6-2 #14 AP) – The Bulldogs dropped a very ugly road game in Saint Louis (75-58 – see “Crunching Numbers” below) before rebounding against Rhode Island on Saturday (75-68). Rotnei Clarke, who returned last week against Temple, earned a nod from the conference for his 40-point week (17 versus St. Louis and 23 versus Rhode Island). This week’s opponents, St. Bonaventure and George Washington (on the road), should be wins. Brad Stevens has to be concerned because the Bulldogs have suffered scoring droughts (see Xavier and Saint Louis) on the road this season.
  2. Virginia Commonwealth (18-5, 6-2) – Dropped from the AP top 25 last week due to back-to-back losses, the Rams racked up two conference wins last week to move ½ game ahead of Butler and two others in the standings. Juvonte Reddic won his first conference player of the week honor Monday, but this week begins a tough six game run into March that features games with Charlotte (up first, on the road), Massachusetts, Saint Louis (on the road), Xavier (on the road) and Butler. That run should either clear up the conference race, or make it very, very muddy.
  3. Saint Louis (17-5, 6-2) – The Billikens ran their winning streak to four as they crushed Butler (by 17) and Dayton (by 29) in back-to-back games last week. While their offense was efficient, it was their defense that made the winning margins so dominant. Both Butler (0.79) and Dayton (0.75) were held to less than 0.80 points per possession as Saint Louis has emerged as the conference’s strongest defense. In their seven conference games, only one team (Rhode Island!!) has scored 1.0 points per possession or better. The next week puts coach Jim Crews’ squad on the road for the next two games – Fordham followed by Richmond – their longest conference road trip of the season.
  4. La Salle (15-6, 5-3) – The Explorers won their last two conference road games, addressing a longstanding obstacle to moving up in the conference standings. Losing to Massachusetts early last week was a setback, but their sole game this week, versus Fordham at the Gola, should bolster their win total and efficiency stats. The remaining schedule favors Dr. John Giannini’s squad; their sternest tests will come against Big 5 rivals Saint Joseph’s and Temple, with a season-ending road game at the Chaifetz versus Saint Louis.

    Could Dr. John Giannini and La Salle wind up in the NCAA Tournament? (AP)

    Could Dr. John Giannini and La Salle wind up in the NCAA Tournament? (AP)

  5. Xavier (12-9, 5-3) – The Musketeers, despite a disappointing out of conference run, have offered a solid first half of their conference slate. The season’s last four weeks will provide five opportunities to impress the Selection Committee. The next four games, starting with Duquesne Saturday, are all very winnable, which should establish momentum going into the final five games before the conference tournament. Those last five form a Murder’s Row (of sorts), as four are teams are conference mates with conference records as good or better than the Musketeers. A last out of conference opponent, CUSA leader Memphis, would provide a resume win for coach Chris Mack’s charges (should they win). A break from the schedule maker put four of those games at home; Xavier will end the season in Indianapolis playing Butler.
  6. Charlotte (17-5, 5-3)Alan Major’s troops bounced back from a rout at George Washington with a one point squeaker over Massachusetts. The next three games offer a trial by fire for the 49ers. They travel to Philadelphia to play a desperately-seeking-a-win Temple squad, only to return home to host Virginia Commonwealth Saturday. They then visit Butler next Wednesday. A record of 2-1 (or better) would insert Charlotte into the NCAA conversation. 0-3 on the other hand would level their conference record at five going into the last six games of the season and most likely land them squarely into the NIT brackets. Losing by one to Temple Wednesday night (89-88) ratchets up the pressure to take one of the next two.
  7. Temple (15-7, 4-4) – Conference previews routinely warned that the Owls, having lost Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez, would take a step back in this, their last season in the Atlantic 10. Despite consistent production from Khalif Wyatt, coach Fran Dunphy’s squad has struggled to establish and sustain a winning rhythm in conference play. The Owls need a winning streak…a long winning streak, and their one point, 70-69 loss to Big 5 rival Saint Joseph’s last Saturday (despite Wyatt’s career-high 39 points) was no way to get started. The next four games, to be played over the next two weeks, are critical wins if Temple has any post season (read NCAA here) aspirations. None will be in the NCAA conversation come Selection Sunday, which makes a sweep all the more essential. “We need some wins” said Wyatt during the Saint Joseph’s post game presser. Amen. Their 89-88 win over Charlotte Wednesday night is a start.
  8. Massachusetts (15-6, 5-3) – Having hammered regional (and conference) rival Rhode Island Wednesday evening, the Minutemen scarcely have time to celebrate. Saint Joseph’s comes to visit Saturday for a game that holds conference tournament seed implications, not to mention post season potential. Both teams, not especially convincing in their out of conference play, have a bullet point or two for their post season resume, garner from their conference play. The winner will not automatically move onto the bubble, but rest assured the loser will, short of running the table in Brooklyn, be out of any NCAA conversations.
  9. Saint Joseph’s (13-8, 4-4) – A solid win over Big 5 rival Temple last Saturday was squandered with a road loss to Dayton on Wednesday, an all-too familiar flip-flop for the Joe’s since December. Now that junior forward Halil Kanasevic is back, he can hopefully develop enough offensive consistency to help the Hawks put together a winning run to turn their season around. The last half of the Hawks’ schedule has strong chances for six wins in their last eight games. A regular season title is most likely off the table. A good seed going into the conference tournament is not.
  10. George Washington (11-10, 5-3) – The Colonials’ conference wins came against teams with a combined conference record of 14-26 (exclude GWU’s wins and it is still 14-21), not a strong recommendation going into the last half of conference play. Whatever happens through the last six (or so) weeks of George Washington’s season, it will happen without David Pellom who, it was finally announced, would miss the rest of the season. Makes sense, though whether the soon-to-be fifth year senior will play go elsewhere to finish his college career is up for speculation (despite Pellom’s statement, that he would apply for a red shirt and play next season at the Washington D.C. school). Coach Mike Lonergan appears  to have moved on, investing considerable time and attention this season to the development of transfer Isaiah Armwood along with freshmen Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino. The next four opponents Butler, Virginia Commonwealth, Fordham and Saint Joseph’s should yield a 1-3 record which would drop GWU to a 6-6 record going into the last quarter of conference play. Anything better would be gravy.

    Unfortunately for George Washington, standout David Pellom will not be suiting up this season due to injury (The GW Hatchet)

    Unfortunately for George Washington, standout David Pellom will not be suiting up this season due to injury (The GW Hatchet)

  11. Richmond (14-9, 4-4) – Though rumored to be out along with sophomore Derrick Williams (who has missed the last nine games since leaving the Davidson game with a sprained ankle), Kendall Anthony scored 16 points in 18 minutes off the bench to lead the Spiders over the visiting Musketeers 73-71 Wednesday. Coach Chris Mooney is working around the Williams injury/loss by accelerating the development of freshmen Dion Taylor and Trey Davis, both of whom saw their minutes increase dramatically in the games played since Davidson. Taylor has started the Spiders’ last five games as he has shown flashes of potential. The way forward is less clear, but with hosting duties versus Saint Bonaventure, George Washington and Duquesne and visits to Fordham and Dayton, there will be opportunities to finish with a winning conference record.
  12. Dayton (13-9, 3-5) – Coach Archie Miller’s squad upset Saint Joseph’s Wednesday suggesting the conference is as balanced as the season previews proclaimed. Had the Flyers beat Colorado, Illinois State and Southern California in their out of conference slate, their case would be stronger. Having played (and lost to) the stronger part of the conference, UD, should they sustain a run through the latter part of their conference slate (a real possibility given that many of their tougher remaining opponents will visit UD Arena), could well push themselves onto the bubble. It begins Saturday when the Flyers host an equally desperate Temple squad.
  13. Saint Bonaventure (10-11, 3-5) – The Bonnies are coming off a 19 point loss at Butler, their third double-digit conference loss this season. Chances for an 8-8 or better record look increasingly slim, even though the slate becomes a bit easier. The road to five more wins has to start in Kingston, Rhode Island, on Saturday when the Bonnies visit the Rhode Island Rams. After Saturday, the best opportunities come when they host Massachusetts, Charlotte and Fordham and visit Duquesne. At minimum however, coach Mark Schmidt’s squad has to win enough to move out of 13th place.
  14. Fordham (6-17, 2-7) –Does freshman Mandell Thomas’ Rookie of the Week award from the conference signify the passing of the torch? Thomas, who earned the nod for scoring 33 points in two games last week, is the fourth Fordham not named Chris Gaston, to earn a conference honor this season. As coach Tom Pecora scans Fordham’s remaining eight games, he has to feel his squad’s best chance for a third win comes in the form of a Spider – Richmond comes to town February 23.
  15. Rhode Island (6-15, 1-7) – Their 28 point loss to Massachusetts Wednesday raises the question of how many more losses the Rams can sustain before it wears on team morale. Coach Dan Hurley’s squad lost their first six conference games by an average of 3.7 points, and had not sustained a double-digit loss in over a month (Saint Mary’s of the WCC on December 27). The next game, Saturday versus Saint Bonaventure in Kingston, RI is very important. A win would be most welcomed morale lifter, but at a minimum the staff will try to avoid another double-digit loss.
  16. Duquesne (7-15, 0-8) – The Dukes’ difference margin narrowed over last weeks’ margin, -0.195 down to -0.187. The “progress” is negligible, due largely to a modest upswing in Duquesne’s offensive efficiency. The hidden (and depressing) story is the step back on defense (1.139 to 1.146), a sign that things are going to get ugly before they turn off the lights at the Palumbo for this season. Rated at 13% by Ken Pomeroy to go winless in conference play, the Dukes’ last best chance comes when Rhode Island comes to town February 16.

Looking Ahead

  1. Charlotte vs. Virginia Commonwealth (Saturday February 9, 7:00 pm) – A suddenly important game for the Rams. The 49ers have done well in the Halton this season (10-0), but hostile arenas have been another story (3-4 with some pretty ugly losses). The 49ers need a wins against the top of the conference to establish a case for post season play.
  2. Saint Joseph’s vs. Massachusetts (Saturday February 9, 2:00 pm ESPN2) – Though scheduled, the game, with a blizzard threatening multiple feet of snowfall, is hardly a given, ESPN exposure opportunities notwithstanding. Should the game be played, the Chaz Williams-Carl Jones matchup will be a treat though the two may appear to the viewer as blurs. The Hawks’ front court should dominate, and may provide the winning margin.

Crunching Numbers

How Saint Louis Beat Butler – With a decisive double-digit win over conference leader Butler, coach Jim Crews’ Saint Louis squad elbowed their way back into the NCAA conversation. Nominally disqualified by virtue of their embarrassing loss to Rhode Island on January 19, the Billikens closed off the defensive interior and swept the Butler backboard to pile up an 11 point lead going into halftime and virtually lockup the win (>90% certainty per Ken Pomeroy) with 12 minutes left to play. The keys to the game included turnovers, especially in the Bulldog front court, combined with decisive defensive rebounding that limited Butler’s opportunities for second chance scoring. Bulldog forwards Khyle Marshall, Roosevelt Jones and Eric Fromm accounted for 13 of Butler’s 23 turnovers which, combined with center Andrew Smith’s inefficient volume shooting (Smith was 4-10 from the field and with 1-1 from the line, had virtually no opportunities to compensate for poor shot conversions with free throws), made for a very unproductive night. Rotnei Clarke negated a modestly productive shooting effort (5-12 from the field) with six turnovers. While Butler is no better than “average” among Division I teams for turnovers (about 20% or one-in-five possessions lost to turnover), the Billikens forced the Bulldogs to cough up nearly 32% of their possessions, about one-in-three, clearly the worst outing of Butler’s season.

Brian Goodman (748 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.


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