Four Thoughts From the Atlantic 10 ChampionshipPosted by CNguon on March 17th, 2013
Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10. He covered the Atlantic 10 tournament in Brooklyn this week. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.
Saint Louis completed a stellar Atlantic 10 Tournament campaign with a 62-56 victory over #25 Virginia Commonwealth Sunday afternoon at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
- It’s the defense: The teams combined for 31 turnovers. Virginia Commonwealth used the press to force an unprecedented 18 Billiken miscues – the Rams are now 26-1 when they force 15 or more (Saint Louis is that one). Saint Louis typically forces opponents to lose about 22% of their possessions in conference this season (#2 to VCU). The Rams committed 13 turnovers, 10 in the first half alone. Combined with poor shooting (VCU was 3-of-18 on three point attempts), when the opportunity to overtake Saint Louis appeared in the second half, Shaka Smart’s team could not seal the deal.
- Virginia Commonwealth and Saint Louis (and Butler, Temple and La Salle) will be tough outs in the NCAA: The teams are stocked with upperclassmen, are defense-oriented and offer very different approaches to the game. “The preparation and playing against teams like St. Louis, Xavier, Butler, La Salle, that really helped us going into this tournament,” said VCU coach Shaka Smart after the championship game. “Our whole strategy is to get the other team rattled,” added Smart. The three games played this weekend offer proof that the tactic works as La Salle, Massachusetts and Saint Louis were pushed to the point of collapse by VCU’s brand of HAVOC.
- Chaz Williams and Massachusetts will give five teams in the NIT a rough time: The senior guard was nearly unstoppable through the first two rounds of the conference. Clearly gassed in the semifinal, Williams nevertheless scored 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting and earned an All-Tournament Team nod from the media in attendance. Comparisons to Niagara’s legendary Calvin Murphy and Boston College’s Mike Adams were common all weekend long.
- Brooklyn and the Atlantic 10 fit together well: The Barclays Center is brand new, a good complement for the conference which saw two new faces this season — and will most likely see one or two more next season. The arena seats nearly 20,000 and fans from teams in the Friday night evening session, both Saturday semifinal games and Sunday’s final lent a loud college atmosphere to the proceedings. The off-the-street ticket sales added thousands, assuring the games had two-to-three times the number of spectators as the Boardwalk Hall (seating about 6,500). The conference would be crazy not to book the facility for the next decade.
Stars of the Game: Dwayne Evans and Kwamain Mitchell of Saint Louis, both of whom earned All-Tournament honors (Evans was named Most Valuable Player). After falling 13 points behind eight minutes into the second half, Virginia Commonwealth put on a furious defensive press, piling up fouls on the defensive end but forcing Billiken turnovers. After closing to one Saint Louis used Jordair Jett, Mitchell and even Evans to bring the ball across midcourt, and that seemed to calm the rest of the team. Mitchell, a fifth-year senior, hit a trey to push the Billiken margin back to six and avert a Saint Louis meltdown. Mitchell led all scorers with 19 points while Evans was second with 16 and eight rebounds.
- “We went from a league that was, I think this year was 25th in the RPI to a league that is one of the top six or seven conferences in the country and we finished in the top two.” – Shaka Smart when asked about VCU’s progress as a program.
- “VCU – that behind the back pass for a three was the best pass I’ve ever seen… it was awesome. I almost applauded, but it would have been inappropriate for me to applaud (laughter)… that’s good basketball, I loved that.” – Saint Louis coach Jim Crews
Wildcard: Spike Lee crossed the East River for the second time in two days to take in the game. Sporting his signature cap, he added a VCU t-shirt to the wardrobe.
Sights and Sounds: VCU fans dominated the arena crowd, lending an almost home court advantage to the house. When the Saint Louis band played the Budweiser jingle late in the second half, the VCU band listened and at the end in unison chanted “BOOORING!” three or four times.