Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vtbnblog) on February 19th, 2014

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 @vtbnblog.

Another Look at A-10 Offensive and Defensive Efficiencies

St. Bonaventure and the inversion of Saint Joseph’s and Richmond with George Washington and Massachusetts excepted, conference records and efficiency differences are lining up. If this seems too early for this “alignment,” do not worry, as a week of upsets can jumble the differentials and records quickly, as even 10 games is still too small a sample size. Given the unbalanced schedule, however, this may be the best available predictor out there.

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The bottom four teams identified last week (Rhode Island, George Mason, Duquesne and Fordham) continue to drift away from the other conference members, even as Saint Louis and Virginia Commonwealth separate themselves from their conference mates. Another trend worth tracking are the defensive efficiencies and the winning percentages of individual teams. As the standard deviation suggests, there is a greater variability between the conference defensive efficiencies (points per 100 possessions allowed — 7.7) than between their offensive efficiencies (points scored per 100 possessions — 3.1). For the Atlantic 10 so far this season, defense is the barometer that predicts each team’s prospects.

Pomeroy projects UMass, George Washington, the Joe’s and Spiders will tie up third through sixth place with 10-8 records. The application of tie-breakers will be necessary to set the seeds for Brooklyn should the multiple ties come to pass. If we look at those four teams as a mini-conference, the “standings” against each other so far:

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Having beaten Richmond (73-65) Tuesday night, George Washington holds a slight advantage over the other three going forward. Mike Lonergan’s charges still have a game with fellow “mini-conference” mate Saint Joseph’s on March 5 at the Smith Center. Beat the Hawks there and the Colonials will eliminate St. Joe’s and UMass while holding the tie-breaker advantage (head-to-head) with the remaining team, Richmond. As the #3 seed they would most likely end up in VCU’s side of the bracket rather than Saint Louis’ side. They hold a 1-1 record versus the Rams this season, but have yet to face the Billikens. Should the Hawks beat the Colonials on March 5 (their schedule provides a few opportunities to get to 11 wins and possibly take the #3 seed outright) and result in a four-way tie, Richmond would take the #3 seed (2-1) while Phil Martelli’s squad would take the #4 seed. UMass holds the head-to-head tie-breaker over GW and would take the #5 seed.

Games This Week

The focus this week moves to those middle-of-the-pack teams, specifically Massachusetts and George Washington, two squads who played well in November and December but have struggled in conference play. If either or both are able to right their respective ships soon, they can take a legitimate run at VCU for the #2 seed in Brooklyn and secure their places on the right side of the S-Curve.

Will Shaka Smart Be Interested In The Open Position In Westwood? (US Presswire)

Shaka Smart’s crew could really put a dent in UMass’s tourney hopes Friday night. (US Presswire)

  • Virginia Commonwealth at Massachusetts (Friday, February 21, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN2) — Conference play has not been kind to the Minutemen. Thought to be the A-10’s flagship after a stellar non-conference run, the Minutemen have taken four conference losses as they watch their NCAA seed correspondingly drop. Still in a good spot on the S-Curve, they cannot afford to lay any more eggs like the one they dropped versus George Mason (91-80 — in the Mullins Center no less). They will need a big game Friday night from center Cady Lalanne and senior power forward Sampson Carter, as they will draw Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham, two of the conference’s better offensive rebounders. Derek Kellogg’s frontcourt will have to control the boards on VCU’s end of the floor. The Rams are very good at offensive rebounding, while the Minutemen still need work in that area. Chaz Williams and Raphiael Putney will have to take care of the ball, a struggle for them to date. Shaka Smart’s backcourt rotation of Mel Johnson, JaQuan Lewis, Rob Brandenberg and Briante Weber are collectively among the best in the league at steals and forcing turnovers. Ken Pomeroy ranks Weber the best of Division I for steals, for example. The Rams were two points short at Saint Louis (64-62) last weekend, so a second consecutive loss would scramble spots #2 through #6 in conference rankings.
  • George Washington at Saint Louis (Saturday, February 22, 7:00 PM CT SNY/CSN Fox Midwest Sports) — The Billikens remain undefeated through 10 conference games, but the Colonials may present their biggest home court challenge yet. Mike Lonergan’s squad was keeping pace with VCU and Saint Louis until their losses to VCU and Massachusetts put them behind the eight-ball. Wins over Creighton (Big East) and earlier versus Virginia Commonwealth will sustain them, but posting another resume win while Kethan Savage is out with a broken foot would assure the Selection Committee the Colonials are not so one-dimensional. Beating the Bills at the Chaifetz is a tall order, as Saint Louis has compiled a 34-10 (0.825) record since opening the building in the 2008-09 season. If Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen can control the low post, however, Jim Crews and the Billikens could be in for a long afternoon.

Finally, The Conference is Touting Its Non-Conference Resume

The composite A-10 record versus all other D-I conferences produced a very strong 70 percent winning percentage this year, and the conference has taken the initiative to publicize some of the more impressive wins (along with a 30-second trailer) at its new WhoWantsNext.com. Hopefully the Selection Committee will get a heads-up as it looks through the resumes for UMass, George Washington, Richmond and Saint Joseph’s (presuming that Saint Louis and Virginia Commonwealth are solid right now). Marketing — every little bit helps.

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