Checking In On… the Atlantic 10Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vtbnblog) on March 5th, 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.
If the Season Ended Today…
The conference standings are ordered by winning percentage (in conference play through Tuesday) using the rules to determine conference tournament seeding applied to order those with identical marks. The efficiency differences are used here to identify those teams that might be under- or over-seeded for the conference tournament. Virginia Commonwealth closed out a 4-3 February by beating conference leader Saint Louis by 11 to open March, If this run continues, the Rams might be peaking at exactly the right time. Saint Louis’ two-game losing streak (to Duquesne by seven AT THE CHAIFETZ! and to Virginia Commonwealth by 11) will not jeopardize its conference standing. The Billikens hold a tie-breaker over Saint Joseph’s should they drop one of their two remaining games. The damage, beyond their pride, was taken by their projected NCAA Tournament seed line. Touted as a #3 for much of February, many bracketologists moved Saint Louis down to the #4 or #5 seed line as a result. Dropping their last two games would be problematic for head coach Jim Crews’ squad. The highlighted teams (Virginia Commonwealth and George Washington) have the highest conference efficiency differences of any team grouped in their respective side of the latest version of the conference tournament brackets (see below), yet neither holds the #1 or the #2 seed. The brackets below show how the conference tournament would be seeded if the season ended on Tuesday.
Last week Saint Louis’ side of the bracket was overloaded with solid teams, but with two losses Richmond dropped from a #3 seed to a #6 seed as VCU, buoyed by two wins of its own, moved up to replace them at the #3 spot. The Rams will be Saint Joseph’s headache… for now. The Billikens still have to deal with Dayton and Massachusetts, and beating either should secure the #1 seed, but two losses would open the door for a late-charging Hawks squad. Worst case for the Bills is a two-way tie with VCU for second place. St. Louis holds the tie-breaker (a win over Saint Joseph’s) and would earn the #2 seed in Brooklyn, and a third meeting with VCU Saturday after next in the semifinals (should seed hold in the tournament). For Richmond, the loss of Cedrick Lindsay is beginning to take its toll, and the Spiders’ last two games (versus VCU and at Dayton) will not be mistaken for a cake walk. An 8-6 record and #6 seed could sink to 8-8 and a #7 seed by Sunday night.
Games This Week
The last 12 games of the conference season will be played between Wednesday and Sunday. The #1 seed in Brooklyn will be up for grabs if Saint Louis’ shocking two-game skid runs to four games. The impact of that thud could toss seeds #2 through #4 up for grabs as well. Sorting through the possibilities would take another paragraph, but a third loss would still not affect the Billikens’ A-10 Tournament seed, only their NCAA line. The conference appears to have at least five teams (George Washington, Massachusetts, Saint Louis, Saint Joseph’s and Virginia Commonwealth) securely in the field of 68 right now. Dayton can make it six, but the Flyers might need a “no-loss” week to lock it up.
- Dayton at Saint Louis (Wednesday, March 5, 6:00 PM CT, CBS Sports Network) — The Billikens’ two-game losing streak transforms this game from a slam-dunk two game sweep of head coach Archie Miller’s squad into a potential crisis of confidence. The Billikens beat the Flyers in Dayton to open the season, but are coming off the worst week in two seasons and will have to fend off a Flyers squad that needs this win to put them squarely into the field of 68. For Jim Crews’ squad, losing the last two games (versus Dayton and at Massachusetts) is a real possibility. Both coaches can run smaller lineups (which is why both are vulnerable to blocked shots while ranking among the worst for blocking shots), and although Dayton has difficulty converting field goals, but the Flyers are very good at rebounding for second chances. The Bills are not built to get boards; they pack the lane and get out to the perimeter enough to harass three-point shooters. If Devin Oliver and Jordan Sibert can light it up from the arc, the Bills would be in trouble. Losing three games in the Chaifetz has not happened since 2010-11 (they went 9-7 on their home court).
- Saint Joseph’s at George Washington (Wednesday, March 5, 9:00 PM ET) — The Hawks have the #2 seed in hand, but need a win to stay ahead of VCU and improve their spot on the S-curve. George Washington is adjusting to life without Kethan Savage, but will need very good games from Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen to counter the Hawks’ Hailil Kanasevic and Ron Roberts. Count the turnovers and rebounds; lost possessions are a problem for the Colonials and point guard Joe McDonald in particular. Coach Phil Martelli’s defense does not force them as a matter of course, anything they get is gravy. On offense the Hawks convert efficiently, but lack of offensive rebounding (Armwood is a very good defensive rebounder) means they will have to convert on the first attempt.
- Saint Louis at Massachusetts (Sunday, March 9, 2:00 PM ET, CBS Sports Network) — A win Wednesday should secure the #1 seed in Brooklyn for Jim Crews’ squad, but a VCU stumble during the week could put UMass in line for the #3 seed if they can beat the Billikens. The Minutemen hold the tie breaker over the Rams. Cady Lalanne will most likely match up with 6′ 10″ center Rob Loe who scores very efficiently inside, but is not afraid to step outside for a three point attempt. Will Lalanne follow Loe to the perimeter? If he does, expect Jordair Jett to test the lane a few times. The game may turn on how successfully point guard Chaz Williams can get the ball inside to Lalanne. He is UMass’ most efficient scorer and should be a match-up nightmare for Loe.