Reviewing the Atlantic 10’s Opening Weekend

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vtbnblog) on November 18th, 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.

With over 1,000 games to track over the next 15 weeks and a 351-team division that routinely offers 120 or more game-winning programs for consideration (the traditional measure of “a good season”), the Selection Committees of the past few seasons increasingly depend on quantitative analysis to separate the better teams (at times offering modest records) from those that appear to be better teams.

Coach Smart's team is ridiculously successful in "return games," boding well for conference tournament play (

Shaka Smart and VCU kicked off the season with a solid victory over Tennessee. Several other A-10 schools had quality wins as well. (Getty)

Here is Why These A-10 First Weekend Wins and Losses are Important:

  • Virginia Commonwealth vs. Tennessee (85-69) — The Rams’ recorded the conference’s first win over a power conference opponent on Friday night. How focused can the Volunteers be after their fan base ran former head coach Cuonzo Martin out of Knoxville, and Martin’s successor, Donnie Tyndall, became a “person of interest” in an NCAA investigation into program practices during his tenure at Southern Miss? Power conference membership will boost Tennessee’s index ranking (take your pick — Sagarin or kenpom or RPI or BPI — the effect will be present to some degree) whenever the Vols step on to the court with a conference-mate. Any win Tennessee manages this season will benefit VCU’s — and indirectly, the entire A10’s — ranking.
  • George Washington at Rutgers (73-50) — The conferences change, but Rutgers consistently finds the bottom of standings wherever the basketball program is located. Expect no different this season as the Scarlet Knights will sit at the bottom of the best conference in Division I. The math works out for the Colonials, as they won a road game (RPI bonus) by double figures against a team whose conference is ranked higher than the Atlantic 10.

  • Massachusetts vs. Boston College (71-62) — UMass’ 86-73 win over Boston College last season heralded good things for the Minutemen. Steve Donahue is now gone, though, and the Eagles, under Jim Christian (Ohio University, Texas Christian and Kent State) are not expected to improve on last season’s 4-14 record in (Atlantic Coast) Conference play. Any upsets Christian can engineer will further Massachusetts’ plan to return to the NCAA Tournament this season.
  • Saint Louis vs. Southern Illinois (72-69) — A face-off of two teams that will struggle in their respective conferences this season was taken by the very young Billikens. Anyone comparing teams from the A-10 and MVC later in the season (in March, perhaps?) will note the A-10 representative’s win here. This should be a confidence-builder for a Saint Louis squad that started two freshmen, a transfer and a sophomore.
  • Saint Joseph’s vs. Fairleigh Dickinson (58-57) — A beginning eerily similar to La Salle’s last season (losing at home to the Green Knights), the Hawks took a home loss to a middling NEC member that definitely throws a damper on expectations. FDU, currently ranked #299 by KenPom, will not contend for the NEC title this season but will accumulate more than 15 losses — none of which is good news for Phil Martelli’s squad.
  • George Mason vs. Cornell (68-60) — Cornell won two games last season and was ranked #341 in the country as a result — expectations are only modestly higher this season for the Big Red. The Patriots posted a terrible home record (6-8 overall, 1-7 in conference) and appear to be on their way to underperforming again this season. Expect a hot winter in Fairfax, irrespective of the rest of Virginia.

Compiling a 15-3 record through Sunday’s games, the conference is ranked #7 overall by Ken Pomeroy with a Pythagorean Winning Percentage of 0.6722, ahead of the American Athletic Conference (#8 0.6461), the West Coast Conference (#9, 0.6334), the Mountain West Conference (#10, 0.6128) and the Missouri Valley Conference (#11, 0.5692). It will be important to track how these conference match up against each other, both on the court and in the computer rankings, over the next couple of months.

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