Atlantic 10 Early Season Tournaments: Report Card

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vtbnblog) on December 1st, 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.

Let’s take a look at last week’s Feast Week action for Atlantic 10 teams and grade their performance appropriately.

  • Dayton, Massachusetts, Virginia Commonwealth: B — The Flyers, Minutemen and Rams won most of their tournament games, several against BCS teams. Dayton beat Boston College 65-53 to take third place in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, after edging Texas A&M 55-53 in the first round and losing to Connecticut 75-64 in the second round. 2-1 versus BCS teams made this a good outing. Massachusetts compiled a 3-1 record versus the field in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, played at the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. The Minutemen cleaned up in the preliminary rounds, handling Manhattan (77-68) and Northeastern (79-54) easily. Coach Derek Kellogg’s squad lost the opening round of the bracketed event to Notre Dame 81-68, but bounced back to beat Florida State 75-69 in the consolation round. UMass’ start this season has not been as strong as 2013-14, the new back court will need time to gel. Virginia Commonwealth University closed out the Legends Classic with a 77-63 win over Oregon in the consolation game to run their invitational record 3-1. The Rams overcame early shooting woes to down Toledo 77-68 and then demolished Maryland-Eastern Shore 106-66 before heading into the Barclays Center for a showdown with #12 Villanova in the opening game of the Championship bracket. Trailing by only two (32-30) going into half-time, the Rams had a nice 6-0 to open the second half before they lost control of the game and fell 77-53. Despite the margin Coach Shaka Smart’s team bounced back the next night against Ducks in a game they controlled from opening tip and went on to win 77-63.
UMass and Derek Kellogg had a solid Feast Week showing. (

UMass and Derek Kellogg had a solid Feast Week showing. (

  • La Salle, Rhode Island and Saint Louis: CLa Salle swept their preliminary round games with St. Peter’s (59-50) and St. Francis of New York (73-60), but lost both “host” bracket games at the Barclays Center (of all places). Virginia put up eight points before La Salle scored a field goal. The Cavaliers put together a 10-6 run over the next five minutes to expand their margin to 10 points. Over the last 8:25 of the first half the Cavaliers put together a 19-11 run to expand their edge to 18. While La Salle managed trim the eventual losing margin to eight, they were never in the game. They lost the second game to Vanderbilt by 13, 68-55 to level their record Barclays Center Classic record to 2-2. Coach Dan Hurley’s squad traveled to Orlando to participate in the three-game Orlando Classic. Opening against #11 Kansas, the Rams registered a 76-60 loss. They went on to beat Santa Clara 66-44, which set up their third round game versus Georgia Tech. The Rams lost to the Yellow Jackets, 64-61 to close out with a 1-2 record. The Billikens hosted Texas A&M–Corpus Christi and lost by six, 62-56. They squeaked by North Carolina A&T 58-55 before traveling to Texas for their “host” bracket games in the Corpus Christi Coastal Classic. Drubbed by Mississippi State 75-50 in the first round, Coach Jim Crews’ squad bounced back versus Bradley 60-57 to finish 2-2. Rhody and SLU are young squads, the games, while disappointing immediately, will pay dividends later.
  • Participation: C- — Four of the conference’s 14 teams (29%) did not participate in any of the 39 (23 bracketed, 16 round robin) tournaments scheduled this season. When balancing the expense of participation with the benefits of wider exposure to Division 1 competition and the RPI boost offered, the benefits of participation outweigh the risk. Increasingly tournament director turn to local Division 2 and Division 3 programs to fill out their brackets/fields. The argument that places in these fields are not available does not hold water. The Atlantic 10 front office should do all it can to encourage/motivate Duquesne, Fordham, St. Bonaventure (historically passing on tournaments for additional home dates, at times with Division 2 competition…) and newcomer Davidson to participate in these tournaments.
  • Saint Joseph’s: D — Saint Joseph’s finished the Preseason NIT with a 1-2 record, losing to Gonzaga on the road (a preliminary round game) and to Western Kentucky (CUSA) in the “visitor” bracket at Madison Square Garden. The lone win (74-70) was against LIU Brooklyn at the Hagan Tuesday (11/25) night. Coach Phil Martelli has to develop a competitive front court or this Hawk team will flirt with their third 20 loss season in the last five years.
  • George Mason: F — The Patriots were blanked in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, going 0-3, losing to West Virgina (91-60) and New Mexico (69-58), before dropping a squeaker to College of Charleston 61-60 to close out a very disappointing run. The uncompetitive nature of their losses to WVU and NMU cannot please the Patriot fan-base.
  • George Washington and Richmond: I — The Colonials will play three rounds in the Diamond Head Classic, December 22-25. The Spiders participate in a double header at the Barclay’s Center in the Gotham Classic on December 20. They will play three other (home) games scheduled between December 13 and December 27.

Atlantic 10 versus Everyone Else

The table below is current through November 30. The overall 60% winning percentage is behind last season’s pace. The conference’s losing record versus the seven (American Athletic Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Pacific-12 and Southeastern Conference) best conferences, 9-15, bodes bad outcomes come March. While December presents several opportunities to enhance the conference’s overall record and reverse the trend, those opportunities dwindle as the A10 approaches conference play.


Conferences that have not played a game versus the A10 members are not shown. The silver lining is that the conference has an even or better record versus American Athletic Conference (1-1), the Big Ten (2-2), the Pacific 12 (1-0) and the Southeastern Conference (2-2).

Five to Catch This Week

  • Massachusetts at LSU (Tuesday 12/2 7:00 p.m. ET SECN) — The return date for the game in Amherst in 2013. This should provide a benchmark for fans who wonder about the Minutemen’s progress this season. Coach Derek Kellogg has settled into a starting five that includes veteran starters Cady Lalanne (senior center), Maxie Esho (senior forward), Trey Davis (junior shooting guard) with sophomores Derrick Gordon (point guard) and Seth Berger promoted to starters this season. Kellogg tends to substitute Berger out for one in a pool of guards that includes Jabari Hinds, Donte Clark, CJ Anderson and others. Tyler Bergantino spells Lalanne in the low post as Kellogg has stretched the rotation to include 10 or 11 players. A key for those who watch will be Gordon — when UMass’ floor general has more assists than turnovers the Minutemen play well.
  • La Salle vs Villanova (Wednesday 12/3 8:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN) — The Explorers host #12 Villanova to open the Big 5 series this season. Of the four city schools, La Salle is best suited to beat the Main Liners. Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright have the length and experience to match Villanova’s front court starters Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston. If Zack, Wright and D.J. Peterson can limit touches for Pinkston and Ochefu Villanova’s at times extremely efficient offense may be reduced to passing the ball around the perimeter and waiting for Ochufu to come out and set screens. The Wildcats’ pass and chuck offense is neither efficient nor productive.
  • Rhode Island at Southern Mississippi (Saturday 12/6 8:00 p.m. ET) — The Rams visit Hattisburg, Mississippi to start this home-and-home series. The Golden Eagle’s offense runs through their back court pair of Matt Bingaya and Chip Armelin. Bingaya will take 3 of 10 of the team’s field goal attempts when he is on the floor. Bingaya and Amelin will take over 50% of the shots when they play together. If the two have off nights, offensive rebounding becomes very important. For Rhode Island to log the win the Rams will have to shut down Bingaya (very tough so far) and Armelin and limit put back attempts by forward Norville Carey. Rhode Island’s back court, E.C. Matthews and Jared Terrell will have to involve senior forward/center Gilvydas Biruta and sophomore forward Hassan Martin. When the front court is active the Rams can win. Rhody has solid wins over Nebraska and Santa Clara, the last on a neutral court. A road win under adverse conditions would be a confidence builder for Dan Hurley‘s squad.
  • #14 Virginia Commonwealth vs #8 Virginia (Saturday 12/6 2:00 p.m. ET ESPNU) — The Rams host in-state rivals Virginia in what should be a classic. Can Coach Shaka Smart’s HAVOC rattle the Cavaliers enough to pull an upset? Given the Top 20 status of both teams it is a pity ESPN relegated this game to the “U”. A weekend loss to Old Dominion has again raised doubts about the HAVOC defense. When HAVOC fails to produce turnovers, the Rams are forced to score out of their half-court sets. Putting the ball in Treveon Graham‘s hands has become too predictable for opposing defenses.
  • George Washington vs Charlotte (Sunday 12/7 2:30 p.m. ET) — The Colonials host former conference mate Charlotte in the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center in Washington DC. Coach Mike Lonergan relies heavily on his juniors to answer the call, but so far this season shooting guard Kethan Savage shot making from the perimeter (2-12, 0.167) has been MIA. Sophomore Nick Griffen‘s outside scoring has been a pleasant surprise. While Savage and backcourt mate (point guard) Joe McDonald have been efficient in close (combined 40-71 inside the arc), they must get better at knocking down threes (combined 3-25).
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