Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on December 16th, 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.

Looking Back

While games with the highest-ranked six conferences accounted for only 35 percent of last week’s conference schedule, they accounted for six of the eight losses the Atlantic 10 recorded. George Washington‘s win over DePaul represented the lone win the league has recorded this season against the Big East, but Rhode Island‘s E.C. Matthews, despite scoring 27 points, could not notch another one over intrastate rival Providence. Fordham took the other loss to a Big East team last week, as the Rams fell to crosstown rival St. John’s. The Big Ten’s Penn State beat two A-10 teams this past week, squeaking by Duquesne on Wednesday before turning around to beat George Washington over the weekend. Duquesne and Saint Louis lost troubling games to teams that play among the lowest-ranked conferences; Duquesne was upset by local rival Robert Morris of the NEC while the Billikens dropped a decision to the Summit Conference’s South Dakota State. Those kinds of losses drag down the conference-wide RPI, something to watch as the season carries on.

Despite a big game for E.C. Matthews, the Rams came up just a little short against their in-state rival. (AP)

Despite a big game for E.C. Matthews, the Rams came up just a little short against their intrastate rival. (AP)

Three Games to Catch This Week

  • VCU vs Belmont (Tuesday 12/16 7:00 PM ET) — This should be a bear of a week for the Rams, as they face giant-killing Belmont on Tuesday and Cincinnati on Saturday. Tuesday should be an easier game, given VCU’s notable home court advantage and Belmont’s two-game losing streak. Both teams press and rely on turnovers to fuel their offense, and given that fact, both also have poor field goal defense. VCU has trouble defending the three-point line while Belmont converts efficiently from there. Hitting that three on a delayed break is the key stat for determining Belmont’s prospects.

  • VCU at Cincinnati (Saturday 12/20 12:00 PM ET, ESPNU) — The Bearcats present VCU with the third-best defense (behind Virginia and Villanova) that the Rams have faced this season. This is not good news for Smart’s squad. Scoring out of the half-court offense has been problematic for Treveon Graham, Mel Johnson and Briante Weber, Smart’s three biggest guns. Mick Cronin’s guards are not turnover-prone, and if Troy Caupain and Farad Cobb can break the press consistently, the Rams will struggle to score. Cincinnati runs a patient half-court offense and if they are allowed to dictate the tempo, VCU could be in for one of those nights.
  • Massachusetts at Providence (Saturday 12/20 1:00 PM ET, CBSSN) — It took the Minutemen overtime to win last season’s edition of this regional rivalry by two points. Derek Kellogg’s squad will not have home court advantage this time around, though, as the game will be played at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence. Both squads have stumbled with three-game losing streaks already, but each won its last outing. Kellogg’s backcourt rotation of Derrick Gordon, Trey Davis and Jabari Hinds have not been consistent from long range. Only freshman Donte Clark has delivered consistently, but he only sees about 17 minutes per game. Wing Maxie Esho and Cady Lalanne will have to contain LaDontae Henton, the key to shutting down the Friars. Lalanne will match up with a low post rotation that includes senior Carson Desrosiers and Ben Bentil. UMass is 2-4 away from the Mullins Center.
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