Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on December 1st, 2015

Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Feast Week Feedback

With St. Bonaventure’s 77-73 win over Canisius last Tuesday, the Atlantic 10 pushed its non-conference record to 44-11, pushing its winning percentage over 80 percent for the second time this season. Senior guard Marcus Posley scored 37 points, including the two free throws that broke the tie that put the Bonnies up for good. So started Feast Week, but unfortunately momentum stalled as A-10 teams tallied a good but not spectacular 21-10 record in games spanning the Thanksgiving Holiday. Still, the league’s composite record on Monday, November 30, is 58-20 (0.774) — terrific by any measure. Should the conference keep up this pace through December, the Atlantic 10 should have at least six NCAA Tournament candidates with several others drawing attention for other postseason tournaments.

The big-time effort that Marcus Posley produced was just one of many standout performances from A-10 players during Feast Week. (AP)

The big-time effort that Marcus Posley produced was just one of many standout performances from A-10 players during Feast Week. (AP)

Seven conference teams (highlighted in the table in yellow below) participated in tournaments that concluded last week. Four of those teams (Dayton, George Washington, Massachusetts and Rhode Island) finished second. Richmond finished third, losing its semifinal game but beating star-studded California in the third place game. Duquesne placed fifth in the Gulf Coast Showcase, dropping its first game to Pepperdine but salvaging wins versus Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Western Kentucky. Like most of these Feast Week tournaments, the Brooklyn Hoops Classic relied on preliminary rounds played on campuses, usually prior to the semifinal and final rounds. The tournament field was held to five teams and they played a round-robin with a single round played at two “tournament site” locations. St. Louis beat three of the participating schools — North Florida, St. Francis-Brooklyn and Hartford. They also lost to Louisville by 20 points at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.


Nine Games to Catch This Week

The party is on as eight Atlantic 10 teams will face eight elite conference opponents (and a Missouri Valley Conference power in Northern Iowa) over the next seven days. Elite conference opponents represent 33 percent of the composite non-conference schedule, which is at the high end of the range for the past several seasons.

  • Saint Joseph’s vs Villanova (Tuesday, Dec. 1, 7:00 PM CBS Sports Net) — The Holy War has not been much of a war lately. The Hawks, 1-3 in the last four meetings, may be due. Setting aside talent, three factors may come into play Tuesday night — the game will be played in the Hagen, DeAndre Bembry is due for a breakout game and Villanova, scheduled to play Oklahoma in Hawaii on December 7, might be caught looking past this one. On paper Villanova is the better team, and everyone is picking the Wildcats … famous last words.
  • Richmond at Florida (Tuesday, Dec. 1, 7:00 PM SECN) — The Spiders, coming off a confidence building win over California at the Las Vegas Invitational, travel to Gainesville to face the Gators. Their high powered offense will face its biggest challenge to date as Florida allows 0.92 points per possession through their first six games. ShawnDre Jones needs a near turnover free game. Terry Allen and TJ Cline are hitting their two-point field goals at a (combined) 61.5% and will have to continue at that pace to push Florida. Those two must also find a defensive answer for Dorian Finney-Smith and John Egbunu.
Terry Allen and company are off to an outstanding start. (USA TODAY Sports)

Terry Allen and company are off to an outstanding start. (USA TODAY Sports)

  • George Washington vs Seton Hall (Wednesday, Dec. 2, 7:00 PM) — The return date on a home-and-home contract from last season will be played in the Charles E. Smith Center on the GWU campus this season. Coach Mike Lonergan barely concealed his contempt for the Hall’s small forward Isaiah Whitehead’s shot selection after last season’s loss. Whitehead has been handed the keys to the kingdom now that Sterling Gibbs is suiting up for UConn. Coach Kevin Willard did get UMass fifth year senior point guard Derrick Gordon, who should provide some insight into the Colonials’ offensive and defensive tendencies to Willard. Don’t be surprised if the Colonials spring a press or trap on Whitehead if Willard allows him to bring the ball up. Center Kevin Larsen and forwards Yuta Watanabe and Pat Garino will be tested by their SHU counterparts, Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez and Ismael Sanogo. The Pirates are coming off a 69-62 home win over Georgia, but they were shaky in the closing moments after they grabbed the lead. The Hall were poor hosts last season, beating GWU by four, 58-54, at the Rock. Expect the Colonials to return the favor this time.
  • Fordham vs St. John’s (Wednesday, Dec. 2, 7:00 PM) — A solid second chance for the conference to notch a win over a Big East opponent. The Johnnies returned 8% of their minutes and 4% of their points scored from last season (those are not typos). First year coach Chris Mullen is working with duct tape, transfer Ron Mvouika and freshman Yankuba Sima. Fordham’s new coach, Jeff Neubauer, has three returning starters and 72% of the minutes played from last season returning for 2015-16. This should be especially sweet for senior guard Mandell Thomas who has not beaten the Johnnies (in sometimes embarrassingly un-competitive tilts) in his time on Rose Hill. Ryan Rhoomes will school Red Storm freshman center Sima as coach Jeff Neubauer, in his first season at Fordham, has an opportunity to move the Rams up in the New York City basketball pecking order.
  • Massachusetts vs Mississippi (Saturday, Dec. 5, 4:00 PM NBCSN) — The Minutemen will play the Rebels in the school’s eighth consecutive appearance in the Hall of Fame’s MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA. The game is featured as the Hall of Fame’s Fifth Holiday Showcase. Coach Derek Kellogg has his backcourt in order as Jabari Hinds is manning the point and Donte Clark and Trey Davis give Massachusetts a three-guard starting lineup. CJ Anderson completes the guard rotation. The front court is another matter. Freshman center Rashaan Holloway has shown some offense, but his foul rate (fouls committed per 40 minutes — 10.1) suggests he would not last the half were it not for substitutions. Sophomore forward Zach Coleman, tracking FC/40 at 3.9 is little better. His effectiveness is also limited by foul trouble. Senior substitute Seth Berger struggles as well. Ole Miss forwards Sebastian Saiz and Tomasz Gielo, along with penetrating guards Stefan Moody and Martavious Newby may find themselves living at the line. The Rebels are projected to finish somewhere in the middle of the SEC pack this season; this may be a semi-home game for Kellogg’s crew, but expect a very close game.
Derek Kellogg has his guys performing at a high level. (AP)

Derek Kellogg has his guys performing at a high level. (AP)

  • Richmond vs Northern Iowa (Saturday, Dec. 5, 6:00 PM ) — This is the return date for a two-game series started last season. The Panthers hosted the Spiders last season and won a five-point decision (55-50). Richmond has trouble defending the shot, bad news considering Northern Iowa is ranked 10th by Ken Pomeroy for field goal efficiency. Northern Iowa does not rebound their misses a trait they share with Richmond, but the Spiders do an average job grabbing defensive rebounds. Senior point guard Wes Washpun directs the offense. He is an efficient shooter (though not from beyond the arc), but also a passer whose assist rate is 20th in Division I according to Pomeroy. Washpun is surrounded by Paul Jesperson, Matt Bohannon and Jeremy Morgan, good shooters all, who function as the 3rd and 4th options on the offense. Preventing Washpun from involving them in the offense is key. The home court advantage may be the margin of victory.
  • Rhode Island vs Providence (Saturday, Dec. 5, 7:00 PM ) — The three-sided Plantation State rivalry has become very interesting the past 2-3 seasons, as both Rhode Island and Providence have upgraded their programs. Coach Dan Hurley has a functional backcourt rotation that includes sophomore Jarvis Garrett who can set the table, Jared Terrell and Four McGlynn start and give the squad a three guard look while freshman Christion Thompson fills out the back court rotation. Thompson has a turnover problem, typical of many freshmen, but his outside shooting shows promise. Someone in that four will have to guard the Friars’ senior guard Kris Dunn. Joining Hassan Martin as a starter in the frontcourt is Memphis transfer Kuran Iverson, a junior forward. Senior Earl Watson and freshman Nicola Akele give Hurley an eight man rotation. The two freshmen would benefit with a longer timetable for development, but that may be a luxury with the injury to junior wing EC Matthews. In addition to Dunn, the Friars’ Ben Bentil will present a second defensive challenge. Rhodey does not have height to counter Bentil. Expect offensive rebounding, not a strength for this slightly height-challenged squad, to be a big problem. Hurley does have three good shooters in Watson, Hasan and McGlynn a problem area for the Friars. The Rams will host this season, and the home court may prove to the be margin of difference.
  • VCU vs Florida State (Sunday, Dec 6, 2:00 PM ESPNU) — The Phillips Arena in Atlanta, GA will host this matchup, making it a neutral site (more or less) for both squads. The Rams, who suffered two close losses (to Duke and Wisconsin) in the 2K Classic in the season’s second weekend, have several opportunities to burnish their resume — and this game is one of the more favorable situations. Both teams are suspect shot defenders, a problem Mel Johnson may be able to exploit. The ‘Noles have developed a strong inside game, one that converts shot, complements of two freshmen Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley, along with senior Boris Bojanovsky. Bojanovsky can be foul-prone, a weakness that Moe-Ali Cox should be able to exploit. Jordan Burgess, one of the Rams better defenders, will need a solid game to offset the height disadvantage. The game, given each team’s tendency to score, should be entertaining in a horse race sort of way. Expect a game of runs with the winner the team that outlasts it ‘s opponent.
  • Davidson at North Carolina (Sunday, Dec 6, 6:00 PM ESPNU) — Coach Bob McKillop takes his Wildcats into the Dean Dome at Chapel Hill in what is one of the bigger challenges on their non-conference slate. The ‘Heels will have Marcus Paige back which should help their anemic three-point shooting. Junior Kennedy Meeks, sophomore Justin Jackson and senior Brice Johnson can score inside, Paige is needed to balance the offense. The ‘Heels do not defend the three particularly well either. Something which may be of interest to Wildcats Oskar Michelsen, Payton Aldridge and Brian Sullivan, the trio charged with scoring threes this season.
Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *