Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on December 29th, 2015

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

Last Week… and This Week

Conference teams played 12 games over the abbreviated week, going a total of 7-5. A winning percentage of only 58 percent continues the conference’s declining winning percentage this month, but Atlantic 10 teams have 12 more games through New Year’s Eve to rebuild their momentum. Four more games featuring Power Six opponents, two of which offer the signature-type of wins that can help a team’s postseason resume, are still to play — see the Five Games to Catch This Week section below. We then turn quickly to conference play over the weekend, with five games on Saturday and two more Sunday, two of which should have long-term conference race implications.

Jack Gibbs has paced what has been an impressive showing by the A-10's top tier guys this season. (USA TODAY Sports)

Jack Gibbs has paced what has been an impressive showing by the A-10’s top tier guys this season. (USA TODAY Sports)

The All Non-Conference (OOC) Teams

KenPom observed that “players do jump from being decoys to go-to guys in one season, and some even regress the other way. Those are the exceptions. By and large, a player’s role on his team in one season is a good indicator of his role the following season.” Non-conference play suggests that the following players are the engines that drive their team’s performances. The question is whether they can maintain that status through conference play. For those on the All-Freshman and All-Surprise Teams, the question on the eve of conference play is whether the roles and momentum they have established so far will continue.

Non-Conference First Team

It should not surprise anyone that three of the names on the First Team at the midpoint of the season are known commodities who were named to the preseason All-First Team, while the other two were named to the All-Third Team. Their roles as outstanding players on their respective teams have not changed much from last season.

  • Jack Gibbs, 6’0″, junior, point guard, Davidson — Named Conference Player of the Week three times, Gibbs scored a career-high 41 points versus Charlotte on December 1 and matched it versus Morehead State three weeks later. Gibbs has scored 176 points in December, an average of 29.3 points per game. On the season, Gibbs also averages 4.1 assists per game. The junior point guard who takes 45 percent of his field goal attempts from beyond the arc, has connected on 40.6 percent of those attempts. Clearly the Wildcats’ leader, Gibbs accounts for an impressive 33 percent of Davidson’s possessions and shots when he is on the court.
  • Melvin Johnson, 6’4″, senior, guard, Virginia Commonwealth — The senior, named to the preseason All-Conference Third Team, has had a breakout season, improving his offensive efficiency by five percent even as his usage increased. For most players, greater usage translates into a corresponding drop in efficiency. Not so with Johnson, who leads the Rams in points scored (200) and is second in assists (25) andsteals (18). The question for him is whether he can he keep it up through conference play?
  • Terry Allen, 6’8″, senior, forward, Richmond — Named the Conference Player of the Month in November, Allen leads the Spiders in minutes played (369), points scored (226), free throws (64-of-81), rebounds (95), blocks (9) and steals (26). KenPom ranks Allen among his top 500 in 15 of 18 categories.
  • DeAndre’ Bembry, 6’6″, junior, forward, Saint Joseph’s — Named Conference Co-Player of the Week on December 14 when he twice posted team-highs in scoring in wins over Princeton and Temple. Bembry leads the Hawks in minutes played (406), field goals (66-of-145), assists (47) and steals (17). KenPom ranks Bembry among his top 500 in possessions (24.1 percent, #472), defensive rebounding (17.9 percent, #384), block rate (3.5 percent, #349) and assist rate (24.5 percent, #258).
  • Hassan Martin, 6’7″, junior, forward, Rhode Island — Eleven minutes into Rhode Island’s game at Old Dominion, Martin rolled his left ankle. An MRI revealed no tears, but the junior will miss Rhody’s game with Brown tomorrow and most likely its conference opener with St. Louis this weekend. Going into the Old Dominion game, Martin led the Rams in points scored (143) and was second in rebounding (65). KenPom ranks him among his top 500 for field goal efficiency (58.9 percent, #159), offensive rebounding (9.1 percent, #349) and block rate (9.6 percent, #38).

Non-Conference Surprise Team

New beginnings are the promise and essential motivator for the JuCo and transfer player — no shock then that an “All Surprise” team should boast two transfers. The surprise here is the number of seniors — those who are, by virtue of a three-year history, known to conference observers — who have finally emerged this season.

  • Jabari Hinds, 5’11”, senior, point guard, Massachusetts — The 2013 West Virginia transfer is making the most of his second and last season as a Minuteman. Projected as a Chaz Williams-type of point guard, Hinds struggled last year with expectations. He is posting the best offensive numbers in his career, a 54.5 percent eFG rate that includes a 38 percent completion rate on three-pointers. It is, however, his high assist and steal rates — 27.2 percent (#185) and 3.6 percent (#99) — that draw favorable comparisons to Williams.
  • Charles Cooke, 6’5″, junior, guard/forward, Dayton — The transfer from James Madison has averaged 30.6 minutes, 14.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game so far this season. Cooke has dulled the sting of Dyshawn Pierre’s fall semester suspension with a 37.5 percent completion rate from beyond the arc and by averaging more than one block and nearly one steal per game for the Flyers. He scored a season-high 24 points versus North Florida and grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds versus Furman.
  • Isaiah Miles, 6’7″, senior, forward, Saint Joseph’s — After Miles scored 34 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the Hawks’ 79-62 trouncing of Virginia Tech last week, reporters wanted to know when coach Phil Martelli “realized” he could have a game like that. “In August,” the 20-year veteran responded. “He lost a lot of weight.” To Martelli, this signaled that his senior wanted more that to just run out the string of his college career. Miles has stepped up in a big way, pushing his 10.3 point per game average to 15.5 PPG this season and recording double-doubles four times.
Ryan Rhoomes' scoring efficiency (above 60 percent since his freshman year) should be no surprise to the Fordham faithful. (AP)

Ryan Rhoomes’ scoring efficiency (above 60 percent since his freshman year) should be no surprise to the Fordham faithful. (AP)

  • Ryan Rhoomes, 6’8″, senior, forward/center, Fordham — His scoring efficiency (above 60 percent since his freshman year) should be no surprise to the Fordham faithful, but coach Jeff Neubauer has given him a much larger role in the Rams’ offense and the senior has delivered. Big time. Rhoomes has logged three double-doubles and has scored in double figures in 10 of the Rams’ 11 games thus far. Neubauer’s offensive system should give Rhoomes and the frontcourt a bigger stake in Fordham’s game, and if the trend continues, expect the Rams to break out of the conference cellar in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2006-08.
  • Tyler Cavanaugh, 6’9″, junior, forward, George Washington — Colonial fans should see a lot of Isaiah Armwood in the Wake Forest transfer, as Cavanaugh rebounds and converts his two-point attempts much as Armwood did on the 2012-14 teams. Cavanaugh has a better three-point shot, converting from beyond the arc at a 44 percent rate this year.

Freshmen Who Have Impressed

Since A-10 teams this season returned on average 68 percent of their possessions and 70 percent of the minutes played and points scored from last season, one would expect finding a role for newcomers would be difficult. For Saint Joseph’s, and to a lesser degree, Dayton, the task appeared to be even more difficult as those two teams returned minutes above the conference average. Steve McElvine fills a long-vacant role left at Dayton, however, and Pierfrancesco Oliva’s emergence at Saint Joseph’s bodes very well for the Hawks’ future.

  • Joseph Chartouny, 6’3″, guard, Fordham — Three times named Rookie of the Week by the conference, Chartourny stepped into the role filled by then-senior Bryan Smith, and his steal rate (4.9 percent, #13) betters Smith by three percent. Kenpom ranks Chartouny among his top 500 in four offensive (true shot, assist rate, fouls taken and free throw rate) and two defensive (defensive rebound rate and steals) categories. With Jon Severe, Mandell Thomas and Antwoine Anderson, Chartourny provides Neubauer with a wide number of combinations in the backcourt. The head coach has played both Anderson and Chartouny at the point with the other at the shooting guard spot. The freshman’s rebounding skill means he can also play at the small forward spot.
  • Steve McElvine, 6’11”, center, Dayton — A redshirt freshman, McElvine has averaged 23.0 minutes, 8.3 rebounds, 7.7 points and 2.2 blocks per game. KenPom’s system computes McElvine’s block rate at 10.21 percent, 29th in his top 500. His rebounding rates, offensive (14.3 percent, #48) and defensive (24.8 percent, #61) rank him among the nation’s top 100. Though a role player offensively, McElvine’s two-point conversion rate (38-of-63, 60.3 percent) suggests that over time the Flyers will have to find a larger offensive role for McElvine.
Originally from Italy, Pierfrancesco Oliva is quickly proving that he has the game to compete with the best. (SJ Athletics)

Originally from Italy, Pierfrancesco Oliva is quickly proving that he has the game to compete with the best. (SJ Athletics)

  • Pierfrancesco Oliva, 6’8″, forward, Saint Joseph’s — The Taranto, Italy, native logs about 21 minutes, 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game through the Hawks’ first 11 games. His assists, 2.5 per game (when prorated by his playing time, yields an assist rate of 21.2 percent) is especially suited for head coach Phil Martelli’s inside-out motion offense. When he improves his 20 percent three-point conversion rate, he will become a fixture in the starting five.
  • DeAndre Abram, 6’7″, forward, George Mason — The freshman’s 55 points in the last two games, the last producing a double-double versus Wagner (27 points, 10 rebounds), earned a Rookie of the Week nod from the conference.
  • Nelson Kaputo, 6’1″, guard, St. Bonaventure — The latest in a line of successfully recruited Canadians, the Ontario native averages 22.4 minutes, 6.7 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. His 2.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio suggest his pairing with sophomore Jaylen Adams will give the Bonnies a potent passing element to their offense.

Five Games to Catch This Week

Non-conference play turns to conference play over the weekend, but first there are a few loose ends to tie up. The slate includes four more opponents from the top seven conferences, three of which come on the road.

  1. George Washington at Central Florida (Wednesday December 29, 7:00 PM) — Colonial coach Mike Lonergan has lined up another borderline top seven conference opponent. Donnie Jones’ Knights should be one of the better match-ups for GW. Track forward Pat Garino and guard Paul Jorgenson, as the pair account for most of the Colonials’ steals, a vulnerable element of the Knights’ offense. Kevin Larsen and Tyler Cavanaugh face stiff rebounding competition in 7’6″ Taco Fall and Shaheed Davis. Both teams look for offensive rebounds to compensate for mediocre three-point shooting. If each is denied second chance opportunities on missed three point attempts, this could shift to struggle in the paint. Kevin Larsen may give up seven inches to Fall (I scratch my head even as I write that, Larsen is 6’11” after all), but the senior has experience. KenPom projects a one-possession game, with Lonergan’s squad winning.


    Archie Miller and Dayton have a huge opportunity to pick up a nice non-conference victory this week against the Razorbacks. (AP)

  2. Richmond at Texas Tech (Wednesday December 29, 9:00 PM ) — The Spiders have a signature win (California on a neutral court) and a second win over a BCS conference team (at Wake Forest in November) and a third Top 100 win (over Northern Iowa, at home). Logging a second signature win, this one on the road over a Top 10 (RPI) team would be a boost going into conference play. Can Richmond win in Lubbock? 78 percent of the Red Raiders’ points come from inside the arc (53 percent) and from the line (25 percent). Richmond doesn’t tend to foul, but the Spiders’ two-point defense needs to be better. The Spiders’ offensive efficiency, the best Texas Tech has faced so far this season, feeds on made three pointers. Track the three-point conversions for TJ Cline, ShawnDre Jones and Marshall Wood — if their conversion rate stays above 44 percent the Spiders should have a scoring cushion. Also track fouls. If the Red Raiders are driving successfully and getting to the line the Spiders should be in trouble late. KenPom projects this as a two-possession loss for Richmond.
  3. Dayton vs. Arkansas (Thursda December 30, 8:00 PM ) — The Razorbacks have hovered at the .500 mark all season, going into the University of Dayton Arena shouldn’t, according to KenPom, help their record much. It is more complicated though, as the Flyers do convert field goals pretty efficiently (53 percent, eFG%), but have a big problem with turnovers (21.6 percent, #315 rank by KenPom) — freshman Steve McElvine, Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis the prime offenders. Coach Mike Anderson’s team is good at forcing turnovers, which means the Razorbacks can compensate for a mediocre shot defense by cutting down on shot opportunities. Count the Flyers’ turnovers and compare their field goal attempts to those of the Razorbacks — if the turnovers are up and the field goal attempts are less than Arkansas, Dayton will probably be down. Arkansas wings’ Anthlon Bell and Dusty Hannahs take approximately 50 percent of their field goal attempts from long range. They pose a double threat (when they play together) as each has a conversion rate greater than 45 percent, if they explode, they can post points equivalent to a 68 percent completion rate from inside the arc. Three-point shot defense is a Flyer weakness. They have allowed a 39 percent completion rate, ranked #312 (out of 351) by KenPom. If Bell and Hannahs go off early in the game, it could get ugly for coach Archie Miller’s squad. Even if the Flyers break on top early, Bell and Hannahs can potentially shoot Arkansas back into the game. On a side note, Dyshawn Pierre should be eligible to play now that the fall semester is over. He might see minutes, but don’t expect miracles; he might be rusty from a three-month layoff.
  4. Saint Joseph’s at Richmond (Saturday January 2, 12:30 PM, NBC Sports Net) — The Hawks are 4-1 away from the Hagan this season, the Spiders are 6-1 at the Robins Center. The Joe’s do not shoot the three well (30 percent completion rate), but it may not matter Saturday, as they score about 53 percent of their points inside where they convert at just under 50 percent. The bad news for Richmond is that their two-point shot defense is about 50 percent as well. Coach Chris Mooney will need a game plan that can stop both DeAndre’ Bembry and Isaiah Miles. Those two have posted very strong offensive numbers going into this week. Expect Terry Allen to draw Miles when Richmond defends. It should be a great match up for the viewers.
  5. Davidson at St. Bonaventure (Saturday January 2, 8:00 PM) — The Wildcats are 1-2 away from Belk Arena with the Bonnies their second consecutive away game of the week. As with the California game, Davidson will have to show a better defense, especially on the defensive boards. The Bonnies have two 6’7″ forwards, Denzel Gregg or Dion Wright, who are ranked in KenPom’s top 500 for offensive rebounding. One (or most likely both) will be matched up on Davidson’s best defensive rebounder, 6’5″ Jordan Barham. Wildcat guard Jack Gibbs is having a “Stephen Curry” type of season, but, the aforementioned Jordan Barham aside, the rest of the squad is struggling. A Bonnies’ upset could signal either a resurgence for coach Mike Schmidt’s team, or that Davidson will struggle in conference play. Or both.
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