Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on January 13th, 2016

Now a couple weeks into conference play, a few early observations can be made in the Atlantic 10 race.

Quick Hits From the First Fortnight

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14: Patricio Garino #13 and George Washington dropped a surprising game to, but should be right in the mix for the A-10 crown. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

Patricio Garino (left) and George Washington should still be in the mix for the A-10 crown. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

  • Home vs Road — Home teams have won 69 percent of conference games, going 13-8 through Sunday evening.
  • Most Surprising Win — St. Bonaventure’s 97-85 over Davidson to open conference play at the Reilly Center, as the 12-point margin raised eyebrows all around the conference. Davidson has lost four games away from Belk Arena by an average of 19.3 points. The Bonnies’ offense produced 1.29 points per possession, better than that which was produced by Davidson’s other three conquerors: North Carolina (1.20), Pitt (1.27) and California (1.16).
  • Most Impressive Road Win — On the strength of a 28-12 run, Virginia Commonwealth erased a 13-point deficit with seven minutes left at Saint Joseph’s to post an 85-82 win.
  • Knucklehead Loss, Part 1 — George Washington‘s loss at St. Louis, 65-62, on the first Saturday of conference play. The defeat cost the Colonials their spot in both Top 25 polls, as the Billikens limited Pat Garino and Tyler Cavanaugh to a combined 20 points on 9-of-21 shooting. GW should still compete for the conference regular season title, but the loss opens the door for other challengers.
  • Knucklehead Loss, Part 2 — Dayton‘s loss at La Salle, 61-57, last Saturday broke the Explorers’ seven-game death spiral and gave them their first conference win. La Salle lulled the Flyers into an ugly 59-possession game, so Dayton attempted a long range assault with poor results. Three Flyers (Scoochie Smith among them) combined to go 0-of-10 from beyond the arc (the rest of the squad was 7-of-15). And in committing 14 turnovers, Dayton handed away over 24 percent of its possessions.

Four Games to Catch This Week

The race is on. If last week’s schedule featured clashes between teams projected to finish in the middle of the league, this week matches projected favorites George Washington and Dayton. Teams with hopes of earning one of four byes in the A-10 Tournament will not get by with home wins alone. They must win on the road, and a few of those road tests are coming this week.

It doesn't look like Bob McKillop and Davidson will repeat at conference champs this time around. (Tim Cowie/

It doesn’t look like Bob McKillop and Davidson will repeat at conference champs this time around. (Tim Cowie/

  • Rhode Island at St. Bonaventure (Wednesday January 13, 7:00 PM) — If Rhode Island is going to finish in the top four of the league, the Rams will need to win games in places like Olean, NY. The Bonnies are out to a surprising 3-0 start in conference play. Home court wins are a must for the Bonnies to finish in the upper division. Hasan Martin and Kuran Iverson are back for the Rams after extended absences. Iverson appears to be ready while Martin, out since early December, is getting into peak shape. The Bonnies’ front court rotation of Dion Wright, Denzel Gregg, Derrick Woods and Jordan Tyson will have its hands full with fifth year senior Earl Watson, Martin and Iverson. The Bonnies’ backcourt, led by Jaylen Adams and Marcus Posley, should matchup well against a URI backcourt with only one player (Jarvis Garrett) with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. The Rams will want to shoot threes, something coach Mark Schmidt’s squad defends well, but if the Rams pound the ball inside they should have the advantage in deep. However, if the Bonnies can control its defensive backboard, the Rams will be pressed to find points.
  • George Washington at Dayton (Friday January 15, 7:00 PM ESPN2) — Dayton’s second big game of the week has the Flyers host the Colonials at UD Arena. Coach Mike Lonergan‘s frontcourt will give Miller’s team a physical challenge. Dayton’s backcourt is filled with difference-makers, and the Colonials don’t have the quickness to counter Scoochie Smith, Kyle Davis, and others. Smith and Davis, both ranked among KenPom’s top 500 nationally in steal percentage, should harass Paul Jorgensen and Joe McDonald all evening, if both are healthy. McDonald left the Duquesne game Saturday with a concussion and is questionable for Wednesday. Coach Mike Lonergan patched together a rotation of senior Alex Mitola, junior Matt Hart and freshman Jordan Roland to finish out Saturday’s contest. Expect the same if McDonald is not available.
  • Virginia Commonwealth at Richmond (Saturday January 16, 2:00 PM CBSN) — The Rams and Spiders continue a city rivalry while sorting out the A-10 pecking order Saturday afternoon. Richmond’s offense is very good (17th nationally in offensive efficiency), but VCU counters with an excellent defense (23rd in defensive efficiency) in a strength versus strength battle. Under new coach Will Wade, the Rams have continued the HAVOC approach to defense, turning opponents over on 25% of possessions this season. Richmond has good ball handlers in ShawnDre’ Jones and Trey Davis, not to mention forwards Terry Allen and TJ Cline. VCU’s offense is not especially productive, but Richmond’s defense has been equally ineffective this year. The Spiders are mediocre shot defenders and poor rebounders. The Rams do have long range scorers in Mel Johnson and Kory Billbury, so expect those two to test Richmond’s perimeter defense early. If the threes do not drop, VCU will look to go inside with Mo Alie-Cox and JaQuan Lewis, a point guard who likes to drive the lane. If the Rams rebound their misses, expect them to kill the Spiders with second chance opportunities.
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