Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on February 10th, 2016

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

The “Rs” Are Out of Step

The table below shows that 12 of the conference’s 14 members have efficiency differences consistent with their conference records, but Rhode Island and Richmond have bucked that trend for different reasons. For the Rams, blame injuries, as Rhody’s roster has been a patchwork since E. C. Matthew’s season-ending injury 10 minutes into its opening game. Since then, three stalwarts — Hasan Martin, Kuran Iverson, and Jarvis Garrett — have missed at least one game each, leaving the Rams with a 5-5 record despite Dan Hurley’s efforts to add depth to the rotation. It may be time for Hurley to seriously consider throwing the switch on development for next season when he should have his nucleus of Matthews-Martin-Iverson healthy and conditioned for a serious run.


Richmond’s strange placement comes from a strong offense (as the table indicates, 111.2 points per 100 possessions) combined with a very weak defense that yields 109.8 points per 100 possessions. As the table above indicates, the bottom five squads — UMass, Duquesne, St. Louis, Fordham and La Salle — continue to separate away from the rest of the conference.

Three? Four? Five?

Two teams, Dayton and George Washington, assembled solid non-conference resumes. Four others — Davidson, Richmond, Saint Joseph’s and Virginia Commonwealth — put together mixed results that, if combined with an outstanding conference run could be enough to wow the Selection Committee. Conference play has confirmed that Dayton, the conference’s second team to break into the AP Top 25 this season, is Tournament-worthy. The Flyers climbed to #19/#17 in this week’s national polls. Only a road game with Saint Joseph’s appears to stand in the way of a 16-1 A-10 record heading into its tie-breaking clash with Virginia Commonwealth on March 5. George Washington’s 7-3 record will keep the Colonials out of contention for a #1 seed in Brooklyn, but their win over VCU last weekend brings their record versus top 100 RPI teams to 4-1. The team’s only blemish came in a road loss to (#189) St. Louis. Postseason prospects look very NCAAish for Mike Lonergan’s squad.

Mike Lonergan

Postseason prospects look very NCAA for Mike Lonergan and George Washington. (Getty)

Saint Joseph’s 8-2 record should push the Hawks into the #3 seed in Brooklyn and most likely also on the right side of the NCAA bubble. The Hawks’ 3-4 record versus top 100 RPI opponents may not inspire the Selection Committee, but they have no bad losses (versus RPI #150 or lower opponents) to chill their hearts either. Just a solid, steady resume. Virginia Commonwealth, presenting as perhaps the weakest of the four “maybe” squads at the start of conference play, has made the most of the Atlantic 10’s solid credentials, taking a solid run through their conference competition. First year coach Will Wade pulled Shaka Smart’s 94 foot 2-2-1 HAVOC press system back to a 47-foot half-court trap version. He also figured out how to effectively use the undersized but freakishly athletic Moe Alie-Cox as a consistent low post offensive weapon. Alie-Cox’s offensive efficiency has climbed to 124.8, per KenPom, easily the highest in the conference. Combined with Mel Johnson, Korey Billbury, Justin Tillman, JeQuan Lewis and Doug Brooks, Wade has developed an efficient offensive juggernaut, a dimension that eluded Smart in his last two years at the helm. Five weeks into the conference play and four weeks before Brooklyn, the outlook for Richmond and Davidson is bleak because their respective defenses have sabotaged two very efficient offenses.

Three other squads — St. Bonaventure, Fordham and Duquesne — offered winning but suspect non-conference records. Losing conference play records confirmed suspicions about Fordham and Duquesne, but St. Bonaventure, like VCU, has succeeded so far. The Bonnies’ three losses came on the road at Duquesne and Saint Joseph’s and at home to high-flying Dayton. Of the seven wins, a road win versus Saint Joseph’s remains the most impressive.

Three Games to Catch This Week

This might be George Washington’s most difficult week outside of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. An 0-2 week would drop the Colonials’ conference standing and throw them onto the wrong side of the bubble. A 2-0 record, on the other hand, would position them for the #3 seed in Brooklyn and give them two more solid top 100 wins for their resume.

  1. Saint Joseph’s at George Washington (Wednesday, February 10, 7:00 PM) — The Hawks need a win to keep pace with frontrunners Dayton and Virginia Commonwealth. For the Colonials, who had their three-loss run snapped by a 72-69 win at Virginia Commonwealth Saturday, know that beating the Joe’s before swinging into a two-game road trip would tie them with Saint Joseph’s for third place, and keep them within two losses of the front runners. Saint Joseph’s does not have a counter to Kevin Larsen and will have to get outstanding games from wings DeAndre Bembry and Isaiah Miles. Count the rebounds as when Saint Joseph’s allows their opponents to grab 34% or more of their misses the Hawks are 4-2. but four of those games (and both losses) are two possessions or less.
  2. Dayton at Rhode Island (Friday, February 12, 7:00 PM ESPN2) — This kicks off a three-game sequence for the Flyers that includes stops at Rhode Island and Saint Joseph’s ending as they host the Bonnies at UD Arena. Rhody’s Hasan Martin will have his hands full with Steve McElvene, but the two coaches are the best at game preparation, motivation and coaching game situations. Expect Dayton to be tested, but coach Archie Miller will have his charges focused on this game and not Saint Joseph’s. A Rhody win would not put the Rams into the field of 68, nor would a loss doom the Flyers’ chances to hear their name called on Selection Sunday. Hurley needs to know what he has for next season, expect his sophomore backcourt, Jarvis Garrett and Jared Terrell, to play an increasing role in play making.
  3. George Washington at St. Bonaventure (Saturday, February 13, 4:00 PM) — The Colonials travel to Olean, NY for their second big test of the week. The Bonnies do not have a starter over 6’7″, but coach Mark Schmidt’s squad does have the best offense in the conference. With a conference SOS rank of #2, rest assured the offensive kudos did not come complements of a weak schedule. Both teams should be tied with Saint Joseph’s for third place with three losses, so this game will drop one of those three down a peg. The Colonials have their eyes on the NCAA and a bye seed to Friday in Brooklyn. St. Bonaventure has a very active backcourt trio in Marcus Posley, Jaylen Adams and Nelson Kaputo. If this were 3-on-3, the Bonnies would prevail, but even with the home court, the Colonials have a height and weight advantage in the forward spots. If the game is played in the trenches the DC team will hold the advantage.
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