Checking In On…The Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on February 24th, 2016

First It Got Crazy, Then It Didn’t

Reviewing the scores from last Wednesday, it looked as if the shake-up at the top of the conference would continue for another week. VCU had dropped two games the week before and put itself a loss behind Dayton, the coaches’ preseason pick for the conference title. The City of Brotherly Love was unkind to a pair of visiting teams on that night, however, as Dayton lost to Saint Joseph’s 79-70, and up the road, La Salle (1-10 in the A-10) earned its second conference win of the season over St. Bonaventure. The Flyers’ loss dropped them into a three-way tie for first with the victorious Hawks and struggling VCU.

As the A-10 contenders come down the stretch, Archie Miller and crew is once again right in the thick of things. (Getty)

Archie Miller and his crew are once again right in the thick of things heading down the stretch. (Getty)

St. Bonaventure had been in the midst of a 9-3 tear through the conference, but saw its at-large dream grow more distant with the loss to the Explorers (#224 in the RPI). Fast forward to Saturday, where two frontrunners again suffered crippling losses. Dayton fell 79-72 at home to those Bonnies, while Saint Joseph’s had its eight-game road winning streak snapped at Davidson, 99-93. At the end of a chaotic week, the conference standings had somehow remained nearly the same as the week before. VCU was back in first place, while Dayton and Saint Joseph’s fell back into a two-way tie for second place, a loss behind the Rams. St. Bonaventure did slide up the standings page, moving into sole possession of the fourth slot, as George Washington slipped to fifth.

If the standings were status quo ante, the prospects for NCAA bids were not. St. Bonaventure, whose at-large hopes appeared grim on Wednesday, added a signature win to their resume in winning at Dayton over the weekend. Their RPI bumped to #34. Bracketologists will argue about the eye test and ugly losses (see: La Salle) when it comes to the Bonnies’ profile, but the RPI figure has definitely earned them a serious look as the season winds down. Right now, bracketologists Jerry Palm, Chris Dobbertean and Joe Lunardi project the same three teams, Dayton, VCU and Saint Joseph’s, in the field of 68, but disagree on the seed. Dobbertean and Lunardi have both St. Bonaventure and GWU in their First Four Out, while Palm lists only the Bonnies among the first four on the outside of the cutline. 


As the efficiency difference table above indicates, the top three teams have separated themselves from the pack, with St. Bonaventure and George Washington in a cluster just behind that trio. The bottom four (Fordham, George Mason, St. Louis and La Salle) continue to lag well behind the rest of the league. Given the late hour, prospects for a closing rush from those four is dim.

Five Games to Catch This Week

Dayton stumbled through its last three games, tallying a 1-2 record. This week finds George Washington, with its win over Virginia keeping afloat its 9-5 conference record and generally middling profile, urgently seeking wins that will keep NCAA hopes alive. The Colonials will play two teams from Richmond this week: the Spiders on Wednesday and Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday.

Phil Martelli and Saint Joseph's Are Still Very Much In Contention For A Bye (AP)

Phil Martelli and Saint Joseph’s have a huge one against UMass tonight. (AP)

  1. George Washington at Richmond (Wednesday, February 24, 7:00 PM) — The Colonials need this win to keep up with the four conference pace-setters and maintain shouting distance of the Tournament bubble. Richmond is not terrible (RPI #120), but its porous field goal defense (especially at the three-point line) should work to George Washington’s benefit. However, the Colonials have struggled to minimize turnovers and Richmond has three outstanding ball hawks in Terry Allen, Khwan Fore and Trey Davis. Protecting the basketball will be crucial to GW’s bid to escape Richmond with a victory.
  2. Duquesne at St. Bonaventure (Wednesday, February 24, 7:00 PM) — The Dukes upset the visiting Bonnies in the second week of conference play. St. Bonaventure has a solid shot at an at-large bid, but a loss here could would quickly put those hopes on life support. How’s that for motivation? Micah Mason‘s 43% three point shooting will insure Duquesne gets good spacing and if Duquesne can exploit Bonaventure’s weak low-post defense, it could be a long, cold night in Olean for the Tournament hopefuls.
  3. Saint Joseph’s at Massachusetts (Wednesday, February 24, 7:00 PM) — The Hawks saw their eight-game road win streak last Saturday at Davidson and need this game to keep pace with conference leader VCU. UMass, 5-9 in conference play, has not lost at home in February (3-0) and are 4-2 in its last six conference games. The SJU defense should lock down the Minutemen’s anemic offense and open the way for a Hawk win. But Rhode Island and VCU — two of UMass’ surprise February victims — probably thought the same thing before taking on the Minutemen.
  4. Rhode Island at Dayton (Saturday, February 27, 12:00 PM ESPN2) — ESPN picked this game up last September when the Rams postseason prospects seemed a lot brighter. Rhode Island lacks NCAA credentials, as early injuries and a shallow rotation snuffed out Tournament hopes early in the year. This game should provide the casual fan with a preview of the Flyers, even if Kendall Pollard is not available. While you’re admiring the balanced Flyers, take a long look at Rhody, because this is a squad you will see more of next season. Point guard Jarvis Garret has averaged 16.2 points and 4.7 assists in conference play, while off guard Jarred Terrell has chipped in by averaging 16.1 points per game in conference play. The Flyers should win, but coach Dan Hurley will team have the injured EC Matthews and a dangerous supporting cast back next season.
  5. VCU at George Washington (Saturday, February 27, 12:30 PM NBC Sports Net) — It is annoying that two of the conference’s featured games will overlap on competing stations, but Atlantic 10 fans should be able to catch this and Rhody at Dayton from tip-off to final buzzer. This tilt has been recognized as one of those “circle your calendar games” from the season’s first weeks. It may have lost a little of its luster over the past four months, but both the Colonials and Rams are positioned on or near the bubble, making this an important potential elimination game. The offenses are evenly matched, so look for the VCU defense to potentially be the difference. GWU won the two teams’ first meeting in Richmond, so the Rams will look to even the series and log another top 50 win for their resume.
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