Putting a Bow on the Atlantic 10 Regular Season

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on March 8th, 2016

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

A Wild Finish to an Unusual Season

Is Dayton Poised For Yet Another Postseason Run? (USA Today Images)

Is Dayton Poised For Yet Another Postseason Run? (USA Today Images)

The Atlantic 10 had no fewer than four teams share or outright hold the top spot in the standings during the last five weeks of the regular season. VCU (8-0) entered February with a one-loss lead over Dayton (8-1) and Saint Joseph’s (7-1), but the toughest tests for Will Wade’s team were deferred to the last month of conference play. A 1-2 start to the month dropped the Rams into a tie for second place with the recovered Hawks, two wins behind the preseason favorite Flyers. Having snatched the baton, Dayton could not hold it. Two losses in the third week of February dropped Archie Miller’s squad into second place, again behind VCU. Things then became even more complicated as the league’s top five teams — VCU, Dayton, Saint Joseph’s, St. Bonaventure and George Washington — finished the season with a virtual round robin. By the beginning of March, Saint Joseph’s and VCU were tied at the top with identical 13-3 records, one game ahead of Dayton (12-4) and St. Bonaventure (12-4). Heading into the final day of the regular season, Dayton pulled VCU back to the pack with a 68-67 overtime win, while St. Joseph’s, which had lost another game to the Bonnies, absorbed a 78-70 loss to Duquesne to spare the conference a four-way co-championship. Instead, Dayton, VCU and St. Bonaventure shared the crown.

A trend that was established in the 2008-09 season and remained in effect until this season is a one-game difference between the records of the top teams in the conference. This season’s three-way tie is the first A-10 co-championship since Xavier and Temple shared the championship with 14-2 records in 2010. When the conference had divisions to ease scheduling, three-way co-champions were frequent. The last time three teams shared a regular season non-divisional championship, however, was way back in 1979-80, when identical 7-3 records earned Duquesne, Rutgers and Villanova a share of the title.

Five “Bests” From This Season

  • Best non-conference win — George Washington over #6 Virginia (RPI #2). Coming only four days into the 2015-16 season, it remains the Colonials’ signature win and their strongest argument for inclusion in the field of 68.
  • Best individual performance – Marcus Posley, St. Bonaventure. Posley scored a D-I season-high 47 points in the Bonnies’ 98-90 win over Saint Joseph’s on March 2. He converted 9-of-12 of his two-point attempts and 6-of-7 from beyond the arc along with 11-of-12 free throws.
  • Best Transfer — Charles Cooke, Dayton. The junior transfer from James Madison started 28 games, logged team-high minutes (930), points scored (459), rebounds (173) and steals (35). His 41 percent conversion rate for three-point attempts keeps defenses honest, while his 24.1 percent possession rate means he has become the Flyers’ top offensive option.
  • Best Team Turnaround — Saint Joseph’s turned a 13-18 (7-11 A-10) record last season into a 24-7 (13-5 A-10) record so far this season. Returning 81 percent of minutes played and 86 percent of points scored, the Hawks have executed a +11 (and counting) win turnaround that should result in the Hawks’ second NCAA Tournament bid in three seasons. Phil Martelli has credited a more serious and focused effort coming into the season for his team’s impressive progress.
  • Best Coaching Job — Jeff Neubauer, Fordham. Eastern Kentucky’s veteran coach took Rose Hill by storm, turning the Rams’ 10-21 (4-14 A-10) record a year ago into 17-12 (8-10 A-10) this season. This is Fordham’s first winning season in nine years and the Rams’ eight conference wins represents the highest total since 2007. Neubauer will not take the Coach of the Year award, but his work this season has been very impressive.

Conference Tournament Prospectus

Tiebreakers determined that Dayton received the #1 seed, VCU the #2 seed, and St. Bonaventure the #3 seed. The fourth double-bye to the quarterfinals went to #4 seed Saint Joseph’s. Teams that do not play until Friday can fall into a trap, as the higher seed has lost in four of the last 12 A-10 quarterfinal games. Saint Joseph’s will most likely face #5 seed George Washington in Friday’s second game, and even though the Hawks beat the Colonials handily in Washington last month, Martelli’s group will want to gain some momentum heading into next week. Dayton may have to face Fordham, the de facto hometown team. The Rams, currently on a four-game winning streak, will need to beat Richmond — a team that swept them this season — on Thursday. The Flyers have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games but their last double-figure win came a month ago against George Mason. VCU, a “last four in” type of bubble team, logged a mediocre 6-4 record in their last 10 games. Will Wade’s half-court version of HAVOC suits his personnel but yields a less aggressive offense and fewer free throw opportunities. Three of the Rams’ four conference losses came on the road, but music by the Peppas on Saturday and Sunday have become a welcomed tradition in Brooklyn.

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