Atlantic 10 Tournament: Early Round Takeaways

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on March 11th, 2016

The first two rounds of the Atlantic 10 Tournament are now in the books. Here are four takeaways from the first couple days of action.

Partly thanks to Trey Davis, who scored a game-high 20 points against Rhode Island, UMass is still dreamin' about dancin'. (Getty)

In part thanks to Trey Davis, who scored a game-high 20 points against Rhode Island, UMass is still dreaming about dancing. (Getty)

  1. The conference’s bottom six programs (La Salle, Saint Louis, George Mason, Massachusetts Fordham and Duquesne) are nowhere near competitive with the top eight. From week #1 through week #10 of conference play, the offensive/defensive differentials show that those six teams have separated themselves from their upper division conference mates (and not in a good way). The games Wednesday featured low offensive efficiency coupled with often hurried possessions. At halftime of Thursday’s first game, Richmond-Fordham, the Spiders led the Rams by 16, 38-22. Davidson led La Salle at the half 42-30. Massachusetts was fortunate enough to draw injury-riddled Rhode Island and took full advantage of a depleted Rhode Island squad to charge out to a 37-19 lead in the first half. Rhody would charge back to take a 59-58 lead in the game’s last two minutes before ultimately fading to fall by five. UMass will now face a rested and full-strength Virginia Commonwealth in the quarterfinal round.
  2. Will the coaching carousel make a pickup in the A-10? Rutgers’ announcement that coach Eddie Jordan was fired triggered speculation that a search for his replacement might center around three Atlantic 10 coaches. Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley was the Scarlet Knights’ first choice when Mike Rice was let go three years ago. Richmond coach Chris Mooney, who is finishing his eleventh season with the Spiders, has also been rumored as an option. As a Philadelphia native, Mooney would be familiar with the area. “They (Rutgers and Mooney) both could use a change” has been a popular opinion in the Twitter-verse. Mike Lonergan, George Washington’s six-year veteran coach was one of seven candidates (along with Hurley) identified by a New Jersey sports writer as a potential third Atlantic 10 target. Lonergan has coached the DC-based Colonials for the past five seasons after guiding the Vermont program to three American East regular season titles and an NCAA bid in a five year stint in New England. Lonergan has guided the Colonials to a single NCAA tournament in his five years at Foggy Bottom; GW has been ranked as high as #20 this season. All three coaches are still coaching teams with postseason basketball still to play, however, so interviews will have to wait. Rutgers AD Patrick Hobbs has a good deal of experience cleaning up messes; he was the athletic director who fired Bobby Gonzalez at Seton Hall.

    The coaching business is often not as easy one, as Eddie Jordan and Jim Crews had to experience again this week.

    The coaching business is often not as easy one, as Eddie Jordan and Jim Crews experienced again this week.

  3. College coaching is a hard way to make a living. There are the endless days on the road for recruiting and the ups and downs of a grueling regular season, not to mention the stress of one-and-done postseason basketball. There are also moments like the one that occurred in the Barclay’s Center media room Thursday night. A few short minutes before 62-year old Saint Louis coach Jim Crews was slated to start his press conference (after the Billikens’ season ended in a loss to George Mason), Dan Wolken broke the news on Twitter that Crews had been fired. The media assemblage of about 40 then sat stunned as Crews delivered a 12-minute eulogy to his career. Struggling to tie lessons he learned from his parents with stories about his time as an assistant under Bobby Knight and later Rick Majerus, Crews was ashen and unsteady throughout. Before standing up and leaving, he simply said: “No questions? I guess that’s it then.”
  4. If Richmond can bring the defense it showed Thursday, the Spiders could make it to Saturday (or even Sunday). For most of the season, the Spiders have shown — at best — a casual interest in clearing the offensive glass or forcing turnovers. Richmond was more diligent in both areas Thursday in a 15-point win over local favorite Fordham. Now matched with Dayton in the opening quarterfinal today, the Spiders’ normally efficient offense will be challenged by the Flyers’ stout defense. The key might be at the other end of the floor, though, as the Flyers have struggled offensively through much of February. They have scored fewer than 1.05 points per possession in seven of their last eight games. Richmond’s defense hasn’t typically been as good as it was Thursday against Fordham, but the scuffling Flyers may offer a nice opportunity for the stinginess to continue for at least another day. Richmond’s season may depend on it.
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