Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the A-10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @(vbtnBlog)

Reader’s Take

 

Week That Was:

The Homogenization of the A-10: The surprise team through the first two weeks (Dayton) has fallen to earth with a 4-5 record at the halfway mark. Now what? The points per possession table (conference game only) below may suggest the conference is breaking into a series of tiers (three for the top half of the conference, then everyone else … ), but the striking number is how closely the top and bottom teams are to each other, a hint at the parity also suggested by the first half won-loss records. In sharp contrast to this point (about mid-way through the conference regular season) last season, Temple and Fordham show a mere 0.353 difference in their points per possession margin, a much smaller gap than last season’s 0.512 margin. Note there are no undefeated teams at this point, last season two teams (Xavier and Duquesne) sported 7-0 marks. Fordham and Saint Joseph’s were looking for their first wins last season (both broke into the win column before the end of the regular season), while the bottom two teams this season have both logged two wins apiece. Parity of a sort perhaps, but is this a sign the conference is “better” or “worse”?

The computed conference strength of schedule (Number and Rank, leftmost two columns) suggest Temple’s record may be due in part to their slate of opponents. Early evaluations underestimated the strength of La Salle and Saint Joseph’s, two Big 5 rivals who did not give Temple much competition the past three or four seasons. This time around may be different though, as the Owls must play those two one more time, along with Xavier, Massachusetts and Saint Bonaventure. Temple’s last half of the season should prove more challenging than season’s past.

A Midpoint Look at All-Conference Team Candidates:

  • Each week the conference designates a Player of the Week, a Rookie of the Week along with a number of Honorable Mention players, based on their performance in the last week (usually a 2-3 games per week). If the season ended today, the Player of the Year vote would be split between Ramone Moore from Temple and Saint Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter (@vbtnblog)

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • New Sheriff in Town? The surprise team so far is Dayton. The Flyers, under first year head coach Archie Miller, have unveiled a revamped offense with a decidedly different approach to player rotation. Under Brian Gregory all members in the rotation, with the exception of forwards Chris Wright (graduated in May 2011) and Chris Johnson (a senior this season) saw game time in four minute (or less) slices. Wright, Johnson and freshman point guard Juwan Staten (who transferred to West Virginia in the off season) played 70% or more at their positions, which translates to about 28 minutes per game. The junior guard Paul Williams aside, everyone else on the squad logged no more than 44.2% of the available time (Josh Benson, about 18 minutes per game) at their respective positions. The rotation this season also features two players (transfer guard Kevin Dillard and Williams) who have logged better than 70% of the available time (with Johnson playing 63%), but Miller uses three other players for 50% or more of the time, and fourth, sophomore Devin Oliver, who plays about 46% of the time on the wing. If Gregory’s approach gave more players some game-time exposure, Miller’s style, more tradition in the distribution of minutes, allows team members to acclimate to the game. Though Miller uses fewer players per game, the Flyers continue to get a bit more than 66 possessions per game, consistent with the last season under Gregory.

    Archie Miller Has Done Wonders At Dayton

  • A Points per Possession Look at the teams. Last season I used points per possession (conference games only) to give the reader a more insightful look into each team’s play. The numbers for the 3-5 games the teams have played so far.

Those who followed this column last season know that the efficiency margin will not always track with a team’s won-loss record. The approach can suggest where strength of schedule, consistency and luck may play a larger than expected role in shaping the team’s record. Two differences from this point last season (four-six games into the conference schedule) include the top-to-bottom size of the margin has shrunk considerably. Xavier, at the top of the conference, was +0.267 last season while Fordham at the bottom, was -0.277, a gap of nearly 0.55 points per possession, while this season (see above) shows a gap of 0.342 points per possession. Note the lack of undefeated (in conference play) teams this season, while One of the more obvious differences this season is thth wider efficiency margins (plus or minus)

Power Rankings

Dayton continues to win, Xavier goes sideways while Charlotte and Richmond find the road rockier than expected? Looks like my promotion of Dayton last week was the right move as the Flyers handed Xavier a crushing 15 point loss last Saturday (1/21). The rematch next month in Cincinnati should be very interesting.

  1. Saint Louis (15-4, 3-2) – The Billikens beat Duquesne Saturday for their only game this past week. The conference record may not say #1, but the point per possession margin (+0.131 – see above) says Coach Rick Majerus’ team is on track. According to their Pythagorean Winning Percentage (conference games only) the Bills are on track to win 13 games, a very tall order given they have already logged 2/3 of their projected losses. Saint Louis has had problems winning away from Chaifetz, and the upcoming two game road swing will be an important early season test. Saint Louis will travel to Cincinnati for an early season showdown with Xavier on Wednesday (1/25) and then continue east to Amherst for a tilt with Massachusetts on Saturday (1/28).

    Rick Majerus And Saint Louis Continue To Lead The Pack

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on January 18th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @(vbtnBlog)

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • No A-10 Teams in the Top 25… Again: The latest round of the AP and Coaches polls (January 16) show no Atlantic 10 team gathered enough support nationally to be ranked…  for the fourth consecutive week. Saint Louis missed a good opportunity to impress when the Billikens dropped a four-point decision to New Mexico on New Year’s Eve, picking up their second loss in the process. With the next six teams showing three or four losses, the conference is out of the Top 25 conversation for the next three or so weeks. The other name brands, Xavier and Temple, did not help their causes this past week. Xavier dropped their third game in the last four, this time to Gonzaga in what might have been a good “comparison” game for the Selection Committee. Temple beat #3 Duke but dropped two of their first three conference games. Lacking another marquee out-of-conference game (Temple versus Maryland is a pale imitation), the conference may have to wait until early February and hope that one or two teams will dominate conference play while their power conference counterparts beat each other up.
  • Bernadette McGlade’s Recipe for Basketball Masala: Masalas are a variety of spicey soups or stews favored throughout India, Pakistan and most parts of south Asia. A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade and her schedule maker served up their own brand of basketball masala in this opening week of conference play. Strong preseason favorites Saint Louis, Xavier and Temple did not survive the week undefeated (Temple has yet to win with a tough game coming up this week) while recently downtrodden Charlotte and La Salle started strong, each has sustained at least one loss. Rookie Coach Archie Miller of Dayton (whose squad was depleted with graduations and transfers) is riding high, while veteran Mike Lonergan of George Washington (whose squad is well stocked with experienced players) is struggling. Far too early to throw the power rankings (see below) up in the air perhaps, but a few of the results from the past two weeks (Dayton at Temple, Saint Louis at Dayton, Charlotte at Saint Joseph’s for example) maybe critical tiebreakers come March.

Rick Majerus And Saint Louis Are On Top Of Our RTC Power Rankings (AP)

Power Rankings

Results from the first quarter of conference play (and a few of the last few out of conference games) hold a strong hint that the conference may be more competitive through the first 12 spots than preseason projections indicated. First week losses to the favorites force me to take a long second (and third…) look at Dayton. With only a few games scheduled, and those yielding mixed results for the teams at the top of last week’s power rankings, the conference appears to be sliding sideways. Massachusetts disposes of their last out of conference opponents fairly easily to move up a spot, while Temple finishes the month 6-1 and Fordham upsets a ranked team.

  1. Saint Louis (14-4, 2-2) – The Billikens are .500 through the first four games of conference play. They opened conference play with a 79-72 overtime loss at Dayton, the first time Rick Majerus’ squad has lost back-to-back games this season (St. Louis lost their last out of conference game to New Mexico on New Year’s). Their bounce back 78-56 win over George Washington on January 7 was the largest margin win in conference play, with the three other games decided by five or fewer points. Against Dayton, the Billikens held Dayton to a respectable 1.04 point per possession (about 75 total possessions in the overtime game), but failed to break the 1.0 (PPP) mark themselves, a persistent problem last season that Brian Conklin, Kwamain Mitchell and Cody Ellis had resolved this season. None of the three had a good outing however, as they combined for a horrific 12-33 from the field, yielding a 40.9% eFG% and 0.96 points per weighted shot. One can have an off night (there are enough secondary options on the bench and the floor at anytime), but count those game where all three have problems scoring efficiently as an “L”. Saint Louis committed the double sin of allowing the Flyers to score efficiently (over 50% eFG% overall), and rebound for second chances when they did not convert. The Billikens posted similar efficiencies in their loss to Temple last Wednesday. Saint Louis hosts Duquesne on Saturday (1/21) in their only game this week. Read the rest of this entry »
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With Temple’s Road Win at St. Louis, A-10 Race Even Murkier Than Before

Posted by dnspewak on January 12th, 2012

Danny Spewak is an RTC correspondent. You can follow him @dspewak on Twitter. He filed this report following Temple’s victory at Saint Louis on Wednesday.

Saint Louis looked nothing like one of the Atlantic 10’s top defensive teams on Wednesday. Exploiting a mismatch with its four-guard attack, Temple overcame a sluggish effort from senior point guard Juan Fernandez to knock off the Billikens 72-67 at Chaifetz Arena, avoiding an 0-2 start and leaving the A-10 standings as messy as ever. SLU (13-4, 1-2 A-10) could not handle the physicality of the Owls’ guards, especially Khalif Wyatt. The junior led all scorers with 22 points, and his team shredded Rick Majerus‘ man-to-man defense all night to score 44 points in the paint. Temple (11-4, 1-1 A-10) shot 59% in the second half and 56.6% overall, marking just the second time this season Saint Louis could not hold an opponent to less than 50% shooting. And it all happened without normal production from Fernandez, who scored just two points on a 1-8 effort from the field.

Saint Louis Drew Its Second Largest Crowd of the Year

The Billikens never led in the second half, though they did cut Temple’s lead to a single point on two occasions. Even with an animated home crowd behind it — the 8,760 fans marked its second-highest attendance of the season — Saint Louis could not get the defensive stop it needed in the final two minutes. After Kwamain Mitchell‘s three-pointer pulled SLU to within 62-61 with 2:14 remaining, Aaron Brown immediately responded with a three-point play. Then, a turnover led to a thunderous alley-oop in transition by Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, sealing the Billikens’ first home loss of the season.  “You have to buck up and gets stops,” senior forward Brian Conklin said. “And we’re not doing that right now.”

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on January 4th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @(vbtnBlog)

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • No A-10 Teams in the Top 25, Again: The latest round of the AP and Coaches polls (January 2) show no Atlantic 10 team that gathered enough support nationally to be ranked … for the second consecutive week. Saint Louis missed a good opportunity to impress when the Billikens dropped a four-point decision to New Mexico on Saturday, picking up their second loss in the process. With the next six teams showing three or four losses, the conference is out of the Top 25 conversation for the next few weeks. The other name brands, Xavier and Temple, did not help their causes this past week. Xavier dropped their third game in the last four, this time to Gonzaga in what might have been a good “comparison” game for the Selection Committee. Temple won their third straight, but the last two have not been especially impressive. The Owls may get the conference’s last good chance for some noise when they host #3 Duke tonight.
  • Conference ComparisonsNearly 90% of the out-of-conference games are on the books and the Atlantic 10 has posted a 62.6% winning percentage:

  • Against the six power conferences, the conference has logged a respectable 22-26 (0.458) record. Highlights include .500 or better records against the ACC (7-6, 0.538 – note Temple hosts Duke tonighit, see below), the Big Ten (4-4, 0.500) and the SEC (4-1, 0.800). Conference members logged their strongest numbers against the teams within the conference footprint – those traditional opponents during the out-of-conference portion of the schedule, posting a 63.8% (30-17) winning record against teams located throughout New England, the Middle Atlantic and upper Midwest regions. Against those conferences most likely to compete for the at-large bids not allocated to the power conference teams, the A-10 posted a strong – but deceptive – 23-12 (0.657) record, largely at the expense of the CAA (15-5, 0.750) and C-USA (4-3, 0.571); both show improvement over the 2010-11 season when, through the end of December, the A-10 went 7-10 versus the CAA and 2-5 with C-USA.
  • Conference Play Commences: The conference maintains their traditional “opening night” tipoff with five conference games and a sixth game to be played on Thursday night. Saturday will feature six conference games with the seventh game to be played on Sunday. By next Monday, every member will have logged at least one conference game.

Despite A Tough Start, Tu Holloway And Xavier Will Be A Major Challenger For The A-10 Crown (AP)

Power Rankings

With only a few games scheduled, and those yielding mixed results for the teams at the top of last week’s power ranking, the conference appears to be sliding sideways. Massachusetts disposes of their last out of conference opponents fairly easily to move up a spot, while Temple finishes the month 6-1 and Fordham upsets a ranked team.

  1. Saint Louis (12-2) – The Billikens ended the week 1-1 — the loss coming at the hands of New Mexico (WAC) at the notorious Pit, UNM’s homecourt. Rick Majerus’ crew smothered Texas Southern with defense in a 71-39 win on 12/27, limiting the Tigers to a paltry 0.57 points per possession (or PPP, with 68 possessions per team calculated), about half a point per possession, just over half of the Division I average. Saint Louis’ own 1.04 point per possession hints at the ongoing point production problem with Saint Louis, but when a defense holds an opponent under 0.6 PPP, the team does not need a very efficient offense to win. Brian Conklin earned an Honorable Mention for his 35-point performance over the two games which yielded an average of 17.5 points per game with an eFG% of 68.4%. Very impressive numbers indeed. The Lobos were a different matter, as the Billikens were down two at the half, and gave up another two points in the second half. Saint Louis opens conference play at Dayton Wednesday, then returns home to host George Washington on Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2011


Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter (@vbtnBlog)

Ed. Note – This post was written prior to Wednesday night’s action.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • No A-10 Teams in the Top 25: The release of the AP and Coaches polls on Mon., December 26 showed no Atlantic 10 conference member for the first time in 12 weeks (going back to January 31, 2011 – week #13).  A Xavier three-game losing streak, coming on the heels of the bench clearing brawl in the “Crosstown Shootout” dropped the Musketeers from #15 in the December 19 poll right out of the Top 25. Saint Louis’ own five-game winning streak includes a win over Division II Illinois-Springfield, Alabama State and Arkansas State — not a slate of opponents that will wow the voters.
  • Early Season Invitational Tournaments – Final Tally: The only good news out of the Diamond Head Classic was that the Musketeers finally broke their three-game losing streak with a win over Southern Illinois in the invitational tournament’s seventh place game. Invitational tournament formats frequently match A-10 teams with power conference opponents on neutral courts, giving the conference their best opportunity for quality wins. Results for the 2011-12 season:

At the end of the first cycle, the conference held a promising 21-13 (0.600) margin with six first and third place finishes, suggesting the team either swept the field or won the first two games (before dropping the final). The brightest lights were Dayton (winner of the Old Spice Classic) and Saint Louis (who beat three power conference schools on their way to the championship in the 76 Classic). Temple may have disappointed slightly, but the Owls, along with Richmond, George Washington and Saint Joseph’s, posted very respectable results in their tournaments.

  • Free Todd O’Brien? Attention to the resurgence of the Saint Joseph’s program was diverted two days after the Hawks’ best win of the season, a 16-point drubbing of Big 5 rival Villanova, when Sports Illustrated released fifth year senior Todd O’Brien’s side of his attempt to take his post season eligibility at Alabama-Birmingham instead of Saint Joseph’s. Buzz about Phil Martelli’s squad notching 10 wins before the start of conference play (virtually certain given their last two out of conference opponents) was pushed aside with the details of the Todd O’Brien imbroglio. The fifth year senior, a transfer from Bucknell who started 28 games in the 2009-10 season and was a serviceable rotation player last season, completed his undergraduate course work over the summer and enrolled in one of Alabama-Birmingham’s MBA programs and play for Mike Davis in his last season of eligibility. Saint Joseph’s, however, denied O’Brien’s application for a Graduate Student Transfer Exception (a release from his athletic scholarship) with no explanation given. O’Brien went public with his version of events, and so far, Saint Joseph’s, and specifically Martelli, has cited student confidentiality as the reason for not responding.

Fordham (Dereck Whittenburg and Jio Fontan), Providence (Keno Davis and Joseph Young) and Siena (Fran McCaffery and Kojo Mensah) were warning signs that Saint Joseph’s ignored. Though Martelli, as did McCaffrey, Davis and Whittenberg before him, may feel justified in denying O’Brien his release (fans and “program insiders” floated three variations of “Todd O’Brien is a bad boy” in the first 24-48 hours after the story was released), the veteran coach has to understand that the notion of a coach and program were gamed by a scholarship athlete never gets much traction with the public, and the university’s strategy of not talking about it gives O’Brien all of the air time on this issue.

Todd O'Brien (right) and Phil Martelli (left) Have Been Caught In A Verbal Tug-Of-War

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2011

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @(vbtnBlog)

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Rivalry Week – the Out of Conference Edition: Throughout the East, in the years before the rise of the conferences, the season was the warm-up for the season ending finales – games with the local rivals. The conferences changed that dynamic, as teams from the same media markets found themselves locked in races for conference titles that increasingly translated into NCAA postseason bids. And local rivals find their matches relocated to the earliest parts of the season. As the fall semester (or quarter) winds into final examinations, the weeks leading in have become the non-conference equivalent of “Rivals Week,” and had ESPN looked at the A-10 schedule, they would have found over one-third of conference members squaring off with their most-often faced local opponents.
  • Brawl City: Xavier and Cincinnati have played 79 times, meeting annually since 1947, in what has become known as the “Cross Town Shootout”. Though Xavier won three of the last four meetings, last season’s 66-46 Bearcat rout at Fifth Third must have gone to Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick’s head. In what will no doubt become a teaching point for future Mick Cronin teams, Kilpatrick, in the run-up to the game, opined on local radio that Xavier’s All-American candidate, senior guard Tu Holloway, was probably not good enough to start on the Cincinnati team. Bad move, Sean. The 2011 A-10 Player of the Year responded with a stellar 17-point performance that include going 5-for-10 (1-of-5 three-pointers, 4-of-5 two-pointers) from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 from the line to go with a game-high six dimes. In the post game press conference the clearly agitated Holloway told the assembled scribes that “you do your talking after the game, not before…”. If only Holloway had followed his own advice. With less than 30 seconds to play, during what most likely would have been Cincinnati’s last possession of the game, the obviously incensed Holloway, still in the game for reasons unknown, passed by the Cincinnati bench (the 1:30 mark in the video below), and taunted the Bearcat bench with, “this is MY CITY”.

  • Additionally: As Cincinnati freshman guard Ge’Lawn Guyn, Holloway’s defensive assignment, put himself between Holloway and the bench, the two went chest-to-chest and Holloway raised his arms as if to strike Guyn. Xavier freshman forward Dezmine Wells, however, beat him to it, throwing the first punch in a bench clearing brawl that has to be the low point in this season. Xavier senior center Kenny Frease suffered a black eye (and no doubt a ripping headache the day after), the result of a sucker punch from Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates and a kick to the head delivered by Cincinnati center Cheikh Mbodj. Both Cincinnati players were suspended for six games. Cronin and the Cincinnati AD also suspended freshman forward Octavius Ellis for four games, and Guyn for one game. Xavier doled out suspensions to Wells (four games), Landen Amos (four games), junior guard Mark Lyons (two games) and Holloway (one game). Cincinnati holds a 58-41 edge in the series. The other four rivalry games may have been every bit as intense, but no centers were harmed in the playing of the games. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2011

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the A-10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vbtnBlog.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

Early Season Performances – The Oooh Aaaah Variety (Teams & Individuals)

The A-10 evened the record versus the six power conferences again last week, largely on the strength of performances by Xavier and Richmond. Xavier needed overtime to beat Vanderbilt in Nashville. Down by two with just under four minutes in regulation, Xavier held Vanderbilt scoreless and managed to tie on a Mark Lyons jumper with six seconds remaining in regulation. In overtime the Musketeers took the lead for good 68-66 on two Dezmine Wells free throws and Tu Holloway put a large enough margin between the teams (about eight points) when he hit two threes in successive possessions to absorb a Commodore mini-run. Vanderbilt chipped the Musketeers’ lead down to four, but could get no closer. Forced to foul, Holloway and Travis Taylor went a perfect 6 for 6 from the line to stretch the lead to 10 and suck the life out of the Commodore comeback.

Hosting Purdue five days later, Xavier again went down early, allowing Purdue to take the lead at the 18:49 mark of the first half and hold it for the next 37 minutes of play. The Boilermakers took an 11-point lead into the intermission and stretched it to 15 in the first 6:30 of the second half. Over the next 12:24 Xavier outscored Purdue 29-13 to take the lead for only the second time in the game. Once in control, the Musketeers did not let the Boilermakers back in, pushing their lead out to three in the last minute of the game.

As for Tu Holloway’s (and Xavier’s) week, we can’t say it any better than Rob Dauster over at Ballin’ is a Habit. Ok we could, but cut and paste required fewer key strokes and brain cells:

Those numbers are more interesting, however, when you break up the game. For example, with 3:30 left in overtime against Vanderbilt, Holloway had just 14 points on 4-17 shooting. That stat line looks much more impressive after he hit back-to-back threes on the next two possessions and four straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Likewise, against Purdue, Holloway had just 10 points and six turnovers in the first 38 minutes of the game, but in the final two minutes he hit a three on three consecutive possessions (video of the last two below) and followed that up with two free throws, completing the most impressive comeback of the young season…in the final three minutes against Vanderbilt and the last two minutes against Purdue, Holloway had 21 points, went 5-6 from beyond the arc and knocked down all six of his free throws attempts.

The Richmond squad had to replace 59% of their minutes and 68.6% of their scoring from the squad that won the A-10 conference tournament and ran to the Sweet Sixteen last March. Freshman point guard Kendall Anthony, three times designated Rookie of the Week by the conference, has picked up a load of time and scoring responsibilities for the Spiders so far. Richmond leaned heavily on Anthony along with sophomores Cedrick Lindsay and Derrick Williams for offense. Both chipped in double digit points to complement Anthony’s production. Lindsay was a serviceable back-up to senior point guard Kevin Anderson last season, but Williams, who has started all eight games for the Spiders, saw very little action as a freshman.

Overlooked Temple off guard Aaron Brown turned heads the summer before coming to North Broad, but had few opportunities to show Temple fans and the A-10 what he could do. Brown scored 21 points in 22 minutes in a display during Temple’s 86-74 win over Central Michigan. Ken Pomeroy would find hard to ignore his performance, as he hit 7-11 (4-7 from three point land, 3-4 from inside the arc) shots from the floor while getting to the line for five free throws, of which he hit three. That computes to an 81.8% eFG% with a 1.57 points per weighted shot, an outstanding outing for the sophomore, who was pressed into action due to the injury-depleted squad.

Early Season Performances – The What the !@#!@@!# Variety (Teams & Individuals)

After winning their early season invitational tournaments, beating four power conference opponents (two each) during the tournament, both Dayton and Saint Louis stumbled in post tournament games. The losses are puzzling because for both teams, the games were winnable. Saint Louis took an “and-one” game with Loyola Marymount of the West Coast Conference, losing by seven with a performance that had team observers scratching their heads. Dayton compounded the first post tournament loss (by 29 to Buffalo of the MAC) with a second loss, this one by 17, to Murray State of the Ohio Valley Conference. The opponents were beatable, making the scoring margins downright consternating. Dayton was pegged to finish in the middle of the conference, but the two unexpected losses (albeit the Racers will most likely contend for the OVC title this season) could damage the Flyers chances for a post season NIT bid. Other inexplicable losses go to Saint Bonaventure’s home loss to Arkansas State of the Sun Belt Conference, a 3-4 team no one expects to make noise this season. The Bonnies were not helped by a lackluster six-point, nine-rebound effort from Andrew Nicholson.

Power Rankings

The Power Rankings are shuffled again this week in response to the Ooohs, Aaaahs and What the heck games listed above. For the Atlantic-10 the post season margin for error is exceedingly slim. Three losses going into the first or second week of December can take a school off the RPI short list pretty quickly.

1. Xavier (6-0) #8 AP – Xavier took down two more power conference programs last week in fashion impressive enough to climb three more spots in the AP poll. I listed many of the impressive details in the impressive performances section above, but  in addition to the video link below that shows two of Tu Holloway’s three “last two minute” three point field goals below (h/t to Dana & Victory Blog for the link). I should also mention that in Nashville Mark Lyons (19 points) and Travis Taylor (11 points) chipped in more than 10 apiece to go with Holloway’s 24 point performance, while Antoine Walker collected 14 rebounds in his return to Vanderbilt where he played for three years. Versus Purdue three Musketeers, Lyons (14 points), Walker (10 points) and Kenny Fraese (10 points) chipped in double digit points to complement Holloway’s 21 point outburst.

 

 

Xavier will travel to Indianapolis Wednesday for a game with Butler, then return home to host this season’s Crosstown Shootout versus Cincinnati on Saturday. Win these next two and Chris Mack’s squad deserves something special, like Christmas in Hawaii…wait.

2. Saint Louis (7-1) –Their top 25 ranking proved surprisingly short, the penalty for stumbling against the Lions last Tuesday. St. Louis recovered to beat another WCC team, Portland  by 20, 73-53 at the Chaifetz. The Billikens’ defense limited Portland to 0.90 points per possession, much as they had Boston College and Oklahoma. Scoring centered on Brian Conklin and Cody Ellis, with Kyle Cassidy and Mike McCall providing efficient long-range scoring. They will host Vermont on Wednesday and Division II Illinois-Springfield on Saturday.

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2011

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the A-10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vbtnBlog.

Reader’s Take

The Week That Was:

Early Season Tournaments – The Conference Crossroads: Though the invitational tournaments come in three different formats, they provide A-10 members with the opportunity to face-off against competition from other conferences. If the tournament is a “destination”, all the better, as those often offer one or two games versus power conference opponents on a neutral court. Mixed format tournaments can provide the A-10 member with the chance to play a power conference opponent and then host a sub-regional mini-tournament afterward, as George Washington did for the Preseason NIT last season and Rhode Island did for the Legends Classic this season. Despite the road game incentive built into the RPI, the NCAA does little to discourage the power conference practice of guarantee games beyond officially “frowning” on it. Unless you are Xavier or Temple, your best chance to see a power conference team in a venue besides their home court (on the front end of a home-and-home agreement) is to join one of the early-season invitational tournaments. Though Xavier will spend Christmas in Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic, virtually all early-season invitational tournaments concluded on or before Thanksgiving Weekend. How did the Atlantic-10 do?

 

 

The 21-13 record reveals both hope (Dayton, Richmond and Saint Louis) and fear (La Salle, Massachusetts and Rhode Island) as the season progresses, but overall, the 61.8% winning percentage will help the conference come Selection Sunday. Flyer fans can look to a surprise first-place finish in the Old Spice Classic that included wins over Wake Forest out of the ACC and Minnesota from the Big Ten, as signs that the Dayton program revival is ahead of schedule under rookie coach Archie Miller. Saint Louis rolled through the 76 Classic field, cutting through three power conference opponents in four days like a hot knife through butter. No one, not Boston College (ACC), Villanova (Big East) nor Oklahoma (Big 12) could get closer than 11 points to the Billikens in their final scores.

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2011

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vbtnblog.

The Week That Was:

How They Measure Up: Results by Conference

The A-10 teams played 51 games from November 9 through November 22 against teams from 22 conferences and an independent. The overall record, 34-17 (0.667) may leave fans optimistic as last season’s final winning percentage was 0.589, but the season is very, very early with less than 25% of the schedule in the books. Whether conference members can draw a fourth (or even a third?) bid depends to a considerable degree on how the conference as a whole fares against the power conferences and against schools that will form the pool of at-large candidates.

Conferences not played have been omitted. A few oddities should catch the reader’s attention. First, only Saint Bonaventure has engaged a MAAC school so far, unusual for the conference. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference is largely made up of private colleges (many of them Catholic) located in a footprint that stretches from the Capital Region in New York State, west to Lake Erie and south through metropolitan New York down to Maryland. Many MAAC schools share basketball traditions with Fordham and St. Bonaventure, and many of the other A-10 members from New England and Philadelphia. Second, the A-10 is killing the CAA this season, notching a 5-1 record so far. Granted less than a third of the scheduled games have been played, but A-10 teams had to close with a rush of wins to bring last season’s head-to-head record to 7-10, and conference fans watched with mixed emotions as the second CAA team in four seasons advanced to the Final Four last March. While only George Mason from among the CAA’s elite teams has been engaged (and GMU squeaked by, beating Rhode Island in overtime), the early returns are promising. The winning percentage against the power conferences is much lower than last season’s 0.469, but again the season is early as the conference has completed only 20% of their anticipated slate. Excluding the ACC where the A-10 holds a 2-0 edge so far, the conference’s only other power conference win came Sunday against Washington. While the lopsided record compiled against the CAA is the largest influence in the composite record, the A-10 has compiled an 8-1 record versus conferences with a similar profile (the CAA, CUSA, MWC, WAC and MVC), conference teams have sustained winning records against MWC and CUSA competition as well as the CAA.

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RTC Conference Primers: #8 – Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 30th, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can find him on Twitter @vbtnBlog.

Reader’s Take I

The A-10 has earned three invitations to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons. Xavier and Temple, as they have for the past two seasons, will claim two bids.


Top Storylines

Xavier's Tu Holloway Is A First-Team All-American Candidate And One Of The Nation's Best Seniors

  • A-10 to Barclays in 2013: Barclays Center, under construction in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is in the market for multi-day sporting events while the Atlantic 10 is looking for a bigger stage for their post season tournament — a perfect match perhaps? The two announced a deal late last month that will move the 2012-13 A-10 Conference Tournament to the 675,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue that will feature an 18,000 seat arena for basketball. The Atlantic 10 has vacillated between rotating campus sites and a “permanent neutral” site since the first conference tournament in 1976-77. The current location since the 2006-07 tournament, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, is a 10,500 seat amphitheater. While technically neutral, the attendance is up when one or more of the Philadelphia contingent (La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and/or Temple) advances to the quarterfinal round and beyond, and down when they do not. The conference will return to Boardwalk Hall for their 2011-12 tournament, then move over to Barclays Center the following season.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 2nd, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10.

A Look Back

Duquesne, despite an 0-2 week, continues to be ranked #2 in net efficiencies through Monday of this week (2/28/2011). Duquesne dropped into a fourth-place tie with Rhode Island after they sustained losses to the Rams and Saint Louis last week. While they have dominated enough games that their decline in net efficiency has not matched the decline in their won-loss record, it is clear the Dukes are suffering a severe end of the season slump. Bad timing, as a few of the conference teams need to finish their schedules strongly to earn bye seeds to Atlantic City, or at least secure home court advantage for the first round of conference tournament play. Xavier, Temple, Duquesne and Richmond, all of whom have maintained positive net efficiencies through the entire conference slate, were joined this week by a revitalized Dayton squad.

An oddity noted the past several weeks, but present through much of the A-10 conference regular season, is the inbalance between the teams with positive net efficiencies and those with negative net efficiencies, narrowed yet again when Dayton “crossed over” and joined Rhode Island on the plus side of net efficiency line. The gap between the “haves” and “have nots” has narrowed, as well, with the range between the top (Rhode Island with +0.020) of the middle four schools in the conference and the bottom (Saint Louis -0.019) is only 0.039, a gap less than that which separates Xavier from Temple (0.046) and less than a third of the gap which separates Fordham from Saint Joseph’s (0.122). I speculated last week about whether the relatively “bottom-heavy” conference would hurt Richmond’s chances for an NCAA berth, and it now appears as if that was premature as both Bracketology 101 (best predictive record over the past five seasons) and Joe Lunardi over at ESPN have Richmond in their field of 68. RTC bracketologist Zach Hayes lists the Spiders among the “first four out” in his February 28 bracket.

For those who wonder what happened to their team in conference play, the grid below should be helpful. The average efficiency for the conference is 1.018 (or 101.8 points per 100 possessions) — conference games only. By comparing each team’s offensive and defensive efficiency to the conference average (average for all conference games), I was able to determine whether the team had a “better than average” offense or defense (or both or neither). The grid below confirms the narrative of the conference season…

…with a few twists and insights. While two of the three “Good/Good” teams, Xavier and Temple, are entirely predictable, those who wonder why Richmond, despite preseason predictions, has struggled to secure their place in the NCAAs, the answer (from the chart) suggests it may have to do with defense. The Spiders have provided enough offense, but have struggled defensively in several conference games this season (Xavier, Temple and at George Washington). Through 14 conference games the Spiders are ranked #10 in shot defense (eFG%) and #9 in defensive rebounding, two factors that hurt when matching up with Xavier and Temple in particular. The key to the Bonnies revival this season is offense, while Rhode Island’s late season resugence has come through defense. The oddest team on the grid is George Washington. The Colonials tout an 8-6 record through 14 conference games, yet register below average (“Bad/Bad”) in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The paradox is resolved by noting that Coach Hobbs’ club as won a number of close conference games, two with La Salle (72-67 & 82-80), versus Saint Louis (52-46) and at Charlotte (73-67) for example, while also losing by double digits to Temple (41-57), at Duquesne (59-84) and at Richmond (58-68). Consistency matters too, it seems.

Power Rankings

The top team is Xavier. The Muskies settled it on the floor of the Consol Arena Sunday with a comfortable win over Duquesne, who dropped to #4 in the conference “record rankings.” Oddly, the bottom spot was also settled on the court, on Sunday and also with the host taking the loss. Saint Joseph‘s will now battle with Charlotte for the last spot in the first round of the A-10 Conference Tournament. Rhode Island also had a good week, while Dayton did not. Those developments are also reflected in the conference rankings and this week’s power rankings.

1. Xavier (22-6, 13-1) #23 AP

Last Week: 2/27 @Dayton 66-62

Next Week: 3/2 vs. Charlotte, 3/5 @St. Louis

Xavier continues to roll, pushing Dayton away 66-62 in a late season game that has become a conference television event. Tu Holloway again posted game-high points, 26 this time, as the Musketeers completed their sweep of the Flyers. The X-men moved up to #23 in the latest AP poll (Monday 2/28). In retrospect, the late season road game at Georgia was a very smart scheduling move. Coach Chris Mack‘s squad has games against Charlotte and a visit to Saint Louis to finish the week. Should Xavier drop both games, the #1 seed in Atlantic City would most likely go to Temple. Given the 49ers and Billikens have a combined 7-21 conference record however, those chances are pretty small (a quick log5 calculation puts the probabilities of winning both games at 70% — very, very likely). Go 1-1 and Xavier will still take the #1 seed by virtue of their holding the tie breaker over Temple. For a team that looked like their season was over on January 6, Xavier’s comeback is remarkable and a tribute to the coaching staff and players.

2. Temple (22-6, 12-2)

Last Week: 2/23 @Duke 61-78, 2/26 @George Washington 57-41

Next Week: 3/2 @Massachusetts, 3/5 vs. La Salle

A 1-1 week with a 17-point loss at Duke was the lowlight to Temple’s next-to-last week of the regular season play. Lavoy Allen took his second Player of the Week citation from the conference. The Owls are adjusting to life without Michael Eric. Temple has two conference games this week. They travel to Massachusetts for a game with the Minutemen on Wednesday, then back home for the regular season closer with Big 5 rival La Salle. A 2-0 week is very probable (the log5 probability per Ken Pomeroy is 78.9%, very likely). The Owls own the tie-breaker over Richmond, so a 1-1 week most likely still earns them the #2 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

3. Duquesne (17-10, 9-5)

Last Week: 2/23 vs. Rhode Island 76-77, 2/26 @St. Louis 51-62

Next Week: 3/2 vs. St. Bonaventure, 3/5 @Richmond

The Dukes ran their losing streak to three through the games of last week. After an 8-0 start to conference play, Duquesne has logged a 1-5 record in conference play. Talk of an NCAA bid (remote short of an outstanding record — 14 or more wins for example — in conference play), vanished with their loss to Xavier on February 13, the Dukes nevertheless hold a #3 in the NIT field per The Bracket Project and an #8 seed per John Templon’s computer projection. Templon’s #8 seed puts the Dukes on the NIT bubble, something that could be addressed with at least one win in games of the last week of conference play. Ron Everhart and the Dukes host the Bonnies on Wednesday, then take to the road to close out the regular season in Richmond on Saturday. The Dukes have lost out on the last bye seed in Atlantic 10 Tournament, but even if they log another 0-2 week (not probable) they will host a first round A-10 Tournament game. No question Duquesne fans have to be disappointed with the team’s play over the last six games (a -0.020 net efficiency and 0.440 Pythagorean Winning Percentage), the good news is wins away from the Palumbo this season. The 2010 Dukes logged a 3-8 (0.273) record in away and neutral games that included a net efficiency of -0.102. This season Duquesne has a 0.093 net efficiency reflected in their 8-7 (0.533) record.

4. Richmond (22-7, 11-3)

Last Week: 2/26 @Charlotte 72-59

Next Week: 3/2 @Saint Joseph’s, 3/5 vs. Duquesne

Richmond closed their series with Charlotte with a 13 point road win. The Spiders have locked down at least a #4 seed in Atlantic City, bypassing the first round game for the second consecutive season, irrespective of how they play against Duquesne. A worst case for Coach Mooney’s team is an 0-2 week with a corresponding 2-0 from Rhode Island, in which case the Runnin’ Rams would take the #3 seed and push the Spiders down to a #4 seed (with a semi-final game versus Xavier, should both survive the quarter final round on Friday). A relatively unlikely possibility however, since the Spiders have a two loss edge over Rhode Island and play 3-11 Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday, a game Pomeroy projects as a win to a 80% probability. While Richmond has had some inconvenient timing with home games this season (Bucknell, Rhode Island and Xavier ring a bell?) and the Dukes have improved away from Palumbo this season, the Spiders have to be favored to close out the regular season with a win and a 13-3 conference record because Richmond is a consensus bubble team for the NCAAs right now, and finishing with a good run can only help their chances. Bracketology 101 has Richmond in as an #11 seed (last eight in territory), while RTC’s Zach Hayes has Richmond (just barely) out.

5. Rhode Island (18-10, 9-5)

Last Week: 2/23 @Duquesne 77-76, 2/26 @Fordham 90-58

Next Week: 3/2 vs. George Washington, 3/5 @St. Bonaventure

Rhode Island logged a 2-0 week to bounce back yet again and leapfrog the Flyers in my power ranking. The road win over slumping Duquesne gives Jim Barron‘s team the tie-breaker over the Dukes — both share #4 in the conference standings through March 1. Fourth place is the last bye seed in Atlantic City, and would allow the Runnin’ Rams to rest through the front end of next week, when eight of the conference’s 14 teams will go head-to-head one last time to decide who goes on to spend the weekend in Atlantic City, NJ. Rhodi’s last two will not be easy, hosting George Washington on Wednesday and traveling to St. Bonaventure on Saturday. Both the Bonnies and Colonials have improved with more season play. Sweep and Rhode Island has the last bye seed irrespective of other outcomes. Lose one or (horrors…) both, and final standings get complicated. Though an NCAA invitation will only come should the Runnin’ Rams run the table in Atlantic City, they are very much in play for an NIT berth, currently seeded #8 in both The NIT Bracket Project and John Templon’s computerized projection Rhode Island is on the (NIT) bubble, but a second 20 win season and strong finish in conference play should secure them a place in the field of 32.

6. Dayton (19-10, 7-7)

Last Week: 2/27 vs. Xavier 62-66

Next Week: 3/2 vs. Saint Louis, 3/5 @George Washington

Dayton logged an 0-1 week and dropped back to a 0.500 record in conference play. The Flyers, currently in a three-way tie for #7 (Massachusetts holds the tie-breaker), have an opportunity to move up to sole possession of #6 if they can beat both Saint Louis and George Washington to close out conference play. The Colonials have not been dominant at home during conference play (a 0.013 net efficiency for their seven conference home games), but the Flyers have been something less than Road Warriors themselves, logging an anemic -0.018 net efficiency in seven conference road games. Pomeroy’s log5 projection narrowly gives the game to the Flyers.

7. George Washington (15-13, 8-6)

Last Week: 2/23 vs. Charlotte 74-57, 2/26 vs. Temple 41-57

Next Week: 3/2 @Rhode Island, 3/5 vs. Dayton

The Colonials beat Charlotte on Wednesday, but lost (predictably) to Temple Saturday. This last week could be a Statement Week for Coach Karl Hobbs’ squad. Both games are with NIT teams from 2010, and teams close to the sixth ranked (in conference standings) Colonials. Take both and GW has assured themselves of home court advantage for the first round of conference play. Lose both and GWU closes the regular season with a 0.500 records, both in conference (8-8) and overall (15-15).

8. St. Bonaventure (15-12, 7-7)

Last Week: 2/23 vs. Fordham 82-63, 2/26 @Saint Joseph’s 65-79

Next Week: 3/2 @Duquesne, 3/5 vs. Rhode Island

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies thumped Fordham, but lost by 14 to struggling Saint Joseph’s. Though finishing the regular season above 0.500 and assuring themselves of at least a first round game in the Atlantic 10 Tournament has to be gratifying, locking down a homecourt advantage for the tournament has been squandered with the Saint Joseph’s loss. The last two games are interesting because both Duquesne and Rhode Island are tied for #4 in the conference standings and in the conversation for an NIT berth. Win both and the Bonnies will most likely tie for #6 in the conference standings and grab the #7 seed (and home court advantage) for the first round of the A-10 tournament (and play St. Louis). Win neither and St. Bonaventure will do no worse than last season’s 7-9, a #9 seed and trip to Washington DC for a first round tournament game at George Washington.

9. Massachusetts (15-12, 7-7)

Last Week: 2/23 vs. Saint Joseph’s 69-51, 2/27 @La Salle 49-72

Next Week: 3/2 vs. Temple, 3/5 @Fordham

The Minutemen posted another 1-1 week, beating Saint Joseph’s by two and dropping a 130point decision on the road to La Salle. Best case scenario for Derek Kellogg‘s squad is a 9-7 finish and a #6 place tie with Dayton. UMass holds the tie-breaker, which would give the Minutemen the home court for a first round game versus Saint Louis, a team they lost to during the season. A more likely 1-1 week would probably put UMass in tie for #7, good for the #8 seed and a first round game (at home) versus (most likely) St. Bonaventure.

10. La Salle (13-16, 5-9)

Last Week: 2/27 vs. Massachusetts 72-49

Next Week: 3/2 vs. Fordham, 3/5 @Temple

The Explorers logged a 1-0 week, beating Massachusetts in convincing. The losing streak stops at three games. Best finish for the Explorers at this point would give them a win over Big 5 rival Temple (and level their season series at 1 apiece) and a #10 seed for the A-10 tournament. Dr. Giannini’s squad would most likely travel to Massachusetts for a first round game with the Minutemen, a team that beat them by 23 last week. A more likely scenario has La Salle finishing conference play with a 6-10 record, but still with a claim to the #10 seed in the tournament.

11. Saint Louis (11-17, 5-9)

Last Week: 2/26 vs. Duquesne 62-51

Next Week: 3/2 @Dayton, 3/5 vs. Xavier

The Billikens posted a 1-0 week, complements of an 11 point win over fading Duquesne and a Rookie of the Week effort from Dwayne Evans. Finishing out with Dayton and Xavier is a tough road for Rick Majerus‘ charges. No doubt the schedule-makers anticipated a Mitchell and Reed-led team would challenge the Musketeers and Flyers for a piece of the conference elite. The late season games should be a valuable experience for the freshmen and sophomore-heavy team. Something they can build on for next season. Worst case, the Bills drop both and draw the #11 seed for the A-10 Conference Tournament. They will most likely travel to Dayton or Duquesne for a first-round tournament game.

12. Charlotte (10-18, 2-12)

Last Week: 2/23 @George Washington 57-74, 2/26 vs. Richmond 59-72

Next Week: 3/2 @Xavier, 3/5 vs. Saint Joseph’s

Another 0-2 week has extended coach Alan Major‘s losing streak to six. Prospects to break the run at six are slim as Charlotte takes to the road for a game with Xavier Wednesday. Prospects are a bit better on Saturday, as the 49ers host Saint Joseph’s. The last ticket to the first round of conference tournament play is on the line.

13. Saint Josephs (8-20, 3-11)

Last Week: 2/23 @Massachusetts 51-69, 2/26 vs. St. Bonaventure 79-65

Next Week: 3/2 vs. Richmond, 3/5 @Charlotte

The Hawks logged their second consecutive 20 loss season during the course of a 1-1 week. Langston Galloway earned his fourth Rookie of the Week citation (shared with Saint Louis forward Dwayne Evans). Looking ahead, beating Richmond, improbable (about a 20% probability per Ken Pomeroy), would nevertheless assure the Hawks of a first round game in the A-10 Tournament. Should they lose, their road game with Charlotte will decide who gets the last ticket to the A-10’s first round, and one last game for the season.

14. Fordham (6-20, 0-14)

Last Week: 2/23 @St. Bonaventure 63-82, 2/26 vs. Rhode Island 58-90

Next Week: 3/2 @La Salle, 3/5 vs. Massachusetts

Fordham’s winless string runs to 14 in conference play, with an 0-2 week. The probabilities (per Ken Pomeroy) have climbed to an ominous 59.9%. The Rams are staring at a two season winless run in conference.

A Look Ahead

No conference titles on the line this week, and in retrospect, it seems the schedule-makers in September overestimated Saint Louis and Dayton, while underestimating Rhode Island. Places #1 and #14, however, are the only two that are absolutely settled going into the last week of conference play. Virtually every other place will be settled by play either Wednesday or Saturday. The season will end Saturday for those teams finishing #13 and #14. At the bottom of the conference Saint Joseph’s and Charlotte will most likely settle who gets the last berth in the first round in Halton Arena, Charlotte Saturday.

The last A-10 Conference Tournament bye seed (#4) is still in play, with Rhode Island and Duquesne the primary candidates. Both will play St. Bonaventure this last week of the season, so the Bonnies, who have no hope of finishing higher than #7, can play the spoiler. Of particular interest is the Wednesday game between Duquesne and St. Bonaventure, to be played in Pittsburgh. The Bonnies beat the Dukes in Olean early last month, the loss that started the Dukes’ fall from grace. Places #5 through #10 will also be settled on the court this week, with Dayton, George Washington, St. Bonaventure, Massachusetts, along with Duquesne and Rhode Island all having a stake in the outcome. St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island and George Washington have games with two teams ranked in that group, several with each other (Rhode Island-St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island-GWU). Of interest is Dayton’s Saturday game with George Washington, as the winner will hold the tie-breaker over the other in the event Rhode Island loses to George Washington.

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