Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on January 13th, 2015

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 @vtbnblog.

How Last Week’s Games Determined Which Teams to Watch

Games last week confirmed that three undefeated teams — Virginia Commonwealth, Dayton and Rhode Island — have emerged as the teams to beat, while three others –Fordham, St. Louis and Saint Joseph’s — will struggle for the next nine weeks. For our three winless teams, the fact that each has played at least one contest against the group of VCU, Dayton and Rhode Island means there is a clear separation between those three and the other 11 teams in the conference. Saint Joseph’s third loss was, for example, to Duquesne, which carries two losses of its own (Dayton and Rhode Island). Phil Martelli’s squad may spring a surprise or two in February, but the youthful Hawks still have a lot to learn. Saint Louis lost a lot to graduation but a preseason shoulder separation to forward Grandy Glaze took even more experience away from Jim Crews’s team. Glaze had surgery last week to correct the separation and will not play again this season. Fordham’s points for/against margin is running at -36 through three games (-12 per game), a clear indication that the Rose Hill Rams are still “rebuilding” well into Tom Pecora’s fifth season. Their prognosis is not good.

Archie Miller might be the most important returnee of the entire A10 conference. (AP)

Archie Miller’s Dayton club in right in the mix. (AP)

Virginia Commonwealth, which beat Davidson last weekend, faces a road challenge at Rhode Island this week and it will also get a visit from George Washington before the end of the month. Those three games represent the Rams’ biggest tests until the middle of February. Win those two and it is reasonable to think that the Rams could be 11-0 in conference play when they pay GW a return date. Dayton beat St. Bonaventure by 17 points, negating the Bonnies’ height advantage with a scorching 14-of-24 night from beyond the arc. The Flyers will face a Davidson squad on January 20 that also lives and dies by the three. A win at Davidson and at UMass beyond that would mean coach Archie Miller’s team could also enter February undefeated (8-0) in conference play and in good shape for an NCAA bid. Rhode Island, the least experienced of the three top-tier teams (average 1.4 years of experience, ranked #267 nationally), has the toughest path through the rest of the month, with games versus VCU and Massachusetts this week followed by a home date with George Washington on January 31. Win those three and the chances are good that the Rams will also sport an 8-0 conference record going into February. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 11.13.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 13th, 2012

  1. Usually the NCAA announcements of future NCAA Tournament sites do not generate much fanfare, but yesterday’s announcement of the 2014 and 2015 sites appears to be an exception. The big direct news is, of course, that the NCAA Tournament will be coming back to Madison Square Garden for the first time since 1961. The big indirect news is that the NCAA did not award New Jersey a single game, which appears to be a continuation of their opposition against the legalization of sports betting within the state. Outside of that the only particularly noteworthy selection is the Carrier Dome for 2015 East Regional because it would eliminate the Orange from the East Region that year.
  2. Despite cancellations of two of the three events this weekend (and the third event being played only after a delay) the powers that be have decided to bring back the Carrier Classic in 2013. Citing an engineering solution that will fix the condensation/dew problem (we are imaging something like those anti-condensation water bottles) the organizers plan to keep the event in Charleston, South Carolina, on the USS Yorktown. As we said yesterday in this space if the promoters want to recognize military members there are ways other than playing on a naval ship. Hopefully the organizers will realize that at some point soon.
  3. With all the data of one game played for most teams the new polls came out and frankly we don’t particularly care, but what we do care about is the return of Poll Attacks from Gary Parrish, who took the opportunity to pan the rankings submitted by Ron Morris, a journalist from Columbia, South Carolina (his full rankings here). We can’t get too worked up by any rankings this early in the season and Morris is probably more interested in college football right now, but when you leave Syracuse out of your top 25 we have to question whether you are paying attention at all. Our best guess is that he (or his intern) was putting together his Top 25 and simply forgot to include the Orange, but there are nine other teams where he either has them the highest or lowest in the AP poll so either he has very different views on how the season has played out so far or he just has not been paying any attention.
  4. We usually do not notice NBA Draft boards this early in the season, but the reaction of several draft analysts to the performance of Alex Len caught our eye. We are not sure how to go back and track previous mock drafts on some sites, but from what we remember Len was a borderline lottery pick coming into the season, which is where DraftExpress had him on their 2013 mock draft from November 1. Now at least two sites — ESPN’s Top 100 (#5) and (#7) — have placed him up much higher with updates after Len’s opener against Kentucky. We understand Len’s potential — athletic 7-footers are hard to find — we found a few of the comments in Chad Ford’s update amusing (sorry, ESPN Insider so if you don’t have access you will just have to trust us) where he said “Len made himself a lot of money on Friday” while commenting on his inconsistency. He also mentioned in his last update one month ago that if Len improved this season he “has a decent chance of cracking the lottery”. Perhaps Ford and the other NBA Draft analysts are right, but it seems like we would want to see a lot more consistency out of Len before saying he has essentially doubled the value of his rookie contract after one admittedly excellent game.
  5. By the time you are reading this we are already several hours into ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon. You have probably seen several guides telling you how to survive 24 hours of basketball mostly from people who might only be awake that long once a year at most. We are going to give you a little professional advice coming from a place where we are awake working for well over 24 hours on a not infrequent basis: pace yourself (don’t get too worked up over early games), eat small meals (people who stay awake for long periods routinely can get away with eating big meals, but most people will pass out soon after), don’t rely on caffeine (if you rely on it routinely to get through the day then you might need it, but most people should save it for emergencies), and don’t put yourself in a position to sleep (once your head hits that pillow you are done). Good luck and enjoy the games.
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Morning Five: 07.12.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 12th, 2012

  1. Last night featured the annual ESPYs in prime time, and although the host of the event, Rob Riggle, struggled through numerous cricket-chirping moments, we still managed to sit through it. College hoops had a number of good candidates as potential winners (as we handicapped last week), but the crowdsourcing style of the event ensured that few were were validated. The Unibrow was up for several awards, including Best Breakthrough Athlete (which went to Jeremy Lin), Best Male College Athlete (Robert Griffin III, which is reasonable even if we disagree), and Best Team (even Big Blue Nation couldn’t overcome the Miami Heat). Perhaps the two awards that bothered us most were Coach K’s snub in Best Record-Breaking Performance (sorry, but a single-season NFL passing record doesn’t trump 900+ wins over a career) and Best Upset (how do the LA Kings outdo Norfolk State, a MEAC team, downing a team in the conversation for a #1 seed? Ridiculous.). The one silver lining for our game was that Christian Watford’s game-winning three to lift Indiana over #1 Kentucky back in December was chosen as Best Play of the Year.  Oh well — that’s the nature of the event — fan voting. The women’s game, as an aside, cleaned up with Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award (well deserved) and Baylor’s Brittney Griner winning both Best Female Athlete and Best Female College Athlete of the Year.
  2. We know that Mike Krzyzewski may not have had a good enough year to win Best Record-Breaking Performance, but he’s more than good enough to lead Team USA into the 2012 Olympics in a matter of a few weeks from now. Interestingly enough, Team USA will scrimmage John Calipari’s Dominican Republic team tonight, but the real test for him and his charges is to come together as a team in the next few weeks so as to bring home another gold medal for USA Basketball. Dan Wolken writes that Coach K has had to take a different tack than he has at Duke in coaching the elite group of players he has on this team, and that, frankly, he’s a much more likable person in this setting than he is in Durham. It makes sense when you listen to Krzyzewski in any interview talk about his “kids” — his Blue Devils — but he also knows that the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and the rest are grown men who don’t need to be publicly protected or coddled. He’s not been so successful over these many years by not having a keen sense of that very thing — this is yet another example.
  3. It’s been a week of coaching extensions, and Wednesday kept the rally going with the news that Quinnipiac’s Tom Moore recently received a one-year extension to his deal that will keep him under contract until 2016-17. In five seasons in Hamden, his teams have performed admirably well, going 93-65 with three invitations to postseason tournaments. At a NEC school, any postseason appearance is a cause for celebration, so even thought there haven’t been any NCAA bids in that period, a series of NIT/CIT/CBI isn’t too bad. Of course, if or when Jim Calhoun over in Storrs ever retires, the former Connecticut assistant Moore would already have his vehicle GPS set with the directions.
  4. The nation’s top recruit in the Class of 2013 has narrowed his list down to only 10 schools. Jabari Parker used Twitter (what else?) to announce his revised list on Wednesday night, and here are the lucky suitors (he says they’re in no particular order): UK, Stanford, Michigan State, Kansas, Florida, Duke, BYU, Georgetown, DePaul, UNC. The Chicago native certainly has an interesting mix at play here, and perhaps most notably Illinois is no longer on his list. Aside from four of the top six programs of all-time (sorry, Indiana and UCLA), Michigan State, Florida and Georgetown are unsurprising choices. Stanford is clearly the academic choice, BYU is the religious one, and DePaul is throwing a bone to the homeys. If he really is the best high school prospect since LeBron (or Greg Oden), the school that gets him will have a tremendous shot at the Final Four during his only season on campus.
  5. Finally, ESPN announced its 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon lineup on Wednesday, and although the Champions Classic games involving Michigan State-Kansas and Duke-Kentucky are the monsters, there are as always a number of other interesting matchups. WVU visiting Spokane to tip things off, followed by a Davidson trip to The Pit will be fun, but Harvard going to Amherst to take on UMass and a battle of blue-blooded mid-majors in Cincinnati are also well worth skipping out on work. Maybe there’s more coming in the next few months, but in past years there were multiple games broadcast in the evening hour slot, so hopefully ESPN will fill in the blanks a little more just in case one of those Champions Classic games isn’t worth the time.

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Morning Five: 11.15.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 15th, 2011

SPONSORED: Rush the Court is pleased to bring you a one-day fantasy college basketball league courtesy of to tip off the season. The league, which is completely free to enter, starts TONIGHT involving several teams — Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State, Duke, Florida, Ohio State, Miami (FL), Rutgers — and features $200 in prizes. Even better, if you beat our trained monkey that we’ve assigned to make our picks (username: RTCmonkey), you’ll win even more. Test your college hoops knowledge to win! Click here to enter.

  1. Maybe you’ve forgotten or maybe you’re just dropping by, but today is pretty much a national holiday around these parts. One of ESPN’s better ideas, the 24-Hour Tip-Off Marathon, tipped off at Midnight ET last night in Spokane and is currently plowing its way through sunrise in the eastern time zone after stopovers in California and Hawaii overnight. Of course, the late night and morning games are mere appetizers to a $50 steak dinner coming up this evening when we’ll be rewarded with two games from the Champions Classic (Duke vs. Michigan State and Kentucky vs. Kansas) and a Top Ten matchup between Florida and Ohio State in Columbus. From Coach K’s pursuit of win #903 to the fascinating development of Cal’s young Cats to the return of OSU’s Jared Sullinger for a second season, storylines abound on this day. If you’re lucky enough to not have to work on a random Tuesday in November (hint, hint), strap yourselves in for a smorgasbord of college basketball a full week before you’re legally allowed to stuff your face.
  2. Of course, the top storyline of the day remains Mike Krzyzewski‘s chance tonight to become the sport’s all-time wins leader in Division I men’s basketball. Coming into the Champions Classic game against Michigan State this evening, Coach K sits tied with his former coach and mentor, Bob Knight, at 902 total wins, and if you believe in Vegas odds, he has a 72% chance of doing the trick tonight in Madison Square Garden. We’re sure that the testimonials for K’s greatness will come fast and furious all day long, but here’s two good interviews to get you started.  Former Duke superstar and all-around good guy Grant Hill spoke with TSN’s Ryan Fagan recently about K’s far-reaching positive influence on him, and recent graduate Nolan Smith spoke with TSN’s Mike DeCourcy about some of the life lessons K imparted to him as a father figure. Expect to see many more of these in the next 24-48 hours.
  3. What UCLA head coach Ben Howland needs is more attitude problems on his team. Let’s recap recent events, shall we? After the vaunted Class of 2008 recruiting class nearly brought his program to its knees through various busts, poor attitudes and problem children, it appeared that the Bruins may have been turning the corner by shedding itself of most of those players (Jerime Anderson, currently on suspension, remains). Then, over the weekend, sophomore center Joshua Smith tweeted that his team had lost to a bunch of “bums” after an opening night loss to Loyola Marymount — but perhaps worse than that, he ‘lol’-ed about it, suggesting an alarming irreverence from a player whom Howland needs to stay on the floor (he contributed a paltry 5/4 in only 16 minutes of action). The latest kerfuffle involves UCLA’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, Reeves Nelson, a player whom an ESPN report alleges is causing problems within the UCLA team as a result of his attitude. After skipping practice Monday, he has been suspended for tonight’s game versus Middle Tennessee State and his long-term future with the team appears in doubt. What in the name of the Wizard is going on in Westwood?
  4. Seth Davis gives us his Hoops Thoughts for the opening weekend of college basketball and his first point about the ridiculous (and slippery) decals stuck to the floors of the various pre-conference events around the country is a salient one.  As he points out, Michigan State’s Branden Dawson is only the latest of disasters averted, as his right knee buckled on a Quicken Loans decal for the Carrier Classic, and for a few minutes it appeared as if the injury may have been much worse than it was. What’s amazing about this phenomenon is that college athletics has all kinds of rules meant to protect players in its various sports from injury, and yet even after years of complaining from coaches and media alike, the decals stay. Here’s an idea that seems a reasonable compromise — use the yellow-line first down technology in football to digitally layer the advertising images onto the floor. That way, the dollars that support these events remain secured, but not at the expense of potentially losing a player to severe injury. What are we missing here?
  5. Perhaps not since Damon Bailey was recruited to Indiana in the late 1980s has a single player held so much hope and promise for the Crimson and Cream denizens of the Hoosier State.  But freshman Cody Zeller represents a new beginning to many IU fans wishing for a return to the glory days of Indiana basketball under the General and even before him, Branch McCracken. Basketball Prospectus takes a closer look at the enormous expectations that are being placed on the young player, effectively (and graphically) showing that he faces perhaps more homegrown pressure than any other major recruit in the last four years. Can’t say we disagree with the premise, but it’s a little unfair that so much is riding on a young man who may need some time to develop into an effective player at the Big Ten level.
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