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. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Mid-Major Disadvantage: The Power of the Power Conferences

Posted by Shane McNichol on February 25th, 2016

For the first time in recent memory, Gonzaga is in jeopardy of missing the NCAA Tournament. Throughout a season in which the Zags began in the top 10, they have experienced a variety of miscues (home losses) and misfortunes (Przemek Karnowski’s injury) that have resulted in a spot squarely on the bubble. Their ups and downs this year will lead the upcoming HBO documentary following Mark Few’s team around this month to look less like Ballers and more like Game of Thrones (For those without a friend’s HBO Go password, find some new friends.)

Kyle Wiltjer's Team Has Not Had the Season It Expected. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Kyle Wiltjer’s Team Has Not Had the Season It Expected. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

In eight games against the KenPom top 60, Gonzaga has gone 1-7 with four of those losses coming at The Kennel. Conversely, the Bulldogs are a perfect 20-0 in the rest of their games. In determining their status on the bubble, the Zags are in a difficult spot because of a combination of zero signature wins without any corresponding bad losses. Gonzaga’s national brand name makes it unique in how it can schedule, but most other mid-major programs don’t get the chance to notch resume-building wins nearly as often as their power conference peers. Michigan, one of the Zags’ primary competitors on the bubble, will play 13 games against the top 60 this season, including six opportunities at home (five games against Big Ten teams). A different mid-major on the bubble cannot use multiple opportunities late in the season to enhance its resume — it can only avoid bad losses.

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Rhode Island Loses Hassan Martin in an Injury-Filled Season

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on February 25th, 2016

The announcement from Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley on Wednesday was short but hardly sweet: Starting forward Hassan Martin is done for the rest of the regular season. The consensus all-conference player has tendinitis in his right knee that caused him to log only 10 minutes in the Rams’ 11-point loss at Davidson on Tuesday, and although it’s unclear how long he’ll be out, the school does not expect him back in action prior to the start of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Coupled with the loss of EC Matthews in Rhode Island’s first game of the season, Hurley has now lost the services of the two players he was most counting on to propel his team into the conference elite.

It was Bad News Wednesday for Hassan Martin and Rhode Island. (Getty)

It was Bad News Wednesday for Hassan Martin and Rhode Island. (Getty)

Hurley retooled his offense to cover for the loss of Matthews, turning to the trio of Fore McGlynn, a fifth-year senior from Towson, and two developing sophomores, Jarvis Garrett and Jared Terrell. Martin, who shared frontcourt playing time with transfer Kuran Iverson, fifth-year senior Earl Watson and freshman Nicola Akele, had already missed two previous games with an ankle sprain, while Garrett and Iverson missed games because of injury back in January. Although Hurley has described his 15-13 squad as exceptionally “resilient,” the loss of Martin for at least the next few games has drastically lowered expectations for the home stretch. Touted as the sleeper team during Atlantic 10 Media Day last October, the Rams will do well to finish .500 in league play and earn the #7 seed at the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

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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.  Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC Top 25: Week 12 Edition

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 9th, 2016

It’s only fitting that in a college basketball season immersed with parity, there is little consensus anywhere in the RTC 25 as we head into the home stretch of the regular season. Look to the top of the poll and you’ll find three different teams receiving first-place votes; elsewhere in the Top 25, opinions range widely on perennial powers North Carolina (voted anywhere from #2 to #9), Arizona (some didn’t rank the Wildcats, others put them as high as #11), and Kentucky (votes ranged from #14 to out of the poll). There’s even a split opinion on perhaps the bluest blood of all, as Duke finds itself right on the boundary of ranked and unranked. The Blue Devils’ Monday night victory over #14 Louisville will help edge them towards the better side of that cutoff, but note that these rankings were put together before all Monday action. Besides the boost for Duke, this also means that #1 Oklahoma won’t get bonus points for surviving #23 Texas late Monday. The Sooners kept pace for a night, but Saturday’s visit from #9 Kansas is one of a number of matchups this week that has the potential to shake up the polls once again. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

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Checking In On…The Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on January 20th, 2016

Three Thoughts About The Week That Was

  1. The conference is, with two exceptions, behaving. A glance at the offensive (points per possession scored) and defensive efficiencies (points per possession allowed) for the first two weeks of conference play shows that teams with losing records (Richmond excepted), show a negative efficiency difference (points per possession scored is less than points per possession allowed). Through the first five conference games the spread of winning and losing teams, point per possession scored vs allowed, and the efficiency differential is relatively symmetrical (Richmond again excepted). This is not typical for this point in the conference race. What we do know is that luck (good and bad) has had a small impact and that freshmen and transfers continue to have an impact on scoring and defense through the first two months (and 16+ games) of the season. Table01160118
  2. Virginia Commonwealth is building its case for an NCAA bid. With a crushing 88-54 home win over Fordham Wednesday night, followed by a crucial 94-89 overtime win at Richmond Saturday, the Rams have improved to 13-5 overall and extended their conference-best record to 5-0. The Rams have a one-game cushion over Dayton, Saint Joseph’s, and St. Bonaventure. If chalk prevails, Will Wade‘s squad will not be seriously challenged until February. The schedule-makers have been kind to VCU, as their toughest tests to this point have been Saint Joseph’s (85-82 winners on 1/5) at home and a height-challenged St. Bonaventure (1/23) team in Olean. The real work begins with a game at Davidson (1/29) and a home date with George Washington (2/6). It builds to the closing fortnight as their last three opponents, George Washington (2/27, away), Davidson (3/2, home) and Dayton (3/5, away), should be fellow contenders for the regular season title. Credit senior Mel Johnson and fifth year senior Kory Billbury, who have combined for 43 percent of the team’s three-pointers. Junior center Mo Alie-Cox and JuCo transfer Ahmed Hamdy Mohamed have also formed a nice tag team in the low post in dominating the offensive boards. Alie-Cox and Mohamed have connected on 55 percent of their two-point attempts. This inside-outside combination is efficient enough to negate the loss of junior wing Jordan Burgess, who has been sidelined with a broken finger since early January. Burgess should be back before the end of the season, so there will be time to work him back into the rotation before the conference tournament in Brooklyn. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on December 17th, 2015

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

Is the Atlantic 10 Fading?

Did Feast Week foretell a conference-wide stumble? After compiling a 36-10 (0.783) record through the season’s first 10 days, Atlantic 10 teams cooled off to a still solid 21-10 (0.677) record during the height of the early season invitational tournament events. Rolling into Finals Week (an academic, not an ESPN-inspired, reference), the conference’s December results of 29-19 (0.604) show another decline. The best win in December so far — Dayton‘s 72-67 win at Vanderbilt on December 9 — stands nearly alone among the consensus top seven conferences (AAC, ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC). This month’s games have established that the A-10’s better squads are better than the top seven’s stragglers — George Washington has beaten Penn State (Big Ten) and Rutgers (Big Ten); Fordham demolished St. John’s (Big East); and there have been a number of near-misses. The sheer number of double-figure losses are numerous and troubling for those contemplating four or more bids come March, however. December losses that the Selection Committee may have trouble ignoring should those teams find themselves on the bubble include Richmond’s loss at Florida (12/1), Massachusetts’ loss to Mississippi on a neutral court (12/5), and Davidson’s big loss to North Carolina (12/6).

Mike Lonergan

Mike Lonergan and George Washington have been the class of the A-10 so far. (USA TODAY Sports)

Their Season So Far

Five of the conference’s better postseason prospects …

  • George Washington (#21 AP, 9-1) — The conference’s first team in a Top 25 poll this season (the Colonials are #22 in the USA Today/Coaches Poll) gained some national press when they knocked off ACC preseason favorite Virginia, 73-68, in their second game back on November 13. A five-point loss to #23 Cincinnati in the Barclays Center Classic championship finals remains their only blemish. The Colonials’ resume is heavily sprinkled with teams from the top seven conferences –Tennessee (SEC), Seton Hall (Big East), Penn State, Rutgers (Big Ten) and South Florida (AAC) — all wins. Virginia and Cincinnati are favored to hear the call come Selection Sunday; Tennessee and Seton Hall may find themselves in the conversation by the end of February. With St. Peter’s (NEC) and two more lower division top eight conference teams (Central Florida — AAC and DePaul — Big East) still to play, coach Mike Lonergan’s squad should start their conference slate with a 12-1 record … and a target on their back.

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All Eyes on DeAndre Bembry as Saint Joseph’s Looks to Surprise

Posted by Ray Curren on December 1st, 2015

As you’d expect late in a tie game, veteran Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli drew up a play that heavily involved his best player. After all, junior DeAndre Bembry — whom Florida coach Mike White had just called the day before “their pro” — was the Atlantic 10’s top scorer last season, while also leading the Hawks in rebounds, assists, and steals. But after inbounding the ball, Bembry never came close to touching it, as Martelli’s carefully designed play descended into chaos. The end result, however, made Bembry one of the happiest people in Mohegan Sun Arena, as sophomore teammate Shavar Newkirk found a way to hit an awkward 15-footer with one second remaining to give Saint Joseph’s a 66-64 victory over Old Dominion a week ago Sunday. The win moved the Hawks to 4-1 on the young season, setting up an intriguing matchup with local rival and national power Villanova tonight.

Arguably the Atlantic 10's premier player, Bremby has the Hawks off to a solid start. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

Arguably the Atlantic 10’s premier player, Bembry, with the help of teammates, have the Hawks off to a solid start. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

“We’re winning, so as long as we’re winning, everything is positive,” Bembry said after the win. “I haven’t played my best the last few games, but I’m trying to figure out ways to push through it and help the team win. If I have to play horrible all year and we win, so be it. That’s the thing about last year, we didn’t win. So any way we can win, I’ll take it.” Indeed, Bembry had a heck of an individual season in 2014-15, as the All-Atlantic 10 first teamer was the first ever Saint Joseph’s player to win the conference scoring title. Along the way, his athleticism and well-rounded game left opposing coaches in awe and NBA scouts curious, often conjuring up next-level buzzwords like “versatile” and “wingspan.” (“He’s a lot quicker and athletic than he looked on tape,” White added last Saturday, even after Bembry managed just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting in a loss to Florida.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on November 24th, 2015

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

The Best Kept Secret in Division I

Counting the four games played Monday night, the Atlantic 10 conference has compiled a 40-11 (0.784) record against their opponents through the first two weeks of the season. Every conference schedules its share of cupcakes and the A-10 is no exception, as nearly 38 percent of the slate — with a 15-0 record in those games — comes from conferences ranked in the lower third of Division I and Division II basketball. Versus the seven elite conferences and the A-10’s four fellow basketball-first conferences, league teams have played 25 percent of their schedule and compiled a 10-6 (0.625) record. Results are particularly impressive versus the SEC (2-0), ACC (3-3) and the Big 12 (1-0) Conferences. Distracted by the plethora of upsets, the World Wide Leader gave George Washington’s 73-68 win over then #6 Virginia a little less than a full news cycle before moving on to other upsets.

The Atlantic 10 has started the season off well so far. This week gets a lot tougher for Dan Hurley and Rhode Island - as well as the rest of the A10. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The Atlantic 10 has started the season off well so far. This week gets a lot tougher for Dan Hurley and Rhode Island – as well as the rest of the A-10. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Lacking an early season tournament win — Virginia Commonwealth, the conference flagship since Shaka Smart brought the Rams into the league in 2012-13, took two close losses, the first to Duke by eight points and the second to Wisconsin by one point. Saint Joseph’s split its Hall of Fame slate last weekend, dropping a semifinal game to Florida on Saturday before bouncing back versus Old Dominion in the consolation game Sunday. Dave Paulsen took his George Mason squad to the finals of the Charleston Classic, beating Mississippi and Oklahoma State before losing in the finals, 83-66, to #12 Virginia. Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joseph Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on November 19th, 2015

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

Impressions From the First Week

Mike Lonergan and George Washington picked up one of the bigger wins the A-10 has garnered in recent memory last week.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Mike Lonergan and George Washington picked up one of the bigger wins the A-10 has garnered in recent memory last week. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

  • Best Win For a ProgramGeorge Washington over #6 Virginia. As one of the tip-off games for ESPN’s annual Marathon of Hoops, the George Washington’s win guaranteed that the Colonials — and by association the entire conference — had a full day’s worth of free national publicity. At the very least expect head coach Mike Lonergan’s program to gather a few well deserved votes in next week’s national polls. The Colonials have 27 or so more games to play before Selection Sunday, but if their frontcourt complement of Kevin Larsen, Tyler Cavanaugh and Yuta Wantanabe, along with all-purpose wing Pat Garino, can dominate opponents as well as they did the Cavaliers, expect this squad to be in the thick of the conference race and very much a part of the NCAA conversation. Should Virginia regain its RPI footing, the bonus will extend to the Colonials, and by association, everyone they play on their A-10 slate.
  • Best Win For the ConferenceTie. Davidson over Central Florida and Dayton over Alabama. True, most computer systems rate the Knights and Tide in the mid-100’s and a consensus of previews project them to finish somewhere in the middle third of their respective conferences, but these programs are both in conferences with higher national profiles than the Atlantic 10, which means these wins can only help the league’s overall profile. Dayton’s win over Alabama by 32 points may prove to be a bold statement about the relative health of the Flyers’ program in the absence of Dyshawn Pierre. Along with George Washington, expect both of these teams to be in the hunt for conference honors.

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