Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback on January 23rd, 2014

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.

Bid Talk: 3? 4? 5!?

Two weeks of conference play has scrambled the conference’s NCAA bid picture. Going into conference play, the Atlantic 10 had five teams in the postseason conversation, increasingly a “normal” situation for the A-10. However, five conference games has shuffled the New Year’s pecking order of Massachusetts, Saint Louis, George Washington, Virginia Commonwealth and Dayton (last eight in). The Minutemen picked up their second loss of the season (58-55 at Richmond) after a couple of close calls (with St. Bonaventure and George Mason), as the Billikens edge closer to UMass in the hearts and minds of bracketologists — if not the poll voters (compliments of a strong opening run).

The Saint Louis faithful is gearing up for another run at post season play. (Saint Louis athletics)

The Saint Louis faithful is gearing up for another run at post season play. (Saint Louis athletics)

With the losses of Temple, Xavier, and Butler to other leagues, more than a few publications predicted a step back for the conference’s overall postseason prospects. At this point the conference offers four candidates that will need consistent conference play to maintain their chances. How many bids can the conference get (maximum), and was the non-conference showing strong enough to boost any of the outlier programs into postseason contention (should any of the front runner fade)? Massachusetts (#13 in the January 20 AP poll; #12 in the USA Today/Coaches poll) and St. Louis (#19 AP, #20 in the USA Today/Coaches) are legitimate “High Fliers” that should contend for the conference title and draw NCAA bids with their consistently solid play. The non-conference resumes for George Washington, Virginia Commonwealth and Dayton are good enough, but their conference work could move them out of contention. GW is among those “also receiving votes” from voters in both polls. Note that Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin, the RPI and ESPN (the BPI) all rank five conference teams among their top 60 — see the below table of the consensus top eight conference teams below. Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback on December 19th, 2013

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

Dealing With Expectations

Forgive me if six weeks and 10 games (more or less) into this season I am a little dizzy from all the twists and turns. Most understood Massachusetts would be good, especially with Chaz Williams’ decision to take his last season of eligibility in Amherst, but undefeated? VCU would be nicked in the non-conference schedule — that much was a given — but three losses that include a 14-point loss to Florida State on a neutral court and a loss to Northern Iowa? That is a surprise.

What's new? UMass standout Chaz Williams is having another great season. (AP)

What’s new? UMass standout Chaz Williams is having another great season. (AP)

First Team

  • Chaz Williams (Massachusetts) — It may be hard to believe, but the unanimous pick has actually exceeded expectations. Williams has led the Minutemen to a 10-0 undefeated start and a #22 ranking in AP’s Top 25. UMass is the only conference representative.
  • Dwayne Evans (Saint Louis) — The Billikens’ slashing forward’s sluggish offensive numbers mirror the larger problems facing St. Louis this season. Evans can score inside as his 51 percent two-point completion rate attests, but absent a consistent long-range scorer, opposing teams find it very easy to stop the Bills — pack the lane and wait for Evans (or guard Jordair Jett) to drive. The stingy defense lives on, Saint Louis is ranked #3 defensively by Ken Pomeroy, but a team-wide three-point drought (Jake Barnett excepted) leaves Jim Crews’ squad with a one-dimensional offense.
  • Tyreek Duren (La Salle) — Hobbled by a troublesome plantar fasciitis condition that dates back to last May, the point guard has to adjust his energy to manage the Explorers’ offense rather than create it through his typical to-the-basket drives. There are many reasons the Explorers are struggling this season and with a better start Dureen’s inability to move laterally and plant for a jumper would be a footnote.
  • Treveon Graham (Virginia Commonwealth) — Graham continues the domination that established him as a first teamer last season. He leads the Rams in scoring (196 points, 16.3 PPG) and combines prolific scoring with efficient scoring, earning a 117.9 offensive rating from Ken Pomeroy. Questions on how to get VCU back on track should not start with Graham. He is on pace to accumulate last season’s numbers, and has improved his defensive rebounding to boot.
  • Juvonte Reddic (Virginia Commonwealth) — VCU’s second leading scorer (140 points, 11.7 points per game, 110.1) and leading rebounder (30-56-86) has stepped back slightly in offensive efficiency, but has improved in block and steal rates and in getting to the line. If his contributions hold steady through the season, Reddic should be in the thick of an All-Conference conversation come March.

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Atlantic 10 Season Recap and Postseason Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 13th, 2013

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.

Tournament Bracket

Untitled

Looking Back

Conference Realignment: Who’s Got Next? A non-story for the entire season, the divorce negotiated between the Catholic 7 and the Conference Formerly Known as the Big East was finalized last week, a development guaranteed to kick off another round of musical partners. The Catholic 7 got custody of the last name (Big East) and the house (an older but stately palace in downtown New York), along with a promise to process the paperwork quickly. The new/old conference needs three more members to share the TV money and national exposure they are rumored to have negotiated with Fox Sports. The yearly payout per team, believed to be just under ten times the per-team amount the Atlantic 10 just agreed to with CBS, should draw interest. Butler and Xavier have been at the center of Catholic 7 alignment rumors since last October. Unlike Temple’s announced exit in February of last season, however, neither school has confirmed – or denied – the rumors. Xavier, a member since 1995-96, would be the second flagship program (behind Temple) to exit the conference in that last 13 months. Butler who twice went to the Final Four within the last five years, has barely had time to unpack before moving on. When given the news of Temple’s exit in February of 2012, commissioner Bernadette McGlade took a proactive tack and had two replacements in place eight weeks into the offseason. Expect her to do the same this off season. George Mason and Wichita State are the two mentioned most by fans and conference followers.

The Best Basketball-Centric Conference? Mountain West fans may disagree, but it seems certain that the Atlantic 10 Conference will send at least five members to the NCAA Tournament, equaling the highest ever achieved (1997 and 1998). Saint Louis, Butler and Virginia Commonwealth are all but certain to receive bids regardless of what happens this weekend, and prospects for Temple and La Salle remain very strong. On top of that, Massachusetts or Xavier could, with strong conference tournament showings, squeeze out an unprecedented sixth bid for the conference, though it seems unlikely.

Power Rankings

The last week of conference play opens with only three conference tournament spots – all three on the sidelines, determined. Others (that Saint Louis will take the #1 seed, Virginia Commonwealth will take #2 and La Salle most likely the #3) seem nearly certain, but note that seeds #4 through #12 are pretty much up for grabs…at least until Wednesday.

Jim Crews can smirk a little after leading the Billikens from afterthought to league champions. (USATSI)

Jim Crews has the right to smirk a little after leading the Billikens to their first regular season title in 42 years. (USATSI)

  1. Saint Louis (24-6, 13-3; #16 AP; Projected NCAA Seed #5) – The Billikens stumbled in the last week versus Xavier, but locked down the #1 seed in Brooklyn by beating La Salle. Off until Friday, coach Jim Crews’ team will meet the winner of the Richmond/Charlotte game (most likely Richmond), and if seed holds, most likely La Salle Saturday (and Virginia Commonwealth on Sunday). On the radar however is the NCAA tournament (yes the Bills are a lock at this point, win or lose Friday) seed. The consensus today is a #4-#5 seed with little prospect of moving up without a slew of early conference tournament losses elsewhere. RTC’s Dan Evans’ early March bracket matched the #5 Bills against #12 seed OVC Champion Belmont. The Bears run and gun, which would make this an interesting matchup.
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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by CNguon on February 20th, 2013

CIO header

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.

*Ed. Note: the statistics in this column were aggregated prior to Tuesday night’s St. Louis-VCU game.

Looking Back

Difference Margins in Conference Games: The offense/defense difference margins are beginning to “behave” as teams with winning records (Charlotte and Temple excepted) have positive difference margins, while teams with losing records (Dayton excepted) have negative difference margins. Temple, with a 5-5 record, has a -0.001, just two one-thousandths under “positive.” Tiers within the winning and losing groups continues to be messy, and occasionally explains why a team is succeeding or failing.

Table01130218

Looking over the “standings” this week a few things jump out…

  • Fordham and Duquesne are losing contact with the rest of the conference, and that includes 3-8 Rhode Island. For the Dukes, with a new coach and a program in disarray, the trend is not surprising as wins are hard to come by. Fordham, coming into the season with senior all-conference forward Chris Gaston and a promising young backcourt, has to be a disappointment to fans and university administrators. Granted, Gaston has struggled with injuries and extended absences, but the current late season fade continues a pattern established over the last five seasons.
What's that you say? Jim Crews and Saint Louis is running away from the rest of the conference. (AP)

What’s that you say? Jim Crews and Saint Louis are running away from the rest of the conference. (AP)

  • Saint Louis appears to be running away from the rest of the league. If the Bilikens’ numbers hold up over the course of this week (they play Butler next, after eviscerating VCU last night), expect coach Jim Crews’ squad to emerge with the #1 seed going into Brooklyn and up in the NCAA field where they are currently seeded in the #9-#11 range.
  • Temple’s -0.001 efficiency margin reflects the fact that the Owls have had a series of one-point decisions (more in Temple’s team report below) against both stronger teams (Charlotte) and weaker teams (Duquesne).

Going, going… The topic touched on during virtually every Division I basketball game over the last week is “Who is in?” usually accompanied by a discussion of bubble teams – right side/wrong side, S-curves and “What happened to…”. Alhough the field is still under construction and opinions vary as to whether the Atlantic 10 will have six bids (Jerry Palm as of February 17) or four (Joe Lunardi and RTC’s own Daniel Evans), there is an emerging consensus that several preview “contenders” are in the field, somewhere on (or near) the bubble and clearly out of the conversation entirely. Some quick takes on the “bubble… sort of’s” and those who are “out”:

  • Charlotte – Jerry Palm lists the 49ers as a #11 seed and well beyond the “Last Four In” category. Daniels lists them on his bubble watch of February 18 while Lunardi remains silent. Can good conference wins versus Butler and Xavier really negate double-figure losses to Richmond, George Washington and Saint Louis? More than any A-10 team not named Temple, winning their last five games going into the conference tournament will make or break this resume. 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 Summer Updates: Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 3rd, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Atlantic 10 correspondent, Joe Dzuback. You can read more of his in-depth writing and analysis at Villanova By The Numbers.

Reader’s Take I

Summer Storylines

  • Bobinski to Chair NCAA Selection Committee: While the conference again sent seven teams, half of its membership, to the postseason — three to the NCAA, one to the NIT and three to the CBI, the Final Four runs by Butler (Horizon League) and Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial Athletic Association) overshadowed a showing, Xavier’s loss to Marquette excepted, that exceeded 2010’s NCAA results. The NCAA announced that Xavier Athletic Director Mike Bobinski will succeed Connecticut’s Jeff Hathaway as Chairman of the 2012 NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Bobinski just completed his third year of a five-year term on the Selection Committee. While the Atlantic 10 has been the most successful non-BCS conference in placing teams in the tournament field (with 20 NCAA bids allotted to six teams since 2004), its representatives have tended to draw the short straw when it comes to seeding, and Bobinski will likely lobby hard for that cause.
  • The Coaching Carousel:  The conference had two coaching vacancies during the early phase of the coaching carousel. If the 2010 offseason saw coaching turnovers due to firings, the 2011 offseason saw suitors come to call on the Atlantic 10 coaching fraternity. Tennessee, having fired Bruce Pearl on March 21, made its first call to Xavier to talk with Chris Mack. Mack reportedly turned aside an offer of $2 million per year to coach the Volunteers in favor of staying in Cincinnati with the Musketeers. Richmond’s Chris Mooney signed a 10-year contract extension, his second extension in two years, ending Georgia Tech’s courtship. Mooney’s decision triggered a spate of articles (see “Old coaching assumptions are fading” by Dana O’Neil for example) about non-BCS coaches who pass on BCS offers to stay with their programs. The Yellow Jackets turned their attention to Dayton’s Brian Gregory, who succumbed to the lure of the BCS and packed his bags for Atlanta on March 28. Dayton conducted a six-day search and hired Archie Miller, brother of former Xavier head man Sean Miller, away from Arizona to succeed Gregory. In late April, George Washington’s Athletic Director, Patrick Nero, fired 10-year veteran Karl Hobbs. Nero, who succeeded retiring AD Jack Kvancz on June 30, was hired on April 20, and wasted no time in turning over the men’s basketball staff. Nero reached into his old stomping grounds, the American East Conference, and hired the league’s premier head basketball coach, Mike Lonergan of Vermont, on May 6 to replace Hobbs. The resignation of Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis on May 24 (DeChellis took over the Navy program) triggered a few tense days among the Duquesne faithful as coach Ron Everhart landed an interview for the Happy Valley position. The Dukes exhaled on June 1 when Everhart withdrew his name from consideration in favor of staying with the Pittsburgh school next season.
  • Media Coverage: The Atlantic 10 and ESPN renewed their deal to have eight games (selected by ESPN) televised on either ESPN or ESPN2 in each of the next two seasons. The ESPN networks are committed to broadcasting the Women’s Championship and up to 32 appearances in each of the next two seasons.

Tu Holloway Makes the XU Offense Go

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Atlantic 10 Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. With the A-10 Championship tipping off Tuesday, get up to speed with RTC’s preview and regular season wrap-up.

Postseason Preview

Among the first round games, all played at the campus of the higher seed, the strongest upset candidate is the #8/#9 (of course!) game between #8 host Massachusetts and #9 Dayton. The Flyers have not traveled well this season, accumulating a -0.049 net efficiency in games not played at the UD Arena, but a log5 calculation projects a Dayton win (67%-32% probability). Using overall (unadjusted) offensive and defensive efficiencies, this looks like a close game, +/- 3 points in favor of Dayton. For the other three first round games, the order of probability of an upset is:

  • #6 Rhode Island/#11 St. Louis (50.2-49.7)
  • #7 St. Bonaventure/#10 La Salle (58-42)
  • #5 George Washington/#12 Saint Joseph’s (66-33)

The Xavier/Duquesne side of the bracket looks vulnerable to either a Dayton run or a Duquesne run, though the Dukes, new to the dynamics of a bye seed, may fumble their quarter-final game against (most likely) George Washington. Dayton, a squad that plays inconsistently away from the UD Arena, has nevertheless lost twice to rival Xavier, by margins of five and four points. It is very difficult to beat a closely played rival a third time in the same season. Lacking length in the front court has proven to be a problem lately for the Dukes, but over a short duration tournament like the A-10, it is possible that a series of opponents will become caught up in a pace set by the Dukes and fail to properly exploit Duquesne’s vulnerability. I do not, however, see that as a problem for Xavier, an extremely well managed and prepared team and program.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2010

 

Joe Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 conference.

The Week in the A-10: Invitational Tournaments

When the NCAA rewrote and relaxed the exemption rules for early season invitational tournaments, they expanded the number of tournaments and the number of bids that could be extended. Playing in a mixed field of high-, mid- and low-majors has become the norm rather than the exception in the 15+ tournaments that dot the D-I schedule from roughly the season tip off (the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic) to the end of the calendar year (the Cable Car Classic and ECAC Holiday Tournament for example) but peak over Thanksgiving Weekend. Although the power conferences continue to dominate the invitational seeds, a variety of higher-profile conferences, not among the above “the Red Line” elites, are increasing their own representation. Dan Hanner’s blog, Yet Another Basketball Blog (YABB), lists 18 separate by-invitation-only tournaments, nine of which have an A-10 team in their field this season. I added the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, because it is an exempt tournament (though none of the teams in the field are from above the Red Line conferences), which brings the total to 10 invitational tournaments this season.  That is more invitational tournaments than teams from the Pac-10, the SEC, and the Big Ten are playing in this season. For a conference that has had problems getting home-and-home contracts with brand-name teams, the invitational tournament offers the next best chance as it provides a match on a neutral court. The door is open, how many conference teams walked through?

Overall, the conference racked up a 22-10 (0.643) record in the eight tournaments played so far. If George Washington held a level (1-1) record through the preliminary pod (held outside of Philadelphia), they were consoled with the hosting responsibilities for one of the three consolation sites. The Colonials finished the tournament with an even 2-2 record. Good surprises included the Richmond sweep of the Chicago Invitational that included a win over #8 Purdue in the tournament finals, a Saint Joseph’s sweep of the Philly Hoops Classic that included a win over Big East representative Rutgers and the 3-1 record posted by La Salle in the Cancun Challenge included a win over Big East representative Providence. The most disappointing showings were turned in by Temple at the Old Spice Classic and Charlotte at the Charleston Classic. The Owls dropped two of their three games over Thanksgiving Weekend, one to a very beatable California team from the Pac-10, and the other, a one possession-squeaker, to Texas A&M of the Big 12. Charlotte may still be working out the kinks in rookie coach Alan Major’s systems, but an embarrassing losing margin to George Mason (22 points) and the consolation overtime loss to Coastal Carolina suggest the 49ers have a good deal of work ahead of them. Eight A-10 players were named to All-Tournament Teams, one taking the Tournament MVP.

Power Rankings

The latest round of invitational tournaments has turned the power rankings into scrambled eggs. The A-10 is used to giving, not receiving, upsets in these early season rows.

1. Richmond (4-1)

Last Week: 11/26 vs. Wright State 71-61 @ Chicago, IL (Chicago Invitational Challenge), 11/27 vs. Purdue 65-54 @ Chicago, IL (Chicago Invitational Challenge)

Next Week: 12/1 @ Old Dominion, 12/5 @ Arizona State

The stumble against Iona (hey, it was an away game after all) is all but forgotten by the neutral win over #8 Purdue at the Chicago Invitational Challenge. Spider point guard Kevin Anderson earned Player of the Week honors for his performance at the Chicago Invitational, where the tournament committee recognized his efforts by naming him the Tourney MVP.

2. Xavier (5-1)

Last Week: 11/27 vs. Wofford 94-90 3OT

Next Week: 12/1 @ Miami (OH)

Brad Redford’s absence is felt still, as the Musketeers, according to Ken Pomeroy, have converted only 31.7% of their three point attempts, earning them a #285 ranking (out of 345) among Division 1 teams. The X-men needed three overtime periods (the first triple overtime game since their 2005 loss to Massachusetts in Amherst)  to subdue Wofford, their only opponent last week. Xavier was 4-12 (33.3%) from beyond the arc, 1-7 (14.3%) after the first half. Jamel McLean and Kenny Frease recorded double-doubles, scoring 22 and 12 points respectively with 12 and 18 rebounds apiece.

3Massachusetts (6-0)

Last Week: 11/24 vs. American International (D2) 83-56, 11/27 vs. Holy Cross 83-76

Next Week: 12/1 @ Quinnipiac, 12/4 vs. Boston College

The Minutemen swept the field at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, an event that has grown from a single game (scheduled in Springfield, MA, the birthplace of basketball) to a four-game exempt event. Among the victims were New Mexico State of the WAC and Texas Christian University of the Mountain West (soon to be Big East) Conference. The 6-0 start is the best since the 1995-96 season during John Calipari’s coaching tenure. The Massachusetts faithful have every reason to be optimistic, as senior guard Anthony Gurley now has six consecutive double-figure scoring games — but best of all — the scoring responsibilities have been distributed across the lineup. The sophomore class is providing good support, as forward Sampson Carter has four double-figure scoring nights this season and guard Freddie Riley has three. All three players are averaging double-figure point scoring through six games.

4. Dayton (5-1)

Last Week: 11/24 vs. Florida A&M 80-60, 11/27 vs. Cincinnati 34-68

Next Week: 12/1 vs. East Tennessee State, 12/4 vs. Miami (OH)

No, 34-68 is not a typo. The game was a good trap opportunity — four games in eight days right after beating SEC contender Mississippi in a come-from-behind-effort — and the Flyers walked right into it. After their comeback win over Mississippi on November 20, the team faced a pair of low-majors with one day of rest between. Though not particularly efficient efforts, the Flyers won both.  The point margin is deceptive, Cincinnati was not particularly good offensively either, Dayton was just far worse. The Flyers scored on about one in five possessions, producing an offensive efficiency of 0.51 points per possession (o-ppp). Collectively the starters (Chris Wright, Chris Johnson, Juwan Staten, Devin Searcy and Paul Williams) shot a forgettable 6-35 (0.171), accounting for 16 of the total 34 points scored. The staff and junior guard Josh Parker blamed unfocused practice sessions and lack of discipline for the let down.

5. Temple (3-2), AP #21

Last Week: 11/25 vs. California 50-57 @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic), 11/26 vs. Georgia 65-58 @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic), 11/28 Texas A&M 51-54 @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic)

Next Week: 12/1 @ Central Michigan, 12/5 @ Maryland

“We are a work in progress… Our defense is pretty solid. We’ve got a chance to be a good basketball team,” confessed Coach Fran Dunphy in the aftermath of the Texas A&M game that concluded the Old Spice Tournament in Orlando, Florida, last Sunday. The Owl offense ran through guards Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore, along with power forward Lavoy Allen.   In the three games in Orlando, those three posted these numbers…

The table confirms there was too little production (ignore the points and focus on PPWS – points per weighted shots – less than 1.00 is “unproductive”) from those three. The lack of efficient point production can in part be traced to turnovers, but the truth is none of the three, as suggested in Dunphy’s postgame comments, shot the ball particularly well — note the eFG% is well below 50% for each of those players. For the combined three games (a loss to California, a win over Georgia and a loss to Texas A&M) the Owl offense converted possessions to points at an 0.85 rate, well below the 1.00 considered minimally efficient for D-I ball. Each of those teams hails from a BCS conference, schools whose RPIs will improve with conference play. Temple whiffed on two good opportunities, and with Villanova still ahead, the chances to impress the Selection Committee are dwindling.

6. Rhode Island (5-2)

Last Week: 11/24 vs. Drexel 74-68, 11/27 vs. Davidson 71-58

Next Week: 12/4 @ Providence

A week without additional roster attrition is a small victory for coach Jim Baron and the Runnin’ Rams. The coach used an eight man rotation in last weeks games, bringing Ben Eaves, Dan West and Nikola Malesevic off the bench for double digit minutes in each game. As option #2 at the point West, a late August JUCO pickup, has averaged 24 minutes and compiled a 1.5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The conference named forward Delroy James an Honorable Mention for the third consecutive week the forward recorded his 1,000 point of college play.

7. La Salle (5-2)

Last Week: 11/23 vs. Providence 84-73 @ Cancun (Cancun Challenge), 11/24 vs. Missouri 83-71 @ Cancun (Cancun Challenge), 11/29 vs. Delaware State 65-61

Next Week: 12/4 vs. Oklahoma City (Philadelphia)

Sophomore Aaric Murray earned his third consecutive Honorable Mention for averaging a double-double in the Explorers three games. Murray was named to the Cancun Challenge All-Tourney team.

8. St. Bonaventure (3-2)

Last Week: 11/27 @ Cleveland State 51-69

Next Week: 12/4 vs. Buffalo

Despite his summer with the Great Britain National Team, Ogo Adegboye continues to struggle at the point. Demitrius Conger and Adegboye combined for five assists (50% of the teams production) in the Bonnies’ loss to Cleveland State but the pair also accounted to nine turnovers (37.5% of the teams turnovers) in the game. Andrew Nicholson drew his second Honorable Mention for his double-double effort versus the Vikings. Nicholson scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the loss.

9. Duquesne (3-1)

Last Week: 11/27 vs. UMD Baltimore County 101-69

Next Week: 12/1 vs. Pittsburgh, 12/4 @Penn State

The only A-10 school to score 100 or more points in a game this season, Coach Ron Everhart’s squad has done it twice in four games, the second time against Maryland-Baltimore County. Six Dukes players scored double-figurepoints against UMBC, led by senior guard/forward Bill Clark’s 18. Since stumbling against Robert Morris in the second game of the season, junior guard/forward B.J. Monteiro and sophomore guard Sean Johnson have gone on a tear, scoring 33 and 24 points respectively, in the next two games. Good news for Everhart that the scoring has been so balanced. A-10 fans may be looking at Dayton’s Juwan Staten as the presumptive Freshman of the Year, but Duquesne faithful like T.J. McConnell, a freshman guard who has started all four games and averaged 10.0 points so far. his team-high 12 steals is nothing to sneeze at either.

10. Saint Joseph‘s (3-2)

Last Week: 11/23 @ Fairfield 60-51 (Philly Hoops Classic), 11/26 vs. Rutgers 76-70 (Philly Hoops Classic, Palestra)

Next Week: 12/1 @ Drexel, 12/3 @ Villanova, 12/5 @ Princeton

After stumbling to an 0-2 record to start the season, the Hawks have put together a 3-0 run to cross over the .500 mark. Langston Galloway took Rookie of the Week honors for his 17.5 points per game average through that three game run. He scored a career-high 20 points against Rutgers on 11/26 to help Saint Joseph’s to the Philly Hoops Classic title. The freshman dished seven dimes in the tournament final.

11. George Washington (2-3)

Last Week: 11/23 vs Hampton 51-62 (NIT Tip-Off, DC Pod), 11/29 vs. NC Wilmington 69-73

Next Week: 12/1 @ George Mason, 12/5 vs. Navy (BB&T Classic)

The Colonials beat the two weakest teams in the NIT Tip-Off field, but had problems with Boston University (American East Conference) and Hampton (MEAC!), not a good sign for coach Karl Hobbs’ squad.

12. Charlotte (3-4)

Last Week: 11/24 @ Oregon State 70-83, 11/27 vs. Radford 73-52

Next Week: 12/1 @ East Carolina

Despite some early optimism, the transition from coach Bobby Lutz to coach Alan Major has not gone smoothly. All eligible members of the squad that finished the 2010 season may have decided to stay, but Major did not, apparently get them all on-board with his agenda over the summer. Injuries to two squad members can account for the sub-.500 start, but a one game suspension (for violation of team rules) doled out on the eve of the 49ers season debut suggests that the battle for their hearts and minds continues. After a terrific showing in the Charleston Classic, that included an average of 16.0 points per game and double-figure scoring in all three games, senior Shamari Spears was named to the five-man All-Tournament team (not to neglect the Honorable Mention awarded by the A-10 front office). No sooner had the senior forward collected his certificate than he was suspended indefinitely by Major for what other sources describe as an indiscreet tweet. A number of programs have told the players to close their social networking accounts before the season began to minimize the chances a down night might trigger a hasty (and later regretted) note.

13. Saint Louis (3-2)

Last Week: 11/23 vs. Tennessee State 78-50, 11/27 vs. IUPUI 58-55

Next Week: 11/30 @ Portland

How is Coach Rick Majerus adjusting in the absence of stars Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed? If the Tennessee State and IUPUI games are typical, he appears to have enlarged his rotation, as only one player per game logs more than 67% of the available minutes at their position. He looked to freshman Mike McCall (72.5%) in the Tennessee State game, and Kyle Cassity (82.5%) in the UIPIU game. As for possessions and shots, the freshmen McCall, Rob Loe (#4/#5), Jordair Jett (#2 guard), along with junior forward Brian Conklin appear to have formed the nucleus of the Billiken offense, with sophomore forwards Cody Ellis and Cory Remekun and junior Kyle Cassity providing support.

14. Fordham (2-3)

Last Week: 11/23 vs. Long Island 70-82, 11/27 vs. Hartford 61-57

Next Week: 12/1 @ Harvard, 12/4 @ Lehigh

With the win over the Hartford Hawks, Coach Tom Pecora’s 2011 Fordham entry managed to match their 2010 win total under two different coaches. There are more wins to be found in the schedule. While sophomore forward Chris Gaston managed his third Honorable Mention from the conference, there are others on the squad who turned in good efforts in the last week, among them freshman guard Branden Frazier, who scored 39 points in the two games (24 vs. LIU, 15 vs. Hartford) on 15-24 (9-16, 6-8) and 2-2 shooting, for an eFG% of 75.0%, and sophomore guard Alberto Estwick, who scored 30 points on 11-20 (6-13, 5-7) and 2-2 shooting (his eFG% was 67.5%).

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2010

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

A Look Back

The start of fall Practice on October 15 shook out the statii on a few linger question marks in Saint Louis and Rhode Island, but the attrition that has followed the opening of practice, whether injury or other causes, seems heavier than usual in 2010. As the table below shows, bumps and bruises and one-game suspensions aside, 18 players (more than one per team) have missed practice and playing time due to injuries or academic issues since Midnight Madness. Five players will sit out the season, with others missing anywhere from several games to several months of the season.

For some teams and players, it is a matter of not having what you did not have before (Xavier and Justin Martin, Rhode Island and Levan Shengelia…unless you believe one minute of playing time had an impact on the team), but for others — Lasan Kromah and George Washington, Brad Redford of Xavier for example — the impact could affect the season. Among the unresolved is Luka Voncina, Charlottes freshman point guard from Slovenia, whose eligibility ruling (ineligible) was appealed in late October.

Power Rankings

Throw out the preview, a fortnight into the season and the ink of mid-October is already obsolete. The Power Rankings will reshuffle several times over the next month as teams react to player comings and goings, and a gradually tougher schedule.

1. Temple (2-0) AP #21

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Seton Hall 62-56, 11/14 vs Toledo 82-49

Next Week: 11/25 vs. California @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic), 11/26 vs. TBD @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic), 11/28 TBD @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic)

Temple beat middle-of-the-conference team Seton Hall by six at home to open the season, and will have an opportunity to notch a few resume wins in Orlando as they take on California on Thanksgiving Day, to be followed by either Georgia or Notre Dame Friday 11/26. Depending on the results of the first two games, the Owls could face Wisconsin (most likely), Texas A&M or Boston College. Georgia and Wisconsin received votes in the most recent Coaches Poll.

2. Dayton (4-0)

Season Start: 11/13 vs. Mount St. Mary’s 67-52, 11/16 vs. Akron 76-68, 11/20 @ Mississippi 78-71 (OT), 11/22 vs. Savannah State 61-59

Next Week: 11/24 vs. Florida A&M, 11/27 vs. Cincinnati

Devin Searcy was cited on the November 15 conference Honor Roll for his double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) versus Mount St. Mary’s (a 70-52 Flyer win). Dayton travelled to Oxford, Mississippi, Saturday and beat the Rebels of Ole Miss, 78-71, for the second time in eight months. The two teams met in the NIT semi-finals last March, and coach Andy Kennedy’s squad has been projected as a top-two finisher in the SEC West Division this season. The win should look very good on the Flyers’ resume. The conference named Jawan Staten Rookie of the Week (the first of several citations he will receive this season) for his performance against Mississippi in particular. The freshman point guard dished seven dimes, matching his effort from his debut versus Akron. Staten also hit the layup that gave the Flyers their first lead (in the overtime period) of the game.

3. Xavier (4-1)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Western Michigan 68-65, 11/16 vs. IUPUFW 76-66 (OT), 11/19 vs. Iowa 86-73 @ Virgin Islands (Paradise Jam), 11/21 vs. Seton Hall 57-52 @ Virgin Islands (Paradise Jam), 11/22 vs Old Dominion 58-67 @ Virgin Islands (Paradise Jam)

Next Week: 11/27 vs. Wofford

Jamal McLean, expected to miss a month due to an orbital fracture suffered just before the start of the season, missed in fact only a single game. Is he 100%? Tu Holloway earned Conference Player of the Week honors in each of the first two weeks of the season, scoring 25 points in the Musketeers season opening win, 68-65, over Central Michigan, 28 points in Xaviers win over Iowa in the first round of the Paradise Jam and a scorching 35 points in Xs 57-52 win over Seton Hall, but the well went dry against Old Dominion, as Holloway and wing Dante Jackson went 6-21 from the field (28.6%) and 7-10 from the stripe for 22 points. The Monarchs managed to exploit two Xavier weaknesses that have emerged in the early games – rebounding, where ODU held a 36-25 advantage, and three point shooting. Xavier managed an offensive rebounding rate of just 10.7% while allowing ODU a more normal (for D-I) rate of 33%. Perhaps because they were down eight at the half, Xavier took 20 of 45 field goal attempts from beyond the arc, a whopping 44.4% of their field goal attempts overall, well above their typical 33.7% ratio. They converted only five of those threes, yielding a 25% conversion rate, below their 33.3% conversion rate coming into the game. The X-Men missed injured Brad Redford, a wing with a deep range.

4.  Richmond (4-1)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. The Citadel 79-37, 11/15 vs. William & Mary 73-49, 11/18 @ Iona 77-81, 11/21 vs. Charleston Southern 82-71 (Chicago Invitational Challenge), 11/23 vs. Southern 81-40 (Chicago Invitational Challenge),

Next Week: 11/26 vs. Wright State @ Chicago, IL (Chicago Invitational Challenge), 11/27 vs. TBD @ Chicago, IL (Chicago Invitational Challenge)

The Spiders’ first two wins were impressive displays of efficiency, as Richmond held both to less than 0.8 points per possession, outstanding among games in the opening week. The Iona loss was disappointing, but coach Tim Cluess developed a strong reputation as a game coach during his days in Division-II. Yet, it does not explain the sluggish performance in a win against Charleston Southern. The Spiders rounded back into form with an efficient 81-40 midday win over Southern, featuring a 66-possession game with Richmond holding Southern to 0.61 points per possession defensively, while scoring at a rate of 1.23 points per possession. The story of the first two weeks is Richmond’s defense.

5. Massachusetts (4-0)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Rider 77-67, 11/17 vs. Sacred Heart 73-65, 11/20 vs. New Mexico State @ Springfield, MA 71-57 (Hall of Fame Tip-Off), 11/22 vs. Texas Christian 67-48 @ Springfield, MA (Hall of Fame Tip-Off)

Next Week: 11/27 vs. Holy Cross

Massachusetts opened their season with a 77-67 win over Rider of the MAAC, during which senior Anthony Gurley logged his 1000th point as a Minute Man on his way to a game and career-high 31 points. The conference cited Gurley on for his scoring in the Minutemen wins over Sacred Heart and New Mexico State. Wins over the Aggies and Mountain West Conference member Texas Christian are a pleasant surprise and a stars on their resume.

6. St. Bonaventure (3-1)

Season Start: 11/12 @ Canisius 70-80, 11/14 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock 77-64, 11/19 @ Cornell 56-54, 11/21 @ Binghamton 69-44

Next Week: 11/27 @ Cleveland State

The Bonnies stumbled out of the gate, dropping a 80-70 decision to Canisius, but coach Mark Schmidt’s squad has followed with three wins, two on the road. Andrew Nicholson was cited in the November 15 conference Honor Roll for his 23 and 25-point efforts in the first two games. Best of all, Demitrius Conger was cited for his double-double versus Cornell. The sophomore wing logged career-highs in points scored (22) and rebounds (16) in the Cornell game. Good news for the Bonaventure faithful, as they will need an alternative on offense if Nicholson is to be effective this season.

7. Rhode Island (3-2)

Season Start: 11/8 @ Pittsburgh 83-75 (Coaches vs. Cancer), 11/16 vs. Brown 92-67, 11/19 vs. College of Charleston 75-66 @ Toledo (Coaches vs. Cancer), 11/20 @ Toledo 75-65 (Coaches vs. Cancer), 11/21 vs. University of Illinois-Chicago 68-74 @ Toledo (Coaches vs. Cancer)

Next Week: 11/24 vs. Drexel, 11/27 vs. Davidson

The conference Honor Roll cited Delroy James two weeks running for his season average (19.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game) and performance at the Toledo Pod of the 2K Sports Classic Benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer. James scored 17 second half points in the Runnin’ Rams’ season-opening loss to Pittsburgh November 8. With both Xavier and Saint Louis struggling to overcome injuries, coach Jim Baron wanted to see URI move up. The loss to UIC could come back to sting the Rams come March.

8George Washington (2-1)

Season Start: 11/16 vs. Boston University 67-76 (@ Villanova, NIT Tip-Off), 11/17 vs Marist 79-59 (@ Villanova, NIT Tip-Off) 11/22 vs Nevada  58-56 (NIT Tip-Off, DC Pod)

Next Week: 11/23 vs Hampton (NIT Tip-Off, DC Pod), 11/29 vs. NC Wilmington

Even with Lasan Kromah out indefinitely with an left foot sprain, the Colonials went 1-1 (76-67 vs. Boston U; 79-59 vs. Marist) the NIT Tip-Off the North Pod, The Colonial host one of three consolation pods, and needed that home court advantage to knock off the Nevada Wolf Pack on Monday night.

9. La Salle (3-1)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Columbia 82-71, 11/16 @ Baylor 64-74, 11/18 vs. Prairie View A&M 88-74, 11/20 vs. Morgan State 79-74

Next Week: 11/23 vs. Providence @ Cancun (Cancun Challenge), 11/24 vs. TBD (Missouri or Wyoming) @ Cancun (Cancun Challenge), 11/29 vs. Delaware State

Tyreek Duren took the first week’s Rookie of the Week honors his work in La Salle’s 82-71 season-opening win against Columbia on November 12. The guard dished nine dimes in his collegiate debut, tying an 11-year-old program record set by Julian Blanks in his collegiate debut in 1999. Another performance that had to raise the hopes and warm the hearts of Explorer fans, was fifth-year senior Ruben Guillandeaux’s career-high 29 points. The senior, one of three La Salle seniors who finished the 2010 on the sidelines, was granted a redshirt waiver by the NCAA and will finish his career at La Salle as the mentor for a corps of promising freshmen guards. Aaric Murray is another Explorer performing admirably. When he notched nine blocks and five steals against Morgan State on November 20, he became the first D-I player to do so since Sitapha Savane of Navy back on January 31, 2000.

10. Duquesne (2-1)

Season Start: 11/13 vs. Bluefield State (D-II) 110-67, 11/19 @ Robert Morris 63-69, 11/22 vs. Bowling Green 90-54

Next Week: 11/27 vs. UMD Baltimore County

Senior forward/guard Bill Clark drew a conference nod for his near-triple-double (a Duke player has only turned that trick once) with his 15 point, nine assist, eight rebound effort as Duquesne opened their season against D-II Bluefield State (WV) with a 110-67 rout of the Big Blues. The stumble against Robert Morris is a point of pride. The local rivalry goes back to 1981, and the Dukes hold a 15-5 advantage, last losing to Robert Morris in 2006. The school is investigating allegations that coach Ron Everhard had a student manager send 15 pairs of basketball shoes to the coach of Broward Community College as a gift to the Broward basketball program, strictly prohibited under NCAA regulations. Duquesne officials have described the equipment as a donation to a program operated by Broward CC coach Bob Starkman that supplies athletic equipment and accessories to troops stationed in Afghanistan and indicated they notified the NCAA of “the secondary violation” on November 19.

11. Charlotte (2-3)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Gardner-Webb 70-78, 11/13 vs. South Carolina State 90-81, 11/18 vs. George Mason 56-78 @ Charleston (Charleston Classic), 11/19 vs. East Carolina 74-63 @ Charleston (Charleston Classic), 11/21 vs. Coastal Carolina 79-75 (2 OT) @ Charleston (Charleston Classic)

Next Week: 11/24 @ Oregon State, 11/27 vs. Radford

Newcomer Jamar Brisco drew conference kudos for his 30-point debut against Gardner-Webb on 11/12. If the 49er faithful loved Brisco, their feelings about the game itself were far cooler, as Charlotte stumbled to a 2-3 record out of the gate. Losses to Gardiner-Webb, 78-70 (the one-game suspension of forwards Shamari Spears and An’Juan Wilderness did not help the 49er cause), in coach Alan Majors’ debut and the double-overtime loss 79-75, to Coastal Carolina in the Charleston Classic (the 49ers went 1-2 in that invitational) are particularly distressing given both teams are out of the Big South Conference. The 49ers may want to cut back on three point attempts until Darrio Green can find the range. Through their first five games the 49ers have taken 39.9% of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc, but have hit an abysmal 28.2%. When you are in a hole, stop digging. Charlotte limped out of Charleston with a 1-2 record on the event.

12. Saint Louis (1-2)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Austin Peay 62-64, 11/15 vs. Rockhurst (D2) 72-45, 11/20 vs. Georgia 59-61

Next Week: 11/23 vs. Tennessee State, 11/27 vs. IUPUI

The Billikens dropped a bunny against Austin Peay of the Ohio Valley Conference and fans started a Facebook paged titled: Free Willie & Kwamain Facebook page. That has to make a 2010 list for Most Ironic Website Name or Website Name in Poorest Taste somewhere. After exploring the transfer option for a month, an apologetic and contrite Willie Reed has indicated he would like to re-enroll at Saint Louis and play for the Billikens once the spring semester hits. The good news in those losses is that that the margin of victory was within a single possession. Freshman center Rob Low has started every game and averages 20.3 minutes and 14.0 points per contest.

13. Saint Joseph‘s (1-2)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Western Kentucky 70-98, 11/16 @ Penn State 57-66, 11/20 vs. Norfolk State 70-65

Next Week: 11/23 @ Fairfield, 11/26 vs. Rutgers

It is tough being young. The freshmen collectively contributed 95 points on 31-98 (31.6%) shooting, to go with 59 rebounds in the Hawks’ three games. Each of them have averaged just under 20 minutes per game, ranging from 27.3 minutes and 10.7 points per game (Langston Galloway) down to 13.0 minutes and 2.7 points per game (Patrick Swilling). If minutes and points vary widely, efficiency sadly does not, as their eFG%s ranges from a relatively inefficient 42.5% (CJ Aiken) down to a very inefficient 33.3% (Ronald Roberts and Swilling). The freshmen, however, are not alone in their shooting woes, as the entire squad suffers from an inability to convert shots (and possessions) into points. Typical of younger teams, they also need to rebound better.

14. Fordham (1-2)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Brown 65-69, 11/15 vs. Sacred Heart 69-51, 11/19 vs. Hampton 48-58

Next Week: 11/23 vs. Long Island, 11/27 vs. Hartford

Though Chris Gaston was cited on the November 15 conference Honor Roll for his 20th career double-double (21 points, 17 rebounds) in the Rams season opening loss, 63-59, to Brown on 11/12 Fordham continues to struggle. More competitive than the 2010 squad, coach Tom Pecora still needs to solve Fordham’s lack of offensive production. Gaston combines with junior guard Alberto Estwick and freshman guard Branden Frazier to form the nucleus of Fordham’s offense. So far however, only Estwick’s 42.9% field goal conversion rate (52.8% eFG%) is efficient enough to move the offense. When Frazier finds his groove perhaps he and Estwick can draw enough defensive attention to free up Gaston, who at this point, is mostly a volume scorer.

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