RTC Conference Primers: #8 – Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 30th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take I

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

Top Storylines

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

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

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 8th, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Looking Back

2011 was business as usual it seems as two teams, Temple and Xavier, combined to represent the conference in the AP Poll for 11 of the poll’s 19 weeks. Three teams (Richmond, Temple and Xavier) were invited to the NCAA for the fourth consecutive year with two advancing to the second round and one advancing to the Sweet 16 before bowing out. The steady progress, if not the deeper advancement, into the NCAA Tournament field should give the conference cause for celebration. If the A-10 has not gained ground, it certainly hasn’t lost any ground either. The conference beat its Performance Against Seed Expectation (PASE – the number of wins earned in the NCAA versus the historic record for the assigned seed), 2.57, by winning a total of three games in tournament play. This year also marked the sixth consecutive postseason where the conference received at least one at-large bid. And for the second consecutive postseason, seven conference members in all (50% of the conference membership) played on after the final buzzer sounded in Atlantic City. The conference placed two teams (Dayton and Rhode Island) in the NIT and two others (Saint Louis and George Washington) in the CBI in 2010, with Dayton winning the NIT and Saint Louis losing in the CBI Finals to VCU. This postseason, only Dayton made the NIT, while Duquesne, Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure were invited to the CBI. Unfortunately none of them advanced beyond the second round.

So why are conference observers edgy? Despite the “all steady” in the NCAA Tournament, teams from two other non-BCS conferences, Virginia Commonwealth of CAA and the Horizon League’s Butler were represented in the Final Four, with Butler advancing to Monday night for the second consecutive year. The Atlantic 10 has not sent a team to the Final Four since the Massachusetts squad of 1996, whose Final Four appearance was later vacated by the NCAA, and has had only one representative (Xavier in 2008) [ed. note: corrected]  in the Elite Eight since the 2004 Tournament when Saint Joseph’s lost to Oklahoma by two points, 64-62, in East Rutherford, New Jersey on the same weekend that Xavier was eliminated by Duke, 66-63, in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Xavier’s Tu Holloway enjoyed a terrific season for the Musketeers. (credit: AP)

Final Ranking, Team-by-Team

  1. Richmond (28-8, 13-3) #12 seed: Coach Chris Mooney’s Spiders had several outstanding performances out of conference including their 65-54 win over Purdue (#3 seed NCAA), but those were negated by head-scratching losses to Iona aand Bucknell. The same held true in conference play, where wins over Dayton and Duquesnewere undermined by a home loss to Rhode Island early in conference play. The Spidersearned a #3 seed in the conference tournament where they knocked off #2 seed Temple that was dealing withinjuries and earned the conference’s automatic bid witha 67-54 win over Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Tournament finals. The Spiders beat #5 seed Vanderbilt (69-66) and #13 seed Morehead State (65-48) to advance to the Sweet Sixteen and a date with#1 seed Kansas. The ride ended witha 77-57 loss, but Mooney signed a contract extension which should keep him at Richmond for the foreseeable future. Mooney loses four key members of the squad this season, but returns 11 players, including two who started multiple games this season, for 2011-12. GRADE: A
  2. Temple (26-8, 14-2) #7 seed NCAA: The consensus favorite to win the conference regular season, the Owls stumbled in the Old Spice Classic, dropping two of their three games in Orlando. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad dropped a third out of conference game to Villanova on the eve of conference play, but ran off three wins to start conference play. Back-to-back losses to Duquesne and Xavier put the Owls in second place in the conference, which is where they finished the regular season. Injuries sidelined sophomore Michael Eric, reducing an already short frontcourt rotation, for the last two weeks of the season. Scootie Randall also battled injuries as the season wound down, leaving Dunphy with a seven-man rotation for the Atlantic 10 tournament. A semifinal loss to Richmond ended Temple’s bid to earn the conference’s automatic bid for a third consecutive year, but the Owls secured a #7 seed to the NCAA Tournament and an in-state match-up with Penn State in the first round game, which they won 66-64 on a last second shot by Juan Fernandez. In the second round, they pushed #2 seed San Diego State to the limit before falling in double overtime. GRADE: B+ Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 12th, 2011

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

A Look Back

With non-conference play in the books, it’s time to name the All-Conference Team, based on first half performance. These are the five players I like best for end of the season conference honor. They are off to great starts.

  • G – Tu Holloway, Xavier; the guard struggled against Cincinnati, but he continues to be Xavier’s best weapon.
  • G – Bill Clark, Duquesne; the Dukes are back and Clark is a big reason.
  • F – Chris Wright, Dayton; he may not assert himself enough in tight games.
  • F – Justin Harper, Richmond; how Harper goes, so go the Spiders.
  • C – Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure; junior center has been cited in six of the nine week old season.

Honorable Mention – these seven are very much in the hunt for Player of the Year and All-Conference First Team recognition:

  • G – Kevin Anderson, Richmond; last season’s POY cannot be left out of a conversation about Player of the Year.
  • G – Derrio Green, Charlotte; like Nicholson, his chances for conference recognition will depend as much on how his team finishes the season as how well he plays.
  • G – Ramone Moore, Temple; a big reason Owl fans have not missed Ryan Brooks.
  • G – Tony Taylor, George Washington; the junior has come on strong in December and January, as have the Colonials.
  • F – Lavoy Allen, Temple; his team’s ranking will boost his prospects, but he needs a few signature games to go with some game-to-game consistency.
  • F – Delroy James, Rhode Island; James has been cited by the conference in six of the season’s nine weeks. Like Green and Nicholson, his prospects may hang as much on his team’s finish as his own performance.
  • F – Chris Gaston, Fordham; strong individual performances have earned him multiple conference citations, but how will Fordham finish?

Rookies I Like: The following seven freshmen are the collective favorites for the All Conference Freshmen Team, with TJ McConnell, given Duquesne’s standing at this point, probably the strongest challenger to Juwan Staten.  Staten, the projected Rookie of the Year, has had a good season so far, but the Flyers continue to perform inconsistently. The freshman point guard remains my odds-on favorite for Freshman of the Year, but the race is competitive and contains a few unexpected faces.

  • G – TJ McConnell, Duquesne; Duke fans were high on this high schooler out of central Pennsylvania, has been cited twice for Freshman Honors.
  • G – Tyreek Duren, La Salle; one of two crucial freshman at La Salle this season, important building blocks for the Explorer program.
  • G – Langston Galloway, Saint Joseph’s; one of four freshmen recruited by coach Phil Martelli to revive the Hawk program.
  • G – Brandon Frazier, Fordham; not a favorite due to Fordham’s continued struggles, but has a solid chance, with a solid season, to make the All-Freshmen Team.
  • F – Nemanja Mikic, George Washington; with Lasan Kromah’s injury, the Colonials drifted, but have started to so signs of pulling the team together. If GWU makes a serious run at the top half of the conference, Mikic will be a big part of that push.
  • C – CJ Aiken, Saint Joseph’s; Big men take time, and if Martelli is patient, this one could turn his program around.

Power Rankings

Seven teams had perfect weeks, while six others were winless. Several teams around the conference midpoint have moved according to their currrent records, but the conference season for most, is only two games old.

1. Temple (11-3, 2-0) #19 AP

Last Week: 1/5 @Fordham 70-51, 1/9 vs. Saint Louis 57-53

Next Week: 1/12 vs. St. Bonaventure, 1/15 @Duquesne

Temple jumped back into the AP’s Top 25, up to #19 on the January 10 poll on the heels of a 2-0 week. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad traveled to the Izod Arena in Secaucus, NJ, to trounce Fordham by 19 points, then returned home to hold off a late Saint Louis rally and notch a four-point win on the Bills. Ramone Moore drew an Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Owls in those two wins.

The Owls get an early-season test in the form of a road trip to Duquesne. The Dukes, an early season darling for stats geek Ken Pomeroy, have cooled off a little, so if Temple has plans to stay ahead of Richmond (who will host Duquesne at the end of the season) and remain in the Top 25, a win is important. The challenge is even greater with Juan Fernandez’s knee injury. The Owls survived the Billikens over the weekend, but will need a mobile point guard if they are to consistently break a press.

2. Richmond (13-4, 2-0)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. Charlotte 71-59, 1/8 @La Salle 87-68

Next Week: 1/13 vs. Rhode Island

The Spiders keep pace with Temple atop the A-10, having opened, like the Owls, with a 2-0 week. Senior forward Justin Harper continues to have an outstanding season as in addition to being cited for three conference Honorable Mentions, he was named conference Player of the Week for his work in the Charlotte and La Salle games. According to the citation, Harper was 19-29 overall (65.5%) and 7-13 (53.8%) from beyond the arc. Against La Salle, Harper also recorded his second double-double in the last four games as he scored 25 points and 10 rebounds at La Salle on Sunday.

Coach Chris Mooney‘s squad will host Rhode Island Thursday and then take the weekend off.

3. Dayton (13-4, 1-1)

Last Week: 1/5 @St. Louis 60-50, 1/9 @Massachusetts 50-55

Next Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Joseph’s, 1/15 @Xavier

The Flyers finished a puzzling 1-1 week, snapping their winning streak at six. Senior forward Chris Wright was cited with a conference Honorable Mention for his double-double (14 points and 14 rebounds) at St. Louis. His work at Massachusetts, six points and seven rebounds, was just not enough in that very low scoring game — game breakdown in the Massachusetts recap.

Coach Brian Gregory’s squad will host Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday and travel to Cincinnati for a Saturday game with Xavier. With three out of conference losses and now a “what the heck?!” effort against Massachusetts, the 2011 edition of the Flyers will have to be more consistent game-to-game if they want avoid a repeat of the 2010 conference season. That starts this week with two important games. Saint Joseph’s is too young to surprise Dayton, ranked #330 out of 345 by Ken Pomeroy for experience, but it is the type of situation (home game, not well regarded opponent) that could give the Flyers unexpected trouble. Saturday’s game at Xavier carries conference seed implications. If Dayton can take the road game in this annual two game series, the Flyers will have an advantage later when the X-men travel to Dayton, and when the two teams are seeded for the conference tournament. Take both games and the Flyers will have the advantage in a tie-breaker with Xavier and two good (but not Top 25) wins for the Selection Committee.

4. Xavier (8-5, 1-0)

Last Week: 1/6 @Cincinnati 66-46, 1/9 @Rhode Island 72-45

Next Week: 1/12 vs. Massachusetts, 1/15 vs. Dayton

The 20-point trouncing at the hands of crosstown rival Cincinnati has to be a bucket of very cold water to the Musketeers, who have dominated this series of late (7-3 over the last decade, coming into this season). Their bounce-back game, a 27-point beat down of Rhode Island may have been a release (that helped earn senior forward Jamel McLean an Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 18.5 points (18 and 19) and 9.0 rebounds (six and 12) against Cincinnati and Rhode Island respectively. .

Chris Mack’s team could use a good run through the conference to revive their hopes for a sixth NCAA post season bid. Hosting two conference opponents gives the X-men a solid opportunity. The Dayton-slaying Minutemen visit on Wednesday and the Flyers follow on Saturday.

5. Massachusetts (9-5, 1-0)

Last Week: 1/9 vs. Dayton 55-50

Next Week: 1/12 @Xavier, 1/15 vs. La Salle

Can you win a basketball game while hitting 12 field goal attempts total and shooting to an overall conversion percentage of 27.3%? Yes, apparently, if the planets align and your opponent is Dayton. Though Dayton actually converted at a higher percentage than UMass (28.6%) and had more field goals, the Minutemen nearly double-upped the Flyers at the free throw line (36 vs. 19 free throw attempts) and scored 16 more points from the line than the Flyers.

With postseason prospects dwindling, Massachusetts and Xavier have an early conference test coming up Wednesday. Massachusetts returns home to host La Salle on Saturday.

6. Duquesne (9-5, 1-0)

Last Week: 1/5 @Saint Joseph’s 75-63, 1/8 vs. Houston Baptist 81-64

Next Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Louis, 1/15 vs. Temple

The Dukes ran their winning streak to four with another 2-0 week. Senior Bill Clark earned his second consecutive Honorable Mention for his work in both games. Clark averaged 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the two games. The Dukes also snapped their nine game losing streak when playing Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia. Duquesne’s road record versus Saint Joseph’s is 2-19.

Coach Ron Everhard‘s troops has an important two game home stand coming up. They host an undermanned, Rick Majerus-less Saint Louis team Wednesday and an Owls squad that may not have junior point guard Juan Fernandez available on Saturday.

7. St. Bonaventure (9-5, 1-0)

Last Week: 1/5 @Arkansas-Little Rock 68-55, 1/8 vs. Charlotte 92-88 3OT

Next Week: 1/12 @Temple, 1/16 @Rhode Island

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies logged a 2-0 week, raising their 2011 mark to 2-1, and their conference record is an unblemished 2-0. Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson drew his second consecutive Honorable Mention for his game-high block buster 34 points in the Bonnies’ three overtime win over Charlotte. The junior also logged a stunning 55 minutes of playing time in the Bonnies’ 1-0 start.

Saint Bonaventure faces a week on the road in what should be a good early season reality check for their fans and well-wishers. Nicholson and company travel to Philadelphia (weather willing) to take on the conference-leading Temple Owls, then swing out to Kingston, Rhode Island, to face the Runnin’ Rams.

8. Rhode Island (9-6, 0-1)

Last Week: 1/9 vs. Xavier 45-72

Next Week: 1/13 @Richmond, 1/16 vs. St. Bonaventure

Coach Jim Baron‘s charges got their conference season off on the wrong foot with a 26 point home loss to Xavier. While Delroy James earned his sixth conference Honorable Mention this season (tied for highest number of mentions with Bill Clark of Duquesne and Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure), a 26-point home court loss has a way of messing up a tournament resume. The Runnin’ Rams have picked up six losses so far this season, and post season prospects are dimming quickly.

The road to revival runs through Richmond, and any serious hopes for a postseason beyond Atlantic City has to start next week.

9. George Washington (9-6, 2-0)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. La Salle 72-67, 1/8 @Saint Joseph’s 78-71

Next Week: 1/12 vs. Fordham, 1/15 vs. Harvard

The Colonials kicked off conference play with a 2-0 start, beating La Salle at the Charles E. Smith Center and taking Saint Joseph’s at the Hagan in Philadelphia. Junior guard Tony Taylor earned his fourth Honorable Mention from the conference by averaging 24 points for the Colonials’ 2-0 open of their conference slate. Taylor scored a career-high 28 points against La Salle.

George Washington will host Fordham on Wednesday and Harvard on Saturday.

10. La Salle (7-9, 0-2)

Last Week: 1/5 @George Washington 67-72, 1/8 vs. Richmond 68-87

Next Week: 1/12 vs. Pennsylvania, 1/15 @Massachusetts

La Salle had an 0-2 opening week in conference play. Frustrated with the lackluster and tempermental play against George Washington that included a technical assessed to senior forward Jerrell Williams, Coach/Dr. John Ginniani benched sophomore Aaric Murray for the entire game with Richmond, pulled Ruben Guillandeaux out of the starting line and held the senior gurad out of the game for the first five minutes. “I know how [Murray] responds when things hit rock bottom,” Giannini said. “He really steps it up…”

Dr. Giannini’s predicted turnaround should start Wednesday against Big 5 rival the University of Pennsylvania. The Explorers have a road game at Massachusetts on Saturday.

11. Charlotte (6-8, 0-2)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. Richmond 59-71, 1/8 @St. Bonaventure 88-92 3OT,

Next Week: 1/15 vs. Fordham

Charlotte stumbled to an 0-2 record in conference play last week. After a 12 point home loss to Richmond, the 49ers traveled to Olean, NY and dropped a four point game to St. Bonaventure. They did not however, go quietly, taking the Bonnies to three overtime periods before bowing. Junior Javarris Barnett scored his second career double-double, 20 points and 10 rebounds, in Charlotte’s triple overtime loss to St. Bonaventure. Barnett’s achievement earned him his first Honorable Mention and the second citation (his first, last week, was a Player of the Week honor) of the season. Barnett is the fifth member of the 49er squad to draw a nod for strong play from the conference.

Coach Alan Major‘s squad continues their Northeastern sojourn as they take in a game at Fordham on Saturday.

12. Fordham (6-7, 0-1)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. Temple 70-51

Next Week: 1/12 @George Washington, 1/15 @Charlotte

Fordham’s losing streak has run to three with the conference-opening loss to Temple. Things may not get better for coach Tom Pecora‘s Rams next week, as Fordham has a two game Southern road swing starting on Wednesday at George Washington and another stop in Charlotte on Saturday.

13. Saint Louis (5-10, 0-2)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. Dayton 50-60, 1/9 @Temple 53-57

Next Week: 1/12 @Duquesne, 1/15 vs. Saint Joseph’s

The Billikens’ losing streak stands at five after Rick Majerus’ squad dropped two more games last week. Majerus’s absence ran to three games as the coach did not take the trip to Philadelphia when Saint Louis played Temple. Majerus is expected to miss one more game (Duquesne on Wednesday). The other personnel question surrounding the team is the status of Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed. Both re-enrolled at Saint Louis for the spring semesters. Mitchell has practiced with the team and awaiting clearance from the NCAA before he can resume play. Reed’s suspension from the team continues. Mitchell may, pending NCAA clearance, play in the Duquesne or the Saint Joseph’s game.

14. Saint Joseph’s (5-10, 0-2)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. Duquesne 63-75, 1/8 vs. George Washington 71-78

Next Week: 1/12 @Dayton, 1/15 @Saint Louis

The Hawks may console themselves on the relatively close loss to George Washington, but there will be no pause in the schedule next week as they take a two game road swing through the Midwest, taking in Dayton on Wednesday and Saint Louis on Saturday. The Dayton game may be problematic, but Saint Louis game, with an undermanned and possibly distracted squad might be winnable.The result may factor into a tie breaker at the end of the conference season.

A Look Ahead

My season preview predicted between three and four (with a bias towards four) teams would garner bids to the NCAA Tournament. At this point last season the conference had six teams whose out of conference records had bracketologists buzzing. The conference showing in their out of conference was below expectations this year,  however, and even ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has only Temple in his field of 68 this week while the Mountain West, Missouri Valley, CUSA, WAC and West Coast conferences get multiple bids. Teams at the bottom of the A-10 may not be as weak as last season, but the teams at the top have not demonstrated yet that they are as strong as teams at the top were last season. The conference has three, possibly four legitimate candidates, Temple aside, but each has flaws and a good deal of work to do.

  • Temple is the clear favorite to sweep the regular season title and conference championship. Lunardi seeds the Owls #7 this week, but the conference schedule favors the Owls, and with an extremely strong showing at 14-2, 15-1, coupled with a run through the conference tournament, they should be able to improve that seed by three or four spots.
  • Richmond — Lunardi lists the Spiders among the eight bubble teams on the outside looking in. Not blessed with a schedule as favorable as Temple’s, Coach Mooney’s squad can help it’s chances with favorable results in three games at the end of January. The Spiders travel to Amherst for a game with Massachusetts on January 22, then swing out to Ohio for a second road game with Dayton on 1/25 and finally return home to host Xavier on January 29. 3-0 through that week-plus (and no more fumbles before or after) should put Mooney’s charges in the field of 68; while 2-1 would not be fatal, anything lower might not jeopardize the team’s conference standing but will diminish the Spiders’ chances to make it’s second straight NCAA appearance in 2011.
  • The Dayton Flyers appear to be plagued with the same inconsistent play this season as last. They rally to win road games at Mississippi State and Seton Hall, only to be run out of the U. S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati and dumped four days later by East Tennessee State. The result of the Massachusetts game last Sunday really hurt their postseason prospects. Dayton has a crucial game this weekend versus Xavier, and after a trip to Fordham, the Flyers return home to host Richmond and then travel to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne. 4-0 through this sequence (counting Fordham in the win column) with solid margins would help settle the “good enough” questions. 3-1 would not be fatal, but it depends on how those four in turn finish there seasons.
  • A home loss to Florida along with road losses to Gonzaga and Miami (OH) (RPI #91), have damaged the Musketeers’ postseason prospects. Rehabilitation of their prospects has to start this week when the Musketeers host Massachusetts then Dayton. Xavier probably needs both. The Southern Road Trip, a journey that takes the Musketeers through Richmond and then Charlotte, scheduled on the cusp of January and February, may well settle Xavier’s prospects. Should the X-men be undefeated going into those games, a 2-0 result would be very good news, while anything less will be very damaging.
  • Of the three 9-6 teams — Massachusetts, Duquesne and St. Bonaventure — Duquesne may have the best shot. Of the Dukes’ five losses (to Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Penn State, George Mason and Robert Morris), Robert Morris (RPI #99) is the most damaging. Fans should learn a lot about Duquesne this week when Saint Louis and Temple visit. 2-0 is possible given injuries and absences in those programs. The Dukes’ home-away series with Dayton, home game versus Xavier and season-ending road game versus Richmond are the four game Duquesne will have to record a 4-0/3-1 record. That assumes they sweep the other nine games.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 30th, 2010

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

*Ed. note – this piece was written before Wednesday night’s action.

A Look BackHanging With The Big Guns

With 81.5% of the out of conference schedule in the books, the A-10 holds a 58.4% winning percentage (90-54) over all opponents. How has the conference fared against their above the Red Line opponents? The table below shows the results to date:

The conference still has a relatively large number of games to clear with the ACC, though one was cancelled (most likely not to be rescheduled) and three more are to be played this week. Their schedules with the Pacific-10, Big Ten and Big 12 in the books, and the conference has to be happy with their winning record against the Pac-10 and 40% winning percentage versus the Big Ten. With two games remaining with the Big East, the conference is guaranteed a worst-case winning percentage of 42.1% and a best-case 52.6% winning percentage. Overall the conference holds a 47.6% winning percentage, with games versus ACC and SEC teams still outstanding.

Against those below the Red Line conferences, which fall inside the A-10’s rather large footprint, the numbers are very promising, with one or two exceptions:

Filling out nearly 60% (59.3%) of their schedules with opponents from these conferences is not surprising, as local affiliations and historic rivalries with teams in these and the regional above the Red Line (Big East and ACC) conferences are powerful motivators. CUSA excepted, the conferences in the table above fall below Kyle Whelliston’s Red Line. CUSA, like the A-10, the Mountain West, Missouri Valley and Western Athletic conferences, is a “straddle” conference, for football reasons not above (the Red Line), but for a variety of budgetary and resource allocation reasons, not below either. The A-10’s 2-4 record in CUSA matchups to date is disappointing but understandable. There is one last opportunity (St. Bonaventure vs. Marshall on 1/2) to level the record a bit. The most puzzling result so far is that 6-8 record versus the Colonial Athletic Association. Seventeen games with CAA opponents makes sense, but why the relatively poor showing? Multiple games with George Mason and Old Dominion played a large role skewing the record as combined those two teams account for seven of the 17 games on the schedule. To date the two CAA teams have a 6-0 record versus their A-10 opponents. The two CAA powers cut a wide swath through the conference notching wins against Charlotte, Duquesne, George Washington, Dayton, Richmond and Xavier. Dayton has a last chance at redemption as they Flyers face George Mason on 12/29.

Power Rankings

Temple moved back into the AP Top 25 at #25 in the December 27 poll, and continues to top our power rankings. Richmond and Dayton kept pace with come from behind road wins, while Xavier missed their chance for a signature road win at Gonzaga, an opportunity that may haunt them at the end of the season. A few teams shuffled around in the middle and bottom levels of the conference as the conference overall worked through a 9-9 – with one cancellation – week versus their out of conference opponents.

1. Temple (9-2)  AP #25

Last Week: 12/22 @Ohio 76-65

Next Week: 12/30 @Villanova

The Owls re-entered the AP’s Top 25 (at #25) as they completed their MAC obligation with an 11 point win over the University of Ohio. Sophomore forward Rahir Jefferson earned a conference Honorable Mention for his double career-high outing. The sophomore forward posted 18 points in 31 minutes of play (both career highs) versus the Bobcats. Temple has swept their MAC slate of five teams by an average of 20.5 points per game. The MAC contingent had an average Pomeroy Ranking of 225 (out of 345).

Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad will open their Big 5 slate when they travel to the Main Line to take on rival Villanova.

2. Richmond (10-3)

Last Week: 12/22 UNC-Greensboro 63-53, 12/26 @Seton Hall 69-61

Next Week: 12/29 vs. Wake Forest, 1/2 vs. Bucknell

Richmond swept the week, beating UNC-Greensboro by 10 three days before Christmas, then traveling to Seton Hall and beating the Pirates by eight as a blizzard howled outside of the arena. Senior forward Justin Harper drew his third conference Honorable Mention as he posted team-high points in both contests. Against Seton Hall he posted a team-high and season-high 24 points as the Spiders erased a five point half-time deficit to win by eight. Down by two with 5:33 to go Harper hit two consecutive field goals, a two point attempt, followed by a three pointer, to key Richmond’s closing 12-2 run.

Coach Chris Mooney’s team will finish their out of conference slate with a two game home stand before launching into the A-10 regular season slate. The Spiders open their A-10 schedule versus Charlotte on 1/5. Prospects are very good they will sweep the Demon Deacons and Bison on their way to a 12-3 out of conference record.

3. Dayton (10-3)

Last Week: 12/22 @Seton Hall 65-61

Next Week: 12/29 vs. George Mason, 1/1 vs. New Mexico

The Flyers posted a 1-0 week as junior forward Chris Johnson drew a conference Honorable Mention for his work in Dayton’s wins over Winthrop (on 12/20) and Seton Hall. Johnson averaged 13.0 points and 9.0 rebounds over the two games. Johnson recorded a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) against Seton Hall. Freshman point guard Juwan Staten was cited as co-Rookie of the Week, shared with Fordham’s Brandon Frazier. Staten posted two 9 point outings, grabbed three rebounds, dished three assists and notched a steal in his outing versus Seton Hall.

Dayton will host George Mason on the 29th, the fourth A-10 team to meet the Patriots this season. Hopefully the Flyers can do what the other three (Charlotte, Duquesne and George Washington) could not, and beat the Colonial Athletic Association power. They will close out their out of conference slate by hosting New Mexico in a return engagement from last season’s New Year’s trip to the Pit. Should the Flyers close out both with wins, they will start the conference slate (at Saint Louis on 1/5) with a 12-3 record and two solid road wins for the post season resume.

4. Xavier (7-3)

Last Week: 12/22 @Gonzaga 54-64

Next Week: 12/28 vs. Albany, 12/31 vs. Florida

The loss to Gonzaga dropped the Musketeers to 7-3, squandering an opportunity for a resume road win over the West Coast Conference powerhouse.  Tu Holloway scored 48% of the team’s  points while taking over 35% of the available shots and 43% of the team’s possessions when he was on the court. His 1.15 PPWS was efficient only because he scored 13-14 from the line. Xavier’s three guard back court of Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dante Jackson, was remarkably inefficient as the table below suggests:

Holloway’s five steals was the highlight for the trio, as they combined for 13 turnovers against four assists. Chris Mack’s squad will be the first of two A-10 programs to meet Florida in the week before conference play commences as the Musketeers host the Gators on New Year’s Eve.

5. Rhode Island (8-4) 

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Lafayette 73-65

Next Week: 12/29 vs. Boston College, 1/3 @Florida

The Rams downed Lafayette by six points as sophomore guard Akeem Richmond was named Player of the Week by the conference. Richmond logged a career-high 25 points while grabbing three rebounds and two steals in the Rams’ come from behind win. Richmond’s scoring spree included a career-high seven three point conversions. Other double digit scorers included senior guard Marquis Jones (14 points) and sophomore forward Nikola Malesevic (15 points).

6. Massachusetts (7-4)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Central Florida 59-64

Next Week: 12/31 vs. Boston University, 1/3 @Central Connecticut

The Minutemen returned from their end of the semester hiatus to continue their losing streak, extending it to four with the loss to the Golden Knights of CUSA. Senior guard Anthony Gurley scored the team-high 17 points on another high-volume (6-19 overall, 3-4 from the line) outing. Gurley takes about 31.7% of the team’s shots when on the court, and while he is efficient against lesser opponents (Rider, New Mexico State, Holy Cross and Quinnipiac), against more defense-minded teams (Seton Hall, UCF) he tends to falter.  Coach Derek Kellogg’s team takes another extended break, this one for nine days, before returning for action as they host Boston University of the American East Conference. BU has a winning record, 2-1 versus A-10 opponents. Massachusetts has a chance to even the A-10’s record against this regional rival.

7. St. Bonaventure (6-4)

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Virginia Tech 68-76 OT

Next Week: 12/28 vs. Siena, 2/2 vs. Marshall

The Bonnies took Virginia Tech to overtime in Rochester, NY, before bowing by eight points. The final score may be disappointing, but they’ve improved enough to where they should be able to notch a couple more wins before conference play starts. Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson was cited by the conference for the fourth time (in six weeks) for his 21-point scoring night against the Hokies. Junior guard Michael Davenport notched his first double-double of the season with his 15 point, 10 rebound performance.

8. La Salle (6-6)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Rider 68-77

Next Week: 12/29 vs. Towson, 1/2 vs. Binghamton

Dr. Giannini’s woes continue as the Explorers dropped their third game in a row, this time a nine point head scratcher to MAAC contender Rider. The Broncs, expected to finish somewhere near the middle-top of the conference, were beaten by Massachusetts early in November, but have since gone on to compile an 8-5 record. The 0.500 record will impress none of the post season selection committees, the Explorer staff will most likely concentrate on finishing out their out of conference schedule with two more wins, and try to address the defensive problems – lack of aggressive ball defense and defensive rebounding — for conference play.

9. Duquesne (5-5)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. George Mason 79-85 2OT

Next Week: 12/31 vs. Northwestern State, 1/2 vs. Norfolk State

Senior forwards Damian Saunders and Bill Clark, along with freshman TJ McConnell are emerging as the offensive nucleus for the Dukes. McConnell was cited among the conference Honorable Mentions for his career-high 19 point effort against George Mason. McConnell also had five steals. Saunders recorded a double-double in the two overtime period game, while Clark scored a team-high 21 points. Saunders, Clark and McConnell took 27.8%, 32.7% and 22.9% of the shots respectively when on the court. Clark and McConnell converted efficiently, but Saunders had an off night, recording an eFG% of 29.4% — his points came from volume shooting, going 5-17 overall. Size was again an issue, as the Hokies were able to grab over 53% of their misses for second chance opportunities.

George Mason has been one of the peskier CAA programs for the A-10 this season, as Duquesne, Charlotte and George Washington can attest. The Dukes faces two more out of conference opponents in Northwestern State and Norfolk State before beginning conference play with a game against Saint Joseph’s.

10. Charlotte (6-6)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Wright State 57-53

Next Week: 12/30 @Mercer, 1/2 @Georgia Tech

The 49ers won consecutive games for the first time this season as they beat a visiting Wright State team 57-53 three days before Christmas. Off guard Derrio Green is beginning to find his rhythm, as the junior drew a conference Honorable Mention for the third week running. Green’s heroics included scoring the game-high 16 points versus Wright State, seven of them coming in the final two minutes as Charlotte came from behind to take the win. Junior forward Javarris Barnett chipped in 13 points and paced the team with seven rebounds. The 6’6 wing is becoming a strong complement to centers Chris Braswell and Phil Jones.

Coach Alan Major’s squad takes to the road in the week before conference play starts, first taking in a game with Mercer and then a trip to Atlanta for a game with Georgia Tech.

11. Saint Louis (5-7)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Northeastern (Cancun Governor’s Cup) 71-49, 12/23 Southern Mississippi (Cancun Governor’s Cup) 67-74, 12/24 Mississippi (Cancun Governor’s Cup) 61-69

Next Week: 1/1 vs. Bowling Green

The Cancun Governor’s Cup Invitational started well enough for the Saint Louis squad, as the Billikens downed Northeastern by 22 points. They were unable to follow up however, and dropped a seven point decision to Southern Mississippi of CUSA and then, as Rick Majerus DQ’d himself (food poisoning), they dropped an eight point decision to Mississippi of the SEC in the third round of play. Associate head coach Porter Moser filled in for the 64-year-old head coach. Junior forward Brian Conklin was named to the All-Tournament team and drew a conference Honorable Mention for his career-high 19 point effort against Ole Miss.

While the Reed/Mitchell situation has, to date, not been resolved, Coach Majerus’ only public statement of support for Reed (“…I did not want him to leave…”) was published about two weeks ago, around the time the Reed family began to hint he would like to return to Saint Louis. One last wrinkle for the Billikens is whether either or both would redshirt this season (assuming they are re-admitted and rejoin the team).

12. Fordham (6-4)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Kennesaw State 80-67, 12/27 @Georgia Tech cancelled

Next Week: 12/29 vs. American (Cable Car Classic), 12/30 TBD (Cable Car Classic)

Heady days in the Bronx as the Rams beat Kennesaw State while freshman Brandon Frazier shared Rookie of the Week honors with Dayton’s Juwan Staten. Frazier went 7-8 from the field and 2-2 from the line to go with four assists and four rebounds, as the Rams took their fourth straight win. In what might have been the best all around effort in two seasons, the Rams’ offense posted 1.21 points per possession while limiting the Owls offense to 0.99 ppp. Sophomore forward Chris Gaston posted a team-high 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as he recorded his 27th career double-double in 38 (career) games. Gaston earned his fifth Honorable Mention in seven weeks. Two other Rams, guards Alberto Estwick (15) and Brenton Butler (14) scored double digits points for a promising distribution of touches and shots. The Sunday blizzard shuttered all New York area airports, forcing Fordham to cancel their game with ACC power Georgia Tech.

Coach Tom Pecora’s team will fly out to Santa Clara, California, to participate in the Cable Car Classic, facing American University of the CAA in the first round. The second round opponent will be determined by the results of the American game.

13. George Washington (4-5)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. East Carolina 82-80, 12/27 @UAB 44-79

Next Week: 12/31 vs. Holy Cross, 1/3 @Howard

Coach Karl Hobbs’ squad posted a 1-1 week, taking a two point win, 82-80, over East Carolina and dropping a 25 point road loss to University of Alabama Birmingham, 44-79. Junior guard Tony Taylor drew an Honorable Mention from the conference for his career-high 26 points in the East Carolina win. With the loss of Lasan Kromah at the beginning of the season, the Colonials continue to search for players around which the offense can rally. Taylor has stepped into the central role, but reliable second and third options are hard to come by. Foul-prone senior center Joseph Katuka does not log enough minutes to have a lasting impact (though his numbers when he does play are solid), while sophomores Dwayne Smith and Tim Johnson (and freshman Chris Fitzgerald), though willing shooters when playing, are not efficient. Freshman Nemanja Mikic, while efficient, is not consistently assertive to this point in the season. With conference play around the corner GW will need some answer quickly, or their season could get very ugly very quickly.

George Washington has two more out of conference games, at home versus Holy Cross and a “road” game versus cross town rival Howard, to find some offensive answers.

14. Saint Joseph‘s (3-8)

Last Week: 12/21 @Boston University 79-85

Next Week: 12/28 @Holy Cross, 12/31 vs. Siena

Back from their finals, there is little evidence the Hawks did much regrouping and refocusing. They dropped a six point road decision to Boston University four days before Christmas. The loss extends Saint Joseph’s losing streak to six games. While scoring may be an obvious concern, as (per Ken Pomeroy) they are currently (through 12/27) ranked #252 (out of 345) in efficient field goal conversions with a 46.1% conversion rate, they could survive the low efficiency outing if their defense were better.  Their shot defense (eFG%) is 50.7, ranking them (through 12/27) at #227 (out of 345) in Division 1. Poor rebounding on both ends of the court really costs the Hawks. At the offensive end (30.3%, #250) it means they not only struggle to convert, but obtain few second chance opportunities. On the defensive end, they provide, with a 64.6% (#262 our of 345), their opponents with a better than one-in-three opportunity for a second field goal attempt opportunity. Against good offensive rebounding teams this margin can swell to nearly one-in-two second chance opportunities (Villanova – 47.1%, Drexel 46.5%, BU 45.2%), margins they cannot afford to concede.

Coach Phil Martelli has two more opportunities (at Holy Cross and versus Siena) to find some answers before conference play commences. After conference begins, the Hawks will have a single one last out of conference game – their match up with Big 5 rival Pennsylvania in late January.

Looking Ahead in the A-10

  • Rhode Island should have Orion Outerbridge back this week for games against Boston College and Florida if the sophomore has passed his fall classes.
  • As the out of conference schedule winds down there are few marquee match ups to offer this week, #25 Temple’s Big 5 tangle with #8 Villanova (12/30 7:00 pm ET ESPN2) the only Top 25 game on the slate. There are several above the Red Line opponents on tap, as Richmond faces a vulnerable Wake Forest (12/29, 7:00 pm ET; the Deacons’ second game versus an A-10 opponent this season), Rhode Island squares off against regional rival Boston College (12/29 7:00 pm ET) and Charlotte travels to Georgia Tech (1/2 6:00 pm ET; the Jackets third game versus a A-10 opponent, though the Fordham game was canceled). SEC contender Florida will face Xavier (12/31 4:00 pm ET ESPN2, at Xavier) and Rhode Island (1/3 9:00 pm ET ESPNU, in Gainesville).
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