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

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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.

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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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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 2013

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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.

First Week: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

  • The Good: Charlotte is one of three teams still undefeated in conference play. Neither win was against a conference powerhouse, but both were good signs. Beating La Salle at the Holton suggests they will do well at home, while taking their road game versus Rhode Island was a sign that they should be able to win games there as well.
  • The Bad. Temple’s loss to Xavier will not preclude the Owls from drawing an NCAA bid, but it makes the conference-wide bid picture, expected in the preseason season to be five, possibly very murky. The preseason NCAA short list included Saint Joseph’s, Xavier, Butler, VCU, Temple and Saint Louis, but poorer than expected non-conference results for Saint Joseph’s and Xavier seem to have pared that list. Xavier’s win over conference rival Temple may boost morale among the Musketeers’ faithful, but it undercuts the prospects for Temple (who has a very poor outing versus Duke on it’s resume), one of the stronger prospects on conference’s shrinking list.
  • The Ugly: Saint Bonaventure was not expected to perform at the same levels as the Andrew Nicholson-led teams, but the double-figure road loss to rebuilding George Washington lowers the ceiling on the Bonnies’ prospects for this season. That was a game they would have won last year (and the year before). This is a larger-than-expected step back for the program.

Impact Players

CBS Sports named two A-10 players to their mid-season Top 50 Impact players. Butler’s Rotnei Clarke, a senior guard who transferred in from Arkansas and sat last season, was ranked #42 with the comment “Best shooter in the country?” Treveon Graham, Virginia Commonwealth’s sophomore guard, was ranked #45. Recognized as a integral part of VCU’s Havoc defense, Jeff Goodman went on to comment “Makes plays at both ends of the floor.” The list, a collaboration by CBS Sports’ four basketball beat writers — Jeff Goodman, Gary Parrish, Matt Norlander and Jeff Borzello — focused on the 50 players who they felt had the greatest impact on the first two months of the college basketball season.

Rotnei Clarke May Be The A-10 POY If The Season Ended Today, But Will Miss Time With An Injury. (AP)

Rotnei Clarke May Be The A-10 POY If The Season Ended Today, But Will Miss Time With An Injury. (AP)

Power Rankings

Conference play opened last week with every team playing twice before the end of the first weekend. While the top – and bottom — of the power rankings remains largely unchanged from the end of December, there is some shuffling within the middle eight.

  1. Butler (14-2, 2-0) – A 2-0 start to conference play has extended the Bulldogs’ winning streak to 11. The run is jeopardized by guard Rotnei Clarke’s neck injury, sustained when the senior was fouled as he completed a layup at the end of a breakout play in Butler’s 79-73 win over Dayton. A day-after MRI showed no spinal fractures (or other damage), but Clarke will be held out of the Bulldogs’ next two games (Richmond on Wednesday and Gonzaga on Saturday), pending a medical review. The Butler team doctor took issue with NBC Sports Network which had a crew covering the Dayton game. The crew overzealously opened a nearby microphone and broadcast the injured player’s conversation with attending medical staff, an act Dr. Thomas Fischer contended that was intrusive and unethical. Dr. Fischer will determine when Clarke can return to play. Richmond, without junior Derrick Williams, will be hard pressed to match the Bulldogs’ front court contingent, but Gonzaga, ranked #8 by the AP, could prove to be a very difficult opponent. Freshman Kellen Dunham, sophomore Alex Barlow and senior Chase Stigall will have to take up Clarke’s scoring contribution for at least the next week. Given Clarke’s contribution is 16.5 per game, that will be a task bigger than the collection can probably handle. Read the rest of this entry »
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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2012

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the A-10 Conference. You can follow him on Twitter at @vbtnblog

Top Storylines

  • The Best Basketball (Only) Conference in the NCAA? You Bet– With the departure of Temple (to the Big East) and Charlotte (to CUSA), A-10 fans knew the conference would not “make due” with a 12-team configuration. The question was which candidates would match best with the conference profile and mission and not in the chase for football money? The A-10 could afford to focus on candidates with high quality basketball programs, thereby offering regional rivalries to the Midwestern and Washington D.C. metro area members. Virginia Commonwealth and Butler were the logical choices as both have had recent Final Four appearances, are high quality programs, and boast two of the hottest young coaching names in Division I. Both schools accepted and the existing circumstances of member departures and arrivals means that the A-10, with 16 members and an 18-game conference slate, will have a superconference look and feel this season.

    Veteran St. Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli Has Garnered Plenty Of Media Attention Over The Years. Now Thanks To A New TV Deal, The Entire Atlantic-10 is Going to Get a Dose Of Camera Time (AP)

  • The New TV Deal – The conference announced an eight-year partnership with ESPN, the CBS Sports Network and the NBC Sports Network, worth an estimated $40 million dollars ($5 million per year) to run from 2013-14 through 2021-22. The three media outlets will televise 64 regular season men’s games (CBS and NBC Sports Network will televise 25 apiece and the ESPN outlets will televise 14). These three outlets will divvy the responsibilities for the conference tournament with NBC televising the men’s (and women’s) quarterfinals, CBS televising the men’s (and women’s) semifinal games, and ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU televising the men’s championship game. Though financial details were not disclosed, the conference’s 14 members are expected to collect about $400,000 apiece each season.
  • Brooklyn, Here We Come – A quiet affirmation that the move to lock up the Barclays Center in Brooklyn came with Hurricane Sandy. The superstorm swamped Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the Boardwalk Hall, previous site of the conference’s championship tournament. The Barclays Center has garnered positive reviews for its architecture, facilities and amenities. The brand-new facility will work out the kinks with a number of invitational tournaments (Barclays Center Classic, Coaches vs. Cancer, Legends Classic, Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival and Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational) and be ready to host the conference tournament next March.

Reader’s Take I


Predicted Order of Finish

Signs that the A-10 is in for a wild ride this season are everywhere. CBS Sports’ five basketball experts (Jeff Goodman, Doug Gottlieb, Gary Parrish, Matt Norlander and Jeff Borzello) tabbed four different schools (Butler, Massachusetts, Saint Louis and Virginia Commonwealth) to take the regular season crown. The A-10 coaches named a fifth school – Saint Joseph’s – at the conference’s Media Day earlier this month. Note that nobody in that group is named Temple or Xavier – the two schools which have passed the regular season crown back-and-forth for the last five seasons.

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power Rankings

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

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

 

 

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

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

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take

The Week That Was:

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

 

 

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

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2011

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

The Week That Was:

How They Measure Up: Results by Conference

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

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

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RTC Conference Primers: #8 – Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 30th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take I

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


Top Storylines

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

  • A-10 to Barclays in 2013: Barclays Center, under construction in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is in the market for multi-day sporting events while the Atlantic 10 is looking for a bigger stage for their post season tournament — a perfect match perhaps? The two announced a deal late last month that will move the 2012-13 A-10 Conference Tournament to the 675,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue that will feature an 18,000 seat arena for basketball. The Atlantic 10 has vacillated between rotating campus sites and a “permanent neutral” site since the first conference tournament in 1976-77. The current location since the 2006-07 tournament, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, is a 10,500 seat amphitheater. While technically neutral, the attendance is up when one or more of the Philadelphia contingent (La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and/or Temple) advances to the quarterfinal round and beyond, and down when they do not. The conference will return to Boardwalk Hall for their 2011-12 tournament, then move over to Barclays Center the following season.
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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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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 February 16th, 2011

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

A Look Back

Net Efficiencies, end of season honors: Net efficiencies through Monday of this week (2/14/2011) give us a better sense of the conference race than the won-loss standings. Though Duquesne drops to fourth place in the conference standings, the Dukes have dominated enough games to maintain their spot just below Xavier. Temple and Richmond follow, with both maintaining positive net efficiencies.

Xavier took sole ownership of first place Sunday with their win over Duquesne. The Musketeers’ conference SOS (see above) confirms their fans have no need to credit the conference schedule maker with an assist on their ascension. The Musketeers are back!

One of the developing oddities of late is the number of teams with negative net efficiencies — with a full ten teams logging negative nets through last Sunday. A 50/50 split would be unusual, but a 30/70 split is a bit unusual and a development that should rebalance over the next two weeks. The split however, does not bode well for postseason prospects. Consensus bracketology has the conference with three “solid ins” right now (Xavier, Duquesne and Temple), and Richmond “with work to do.”

With POY handouts  and All-Conference Team awards less than a month away, it is time to look at who has been on the conference radar all season. The Player of the Year will most likely come from the list below — I have noted the number of times the player has been cited as Player of the Week and the number of times the player has made the conference Honor Roll.

Someone not named Tu Holloway will have to put on a major push through the end of the month to overtake the Xavier guard for Player of the Year honors. Of the most like candidates (most are shown in the table), the most likely candidate is Justin Harper, Richmond’s talented #4 player, possibly Temple’s Lavoy Allen or Ramone Moore, or if Rhode Island has the kind of February that St. Louis had last season, maybe Delroy James finds his way into the conversation. But let’s be honest, for Rhode Island to have that kind of February, James would have to play like the Player of the Year. I believe the voters tend to look among the conference contenders for the Player of the Year contenders, which eliminates Chris Wright (Dayton), Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure), Chris Gaston (Fordham) and Aaric Murray (La Salle). All four (and James and Harper) are however, along with James, Moore, Allen, Chris Wright and Duquesne’s Bill Clark, well in the mix for All-Conference Teams. Those not named to the first team will no doubt make the second team.

Rookie of the Year honors appear to be a little tighter, with contenders coming from Saint Joseph‘s, Dayton, La Salle and George Washington. Duquesne’s T.J. McConnell (see table above) is the clear favorite right now, but how he fares with the voters may well be tied to how strongly the Dukes finish out the regular season. The voters may be less inclined to pin conference-contender responsibilities on a freshman/transfer, so Langston Galloway (Saint Joseph’s), Tyreek Duren (La Salle), Juwan Staten (Dayton) and Namanja Mikic (George Washington) should not be handicapped when compared to McConnell. There are two more rounds of weekly citations and a strong closing by Saint Joseph’s or George Washington may scramble this race.

Power Rankings

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

1. Xavier (18-6, 9-1)

Last Week: 2/8 @Georgia 65-57, 1/13 @Duquesne 71-63

Next Week: 2/16 @Saint Joseph’s, 2/19 vs. Fordham

After a start to the season that included injuries, academics and unexpected losses, the Musketeers have put them back at the top of the conference and into the NCAAs. Xavier has been gaining national notice over the last half of January, and whispers of Chris Mack for conference coach of the year seemed justified with their comfortable win over Duquesne Sunday. Tu Holloway earned an Honor Roll citation for averaging double digit scoring over the course of the two road games.

The Duquesne game was a classic first half/second half struggle. The home team took a narrow one point lead into the locker room, but Xavier, the larger and more physical team, slowed down the pace (36 possessions was where Duquesne wanted to play) to a more manageable 33 possessions, and took control of the defensive boards. Duquesne had a huge 31-23 FGA advantage in the first half, complements of some terrific offensive board work. The Musketeers shut down the defensive boards, limiting the Dukes to a skimpy 20% rebounding rate of their misses in the second half. Neither team overwhelmed the opponent with an offensive blitz, but by limiting second chance opportunities, Xavier turned the game into a series of one-and-done possessions. And that was a game where their superior conversion abilities could prevail. Coach Mack’s squad has light duty this week — games with Saint Joseph’s and Fordham. No slip-ups, guys.

2. Duquesne (16-7, 8-2)

Last Week: 2/13 vs. Xavier 63-71

Next Week: 2/16 @Massachusetts, 2/19 @Dayton

The Dukes had another 1-1 week, which this time dropped them back to #4 in the conference standings, though they maintain their #2 spot in these power rankings. Ron Everhart‘s charges have two road games this week, coming off a loss to Xavier, this could be a rougher trip than anticipated. Beware of a dangerous Dayton club.

3. Temple (19-5, 9-2)

Last Week: 2/9 vs. Fordham 77-66, 2/12 @Dayton 75-63

Next Week: 2/16 vs. Richmond, 2/19 vs. Saint Joseph’s

It was Lavoy Allen’s turn, as the injury bug took a bite out of the senior forward, forcing him to the bench for Saturday’s game versus Dayton. Ramone Moore stepped up and earned his sixth Honor Roll citation last week as he averaged 24.0 points and 5.0 rebounds over the week. Moore snagged nine rebounds in the Owls’ win over Dayton. Temple has a showdown with Richmond scheduled for Thursday night. The winner should draw at least the #3 seed for the conference tournament in Atlantic City next month.

4. Richmond (20-6, 9-2)

Last Week: 2/9 @George Washington 69-65, 2/12 vs. Saint Louis 64-52

Next Week: 2/16 @Temple, 2/19 vs. St. Bonaventure

The Spiders put some distance between the elites and the middle teams as they posted another 2-0 week complements from two middle-of-the-conference teams. Justin Harper earned his second Player of the Week citation for as he averaged 21.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in Richmond’s two games last week. Coach Chris Mooney and Company take a trip up to Philadelphia for a mini-showdown on Wednesday, then returns home to host the Bonnies on Saturday.

5. Rhode Island (16-9, 7-4)

Last Week: 2/9 vs. Dayton 67-53, 2/12 vs. Charlotte 71-70 OT

Next Week: 2/19 vs. Massachusetts

Rhode Island demolished a struggling Dayton team Wednesday to take over fifth place in the conference standings, and hung on to beat Charlotte on Saturday in overtime. Too little too late? Perhaps for the NCAAs, a number of solid conference wins will not make the Selection Committee forget losses to Quinnipiac and a route at the hands of Florida. Finish solidly and another round in the NITs awaits. Will that be enough for coach Jim Baron? The Runnin’ Rams face regional rival (and conference mate) Massachusetts Saturday in one of their three conference mirror games.

6. Dayton (17-9, 5-6)

Last Week: 2/9 @Rhode Island 53-67, 2/12 vs. Temple 63-75

Next Week: 2/16 @Charlotte, 2/19 vs. Duquesne

Final Judgement Week did not go well for the Flyers, as they went 0-2 against teams they really needed to beat to make any case for the post season. Rhode Island has a two game cushion in the loss column now, and Temple has another important win to stay within striking distance of Xavier. Dayton continues to drift downward in the conference standings. Dayton will play Charlotte in Charlotte Wednesday, then return to host Duquesne on Saturday.

7. George Washington (13-12, 6-5)

Last Week: 2/9 vs. Richmond 65-69, 2/13 @Massachusetts 59-51

Next Week: 2/19 @La Salle

The Colonials logged another 1-1 week, but gained an advantage over Massachusetts by winning their head-to-head. Freshman Namanja Mikic earned his second Honor Roll citation (to go with his Rookie of the Week citation) as he averaged 17.5 points for the week’s games. Karl Hobbs‘ team travels to Philadelphia to play La Salle Saturday in their only game this week.

8. St. Bonaventure (13-10, 5-5)

Last Week: 2/12 vs. La Salle 82-61

Next Week: 2/16 vs. St. Louis, 2/20 @Richmond

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies hammered a struggling La Salle squad by 21 points, earning Andrew Nicholson his ninth Honor Roll citation this season. The Bonnies host St. Louis Wednesday and travel to Richmond for a tilt with the Spiders Sunday.

9. Massachusetts (13-10, 5-5)

Last Week: 2/13 vs. George Washington 51-59

Next Week: 2/16 vs. Duquesne, 2/19 @Rhode Island

The Minutemen ran their losing streak to three last week with a loss to George Washington Sunday. Derek Kellogg‘s squad looks at two more tough opponents this week as the Minutemen host a two game home stand by hosting the Colonials next Sunday, then the Dukes the following Wednesday.

10.  La Salle (12-14, 4-7)

Last Week: 2/9 @Saint Louis 78-77, 2/12 @St. Bonaventure 61-82

Next Week: 2/19 vs. George Washington

The Explorers won their mini-series with St. Louis, pushing the Billikens another game down in the conference standings, but they have a two game gap to jump if they want to finish in the middle of the conference. Dr. John Giannini‘s squad has earned 16 citations for individual performances from the conference this season, one less than conference-leaders Duquesne and Dayton, two teams ensconced in the conference’s upper division. When working through this season, the La Salle staff and administration is going to have to reconcile the paradox of recognizable individual performances and mediocre team outcomes. La Salle has a single weekend game, as they host George Washington on Saturday. If the Explorers plan to mount a closing rush for an upper division finish this season, they have to start with George Washington.

11. Saint Louis (8-16, 3-8)

Last Week: 2/9 vs. La Salle 77-78, 2/12 @Richmond 52-64

Next Week: 2/16 @St. Bonaventure, 2/19 vs. Charlotte

The Billikens posted an 0-2 week, and run their losing streak to three. The Richmond game raised no eyebrows, but giving up a layup to Ruben Guillandeaux with 19 seconds left (and a one point lead) will hurt for awhile. Freshman Dwayne Evans earned his second Honor Roll citation of the season as he averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 rebounds last week. Coach Rick Majerus‘ squad heads out to Olean, New York to play St. Bonaventure Wednesday, then returns to Chaifetz Arena to host Charlotte in a Saturday game.

12.     Charlotte (10-13, 2-7)

Last Week: 2/12 @Rhode Island 70-71 OT

Next Week: 2/16 vs. Dayton, 2/19 @St. Louis

Charlotte logged a 0-1 week and extended their losing streak with Satuday’s result in Rhode Island. Chris Braswell did draw a conference citation for logging his fifth double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) in the loss. Charlotte hosts Dayton Wednesday and travels to St. Louis for a weekend game with the Billikens.

13. Saint Joseph‘s (6-17, 1-8)

Last Week: 2/13 @Fordham 76-70

Next Week: 2/16 vs. Xavier, 2/20 @Temple

The Hawks played a single game last week, but it was a good one as Saint Joseph’s stormed back from a 12 point halftime deficit to notch the program’s 1,500th all-time win, a six point classic, against Fordham last Sunday that also earned Langston Galloway his third Rookie of the Week citation for his career-high 25 point performance against Fordham. Saint Joseph’s’ two-game winning streak has been fun, but the Hawks are back in the meat grinder this week as they host Xavier on Wednesday and then travel across town to play Temple on Sunday.

14. Fordham (6-17, 0-11)

Last Week: 2/9 @Temple 66-77, 2/13 vs. Saint Joseph’s 70-76

Next Week: 2/16 @Xavier

Fordham’s winless string runs to 11 in conference play, with another 0-2 week. The probability they will finish the conference season without a win stand ominously at 44.7% per Ken Pomeroy. The Pythagorean Winning Percentage suggests the Rams will earn a win, but the calculations for individual games shows a “losing” probability for each game. Best chance remains a travel-challenged Massachusetts squad at the end of the season. Fordham travels to Cincinnati to take on Xavier.

A Look Ahead

The week offers a single headliner game, Richmond at Temple on Thursday night. Crucial to settling the question of the #2 and #3 seeds in Atlantic City. A Temple win would assure the Owls of no worse than a #3 seed, with distinct possibilities of a #2 seed should Duquesne falter. A Richmond win will leave the question to be settled on the court in a season-ending clash with Duquesne on March 3. Rebounding has become Richmond’s burden to bear this season. The lack of presence on the glass means their shots have to fall consistently for them to have a chance. So far they have as the Spiders convert at a 54% (eFG%) rate in conference play. They do not however rebound defensively either. And that can be a real problem given Temple’s board domination. This one should go to the Owls, though Temple fans should be warned that Richmond has the strongest road-only efficiency in the conference.

The Rhode Island-Massachusetts game scheduled for Saturday can help the Runnin’ Rams for NIT consideration should Coach Baron’s charges win. With five conference games remaining in the regular season, Rhode Island can solidify a #5 seed in the tournament should they continue to win.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 26th, 2011

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

(ed. note: this post was written before Tuesday night’s games.)

A Look Back

Some Early Season Definition to the Conference Race: The teams have played five of their 16 games on their conference slate, and the efficiency differentials are beginning to give definition to the conference standings. While the teams at the top and bottom of the conference produce differentials consistent with expectations — the top teams have the highest differentials, the bottom teams have the largest negative differentials — there are a few interesting anomalies that spice the middle layers.

Eight of the conference members have conference records north of .500, but only six of those teams have positive efficiency differentials. The two who do not (Massachusetts and Rhode Island) were trounced in one or more of their conference losses. Whether their won-loss records will come to reflect their efficiency differentials, or their efficiency differentials will come to reflect their records, may be a trend worth tracking over the next month. While it is too early to draw large conclusions, the separation between La Salle, Charlotte, Saint Joseph‘s and Fordham and the rest of the conference has to be troubling for fans of those programs. A conference SOS (next week perhaps?) might be helpful when deciding the problem to this point has been tough opponents or significant problems with the teams. But morale problems may become an issue which depresses win totals going forward (and contributes to outbound transfers come season’s end) for each of those programs.

Power Rankings

The weekend games, particularly the Xavier-Temple bout, established Xavier and Duquesne at the top of the conference rankings, with Richmond keeping pace. There is a log jam in spots #4 through #8. All five teams have identical 3-2 conference records, and each has suffered at least one loss to someone in the top three. The next group of four teams (Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure, Charlotte and La Salle) has one or two conference wins, but are in danger, should they hit a losing slide, to fall into the lowest reaches of the conference.

1. Xavier (13-5, 5-0)

Last Week: 1/19 @St. Bonaventure 79-65, 1/22 vs. Temple 88-77

This Week: 1/26 vs. George Washington, 1/29 @Richmond

The Musketeers had another 2-0 week as Tu Holloway received his fourth citation as Player of the Week from the conference. Holloway averaged 25.0 points and 7.0 assists in X’s wins over St. Bonaventure and Temple. Coach Chris Mack‘s squad will host George Washington on Wednesday before traveling to Richmond for a showdown with the Spiders on Saturday. Without looking at the weather forecast, I know it will be warm in Richmond on Saturday.

2. Duquesne (13-5, 5-0)

Last Week: 1/19 @La Salle 88-71, 1/22 vs. Charlotte 83-67

This Week: 1/26 @Fordham, 1/29 vs. Dayton

The Dukes ran their winning streak to ten with yet another 2-0 week. Freshman point guard TJ McConnell burnished his Rookie of the Year resume with another Rookie of the Week citation (this one shared with St. Bonaventure’s Michael Wright), his third consecutive citation, and fourth this season. The central Pennsylvania recruit averaged 10.0 points, 5.0 steals, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the Dukes’ two games last week. McConnell had seven assists to a single turnover in 56 minutes of play. Senior wing Damian Saunders earned an Honor Roll mention for his 71.4% shot accuracy in the two games. Saunders averaged 15.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 4.0 steals last week. If those wins came against two of the conference’s lesser lights, they were nevertheless earned in convincing fashion, by margins of 17 and 16 points respectively. Ron Everhart‘s squad takes another quick trip east on Wednesday, this time to New York City to take on the Fordham Rams. They return home to host Dayton on Saturday in another crucial match-up. Dayton, at 15-5 overall and 3-2 in conference, would like to pull this leader back to the pack.

3. Richmond (15-5, 4-1)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. George Washington 68-58, 1/22 @Massachusetts 84-68

Next Week: 1/25 @Dayton, 1/29 vs. Xavier

The Spiders kept pace with the leaders this week, registering two wins against middle-of-the-conference foes George Washington and Massachusetts. Both games were taken by double digits, and collectively earned senior forward Justin Harper another citation (his fourth, to go with a Player of the Week nod) on the conference Honor Roll. Harper averaged 25.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks over the course of the two games. Chris Mooney‘s charges head into one of those decisive weeks, as they travel to Dayton for a Tuesday night game, and back to Richmond for a Saturday tilt with Xavier. A sweep this week, extremely difficult, but certainly possible (Ken Pomeroy favors the Spiders in both games), would hand Richmond an advantage over both schools should a tie-breaker be necessary, but more importantly it would bring Xavier back to the pack and Richmond would be poised to leap-frog Duquesne should the Dukes falter.

4. Temple (13-5, 3-2)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Pennsylvania 73-56, 1/22 @Xavier 77-88

This Week: 1/26 vs. Charlotte, 1/29 @Saint Joseph’s

Temple stumbled to another 1-1 week. Guard Khalif Wyatt scored 46 points in 47 minutes of play off the bench, a set of performances that earned him a place on the conference Honor Roll this week. His 19 point scoring outburst, coupled with sophomore Scootie Randall‘s 28 point, 11-16 overall shot performance was not enough to get the Owls by A-10 rival Xavier on Sunday however. The two combined for 47 of the Owls’ 77 points, Noticeably absent however, were junior point Juan Fernandez and senior Lavoy Allen. Virtually neutralized by Xavier’s defense, the pair combined for six points on a collective 2-12 shooting, too little to affect the outcome. That lack of production from Temple’s twin offensive engine was fatal.

This week should be easier for the Owls, as they host up-and-down Charlotte on Wednesday and hike over to City Line Avenue for a game “at” Saint Joseph’s on Saturday. Those two games, which Pomeroy projects as wins, should, worst case, have the Owls keep pace (albeit two games back) with Xavier and Duquesne, but long term, coach Fran Dunphy will have to address the consistency problems plaguing his team leaders.

5. Rhode Island (12-7, 3-2)

Last Week: 1/19 @Saint Joseph’s 64-59, 1/22 vs. La Salle 75-76

This Week: 1/26 @Saint Louis, 1/30 @Massachusetts

Rhode Island beat a struggling Saint Joseph’s team Wednesday, but then negated their unexpected win versus Richmond with an equally unexpected, one point loss, to La Salle Saturday. The 1-1 week translates into an ever-shrinking post season prospect (even an NIT bid would be a stretch at this point). Senior forward Delroy James earned his seventh Honor Roll citation as he averaged a double-double (15.0 points and 12.5 rebounds) through the two games. Another Wednesday road game (it worked last week) at the Hagan versus Saint Joseph’s, and then Rhode Island returns to Kingston to host La Salle. Both the Hawks and Explorers are struggling right now, the Rams can move higher in the standings and create some daylight for themselves.

6. Massachusetts (11-7, 3-2)

Last Week: 1/19 @Charlotte 73-54, 1/22 vs. Richmond 68-84

This Week: 1/26 @St. Bonaventure, 1/30 vs. Rhode Island

The Minutemen had a 1-1, “bi-polar” week. After trouncing Charlotte by 19 at Charlotte on Wednesday, the Minutemen returned home to lose by 16 to Richmond on Saturday. Senior guard Anthony Gurley earned his fourth Honor Roll citation this season for his 23.5 point scoring average over the two games. Gurley dropped 30 points on the Spiders in the Richmond loss, a scoring blitz that included a career-high six three pointers. Massachusetts will take to the road for a game against St. Bonaventure Wednesday, and then will return home for an important test against Richmond on Saturday.

7. George Washington (10-9, 3-2)

Last Week: 1/19 @Richmond 58-68, 1/22 vs. St. Bonaventure 49-62

This Week: 1/26 @Xavier, 1/29 vs. Saint Louis

The Colonials logged an 0-2 week, both games in conference play, to extend their losing run to three games. They followed a 10 point loss on the road to Richmond last Wednesday with a 13 point home loss to the Bonnies. Expect the losing to continue at least one more game, as Karl Hobbs‘ troops go to Cincinnati to take on the Musketeers on Wednesday. The telling game will come Saturday as they host the Billikens. George Washington will need a win to stay above 0.500 for the season and in conference play. Saint Louis enters this week on a two game winning streak, and may well have another win on the record before coming into Amherst to play this Saturday.

8. Dayton (15-5, 3-2)

Last Week: 1/22 vs. Fordham 91-57

This Week: 1/25 vs. Richmond, 1/30 @Duquesne

The Flyers finished a 1-0 week, picking up a 24 point win versus Fordham on Saturday. Transfer guard Josh Parker earned his first Honor Roll nod from the conference for his contribution off the bench against Fordham. The junior pont scored 27 points in 24 minutes as a substitute for freshman point guard Juwan Staten.

This is “Statement Week” for Dayton, as the Flyers host Richmond on Tuesday and travel to Pittsburgh for a rendevous with conference Cinderella Duquesne on Sunday. Dayton’s rebounding will probably not be an advantage in their game with Richmond, as they will need perimeter defense to throttle back a red hot three point shooting Spider squad, ranked #7 in Division 1 for three point conversions (41.3%). Making Chris Johnson Justin Harper’s “second skin” and finding a way to throttle Richmond’s guard squad (Kevin Anderson, Darien Brothers and Cedric Lindsay) which collectively has converted three point attempts at a 43.3% clip would go a long way, but the would still have to find an answer for Dan Geriot. Not an easy task.

9. St. Bonaventure (10-8, 2-3)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Xavier 65-79, 1/22 @George Washington 62-49

This Week: 1/26 vs. Massachusetts, 1/29 @Fordham

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies dropped a third consecutive game (a 14 point loss to Xavier) before breaking their fall complements of George Washington (a 13 point win). Freshman guard Matthew Wright shared Rookie of the Week honors (with TJ McConnell) for his two double digit scoring games. The Toronto native came off the bench to score 10 against Xavier, and followed with a career-high 18-point outburst that helped end St. Bonaventure’s 21-year winless run at George Washington. Senior point guard Ogo Adegboye paced the Bonnies with 16 points while two others, wing Michael Davenport (12) and center Andrew Nicholson (13), along with Wright, chipped in double digit points in the losing effort versus Xavier. The Bonnies led or tied in that game for the first 24 minutes. The Bonnies host a Massachusetts squad coming off of a loss on Wednesday, and then have a possible trap game at Fordham on Saturday (they travel to Dayton first thing in February). Two wins at this point would be very good, as the Bonnies have a two game road trip to start February that takes them through Dayton, then Duquesne, before returning home.

10.  Charlotte (9-10, 1-4)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Massachusetts 65-73, 1/22 @Duquesne 67-83

This Week: 1/26 @Temple, 1/29 vs. La Salle

Charlotte broke their losing run in conference play at mid-month, but started a new losing string with back-to-back loses to Massachusetts and Duquesne. Sophomore center Chris Braswell earned an Honor Roll citation from the conference for his 14.5 point, 9.0 rebound average in the 49ers’ two games. Braswell shot 50% from the floor, shooting 9-18 overall (1-4 from three point land, 8-14 from inside the arc) and 10-13 from the line. Braswell’s shot efficiency (eFG%) was 52.8%, while his PPWS was 1.20. Coach Alan Major‘s squad will find the road does not get much easier as they travel to Philadelphia for a game with Temple Wednesday, then return to host a resurgent La Salle team Saturday. So far the 49ers are 1-1 at home in conference play.

11. Saint Louis (7-11, 2-3)

Last Week: 1/19 @Fordham 68-55

This Week: 1/26 vs. Rhode Island, 1/29 @George Washington

The Billikens added another conference win to their total with a trip to the Meadowlands and a win over Fordham on Wednesday night. Kyle Cassity earned a nod from the conference for his team-leading 13 points in the road win. Kwamain Mitchell was “DNP — pending clearance” again. Rumor is he should be re-instated “shortly”.

A two game “Sort Out Week” for the Billikens is in store. Both games pit the Bills against fellow “middle of the conference” opponents. Should the Billikens sweep (a 31.5% chance per Pomeroy, Pythagoreas & log5), they will vault themselves over the 0.500 mark in conference play and into the tier just below the conference leaders. Wednesday will feature a mini-showdown with the Runnin’ Rams who have faltered after upsetting Richmond at home in early January. Saturday’s road game is in Washington DC versus the Colonials, a team like St. Louis stumbled out of the gate this season, but put on a push early in the conference season. The past week has also seen the Colonials “settle” into the middle of the conference.

12. La Salle (9-11, 1-4)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Duquesne 71-88, 1/22 @Rhode Island 76-75

This Week: 1/26 vs. Saint Joseph’s, 1/29 @Charlotte

The Explorers redeemed a 17 point home loss to Duquesne with a one point 76-75 road win in Kingston, RI, versus Rhode Island. Sophomore center Aaric Murray earned an Honor Roll citation for his game-winning shot with 28 seconds left in regulation at Rhode Island, which broke La Salle’s four game conference losing streak. Coach John Giannini‘s squad plays Saint Joseph’s in a Big 5/A-10 match on Wednesday night at the Palestra. The game may well earn La Salle their second conference win and insure they finish no worse than third in Big 5 play this season. The Explorers then hit the road for a Saturday game in Charlotte. The 49ers and Explorers have identical 1-4 conference records to this point, a two game sweep of the week could put La Salle back into the middle of the conference standings going into February.

13. Fordham (6-11, 0-5)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Saint Louis 55-68, 1/22 @Dayton 57-91

This Week: 1/25 vs. Duquesne, 1/29 vs. St. Bonaventure

Another 0-2 week for the Rams, as the percentages that they will finish the conference season without a win grew from 6.5% to an ominous 18% per Ken Pomeroy. More unsettling however, is the offensive/defensive differential (see Conference Differentials Table at top) that is starting to drift seriously behind the rest of the conference. This happened last season, as Fordham finished their conference season with a -0.213, nearly twice the negative differential as the nearest team (-0.08 — Saint Joseph’s…). Coach Tom Pecora needs a win or two to reverse the tide and maintain the morale of his squad, as lack of improvement has been one of the elements that can influence squad members to stay and recruits to come. The best win opportunity of the week may be St. Bonaventure, a team that has lifted itself out of the conference cellar recently. The Bonnies visit on Saturday for a game that will pit front courts which feature junior Andrew Nicholson against sophmore Chris Gaston.

14. Saint Joseph’s (5-14, 0-5)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Rhode Island 59-64, 1/22 @Penn 61-73

This Week: 1/26 vs. La Salle, 1/29 vs. Temple

The Hawks’ slide numbers six consecutive games, as of last week. Five of the six are logged on their conference record, but the latest, a 12 point out of conference “road” loss to Penn in the Palestra, the most devastating so far. Wednesday’s game versus La Salle is a Big 5 “must win” for Saint Joseph’s. Having lost to Penn, the Hawks are in danger of going 0-4 and finishing last in Big 5 play for 2011.

A Look Ahead

This is “Statement Week” for Richmond and Dayton. The two are featured in a Tuesday night match that will have the loser fall another game behind conference leaders Xavier and Duquesne. Richmond will then host Xavier while Dayton will travel to Duquesne. The Flyers have a unique opportunity to single-handedly scramble the rankings and inject themselves right into the thick of the conference race should they win both games. On the other hand, should Richmond sweep the week, the Spiders would drop the X-men into a second place tie, push the Flyers back into the conference pack, and position themselves for season-ending showdown (last game of the regular season) with Duquesne. A winless week for either would be devastating, and most likely limit NCAA scenarios to those which include a conference tournament championship. (ed. note: Richmond won Tuesday, beating Dayton 70-61)

Wednesday will feature games between Rhode Island versus Saint Louis and Massachusetts versus St. Bonaventure that will either mash up the middle of the conference, or create an even greater separation between the upper and lower division.

The featured games this weekend, Xavier at Richmond (Saturday) and Dayton at Duquesne (Sunday) have the same potential to either mash up the top four-five teams or else separate the two top teams from the cluster immediately below them.

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