Set Your Tivo: 03.05.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 5th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

The final Saturday of the regular season is also the best of the year. Epic would be one way to describe the schedule today. Bids will be clinched, bubbles will burst and conference titles will be decided. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#2 Kansas @ #21 Missouri in progress on CBS (****)

It's Title Time (Again) For Markieff and KU, Though We Don't Expect the Tigers To Go Quietly

The Jayhawks can clinch the Big 12 title with a win here or a Texas loss at Baylor this evening. Through Texas’ surge and preseason projections brandishing Kansas State and Baylor, we learned one thing in this conference in 2010-11: the conference title goes through Lawrence until proven otherwise. Missouri will be in the NCAA Tournament win or lose, but a win here would really improve their seeding and give them confidence heading into the postseason. The Tigers are a different team at home and should give KU all they’ve have in front of their raucous crowd and a national television audience, looking to complete their home slate undefeated. Kansas will need to protect the ball and dominate in the paint and on the glass in order to win on the road. Missouri’s preference for a quick pace means rebounding is a vulnerability, and the Morris twins should be able to pull down a lot of missed shots assuming they stay out of foul trouble.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 2nd, 2011

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

A Look Back

Players of the Week: Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame: Ben Hansbrough was sensational this week. In three games, he averaged 27.7 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game. He shot 25-40 (62.5%) from the field, 12-20 from three (60%), and 21-25 (84%) from the line. Efficient much? Abromaitis was just as good. Prior to this week, Abro had scored 13 points just once since January 8. He scored at least 22 points in each games this week, averaging 26.7 PPG and 5.7 RPG. He shot 27-49 (55.1%) from the floor and 17-29 (58.6%) from three. When those two are clicking like that, the Irish are going to be very tough to beat.

Team of the Week: Louisville: The Cardinals just keep rolling along. After sweeping Rutgers and Pittsburgh this week, Louisville has now won three games in a row to move into a tie with St. John’s for third place in the conference standings. Finishing in the top four would give the Cardinals one of the double-byes in the Big East Tournament. The bad news? The Cardinals lost Rakeem Buckles for the season with a torn ACL in the win over Pitt.

Power Rankings (overall and conference records, and last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Pittsburgh (25-4, 13-3) (1)
Last Week: 2/24 vs. West Virginia 71-58, 2/27 @ Louisville 59-62 OT
This Week: 3/2 @ South Florida, 3/5 vs. Villanova

I’ve been saying it all season long — Pitt is susceptible to being upset when they are pressured. Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Travon Woodall are all terrific basketball players, but none of them are what you would consider a great ball handler. It cost them against Louisville. But they were also hurt against the Cardinals with their inability to get to the offensive glass. The biggest reason Pitt is such an offensively efficient team is their ability to score on second and third shots.

2. Notre Dame (24-5, 13-4) (2)
Last Week: 2/23 @ Providence 94-93, 2/26 vs. Seton Hall 60-48, 2/28 vs. Villanova 93-72
This Week: 3/5 @ UConn

See the above “Player of the Week” feature to read about the surprise near the top of the standings.

3. Louisville (22-7, 11-5) (5)
Last Week: 2/22 @ Rutgers 55-37, 2/27 vs. Pitt 62-59 OT
This Week: 3/2 vs. Providence, 3/5 @ West Virginia

See this week’s “Team of the Week” to see what has the Cardinals rolling into March

4. St. John’s (19-9, 11-5) (4)
Last Week: 2/23 vs. DePaul 76-51, 2/26 @ Villanova 81-68
This Week: 3/3 @ Seton Hall, 3/5 vs. South Florida

The Johnnies just keep on winning. After knocking off Villanova on Saturday, their streak has been extended to seven consecutive wins in the Big East (seven of eight overall, as there was a trip to UCLA thrown in that mix). The catalyst has been Dwight Hardy, also known as the “Baddest Man on the Planet”, who is averaging 28.3 points per game over the last eight games to throw his name into the mix for Big East player of the year.

5. Syracuse (24-6, 11-6) (6)
Last Week: 2/26 @ Georgetown 58-51
This Week: 3/5 @ DePaul

Here’s my concern with Syracuse: they blew a big lead to Georgetown, who was without Chris Wright, and had to rely on Scoop Jardine to save the day. Scoop’s a good player, but he’s not exactly what I would term “consistent.” They got nothing from Kris Joseph or Brandon Triche in the game. Rick Jackson is a glorified glue guy (and I mean that as an enormous compliment). Road wins at Villanova and Georgetown will move you up in the Power Rankings, but I’m not buying this team in the long term.

6. Connecticut (21-7, 9-7) (7)
Last Week: 2/24 vs. Marquette 67-74 OT, 2/27 @ Cincinnati 67-59
This Week: 3/2 @ West Virginia, 3/5 vs. Notre Dame

I wrote an extensive post on the Huskies and their reliance on Kemba Walker‘s offensive output yesterday. Essentially, the key for UConn on the offensive end is to get movement going around Kemba. Defenses are going to collapse on him, but help defense is much tougher when the offensive players are moving without the ball. UConn struggles when they are reduced to standing around and watching Kemba try to score.

7. Georgetown (22-7, 10-7) (3)
Last Week: 2/23 vs. Cincinnati 46-58, 2/26 vs. Syracuse 51-58
This Week: 3/5 @ Cincinnati

The Hoyas clearly still have fight in them, but without Chris Wright, this team is thoroughly mediocre. They simply don’t have enough offensive firepower. Wright is the Hoyas’ best playmaker and best creator. When he isn’t on the floor, Georgetown’s offense is no where near as dynamic or dangerous.

8. Villanova (21-8, 9-8) (8)
Last Week: 2/26 vs. St. John’s 68-81, 2/28 @ Notre Dame 72-93
This Week: 3/5 @ Pitt

Villanova is in a free fall. Honestly, I have no idea what to make of this team. They’ve lost five of seven and seven of 11. They certainly have talent on their roster, especially in the backcourt, but for the second straight season, the wheels have come off.

On the Bubble:

9. West Virginia (18-10, 9-7) (9)
Last Week: 2/24 @ Pitt 58-71, 2/27 @ Rutgers 65-54
This Week: 3/2 vs. UConn, 3/5 vs. Louisville

West Virginia probably isn’t in any danger of missing the NCAA Tournament, but if they lose to both UConn and Louisville this week, then bow out in the first round of the Big East Tournament, the committee is going to have to take a look.

10. Marquette (18-11, 9-7) (10)
Last Week: 2/24 @ UConn 74-67 OT, 2/27 vs. Providence 86-62
This Week: 3/2 vs. Cincinnati, 3/5 @ Seton Hall

Marquette’s win over the Huskies on Thursday all but sent Buzz Williams’ team to the NCAA Tournament. If they can close out against Cincy and Seton Hall, they will lock up their bid.

11. Cincinnati (22-7, 9-7) (11)
Last Week: 2/23 @ Georgetown 58-46, 2/27 vs. UConn 59-67
This Week: 3/2 @ Marquette, 3/5 vs. Georgetown

Cincinnati can probably feel a bit safer than Marquette at this point. They have fewer losses and a better RPI. But with Marquette and Georgetown on the schedule for this week, they need to play like they’re still trying to get in.

Off The Bubble:

12. Rutgers (14-15, 4-12) (12)
Last Week: 2/22 vs. Louisville 37-55, 2/27 vs. West Virginia 54-65
This Week: 3/2 @ DePaul, 3/5 @ Providence

13. Seton Hall (11-17, 5-11) (13)
Last Week: 2/26 @ Notre Dame 48-60
This Week: 3/3 vs. St. John’s, 3/5 vs. Marquette

14. Providence (14-15, 3-13) (14)
Last Week: 2/23 vs. Notre Dame 93-94, 2/27 @ Marquette 62-86
This Week: 3/2 @ Louisville, 3/5 vs. Rutgers

15. South Florida (8-21, 2-14) (15)
Last Week: 2/26 @ DePaul 86-76
This Week: 3/2 vs. Pitt, 3/5 @ St. John’s

16. DePaul (7-19, 1-13) (16)
Last Week: 2/23 @ St. John’s 51-76, 2/26 vs. South Florida 76-86
This Week: 3/2 vs. Florida, 3/5 @ Syracuse

A Look Ahead
There are some really important games down the stretch that will determine the seeding for the Big East tournament as well as seeding (and bids) for the NCAA Tournament. With five teams currently sitting with seven or eight losses in the 7-11 spots in the standings, the race will be on to see who gets those last two first-round byes.

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The Week That Was: Feb. 21-28

Posted by jstevrtc on March 1st, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor



March is here. Need we say more? Those three little words should be enough to put an extra skip in your step this morning and the rest of the week. March is the month when it’s not only socially acceptable to call in sick from work to watch sports — it’s encouraged. The way this season’s gone, the Tournament should be beyond epic, possibly even exceeding last year’s chaotic first two rounds. And if more male cheerleaders are involved, that’s OK by us. It’s March and we’re in a good mood.


What We Learned

Baring an epic collapse during the final two weeks of the regular season, BYU should get a #1 seed when the NCAA Tournaments brackets are released March 13. And none of this “in the discussion” talk. The Jimmer Fredettes (er, Cougars) are definitely one of the top four teams in the nation after their 13-point shakedown of San Diego State at hostile Viejas Arena on Saturday afternoon, a place where the Aztecs hadn’t lost a game all year. After San Diego State took a brief 2-0 lead, the Cougars led the rest of the way in an eye-opening performance that proved two important things: BYU can play some D, and it doesn’t always have to be all Jimmer, all the time. The Cougars held Kawhi Leonard to 17 points on 6-14 shooting, blocking his shot twice and harassing the Aztec big man whenever the he set up in the paint. BYU also had three players other than Fredette score in double figures. Charles Abouo led the way with 18 points, while Noah Hartsock finished with 15 and Jackson Emery added 13. The knock on the Cougars was always that they relied too much on Fredette. While it’s still a justified criticism (Fredette has the fifth highest usage rate in the nation), BYU gave teams reason to think twice about doubling Fredette, especially on the perimeter.

Will This One Do It for the Hokies?

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ATB: February Parity Turns to March Mayhem

Posted by rtmsf on February 28th, 2011

The Lede.  It was the last weekend in February, and as we come out of it, we’re less clear about who the favorites are to cut down the nets in early April than we have been at any point this season.  RTCs went down in Blacksburg, Boulder, Springfield and more, befitting the stress, pressure and expectations of a season reaching its regular season terminus.  As usual, after a weekend like this, there’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump right in with some of the major moments…


An RTC Kinda Weekend

Your Watercooler MomentParity is This Year’s Dominance. It was another weekend where many of the top teams came away with losses.  #2 Duke (#1 AP/#1 ESPN) went to Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Virginia, on Saturday night and left with a lighter load. #3 Pittsburgh (#4 AP/#6 ESPN) dropped a tough Big East road battle at Louisville for the second straight weekend.  #4 Texas (#5 AP/#5 ESPN) suffered a ridiculously bad second half at Colorado and headed back to Austin with two Ls in its last three outings.  #5 San Diego State (#6 AP/#4 ESPN) suffered the ignoble embarrassment of getting Jimmered in its own building by the only team to have proven it can beat the Aztecs this season.  Shuffle the deck for another week and repeat.  The only top teams to come out unscathed this weekend were #1 Ohio State (#2 AP/#3 ESPN), #6 Kansas (#3 AP/#2 ESPN) and #7 BYU (#7 AP/#7 ESPN) — and both the Buckeyes and Jayhawks were part of last week’s poll carnage.  The point we’re making is a simple one: the field is completely wide open this year.  It wouldn’t surprise us nor should it surprise you if none of the eventual #1 seeds make it to the Final Four — the difference between the top seven named above and the next tier of teams is not large.  The four teams we would put on our top line as of tonight — Ohio State, Pitt, BYU and Kansas — are all strong candidates to lose at least one more game between now and Selection Sunday, now only fourteen days out.  This kind of parity among the top teams makes for an exciting NCAA Tournament, but it shouldn’t shock anybody if the seeds that make it to Houston in April add up to a total well into the teens (e.g., 2, 3, 6, 8).

Your Watercooler Moment, Pt. IIThat Stupid Louisville Cheerleader.  If Rick Pitino were a little younger and brasher (say, the Knicks or early Kentucky eras), the Louisville cheerleader who grabbed the ball and tossed it up into the air after what appeared to be Kyle Kuric’s game-sealing dunk would already be encased in concrete in the Ohio River locks.  Instead, the older and somewhat more forgiving head coach will likely only have a horse’s head delivered to the cheerleader’s bed for making his gaffe with 0.5 seconds remaining on the clock.  The sophomoric ball-toss resulted in two technical FTs for Pitt taking a five-point lead down to three, and the Panthers put up a decent half-court heave at the buzzer that would have tied the game.  We can understand a little confusion with respect to the last half-second of time running off the clock, but why touch the ball at all?  That should be the province of the players and game officials, nobody else, and the cheer people should understand that better than most.  Here’s the question on everyone’s mind, though: will Cheer Dufus be back in action or will Pitino have him removed (we’re not sure what “The male cheerleader is coming to an end” means exactly)?

Your Watercooler Moment, Pt. IIITyler Trapani Shuts Down Pauley With an Assist From the Ghost of John Wooden.  It was the last game in Pauley Pavilion, the House That Wooden Built, before it undergoes massive renovations over the next year-plus to bring the building seemingly mired in the 1960s into the modern era.  UCLA was throttling league-leading Arizona and the Bruin partisans were rocking out with every Reeves Nelson dunk, Josh Smith twirl and each  long-range brick from Arizona.  With just a few seconds remaining in garbage time, UCLA’s Jack Haley, Jr., missed a corner three badly short; standing directly under the basket to catch it and lay it in as the final points scored in the “old” Pauley was walk-on Tyler Trapani, The Wizard of Westwood’s great-grandson.  The bucket represented his only two points of the entire season, and it seemed a fitting tribute to finishing off the old barn in its current state.  Pauley Pavilion is one of the temples of the sport, so we’re glad to hear that UCLA is finally updating it — it’s our opinion that modernizing a terrific old venue is much preferred to building an austere and lifeless new one.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits

  • Virginia Tech and Colorado’s RTCs.  Coverage of the court was quick, complete and rowdy, befitting how you should RTC when you take down a top five team in your building.  Virginia Tech’s crowd was fantastic the entire evening, as the below video clearly illustrates (move ahead for the RTC, and here’s a bird’s eye view if you’re into that).  As the second video shows, Colorado’s was also quite good (here’s another from within the maelstrom at center court).  Perhaps more importantly, the huge wins keep both teams’ hopes alive for an at-large NCAA bid in two weeks.  Much was expected from both of these schools prior to season tipoff, but they’ve had myriad ups and downs along the way.  These two huge wins will go a long way toward finding the right side of the bubble in fourteen days.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.26-02.27

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 25th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

We are now only about two weeks away from Selection Sunday. Teams are locking up bids and others are hurting their chances down the stretch. It’s another big weekend in the college hoops world, headlined by a top ten battle in the Mountain West. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#20 Syracuse @ #11 Georgetown – 12 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

Coach Thompson and the Hoyas Will Likely Be Without Their Most Important Player on Saturday

The Orange will look to avenge another home defeat by winning on the road, this time in Washington, D.C. Here’s a quirky fact for you: Syracuse has lost to all three of its repeat opponents (Georgetown, Villanova and Seton Hall) at the Carrier Dome but a win on Saturday would give them wins in the home buildings of all three teams. That has become more likely in this one, after Chris Wright broke his hand in Wednesday’s loss to Cincinnati. As a talented senior point guard, Wright is Georgetown’s most indispensible player. He doesn’t wow you with his shooting but he passes the ball well and does an excellent job of running John Thompson III’s complex offensive sets.

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Around The Blogosphere: February 25, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on February 25th, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

Top 25 Games

  • Marquette 74, #13 UConn 67 (OT): The Huskies lost a tough game at the XL Center that should help Marquette’s NCAA Tournament chances. (The UConn Blog)

Other Games

  • Gonzaga 89, St. Mary’s 85 (OT): The Zags’ keys to the game included (1) beating SMC on offense with Sacre, Harris and Dower, (2) limiting SMC’s three-point attempts with skin tight perimeter defense, and (3) forcing SMC to take a higher-than-usual percentage of two-point shots. Aside from the obvious victory — and Zagacious cannot understate the awesomeness of this win! — how did we fare on our checklist?  (Zagacious)

Pre-Game Analysis

  • #2 Duke at Virginia Tech: “Program changer.  You don’t get many opportunities at program changing wins, but VT has a shot at one on Saturday.  The whole nation (and world thanks to ESPN America) will be get a big glimpse of what Hokie Nation is like for roundball on Saturday with ESPN College Gameday (basketball) making its first ever trip to the ‘Burg with Rece, Hubert, Digger, and Jay Bilas, airing from 10 AM to Noon.  Then, the big show starts nine hours later with Tech taking on the #1, by God, Duke Blue Devils at 9 PM on ESPN in OUR CASSELL..” (Tech Hoops)

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ATB: Marshon Madness

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2011

The Lede.  It’s Wednesday night, so that of course meant a lot of action around the country tonight.  From a new conference scoring record to a ridiculous banked buzzer-beater to an unfortunate injury to a star player, it’s all here tonight.  We have to jump in, though, with a performance by a guy who doesn’t get much in the way of pub, but who has put together an outstanding season for his school in the toughest environment in the country.

Feet Set, Shoulders Square... (ProJo/R. Perez)

Your Watercooler MomentMarshon’s Moment.  It’s been a trying year for Marshon Brooks and his Providence Friars.  In any number of other leagues, PC might have been good enough to finish in the top third and make a legitimate run at the NCAA Tournament.  Not so in the Big East.  The Friars have struggled through a 3-12 conference season after a solid 11-2 non-conference slate which was short on quality wins but long on confidence.  In many ways, tonight’s one-point loss to Notre Dame, 94-93, was a microcosm of a year that has included a number of close losses to good teams.  Senior Marshon Brooks did his best to change that fortune tonight, dropping a historic 52-point night on the Irish, including an absurd 35 points in the second half, to give his team a realistic chance to pull off the upset.  The victory didn’t happen, but Brooks’ performance was one for the ages, representing the best scoring output in a Big East regular season game EVER.  Considering the number and quality of players who have come through this league, it’s fairly amazing that Brooks now owns this record.  His he-man sized performance matches Lamar guard Mike James’ surprising 52-point effort back in early January (remember him? — he’s only scored 131 points since!) for the best scoring night of 2010-11, and without question tonight at the Dunk will be an evening that the fans and players in attendance will never forget.  For a team going nowhere fast this season, sometimes it’s moments of individual glory such as these that give a team something to hang its hat on.

Your Watercooler Moment, Pt. IIJosh Gasser, I-Banker.  Josh Gasser, a freshman guard on the Wisconsin Badgers, ended up with the ball in his hands after his teammate and star player, Jordan Taylor, was double-teamed on the last possession.  Down two, he fired away from long range, banking the ball into the basket and causing a fit of Badger mayhem at center court after the ball fell through the net.  Sometimes it’s just your year, and sometimes it’s not.  The home team, Michigan, has taken much more of the latter than the former, losing multiple close games that have put John Beilein’s Wolverines squarely on the thin side of the bubble.  Bo Ryan’s team, on the other hand, continues to win games to pressure Purdue and Ohio State in the Big Ten race; with the nation’s most efficient offense and the occasional stroke of luck as performed by Gasser tonight, the Badgers are going to be a major headache for teams that face them this postseason.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.16.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 16th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

It’s a big night all across the college basketball landscape but two games featuring teams all ranked in the top 12 lead the way. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#9 Wisconsin @ #11 Purdue – 6:30 pm on Big Ten Network (****)

We Don't Expect a Post-Buckeye Hangover From Leuer and the Badgers, But You Never Know

It’ll be interesting to see how the Badgers respond on the road after taking down #1 Ohio State on Saturday. Wisconsin is 3-4 in true road games and needed overtime to turn away Iowa last week. We expect this to be a very clean game with few turnovers played at a slow pace.

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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 February 9th, 2011

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

A Look Back

Won-loss Records vs. Net Efficiency: Net efficiencies through Monday of this week (2/7/2011) give us a better sense of the conference race than the won-loss standings. With the front-runners (Xavier and Duquesne) taking losses last week, the race appears to have tightened up with just over three weeks (and 43.8% of the slate) left to play. As the table below illustrates, two teams, Duquesne and Xavier, are tied for the lead with two others, Temple and Richmond, tied for third a single game behind the leaders. Four more teams, Dayton, George Washington, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are tied for fourth just two games out of third place and four games out of first, all with seven games left to play.

The won-loss standings are deceptive however, as the table below reveals. The positive-negative split is five and nine, well off of the seven team split one would expect, and definitely at odds with the eight-five above-below 0.500 split based on conference records. The efficiency split suggests the top four teams at least are far better than their nine “net negative” conference mates. Dayton, unlike last season when the Flyers sported a net efficiency that was clearly at odds with their conference won-loss record, find those two numbers in closer alignment. The three teams they “share” fifth place with however, all show negative efficiency nets, suggesting their won-loss records may be a bit misleading. All three are clustered fairly closely, with Rhode Island bringing up the rear in the group. The conference SOS shows all three have had schedules that fall around the mid-point for difficulty (note even Saint Louis clusters into that SOS grouping), so the schedules to date are not especially helpful for projecting through the end of the season.

Who in that cluster (Dayton, Saint Louis, Massachusetts, George Washington and Rhode Island) has the tougher road home? Looking over the next five weeks, Saint Louis and Dayton both have three more games versus the top four teams. For the Billikens, that slate includes a trip to Richmond and two home games versus Duquesne and Xavier. The Flyers also face three of those teams — Temple, Duquesne and Xavier — but do not leave Dayton in the process, possibly a slight advantage over Saint Louis. The Flyers also have a chance to clear some space at fifth place as they also play Rhode Island and George Washington during that run. The season-ending run suggest the Billikens should not anticipate a repeat of last February’s run. Rhode Island may have the easiest run, as the Rams have a single top four game left, at Duquesne, and head-to-head games with the other three fifth place teams.

Power Rankings

The top teams logged a loss apiece, and while they stayed on pace with each other, they did drift one back closer to the trailing teams. This is coming down to a four-team race and assuming no more slip-ups by those four, the head-to-head games will decide the seeds for the conference tournament, and most likely who will earn at-large bids to the NCAAs.

1. Duquesne (16-6, 8-1)

Last Week: 2/2 vs. George Washington 84-59, 2/5 @St. Bonaventure 62-64

Next Week: 2/13 vs. Xavier

The Dukes’ winning streak snapped at 11 in Olean, NY on the fifth, as Duquesne lost by two, 62-64 to St. Bonaventure. B.J. Monteiro picked up his first Honor Roll mention for his 18.0 point average on the week. Coach Ron Everhart‘s squad goes home to prepare for their shootout with Xavier on Sunday. Pomeroy favors the Dukes by eight right now, which is about four more points than he gives to the home team.

2. Xavier (17-6, 8-1)

Last Week: 2/2 @Charlotte 62-66, 2/5 vs. Saint Louis 76-68

Next Week: 2/8 @Georgia 65-57, 1/13 @Duquesne

The Musketeers stumbled first, dropping a “What the heck?!” game to the 49ers in Charlotte, the kind of game more common in the first two months of the season than in the last five weeks. A bounce back win over Saint Louis Saturday leveled the week at 1-1, as Mark Lyons drew an Honor Roll nod from the conference for his career-high 25 point performance at Charlotte, 20.0 point average for the week and 52% shot accuracy. Chris Mack and his crew take to the road this week, stopping first in Athens, Georgia for a late season out of conference game with the Georgia Bull Dogs. What, at the beginning of the season appeared to be a late season distraction, may prove to be RPI gold for the X-Men. Georgia ranks #39 in the RPI and should Xavier win (Pomeroy shows them as four point underdogs right now), they would have a Top 50 road win for their post season resume —  the X-Men won this game, by eight, 65-57. The weekend road stop brings the Musketeers to Pittsburgh for a showdown with conference co-leader Duquesne on Saturday.

3. Richmond (18-6, 7-2)

Last Week: 2/2 vs. Saint Joseph’s 62-52, 2/5 @Fordham 77-60

Next Week: 2/9 @George Washington, 2/12 vs. Saint Louis

The Spiders beat up the conference underdogs — Saint Joseph’s and Fordham, rather handily, taking each game by double digit points. Senior big man Dan Geriot earned his first conference Honor Roll mention as he averaged 15.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in last week’s games. Chris Mooney‘s squad takes a trip up to Washington DC for a game with the Colonials on Wednesday, then return home to host the staggering Billikens on Saturday.

4. Temple (17-5, 7-2)

Last Week: 2/2 @La Salle 71-67, 2/5 vs. Rhode Island 81-67

Next Week: 2/9 vs. Fordham, 2/12 @Dayton

Juan Fernandez returned to the lineup just in time as Temple posted another 2-0 last week and kept pace with Richmond (which had a much easier draw last week) for third place in the conference standings. Junior forward Scootie Randall drew his first Player of the Week citation (only the second all season for a Temple player) for his 20.5 point average over the two games. Randall hit his first eight shots in the Rhode Island game on his way to a game-high 25 points. The back court quartet of Randall, Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt and T.J. DiLeo (plus the returned Fernandez) continues to power the Owls, combining for 48 of the Owls’ 71 points versus La Salle and 54 of the Owls’ 80 points versus Rhode Island. The Owls host Fordham Wednesday, then travel to Dayton for a showdown game on Saturday. Pomeroy projects both as wins, which will be necessary if Temple’s showdown with Richmond on 2/17 is to be a true throw down for the #3 seed (or better) in Atlantic City.

5. Dayton (17-7, 5-4)

Last Week: 2/2 vs. St. Bonaventure 63-61, 2/5 @La Salle 85-81

Next Week: 2/9 @Rhode Island, 2/12 vs. Temple

The Flyers bounced back with a 2-0 week, their first in conference play this season. Senior forward Chris Wright earned his eighth citation from the conference (one Player of the Week & seven Honor Rolls), his second consecutive Honor Roll mention, for averaging 19.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game in Dayton’s two wins.

If January 23 – January 30 was Dayton’s “Statement Week”, then February 6 – February 12 should be “Statement Week II (Final Judgment?)” as the Flyers travel to Kingston, RI to throw Rhode Island out of their extended tie for fifth place, then return home to host Temple on Saturday. The Owls, tied with Richmond for third place and a strong favorite to make the NCAAs, has a two loss advantage over Dayton in conference standings. A 2-0 week would not vault Dayton into conference leadership, but it would really scramble the conference standings in the last month of the season, and provide coach Brian Gregory‘s squad with a good resume win for the Selection Committee.

6. Rhode Island (14-9, 5-4)

Last Week: 2/2 vs. Fordham 72-52, 2/5 @Temple 80-67

Next Week: 2/9 vs. Dayton, 2/12 vs. Charlotte

Rhode Island demolished struggling Fordham team Wednesday, but then dropped their road game against Temple (not shocking, but…) to post a 1-1 week. Senior forward Delroy James earned his ninth Honor Roll citation (third consecutive) from the conference as he averaged 22.0 points, 6.5 for the Rams last week.

A Wednesday shootout with Dayton for fifth place, then a Saturday game versus struggling Charlotte constitutes next week’s slate. With post season options, short of a run through the conference tournament, limited to three lettered tournaments, the Runnin’ Rams have nine losses with seven more conference games to play, which leaves no more room for slip ups. Chances they will run the table going into Atlantic are slim, especially with Duquesne coming up in two weeks. Shooting deficiencies have hobbled Coach Baron’s team, and Delroy James, practically a lock for All Conference honors (First team most likely) cannot carry the team, despite what the succession of Honor Roll citations would have one believe. Some combination from among Nikola Malesevic, Orion Outerbridge, Marquis Jones and Akeem Richmond has to take the pressure off James offensively. Malesevic or Outerbridge has to touch the ball more, while Jones and Richmond have to be more accurate with the shots they take.

7. Massachusetts (13-9, 5-4)

Last Week: 2/2 @Saint Louis 53-69, 2/5 @Saint Joseph’s 64-67

Next Week: 2/13 vs. George Washington

The Minutemen had an 0-2 week, dropping games to the Billikens and to the previously winless (in conference play) Hawks. After standing with a 5-2 record ready to take a big leap into the thick of the conference race, the week knocked the Minutemen back into the jumble of teams grasping and clawing for a chance at one of the bye seeds. Derek Kellogg and the Minutemen open a two-game home stand by hosting the Colonials next Sunday, then the Dukes the following Wednesday.

8. George Washington (12-11, 5-4)

Last Week: 2/2 @Duquesne 59-84, 2/5 @Charlotte 73-67

Next Week: 2/9 vs. Richmond, 2/13 @Massachusetts

The Colonials logged another 1-1 week, getting blasted by 25 points at the hands of Duquesne, then took a road game in Charlotte over the weekend. They continue to stay just north of 0.500 in conference play even as junior Tony Taylor was cited for his second consecutive Honor Roll mention (sixth of the season) for averaging 23.0 points and 6.0 assists in last weeks’ road games. Coach Karl Hobbs takes his charges home for a battle against the third place Spiders of Richmond Wednesday night, the travel to Amherst to play the Minutemen in a battle for fifth place, on Saturday..

9. St. Bonaventure (12-10, 4-5)

Last Week: 2/2 @Dayton 61-63, 2/5 vs. Duquesne 64-62

Next Week: 12/12 vs. La Salle

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies finished a 1-1 week on a pair of two point games, a loss 61-63 at Dayton, and a win 64-62 versus Duquesne. Junior center Andrew Nicholson earned his seventh Honor Roll nod as he recorded his eighth double-double (25 points, 11 rebounds) of the season in the Fordham game. The Bonnies travel to Dayton for a Wednesday game with the Flyers, then return home to host Duquesne, on Saturday. A 1-1 week would be a morale boost for the squad.

10. La Salle (11-13, 3-6)

Last Week: 2/2 vs. Temple 67-71, 2/5 vs. Dayton 81-85

Next Week: 2/9 @Saint Louis, 12/12 @St. Bonaventure

If the past week was indeed La Salle’s “Statement Week”, the words are “Not this year”, as the Explorers stumbled through an 0-2 week, dropping home games to Temple and Dayton. Starting center Aaric Murray was benched seven and half minutes into the game, and did not appear again in the half. “We subbed him when we were down by a whole bunch (9-21), and the guys who came in gave great effort…I was extremely pleased with the guys who were in the game…” Dr. John Giannini explained. The Explorers in the game did battle back and took a three point lead, 38-35, into the intermission. Devon White started the second half as Murray remained benched. A few minutes into the half the sophomore asked to go back in and, with Dayton up 46-40 about six minutes into the second half, Giannini obliged. Murray logged another 3:29 and, with the Dayton lead out to 17, 59-42, Giannini pulled him for the second and last time. “…they (Dayton) went up big on us again, and I went back with that team that made the run in the first half — and they made another run…”. The Explorers trimmed their deficit to two in the last 0:09, but a last possession foul put the visitors on the line one last time, accounting for the winning margin. La Salle has two road games coming up, Saint Louis on Wednesday and St. Bonaventure on Saturday. At this point the assumption is that Murray will play.

11. Saint Louis (8-14, 3-6)

Last Week: 2/2 vs. Massachusetts 69-63, 2/5 @Xavier 68-76

Next Week: 2/9 vs. La Salle, 2/12 @Richmond

The Billikens posted a 1-1 week, beating middle-of-the-conference Massachusetts by six, then dropping an eight point decision at Xavier. Freshman Rob Loe earned his first Honor Roll mention because he averaged 14.0 points (while leading the team) for the two games. He went 5-5 at Xavier, including 4-4 from beyond the arc. Coach Rick Majerus‘ squad hosts La Salle Wednesday, then travels to Richmond for a Saturday game.

12. Charlotte (10-13, 2-7)

Last Week: 2/2 vs. Xavier 66-62, 2/5 vs. George Washington 67-73

Next Week: 2/12 @Rhode Island,

Charlotte snapped their four game skid complements of Xavier. Senior guard Derrio Green earned his fifth Honor Roll citation because he led the 49ers last week, but more noteworthy, he was a perfect 10-10 from the line in Charlotte’s win over Xavier. Charlotte closed their three game home stand with a 1-2 note, losing to GWU by six. Charlotte goes back into action with a trip to Rhode Island for a Saturday game with the Runnin’ Rams.

13. Saint Joseph’s (6-17, 1-8)

Last Week: 2/2 @Richmond 52-62, 2/5 vs. Massachusetts 67-64

Next Week: 2/13 @Fordham

The Hawks’ will not register an O’fer conference season, complements of the Minutemen. Freshman Langston Galloway earned his second Rookie of the Week nod from the conference. The guard posted his best numbers of the season, 25 points, in the Massachusetts game. Galloway hit 6-6 from three point land. He scored 11 points in the Hawks’ loss at Richmond. Saint Joseph’s will travel to the Meadowlands of New Jersey for a Saturday game versus Fordham, the last winless team in the conference.

14. Fordham (6-15, 0-9)

Last Week: 2/2 @Rhode Island 52-72, 2/5 vs. Richmond 60-77

Next Week: 2/9 @Temple, 2/13 vs. Saint Joseph’s

Fordham’s winless string runs to nine in conference play, with another 0-2 week. The probabilities that they will finish the conference season without a win stand at 35.6% per Ken Pomeroy. The Pythagorean Winning Percentage suggests the Rams will earn a win in some game before the end of conference play, but the calculations for individual games shows a “losing” probability for each game. Fordham travels to Philadelphia to close out their home-away series with Temple, then back home to host Saint Joseph’s on Saturday in a game that represents their best chance to log their first conference win in two seasons.

A Look Ahead

The week offers two headliner games this week, with the conference’s two heavy weights, Xavier and Duquesne, facing off in Pittsburgh. The game will pit the conference’s best defense (Duquesne) against the conference’s strongest offense (Xavier). Duquesne will match their third-best offense against Xavier’s fifth-best defense. Shot making will be the key, as each squad’s shot defense is among the conference’s best. Duquesne relies on turnovers to augment their strong shot defense (and mask weak defensive rebounding), but the Musketeers do not turn the ball over and shoot the ball very well (#1 eFG% in conference play), so expect a strength-on-strength matchup. On the other side of the court, the teams have similar strength-on-strength matchups. The Dukes have to shoot well and rebound their misses, two defensive strengths for the Musketeers who lead the conference in defensive rebounding. If the Dukes can force Musketeer turnovers and chill the visitor’s shooters, they may parlay their strengths into a win, but should Musketeers dominate the defensive boards and shut down the Duquesne shooters, they should come out the winner.

The Dayton-Rhode Island game on Wednesday also promises to sort out the teams just below the “bye” rankings. Dayton has been maddeningly inconsistent on the road this and last season. For Rhode Island it comes down to shooting (eFG%). If the Rams hit their shots, they win. If their opponents make their shots, the Rams lose. Rhodi’s offensive efficiency and shot conversion efficiency in conference games so far has been well below their overall efficiency numbers. They have struggled to find a second and third option behind James. For Dayton, efficient shot conversion is extremely important, but the Flyers also look to offensive rebounding (and second chance points) when they are cold. Rhode Island is an average rebounding team (defensively), so the boards, should become a key to this outcome. The Flyers have a terrible habit of going down early in road games and relying on half time adjustments and second half rallies to turn the tide.

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