The Week That Was: Feb. 21-28

Posted by jstevrtc on March 1st, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

 

Introduction

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 rushthecourt@gmail.com. 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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Set Your Tivo: 01.31.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 31st, 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 another “Big Monday” as two Big East powers collide, fresh off huge road wins on Saturday. The nightcap features two of the better teams in the Big 12 getting together for the second time this year in a good old fashioned Texas rodeo. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Louisville @ #21 Georgetown – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

These teams are coming off very successful weeks, each capping theirs with big time road wins, with Louisville winning at Connecticut and Georgetown coming away victorious at Villanova. This game should feature a lot of target practice from deep, as the Cardinals are highly dependent on the triple while the Hoyas have three players who can get hot from long range at any time. Austin Freeman has been lately, and is the reason why Georgetown has turned their season around by winning four straight games. During their three game losing streak at the beginning of the month, Freeman was averaging only 10 PPG. Over the last four games, he’s averaged 24 PPG and it’s no coincidence that Georgetown has won all four. The senior guard had 30 points at Villanova on Saturday, and Louisville must keep him in check tonight if they hope to tack on another solid road win.

No Time To Celebrate Recent Successes For JT3 and the Hoyas

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Set Your Tivo: 01.26.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 26th, 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.

Coming off their huge win at Kansas on Saturday, Texas heads back out on the road to another tough environment and looking to avoid a letdown while the game of the year in the Mountain West takes place tonight in Provo, Utah. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#6 Texas @ Oklahoma State – 7:30 pm on ESPN (***)

Hamilton and the 'Horns Enter a Tough Environment Tonight, Even Without the Added Emotion

Emotions will be running high in Stillwater as the Cowboys take the court tonight and the Oklahoma State community honors the legacy of the ten lives lost in the plane crash that occurred ten years ago Thursday. Gallagher-Iba Arena is always a tough place to play and that will especially ring true this evening.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.25.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 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.

No matter how many games there are, no night is ever an off night in college basketball. Notre Dame legitimized itself as a Big East double-bye contender with a massive road win at Pittsburgh last night while Kansas State got their must win. What’s in store for us hoopheads tonight? All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#12 Purdue @ #1 Ohio State – 9 pm on ESPN (****)

It's a Battle of Player of the Year Candidates In Columbus Tonight

First place is on the line in the Big Ten as these two clubs meet tonight in Columbus. Ohio State has a one game lead over Purdue and can make it two plus the tiebreaker if they win. On the other hand, the Boilermakers can move into a first place tie and will hold the tiebreaker edge (for now) should they come out on top. Obviously the big-time matchup in this game is down inside as freshman Jared Sullinger goes up against senior JaJuan Johnson. Sullinger has a lot more bulk to push people around inside but Johnson has a game that extends out to mid range and even the three point arc on occasion. Look for Matt Painter’s big man to try and pull Sullinger away from the basket, opening up lanes for Purdue’s guards to get to the rim. Each team starts four guards, so Purdue won’t have as difficult of a time as you might think if Johnson is successful.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 19th, 2011

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

Looking Back

An Early Season A-10 Masala: Does anyone want to be the regular season champion? The first week-plus of conference play suggests the title and #1 seed in the conference tournament is a hot potato that no one wants to handle. Temple continues to have the fewest losses overall, but the Juan Fernandez-less Owls were dumped rather hard in Pittsburgh over the weekend, dropping a 12-point decision to overlooked Duquesne. Richmond was poised to take over the conference lead, but dropped a four-point game to struggling Rhode Island, leaving the door open for Dayton, who then lost to Xavier by five. The Musketeers, Duquesne and George Washington are the only undefeated schools left in the conference race, but as the chart below suggests, the twists and turns through the first 20%-25% of the conference schedule hint that this conference race will be hotter and closer than anticipated.

Xavier coach Chris Mack, struggling with a roster depleted by injuries and academics and scrambling for some answers on offense in the weeks before conference play has emerged as a very early favorite for conference coach of the year. Of course, if the Dukes maintain their momentum and Richmond puts it back together, the coach’s race may turn into a masala too.

Power Rankings

With upsets over the weekend, the conference standings are jumbled, and though my power rankings differ from the standings, I have moved even more teams around this week.

1. Xavier (11-5, 3-0)

Last Week: 1/12 vs. Massachusetts 79-60, 1/15 vs. Dayton 81-76
Next Week: 1/19 @ St. Bonaventure, 1/22 vs. Temple

The Musketeers had a 2-0 week as Tu Holloway received an Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 25.0 points and 7.0 assists in X’s wins over Massachusetts and Dayton. Mack’s squad will travel to St. Bonaventure for their game Wednesday, and return home for a crucial conference matchup with Temple on Saturday.

2. Temple (12-4, 3-1)

Last Week: 1/12 vs. St. Bonaventure 83-55, 1/15 @ Duquesne 66-78
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Pennsylvania, 1/22 @ Xavier

The conference’s sole representative in Top 25 polls was dropped again, one of several consequences of their Saturday road loss to Duquesne. The Owls finish their “out of conference” portion of their City Series schedule when they host the Penn Quakers on Wednesday, and return to conference action with a crucial game at Xavier on Saturday.

3. Richmond (13-5, 2-1)

Last Week: 1/13 vs. Rhode Island 74-78
Next Week: 1/19 vs. George Washington, 1/22 @ Massachusetts

The Spiders squandered an excellent opportunity to replace Temple at the top of the A-10 Conference standings and the Top 25 polls as they lost their only game of the week, a four point, 74-78 decision to Rhode Island. Richmond will host Rhode Island Thursday and then take the weekend off.

4. Duquesne (11-5, 3-0)

Last Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Louis 67-45, 1/15 vs. Temple 78-66
Next Week: 1/19 @La Salle, 1/22 vs. Charlotte

The Dukes ran their winning streak to eight with yet another 2-0 week. Senior Damian Saunders earned his second Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 2.5 steals over the Dukes’ two wins last week. In the preseason, this pair of games was expected to produce an 0-2 week. Duquesne has, however, caught the eye of stats guru Ken Pomeroy who counted the Pittsburgh-based school’s results so far as one of the surprises of the season. Last week’s wins, both in convincing fashion, will raise the school’s profile and fan expectations as the season progresses. Head coach Ron Everhart and company have a quick road trip to Philadelphia for an important two-game homestand coming up. They host an undermanned, Rick Majerus-less Saint Louis team Wednesday and an Owls squad that may not have junior point guard Juan Fernandez available on Saturday..

5. Rhode Island (11-6, 2-1)

Last Week: 1/13 @Richmond 78-74, 1/16 vs. St. Bonaventure 56-55
Next Week: 1/19 @Saint Joseph’s, 1/22 vs. La Salle

The Runnin’ Rams got an infusion of Orion Outerbridge and the re-instated forward powered them to a 2-0 week and earned himself a Player of the Week nod from the conference for his performance last week.. 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 (10-6, 2-1)

Last Week: 1/12 @Xavier 50-79, 1/15 vs. La Salle 74-71
Next Week: 1/15 @Charlotte, 1/22 vs. Richmond

The Minutemen had a 1-1 week. After a painful 29-point loss at the hands of Xavier, Coach Kellogg’s squad bounced back with a three point win over La Salle. Massachusetts takes to the road for a game in Charlotte Wednesday, and then return home for an important test against Richmond on Saturday.

7. George Washington (10-7, 3-0)

Last Week: 1/12 vs. Fordham 72-52, 1/15 vs. Harvard 62-67
Next Week: 1/19 @Richmond, 1/22 vs. St. Bonaventure

The Colonials logged a 1-1 week, routing Fordham to go 3-0 in conference play, then dropping a five-point decision to Harvard out of the Ivy League. George Washington has worked through the softer part of their A-10 schedule (Saint Joseph’s, La Salle and Fordham), and their road game with Richmond should give fans an indication of where the team stands. The Colonials return to DC to host St. Bonaventure Saturday.

8. Dayton (14-5, 2-2)

Last Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Joseph’s 65-59, 1/15 @Xavier 76-81
Next Week: 1/22 vs. Fordham

The Flyers finished another 1-1 week. Senior forward Chris Wright earned an Honorable Mentio from the conference as he averaged a double-double (12.0 points and 10.0 rebounds) for the third straight week. Wright and freshman point guard Juwan Staten, who earned a Freshman of the Week citation himself for his 13.0 point per game average and 58% accuracy in the Flyers’ two games last week, have emerged as the principal offensive options for Dayton, drawing 27.9% and 24.1% of the possessions and taking 25.6% and 21.1% of the shots, respectively, when they are on the floor. Neither however has been particularly efficient with those possesions, posting offensive ratings in the mid 90′s (about 0.95 points per possesion). There are other, more efficient options (Chris Johnson? Paul Williams?) available. While neither Staten nor Wright have been shooting particularly well from the floor, both could boost their ratings (and help their team offensively) by hitting their free throws. Wright shoots about 60% from the line, while Staten converts about 56%. Wright’s ability to get to the line is an important offensive option, but with a below average conversion rate, he does not punish the opponent enough for the foul. Dayton plays a single game this week as they host Fordham on Saturday. A win would put them back above 0.500 in conference play, a place they need to be as the week following will be very tough (Richmond and Duquesne).

9. St. Bonaventure (9-7, 1-2)

Last Week: 1/12 @Temple 55-83, 1/16 @Rhode Island 55-56
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Xavier, 1/22 @George Washington

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies stumbled through an 0-2 week, dropping their conference record to 1-2. Guard Michael Davenport led the Bonnies in scoring for both games, and recorded a career-high 28 points and 12 rebounds in the loss to Rhode Island. The Bonnies have another challenging week, as they host Xavier Wednesday and travel to Washington DC for a tilt with George Washington. St. Bonaventure has an advantage in the Xavier game as the Musketeers may be looking past them to their Temple game on Saturday. The George Washington holds conference seeding implications, as both SBU and GWU may be in need of a tie-breaker come March.

10. Charlotte (9-8, 1-2)

Last Week: 1/15 vs. Fordham 71-61
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Massachusetts, 1/22 @Duquesne

Charlotte broke their losing run in conference play with a 10 win over Fordham. Senior Derrio Green was honorably mentioned by the conference for his season-high (second time) 21 points, 19 of which were scored in the second half, in the 49ers’ Fordham game. Coach Alan Major‘s squad will host Massachusetts on Wednesday and travel to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne on Saturday. While Charlotte is favored against the shot-challenged Minutmen, they will have to value the ball (something they have struggled with this season) against a team that typically ends 22% of their opponents’ possessions without a shot. The Charlotte front court is bigger than their Duke counterparts, but Temple struggled to gain an advantage in the lane and low post last weekend.

11. Saint Louis (6-11, 1-3)

Last Week: 1/12 @Duquesne 45-67, 1/15 vs. Saint Joseph’s 67-51
Next Week: 1/19 @Fordham

The Billikens’ broke their fall with a win over Saint Joseph’s, but not before recording loss number six in their run. Freshman forward Dwayne Evans recorded a career-high 16 points and 18 rebounds — his first career double-double — in the Bills’ win over Saint Joseph’s. The confernce cited Evans for his performance. Recently re-admitted and re-instated Kwamain Mitchell is listed on the Billiken roster as “awaiting NCAA clearance”. No sign of Willie Reed.

12. La Salle (8-10, 0-3)

Last Week: 1/12 vs. Pennsylvania 89-83, 1/15 @Massachusetts 71-74
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Duquesne, 1/22 @Rhode Island

La Salle bounced back against Big 5 rival Penn to insure they would not suffer another winless week. Aaric Murray, as predicted by Explorers Coach Dr. John Giannini, did respond to the benching by averaging 15.0 points in La Salle’s two games. The sophomore center notched a 19 point, eight rebound game against Penn and followed with a 12 point, eight rebound performance in the Explorers’ three point loss to Massachusetts. The Explorers’ shot defense is the biggest (but not the only) problem so far. They have enough offense to prosper in the conference, but allowing opponents to convert 50.5% of the field goal attempts puts a large onus on their offense to keep up. Oddly, they defend the two-point field goal attempt only slightly better than the three-point field goal attempt. If Murray and company can step up their defensive intensity (and rebounding…) they may have a chance to drop Duquesne from the ranks of the conference undefeateds as the Dukes visit the Gola Wednesday. They travel to Rhode Island for a Saturday game. Neither will be easy.

13. Fordham (6-9, 0-3)

Last Week: 1/12 @George Washington 52-72, 1/15 @Charlotte 61-71
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Saint Louis, 1/22 @Dayton

Three games into 2011 and Fordham continues to look for their first win of the new year. Their losing streak has stretched to five games with their just concluded 0-2 week on the road, and things are not looking up as the Rams host Saint Louis Wednesday and travel to Dayton for a Saturday game. The squad is plagued by the twin demons of poor offense and porous defense, a common problem for inexperienced squads. And coach Tom Pecora has a squad Ken Pomeroy ranks in the bottom 19% for experience (ranked #279 out of 345). Pecora has to break the cycle established during the previous two coaching regimes — the staff recruits promising players; the team loses; the recruits become discouraged; the recruits transfer out; repeat. Right now, Pomeroy gives the squad a 6.5% chance of finishing their conference slate winless. Though the Rams are not favored to win any of their remaining conference games by Ken Pomeroy, there are several home games which should give them better opportunities. There are none coming this week however. The first step may well be to be competitive in the games they do have.

14. Saint Joseph’s (5-12, 0-4)

Last Week: 1/12 @Dayton 59-65, 1/15 @Saint Louis 51-67
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Rhode Island, 1/22 @Penn

The Hawks’ slide numbers four consecutive games, all logged on their conference slate, with those two additional losses last week. The road loss by six to Dayton might be a sign of hope for Hawk fans, but the 16 point road loss to a Saint Louis squad with even less experience (per Ken Pomeroy – , Saint Joseph’s is ranked #329 while St. Louis is ranked #338) has to be a bucket of cold water, but the more immediate task (like Fordham) may be to hold onto a nucleus of promising players as the program weathers the storm, and build on them for next season.

Looking Ahead

  • The game to catch this week will be on Saturday, when Temple visits Xavier. In less confusing times this was tabbed as an early season showdown for the top spot in the conference. When Xavier lost Jay Canty, Justin Martin and Brad Redford, Owl fans no doubt sensed blood in the water and an early knockout for Temple. Juan Fernandez’s injury however has exposed a shallow Temple rotation, and Temple’s loss to Duquesne over the weekend has made this a very, very important game for Temple. Lose in Cincinnati and the Owls risk falling two games off the pace.
  • Wednesday will feature a matchup important to Richmond, who dropped a home game to a re-energized Rhode Island team last Thursday. The Spiders like Temple find themselves in a scramble at an unexpected point in the season. Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the Spiders on the outside looking in right now. Taking a second loss at home and to George Washington would seriously damage their case for an at-large bid should they not win the conference tournament. George Washington’s conference schedule so far has included Saint Joseph’s, La Salle and Fordham. Richmond is their first serious conference test.
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