Allen had perhaps his best week as a collegiate player, averaging 19.5 points and 14.5 rebounds over a two game span. The 6-foot-9 sophomore was sensational from the floor, shooting a sparkling 74% (14-of-19) during the stretch. In his most impressive game of the season, Allen shot 8-of-8 from the floor, scoring 20 points and grabbing 18 rebounds in a win over St. Bonaventure yesterday. The two double-doubles this week were the ninth and tenth of the season for Allen, as he helped lead the Owls to two victories.
HONORABLE MENTION: Kevin Anderson, (So.) Richmond; Ahmad Nivins (Sr.) Saint Joseph’s; Damian Saunders (So.), Duquesne
(Note: College Chalktalk’s week runs from the previous Monday through Sunday, given the release of ‘This Week in the A-10″ each Monday morning.)
The versatile guard-forward had a superb week for the A-10 leaders, averaging 22.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in two wins. Raymond posted a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds in Xavier’s dismantling of Charlotte. In a tight win over UMass, Raymond scored 22 – several of them clutch – and grabbed five boards. For the week, Raymond shot the ball at an incendiary 69.5% clip.
Kahiem Seawright (Sr.), Rhode Island
Seawright anchored the Ram attack, leading Rhode Island to a 2-0 week as they knocked off Temple and La Salle. The forward averaged 21 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 steals in the frame. Against Temple, the senior led the way for Rhode Island, netting 17. In the Rams’ overtime win over La Salle, Seawright paced his team once again, scoring 25 points and hauling in eight rebounds. The forward shot 62.5% in the two contests; 15-for-24 from the floor.
HONORABLE MENTION: David Gonzalvez (Jr.), Richmond; Andrew Nicholson (Fr.) St. Bonaventure
A10 Weekend. The A10 used three televised games on Saturday to announce its presence to America, knocking off an SEC, Big East and Big 12 team in the process (two of which were effectively road games). With the relative weakness of the Pac-10 and SEC this year, the A10 could make a run at a legitimate four NCAA bids this season. Today’s results could go a long way in the Tourney Committee’s minds toward that end. Great weekend for the Atlantic 10.
Temple 88, Tennessee 72. Every outlet in America is making the “Merry Christmas” joke, so we’ll refrain here, but suffice it to say that Temple’s Dionte Christmas stole Bruce Pearl’s cookies and blew up his sled with an explosive game where it seemed as if every shot he threw at the rim was flushing straight through. More importantly, Temple exposed Tennessee’s defense for what it is – simply not good enough to sustain any kind of legitimate run in March. The Owls shot a blistering 55%, led by Xmas’ 35 on seven threes, and it often appeared as if the Vol players had little interest in covering him. The roof nearly came off the place when he hit three trifectas in a row during a personal 1:30 run to blow open the game. Temple, who had not defeated a top 10 team since John Chaney was still on campus, celebrated with a spirited RTC, to which, we say – deserved.
WYN2K. If the A-10 wants to lay claim to being one of the premier mid-majors [Note: Hold the e-mails, I’m not putting the A-10 with the big boys yet. If you want to, become an RTC correspondent], they will have plenty of shots against the big boys: Duke (3 times-Rhode Island, Duquesne, and Xavier), Kansas (2 times-UMass and Temple), Memphis (UMass), Tennessee (Temple), Texas (St. Joe’s), and many other less prestigious programs in BCS conferences.
Predicted Champion.Xavier (#4 NCAA). Last year, #3 seed Xavier made it to the Elite 8 before falling to perennial national semifinalist UCLA. While Xavier loses several key seniors, they should be able to remain the dominant team in the A-10 due to their superior depth (6 players last year averaged between 9.7 and 12.4 PPG with 3 of those players returning). The Musketeers return Derrick Brown (10.9 ppg), C.J. Anderson (10.7 ppg), and center Jason Love. The loss of the seniors may also be eased by the addition of 6-11 freshman Kenny Frease, freshman point guard Terrell Holloway, freshman shooting guard Brian Walsh, and Indiana transfer Jordan Crawford. Helping lead the Musketeers will be Sean Miller who became the first Xavier coach to turn down an offer from a bigger name program in quite some time (see: Gillen, Pete; Prosser, Skip; and Matta, Thad). Xavier has a chance to put itself in position for a very high NCAA seed if they can beat Duke in a “neutral site” game in East Rutherford, NJ, on December 20th. Here’s a clip on Xavier’s trip to the E8 last season.
Others Considered. To be perfectly honest, Xavier should run away with the A-10 this year. Their depth makes them resistant to any reasonable expectation of injuries. The only other legitimate contender if Xavier slips up is Temple (NCAA #10). The Owls, coached by Fran Dunphy (still seems weird not to see John Chaney on the sidelines or storming into other coach’s press conferences), will need to replace the all-around output of Mark Tyndale. They return Dionte Christmas, the A-10’s leading scorer, but he will face increased defensive pressure this year. The Owls also lost Chris Clark to graduation so they will need Ryan Brooks, Lavoy Allen, and Sergio Olmos to step up this year if they want to seriously challenge Xavier. We also see Charlotte (NIT) and Dayton (NIT) as postseason teams.
Rhode Island at Duke (11.16.08)
UMass at Memphis (11.17.08)
Virginia Commonwealth at Rhode Island (11.22.08)
St. Joe’s vs. Texas (Lahaina, HI) (11.24.08)
Dayton vs. Marquette (Hoffman Estates, IL) (11.29.08)
65 Team Era. As stated above, the A-10 is often the bridesmaid, never the bride, when it comes to the Final Four. Ok, UMass did have its one shot at glory in 1996, but ten other times an A-10 team has gotten to the Elite Eight only to have its hopes dashed in that round (five times in the last decade). This includes Temple five times, Xavier twice, UMass once, St. Joseph’s once, and Rhode Island once. During the era, the A-10 has gone 63-65 (.492), which puts it right there with CUSA as the top mid-major league over the last quarter century.
Final Thoughts. Despite my cheap shots, the A-10 is one of the top conferences in the country. Last year, they only managed to get three teams into the NCAA tournament, but has the potential to get a couple of more bids. To do this, teams will have to get to 10 wins in this conference since the bottom of the conference is so weak. If a lot of teams end up 9-7 or 8-8 in conference play, those teams will end up in the NIT again.