Joe Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10.
A Look Back
Closing the Book on Invitational Tournaments
The conference’s “Invitational Season” ended on a disappointing note as both Fordham and Saint Louis struggled in their respective tournaments. Saint Louis won their first round game in the Cancun Governor’s Cup against Northeastern, but dropped the last two, first to Southern Mississippi and the second to Mississippi (Ole Miss lost to Dayton at home in November). The Cable Car Classic harkens back to the days of Christmas-to-New Year’s tournaments that typically revolved around the bowl games. Unlike most, the Cable Car filled the field with non-BCS teams.
Richmond’s run through the Chicago Invitational field included a 65-54 win over #11 Purdue, but the conference co-favorite Temple squandered opportunities to garner positive national attention when the Owls dropped games to Texas A&M and California at the Milk House in Orlando. Xavier advanced to the finals of the Paradise Jam, but fell 67-58 to tournament winner Old Dominion. Saint Joseph’s collected the conference’s other tournament trophy when the Hawks beat Rutgers in the finals of the Philly Hoops Classic. The Philly Hoops Classic has undergone several format revisions over the tournament’s four0year history, the number and locations of the preliminary round games has changed nearly every season, but that each member of the city’s Big 5 takes a turn hosting the event has not changed.
Is the entire conference regressing to the mean? The top teams lost while the bottom team(s) won. Three teams had perfect weeks.
1. Temple (9-3)
Last Week: 12/30 @Villanova 74-78
Next Week: 1/5 @Fordham, 1/9 vs. Saint Louis
The Owls dropped out of the AP’s Top 25 again, one result of their four-point loss to Villanova. Despite leading 40-39 at the half, Temple’s shooting cooled off in the second half and the Owls could not hold the lead. Lavoy Allen scored 22 points and nine rebounds in the loss to earn a conference Honorable Mention. Point guard Juan Fernandez scored 20 points, going 4-6 from beyond the arc. Ramone Moore (16 points) and Scootie Randall (11 points) also scored in double figures.
Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad will open their A-10 slate against Fordham with an away game at the Izod Center. They return to Philadelphia to host Saint Louis Saturday.
2. Richmond (11-4)
Last Week: 12/29 vs. Wake Forest 90-74, 1/2 vs. Bucknell 61-62
Next Week: 1/5 vs. Charlotte, 1/8 @La Salle
Richmond stumbled to a 1-1 record last week, missing an opportunity to pass Temple in the power rankings when they dropped a one point decision to Bucknell, 62-61, on January 2. The Bison snapped the Spiders’ 11-game home winning streak. Bucknell managed to limit Kevin Anderson’s touches, and limited the point guard to 13 points on 6-14 overall (1-3 on threes, 5-11 on twos) and 1-2 from the line shooting. Senior forward Justin Harper shot 6-8 (3-3 from beyond the arc and 3-5 on twos) and 4-6 from the charity stripe. The Bison also contained Justin Harper by taking him off the floor his fourth foul at the 10:00 minute mark of the second half, with Richmond down by five. Harper sat for the next six minutes. Coach Chris Mooney put Harper back in on an offense-defense rotation, but the forward had cooled off, going 1-2 overall (1-1 on threes, 0-1 from twos) and 0-2 from the line to close out the game.
The Spiders drew a favorable mention last week as ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas listed Richmond as one of six teams which deserve “more love” (subscription required). The widely respected announcer and analyst of Division-I basketball identified Richmond’s senior stars: “The Spiders have Kevin Anderson, the A-10 player of the year, and have one of the most unheralded players in the country in Justin Harper. If this guy played at Butler, we’d be talking about him incessantly…Richmond can play with anyone…”
Mooney’s charges open the conference slate on Wednesday when they host Charlotte.
3. Dayton (12-3)
Last Week: 12/29 vs. George Mason 73-67, 1/1 vs. New Mexico 76-73
Next Week: 1/5 @St. Louis, 1/9 @Massachusetts
The Flyers had a 2-0 week, extending their winning streak to five. Senior forward Chris Wright shared conference Player of the Week honors with Charlotte’s Javarris Barrett for his performance in both games, scoring a total of 30 points and collecting 23 rebounds in the two games. The Dayton faithful have waited four years to see Wright put the team on his back in the late going in close games. He did it twice last week, first scoring all of his 13 points and grabbing five of his nine rebounds versus George Mason in the second half. Against New Mexico, Wright scored 12 of his team-high 17 points and nabbed six of his 14 rebounds in the second half and two overtime periods it took to settle matters with the Lobos. Dayton opens opens conference play Wednesday against St. Louis.
4. Xavier (8-4)
Last Week: 12/28 vs. Albany 88-64, 12/31 vs. Florida 67-71
Next Week: 1/6 @Cincinnati, 1/9 @Rhode Island
If the fried gator offered at the concessions did not give the Xavier faithful heartburn, the game itself, a 71-67 beating at the hands of Florida (a return engagement) last Friday most certainly did. The loss, Xavier’s fourth (an unusually high number of losses in out of conference play lately), snapped a 30-game Cintas Center winning streak, and put even more pressure on the Musketeers to do well in conference play. Tu Holloway played all 40 minutes and led all scorers with 26 points. Jamel McLean scored six points and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.
Coach Chris Mack‘s squad could use another out of conference resume win to counter a few of last month’s head scratchers, and Crosstown Shootout rival Cincinnati may be just what the doctor ordered. X travels to Fifth-Third to take on their Big East rival – even better for the RPI if they win. Xavier opens their A-10 slate this Sunday, when they travel to Kingston, RI to play Rhode Island.
5. Rhode Island (9-5)
Last Week: 12/29 vs. Boston College 67-65, 1/3 @Florida 59-84
Next Week: 1/9 vs. Xavier
The Rams finished their out of conference slate with a 1-1 week, knocking off Boston College and then losing to Florida on the road. Coach Jim Baron threw reinstated forward Orion Outerbridge right into the fray, allocating to the junior forward 41 minutes of play in the two games. Outerbridge scored 20 points total, grabbing eight rebounds and bocking three shots. Against Boston College, three other Rams, Akeem Richmond (15 points), Marquis Jones (11 points) and Nikola Malesovic (16 points – team high) recorded double digit points. At Florida, the Rams’ senior front court players, Delroy James (29 points – game high) and Will Martel (13 points) led the scoring.
Rhode Island opens their A-10 regular season schedule Sunday when they host Xavier.
6. Massachusetts (8-5)
Last Week: 12/31 vs. Boston University 71-54, 1/3 @Central Connecticut 63-92
Next Week: 1/9 vs. Dayton
Massachusetts snapped their four-game losing streak when they beat the Terriers of Boston University on New Year’s Eve. The celebration however lasted only slightly longer than New Year’s, as the Minutemen dropped their next game, a 29 point thumping at the hands of NEC member Central Connecticut on January 3. Both games reinforced perceptions that the Minutemen fortunes rest on the scoring abilities of senior guard Anthony Gurley. Gurley led Massachusetts scorers in both games, garnering 21 points versus Boston University (next highest UMass scorer was sophomore forward Sampson Carter with 10) and 18 points versus Central Connecticut (the next highest total from a Minuteman came courtesy of freshman forward Raphael Putney with 14)
7. St. Bonaventure (7-5)
Last Week: 12/28 vs. Siena 82-79, 2/2 vs. Marshall 65-74
Next Week: 1/5 @Arkansas-Little Rock, 1/8 vs. Charlotte
Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies logged a 1-1 week, finishing 2010 on a winning note against MAAC member Siena but opening the new year with a loss to CUSA member Marshall. Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson drew an Honorable Mention for his game-high scoring week. Nicholson scored 26 points against the Saints on Tuesday, and returned to score 29 against the Herd on Sunday. Guard Michael Davenport was second high Bonnie scorer in both games, recording 20 versus Siena and 14 versus Marshall. Senior point guard Ogo Adegboyo continues tomake progress. The Nigerian-by-way-of-London import averaged 32.5 minutes for the two games while scoring 23 points and dishing nine dimes versus three turnovers.
Saint Bonaventure will travel to Arkansas-Little Rock to finish their out of conference slate against the Sun Belt Conference member and return home to Olean, NY to face Charlotte on January 8.
8. Duquesne (7-5)
Last Week: 12/31 vs. Northwestern State 91-64, 1/2 vs. Norfolk State 95-73
Next Week: 1/5 @Saint Joseph’s, 1/8 vs. Houston Baptist
The Dukes pushed north of 0.500 last week with two strong wins against low-major competition. Senior Bill Clark earned an Honorable Mention for his work in both games. Clark averaged 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the two games. The Northwestern State game featured five double digit scorers. Clark (21 points) plus four others, BJ Monteiro (15 points), Mike Talley (11 points), Joel Wright (10 points) and Sean Johnson (10 points) logged double digit points. Clark earned a double-double by nabbing 10 rebounds. In a impressive distribution of scoring in the Norfolk State game, Clark (13 points) and five teammates, Johnson (19 points – game high), Damian Saunders (14 points), Montiero (11 points), Eric Evans (10 points) and Wright (10 points), scored ten or more points.
Duquesne opens in Philadelphia as they visit Hawk Hill for a game with Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday, then close out their out of conference slate by hosting Houston Baptist Saturday.
9. La Salle (7-7)
Last Week: 12/29 vs. Towson 90-93 OT, 1/2 vs. Binghamton 87-64
Next Week: 1/5 @George Washington, 1/8 vs. Richmond
La Salle had a 1-1 week, an overtime loss to Towson of the CAA was countered by a win over Binghamton of the American East. Freshman point guard Tyreek Duren took Rookie of the Week honors for the third time this season, tying him with Dayton’s point guard Juwan Staten for most times recognized. Duren was cited for averaging 18.5 points and 5.0 assists in the Explorers’ two games. Senior forward Jerrell Williams also earned a conference citation, in his case Honorable Mention, for upping his career-high scoring to 32 points in the Towson game.
Dr. Giannini’s squad will open at George Washington on Wednesday, and return home to host Richmond on Saturday.
10. Charlotte (8-6)
Last Week: 12/30 @Mercer 64-63, 1/2 @Georgia Tech 86-83 2 OT
Next Week: 1/5 @St. Bonaventure, 1/8 St. Josesh’s
Coach Alan Major’s squad squared their record at six with a 2-0 sweep of the week. The results are impressive because both were taken on the road. The A-10 recognized Javaris Barnett, a junior guard/forward for two tremendous outings. Barnett shares the honor with Dayton’s forward Chris Wright. Barnett led the charge with a team-high 18 points (career-high) as the 49ers came from behind to beat Mercer by a point. Barnett chipped in 15 points, to support Derrio Green’s game-high 21 points in Charlotte’s 3 point, 2 overtime win at Georgia Tech.
Charlotte opens their A-10 slate in Olean, NY, as they face St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, then return home to host Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.
11. George Washington (7-6)
Last Week: 12/31 vs. Holy Cross 58-57, 1/3 @Howard 85-50
Next Week: 1/5 vs. La Salle, 1/8 @Saint Joseph’s
Freshman forward Nemanja Mikic drew a conference Honorable Mention for his nine three point field goals over the Colonials’ last two games. George Washington’s 2-0 run put Karl Hobbs’ team over the 0.500 mark for the first time since game three of the season.
12. Fordham (6-6)
Last Week: 12/29 vs. American (Cable Car Classic) 57-73, 12/30 TBD (Cable Car Classic) 70-85 Next Week: 1/5 vs. Temple
Fordham was knocked back to an even record with an 0-2 run in the Cable Car Classic last week. Prospects for staying at or above 0.500 through the week are bleak, as the Rams open their A-10 slate by hosting Temple on Wednesday.
13. Saint Louis (5-8)
Last Week: 1/1 vs. Bowling Green 61-67
Next Week: 1/5 vs. Dayton, 1/9 @Temple
The Billikens dropped a six-point decision to the Falcons of Bowling Green on New Year’s Day. In possibly a bad omen for the team’s fortunes, coach Rick Majerus left the game with a lacerated leg and did not return. The 62-year-old coach missed the previous game, St. Louis’ third round the Cancun Governor’s Cup game versus Mississippi at the end of the year. Majerus’ recovery will extend to the Billikens’ A-10 opener Wednesday against Dayton.
The roster headline this week is that suspended center Willie Reed completed his paperwork for re-admission to the university. Billiken fans are hardly unanimous on whether Reed and Kwamain Mitchell will be granted admission, but the reality, that the semester-long suspension for all practical purposes ended the season for both players (there is a consensus forming that they will most likely red shirt the season, concentrate on academics, so that they will be in a strong position to graduate in May of 2012).
14. Saint Joseph’s (5-8)
Last Week: 12/28 @Holy Cross 65-54, 12/31 vs. Siena 58-48
Next Week: 1/5 vs. Duquesne, 1/8 vs. George Washington
Freshman CJ Aiken was named to the conference Honorable Mention rolls for averaging 8.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game during the Hawks’ 2-0 run last week. Saint Joseph’s, having a single out of conference opponent left (Big 5 rival Penn) on their schedule, will open their A-10 schedule by hosting Duquesne on Wednesday and George Washington on Saturday.
A Look Ahead
Saint Louis fans will wait to find out if suspended players Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed will be re-admitted for the spring 2011 semester. Without an official statement, fans will not know until class lists are released on Monday, January 10. Coach Rick Majerus’ status is less than certain, as his leg injury will hold him out for at least one more game.
Stats guru Ken Pomeroy ran simulations for the 335 teams affiliated with the 31 Division-I conferences and released his projections in two separate posts on Monday and Tuesday this week. Pomeroy noted in his introductory notes that the simulation assumes the Pythagorean Winning Percentages (the heart of his ranking system) will not change over the course of the conference season, a factor that skews the simulations to overly favor the highest ranked team. Pomeroy notes that those teams which finished second, third, even fourth in his projection had better possibilities for improvement than the first place teams. Pomeroy ranked (and divided his postings) by the degree to which the conference race would be competitive. Least competitive conference races were published in Pomeroy’s Monday post (part 1), while the more competitive conferences were published Tuesday (part 2).
Pomeroy ranked Atlantic 10 race #15 of the 31 races in competitiveness and placed the conference in the second post, among the more competitive races. Temple, the highest ranked A-10 team in Pomeroy’s system, won 54.6% of the simulations, with #2 Richmond winning 27%, surprise team, #3 ranked Duquesne, taking 11% and #4 Xavier 4%. Duquesne has played a fairly light out of conference schedule, but the Dukes’ wins have been by comfortable margins. Pomeroy, while not quite ready to proclaim the Dukes legitimate threats to win the conference (“Let’s keep an eye on the Dukes over the next two weeks…”) does suggest they will be good enough “…to screw up somebody’s tourney hopes…”. The other surprise is the relatively low ranking (#7) for Dayton. The Flyers won 0.7% of the conference race simulations, a strong suggestion that the Flyers, while not absolutely precluded from winning the conference title, will again fall short in conference play.