The Other 26: Reshuffling the Top of the Deck

Posted by IRenko on January 26th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

It was a wild week for the TO26’s best teams, as seven of the teams ranked in our top ten — including our top five — all suffered losses. With Gonzaga, Creighton, VCU, Butler, and UNLV all going down, who has a rightful claim on the number one ranking?  Does New Mexico slide all the way from 6th to 1st after their win over Colorado State?

Not quite.  Yes, Gonzaga lost to Butler in a game played without Rotnei Clarke, Butler’s leading scorer. But it was in a hostile road environment, and even under those conditions, Gonzaga had a victory in hand with just a few seconds left on the clock. And on Thursday, the Zags followed up the loss with a 20-point drubbing of conference rival BYU. So Mark Few’s men will continue to hold the top spot in our rankings. But all of the action elsewhere will produce a substantial reshuffling. Without further ado, on the substantially revised Top 10, our weekly Honor Roll, and a few games to keep an eye on as the week unfolds.

Top Ten

RTC -- TO26 (1.26.13)

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2012

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

Top Storylines

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

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

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

Reader’s Take I

Predicted Order of Finish

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

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on February 15th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was:

Points per Possession Margins Through February 12

Temple and Saint Louis continue to “walk away” from the rest of the conference, leaving the next four teams in the upper division (Xavier, Massachusetts, La Salle and Saint Bonaventure) clustered on the “plus side” of the points per possession margin. Though nine of the conference’s 14 teams have .500 or better records, only those six (and Saint Joseph’s with a 0.000 margin) have offenses that scored more points per possession that their defenses yielded, suggesting that some of those .500 or better teams suffered one or more blowouts in conference games this season.

Though Fordham and Rhode Island have firm holds on the bottom two spots in the conference standings, their negative points per possession margin is still not large enough to suggest they are uncompetitive with their conference mates. The gap between top-ranked Temple and bottom-ranked Fordham remains at about 1/3 of a point (0.337), well below the half-point gap last season. With nearly 37% of the conference games still to be played this season these margins can shift.

Conference Realignment: Does the Road to the Big East Go Through Irvine, Texas?

The Big East filled out their dance card for the 2013 football season last week and Temple, one of two schools who have vigorously lobbied for a spot in the power conference over the past four seasons, was passed over for the other long-term applicant, the University of Memphis. The conference negotiated a 20 million dollar early exit fee from West Virginia, and promptly invited C-USA member Memphis to join for 2013-14 season.

Passed over for the second time since last October, Memphis is the fourth C-USA school to accept a Big East invitation in 2011-12 and the ninth C-USA member to be invited since 2004-05. CBS Sports writer Brett McMurphy reported that Temple had been contacted by C-USA officials about possible membership. The membership is rumored to be for all sports, and with the proposed C-USA merger with the Mountain West Conference and a planned two round playoff system for the conference championship (that would, I assume, culminate with a BCS bowl bid). Though the Owls have a 55 year relationship with fellow Big 5 and A-10 members La Salle and Saint Joseph’s, the prospects (and money?) may be too good to pass on.

Despite Consistently Producing Quality Teams and Players Such as Ramone Moore, Temple Was Passed Over For A Spot in The Big East (AP)

Massachusetts is expected to join Temple in the MAC – like the Owls for football only – when the Minutemen move up to the Bowl Division in football. Temple signed an agreement to continue play in the MAC just last summer. No details concerning an exit fee were disclosed at the time of the signing.

Power Rankings

Temple continues to roll through their conference schedule but has yet to regain a spot in the AP or USA Today Top 25. Saint Louis and Massachusetts continue to nip at the Owls heels, while five others (Xavier, La Salle, Saint Bonaventure, and Duquesne) battle for the conference’s last bye seed. Most bracketology sites put either two or three teams in the field (Temple, Saint Louis plus one other…), so games played between Xavier, La Salle, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s, Massachusetts, and Dayton will carry extra-conference implications.

  1. Temple (19-5, 8-2) – Temple continued their run with another 2-0 week, beating George Washington by just enough, then answering the bell against Xavier on Saturday night. Ramone Moore again earned conference recognition, in no small part from his game versus the Musketeers. The strength of schedule (table above) may suggest an easier path than most for Coach Fran Dunphy’s charges, but even with the Xavier hurdle cleared, the Owls still have rematches with city rivals: a road game with Saint Bonaventure and a tilt with Massachusetts. If the Owls keep winning, no one can catch them. Temple takes a mid-winter road trip to one of the least hospitable stops in the conference on Wednesday — Saint Bonaventure in a western New York winter. They return to Philadelphia for a home game with Duquesne on Saturday (2/18). Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2011

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

Ed. Note – This post was written prior to Wednesday night’s action.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • No A-10 Teams in the Top 25: The release of the AP and Coaches polls on Mon., December 26 showed no Atlantic 10 conference member for the first time in 12 weeks (going back to January 31, 2011 – week #13).  A Xavier three-game losing streak, coming on the heels of the bench clearing brawl in the “Crosstown Shootout” dropped the Musketeers from #15 in the December 19 poll right out of the Top 25. Saint Louis’ own five-game winning streak includes a win over Division II Illinois-Springfield, Alabama State and Arkansas State — not a slate of opponents that will wow the voters.
  • Early Season Invitational Tournaments – Final Tally: The only good news out of the Diamond Head Classic was that the Musketeers finally broke their three-game losing streak with a win over Southern Illinois in the invitational tournament’s seventh place game. Invitational tournament formats frequently match A-10 teams with power conference opponents on neutral courts, giving the conference their best opportunity for quality wins. Results for the 2011-12 season:

At the end of the first cycle, the conference held a promising 21-13 (0.600) margin with six first and third place finishes, suggesting the team either swept the field or won the first two games (before dropping the final). The brightest lights were Dayton (winner of the Old Spice Classic) and Saint Louis (who beat three power conference schools on their way to the championship in the 76 Classic). Temple may have disappointed slightly, but the Owls, along with Richmond, George Washington and Saint Joseph’s, posted very respectable results in their tournaments.

  • Free Todd O’Brien? Attention to the resurgence of the Saint Joseph’s program was diverted two days after the Hawks’ best win of the season, a 16-point drubbing of Big 5 rival Villanova, when Sports Illustrated released fifth year senior Todd O’Brien’s side of his attempt to take his post season eligibility at Alabama-Birmingham instead of Saint Joseph’s. Buzz about Phil Martelli’s squad notching 10 wins before the start of conference play (virtually certain given their last two out of conference opponents) was pushed aside with the details of the Todd O’Brien imbroglio. The fifth year senior, a transfer from Bucknell who started 28 games in the 2009-10 season and was a serviceable rotation player last season, completed his undergraduate course work over the summer and enrolled in one of Alabama-Birmingham’s MBA programs and play for Mike Davis in his last season of eligibility. Saint Joseph’s, however, denied O’Brien’s application for a Graduate Student Transfer Exception (a release from his athletic scholarship) with no explanation given. O’Brien went public with his version of events, and so far, Saint Joseph’s, and specifically Martelli, has cited student confidentiality as the reason for not responding.

Fordham (Dereck Whittenburg and Jio Fontan), Providence (Keno Davis and Joseph Young) and Siena (Fran McCaffery and Kojo Mensah) were warning signs that Saint Joseph’s ignored. Though Martelli, as did McCaffrey, Davis and Whittenberg before him, may feel justified in denying O’Brien his release (fans and “program insiders” floated three variations of “Todd O’Brien is a bad boy” in the first 24-48 hours after the story was released), the veteran coach has to understand that the notion of a coach and program were gamed by a scholarship athlete never gets much traction with the public, and the university’s strategy of not talking about it gives O’Brien all of the air time on this issue.

Todd O'Brien (right) and Phil Martelli (left) Have Been Caught In A Verbal Tug-Of-War

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take

The Week That Was:

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



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

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2011

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

The Week That Was:

How They Measure Up: Results by Conference

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

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

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RTC Summer Updates: Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 3rd, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Atlantic 10 correspondent, Joe Dzuback. You can read more of his in-depth writing and analysis at Villanova By The Numbers.

Reader’s Take I

Summer Storylines

  • Bobinski to Chair NCAA Selection Committee: While the conference again sent seven teams, half of its membership, to the postseason — three to the NCAA, one to the NIT and three to the CBI, the Final Four runs by Butler (Horizon League) and Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial Athletic Association) overshadowed a showing, Xavier’s loss to Marquette excepted, that exceeded 2010’s NCAA results. The NCAA announced that Xavier Athletic Director Mike Bobinski will succeed Connecticut’s Jeff Hathaway as Chairman of the 2012 NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Bobinski just completed his third year of a five-year term on the Selection Committee. While the Atlantic 10 has been the most successful non-BCS conference in placing teams in the tournament field (with 20 NCAA bids allotted to six teams since 2004), its representatives have tended to draw the short straw when it comes to seeding, and Bobinski will likely lobby hard for that cause.
  • The Coaching Carousel:  The conference had two coaching vacancies during the early phase of the coaching carousel. If the 2010 offseason saw coaching turnovers due to firings, the 2011 offseason saw suitors come to call on the Atlantic 10 coaching fraternity. Tennessee, having fired Bruce Pearl on March 21, made its first call to Xavier to talk with Chris Mack. Mack reportedly turned aside an offer of $2 million per year to coach the Volunteers in favor of staying in Cincinnati with the Musketeers. Richmond’s Chris Mooney signed a 10-year contract extension, his second extension in two years, ending Georgia Tech’s courtship. Mooney’s decision triggered a spate of articles (see “Old coaching assumptions are fading” by Dana O’Neil for example) about non-BCS coaches who pass on BCS offers to stay with their programs. The Yellow Jackets turned their attention to Dayton’s Brian Gregory, who succumbed to the lure of the BCS and packed his bags for Atlanta on March 28. Dayton conducted a six-day search and hired Archie Miller, brother of former Xavier head man Sean Miller, away from Arizona to succeed Gregory. In late April, George Washington’s Athletic Director, Patrick Nero, fired 10-year veteran Karl Hobbs. Nero, who succeeded retiring AD Jack Kvancz on June 30, was hired on April 20, and wasted no time in turning over the men’s basketball staff. Nero reached into his old stomping grounds, the American East Conference, and hired the league’s premier head basketball coach, Mike Lonergan of Vermont, on May 6 to replace Hobbs. The resignation of Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis on May 24 (DeChellis took over the Navy program) triggered a few tense days among the Duquesne faithful as coach Ron Everhart landed an interview for the Happy Valley position. The Dukes exhaled on June 1 when Everhart withdrew his name from consideration in favor of staying with the Pittsburgh school next season.
  • Media Coverage: The Atlantic 10 and ESPN renewed their deal to have eight games (selected by ESPN) televised on either ESPN or ESPN2 in each of the next two seasons. The ESPN networks are committed to broadcasting the Women’s Championship and up to 32 appearances in each of the next two seasons.

Tu Holloway Makes the XU Offense Go

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 26th, 2011

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

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

A Look Back

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

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

Power Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

2. Duquesne (13-5, 5-0)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Temple (13-5, 3-2)

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

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

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

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

5. Rhode Island (12-7, 3-2)

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

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

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

6. Massachusetts (11-7, 3-2)

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

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

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

7. George Washington (10-9, 3-2)

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

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

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

8. Dayton (15-5, 3-2)

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

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

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

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

9. St. Bonaventure (10-8, 2-3)

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

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

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

10.  Charlotte (9-10, 1-4)

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

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

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

11. Saint Louis (7-11, 2-3)

Last Week: 1/19 @Fordham 68-55

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

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

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

12. La Salle (9-11, 1-4)

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

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

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

13. Fordham (6-11, 0-5)

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

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

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

14. Saint Joseph’s (5-14, 0-5)

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

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

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

A Look Ahead

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

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

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

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2010

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

Looking Back in the A-10: Road Warriors & Homebodies

Playing some part of the out of conference schedule away from the comforts of the home arena is increasingly a fact of life for every Division 1 program that has any aspirations for life beyond the conference championship tournament. Travel is a budgetary requirement for some teams in a few conferences, but by and large A-10 teams travel either because of the challenge (Temple’s former Head Coach John Chaney had an “anytime, anywhere” policy for scheduling out of conference games), for the RPI bump or for the national exposure that comes from participation in the early season invitational tournaments. The Road Warriors this season are listed first in the table below:

In addition to counting all away (a game played in the opponent’s arena) or neutral court games as a “not at home” game, I also count games neither neutral nor technically “away”, but out of the program’s home arena, as a “not at home” game. That half of the conference has played at least 50% of their games “not at home” is a little surprising (but not shocking). That ten of the conference’s 14 members (71.4%) play at least 40% of their schedule away from their home arena makes me wonder if this is a strategy to help the boost the conference RPI. For Xavier, the strategy may have backfired. The Musketeers took three neutral court games at the Paradise Jam and scheduled an away game with Miami (OH) as a balance to their west coast trip to Gonzaga (this Wednesday) and their Crosstown Shootout game with rival Cincinnati, but they lost the Miami game in possibly their worst performance of the season. Rhode Island’s Jim Baron scheduled quite a few for the Rams this season, especially in the early part of the season. Duquesne had a terrible travel record last season, and Coach Ron Everhart appears to have taken the bull by the horns and scheduled a greater number of road games early in the season. The Dukes opened a four-game home stand with a game against IUPUI, and will take to the road to open the A-10 conference season (and take one last out of conference road foray, this time to cupcake Houston Baptist in Houston, TX).

Can anyone blame Fordham for being a bit road shy? Going into the season it appeared Coach Tom Pecora would have his hands full just logging wins. The Rams have done that much and more, logging their first road win in two seasons already.

Taking the team on the road is one thing, but how did A-10 team’s fare once out there? The table above suggests that the teams perform about as well as teams from most “above the Red Line” conference can expect. Rhode Island and Saint Joseph’s, the two programs that have taken the largest portion of their schedules out of their own arenas, appear to be underperforming (compare their won-loss records with their efficiency differential in the far right column above), which might be expected from so much time away from the comforts of home. Massachusetts and Fordham might surprise, but remember that Fordham has taken very few games out of Rose Hill, and two of the Minutemen “not on the home court” games came in the Hall of Fame Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts, just a few miles away from the campus and thousands of miles (and a few climate zones) away from the homes of Texas Christian and New Mexico State. Given the last minutes roster changes at St. Louis, the Billikens’ difficulties are hardly surprising. Replacing critical members of the squad is tricky enough, but having to implement the transition in hostile environs can really kill a team’s post season chances. The biggest disappointment on the list (so far) has to be Dayton. The Flyers are supposed to mount a serious challenge for the conference title this season, but though the squad has a good share of upperclassmen, they have struggled at times. The road loss to Cincinnati was devastating, and the efficiency numbers for out of home court games reflects that.

Power Rankings

Movement in the rankings comes among the bottom three this week, as Fordham has pushed their record to 5-4, and leapfrogged George Washington and Saint Joseph’s. The conference season will most likely bring the rankings back to “regular order”, but for now, Fordham has the better record won against good competition. They earned the bump this past week.

1.  Temple (8-2)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Northern Illinois 84-74

Next Week: 12/22 @Ohio

Like most teams, Temple faces that between-the-semesters slump in student support. Coach Dunphy penned a thank you note for fan support at the Georgetown win (December 2, 68-65) and an appeal for a big turnout for the Northern Illinois game last Saturday. The response from the Temple fanbase was a bit less than resounding, though probably better than all but one other Division 1 game played in Philadelphia last Saturday. If Ramone Moore was upset he took it out on the (NIU) Huskies, as he earned his third Honorable Mention from the conference for his 21 point, (career-high) six assist and (career-high) two blocked shot effort Saturday night. He scored his 21 efficiently, recording a 62.5% eFG% on 7-12 overall (1-3 on threes, 6-9 on twos) and 6-10 from the stripe.  The nucleus of the Temple offense is forming around senior forward Lavoy Allen, junior center/forward Michael Eric (when he is in the game) and a committee of junior guards Juan Fernandez, wing Scootie Randall and Moore. The Northern Illinois game is the latest in the pattern that saw Allen and Eric score efficiently (and often) when they are in the game, with either Moore of Randall lighting it up from the back court/wing spots. Fernandez might join the party as well, or just set the others up offensively. For NIU, Moore was hitting his shots and Randall was not.

2.  Richmond (8-3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Georgia Tech 54-67

Next Week: 12/22 UNC-Greensboro, 12/26 @Seton Hall

Down by one at the half (25-24), the Spiders managed to take a two point lead (36-34) 25 minutes into their game at Atlantis in the Bahamas on a Kevin Anderson three. Over the last 15 (or so) minutes of the game however, the Spiders collapsed…on both sides of the ball. Over their last 25 possessions Chris Mooney’s squad posted a terrible 0.63 points per possession, considerably less than the 1.0 considered minimally efficient in D1 ball. Georgia Tech by contrast converted their possessions to points at a 1.34 rate, good enough for an additional 33 points and a 13-point winning margin. If fouls and turnovers are an indication of lost composure, Richmond’s 10 fouls and five turnovers over that last 15 minutes suggest the squad unraveled a bit. The Jackets managed a 123.1 FTA/FGA, capitalizing on Richmond’s tendency to foul when Tech went to the basket. Justin Harper and Darien Brothers in particular struggled with their shots, going a collective 2-10 overall (1-5 for threes, 1-5 for two point attempts) from the field.

3.  Dayton (9-3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Western Carolina 71-60, 12/20 vs. Winthrop 73-58

Next Week: 12/22 @Seton Hall

The Flyers posted a 2-0 week as senior forward Chris Wright drew a conference honorable mention for his career-high 30 points in Dayton’s win over Western Carolina. The senior forward scored another 10 points versus Winthrop to average 20.0 for the week. Freshman point guard Jawan Staten dished 18 assists against 4 turnovers in the Flyers’ two wins.  Coach Gregory’s squad returns to the New York City metro area, scene of their NIT triumph last March, as they look for this season’s 10th win at Seton Hall. Rush the Court will host a live blog Wednesday night from Seton Hall’s home court (“The Rock”) in downtown Newark, NJ.

4.  Xavier (7-2)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Wake Forest 83-75

Next Week: 12/22 @Gonzaga

With the win over struggling Wake Forest, Xavier pushed their record to 7-2. Junior guard Tu Holloway shared Player of the Week honors with St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson. Holloway notched a triple-double when he scored 14 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists, the rebounds and assists are career-highs for Holoway. Junior Kenny Frease paced the X-men with a double-double of his own, his third this season. Frease scored 22 points on 11-19 overall shooting and 0-1 from the line and pulled down 14 rebounds.

5.  Massachusetts (7-3)

Last Week:  None.

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Central Florida

Finals and end of the fall semester sidelined the Minutemen last week.

6.  Rhode Island (7-4)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. New Hampshire 64-52

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Lafayette

Coach Jim Baron’s squad downed New Hampshire by 12 points as senior Delroy James again led the Rams in scoring with 22 points on 8-22 overall (4-8 three pointer attempts, 4-14 two point attempts) and 2-2 from the free throw line. Sophomore forward Nikola Malesevic was the second squad member to break into double figure scoring, as he hit 3-6 overall (2-4 three pointers, 1-2 two pointers) and 3-4 from the line to score 11 points. The Rams should have little trouble taking Lafayette out of the Patriot League, and they two more chances for resume wins as they host Boston College on the 29th and travel to Florida for a game on January 2nd. They should have suspended sophomore Orion Outerbridge, benched this fall for academic problems, back shortly. Outerbridge should provide more rebounding and another scoring option to go with James, Malesevic, and guards Akeem Richmond and Marquis Jones.

7. La Salle (6-5)

Last Week: 12/17 vs. Bucknell 77-89

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Rider

Sophomore Aaric Murray earned his fourth conference honorable mention for his career-high 28 points as the Explorers dropped the second straight game in their home stand, 77-89, to Bucknell of the Patriot League. Although two other squad members, guard Ruben Guillandeaux and forward Jerrell Williams chipped in more than 10 points apiece (15 and 13 respectively), La Salle could not avoid their fifth loss on the season.

8.  St. Bonaventure (5-3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Ohio 112-107 (4OT)

Next Week: 12/23 vs. Virginia Tech, 12/28 vs. Siena

The conference split the Player of the Week honors between Tu Holloway and the Bonnies’ forward/center Andrew Nicholson this week. The junior joined the list of “Most Points Scored in a Single Game” in the Bonaventure program at #8 while posting his fifth consecutive double-double. Three other Bonnies, senior Ogo Adegboye (with 13), sophomore Demitrius Conger (with 23) and junior Michael Davenport (with 19) scored in double digits in the longest game played by a St. Bonaventure team.

9.  Duquesne (5-4)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. IUPUI 81-54

Next Week: 12/22 vs. George Mason

The Dukes pushed their record north of 0.500 with a 17 point win over IUPUI.  Four Dukes, senior wing Damian Saunders (12 points), freshman forward Joel Wright (11 points) and junior BJ Monteiro (11 points) scored double-digit points as senior forward Bill Clark drew his fourth conference Honorable Mention in six weeks for his double-double which included 17 points and 14 rebounds. Clark also dished five dimes, tied with freshman point TJ McConnell and two less than freshman guard Mike Talley’s seven.

10.  Saint Louis (4-5)

Last Week: 12/15 vs. Jacksonville 69-64, 12/18 @Missouri State 61-85

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Northeastern (Cancun Governor’s Cup), 12/23 TBD (Cancun Governor’s Cup), 12/24 TBD (Cancun Governor’s Cup)

The Billikens continue to struggle to get north of the 0.500 mark. Coach Rick Majerus is looking for leaders, and so far the freshmen appear to be the ones stepping forward. The St. Louis scoring leader in both games last week was freshman guard Jordair Jett (16 vs. Jacksonville and 18 versus Missouri State), with junior wing Kyle Cassity next (14 and 11)  the third scorer in each game was a different player, but always a freshman (Jacksonville – Dwayne Evans with 11; Missouri State – Mike McCall with 11).

11.  Charlotte (5-6)

Last Week: 12/17 vs. Tennessee 49-48

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Wright State

The 49ers recorded the first big win of the Alan Major Era with their one point win before 8,400 fans in the Time Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte. The game was played for 60 possessions, about 12% lower than the Division 1 average, and about 15% below the 70 possessions the Vols normally play for. Darrio Green was the most efficient Charlotte scorer, converting at a 50% eFG% rate with a 1.32 PPWS, though he only took 17% of the shots while he was on the court. Jamar Briscoe, playing about the same amount of time (92.5% of the minutes at pg) took 32% of the shots and hit at a far less efficient 30% eFG%. Briscoe scored a point more than Green (14 vs. 13), but was considerably less efficient doing so.

12.  Fordham (5-4)

Last Week:  None.

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Kennesaw State, 12/27 @Georgia Tech

The Rams are on hiatus, concentrating on finals. Coach Tom Pecora’s charges will swing back into action against Kennesaw State and then take a post holiday trip to Atlanta, Georgia to face the Yellow Jackets.

13.  George Washington (4-5)

Last Week: 12/18 @Oregon State 87-79

Next Week: 12/22 vs. East Carolina, 12/27 @UAB

Freshman forward Namanja Mikic became the latest name in the Rookie of the Year conversation with his 19 point performance against Oregon State last Saturday. Mikic shot 6-11 from the field (6-10 three pointers, 0-1 two pointers) and 1-3 from the line for a striking 81.8% eFG%. The eight point win was the first Colonial road win over an above the Red Line team since 2001. Junior wing Tony Taylor also drew an Honorable Mention for his double-double versus the Beavers. Taylor scored 19 points while dishing 11 assists.

14.  Saint Joseph’s (3-7)

Last Week:  None.

Next Week: 12/21 @Boston University,

Off for finals and a much needed regrouping, the Hawks take to the road to play Boston University.

Looking Ahead in the A-10

  • Rush the Court will play close attention to the road games of Dayton and Richmond this week, as both travel to the Rock in Newark to take on the Pirates of Seton Hall University. This correspondent will host a live blog from the Rock in Newark for each game.
  • Rhode Island should have news about Orion Outerbridge this week. If the sophomore has passed his fall classes he should rejoin the team for the Rams’ Wednesday game versus Lafayette.
  • St. Louis will head south to participate in the Cancun Governor’s Cup Invitational. The Bills drew Northeastern in the first round, with East Tennessee State or Southern Mississippi in the second round. Third round candidates include Mississippi, Appalachian State, Colorado State, or Texas State. This three game set will be the longest out-of-Chaifetz experience for the Bills this season, with ESPN televising some of the games. The Cancun Governor’s Cup is the second-to-last invitational tournament in which an A-10 team is slated to participate. Fordham will play two games in Santa Clara, CA on December 29 & 30 to close out the A-10’s early season invitational participation.
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Set Your Tivo: 12.01.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 1st, 2010

***** – 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 going to be hard to top the game of the year to date, Georgetown’s thrilling overtime win over Missouri last night, but we have some good matchups on the schedule tonight as we head into the second month of the season. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#25 Richmond @ Old Dominion – 7 pm on WSKY4 Hampton Roads, VA (****)

Richmond is coming off a huge win for their program, a 65-54 win over Purdue to take the Chicago Invitational crown. The Spiders star player, Kevin Anderson, led the way with 28 points and Richmond’s defense held the Boilermakers to 30% shooting. Old Dominion is coming off a tournament victory of their own as they defeated Xavier to win the Paradise Jam last week. Richmond is a solid offensive team, eighth in the country in effective field goal percentage. That will be the story of the game as they go up against an Old Dominion defense ranked #16 in efficiency. The one weakness for the Monarchs defensively is their three point defense, #193 in the country. Richmond is an outstanding three point shooting team averaging almost 43% on the season behind Anderson and quite a few other shooters such as Darien Brothers (64% from deep). Richmond is going to get points from the outside so Old Dominion must try to lock them up inside through physical play, rebounding and blocked shots. Key to that effort will be Frank Hassell who averages 13/10 and blocks almost two shots per game. He’ll have to stop 6’10 Justin Harper who has a height advantage on Hassell. However, Hassell outweighs Harper by 20 pounds so he should be able to get position and be physical with the Richmond big man. These are arguably the two best teams in the state of Virginia going at it, although we’re sure Seth Greenberg and the folks from Blacksburg may have something to say about that. If Richmond gets off to a hot start they should win this game as ODU lacks offensive punch and would rather win the game in the 50’s. Expect a hard fought, close game with the winner holding the edge on the glass and in the paint.

#18 Purdue @ Virginia Tech – 7:30 pm on ESPN (****)

Coming off the aforementioned loss to Richmond, Purdue faces a tough road game in the hostile environment of Cassell Coliseum. If there’s any good news for the Boilermakers it’s that Virginia Tech is struggling a bit itself when considering injuries and on-court performance. The Hokies escaped Oklahoma State but lost to UNLV in the 76 Classic, their second loss of the season. Malcolm Delaney has been doing it all offensively for Seth Greenberg but he’s not getting much help elsewhere. Jeff Allen and Dorenzo Hudson are Virginia Tech’s other main scoring threats but Allen has a hard time staying on the floor with foul trouble and Hudson is nursing an injured finger on his shooting hand. After that, Greenberg is having a hard time figuring out a rotation. The Hokies are thin up front and that’s something Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson should exploit this evening. Purdue’s star big man is averaging 17/9 and three blocks but is just 11-29 (38%) shooting in his last two games. He’ll go up against Victor Davila in this game and should be able to break out against the thin Hokie front court. With Allen coming over to help, foul trouble could become a concern yet again for the Virginia Tech forward. Johnson and Purdue do have to get to the line more often, ranking #241 in free throw attempts per field goal attempts. The Boilers don’t shoot it very well from there, either. This should be a low scoring game as both teams are strong defensively and force turnovers. Extra possessions and rebounds will be something to watch as Virginia Tech averages only 34 RPG, giving Purdue second chance opportunities and leading to foul trouble for the Hokies. Virginia Tech is not a strong outside shooting team other than Delaney so they’ll have to get a lot of their scoring inside against a tough Purdue defense that will get in the passing lanes and really disrupt their half court offense. Virginia Tech definitely can win this game but more has to go right for them than for Purdue. Matt Painter’s team has more options plus the matchup advantages are in their favor for the most part. However, playing on the road is always difficult, especially in a nationally televised game such as this. Expect this game to come down to the very end with free throws possibly deciding the outcome.

#6 Michigan State @ #1 Duke – 9:30 pm on ESPN (*****)

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