Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by jstevrtc on February 11th, 2010

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

The Threshing Floor

If conference play muddied the rankings for the teams at the top (Charlotte moved into #1, pushing the trio of Rhode Island, Temple and Xavier, teams that had topped the standing since New Years, down a notch), the teams in the middle and bottom are sorting out, both by record and efficiency differentials. A threshing floor is a wide and flat surface, located in an open area (always breezy, though sometimes windy), where farmers can spread their wheat, and through a process of beating the stalks and kernels and tossing them straight up in the air, separate the edible grain from their husks and stalks. The grain is heavy and when tossed in the air will fall (more or less) straight to the threshing floor. The wind will carry the lighter husks and stalks to the side, off the floor. The schedule may be unbalanced, but the repetitive process of playing conference games has (as suggested by the table below) separated the upper division teams from the lower division teams. And that separation is obvious, even to the casual observer.

Table reflects conference games played through February 9.

The efficiency differential divides the conference cleanly into an upper and lower division. The separation between the two grows. St. Louis is a full 0.51 points higher than #8 La Salle. Using a Pythagorean Winning Percentage formula to develop a quick projection of each team’s conference record suggests Xavier, Temple and Dayton will end up in a three-way tie with (roughly) 13-3 records. While it would play to many preseason projections, the notion that Dayton will launch a 5-0 run through the remainder of their conference schedule is a bit optimistic. The Pythagorean Winning Percentage also suggests Charlotte will go 3-4 through their last seven conference games, possible perhaps since four of their opponents are upper division teams. They do, however, face two of those opponents (Richmond and Xavier) at home. The 49ers are 9-1 at home this season.

Standings as of 02/10/10

  1. Charlotte (8-1, 18-5)
  2. Xavier (8-2, 16-7)
  3. Temple (7-2, 19-5, #21)
  4. Rhode Island (7-2, 19-3)
  5. Richmond (7-2, 18-6)
  6. St. Louis (6-3, 15-8)
  7. Dayton (5-3, 16-6)
  8. Duquesne (3-6, 12-11)
  9. La Salle (3-6, 11-12)
  10. Saint Joseph’s (3-7, 9-15)
  11. St. Bonaventure (2-6, 9-12)
  12. George Washington (2-7, 12-10)
  13. Massachusetts (2-7, 8-15)
  14. Fordham (0-9, 2-19)

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

Coach Lutz’s squad took sole possession of the #1 ranking in the conference with wins over George Washington 72-68, on Wednesday (2/3) and Fordham 77-72, on Saturday (2/6), even as Xavier stumbled in Dayton over the weekend. Junior Shamari Spears was named co-Player of the Week by the Conference which noted he scored a career-high 31 points versus George Washington and logged his second double-double of the season (15 points and 13 rebounds) versus Fordham. This is the second time the conference has acknowledged Spears’ contributions to the 49ers. A good run by Spears is only part of the story of the 49ers’ seven game winning streak. Spears, freshmen Chris Braswell and guard Shamarr Bowden, all combine with sophomore Darrio Green to power Charlotte’s offense. Green, whose offensive rating tops 113, is the squad’s most efficient scorer. Bowden, Spears, and Green shoulder most of the shot-making responsibilities. Braswell, whose most recent offensive rating (per Ken Pomeroy) of 102.2 has received multiple nods from the conference for his work this season.

A rendezvous with the Flyers in Dayton Wednesday (2/10) is next up for Charlotte, and then a week off to regroup for Duquesne. This is a game Coach Lutz needs to get to solidify his team’s hold on the top of the A10. The Flyers, coupled with St. Louis in the last group North of the conference’s dividing line, needs to pull Charlotte back to the pack. Using the Pythagorean Winning Percentage (for conference games only) suggests Coach Lutz’s squad will go 3-4 in their last seven games. Taking a road win in Dayton would buck that trend, bolster team confidence, and reassure the selection committee that Charlotte can be competitive away from Halton Arena. An early season blowout at the hands of Duke and OOC road losses to Old Dominion and Tennessee leave that question open.

Dayton

With a week to prepare, the Flyers waxed the Musketeers 90-65, on Saturday (2/6).

As the table derived from the Xavier box score suggests, Rob Lowery, a senior guard whose injury in February 2009 cut short his run last season. Lowery has been working himself back into shape this season, and the Flyers, whose defensive efficiency (0.914) is second only to Temple’s in conference play, will need all of Lowery’s offensive capabilities in the last four weeks of the regular season. For Dayton, inconsistent offense in the form of mediocre shot efficiency and higher-than-average turnovers, is the principle reason the team trails conference leader Charlotte with two losses. Their efficiency differential is high enough to suggest (using the Pythagorean Winning Percentage for conference games only) Dayton can run the table for their last eight conference games, compiling a record that should put them back into the conversation for a post season bid (without having to run through the field in Atlantic City).

Having pulled the Musketeers out of a first place tie, Dayton hosts Charlotte on Wednesday (2/10) in another chance to muddy the top of the conference. A Dayton win over Charlotte would knot the top of conference again, putting Xavier, Temple and Charlotte into a three-way tie with about three weekends left in the conference season.

Duquesne

The Dukes’ season has fallen well short of expectations so far. Melquan Bolding has returned to the rotation, but the sophomore is coming back very slowly, and the season is running out. To date, Duquesne has beaten only those teams in the bottom half of the conference, not a credential that would impress a selection committee. Against upper division teams the Dukes have come up short time and again. Coach Everhart’s squad is bedeviled by demons on both sides of the ball. Extremely poor shot conversion (an eFG% of 44.7%, ranked at #13 in the conference, ahead of only Fordham) undermines an otherwise average-to-good conference offense. The problems on defense involve more elements of the game; poor defensive rebounding and a propensity to foul combine with extremely bad shot defense to produce a defense that has yielded 1.05 points per possession, ranked ahead of only Massachusetts and Fordham in conference play.

Duquesne has a two game home stand this week, facing Massachusetts on Thursday (2/11), followed by La Salle on Sunday (2/14). Both are good opportunities for wins, which would move the Dukes to the top of the A10′s lower division.

Fordham

Chris Gaston was named Rookie of the Week for the fourth time this season as he scored 55 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in Fordham’s losses to Xavier (108-60, 1/30) and to Charlotte (77-72, 2/6). A pity that Jio Fontan transferred before Gaston exploded. The two could have formed a dynamic inside/outside combination. Probably not enough to turn the program around, but enough to improve on the Rams’ record from last season — and throw a scare into Coach Martelli’s Hawks. Ken Pomeroy’s “no win” probability remained at 63.14%. With a -0.240 differential, Fordham is nearly as far behind #13 Duquesne as the Dukes are from #7 St. Louis, the last team with a positive efficiency differential in conference games. For Coach Grasso, a commitment from Gaston (and guards Lance Brown and Alberto Eastwick) to return next season would carry more significance than a conference win, though a conference win (or two) would probably help Gaston, Brown and Eastwick decide to stay.

One of Fordham’s better prospects for a win, the George Washington Colonials are coming to town for a Saturday (2/13) game. Before that one, however, the Rams have to travel to New York’s Western Tier to take on St. Bonaventure on Wednesday (2/10).

George Washington

The January 30 loss to Rhode Island started a losing run that now extends to three games. The Colonials dropped games to Charlotte 72-68 (2/3) and to Duquesne 70-63 (2/6), this past week. That home loss to Duquesne is especially damaging, as the Dukes are also struggling through a season of lowered expectations. Post season prospects, short of running the table in Atlantic City next month, are nil. The team may have started the season well, but ineffective shooting (#11 in conference, ahead of only Saint Joseph’s, Duquesne and Fordham) is the principal culprit for an offense that has generated a paltry 0.97 points per possession in conference play (the conference average is 1.01). The defense is not fatally flawed, but giving up 1.02 points per possession is higher than the conference average (1.01). For Coach Hobbs, a losing season — the third since he led the Colonials to the NCAAs in 2007 with a 23-7 record — could not have come at a worse time. Many believe that Connecticut will begin it’s search for a successor to the Hall of Fame coach among those assistants who left to head programs of their own. At one point Hobbs was generally recognized as the most successful in that group.

The Colonials have perhaps their best opportunity to end their losing run as they take on Fordham on Saturday (2/13). The game will be played in the Bronx, though, and George Washington has dropped four straight road games in conference play.

La Salle

Coach Giannini’s squad is three games into a losing slide, having dropped a 68-65 home game to St. Louis last Saturday (2/6). Losing seniors Ruben Guillandeaux (last played 11/22/09) and Kimmani Barrett (last played 1/13 — the conference announced he would undergo surgery, thereby ending his college career) has reduced the Explorers from one of the conference’s most experienced squads to one of its least experienced in just under eight weeks. The Explorers are 2-5 in Barrett’s absence. Getting freshman Parrish Grant some court time in preparation for next season may become the higher priority as the current season slips away.

Next up for La Salle is a St. Valentine’s date with Duquesne, in Pittsburgh.

Massachusetts

The Minutemen are riding a three game losing streak, and two of the three games were added this past week. Both games were lost by identical eight point margins: Xavier, 87-79 on Wednesday (2/3), and Rhode Island, 93-85 on Saturday (2/6). Like Duquesne, UMass demonstrates yet again why shot efficiency is the most important of Dean Oliver’s four factors. The Minutemen are ranked #11 in the conference for efficiency differential, and #10 in the conference for (offensive) shot efficiency. As a dribble-drive squad that prefers to kick the ball out to the perimeter for a three, the Minutemen do not get to the line much either. For defensive shot efficiency Massachusetts is ranked #13, ahead of only Fordham.

Massachusetts’ schedule going forward (they have seven conference games left) looks fairly favorable compared to the front end of their schedule. With only three games remaining against upper division opponents, the Minutemen could acquire another 3-4 wins over the last month of conference play. The future starts Thursday (2/11) with a trip to Pittsburgh for a game with Duquesne, and continues with a visit from Saint Joseph’s on Sunday (2/14).

Rhode Island

The Rams extended their winning run to four games with a win over Massachusetts, 93-85, last Saturday (2/6). Rhode Island has put the second most efficient offense together, despite being ranked #4 in shot efficiency (50.6%), through strong offensive rebounding and a conference-leading low turnover rate (16.9%). According to Ken Pomeroy, every member of the Rams’ regular rotation has an individual offensive rating of 104.5 or higher. Four of Rhode Island’s remaining seven conference games are against upper division teams, but two of those games (versus Richmond and Charlotte) are home games. The Rams ought to prevail in both.

Rhode Island hosts Richmond on Wednesday (2/10), then travels to Philadelphia on Saturday (2/13) for their mirror game against Temple.

Richmond

Among the six conference teams currently in the NCAA postseason discussion, Richmond, with a solid 7-2 record to date, is often overlooked. The Spiders have assembled a solid conference resume, but out-of-conference road losses to William & Mary, VCU, Wake Forest and South Carolina may give the Selection Committee pause to think. In conference play Richmond has compiled a 3-1 road record, the sole loss coming at the hands of St. Louis, a fellow upper division team in the A10. Richmond’s bread and butter comes from defense, as they are #2 in the conference behind St. Louis for shot defense (eFG% is 43.7%) and #2 in conference play behind Rhode Island in turnover rates (22.6%). Their offense offers solid shooting efficiency (52.0%, #1 in conference play), but conference-worst offensive rebounding (26.0%), combined with a somewhat passive offense (FTA/FGA rate is 32.7%, well below the conference average of 36.1%) suggest the Spiders are a perimeter-oriented team that needs to convert their three point field goal attempts more effectively to prosper.

Richmond takes in two road games this week (terrible week to travel in the Northeast). First stop Wednesday (2/10) will be Rhode Island, followed by a Saturday (2/13) game at St. Bonaventure. If past is prolog, Richmond should beat St. Bonaventure, but their Rhode Island game is more complicated.

Saint Joseph’s

The problem with the Hawks’ season is that it has gone largely as planned. Seniors Garrett Williamson and Darrin Govens have shouldered much of the offensive responsibility, but neither had been especially efficient at posting points. Freshmen guards Carl Jones and Justin Crosgile are good players, but neither has developed into the impact player that Coach Martelli’s offense needs. The offense has not produced points efficiently in conference play. 0.96 points per possession is below the conference average of 1.00, and the Hawk defense allows nearly 1.05 points per possession, a deadly combination when trying to fashion a winning record.

The Hawks travel to Massachusetts for a Sunday (2/14) game. The Hawks’ road record this season is an underwhelming 1-8.

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies are riding a four game losing streak that dates back to the last week in January. They added two of those games last week, dropping a 67-65 road decision to St. Louis on Wednesday (2/3), followed by a 78-71 loss at Saint Joseph’s on Sunday (2/7). The Bonnies convert shots at a conference-average 48.3% (eFG%), but they produce 4% fewer points per possession on average because they lose a conference-high 23.6% of their possessions. Andrew Nicholson may be a top 250 rebounder (per Ken Pomeroy), but as a team St. Bonaventure ranks only #13 in the conference in offensive rebounding. Senior Jon Hall and sophomore Nicholson can convert efficiently if the back court can consistently deliver the ball. Five of the Bonnies’ remaining eight games will come at home, so a move into the middle of the conference is only possible if St. Bonaventure can take advantage of a home court advantage.

The Bonnies open a three game home stand this week by hosting Fordham on Wednesday (2/10), followed by Richmond on Saturday (2/10).

St. Louis

The Billikens have put together a three game winning streak this week. First, they snagged a 67-65 home win versus St. Bonaventure last Wednesday (2/3), followed by a road win versus La Salle, 68-65 last Saturday (2/6), and lastly a win over Saint Joseph’s, 56-52 on Tuesday (2/9). The last two are of particular interest because they were road wins, a rare element in St. Louis’ resumen this season. Identified by Pomeroy as one of the youngest squads in D1 (at 0.56 years they are ranked #346, dead last), Coach Majerus’ squad was 1-6 in away games going into the week. The Billikens are getting it done with defense. They have posted a conference-best 43.0 shot defense (eFG%), combined with the #5 best turnover rate. Sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell earned conference recognition in the form of A10 Player Of The Week for the second time this season with his 42 point/7 assist efforts in St. Louis’ games with St. Bonaventure and Syracuse.

St. Louis hosts Dayton Saturday (2/13). A win over the veteran Flyer squad would be a huge boost to Coach Majerus’ team.

Temple

Temple recorded a second consecutive 1-1 week in conference play as they beat Duquesne 76-60 on Wednesday (2/3), but lost their weekend game to Richmond, 71-54 on Saturday (2/6). That second loss dropped the Owls a half-game behind Xavier. Coach Dunphy’s offense and defense share a common set of priorities: that is, take care of the shot and then the rebound. On offense that translates in to a #3 conference rank for eFG% (51.4) and #5 rank for offensive rebounding (35.0%). On defense, the Owls rank #4 for shot defense (46.2% eFG) and #1 for defensive rebounding (26.4%). Ryan Brooks, Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez continue to be productive offensively, as Allen, sophomore Eric Michael, and Scottie Randall control the boards.

Temple will come off of a week-long break to host Rhode Island on Saturday (2/13).

Xavier

The Musketeers lost their second conference game last week, a 90-65 road game at Dayton on Saturday (2/6). Timing is everything as Temple also lost (to Richmond), keeping those two programs even in the loss column, and one loss behind Charlotte. Their offense, ranked #1 in conference games, earns them 1.11 points per possession. Combined with their #6 ranked defense, which allows 0.98 points per possession, that puts them at the top of the conference for efficiency differentials. On offense, top of the conference ranking in shot efficiency (eFG% of 54.3%) combined with frequent trips to the line (FTR of 45.7%) explain how Xavier earns their points. They have Jordan Crawford to thank, taking over a third of Xavier’s shots when he is on the court.  But as defenses concentrate on Crawford, Xavier has two other players — Terrell Holloway and Jason Love — who convert shots very efficiently.

Xavier takes a break from conference action to travel to Florida for a game with the Gators of the SEC.

Games to Catch:

Rhode Island at Temple Saturday 2/13 — An early season matchup gave Temple their first important conference road win, and knocked the Rams, who were flirting with #25 in the national polls, down a peg or two. Both teams, saddled with two losses apiece, need a win to keep pace with Xavier and remain one loss behind Charlotte. Lavoy Allen versus Delroy James should be interesting. Juan Fernandez and Luis Guzman will be tested by the conference’s best team in terms of forcing turnovers.

Xavier at Florida Saturday 2/13 — A top 50 RPI win up for grabs. Jason Love and Kenny Frease will have their hands full with Vernon Macklin and Dan Werner. If it comes down to a shootout between Kenny Boyton and Jordan Crawford, I have to like Crawford.

Dayton at St. Louis Saturday 2/13 — Two of the conference’s better defenses lock up in this game. St. Louis has been very tough at home (11-1 this season), while Dayton is less impressive on the road (4-3). This is the second game in a tough week for Dayton, but the Flyers cannot relax if they want to keep pace with the five teams clustered at the top of the conference.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on January 7th, 2010

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

Looking Back/Looking Forward

The Atlantic 10 conference season has begun (literally) — the first games were played Wednesday 1/6, and next weekend will find virtually every conference team playing a conference schedule. How did the conference fare in the out of conference portion of the season? I have pulled together efficiency statistics from Ken Pomeroy’s web site and combined them with each team’s record (through January 5) and the difference of their offensive efficiency and their defensive efficiency (expressed as points per possession). To provide a context for the team’s won/lost record and efficiency difference, I have also provided (from Realtime RPI) each team’s current SOS (through January 4).

I did not credit St. Louis and St. Bonaventure with their in-season wins over their D2 opponents (Rockhurst and Le Moyne, respectively) because the possession-based stats from those games were not included in those team’s OOC stats, nor were they included in those teams’ SOS computation and ranking.

The order is mildly surprising — Temple remains at the top of the list, Kansas blowout notwithstanding, and Xavier holds the second spot, despite 4 losses. Some things never change it seems. Preseason favorite Dayton holds a very respectable spot, but I feel a little disappointed in that I thought the Flyers would do a little better, taking another game in Puerto Rico, or maybe the New Mexico game. Rhode Island‘s won/lost record appears to be confirmed by the Rams’ SOS, efficiency differential and recent results (their win over Oklahoma State last weekend). Richmond‘s SOS also invests credibility in their won/lost record and efficiency differential. It’s not clear from the table, but an element to factor when calculating the Spiders’ conference season prospects (and by inference, their postseason prospects) is their road record, where at 1-4, they seem overly sensitive to hostile environments. Optimism based on their out of conference records seems a bit premature for George Washington and Charlotte. Their efficiency differentials when juxtaposed with their respective SOSs, suggests these two teams may struggle in conference play. Charlotte was easily handled at Tennessee last night, while the Colonials will be tested early with a visit from Xavier this evening.

Standings as of 01/06/10

  1. Temple (12-3) (#21 AP)
  2. Rhode Island (12-1)
  3. Dayton (11-3)
  4. Charlotte (10-4)
  5. George Washington (11-3)
  6. Richmond (12-4) WC
  7. Xavier (8-5)
  8. Duquesne (9-6)
  9. St. Louis (9-5)
  10. St. Bonaventure (7-7)
  11. La Salle (7-6)
  12. Massachusetts (7-7)
  13. St. Joseph’s (4-9)
  14. Fordham (2-11)

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

Charlotte thumped Mercer 91-80, last Wednesday (12/29), to close out 2009, but dropped a 9-point decision to Georgia Tech, 76-67, to open 2010 last Saturday (1/2). Dario Green and Shamari Spears led the 49ers with 23 points apiece against Mercer, but Green, with 31 points in 35 minutes of play, was only 1 of 2 Charlotte players (DiJuan Harris, with 13 points was the other) to score more than 10 points against the Yellow Jackets. The 42 point loss at Duke was embarrassing, but not fatal to Charlotte’s postseason prospects. The 49ers have a solid win at Louisville (#55 RPI). Coach Lutz’s squad missed three top 100 win opportunities, at Old Dominion (#41 RPI), and versus Georgia Tech (#63 RPI), and at Tennessee last night. They show no bad losses to this point. Perhaps an outstanding A10 record, combined with a strong showing at the A10′s postseason tournament will be enough to swing the Selection Committee. The Atlantic 10 Conference Offices recognized Dario Green as the co-player of the week and Chris Braswell as the co-rookie of the week.

The 49ers open their A10 slate on Saturday (1/9) when they host St. Bonaventure.

Dayton

Coach Gregory’s squad dropped their New Year’s Day game to New Mexico 68-66. Chris Johnson scored a team-high 21 points, 11 coming in the last 55 seconds of the game (three 3s and a 2). The Flyers were down seven when Johnson decided to make his run, but were not able (until Johnson’s last three closed the game) to cut the Lobos’ lead to less than four. Neither team was particularly efficient at converting possessions into points, but shot defense failed the Flyers as it did in the Kansas State game, and the Flyers could not keep the Lobos off the free throw line. New Mexico had nearly twice as many FTAs as Dayton. The Lobos took it to the cup at every chance, especially in the 2nd half. They were rewarded with over 1 FTA for every FGA they took (107.5), high even for the Lobos (see the New Mexico Game Plan page at Ken Pomeroy’s website). New Mexico earned 38.2% of their points at the line, high for a D1 team. Dayton did get votes in both polls Monday, enough to rank the Flyers #34 in the AP poll (placing them behind Temple and Rhode Island). With Tuesday’s 24-point blowout versus Ball State, 59-35, the Flyers close out their out of conference schedule with a 11-3 record. On a night when only three players logged more than 20 minutes (50% of the available playing time at their position), Chris Wright was the game-high scorer with 10 points. Coach Gregory emptied his bench and passed 14 different players through the game. Only two logged a minute of playing time, and a third logged less than five minutes. Postseason prospects will depend more heavily on their conference record than I anticipated in my season preview. The Flyers go into their conference slate with no signature (Top 25 RPI) wins. Their best wins are against Old Dominion (RPI #43 in Dayton) and Georgia Tech (RPI #63 in Puerto Rico). Their three losses are on the road or in neutral sites, all to top 25 RPI teams.

Dayton will host Duquesne in their A10 opener on Saturday (1/9).

Duquesne

The Dukes dropped a 9-point decision, 63-54, to the Monarchs of Old Dominion on Wednesday. Freshman guard Sean Johnson posted a career-high 17 points as he led the Dukes. Damian Saunders, Eric Evans and Bill Clark all scored in double digits as well, but the freshman posted an efficient 58.3% eFG% in the losing effort. The good news is that injured Melquan Bolding has been cleared to practice and will hopefully see some playing time in the next week or so. Odds for an NCAA invitation hang on a strong A10 record, which was given an early jolt with a loss at home to Richmond last night, 80-68. Given their difficulties on the offensive side of the ball (shot making, turnovers and very average offensive rebounding) against average (OOC) competition, I wonder how effective the Dukes will be in conference play. A relatively young team, they have struggled on the road (efficiency differential for road games is -0.147). That may not change much in conference play, despite Bolding’s return (remember he is not 100% nor is he in game condition at this point). The Dukes have a single notable (top 100 RPI) win, and that is against Radford (RPI #90). All of their losses are against top 100 teams. No ugly losses, but no signature wins (despite several chances) either.

Duquesne travels to Dayton to play the Flyers on Saturday (1/9).

Fordham

The Rams’ Southern Road Trip was a study in disappointment as Fordham dropped a 79-66 game to Kennesaw State last Tuesday (12/29) and another to Hampton, 78-54, on Sunday (1/3). Against Kennesaw State Chris Gaston (26) and Brenton Butler (25) scored 51 of Fordham’s 66 points. Against Hampton, Butler was the only double-digit scorer for the Rams, posting 21 points, about 38.9% of Fordham’s total production. Last night Fordham lost a 2-point heartbreaker at UMass.  Lacking consistent offense (Fordham is last in the A10 for offensive efficiency right now), prospects beyond Atlantic City are bleak. Ironically there are a number of A10 teams with worse defense, and even a few with worse offensive turnover rates and rebounding rates. But no team converts FGAs less efficiently than Fordham. Chris Gaston (who takes 37.4% of the team’s FGAs) and Brenton Butler (who takes 24.5%), their two principal threats, have eFG%s of 48.0 and 38.5 respectively, very tough conversion rates if the Rams expect to win. The Rams take about 69.2% of the FGAs as 2-point shots, which is pretty smart given they convert their 3s at a 24.2% rate. In other words they pose no serious threat from the perimeter. Defenses can collapse and concentrate on stopping lane penetration from Gaston (Butler takes 49.8% of his FGAs from beyond the arc). Hopefully Coach Grasso can use the season to experiment with the offense and develop/adopt a system that will make the most of the roster’s strengths, setting the foundation for next season. And Chris Gaston will decide he wants to be a part of the rebuilding. Gaston was named co-rookie of the week for the 2nd time this season.

Fordham will travel to Saint Joseph’s on Saturday (1/9).

George Washington

The Colonials were 1-1 on their New England Holiday Sojourn. After beating Holy Cross they dropped a 66-53 decision to Harvard on Wednesday (12/30). Damian Hollis scored 11 points (5-14, 0-6, 5-8 & 1-1) to lead George Washington. GW returned to Washington, DC, and beat Howard 81-63 on Saturday (1/2), paced again by Damian Hollis (18 points & 8 rebounds, both team-high) and Tony Taylor (13 points). Last night the Colonials got a 78-71 road win to open conference play against St. Bonaventure.  The 11-3 record looks promising, but it comes against competition with an SOS ranked #291. There are no signature wins in the offerings, with two of the three losses coming against their toughest competition (Harvard ranked #26 RPI & Providence, ranked #78 RPI). Their loss to Oregon State (#209 RPI) is bad. Against mediocre competition the Colonials have come to own the conference’s second worst (tied with Duquesne, ahead of only La Salle) turnover rate. They lost 21.9% of their possessions. Field goal efficiency is lower than the conference average, which, given GW’s SOS, raises a yellow flag for conference play. The Colonials have to rely on the strength of the conference (assuming they compile a good record in conference play) to bolster their credentials for the NCAA Selection Committee. Not a great plan.

Coach Hobbs’ squad will play their home opener against Xavier on Sunday (1/10).

La Salle

La Salle closed December with a loss to Ivy League favorite Cornell, then opened January with a catastrophe, a 5-point loss (66-61) to Binghamton on Saturday (1/2). Rodney Green’s 20 points (backed by Kimmani Barrett’s 17 points) was not enough to turn back the Binghamton Bearcats, shut down freshman Aaric Murray, limiting him to 4 (2-2-4) rebounds and 3 points over 33 minutes of play. The prospects for life after Atlantic City are bleak at this point. Though their resume lacked a signature win, the Explorers could at least plead their losses as having all been at the hands of top 100 teams. Until the Binghamton Bearcats. Like George Washington, La Salle will have to create a (NCAA) tournament-worthy resume on a strong conference showing. Risky business that may rely too heavily on a conference tournament run that would require an adjective like “miraculous,” “magical” or “remarkable” to accurately describe the effort.

The Explorers open their A10 season on Thursday (1/7) as they host Xavier. The squad will then take to the road for a game at Massachusetts on Sunday (1/10).

Massachusetts

Coach Kellogg’s squad dropped a 2-point decision to Davidson, 63-61, on Wednesday (12/30). Senior guard Ricky Harris and junior guard Anthony Gurley split the scoring duties, posting 21 and 17 points respectively. Sophomore center Sean Carter collected 10 rebounds (4-6-10), matching a career-high. Last night the Minutemen got a solid home win to begin conference play versus Fordham.  If tournament prospects are bleak, the Minutemen’s progress from this time last season is encouraging. The team headed into conference play with a 5-8 record, as opposed to this season’s 6-7 record. As the table below suggests their offense improved in the face of poorer shooting, on the strength of better rebounding, improved ball handling and more aggression getting to the basket. Massachusetts’ record would be (much) better if they had garnered 2009′s defensive numbers. Progress for the Minutemen might be better measured in getting more road wins and asserting a stronger home court advantage (and improving those defensive numbers), rather than post season bids.

Massachusetts will host La Salle on Sunday (1/10).

Rhode Island

Rhode Island continued to build it’s resume with a 4-point win over Oklahoma State, 63-59, on Saturday (1/2). Played more like a chess game than a basketball game, the teams took 61 possessions each (a pace more to Ok State’s liking than Rhode Island’s). If the game was not an offensive masterpiece, the Rams nevertheless posted some of their best defensive numbers of the season, as they limited the Cowboys to 0.97 points per possession and exploited the Cowboys systemic lack of rebounding. Delroy James, Keith Cothran and Stevie Mejia all posted double digit points, with Delroy leading the way with 14 points and 9 (7-2-9) rebounds. The effort did not go unnoticed, as the Rams upped their 5-vote 12/28 total in the AP poll to 52 votes in the current (1/4) poll. They need another 95 or so votes to break into the Top 25. Given their 5-point road win, 68-63, at Akron on Tuesday (1/5) perhaps a few more voters will remember them on their ballots next Monday. With 4 wins over top 100 RPI teams (Oklahoma State — #36, Northeastern — #67, Providence — #77 and Boston College on the road — #100) against a single loss (also to a Top 100 RPI team, a road loss to VCU — #37), Rhode Island has used their out of conference schedule to position themselves very well for postseason consideration. A strong showing in conference play (1 – 3 losses versus the better competition) should have them in the NCAAs.

Coach Baron’s squad opens their A10 schedule Sunday by hosting a marquee opponent, Temple, in a game that should have immediate repercussions in the conference race.

Richmond

The Spiders dropped a New Year’s Eve overtime decision at Wake Forest (74-68), Kevin Anderson leading the way with a career-high 31 points. Justin Harper was the only other Richmond player to post double-digit points as he scored 10 points on 3-8 (2-4, 1-4) and 2-4 shooting. They swung north to Lewisburg, PA to beat the struggling Bison of Bucknell on Saturday (1/2) 59-50, Anderson again led the team in scoring (the 7th time in 15 games) with 25 points on 9-17 (2-5, 7-12) and 5-7 shooting. Starting forwards Justin Harper and Ryan Butler chipped in 13 and 11 points respectively. Coach Mooney’s squad picked up four quality wins (ODU — #42, Mississippi St — #69, Missouri — #71 and Florida — #76) in their out of conference schedule. Their four losses, all to Top 100 RPI opponents were missed opportunities, one or two of which (that 20 point loss to South Carolina for example?) might be cause for regret come Selection Sunday. Their defense has been surprisingly effective (ranked #4 in the conference versus the #6 most difficult schedule) suggests they can do well in conference play if they can find a little more offense (calling David Gonzalvez…). Congratulations to Kevin Anderson who was named co-player of the week by the Atlantic 10 Conference. The article cited his career-high against Wake Forest and his point total against Bucknell.

Richmond opened their A10 schedule with another extended road trip that matches them against two of the A10′s youngest teams. First stop was Pittsburgh where Richmond handled Duquesne easily (80-68) Wednesday, followed with a stop in St. Louis for a play date with the Billikens on Saturday (1/9). Richmond has struggled in other team’s arenas; this trip will be a good test to see where they stand in the conference.

Saint Joseph’s

St. Joseph’s started a new losing streak, currently standing at two, as they dropped a game to Princeton over the weekend (Saturday 1/2) 70-62, at home. An Alpha and Omega combination, freshman Carl Jones came off the bench to lead the Hawks with 17 points on 6-13 (1-5, 5-8) and 4-5 shooting, coupled with starting senior Darrin Govens who chipped in 13 points on 5-14 (1-6, 4-8) and 2-2 shooting, led the team in scoring. Coach Martelli is working with a young team this season, and it is clear from the out of conference record that this will be a rebuilding year. With a 3-2 home record, the first step may be to establish a home court advantage in conference. And develop those young guards.

The Hawks open their A10 schedule with three games in 8 days. First they flew across town to get waxed by the Temple Owls last night 73-46, then they host Fordham on Saturday (1/9) and travel to Kingston, RI, to play Rhode Island the following Wednesday (1/13).

St. Bonaventure

Coach Schmidt’s squad beat Little Three rival Canisius 82-75, on Wednesday night (12/30). Jon Hall posted a 20 point night, leading the Bonnies. Hall grabbed 7 rebounds and dished 6 assists (and 0 turnovers) to boot. Chris Matthews notched 15 points. In all, five St. Bonaventure players scored double-digit points. They closed out their out of conference schedule on a down note, falling to Marshall 80-61, in Huntington, WV, on Saturday (1/2). While the Bonnies’ efficiency stats, both offensive and defensive, are good, their 6-6 record juxtaposed with their efficiency difference of 0.044, suggests they lack game-to-game consistency. The Bonnies are about a year (and a sure-handed point guard) away from the postseason. Among their six losses, only the Niagara loss (the Purple Eagles are ranked #114 in the RPI) is considered bad.

St. Bonaventure lost at home to George Washington on Wednesday 78-71, and will then travel to Charlotte to play the 49ers on Saturday (1/9).

St. Louis

The Billikens closed out their out of conference slate with a loss to Bowling Green, 59-50, on the road. Kwamain Mitchell and Ohio-native Jon Smith paced St. Louis with 13 and 11 points respectively. The Billikens’ record as the visitor in hostile arenas is 0-2 (true a small sample, but not because of NCAA scheduling). And for a postseason bid, therein lies the rub. A 9-0 home record (that includes a win over D2 Rockhurst) will not impress the Selection Committee, especially if compared to their 0-4 record when playing away from Chaifetz Arena.

St. Louis opens their A10 season with a home game against Richmond on Saturday (1/9), followed by a road game at Charlotte the following Wednesday (1/13).

Temple

The Owls closed out 2009 with another win, this one at Northern Illinois. Temple sports a 4-0 record versus MAC opponents (can they claim the conference’s automatic bid?). It was Juan Fernandez’s turn to go off, and the Argentine put up 26 points on 7-12 (4-7, 3-5) and 8-8 shooting. Ryan Brooks put up 19 points on 7-18 (0-6, 7-12) 5-7 shooting. Lavoy Allen harvested (4-7-11) 11 rebounds. The Kansas Jayhawks ran them out of the Liacouras Center Saturday (1/2), hanging an ugly 32 point loss (84-52) on the Owls. Kansas dominated the boards (43 vs 31) and outshot Temple (30-55 versus 16-64) badly enough to negate a very modest turnover advantage held by the Owls.

Coach Dunphy’s squad hosted the Hawks of Saint Joseph’s Wednesday night and handled them easily, 73-46, and will then travel to Kingston, RI, to tackle the Rams of URI Sunday (1/10). The following Wednesday (1/13) Temple will take care of some Big 5 business as they take on the Penn Quakers at the historic Palestra on Penn’s campus.

Xavier

The X-men lost to Wake Forest Sunday (1/3) in the inaugural play of the Skip Prosser Classic, dropping a 4-point decision, 96-92, after 2 overtimes. Jordan Crawford led all scorers with a career-high 31 points, while Jamel McLean and Terrell Holloway chipped in 21 and 13 points apiece. Despite lacking the seasoning playing together several seasons might provide, Xavier has done well with a demanding out of conference schedule. The offensive/defensive differential (+0.144) ranks the Musketeers second in the conference despite the loss of five games. Though they lack a Top 25 win and have a loss to Marquette (RPI rank #108), Xavier’s prospects in conference seem good, and a resume-building signature win in conference (Temple and Rhode Island offer opportunities) is possible. Going into conference play the Musketeers sport an 0-2 record against Top 25 competition, and a 2-2 record versus top 100 competition.

XU will travel to Philadelphia to open their A10 season Thursday (1/7) at La Salle, then extend the road trip with one more stop, in Washington DC to play George Washington in Sunday (1/10), before returning home to Cincinnati to host Charlotte the following Wednesday (1/13).

Games to Catch

  • Xavier at La Salle Thursday 1/7 — Had La Salle had a better out of conference showing, this early season matchup would have garnered some national attention. For those who have not seen La Salle’s Rodney Green and Aaric Murray and Xavier’s Jordan Crawford and Terrell Holloway, this one might be worth a look. (CBS College Sports)
  • Richmond at St. Louis Saturday 1/9 — The best of Saturday’s three conference games, the Billikens have been tough at Chaifetz Arena, but the Spiders need some road wins if they want to keep their postseason hopes alive. Both coaches have installed complex, motion-based offenses (Moody is a Princeton Offense coach, Majerus is a 4 out 1 in motion coach) that when working properly, can be very efficient. This one should remind spectators of a chess game played with a ball and five players per side.
  • Temple at Rhode Island Sunday 1/10 — Starts off the conference slate with a bang, the consensus two best teams coming out of their out of conference schedules lock horns in the 1st weekend of full conference play. (Cox Cable).
  • Xavier at George Washington Sunday 1/10 — A significant game for both teams. Xavier does not want to fall too far this season, but GW wants to recover the standing they had three seasons ago. The Musketeers have not traveled well in the out of conference season, so this game, as the closer on their extended road trip, can help set a different tone on the squad. If the Colonials hope to regain their standing, defending the home court is a first step. (CSS, FSN Ohio & Comcast Sportsnet).
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by jstevrtc on December 25th, 2009

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

Road Warriors

A few BCS schools developed reputations for rarely venturing far from their home arenas during their out of conference seasons and relying on their conference’s RPI to bolster their resumes come Selection Sunday.  Coach Jim Calhoun masked the inexperience of his 2007 Huskies by keeping them at home from early November to late December where they ran off 11 straight wins and rose to #12 in the polls.  They opened the Big East season with a 10 point loss to West Virginia, and continued to implode with an 6-14 record through January, February and early March.  The 1st round of the Big East Tournament was their post-season.  Florida State’s Len Hamilton nursed his 2006 Seminole squads to an 9-1 OOC record, leaving home once before ACC conference play (a loss to in state rival Florida).  FSU finished with a 9-7 conference record, and despite a signature win over #1-ranked Duke at the end of the conference season, could not tease a dance bid out of the Selection Committee come Selection Sunday.

A10 coaches have no illusions that the conference’s reputation (however good among the non-BCS conferences) will carry a bubble team into the field of 65.  While few subscribe to former Temple head coach John Chaney’s “Anyone, Anywhere” philosophy, everyone recognizes the virtue of playing invitational tournaments and having a healthy dose of road games on the resume.  Most of their OOC resume-building games may come from traditional rivalries and invitational fields, but the road games, at worst, help their squads prepare for the hostile crowds they will face when playing conference opponents.  How did the conference members do this OOC season?

The statistics, drawn from each team’s Game Plan page at Ken Pomeroy’s website, shows the team’s road (away and neutral site) record, the team’s efficiency (points per possession the team scored – offense and allowed – defense), the team’s shot efficiency (on offense and defense) and the estimated average possessions per game.

Temple looks better with each passing week.  The road wins in particular are very encouraging and suggest the Owls will be able to score and defend in hostile venues. Seton Hall is a resume win, and the 46-45 loss at Georgetown (provided the Hoyas don’t implode again in 2010…) will be a good loss.  The nucleus of Fernandez, Brooks, Allen and Guzman (see Temple Team Capsule below) are putting together a very nice run, which they may well be able to sustain going into conference play.  File Rhode Island and Charlotte under “Surprised in a Good Way” also.  Though the Rams’ slate is a bit light (they did not participate in any MTE tournaments this season), it does include a double-digit win over Boston College from the ACC and a 2 point loss to a well-regarded 7-2 Virginia Commonwealth team on 12/2.  Charlotte was torched early in the season by Duke at the Cameron, but has bounced back nicely with double-digit wins over Hofstra, Louisville of the Big East and Winthrop, each of whom has a record of .500 or better.

Filed under “Surprised in a Bad Way” — try Dayton, Duquesne and Richmond. The Flyers participated in the Puerto Rico Tip Off and started strong, taking out Georgia Tech in their first round.  They dropped their next two games to two more BCS teams (Villanova and Kansas State) and have scraped by their two road opponents — Miami, OH and George Mason.  Mason having a down year, is teetering at .500 (5-5) at this point and will, should the trend continue, watch the post-season on CBS and ESPN.  Duquesne started out well, housing Iowa in their second game of the season, but the two-overtime, neutral court loss to Pittsburgh seems to have thrown the team out of synch. They were hammered by West Virginia and lost to UIPIU last weekend.  The Jaguars may be the pick of the litter in the Summit League, but they too have taken three double-digit beatings.  Hardly makes for a stirring endorsement of the Dukes.  Bolding’s return may spark the Dukes, but heading into conference play (they have 2 more OOC games left), Duquesne’s prospects for A10 road wins seem uncertain at best.  Taking South Carolina may have been a stretch for Richmond, but their losses to in-state rivals William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth (both of the CAA) gives me pause to think.  Those games most resemble the conference road conditions Richmond will probably encounter in conference play.  Both may have been “close” losses, but they were losses nevertheless.

George Washington’s 4-0 road record may look impressive, but know the opponents were UNC – Wilmington, Boston University, Navy and Towson. Not a BCS team to be found in a group whose collective record is 15-24.  Their extended, post holiday trek through New England should provide a bit more insight into the state of the program and their prospects in conference road play.  The unimpressive road/neutral records posted by Xavier, Massachusetts, Saint Joseph’s and St. Louis (a combined 3-18) maybe due in large measure to the youth of all three squads.  Ken Pomeroy ranks them by experience level as #259, #305, #156 and #346 respectively, out of D1’s 347 D1.

Standings as of – 12/21/09:

  1. Temple (9-2)
  2. Rhode Island (9-1)
  3. Charlotte (9-2)
  4. Dayton (9-2)
  5. Richmond (9-3)
  6. George Washington (8-2)
  7. Duquesne (8-4)
  8. La Salle (7-4)
  9. Xavier (7-4)
  10. St. Louis (8-4)
  11. St. Bonaventure (6-5)
  12. Massachusetts (6-6)
  13. Saint Joseph’s (4-6)
  14. Fordham (2-8)

Team Rundowns…

Charlotte

Taking to the road, the 49ers beat Winthrop by ten, 57-47, on Sunday (12/20).  Junior forward Shamari Spears delivered from the field, going 5-11 from the floor for 13 points (his 45.5% shooting percentage well ahead of the team’s overall 39.1%), while senior point guard DiJuan Harris delivered from the line, hitting 7 of 8 free throws to pace Charlotte to the win.  Junior center Phil Jones grabbed 11 rebounds as the taller, more physical 49er team dominated with inside play.  The A10 team received ten more free throw opportunities than the host, and made the most of the advantage by converting 13 more times, going 18-22, compared to 5-12 for the Eagles. There indeed was the margin of victory.  Charlotte has now won five straight, all by double-digits.  The Niners traveled to Old Dominion on Wednesday (12/23) for one last game before the Holidays and got thumped, 81-48, after shooting 16% in the first half and appearing generally uninterested.  They resume their schedule when they host Mercer on the 29th.

Dayton

The Flyers beat Presbyterian by 19 (71-52) at the UD Arena on Saturday (12/19), paced by junior forward Chris Wright and senior back-up point guard Mickey Perry, each of whom scored 15 points.  Perry, normally in the rotation for about 17 minutes per game saw 25 minutes when off-guard Marcus Johnson went down with an ankle sprain in the 1st half.  Redshirt freshman Josh Benson scored 10 points, also in extended action, when starter Chris Johnson left the game after a blow to the head, also sustained in the 1st half.  Dayton beat Appalachian State, 65-49, on Monday night.  The Blue Hose and Mountaineers should have been double digit wins, and the Dayton team many expected in November appears to be rounding into form as the conference season approaches.  Wright and Perry led the team in scoring for both games, grossing 29 and 30 points apiece respectively for the two games.  The Flyers return to action after the Holidays with a game versus Boston University on the 29th.  They will ring in the New Year in Albuquerque, New Mexico as they take on the Lobos of New Mexico on New Year’s Day.

Duquesne

The Dukes needed two overtimes to put down the Griffins of Canisius 86-77 on Wednesday 12/16.  Duquesne used size and speed to force turnovers and alter shots, but they did not control the boards.  The game, played for 68 possessions (adjusted for the overtimes), was a bit low for Duquesne home games this season.  The Dukes’ offensive efficiency was about 1.00 (points per possession), very slightly above their home court average, the defense, at 0.90, was higher than the Dukes’ 0.81 home average, suggesting the stifling defense, especially on opponent’s shooting, was simply not there.  Duquesne dropped a nine point road game, 73-64, to IUPUI in Indianapolis, IN on Saturday 12/19.  Continuing a trend for road games, Duquesne’s defensive efficiency again turned in a >1.00 defensive effort, 1.05 this time.  The Iowa game in November aside, the Dukes have had problems keeping opponent’s points per possession under 1.00 this season.  The culprits appear to be shot defense (the Dukes let the Jaguars hit at a 56.5% eFG% clip) and rebounding.  Duquesne hosts St. Francis, PA on Tuesday 12/22, then break for Christmas. They finish their OOC schedule with a trip to Virginia to play the Monarchs of Old Dominion on Wednesday 12/30.

Fordham

The Rams “hosted” Villanova at the IZOD Center, in the New Jersey Meadowlands last Saturday.  Before a Villanova-friendly crowd, Fordham dropped a 96-53 decision to the #9-ranked Wildcats.  The good news has to be that forward Chris Gaston had another good day scoring.  Another Ram has to step into the vacuum left by Jio Fontan.  Fordham faced James Madison in Virginia on Wednesday and dropped a disappointing one, 85-73, after leading by nine at the half.  They now break for the Holiday.  They resume their pre-conference road trip with games against Kennesaw State (in Georgia, Tuesday 12/29) and Hampton (back to Virginia, Sunday 1/3) in the fortnight before they take on Massachusetts in their A10 opener.

George Washington

George Washington took a week to finish the fall semester.  They squeaked out an 84-80 victory at  East Carolina on Tuesday 12/22, led by Damian Hollis’ 21/3 and Tony Taylor’s 20/6/4.  They will take a New England road trip the week after Christmas, facing Holy Cross in Worcester, MA on Monday 12/28, then travelling east to Cambridge, MA to face Harvard on Wednesday 12/30.  They will return to Washington to face cross-town rival Howard on Saturday 1/2.

La Salle

The Explorers beat Bucknell, 83-70, at home on Saturday then dropped a road game to Oklahoma State 77-62, on Monday night.  The Explorers continue to feel the effects of being an undermanned squad.  With senior PG Ruben Guillandeaux out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his right foot, and senior swingman Kimmani Barrett nursing a fractured middle finger on his non-shooting hand, La Salle needs to free Rodney Green to cut and shoot, rather than take over the ball-handling duties.  Green continues to lead the Explorers in points scored — he scored 22 in each of last week’s games (Barrett scored the team-high 23 points versus Bucknell), but needs to maintain his stamina through the end of the game.  La Salle will host Cornell on 12/29 in what may be their last best chance to score a signature win in the OOC. Cornell beat St. John’s to take the ECAC Holiday Festival on Monday (12/21) night.

Massachusetts

Coach Derek Kellogg’s squad scored their best win of the season Saturday night when they downed the Tigers of Memphis 73-72 in Boston.  Freshman Terrell Vinson scored a team-high 21 points on 8-13 (0-1, 8-12) and 5-7 shooting.  Vinson grabbed nine boards, missing the chance to log his second consecutive double-double.  The Minutemen headed out of town to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College on Wednesday night and were stifled from beyond the three-point arc, shooting 3-21 (14.3%) resulting in a 67-79 loss to the Eagles.  After the Holiday break they conclude their OOC schedule with a trip into the South to play Davidson on Wednesday 12/30.

Rhode Island

The Rams extended their winning streak to five when they beat Fairfield 89-84 on Saturday (12/20).  Senior guard Keith Cochran stepped back a bit in this game, letting the forward tandem of Delroy James and Lamonte Ulmer take the offensive lead.  The seniors did not disappoint, scoring 21 and 20 points, respectively.  James logged his first double-double of the season by grabbing 11 rebounds as well.  Marquis Jones and Stevie Mejia handled the point guard duties effectively, dishing ten assists (with only four turnovers) between them.  Rhode Island has three more OOC games before they commence conference play, the first coming next Tuesday (12/29) when they travel to Philadelphia to play Drexel.

Richmond

The Spiders dropped their road game to South Carolina last Wednesday (12/16), 76-58.  The result may not have surprised; after all, Devan Downey, Sam Muldrow and Brandis Raley-Ross can be a handful, especially in front of a Gamecock-friendly crowd.  The margin was troubling as the Spiders will — should their fortunes during conference play pan out –  be looking for an at-large bid from the selection committee come that Sunday in March.  Justin Harper, Dan Geriot and Kevin Anderson took large amounts of the possessions when they were on the floor (29.5%, 28.4% and 30.0% respectively — Anderson played the entire game), but of that core only Harper converted efficiently.  With an eFG% of 54.2% and a PPWS of 1.16, Harper developed an offensive rating of 111.6; an offensive rating greater than 100 is good, greater than 110 is very good.  For Geriot and Anderson however, the numbers were not nearly as impressive.  Both converted (eFG%) in the high 30s to mid 40s, but worse, both lost high percentages of their possessions:  Geriot lost 30.4% of his possessions, while for Anderson the number was 26.1%.  Where was David Gonzalvez? Out of action with four fouls, for starters.  The senior guard logged only 65% of the minutes, in large measure because he picked up his second foul at the 12 minute mark of the first half, sat for five minutes, came back in for another five minutes before picking up his third foul for the half.  Gonzalvez picked up his fourth foul two minutes into the second half, and found himself watching as the Spiders four point advantage became a five point deficit.  The Spiders managed to bring the score to a tie, 52-52, with eight minutes left, but the Gamecocks launched a 24-6 run over the last eight minutes, running away from the Spiders and handing them their third road loss of the season.  Richmond bounced back with a 56-53 win over #13 Florida in the Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday.  The game, played at Sunrise, FL (and not Florida’s homecourt at Gainesville), found the Spiders paced by the backcourt duo of Gonzalvez (16 points) and Anderson (14 points).  The two minute mark of the 1st half found the Spiders down by 13 (32-19), but Gonzalvez and senior center Geriot scored five unanswered points.  Still trailing by eight (32-24), Coach Mooney and his squad took to the locker room to regroup.  A 22-5 run over the first nine minutes of the 2nd half saw the Spiders blow by the Gators and take a nine point lead.  The Gators scored six unanswered points (a jumper by Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin, two converted free throws by sophomore guard Erving Walker and a layup by senior forward Dan Werner) to cut the deficit to three over the next 90 seconds.  The two teams were locked in a tug-of-war, never separated by more than four points (and tied twice) for the last 9:30 of the game.  The Spiders took the lead for good on a Gonzalvez three-pointer at the 1:34 mark, and the Spiders hit their free throws down the stretch to bring home the win.  After beating UNC – Greensboro, 89-63 (David Gonzalves posted a season-high 25 points), the Spiders can now break for the holidays.  Richmond will return to action on the 28th against another North Carolina school, the Seahawks of UNC – Wilmington.  The Spiders will spend New Year’s Eve on the road with yet a third North Carolina school, the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest.

Saint Joseph’s

The Hawks beat Lehigh 77-66 on Sunday (12/20) and are off until after Christmas.  Senior guard Darrin Govens paced the team with 15 points, while three others, starting sophomore guard Chris Prescott along with two freshmen, forward Carl Baptiste and guard Carl Jones chipped in 13 apiece.  Sophomore forward Bryant Irwin scored a career-high 11 points.  Saint Joseph’s will travel to Albany, NY and will face the Siena Saints on Tuesday (12/29).

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies dropped a 13-point decision to the Orange of Syracuse 85-72, Saturday (12/19).  Sophomore forward Andrew Nicholson and senior guard Chris Matthew led the Bonnies with 18 and 17 points, respectively. The Orange answered with 17, 18 and 17 points from junior forward Rick Jackson, transfer wing Wes Johnson and sophomore forward Kris Joseph, respectively.  St. Bonaventure traveled to Little Three rival Niagara on Tuesday (12/22) for one last game before Christmas, but couldn’t get the job done, losing 71-77.  They return to action on Wednesday the 30th, as they host Canisius.

St. Louis

Coach Majerus’ squad beat Belmont, 75-67, on Wednesday (12/16), then lost to Missouri State, 73-63, on Saturday (12/19).  Sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell, poked in the right eye with 2:59 to go in the Belmont game, was held out of the Missouri State game.  The Billikens could have used his 14.3 PPG on Saturday.  After winning by seven (61-54) at home against Missour-Kansas City on Tuesday 12/22, the Billikens break for Christmas, and return to action against Eastern Illinois on Tuesday 12/29.  Let’s hope Mitchell’s recovery is swift and complete.

Temple

Looking for a definition for “on a roll?”  Check out the Owls!

After knocking off Villanova on the 13th, the Owls headed up the New Jersey Turnpike to Newark and housed the Seton Hall Pirates in their downtown arena, the Rock.  Down by 13 twice early in the 2nd half, Temple took a 40-21 run in the last 16 minutes to hand yet another Big East team their first loss of the season.  The two game snapshot above suggests that a nucleus of Ryan Brooks, Juan Fernandez and Lavoy Allen has taken the reins on offense and has efficiently converted possessions into points.  Fernandez and Brooks took turns having career games, but that each was able to step in is a very good sign going forward.  Scootie Randall and Craig Williams should see their minutes grow; Randall because he has provided timely offense in both games, and Williams has taken the injured Michael Eric’s spot in the rotation.  Of particular interest is the Owls’ rebounding.  They dominated both of their Big East opponents, a bit surprising given the Big East’s reputation for physical inside play.  Especially noteworthy is the defensive rebounding coach Fran Dunphy is getting from his backcourt and wing players (Brooks, Guzman, Moore and Di Leo); 15% is a good number for a front court player, the 14%+ the four are registering is terrific.  Allen and Williams’ DR% is phenomenal, but simply not sustainable.  Guzman’s turnovers are high, but he has brought the ball up against two teams known for their press and ability to harass ball handlers.  Like Allen and Williams’ defensive rebounding, the number will probably not hold.

Xavier

The Musketeers traveled to Indianapolis, IN to take on the Butler Bulldogs, losing a 69-68 nail-biter on an unusual clock malfunction.  Xavier trailed through the first half, dropping behind by double digits ranging out to 15. They closed the gap to seven before the break, then came out with an 11-0 run to overtake the Bulldogs.  Jason Love and Kenny Frase were beginning to control the paint, as Terrell Hollaway hit several critical threes from the outside.  The X-Men were held the lead for over 13 minutes in the second half, but a Butler surge tied the game at the four-minute mark, and the teams traded the lead (and tied) five more times over the last four minutes.  Jordan Crawford’s trey with 45 seconds left broke the fourth tie and gave Xavier a three point cushion.  Holloway’s fifth foul at the 39 second mark put Butler guard Shelvin Mack on the line.  Mack hit both free throws, but Xavier had possession with just over a shot clock’s worth of time left.  A steal by Butler guard/forward Gordon Hayward with 36 seconds left gave Butler three tries (two misses and offensive rebounds) before Hayward converted on a layup with an unknown amount of time left on the clock.  According to the clock itself there appeared to be 1.8 seconds left, but the time keeper reported an earlier malfunction had prevented the clock from starting properly earlier in the Butler possession.  The referees (D.J. Carstensen, Sid Rodeheffer and Bo Borowski) decided there was no time left and called the game.  Xavier then hosted in-state rival Miami, OH on Wednesday 12/23.  The Muskies almost fell victim once again to a clock-related question at the end of that one.  Xavier’s Dante Jackson stole an in-bounds pass with less than seven seconds left which would have sealed the Xavier victory, but the play was blown dead because one of the zebras was checking the clock.  On the re-do, Miami’s Kenny Hayes missed a long three at the buzzer that would have tied it and Xavier won, 70-67.  After breaking for the Holiday, the Musketeers will conclude the OOC portion of their season with two BCS opponents — LSU (at home) on Tuesday 12/29 and Wake Forest (in Winston-Salem) on Sunday 1/3.

Games to Catch

  • La Salle vs Cornell, Tuesday 12/29 — The Big Red are heavy favorites to grab the Ivy’s bid to the NCAA.  I am interested, given Cornell’s win over St. John’s (a team looking to improve it’s standing in the Big East this season) in the ECAC Holiday Festival, to see how the Explorers match up.
  • Xavier vs LSU, Tuesday 12/29 — The Musketeers host the Tigers during holiday week.  While LSU was not expected to be a force in the SEC West this season, Xavier has a good chance to match up (indirectly) with two BCS teams expected to make some noise in their respective conferences, Connecticut and Arizona State.  The Huskies beat the Tigers by 26 at the NIT Season Tip-Off (semifinal game), while the Sun Devils took LSU by 19 a round later.
  • Richmond at Wake Forest, Thursday 12/31 — The Spiders get another road test, this time against ACC contender Wake. The Spiders’ front court contingent of Dan Geriot, Justin Harper and Ryan Butler will have to match up with the Deacons’ Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland.
  • Dayton at New Mexico, Friday 1/1 — The Lobos are not a BCS power, nor are they favored to take their conference bid (the Mountain West) this season.  But their homecourt, an 18,000 seat hole-in-the-ground in Albuquerque, NM known simply as “The Pit,” is a legend.  A notoriously difficult place for visitors to win.  The Flyers are expected to win the A10 title this season, and The Pit will be a good place to get ready for hostile crowds, and lots of noise.
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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. III

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2009

backdoorcuts(2)

Backdoor Cuts is a college basketball discussion between correspondents Dave Zeitlin and Steve Moore (and this week guest player Mike Walsh) that will appear every Wednesday in Rush the Court. This week they challenge each other to write about the conference challenges while excessively using the word “challenge” — before the new guy decides to monopolize the column for “Holy War” purposes.

DAVE ZEITLIN: With the Big Ten/ACC challenge finished, the SEC/Big East challenge coming up and the Pac-10/Big 12 challenge going on forever, we thought it was time to hear who your favorite RTC writers believe to be the best conference this season. Let’s call this the Dave Zeitlin/Steve Moore Challenge. Only nobody wins. And there’s no hard work or sweat involved (except maybe for Steve, whose fingers sweat when he types too fast). Here goes anyway:

Before the season started, it seemed like the Big East and ACC would be a little bit down, while the SEC and Big 10 would be a little bit up — and I think, for the most part, that’s held up so far. But even with Coach Cal (Steve’s hero), Billy Donovan and everyone’s favorite orange Jew leading a reloaded SEC East, I don’t think the conference has made up enough ground from its woeful 2008-09 performance (when only two teams finished in the top 50 of the RPI). The ACC is clearly down after losing the challenge to the Big 10 for the first time ever, and, despite their challenge triumph, I don’t think the Big 10 should stand at the top, especially after Evan Turner’s unfortunate injury. The Pac-10? Please.

So where does that leave us? I think the discussion at this point should come down to the Big East and the Big 12. The Big East may be a little down from last year when they were stacked top to bottom, but the conference still has three teams (Villanova, Syracuse and West Virginia) in the top 10. The Big 12, meanwhile, might boast the best two teams in the nation (Kansas and Texas) while also featuring teams like Texas Tech, which is coming off the biggest win in the coaching career of Pat Knight, who I like far better than his father.

So … Big East or Big 12? Big 12 or Big East? Even though I grew up watching the Big East and rooting for ‘Cuse, I’m going to give the nod to the Big 12 right now. Now I’ll let Steve crunch some numbers for you and disagree with me.

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STEVE MOORE: What, no America East/Ivy League challenge? Oh…wait, that happened Tuesday night when Penn lost AGAIN to those fighting Great Danes of Albany.

As the official RTC correspondent for the ACC, I can say that the Big Ten/ACC Challenge didn’t really say much about the strength (or lack thereof of the ACC). Duke is still a better team than Wisconsin, but playing in Madison is tough. The real swing came at the bottom of the ACC (Florida State, Virginia, etc.), which is much weaker than the bottom of the Big Ten.

For my money, the Big East is the best conference in the country, and it’ll be hard for anyone to compete with that over the next few seasons. Continuing — and this is a very abstract belief on my part with no real evidence to back it up — the league seems to have more programs that are intent on competing year-to-year, i.e. not necessarily recruiting guys who are clear one-and-doners, but going more for the long-term kids. Look at the roster Jay Wright has at Villanova, or Syracuse, or West Virginia. Lots of sophomores, juniors and even the rarest of college basketball species: SENIORS! Sure, the bottom of the Big East is pretty putrid (see DePaul, South Florida), even though they all have winning records right now on a steady cupcake diet.

Texas and Kansas are obviously great teams, and the Big 12 is clearly in the discussion. But it’s really hard to even have this debate so early in the year. Texas Tech’s win over Washington was nice, but I can’t take the Big 12/Pac-10 Challenge seriously considering how terrible the Pac-10 is this season.

That’s it for my abstract, totally baseless arguments on the subject. At least for now. I’m tired, and have no brain space for stats and numbers. I’ll leave that to the Ivy Leaguer…

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Mid-Atlantic Region

Posted by zhayes9 on September 9th, 2009

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Last week we took a look at the five impact players in the Northeast Region, so now we’re ready for the second installment of our ten-week RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

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Mid-Atlantic Region  (NYC, NJ, PA, WV, MD, DE)

  • Scottie Reynolds - Sr, G – Villanova. There might be players in this region who can score more points or dish out more assists or shoot a higher percentage from the floor than Reynolds.  There might be more physically imposing and athletically gifted players than the 6’2 guard from Northern Virginia.   There could even be a few ‘upside’ guys you’d pick before him if you were starting an NBA franchise.  But is there any player as capable of putting his team on his back and doing this (ok, maybe Vasquez, but he hasn’t done it yet)?  Is there another player on this list who you’d prefer to have the ball in his hands as the clock is ticking down, knowing that he’ll give your team a superb chance to win?  Reynolds is the player that every coach loves to have on his team – he plays heavy minutes, never misses a start, shows great leadership and clearly has a calming effect on his team whenever he’s on the floor.  This is a long way removed from the early days of his career, where the ‘Nova legend has stated that he had trouble seeing the ‘big picture’ due to trust issues with coaches and other players.    There are no such issues now, as everyone in the Big Five (and the Big East, for that matter) understands who the top dog in the Philadelphia area is.  If things come together right for Reynolds and VU in 2009-10, he could look back on a collegiate career that includes three all-Big East nods, an all-american selection, the second-most number of steals (he needs 58), and the most points (Kerry Kittles) in the long history of the Villanova program (he needs 624).  Considering all that, Reynolds will captain the best team in the Big East and may also have another Final Four appearance in his sights.
  • Da’Sean Butler - Sr, F – West Virginia. If there’s a team that should challenge Villanova (on paper) as the class of the Big East in 2009-10, it should be West Virginia.  The biggest reason for that is Butler, the 6’7 wing set to replace Pitt’s Sam Young as the most multi-dimensional player in the conference.  Butler scores (17.1 ppg), rebounds (5.9 per game) and even finds time to play the passing lanes (1.7 spg).  Last season he seemed to really find his groove in the conference slate, as his numbers all rose, culminating in his 43-pt explosion during a blowout win against Villanova on Friday the (Feb.) 13th.  But it was his performance over the summer at the World University Games that really caught our eye – on a team with shooters such as Robbie Hummel and James Anderson, it was Butler who led the squad in three-point percentage (55%) by nailing nearly two per game.  His perimeter shooting has always been solid (~35%), but if his shot improves next season to the 38-40% range to replace Alex Ruoff’s deadly range, Butler’s ability to get to the rim and finish becomes even more of a threat.  With sophomore Honorable Mentions Devin Ebanks’ size and rebounding, Truck Bryant’s scoring and playmaking, plus the addition of two five-star recruits to the roster, it’s clear why WVU looks to improve on last year’s 23-12 record and first round NCAA exit.  Mountaineer fans have an expectation of a top ten team in Morgantown and it’s understandable why they think so – it’ll be up to their star Butler to deliver on those expectations.
  • Jeremy Hazell - Jr, F – Seton Hall. Jeremy Hazell’s inclusion on our Mid-Atlantic all-region team was the toughest decision we had to make.  There’s absolutely no question that the 6’5 guard/forward who blew up on the Big East last season has talent.  You don’t score 20+ against sixteen Big East defenses without the ability to score the ball from every which way (22.8 ppg).  The primary issue was that it’s difficult to claim to be an impact player if your team isn’t very good, and last year, the Hall finished 7-11 in the conference with all seven of those wins against fellow bottom-feeders.  Nevertheless, we recognize that past results do not necessarily predict future outcomes, and with three impact transfers arriving (Herb Pope, Jeff Robinson and Keon Lawrence) amidst a much leaner Big East landscape, it wouldn’t surprise us if Seton Hall, led by Hazell, made a run at the NCAAs this year.  Getting back to Bobby Gonzalez’s star player, his scoring numbers might actually decrease this season depending on how well the new players orient to North Jersey, but with fewer shots (he took 32% of SH’s shots last year) he could become a more complete player by improving his shooting percentages (43%/36%) and offensive efficiency (28th in the Big East).  Regardless of how this season goes, Hazell is undoubtedly one of the most talented players the nation has yet to hear about.
  • Talor Battle – Jr, G- Penn State. While the electric Penn State point guard Talor Battle may have been known within Big Ten circles and around Happy Valley, national attention wasn’t forwarded his way until one performance on February 1 in East Lansing, MI. The heavily favored top-ten ranked Spartans, a team that would reach the championship game just months later in Detroit, fell to the underdog Nittany Lions, who were 0-16 in their Big Ten history at the Breslin Center. During that game, Battle emerged as one of the top scorers in the conference and the nation. In a league where hard-nosed defense on every possession is the norm, Battle averaged 16.7 ppg, including seven 20+ point performances in conference play. And on that night in East Lansing, Battle scored 29 points on 11-19 shooting and 6-12 from three, leading Penn State to a 72-68 upset win. Battle certainly has some areas to improve – namely shooting 34% from deep and hitting just 70% of his free throws – but the scoring guard truly has the capability to put up 30+ points on any given night. With Jamelle Cornley and Stanley Pringle no longer at PSU, the onus lies almost completely on Battle to lead the way for Penn State and coach Ed DeChellis if they have any hope of reaching postseason play again. Considering such a lackluster supporting cast, one could argue Battle will have the most singular impact of any player in this entire region, as on many nights Penn State will completely rely on Battle’s scoring potential to win basketball games.
  • Greivis Vasquez – Sr, G- Maryland. Love him or despise him with every bone in your body, there’s no denying the talent of Greivis Vasquez. There’s also no denying that Vasquez’ decision to stay at Maryland for his senior season rather than enter the NBA Draft had the greatest impact of any April decision in the country, vaulting the Terrapins from a likely-NIT team to a possible top-six seed and ACC contender. Much like Battle’s performance against Michigan State, one 2008-09 performance from Vasquez defined his season and launched the fiery Venezuelan into Maryland basketball lore – a 35-11-10 triple-double in an 88-85 overtime win against #3 North Carolina in College Park when Maryland was lingering around the bubble. Vasquez backs up his never-resting mouth with impressive play on the court, notably being named to the all-ACC second team for the second straight campaign and, in Oscar-like fashion, leading his Terps in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and minutes, becoming just the sixth player in ACC history to accomplish said feat. The main knock on Vasquez during his first two seasons in College Park was a recurring propensity to commit foolish turnovers, but that criticism is quieting after Vasquez finished third in the conference in assist/turnover ratio a season ago. There’s no argument against Vasquez making a tremendous impact for Maryland and Gary Williams once again this season.
  • Ryan Thompson (MM) – Sr, G- Rider. In doing research for this feature, I have yet to find one thing that Ryan Thompson does not do well on the basketball court. The younger brother of Kings forward and fellow Bronc Jason Thompson, Ryan is surely creating his own identity as a bona fide NBA prospect.  A first team all-MAAC performer a season ago as a junior, Thompson did it all for Rider: ranking second in the conference in scoring, first in minutes played (he played 40+ minutes in nine games), second in three-point percentage, seventh in assists, eighth in field-goal percentage, eighth in free-throw percentage and eighth in rebounding. That’s right, Thompson can shoot from deep, score inside, rebound, pass and play nearly every minute. While the competition doesn’t always rank with other elite performers in college basketball, one could argue Thompson is the top all-around player in the game this season. He also plays his best when the stakes are high, totaling 57 points and 17 rebounds in two conference tournament games for his Broncs, including a bucket with 3.4 seconds left to knock off Siena last year. The sky’s the limit for Thompson in 2009-10, an already immensely talented individual playing with motivation as Rider has yet to reach the NCAA Tournament in his three seasons in Jersey, and coming off of a rare and disappointing seven points on 2-13 shooting against Liberty in his season finale.

impact players mid-atlantic

Honorable MentionLavoy Allen, Temple.  Sean Baptiste, FDU.  Jamal Barney, Loyola (MD).  Darryl Bryant, WVU.  Jermaine Dixon, Pittsburgh.  Devin Ebanks, WVU.  Corey Fisher, Villanova.  Darrin Govens, St. Joseph’s.  Rodney Green, Lasalle.  Charles Jenkins, Hofstra.  Anthony Mason, Jr., St. John’s.  Herb Pope, Seton Hall.  Mike Rosario, Rutgers.  Damian Saunders, Duquesne.  Corey Stokes, Villanova.  Devin Sweetney, St. Francis (PA).

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Checking in on the… Atlantic 10

Posted by nvr1983 on February 25th, 2009

College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

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By CCT Staff | February 4, 2009

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Lavoy Allen (So.), Temple

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.)

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Checking in on the… Atlantic 10

Posted by nvr1983 on February 18th, 2009

College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

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By CCT Staff | February 16, 2009

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Chris Wright (So.), Dayton
For Wright, winning the Player of the Week is about more than just numbers. In Dayton’s resume-building victory against nationally-ranked rival Xavier, Wright powered the Flyers with a 19 point, six rebound effort. In the process, Wright shouldered – as a star must – the additional burden for a Dayton squad without the services of valuable contributor Rob Lowery. Wright wouldn’t let his Flyers suffer a letdown after that rivalry win either, following up the Xavier effort with a double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) in Dayton’s triumph over Richmond. Wright averaged 18 points, eight rebounds and an impressive three blocks per contest for the week.

HONORABLE MENTION: Tony Gaffney (Sr.), Massachusetts; Mike Moore (So.), Fordham; Lamont Mack (Sr.), Charlotte

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Checking in on the… Atlantic 10

Posted by nvr1983 on February 11th, 2009

College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

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This Week in the A-10
By CCT Staff | February 9, 2009

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:  Aaron Jackson (Sr.), Duquesne.

The leader of the Dukes had another huge week, averaging 25 points, 5.5 rebounds, and three assists in two games.  In Duquesne’s upset of No. 9 Xavier, Jackson scored a game-high 21 points, including five clutch free throws in the final 31 seconds of the game.  Jackson netted 29 points and grabbed six rebounds earlier in the week in a loss at Saint Louis.  In the seven day span, Jackson shot 52% (17-of-33) from the field and connected on 15-of-18 from the foul line.

HONORABLE MENTION:  Lavoy Allen (So.), Temple; Kevin Lisch (Sr.), Saint Louis;  Ahmad Nivins (Sr.), Saint Joseph’s

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