Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on February 17th, 2010

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

Funky February

Maybe it is the weather, one of the more snow-filled winters in the last decade. Maybe it is the point in the season when teams that are good just exhale for a game or two, and teams that were supposed to be good take a hard look in the mirror and realize that something has to happen right now if their season is going to head somewhere other than the waste pile. If the conference is separating the top from the bottom, the top is getting crazy…

Dayton delivered their second consecutive take-down of a conference leader when they hammered the Charlotte 49ers 75-47, on Wednesday (2/10) night. Richmond spared the conference the conundrum of a five-way tie with barely a month left to the conference season when they dispatched Rhode Island (on the Rams’ home court no less), 69-67, earlier in the evening. Thursday dawned with four teams sporting (only) two conference losses, although technically Temple, with only seven wins, was not in a true tie with their three conference mates, Charlotte, Richmond and Xavier. Three more teams, Dayton, Rhode Island and St. Louis are just one loss behind the four leaders. Fully one-half of the conference is within striking distance of the conference title, and St. Louis excepted (maybe…), six appear regularly in postseason bracketology discussions. While it is remote — at best — to think all six will go to the NCAAs, I have begun to believe my projection of three teams was too light. The next two weeks will separate one or two teams from the top of the conference going into the A10’s postseason tournament.

Standings (as of 02/16/10)

  1. Richmond (9-2, 20-6 #25 AP)
  2. Temple (8-2, 2-05, #21 AP)
  3. Xavier (8-2, 17-7)
  4. Charlotte (8-2, 18-6)
  5. St. Louis (7-3, 16-8)
  6. Rhode Island (7-4, 19-5)
  7. Dayton (6-4, 17-7)
  8. Duquesne (4-7, 13-12)
  9. Massachusetts (4-7, 10-15)
  10. George Washington (3-7, 13-10)
  11. La Salle (3-7, 11-13)
  12. St. Bonaventure (3-7, 10-13)
  13. Saint Joseph’s (3-8, 9-16)
  14. Fordham (0-11, 2-21)

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

The 49ers have had their problems on the road this season, starting with the 101-59 drubbing they took in Cameron Indoor Stadium in their second game. After a nice seven-game winning streak through Christmas, Old Dominion rung their bell with a 30+ point beating. The Tennessee Volunteers booted them out of Knoxville with a 17 point loss and XU showed them the door with a 12-point loss in mid January. The 75-47 drubbing they took at the hands of Dayton on Wednesday (2/10), coming so close to the end of the season, might be the most damaging. The game was played at Dayton’s preferred pace (about 65 possessions), and Charlotte shot an abysmal 27% eFG% as Coach Lutz emptied his bench, running 14 players through the game to find someone who could hit a bucket.

The 49ers have had a week to think about that disaster, and will swing back into action Wednesday (2/17) as they host struggling Duquesne, followed by a Saturday (1/20) visit from Xavier.

Dayton

Dayton took care of Charlotte in resounding fashion, 75-47, on Wednesday (2/10). Having beaten both Xavier and Charlotte during their home stand, the Flyers seemed to have their season back on track. Against Charlotte, Chris Wright and Marcus Johnson stepped up to provide very efficient scoring, logging eFGs of 80% and 69% respectively while taking at least 30% of the shots when they were on the floor. Chris Johnson also had an efficient (if less prolific) night, logging an eFG% of 79% while taking about 18% of the available shots when he was on the floor. Their offense back on track, the Flyers took to the road and dropped their Saturday (2/13) game to St. Louis, 68-65. Small consolation that it took the Billikens two overtime periods to subdue the Flyers. And it is back into the middle of the pack for Dayton. The Flyers continue to lead the conference in efficiency differential (see table above), but that efficiency is not consistently translating into wins. Coach Gregory’s squad may be the unluckiest in the conference, but that will not win them any awards (or get them a postseason NCAA bid). They need victories, the kind that show up in the win column. They are one of the strongest teams in the country in rebounding, but they turn the ball over too much (ranked according to Ken Pomeroy at #219 in D1) and foul too much (ranked #268). Both of those deficiencies will kill a team in a close game.

The Flyers host La Salle Thursday (2/18) then travel to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne on Sunday (2/21). Both are should-wins for Dayton, as are their two remaining home games after this week. If Dayton is to make a run at the top of the conference (and back into the NCAA conversation), they need to take one (or both) of their road games the following week, at Temple (2/24) and Richmond (3/04). Their four good (RPI) wins will carry weight with the Selection Committee, but finishing #7 in the conference (where they currently stand) will only guarantee them a poor drawing in the A10’s Atlantic City tournament.

Duquesne

The Dukes are down to a run in Atlantic City to pull out their season. More realistically, Coach Everhart might want to look to next season and where he will find a replacement for senior Damian Saunders. Duquesne dropped an overtime game, 84-80, to Massachusetts last Thursday (2/11), then trounced a crippled La Salle team, 103-82, on Sunday (2/14). Duquesne’s defense is (according to Ken Pomeroy) comparable to a number of tournament-bound teams. Duquesne’s offense, however, will keep the Dukes out of postseason play. And the most glaring part of their offense is scoring from beyond the arc, where their accuracy (3FG% 26%…no that’s not a typo) has them ranked #347 (dead last) in Division 1. Three of the Dukes’ four most prolific three-point shooters have accuracies of less than 26%. And the fourth (senior Jason Duty) hits at a 33% rate. It might be time to give sophomore BJ Montiero more playing time and exposure to big game situations.

Duquesne ventures into Halton Arena Wednesday (2/17) for a game with Charlotte, then returns home to host Dayton on Sunday (2/21).

Fordham

The Rams dropped a road game, 72-61, to St. Bonaventure last Wednesday (2/10) followed by a 25-point home loss to Massachusetts (78-53) on Saturday (2/13). Ken Pomeroy now pegs the probability for a winless conference season at 76%. While there is a very small probability that Fordham will break their run next week — road games with Richmond Wednesday (2/17) and Rhode Island Saturday (2/20) — an upset would definitely, given Fordham’s #299 RPI, damage either Richmond’s or Rhode Island’s postseason prospects. Better opportunities lie ahead, with games against St. Bonaventure on the 24th and Duquesne on March 6.

George Washington

In a season with more than a few disappointments, getting some recognition for your players, like having Dwayne Smith named Rookie of the Week (cited for scoring a season-high 15 points in 15 minutes of play against Fordham), is one of those pleasures left in the season. They may have a good run in the conference tournament, but short of running the table, a postseason beyond Atlantic City is off the table. Coach Hobbs will lose Damian Hollis, a senior, but should have Lasan Kromah (another freshman who earned Rookie of the Week honors this season) and the next five scorers back next season, and hopefully they will be a year better. The Colonials maintained a better than average defense in conference play. Lack of a consistent offense has been their downfall.

George Washington will host Massachusetts on Wednesday (2/17), and travel to Richmond to close out their mirror series with the Spiders on Saturday (2/20).

La Salle

Another week, another bite out of the rotation. The 2010 season, projected as the season that would see the Explorers return to postseason play (NCAA or NIT) has become instead a Trail of Tears, as senior Yves Mekongo Mbala broke a finger in his shooting hand during practice on 2/8, and had surgery to repair it on 2/12. While the doctors predict a two-to-four week convalescence, anyone with a calendar handy can see that, at best, Mbala might be back for the A10 Tournament, and at worst has effectively ended his career at La Salle. Mekongo Mbala joins fellow seniors Kimmani Barrett and Ruben Guillandeaux on La Salle’s bench. At 3-7 and 11-13 overall, without a huge and unexpected turnaround, La Salle is going home after Atlantic City. The loss of the seniors has been devastating for the Explorers’ prospects this season, but those injuries have forced a few underclassmen to play more active roles this season. That should pay dividends in the seasons to come.

Next up for the Explorers is a trip to Ohio and a game with Dayton on Thursday (2/18) and home to host St. Bonaventure on Sunday (2/21).

Massachusetts

Ricky Harris shared Player of the Week honors for his 29 points in the Minutemen’s 84-80 overtime win over Duquesne. He also had a season-high six assists. UMass took two games last week, the aforementioned overtime win at Duquesne on Wednesday (2/10) and their home win over Saint Joseph’s 70-62, on Sunday (2/14). The Duquesne game broke a three-game losing streak, a recurring pattern for the Minutemen this season — two-to-five losses interrupted by one or two wins. Massachusetts has been able to beat every conference team ranked below them this season. What they do not have is a win against an opponent ranked above them in the conference standings. Their games this week, on Wednesday (2/17) at George Washington and Sunday (2/21) when they host St. Louis should settle the question of whether Coach Kellogg’s squad is turning their season around, or having a Funky February moment.

Rhode Island

The Rams had a terrible week. They went into last Wednesday’s (2/10) game with Richmond (a 69-67 loss) as a third of a cluster of teams just out of first place. They finished the week in sixth place, having dropped a 78-56 road game to Temple, one-half game ahead of seventh place Dayton. The Ram woes come on the defensive side of the basketball, the culprits a combination of shot defense (they are an equal opportunity provider, ranked #279th for two point defense and #296th for three point defense (out of 347 D1 teams) and defensive rebounding (ranked per Ken Pomeroy #303).

Their Wednesday (2/17) game at St. Louis should be interesting test of weakness versus weakness. The Billikens are offensive-challenged (ranked at #232 by Pomeroy) and rely on defense to prevail. St. Louis is an “average” shooting team that does not rebound their misses. The Billikens are 7-3 in the conference standings, so this Rhode Island can help itself immediately with a win. Their weekend game is Sunday (2/21) at Massachusetts.

Richmond

The Spiders leapfrogged Xavier and Charlotte to land in the AP Top 25 in the last slot this past Monday. This marks the first time since 1986 a Spider squad has been recognized by the polls. Coach Mooney’s squad extended their winning streak to six with a tough road win over Rhode Island, 69-67, on Wednesday (2/10) and a 68-49 win over St. Bonaventure on Saturday (2/13). Richmond is clustered with Temple, Xavier and Charlotte with two conference losses, but holds the half-game advantage by virtue of an additional win. Richmond is doing it on both sides of the ball. The Spiders are ranked #4 in conference games for offense, and #3 in confernce games for defense. Bracketologists from Joe Lunardi to RTC’s own Zach Hayes put Richmond in the field of 65 as a #7 seed.

Richmond hits one last breather in their schedule this week, a two-game home stand that includes Fordham on Wednesday (2/17) and George Washington on Saturday (2/20), before they play three fellow contenders (Xavier, Dayton and Charlotte) for an end of the season Trial by Fire.

St. Joseph’s

Coach Martelli’s young squad found no love in Amherst, Massachusetts, on Valentine’s Day. The Hawks dropped a 70-62 decision to the Minutemen. At 3-8 in conference and out of any postseason discussions beyond Atlantic City, the Hawks can still fight for some Big 5 respect. With two City Series games left (versus Temple and La Salle), the Hawks can knot those standings with two wins. After a road trip to Xavier Wednesday (2/17), they play Temple Saturday (2/20).

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies beat Fordham 72-61, last Wednesday (2/10), but dropped a home game to Richmond 68-49, on Saturday (2/13). The season is not going as many Bonnies fans anticipated. At this point, improving their standings over 2009 (they finished #11) is a practical, if less ambitious goal. They will not get to 8-8 in conference play, but they might find three, possibly four more wins among the six games remaining. The home stretch starts this week as they host Temple Wednesday (2/17), and then travel to Philadelphia to play La Salle squad on Sunday (2/21). Temple is a stretch, but the Explorers are a wounded team right now, lacking three senior leaders.

St. Louis

Coach Majerus’ team personafies Funky February. Their January 30 game with Richmond was a hint of crazy stuff to come. As noted by Ken Pomeroy in his 2/01 blog entry, not only did the Billikens score less than 40 points in the game (no more than 20 in either period), but all of their points came from twos, probably the only D1 game of this type played this season. St. Louis scored no points from either beyond the arc or from the charity stripe. The offensively-challenged Billikens have quietly worked themselves into conference contention with a four-game winning streak that started with the game after their loss to Richmond. February has been perfect so far for St. Louis. They host Rhode Island on Wednesday (2/17) in a game that is significant for both, followed by a Sunday (2/21) road game with Massachusetts. St. Louis is 3-5 in road games this season, their wins coming over Duquesne, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s. They have taken conference road losses against Charlotte, George Washington and Richmond. Where does Massachusetts fit? And more importantly, where does St. Louis fit?

Temple

The Owls won their only game last week against Rhode Island, 78-56. Temple has two road games coming. On Wednesday (2/17) they go to Olean, NY, to play St. Bonaventure, and then across town on Saturday (2/20) to play their Big 5 designated game against Saint Joseph’s.

Xavier

Jason Love shared Player of the Week honors for his 20/10 performance in 22 minutes in Xavier’s 76-64 win over Florida. Florida may not be a tournament team this postseason (Coach Donovan has had a rough three years since winning two consecutive National Championships), but the win, coming on the road, should be, as ESPN’s Bubble Watcher Mark Shlabach noted, “catch the attention of the NCAA selection committee. It also gives them a nice nonconference win to go with four home victories over RPI top-50 opponents.” The Musketeers return to conference play on Wednesday (2/17) by hosting Saint Joseph’s, then travel to Charlotte for an important game with the 49ers on Saturday (2/20).

Games to Catch

  • Rhode Island at St. Louis Wednesday 2/17 — A matchup between the #5 and #6 ranked teams. Rhode Island is ranked #3 in conference games for offense, while St. Louis is ranked #2 in conference games for defense. St. Louis has three losses, while Rhode Island has four. The standings will either stratify a bit more, or there will be two clusters at the top of the conference — one with two losses, the other with four.
  • Xavier at Charlotte Saturday 2/20 — Another opportunity to sort out the top of the conference as the Musketeers enter Halton Arena to play the 49ers. Both teams are well stocked with guards — DiJuan Harris and Derrio Green will take the measure of Jordan Crawford and Terrell Holloway, but the game may come down to how well slightly undersized but athletic wing/forwards Shamari Spears and (freshman) Chris Braswell handle Jason Love and Jamel McLean. 
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on January 13th, 2010

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

First Night

The Atlantic 10, though large at 14 teams, maintains a 16-game conference schedule. Conference play can be scheduled easily into the 10 weeks between New Year’s and Conference Tournament Week (roughly the second week in March). Sixteen games in just under 10 weeks allows for about two conference games (more or less) with a spot or two for another out of conference game. This is good news for the Philadelphia teams (La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and Temple), because it allows them to schedule one of their Big 5 rivals (Penn) into the latter part of the season, thereby sustaining a bit of suspense in their annual City Series. If a 16-game season cannot accommodate a balanced schedule (A10 teams would have to play 26 games; the season most likely starting in late November), it can sustain the idea of an inaugural day of conference play. This season’s First Night fell on Wednesday, January 6, as eight teams opened their conference season with four games. A ninth team, Charlotte, finished out their out of conference season against Tennessee, and two others, La Salle and Xavier, opened their conference slate (against each other) on Thursday (1/7). Opening night winners included George Washington (over St. Bonaventure), Massachusetts (over Fordham), Richmond (over Duquesne) and Temple (over Saint Joseph’s).

Home Court Advantage

The records and efficiency differentials include both out of conference and any conference games played to last Sunday. Both Xavier and Richmond appear quite formidable at home, a bit of a contrast to their performance on the road. Games those two can pick up out of their own house will benefit their conference records greatly. For teams who dream of getting to conference’s upper division, maximizing the advantage provided by a home arena is crucial. Fans have turned out in large numbers and been very vocal for the hometown team. For Fordham, Saint Joseph’s, La Salle and Massachusetts, whose records suggest no significant advantage is given for home games, we find the notion is bolstered by a low differential. Rhode Island shows a strong winning record, but a weak differential advantage. The Rams need to rebound better and get a hand in the shooter’s face.  Temple is an enigma. The Owls show a better differential away from home rather than in Philadelphia. It seems the Kansas game (not to mention the seven point loss to St. John’s at the Palestra) left a few scars.

Standings (as of 01/12/10)

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

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

Coach Lutz’s squad closed their out of conference schedule with another road loss, this time to Tennessee on Wednesday (1/6). The score, 86-71, was especially disappointing given the suspension of four scholarship players on gun, achohol and drug charges the previous Friday. One would think the turmoil, the absence of a starter (Tyler Smith) a crucial rotation player (Cameron Tatum) and the primary backup point guard (Melvin Goins) would diminish the Vols’ effectiveness. The 49ers missed a good opportunity for a quality win as the Vols used to playing complementary roles to Tyler Smith stepped up to fill the void (and basket). Though Charlotte held a 3-point lead early (14-11), Tennessee took two 14-0 runs in the first half to put Charlotte back on its heels, and took a 51-29 lead into halftime. It got a little ugly at the end, as both Shamari Spears and Tennessee center Wayne Chism drew a technical with about 5:00 left in the 2nd half (Tennessee up 80-54). The 49ers returned home to host St. Bonaventure on Saturday (1/09). They beat the Bonnies 57-54 in a game not decided until the last minute. After Marquise Simmons dunked to cut the lead to one, a Bonnie turnover and foul put junior guard Charles Dewhurst on the line to settle matters. Dewhurst hit both free throws to push the lead to three with two ticks left.

Charlotte goes back to work on Wednesday (1/13) with a trip to Cincinnati, OH, and a game with Xavier. The 49ers will host St. Louis on Sunday (1/17), then travel to Richmond to play the Spiders the following Wednesday (1/20).

Dayton

The Flyers’s 6’6 Chris Johnson shared Player of the Week honors with Xavier’s Jordan Crawford. Johnson posted career-high points (26) and rebounds (20) as he led Dayton to a 78-72 overtime win at Duquesne in Dayton’s home conference opener on Saturday (1/9).

Dayton takes in the Big Apple on Wednesday (1/13) as they play Fordham at Rose Hill, then out to Cincinnati to take on Xavier on Saturday (1/13).

Duquesne

Duquesne opened conference play with a loss at the hands of Richmond, 80-68, on Wednesday (1/6). This was a home game for the Dukes, which makes it especially difficult. Coach Everhart’s squad then traveled to Dayton and dropped their second conference game to the Flyers, 78-72 (OT), on Saturday (1/9). Damian Saunders (21), Sean Johnson (14), Melquan Bolding (13) and Jason Duty (12) all scored in double digits. Saunders made it a double-double with 11 rebounds.

The Dukes host St. Louis Wednesday (1/13), then take a one week break to get ready for the Rhode Island Rams (1/20).

Fordham

The Rams opened on the road, dropping a 78-76 decision to Massachusetts last Wednesday (1/6). Brenton Butler led all scorers with 31 points on a very efficient 12-23 (6-11, 6-12) and 1-4 shooting. Chris Gaston (16) and Lance Brown (11) also scored double-digit points. Gaston logged his ninth double-double in this, his freshman season. Fordham then traveled to Philadelphia and lost their second A10 game to Saint Joseph’s, 82-69, at the Hagan. Freshman center Fahro Alihodzic, a 6’10, 235 pound native of Great Britain, scored a career-high 16 points in the losing effort.

Fordham will host Dayton on Wednesday (1/13), then Rhode Island on Saturday (1/16).

George Washington

The Colonials opened their A10 schedule with a road win, 78-71, over St. Bonaventure on Wednesday (1/6). Guard Lasan Kromah led all scorers with 23 very, very efficiently scored points on 9-11 (5-7, 4-4) and 0-0 shooting. Kromah’s eFG%, 104.5%, should turn a few heads (and change a few game plans) around the conference, and in fact earned Lasan the Freshman of the Week honors for January 10. A 65% eFG% is considered terrific. Coach Hobbs’ squad returned home and dropped their home opener to Xavier, 76-69, on Saturday (1/9). Damian Hollis led all scorers with 23 points on 8-22 (2-8, 6-14) and 5-6 shooting.

GW faces La Salle in Philadelphia on Wednesday (1/13), then takes a seven-day break to prepare for Dayton on Wednesday (1/20).

La Salle

Dr. Giannini’s Explorers opened at home against the Musketeers last Thursday (1/7), dropping their first conference game 68-62. A 20-2 second half run brought La Salle close, 54-56, but they could not get the next stop, and were shut out the final 2:03 of the game. The Rodney Green-Jordan Crawford duel went to the visitor, 22-20. The Explorers traveled to Massachusetts and beat the Minutemen 80-74 to square their conference record at 1. Freshman center Aaric Murray scored the team-high 18 points while teammate forward Jerrell Williams snagged 12 rebounds. Murray missed his fourth double-double of the season by a single rebound.

La Salle will host George Washington on Wednesday (1/13), and then travel to Richmond to play the Spiders on Saturday (1/16).

Massachusetts

Massachusetts beat Fordham, 78-76, to open their A10 schedule on Wednesday (1/6), then dropped a 80-74 decision to La Salle on Saturday (1/9). Senior guard Ricky Harris’ 21 points paced the Minutemen against Fordham, while freshman guard Freddie Riley did the honors against La Salle, scoring 21 points on 7-15 (6-14, 1-1) and 2-2 shooting.

The Minutemen travel to Richmond to play the Spiders on Wednesday (1/13), then to Philadelphia to play Temple on Saturday (1/16).

Rhode Island

The rankings above are deceptive. The Rams’ loss was to #19 ranked Temple 68-64 in overtime, on Sunday (1/10). A few ESPN/USA Today voters recognized the effort, as the Rams garnered 7 votes (#37 in the poll). Delroy James and Keith Cothran dominated the Rams’ offense, taking between them over 75% of the available shots when they were on the floor. That might have made defending them too easy. James had a relatively efficient 52.9% eFG% with a 1.05 PPWS. Cothran by contrast, had a rough night. The senior guard could muster only a 35.3 eFG% with a 0.82 PPWS. The Rams were very average on the offensive boards, and had difficulty keeping the Owls (i.e., Lavoy Allen) off the offensive boards.

Things should turnaround quickly, as the  Rams host Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday (1/13), then travel to the Bronx to play Fordham on Saturday (1/16).

Richmond

Coach Mooney’s Spiders opened the A10 season with a two game road trip. First stop was Pittsburgh where the Spiders drubbed the Dukes 80-68, on Wednesday. David Gonzalvez led all scorers with 19 points. Gonzalvez and four other Spiders (Kevin Anderson 18; Ryan Butler 14; Justin Harper 12; Dan Geriot 11) all logged double-digit points. Next stop was St. Louis where the Spiders dropped a 5 point decision (63-58) to the Billikens on Saturday (1/09).

Richmond will host Massachusetts on Wednesday (1/13), then host the Explorers of La Salle on Saturday (1/16).

Saint Joseph’s

The Hawks dropped their first A10 game to crosstown (and Big 5) rival Temple 73-49, on Wednesday (1/06). No Hawk scored more than eight points, though two, sophomore guard Scott Prescott and freshman guard Carl Jones logged eight points. They managed to even the record with a visit from Fordham. They beat the Rams 82-69, on Saturday (1/09). Four Hawks managed to score more than 10 points (junior center Todd O’Brien with 20; senior guard Garrett Williamson with 10 and freshman guard Carl Jones with 15), with senior Darrin Govins leading the way with 21.

Saint Joseph’s takes on it’s second Ram in five days when they travel to Kingston, RI, to play Rhode Island on Wednesday (1/13). The road trip has one more stop, in Olean, NY as the Hawks take on the Bonnies on Saturday (1/16).

St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure opened the season as hosts to the Colonials, and dropped that decision 78-71, on Wednesday (1/6). Sophomore forward Andrew Nicholson scored 16 points to lead St. Bonaventure. Three other starters, all guards contributed 10 or more points to the effort. The Bonnies dropped their second A10 game, 57-54, this one on the road, to Charlotte, on Saturday (1/09). Freshman forward Marquise Simmons’ dunk brought the Bonnies to within a point, 55-54, with 0:45 left. Charlotte burned two 30 second timeouts and missed a jumper with 0:10 seconds left. A Jon Hall turnover and foul put a Charlotte junior guard on the line. Charles Dewhurst hit both free throws to push the lead back out to three with two seconds left.

The Bonnies will host St. Joseph’s on Saturday (1/16).

St. Louis

Coach Majerus’ squad hosted Richmond to open their A10 season, and beat the Spiders 63-58 on Saturday (1/9). Sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell scored a team-high 16 points on 7-12 (2-3, 5-9) and 0-0 shooting. Also posting double digit points for the Billikens, sophomore forward Brian Conklin (12 points) and, playing in his first collegiate game, freshman forward Cody Ellis (10).

The Billikens hit the road for two games, the first at Duquesne on Wednesday (1/13), the second on Sunday (1/17) at Charlotte.

Temple

Temple opened their A10 slate by hosting, and beating Saint Joseph’s 73-46, on Wednesday (1/6). Their offense went through Juan Fernandez, Lavoy Allen and Ryan Brooks (as usual). Fernandez had a horrific night from the floor, going 0-10. He managed 4 rebounds, 2 assists (and 3 turnovers) and 3 steals in 33 minutes. The team as a whole converted at a 48.5% (eFG%), as Allen (with a double-double 20 and 11) and Brooks (13 points) were the heros. Sophomore Michael Eric scored 13 points in 15 minutes. They traveled to Kingston, RI, and beat the Rams 68-64 in overtime on Sunday (1/10). Fernandez was back in his zone, leading the team with 18 points on 7-16 (3-3, 4-13) and 1-2 shooting. Brooks contributed 16 points, just better than his season average 15.3, while Allen his second consecutive (and fifth of the season) double-double, with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

The Owls take a break from their conference schedule on Wednesday (1/13) as they play the Penn Quakers of the Ivy League (and Big 5) in the historic Palestra on Penn’s campus. On Saturday (1/16) it’s back to conference play as they host Massachusetts.

Xavier

Congratulations to Jordan Crawford who shared the A10 Player of the Week honors with Dayton’s Chris Johnson, for his efforts in X’s loss to Wake Forest on 1/3 and his 22 points in the Musketeers’ 68-62 win over La Salle last Thursday (1/7). The Musketeers traveled to Washington, DC, and beat the Colonials 76-69 on Sunday (1/10). Senior forward Jason Love led Xavier with 19 points.

Coach Mack’s squad hosts Charlotte on Wednesday (1/13), then Dayton comes calling on Saturday (1/16) for a noon (ET) game.

Games to Catch

  • Charlotte at Xavier – Wednesday 1/13 — Charlotte wants to move up in the conference and has played well (forget about Tennessee) on the road. For the Musketeers to maintain their standing in the conference they need to hold serve at home. This one will pit Shamari Spears against Chris Wright in what should be a good matchup.
  • St. Louis at Duquesne –  Wednesday 1/13 — Two teams fighting for a place in the A10’s upper division match up as the Billikens travel to Pittsburgh to play the Dukes. Coach Majerus’ very deliberate 4-out-1-in motion offense (about 64 possessions per game) matches against Coach Everhart’s uptempo style (about 71 possessions per game). St. Louis has not traveled well this season, an inexperienced squad the most likely cause. After starting hot, the Dukes have cooled down. Maybe rehabbed Melquan Bolding can help them regain momentum. Both teams play good defense, so the game may go to the team that can make a shot.
  • Dayton at Xavier - Saturday 1/16 — Dayton was the preseason favorite, but Xavier had a surprisingly good out of conference run. Is this an instance of the Changing of the Guard, or of Some Things Never Change? Jordan Crawford and Chris Wright should be a lot of fun to watch.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 16th, 2009

checkinginon

Standings (12/15/2009)

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

Taking Stock

a10 providence gw uri

Common Opponent Analysis: Providence.  Both Rhode Island and George Washington hosted the Providence Friars within a 4 day period. How did the Rams and Colonials match up against a common opponent under similar circumstances? Rhode Island won a 3-point decision (86-83), while George Washington lost by a whopping 27 points (110-83). As the table shows, both teams played about 78 possessions (lower than they usually play — Pomeroy shows about 80 possessions per game), and have work to do on their respective defenses. And both teams are close on offense, garnering over 1.0 points per possession while converting their own field goal attempts in the low-mid 40s (eFG% — 44.0% for the Rams and 43.2% for the Colonials). Providence, a perimeter-oriented team under Coach Keno Davis, allowed both A10 opponents to rebound a high percentage of their own misses (47.1% and 51.1% to URI and GWU respectively), but The Rams’ frontcourt experience showed in their defensive rebounding numbers, holding the Friars to less than 30% of their misses (29.7%), even as GWU yielded 34% of the defensive rebounds, more typical of D1 basketball teams. The Friars took over twice as many 3s against George Washington as they did against Rhode Island, suggesting the Rams did a better job of defending the perimeter than the Colonials. Providence converted their 3s at a 55.2% clip, largely the reason for the Colonials’ disappointing 64.6% eFG% on defense. The Rams forced turnovers, somewhat unexpected against a perimeter-oriented team like PC, while the Colonials put the Friars on the line about once for every two field goal attempts, again unusual for a perimeter-oriented team. Conclusion: Rhode Island looks like they may be close to ready for conference play, while George Washington may need more work.

Looking Back.  Wednesday the 9th was not a pleasant one for three of the A10’s teams. George Washington hosted Providence, but dropped a 13-point decision against one of the Big East’s weaker sisters. Saint Joseph’s pushed #3 Villanova to the last 90 seconds of play before bowing by eight, and Duquesne went to Morgantown to face the Mountaineers and came out on the (very) short side of a 68-39 score.  Housing the ‘Eers may have been a reach, but a 29-point drubbing?

Big Wins.  Sunday the 13th however could not have been better for Temple, Xavier and Rhode Island, all of whom scored big wins over BCS rivals. Temple led off with a 71-61 win over Big 5 rival (and #3 ranked) Villanova. Argentine guard Juan Fernandez scored a career high 33 points on 11-15 (7-9 3FG, 4-6 2FG) and 4-4 FT shooting. Senior guard Ryan Brooks, who scored 20 points, can graduate knowing he beat the Wildcats once during his time on North Broad. Forward Lavoy Allen grabbed 17 rebounds, one short of his career best. Meanwhile down in Cincy, Xavier beat (#19 ranked) Cincinnati 83-79 in the 77th meeting of their Crosstown Shootout. It took the X-men 2 overtime periods to put down the Bearcats, as sophomore guard Terrell Holloway scored a career-high 26 points (and dished 4 assists) in 42 minutes of play. Holloway struggled with his 3 point shot, going 1-5 from beyond the arc, but he more than made up for it, going 6-8 on twos, and a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line. Sophomore transfer Jordan Crawford chipped in 16 points, the team’s 2nd highest total, on 5-16 (1-6 3FG, 4-10 2FG) and 5-6 FT shooting. Red-shirt freshman guard Mark Lyons chipped in 11 points. Senior forward/center Jason Love hauled in a career-high 19 (3 off) rebounds in 41 minutes of play, especially impressive given Cincinnati’s sizable frontline. Love had more than twice as many rebounds as the highest Bearcat rebounder, (guard) Deonta Vaughn, who had 9 rebounds. Rhode Island knocked off regional rival (and ACC member) Boston College 80-69 in the nightcap on a nearly perfect day. The Rams and Eagles sparred for the first five or so minutes, before Stevie Mejia gave Rhode Island the lead for good at the 14-minute mark of the 1st half. The Rams took an 8-point lead into the half, but BC managed to close the gap to four points at the 9:25 mark of the 2nd half until the Rams pushed it back out to ten over the next five possessions, and worked with a 10-point cushion for much of the balance of the half. Senior guard Keith Cothran led the Rams with 19 points, but four others, including seniors Delray Jones (forward), Lamonte Ulmer (forward), along with sophomore Orion Outerbridge (forward) and freshman Akeem Richmond (guard) all chipped in double-digit points. Cothran has led the Rams in scoring in six of their nine games this season. Akeem Richmond has scored double-digit points in six of his nine games as well, as the freshman is averaging 8.8 points this season. Only Fordham, with their 73-56 loss to St. John’s of the Big East, lost on Sunday.

Team Capsules

  • Charlotte.  The 49ers munched on cupcakes this past week, hammering Winston-Salem 94-52 on Tuesday (12/8) and then Gardner-Webb 95-66 on Saturday (12/12). Charlotte will meet Winthrop on Sunday (12/20) before getting down to business with Old Dominion on Wednesday (12/23).
  • Dayton.  After taking down George Mason 56-55 on the road last Tuesday (12/8), followed by Old Dominion 58-50 on Friday (12/11), Dayton will reward itself with a few sweets before Christmas, hosting the Blue Hose of Presbyterian on Saturday (12/19) before taking on Appalachian State on Tuesday (12/22).
  • Duquesne.  Hammered by West Virginia 68-39 on the road last Wednesday (12/9), the Dukes returned home to take their revenge against Robert Morris 59-54 on Saturday (12/12). Scoring without the injured Melquan Bolding, set to return at the end of the month, has fallen largely to a triumvirate of two juniors (forwards Bill Clark and Damian Saunders) and a sophomore (BJ Monteiro). These three take between 29% (Saunders) and 23% (Clark) of the shots when they are on the floor. Rotation player Sean Johnson aside, nobody else takes more than 15% (role player-level involvement) of the shots, surprising given that senior guard Jason Duty was an outside force last season, taking 133 three-point attempts last season, and hitting 41.4% of them. Duty’s reduced involvement has made Clark the principal outside threat, the junior taking about 58% of his shots from beyond the arc. Unfortunately Clark, at a 31% rate, is converting at a rate only 6% higher than the entire squad (and Duty). For a team that takes 38.6% of its field goal attempts from the 3-point line, a 26% conversion rate is a killer. If the squad has become a bit shot-challenged, the spate of turnovers, if uncorrected, will severely limit the team’s prospects come conference play. The Dukes lost a devastating 37% of their possessions in the West Virginia game, further crippling their offense. They also lost 25% or more of their possessions in the Robert Morris and Savannah State games, making those scores closer than their shooting might have suggested. The short, guard-oriented squad has trouble with defensive rebounding, allowing opponents to grab nearly 37% of their misses and ranks the Dukes at #284 among D1’s 344 teams. Only junior forward Damian Saunders is ranked in Pomeroy’s top 150 for rebounding. Duquesne will host Canisius on Wednesday (12/16), travel to Indianapolis to take on the IUPUI Jaguars on Saturday (12/19) and return home to play St. Francis, PA, the following Tuesday (12/22) before the holiday break. The Dukes will then return to action on the 30th when they travel to Norfolk, VA, to play Old Dominion.
  • Fordham.  The Rams dropped a 17-point decision to crosstown rival St. John’s. Freshman forward Chris Gaston again paced Fordham, scoring 32 points on a 12-19 (1-2 3FG, 11-17 2FG) and 7-11 FT shooting night. St. John’s was also Gaston’s 7th double-double in Fordham’s 8-game season. Fordham faces #9 Villanova at the Izod Center in the New Jersey Meadowlands on Saturday (12/19), and then travel to James Madison for a game on Wednesday (12/23). After the holiday break the Rams will return to action against Kennesaw State in Georgia on 12/29.
  • George Washington.  The Colonials beat the Tigers of Towson by four, 73-69, last Saturday (12/12), with senior forward Damian Hollis again pacing the team. Hollis posted 13 points and shared rebounding honors with sophomore wing Aaron Ware. Hollis has led the scoring for his team four times this season. GWU will travel to Greenville, NC, to play the Pirates of East Carolina on Tuesday (12/22), then take off for the holidays before heading up to Worcester, MA, to take on the Crusaders of Holy Cross on 12/28.
  • La Salle.  La Salle took to the road Wednesday and beat the Broncs of Rider 69-60, then travelled to Lawrence, Kansas, where they dropped a 90-65 stinker to KU on Saturday. The Explorers will face the Bison of Bucknell on Saturday, then travel to Oklahoma City to face the Oklahoma State on Monday (12/21). After the holidays, the Explorers will host the Big Red of Cornell on the 29th.
  • Massachusetts.  After getting bombed by Seton Hall on Pearl Harbor Day, Coach Derek Kellogg’s Minutemen bounced back with a win over Grambling State at home on Friday. It was a career night for freshman Terrell Vinson, as the forward scored a career high 20 points and logged his first career double-double at Massachusetts. The Minutemen will sojourn in Boston as they face-off with Memphis at the Boston Garden on Saturday night (12/19) and then cross town to take on Boston College at the Conte Center the following Wednesday (12/23). UMass stays on the road after the holidays, going South to Davidson, NC, to take on the struggling Wildcats on the 30th.
  • Rhode Island.  Coach Jimmy Baron’s squad just scraped by Northeastern by three on Thursday (12/10), then housed Boston College by eleven. Senior guard Keith Cothran paced the team twice, posting 19 points in each. Cothran has been the point leader in six of the Rams’ nine games this season. Nineteen seems to be Cothran’s favorite number — he has posted that number four times so far this year. Rhode Island hosts Fairfield on Sunday (12/20), then takes off for the holiday, returning to action versus Drexel on the 29th.
  • Richmond.  The Spiders lost to cross-town rival Virginia Commonwealth 65-57 on Saturday (12/12). Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalvez scored 19 and 18 respectively, but VCU shut down the Spiders over the last 6:38, allowing only three field goals over that span. Two of the three FGs were complements of Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalez. Justin Harper’s layup at 0:45 closed out the Spiders’ scoring and brought them to within three points, but possession fouls, which brought made free throws, pushed the margin back out to eight. The Spiders take to the road this week, first to Columbia, SC, to take on the Gamecocks of South Carolina Wednesday night (12/16), and then to Sunrise, FL. for an Orange Bowl Classic clash with the Florida Gators on Saturday (12/19). Richmond squeezes one more game in before the holidays when they take on UNC – Greensboro.  After the holiday break, the Spiders return to action against another North Carolina school, this time North Carolina – Wilmington, on the 28th.
  • Saint Joseph’s.  Coach Phil Martelli’s squad played a great game, taking Villanova to edge Wednesday night (12/09) at the Palestra, as they proved that tradition and rivalry can counter athleticism. The game was played for nearly 80 possessions, fast for Division 1, where the “typical” game is about 68-69 possessions. The Hawks’ freshmen guards, Carl Jones and Justin Crosgile give Saint Joseph’s fans something to cheer about as each logged double-digit points in the loss. Fouled by Scottie Reynolds with two minutes left, Carl Jones stepped to the free throw line and hit all three of his attempts.  Ninety seconds later he picked Corey Fisher’s pocket and set up Chris Prescott for a 3 pointer which cut Saint Joseph’s deficit to seven. With 17 seconds left Justin Crosgile hit three free throw attempts to reduce the game to two possessions again, but the Hawks could get no closer. The Hawks flew to Minneapolis, MN, where they lost another game, this time to the Gophers of Minnesota, 97-74. Senior guards Darrin Goven and Garrett Williamson each posted 15 points to pace the team. Junior center Todd O’Brien snagged six rebounds. The Joe’s losing streak stands at six, but a game with Lehigh on Sunday (12/20) should do the trick. After the holidays, Saint Joseph’s will travel to Albany, NY, where they will play Siena on Tuesday the 29th.
  • St. Bonaventure.  The Bonnies finished off their exhibition allotment by doing what Syracuse could not — beating the LeMoyne Dolphins by 11 in Olean, NY. St. Bonaventure then hosted Savannah State and abused them 79-47 on Saturday (12/12). The Bonnies will travel to the Carrier Dome and face #5 Syracuse on Saturday (12/19), then off to Buffalo, NY, to face Niagara on Tuesday (12/22). After the holidays, the Bonnies close out their Little Three round robin when they host Canisius on the 30th.
  • St. Louis.  Coach Rick Majerus’ Billikens closed out their exhibition season with a win over Rockhurst University 66-53. St. Louis will then run through three opponents in the fortnight before Christmas, taking Belmont on Wednesday night (12/16), Missouri State on Saturday (12/19) and University of Missouri – Kansas City on Tuesday (12/22). The Billikens will then break for the holidays, returning to action against Eastern Illinois on the 29th.
  • Temple.  The Owls beat #3 Villanova by a solid 10 points, 75-65, on Sunday (12/13) at the Liacouras Center. Down by 14 with 4:30 left in the 1st half, Temple launched a torrid 20-4 run over the next seven minutes that overtook Villanova. The Owls never looked back, closing out the game with a 36-29 run. Juan Fernandez and Lavoy Allen paced the team with 33 points and 17 rebounds respectively. Temple will take on Seton Hall on Saturday (12/19) and then break for the holidays, going back into action against Bowling Green on the 28th.
  • Xavier.  Two technicals, a Brian Kelly chant and an intentional foul that bounced the #9 national recruit on the hardwood and brought both benches to mid-court for a full-squad confrontation. And that was just the first half. Yes, the 2010 edition of the Crosstown Shootout had it’s highs (three career highs, actually) and lows (47 fouls, 2 “T”s). And after 50 minutes of full-out play, a winner by the slightest — four-point — margin. Bragging rights to the Queen City belong to the X-men this season, as they downed #19 Cincinnati 83-79 before 10,000+ fans at the Cintas Center. Terrell Holloway scored a career-high 26 points on 7-13 (1-5 3FG, 6-8 2FG) and 11-11 FT shooting. Senior Jason Love matched his career-high for rebounds, 19 (3 off), and scored the Musketeers’ last five points to seal the win. This is the 3rd straight Crosstown Shootout win for Xavier, the first for rookie head coach Chris Mack. The Musketeers travel to Indianapolis, IN, to take on #17 Butler on Saturday (12/19), return home for a tilt with Miami (OH) and then break for the holidays. They swing back into action as they host LSU on the 29th.

Games to Catch

  • Richmond at South Carolina, Wednesday 12/16 — The game features a matchup of guards, as the Spiders’ Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalvez will go up against the Gamecocks’ experienced backcourt duo, Devan Downey and Brandis Raley-Ross. South Carolina will be in the SEC hunt, with a good chance to bring home an NCAA bid come March.
  • Xavier at #17 Butler, Saturday 12/19 — The Bulldogs have replaced Gonzaga as the mid-major darling of the mainstream media. Terrell Holloway, Mark Lyons and Jordan Crawford will check out another 3-guard offense when they go into action against Shelvin Mack, Willie Veasley and Ronald Nored (with Zach Hahn and Shawn Vanzant off the bench). Jason Love and Kenny Frease will have a good chance to dominate inside.
  • Richmond vs #13 Florida, Saturday 12/19 — If Anderson and Gonzalvez get a workout with South Carolina, expect the Spider front court of Justin Harper, Dan Geriot and Ryan Butler (and Josh Duinker and Francis-Cedric Martel) to get a workout when they go up against Vernon Macklin, Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons of the Gators. No rest for Anderson and Gonzalvez as they match up against highly recruited freshman Kenny Boyton and sophomore guard Erving Walker. Should be a good test for the Spiders.
  • La Salle at Oklahoma State, Monday 12/21 — Guards Rodney Green, Kimani Barrett and Ruben Guillandeaux will match up with Coach Travis Ford’s stable of guards — James Anderson, Keiton Page, Obi Muonelo and Ray Penn. Aric Murray and Yves Mbala (and Jerrell Williams) will have their hands full with Matt Pilgrim and Marshall Moses (and Roger Franklin).
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2009

checkinginon

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

Standings

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

Early Season Invitational Tournaments, Part 2

The early season invitational tournaments have come to dominate the November schedules of many D1 conferences. For the Atlantic 10 Conference, these tournaments make an offer conference members can rarely refuse. Aside from the allure of playing fall basketball in exotic locations (ok, Cullowhee, N.C., Philadelphia and Chicago in November may not be that exotic…), they provide the A10 with a mix of high and mid-major opponents who, despite pressure from the NCAA, are often reluctant to sign equitable home-and-home agreements. If the locations are not exotic, the preliminary round games are often local (within a day’s drive or a 1 – 2 hour flight) if not at home (see Richmond, Massachusetts & St. Louis), while the final round games are scheduled (for the most part) on neutral courts, thus mitigating home court advantages sought by high-major opponents.

For the A10, 11 members participated in invitational tournaments this past November. The tournaments ranged from the (relatively) prestigious preseason NIT (Charlotte) to tropical locations like the Virgin Islands (St. Joseph’s), to continental destination cities like Charleston (La Salle) to the MVC-hosted (and insurance-sponsored) Traveler’s (St. Bonaventure).

a10 table 1

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #9 – Atlantic 10

Posted by nvr1983 on October 29th, 2009

seasonpreview

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

Predicted Order of Finish:

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

All-Conference Team:

  • Kevin Anderson (G), Richmond (36.8 MPG, 16.6 PPG, 2.8 APG)
  • Rodney Green (G), La Salle (35.3 MPG, 17.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.4 APG)
  • Levoy Allen (F), Temple (31.3 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.5 BPG)
  • Chris Wright (F), Dayton (26.1 MPG, 13.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG)
  • Damian Saunders (F), Duquesne (34.6 MPG, 13.1 PPG, 7.6 rpg, 2.4 BPG)
  • 6th Man: Kenny Frease, Xavier (14.6 MPG, 5.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG)

Impact Newcomer/All-Conference Rookie Team:

  • Carl Jones (G), St. Joseph’s
  • Christian Salecich (G), St. Louis
  • Terrell Vinson (F), Massachusetts
  • Chris Braswell (F), Charlotte
  • Aaric Murray (C), La Salle – Rookie of the Year

Atlantic10

What You Need to Know. Over the past two seasons the A10 has earned 6 NCAA bids, sending four different teams to the D1 post-season party of 64 65. That is more teams over the same period than any other non-BCS conference. Those teams garnered a higher winning percentage (6-6 or 50%) than the SEC (5-9 or 35.7%). This season should track with previous seasons as the A10 will look for 2-3 teams with enough talent and success to earn 1-2 at-large bids in addition to the conference’s automatic bid. The A10 has become a showcase for ‘tweeners and front-court players lately. The A10’s last two POYs were a pair of  undersized (for the positions they played) frontcourt players. Gary Forbes, a 6-7 PF out of Massachusetts won in 2008, and Ahmad Nivins a 6-10 235 pound C out of St. Joseph’s, won last spring. This season is no different as fans will see Dayton’s Chris Wright (a preseason Wooden nominee), Xavier’s Jason Love, Rhode Island’s Delroy James, Duquesne’s Melquan Bolding and Richmond’s Kevin Smith play a position or two “up” from their size and weight. The conference will showcase a number of very well-regarded incoming freshmen as Charlotte’s Chris Braswell, Massachusetts’ Terrell Vinson and La Salle’s Aaric Murray held offers from high-major programs, but chose A10 schools.

Predicted Champion. Dayton (NCAA Seed:  #4) Returning 84.5% of the minutes and 85.6% of the points from a team that finished 2nd in the conference and sent the Big East’s West Virginia home in the 1st round of the NCAAs before bowing out to Kansas, it is no wonder that the Flyers are the strong favorite to take the conference title and return to the NCAAs again in 2010. Dayton took the top spot in the A10 Coaches preseason poll, announced on Media Day (10/22). The squad is deep and experienced as Coach Brian Gregory brings back seven seniors and four juniors including four starters and nine of the top eleven scorers from last year’s team. Led by 6-8, 225 pound forward Chris Wright, a 2009-10 preseason Wooden Award nominee, the Flyers will try to pick up where they left off in March of 2009. Wright led the team in points per game (13.3) and rebounds per game (6.6). Dayton, however, is not a one man show. The Flyers return senior London Warren (the “Jacksonville Jet”), a 6-0 point guard  who led the team in assists (154) last season while averaging 21.5 minutes and 4.1 points per game. Gregory can play 3 guards by bringing in two 6-3 senior guards, Marcus Johnson and Rob Lowry. Johnson was the second-leading scorer (behind Wright), averaging 11.8 points per game while playing an average of 28.3 minutes. Rob Lowry, who came to Dayton via Cecil Community College (and Chesapeake Community College), watched the team’s last ten games from the bench, as he tore a tendon in his right knee on February 12th. Lowry was the team’s leading scorer 5 times in 2009 and was second to Warren in assists. If the Flyers play like they did at the end of the 2009 season they should separate themselves from the A10 pack early and pick up a #3 or #4 seed in the NCAAs. Look for their performance in the Puerto Rican Tip-Off, where they will face up to 3 high-major teams, as a gauge for where they stand in the Top 25.

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