Sweet Sixteen Game Analysis: Thursday Night

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2010

Over the next two days, RTC will break down the regional semifinal games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are Thursday night’s games from the East and West Regionals.

7:07 pm – #1 Syracuse vs. #5 Butler  (West Region)

We’re starting to worry about this Arinze Onuaku situation.  Sooner or later, Jim Boeheim’s team is going to need the 11 points, five rebounds and general defensive anchor support on the front line that the 6’9, 260-pound big man provides.  Rick Jackson is a serviceable replacement, but the fact that Onuaku reportedly hasn’t even suited up in practice since his injury against Georgetown on March 11 is cause for alarm.  Even if Syracuse survives to advance to next weekend’s Final Four, how productive could he possibly be?  So far, Syracuse hasn’t shown a need for him yet.  The Orange ran over Vermont and Gonzaga without breathing all that hard thanks to the superb play of Wesley Johnson and friends, but there will be a team in the very near future where they’ll need more than Jackson alone can provide.

That team will not be playing SU in the Sweet Sixteen, however.  Butler is an excellent team and Brad Stevens has gotten players other than Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard to step up this season, most notably Shelvin Mack who went 9-12 from long range in the San Jose pod against UTEP and Murray State.  Syracuse is not UTEP or Murray, though, and the wide-open looks that Mack was getting in those games will no longer be as readily available thanks to the length and quickness of the Orange’s perimeter defenders.  Furthermore, Butler center Matt Howard has enough trouble staying out of foul trouble against Horizon League teams; it’s not realistic to think that he’ll be able to play 30+ effective minutes against Jackson, Johnson and Kris Joseph inside.  The main problem we foresee is that Butler is not a very good offensive team in general — when Hayward and Mack aren’t firing on all cylinders, the Bulldogs have trouble scoring points.  Add that to the fact they’ll be facing one of the best offensive teams in America, and you have a situation where numerous things need to go exactly right for Butler to get this win tonight.  Even without Onuaku on the floor for another game, we just don’t see Butler finding enough offense to win this game.

The Skinny: The last time the Bulldogs made it this deep into the NCAAs, they ran into a long, athletic team by the name of Florida in 2007.  They played the defending and future national champions as closely as they were played in that tournament thanks to their control of the tempo, strong defense and  attention to detail, but it still wasn’t enough because the Florida offensive attack was simply too good.  We think the same thing will happen in this game.  Syracuse has too many weapons for the Butler defense to key in on all of them, and even if they catch SU on an off night, where will the Butler points come from?

7:27 pm – #2 West Virginia vs. #11 Washington  (East Region)

Most prognosticators felt that Washington had Sweet 16 talent coming into this season. Lorenzo Romar was returning reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Isaiah Thomas, defensive stalwart Venoy Overton and a forward named Quincy Pondexter ripe for a breakout season. While Pondexter’s prediction panned out, guard play was shaky, road wins were hard to come by, and the Huskies found themselves on the NCAA bubble with seven losses in a weak Pac-10. A conference tournament win punched their ticket, though, and the Huskies have taken advantage of the opportunity, erasing a double-digit second half lead to beat Marquette and wiping the floor with Mountain West champion New Mexico. Their toughest test yet will come Thursday against Big East Tournament champion West Virginia. Washington needs to produce a near carbon copy of their performance against New Mexico. In other words, they need to play a near-perfect game. Thomas must keep his head on straight and continue to make outside jumpers. Overton must frustrate Da’Sean Butler, Elston Turner must continue to produce offensively and Pondexter must out-duel Devin Ebanks.

For West Virginia, Washington seems like a favorable matchup. They may have preferred Joe Mazzulla guarding Isaiah Thomas more than the sidelined Darryl Bryant anyway. Mazzulla is the superior defender and Bryant has been woeful shooting-wise the last three weeks. They also match up well with the length of Washington. Bob Huggins can throw a lineup out on the floor of players 6’6 or above with huge wingspans, meaning the long WVU defense could fluster Pondexter and force him into difficult shots. One possible negative to the Bryant injury is that it increases the likelihood that the Mountaineer offense will become too reliant on Butler to bail them out. He’s done it time and time again this season and in postseason tournament play. Does he have more magic up his sleeve?

The Skinny: West Virginia has a plethora of defenders that can frustrate Pondexter and they boast the best late-game scorer in the nation in Butler. That combination should prove enough to take care of Washington in fairly methodical fashion. Avoiding their typical slow start would be prudent.

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Second Round Game Analysis: Sunday Games

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 16 of the second round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Sunday games.

12:10 pm – #1 Syracuse vs. #8 Gonzaga  (Buffalo pod)

In the CBS national game to start the day, everyone will get this very enticing game between Syracuse and Gonzaga.  Given the way this year is winding up, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Orange without their big man Arinze Onuaku found itself on the short end of the score around 2:30 pm today.  But we still have faith in Syracuse even without the talented center and we think that Jim Boeheim’s team is too good to fall short of the Final Four this early.  The primary problem that the Zags are going to have is one they didn’t have to worry as much about with Florida State, and that is in stopping the powerful SU offense.  With offensive scoring threats at all five positions, Syracuse is in a far more advantageous position than FSU was (with their limited offense) when Gonzaga caught fire on Friday — if the Zags want to get into a shootout with Syracuse, that’s not likely to end well for them. Still, with the way the Big East has had so many early round troubles, and the WCC looking great with St. Mary’s already in the Sweet Sixteen, we’re not ready to dismiss the Zags based on that alone.  The Syracuse zone is likely to be something that Mark Few’s team has not seen with such athletes all season, so even with their ability to put the ball in the hole, we hesitate to think the Zags can consistently score on it.

The Skinny: Gonzaga will push the Orange, but we still like this team to advance and make a serious push for the national title in coming weeks.

2:20 pm – #2 Ohio State vs. #10 Georgia Tech  (Milwaukee pod)

You might not see it on their faces, but the Buckeyes are smiling.  Northern Iowa’s removal of Kansas puts Ohio State in the driver’s seat in the Midwest region.  That said, there’s still no way Thad Matta and Evan Turner are going to let the rest of that team look past their opponents and assume an open road to Indianapolis.  Good thing, because Georgia Tech showed us that they’re not just made up of Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal and a bunch of suckers.  The Yellow Jackets shot 2-10 from the three point line but balanced that by holding Big 12 player of the year James Anderson to a 3-12 shooting night, 0-6 from beyond the three-point arc, and an overall 11 points.  But the most impressive aspect of Georgia Tech’s performance on Friday night — by FAR — was the fact that they went to the free throw line 25 times — and hit 24 of them!  It wasn’t just Lawal and Favors.  Tech played nine players, and eight of them shot at least one free throw.  Evan Turner isn’t just the player of the year in his conference, though — he’s likely the national POY, so the Tech task is that much tougher.  Turner wasn’t himself in their first round game against UCSB, going 2-13 and posting only nine points (though he did contribute 10 boards and five assists).  He’s looking to break out, and knows he’ll have to be at his best.  Lawal and Favors, though, will be looking to get Dallas Lauderdale, Jon Diebler, and Turner in foul trouble early and open poke some holes in that OSU front line.

The Skinny:  You probably don’t want to go with our Midwest picks, since yesterday we took Kansas and Ohio.  It’s not exactly going out on a limb to say that this will be a great second round game, but that stat line of Turner’s shows you that he can play such an important role on the team even when he’s not scoring.  For Tech to win, they’d have to turn in a similar performance at the free throw line, keep Turner under wraps and coax him into a supporting role again, and cool down Jon Diebler.  That’s a tough trifecta to pull off.  We don’t see it happening.  But we didn’t see Northern Iowa dismissing Kansas, either.

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First Round Game Analysis: Friday Afternoon

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 32 of the first round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Friday afternoon games.


12:15 pm – #2 West Virginia vs. #15 Morgan State  (Buffalo pod)

West Virginia enters the NCAA Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the nation. They squeaked out an enormous road win at Villanova to end the regular season then swept through Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Georgetown en route to a Big East championship riding the heroics of Da’Sean Butler. The Mountaineers are an extremely gifted rebounding team; in fact, sometimes their best offense comes after a missed shot. They feature multiple weapons that can step out and shoot a mid-range jumper or three from Wellington Smith to Kevin Jones to the all-around dynamo Butler. Also, few teams can match West Virginia’s intensity in the halfcourt defensively. Morgan State head coach Todd Bozeman will need a gigantic scoring output from their own star, Baltimore native Reggie Holmes. Holmes scored 25 or more points fifteen times this season, averaging 21.3 PPG and ranking in the top-50 in percentage of shots taken. The Bears also feature a rugged forward named Kevin Thompson who comes in at fifth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. In fact, Morgan State ranks 11th in the country as a team in that very category. Unfortunately for the underdogs, West Virginia is never outworked on the glass, not with Jones, Devin Ebanks and Bob Huggins prominently involved.

The Skinny: This one shouldn’t be close from the tip. Morgan State dominated the MEAC all season, but West Virginia is flying high at this point. Expect the Mountaineers to dominate by 25-30 points.

12:25 pm – #6 Xavier vs. #11 Minnesota  (Milwaukee pod)

The answer to which team will win this game depends entirely on which Gopher team shows up to play in Milwaukee.  Will it be the defensive juggernaut that held Purdue to 11 first  half points last Saturday, or will it be the team that got obliterated by Ohio State 52-29 in the second half on Sunday?  Tubby Smith’s team has been schizophrenic like that all year, following up strong wins with disastrous performances (two losses to Michigan?  really?), which probably explains why they were a bubble team up until Sunday evening.  Xavier comes into this one with the stronger resume, but it’s difficult to say if the Musketeers are the better team.  When he plays under control, XU’s Jordan Crawford is a talent, and his supporting case of Jason Love on the interior and Terrell Holloway running the show makes for nice balance throughout the Xavier lineup.  The question we have is who will win the defensive battle, though.  Xavier defends the three really well, while Minnesota behind Blake Hoffarber and Lawrence Westbrook both shoot it equally as well.  This game is essentially a tossup (Vegas agrees, setting Minny as a one-point favorite), and we really liked the first seven halves of basketball that the Gophers put up in Indianapolis on a neutral floor last week, so we’re going with the extremely mild 6/11 upset here, in a close game that comes down to the last possession. 

The Skinny: Despite the seedings, this is a tossup game and we like the Gophers to win it on the last possession. 

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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 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 February 3rd, 2010

Efficiency Differentials

Updated to reflect games through Tuesday February 2, Xavier looks as if they are separating from the pack, but realize the Musketeers played Fordham and Duquesne last week. The differentials will tighten as Xavier plays Dayton next week, and Charlotte and Richmond in the following 2-3 weeks. Dayton and Charlotte seem to be anomalies. By the Pythagorean winning percentage, Dayton should have another win (or two), while Charlotte should have another loss. The 49ers still have games with Dayton (away), Xavier (home), Rhode Island (away) and Richmond (home closer) on tap. If Coach Lutz can run that gamut with a decent efficiency differential, Charlotte may be looking at a postseason in a four-letter tournament. Fordham continues to lag far behind the rest of the conference. The gap grows larger with each week.

Standings as of – 02/03/10

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

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

Coach Lutz’s squad ran their winning streak to four last week with wins over Massachusetts and, more importantly, Temple. Tagging the Owls with their first conference loss brought the team from Philadelphia back to the pack and put the 49ers in a small (numbering three) cluster of teams with a single conference loss. Charlotte holds a tie-breaker edge over Temple, but more importantly, virtually every D1 bracketologist marks their 74-64 victory as a good win that puts this Carolina school in the conversation for an NCAA bid. Sophomore guard Darrio Green was cited as the A10 Player of the Week for the second time this season for his role in Charlotte’s two wins. Freshman Chris Braswell also earned a mention in the conference’s weekly recap. Braswell provides a solid presence on the boards for Charlotte, a presence that puts Charlotte among the top three teams for defensive rebounding percentage in conference games.

Next up, the 49er’s host George Washington on Wednesday (2/3), then journey to New York City to play the hapless Fordham Rams on Saturday (2/6). Road wins are important for Charlotte, as they continue to lag with a offensive/defensive efficiency differential of (off 1.04, def 1.05) -0.01 for games not played in Halton Arena. Much of that comes from an early-season drubbing at the hands of Duke, but the 49ers also have away-neutral losses to Tennessee and Xavier.

Dayton

Nothing like a trip to Olean, NY to stop the bleeding. The Flyers halted their skid at two with a 75-58 win over the Bonnies last Saturday (1/30). Despite an off night from Chris Wright and Rob Lowry, the Flyers’ defense shut down the Bonnies while Kurt Huelsman and Chris Johnson stepped up with efficient (and prolific) shooting/scoring. The Flyers dominated the boards over both baskets, a key for them going forward, especially if they have trouble with consistent offensive production.

If Dayton is to get back in the A10 conference race, this is the week to start. Visits by Xavier and Charlotte, both teams above the the Flyers in conference standings, provide a great opportunity for Dayton to regain some ground lost in January. XU comes to Dayton on Saturday (2/6), with Charlotte following on Wednesday (2/10). Xavier has not been especially assertive on their offensive boards, a characteristic the Flyers should be able to exploit to limit the Musketeers’ second chance opportunities. Xavier has concentrated on the defensive boards in conference games, an area (their offensive boards) where Dayton has dominated (especially useful if you squad is having an off night on scoring).

Duquesne

Duquesne split the last week, 1-1, dropping their road game to Xavier 86-50, but bouncing back against Saint Joseph’s with a 74-71 win last Sunday (1/31). Games away from the Palumbo Center have been a real problem for the Dukes this season, as the team’s offensive/defensive efficiency is a dismal -0.18. Coach Everhart’s squad has a 1-7 road record this season, 0-3 in conference road games. The next two games are on the road, abd beating George Washington (surprising Temple might be too tall an order at this point) in DC would do wonders for the Dukes’ confidence.

The Dukes travel to Philadelphia to play Temple on Wednesday (2/3) and then down to Washington, DC, to play the Colonials of George Washington on Saturday (2/6).

Fordham

Coach Grasso’s one bright spot on the squad, Chris Gaston, earned his third citation as the A10 Rookie of the Week. But the Rams continue to lose, having dropped two more games last week. Pomeroy projects a 63% probability that Fordham may go winless in conference play. Though Fordham managed to hold their home loss to La Salle to single digits, Coach Grasso will be pressed to maintain morale in the face of month-ending 48-point road blowout at the hands of Xavier.  

Next up for Fordham, a visit from Charlotte on Saturday (2/6).

George Washington

The Colonials finished January with a 3-5 record, 2-5 in conference play. The four-game losing streak was broken, but it took an overtime (home) game with St. Louis. The celebration was a short one, as GWU dropped their next game, a road trip to Kingston, RI, 72-66, on Saturday.

The Colonials will try to turn it around on Wednesday (1/27) when they host St. Louis. The weekend game, a visit to Rhode Island on Saturday (1/30), may not be a promising place to break their losing run.

La Salle

La Salle dropped two straight to teams at the top of the conference last week. Cross-town rival Temple beat the Explorers 64-52 on Saturday (1/30) and Rhode Island beat them Tuesday (2/2) 90-83. Offense is not really a problem right now, Coach Giannini’s squad is ranked #6 in the conference for offensive efficiency (ahead of Charlotte), but with a defensive efficiency of 1.05, they are ranked #11. In Rhode Island they were able to score at a 1.11 rate, in the hands of just about any other team that would be good enough to win, but they gave the Rams 1.20 points per possession, thereby dropping the decision. Only Fordham forces turnovers in conference at a rate less than La Salle. The conference named Aaric Murray the co-Rookie of the Week (with Fordham’s Chris Gaston), mitigating somewhat the disappointments on the court. Murray has won the honor three times this season.

The Explorers host the Billikens at the Gola on Saturday (2/6) and then take a week to prepare for a road game at Duquesne. The Billikens offer a solid chance for La Salle to break their losing run. Coach Majerus has assembled the youngest squad in the conference, the combination of a lethargic offense and a hostile environment should mask La Salle’s weakness. A win would put La Salle back into the middle of the conference.

Massachusetts

The Minutemen snapped their losing streak with an uncaharacteristic 87-80 win over Saint Joseph’s at the Hagan. The Minutemen have compiled a 2-9 record away from Amherst, keyed by a fatal combination of poor shooting (their eFG% in those games was 43.4%) and poor shot defense — they have allowed opponents to complete at a 52.7% (eFG%) clip. They could not, however, hold serve against a visiting Charlotte squad on Saturday (1/30), suffering a near-blowout 72-58 loss.

Massachusetts extends their home stand by a game as they host Xavier Wednesday (2/3), then travel to Kingston, RI, for a game with fellow New Englander Rhode Island Saturday (2/6). Shutting down Rhode Island’s shooting offense will be a challenge for Coach Kellogg’s squad. This could be a very rough week for the Minutemen.

Rhode Island

The Rams have to be happy about Temple’s slip last week, After dropping their second conference game to Xavier on 1/23, Rhode Island has since resumed the pace with a critical road win over Dayton. Last week they had two more wins over lesser conference opponents, George Washington (72-66) and La Salle (90-83). Neither was a dominant, put them away, performance, but they have an opportunity to pad their wins when they host Massachusetts on Saturday. They need to work on their conference defense of 0.984, which slipped to 1.11 in their game with La Salle. Taking the game on Saturday gives the Rams three days to prepare for Richmond, which also has two conference losses. Rhode Island has to look after their shot defense, a bit below average for the conference (eFG% is 49.1% vs the conference average of 47.1%), but even less aggressive at home (50.6%). This should not be a problem versus Massachusetts, a shot challenged team when on the road, but it could spell trouble when Richmond comes to town.

The Rams should be able to keep pace next week as they host George Washington on Saturday (1/30), then travel to Philadelphia for a game with La Salle on Tuesday (2/2).

Richmond

Coach Mooney’s squad bounced back from their loss to Charlotte (71-59, 1/20) with two wins versus struggling teams, the latest against road-challenged St. Louis, 62-36, on Saturday (1/30). The score is unusually low, even though Richmond and St. Louis are two of the lowest possesion teams in the conference. St. Louis managed a horrific 0.56 points per possession that night, far and away the worst performance in a conference game this season (that includes Fordham).

Next up for the Spiders, a visit with Saint Joseph’s Wednesday (2/3), then host Temple on Saturday (2/6). The Temple game is an oppertunity to tighten the conference race, but the Spiders have to take care of the Hawks first.

Saint Joseph’s

The Hawks dropped two games last week, an 87-80 home loss to Massachusetts and a 74-71 road game at Duquesne. Weak board work and shooting hurt Coach Martelli’s efforts to make Saint Joseph’s competitive in the conference. The Dukes and Minutemen were able to exploit the Hawks’ board problems. That a team with two senior backcourt players has a freshman (Carl Jones) taking over 25% of the team’s shots is not a good sign. Especially when the freshman is not converting efficiently.

Saint Joseph’s opens a three game homestand on Wednesday (2/3) when Richmond comes to town. They will follow with St. Bonaventure on Saturday (2/6).

St. Bonaventure

Coach Schmidt’s squad suffered a double digit loss to Dayton, 75-58, Saturday (1/30). The turnover problems, combined with lack of offensive rebounding undercut the Bonnies’ shooting efficiency (48.5%, a point above the conference average). But if St. Bonaventure is to make a second half run this season they will need to cut down on fouling. They should be able to get a start on that as they host St. Louis, one of the least aggressive offensive teams in the conference, Wednesday (2/3), followed by a trip to Philadelphia to take on the Hawks Saturday (2/6). The Hawks’ FTA/FGA in conference play is a relatively modest 32.2%.

St. Louis

St. Louis comes off of their worst offensive performance of the season, a stunning 62-36 defeat at Richmond. Failing to crack 40 points can play with a team’s confidence. The Billikens have suffered through bad shooting nights (Notre Dame, Charlotte) without losing contact with their opponent. Turnovers killed Coach Majerus’ team. Paradoxically, St. Louis has logged a better than average eFG% in conference games, but turnovers (the Billikens lose better than one in five of their possessions) undermine their offensive efficiency. Ah youth. The good news about freshmen is that they will become sophomores.

The Billikens host St. Bonaventure on Wednesday (2/3) then go back on the road for a game with La Salle on Saturday (2/6). Both the Billikens and Explorers are looking for conference credibility and a strong finish.

Temple

The Owls dropped their game in Charlotte, an ugly 74-64 scramble, on Wednesday (1/27). They bounced back with a 12 point win over La Salle on Saturday (1/30). Projected by Ken Pomeroy to finish strong, the Owls need offense from Ryan Brooks and Juan Fernandez (with help from Lavoy Allen and Scootie Randall).

Temple hosts Duquesne on Wednesday (2/3), and then back on the road for a conference showdown with Richmond on Saturday (2/6). Taking the Saturday game would put distance between Temple, Xavier and Charlotte, and the group nipping at their heels, Richmond and Rhode Island.

Xavier

The Musketeers stayed ahead of the pack with two more conference wins last week, an 86-50 drubbing of the Dukes on Thursday (1/28), followed by a 108-60 destruction of Fordham on Saturday (1/30). Those games closed a three game home stand for Xavier, as the Musketeers take to the road for a game with Massachusetts on Wednesday (2/3) followed with their mirror game with Dayton on Saturday (2/6). While Jordan Crawford draws a lot of defensive attention, Jamel McLean and Jason Love are cleaning up with very high scoring efficiencies. Terrell Holloway’s shooting efficiency is less impressive, but the sophomore guard does a great job of setting up his teammates for scores. Holloway and Crawford both are top 500 players in assist rate and turnovers (they don’t). Two characteristics that a winning team looks for in their back court.

Games to Catch

  • Xavier at Dayton Saturday 2/6 — The Musketeers come to call on the Flyers in a game with conference and postseason implications. Lose this and Xavier gives ground in the loss column to Temple and Charlotte, but should Dayton fail, the Flyers, heavy preseason favorites to take the regular season title, would fall three games off the pace, and leave more than a few wondering if Dayton will, even in an off year in the BCS conferences, get back to the Dance. Rhode Island snapped Dayton’s 30 game home winning streak last weekend. How likely is that Dayton will drop a second home game this season?
  • Temple at Richmond Saturday 2/6 — The Owls have a strong road record, 8-2 overall, 2-1 in conference. Richmond, located in the two-loss cluster behind Xavier, Temple and Charlotte, cannot afford to drop another loss off the pace. The Spider backcourt will have their hands full with senior Ryan Brooks, who has been hot since December. If Juan Fernandez gets on a roll from the perimeter, Richmond may have trouble keeping up. David Gonzalvez will have to have a good day.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on January 20th, 2010

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

Efficiency Differentials

The Atlantic 10 teams have played just over 20% of their conference schedule (as of Sunday, 1/17); every team has posted three or four games to the conference ledger. I might be a week (maybe?) early for conference-only efficiency differentials (offensive points per possession – defensive points per possession), but I was curious to see what the numbers and rankings could tell me now…

Xavier may have the most wins, but Temple has the largest positive differential. The Owls’ toughest win was on the road over Rhode Island (and a bit of a surprise because Rhode Island is ranked second), and that trumps the Musketeers’ home win over Dayton last Saturday (though that one is impressive given the progress Xavier has made since the beginning of the season). Are you surprised that, having absorbed a loss against Temple, the Runnin’ Rams of Rhode Island are ranked second? Consider that their next two opponents, Saint Joseph’s and Fordham, are #13 and #14 respectively. Blame the unbalanced nature of all conference schedules at this point in the season for a number of quirks. Rhode Island embarks on a two-game road trip, with stops in Cincinnati (Xavier) and Dayton, beginning on Saturday (1/23). That trip should clear up a few questions about Rhode Island, not to mention Dayton and Xavier. Even though it is early, the differentials do confirm that Saint Joseph’s and Fordham are struggling. That will most likely continue through the rest of the season.

Standings as of – 01/19/10

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

Team Breakdowns

Charlotte

Crushed in the first half 44-28, at Xavier, the 49ers rallied to “win” the second half 46-42, but it was not enough, however, as they came up on the short end of a 12-point decision 86-74 on Wednesday (1/13). Four starters, led by junior forward An’Juan Wilderness’ 15 points, scored in double digits. Charlotte beat Xavier on the boards 32-28, but that was not enough as the 49ers shot a terrible 9% from beyond the arc. They bounced back against St. Louis on Sunday (1/17) with a 63-61 overtime win in Halton Arena. Junior forward Shamari Spears played nearly 40 minutes and, along with freshman forward Chris Braswell, led all scorers with 16 points. Spears logged his seventh career double-double, the first with Charlotte. The win came with a price however, as senior forward RaShad Coleman suffered an avulsion fracture of the patella from the base of his left kneecap during the overtime period in the game. The senior, having taken an outlet pass from Dijuan Harris, put in a layup that gave Charlotte a 59-54 lead, but landed badly after. Most likely his career at Charlotte is over.

Next up for the 49ers is a trip to St. Louis for a game at the Chaifetz on Wednesday (1/20), followed by another trip to Philadelphia for a Saturday (1/23) game with La Salle.

Dayton

Luke Fabrizius’ 13 points led the Flyers over Fordham 74-58 on Wednesday (1/13). They shot an impressive 42% (8-19) from beyond the arc, as they posted their second conference win. Dayton traveled to Cincinnati and dropped their game at Xavier 78-74, on Saturday (1/16). Although they led at halftime 39-36, Coach Gregory’s squad could not hold off the Musketeers in the second half. Xavier came back to tie 39-all at the 19-minute mark of the second half, and the Flyers could not stop Kenny Frease from putting the Musketeers up by two with a layup on Xavier’s next possession. The two teams wrestled over the next four minutes, tying the score four times and exchanging the lead three more times before Xavier took over with about 14 minutes to play. Dayton’s Marcus Johnson shared scoring honors, 17 points, with his backcourt opponent, Terrell Holloway. Chris Johnson led rebounders (Dayton won the boards by a large margin — 48-28) with 16 and posted his third double-double of the season, and his second in the last three games. The Flyers lost their 26th straight game at Xavier, 78-74, on Saturday (1/16). Pushing a lead out to seven points twice in the first half, Dayton took a three point lead into the locker room. Coach Gregory’s squad fell behind by eight at the 2:51 mark of the second half, but after whittling Xaviers’ lead down to three with 0:48, they could not stop Jordan Crawford on Xavier’s next possession. They had it down to two with 0:03 left, but the change of possession foul put Terrell Holloway on the line, and the junior guard converted both free throws to ice the game. Marcus Johnson paced the Flyers with 17 points; he was one of four Flyers in double figures. Chris Johnson logged his third double-double of the season.

The Flyers will host George Washington on Wednesday (1/20), and then travel to Philadelphia for a game with the Saint Joseph’s Hawks on Saturday (1/23).

Duquesne

The Dukes dropped a double-overtime decision to St. Louis on Wednesday (1/13), 79-75. Damian Saunders played the entire 50 minutes (regulation plus two overtime periods) and paced Duquesne with a game-high 23 points on 9-21 (0-2, 9-19) and 5-7 shooting. Saunders made it a game-leading double-double, (his 14th of season, leading all of D1) as he also grabbed a game-high 17 (10-7-17) rebounds. Getting more offensive than defensive rebounds is unusual, and getting double-digit offensive rebounds more unusual still. Bill Clark notched his fifth career double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Melquan Bolding logged 5 minutes of the 50 minutes allocated by regulation and two overtime periods. Strep throat was blamed for a missed practice and the limited action. Bolding has yet to his stride, but the Dukes clearly need him now.

Duquesne will take to the road for a game with Rhode Island on Wednesday (1/20), then return home to host the Bonnies on Saturday (1/23).

Fordham

Fordham extended its consecutive loss run by two more over the last week. After dropping a 16-point decision (74-58) to Dayton, they lost to Rhode Island 85-67, an 18 point loss. Both were home games for the Rams, but there was no advantage for the Fordham Rams. Brent Butler, relying on volume shooting, scored 20 points on 18 attempts against Dayton. Chris Gaston secured eight rebounds, though the Flyers clearly outrebounded the Rams. Gaston logged his ninth double-double, as he paced Fordham with 29 points and 16 (10-6-16) rebounds on 13-24 (0-0, 13-24) and 3-6 shooting. Butler chipped in 19 points

Next up for Fordham is a visit with the Billikens in St. Louis on Wednesday (1/20), and then back to the Bronx to host the Temple Owls on Saturday (1/23).

George Washington

George Washington dropped a heartbreaker to the Explorers on Wednesday (1/13), 65-64 in Philadelphia. In a game decided on the very last possession, Aaron Ware scored four points in the last 1:08 to close the deficit to a single point. Damian Hollis forced a La Salle turnover with 0:08 on the clock, but Travis King left a three point attempt on the rim as time expired. Damian Hollis and Aaron Ware paced the Colonials with 17 and 16 points respectively. Hollis made his a double-double, the ninth of his career and his first this season, as he grabbed 10 rebounds.

The Colonials go to Dayton to play the Flyers on Wednesday (1/20), and then return to DC to host Richmond on Saturday (1/23).

La Salle

Dr. Giannini’s squad won a nail-biter against George Washington 65-64, on Wednesday (1/13). Down one  at the half, the Explorers outscored the Colonials 34-32 in the second half to take the decision. In a game that saw 11 ties and 12 lead changes, the Explorers took the lead for good, 61-59, on a Rodney Green layup with 2:43 remaining. The Explorers stretched their lead out to five, 65-60 on four made free throws. The Colonials closed with an Aaron Ware-one man scoring rush in the last 1:08, but La Salle survived. La Salle freshman center Aaric Murray led all scorers with 21 points on 9-11 (2-2, 7-9) and 1-1 shooting. Yves Mekongo Mbala and Rodney Green each chipped in double-digit points, 17 and 15 respectively. The Explorers could get no bounce out of the win however, as they dropped a road game 67-63, to Richmond on Saturday (1/16). In contrast to his effort against George Washington, Aaric Murray took the “high volume” shooting route to a double-double night. The freshman scored 19 points to go with his 15 (3-12-15) rebounds as he recorded his fourth double-double of the season, the first in conference play. Junior Jerrell Williams, who shot 6-9 (0-0, 6-9) and 2-2 scored his 14 points far more efficiently (66.7% – eFG%) than Murray did his 19 (42.5% – eFG%) or Green his 10 (41.8% – eFG%). Unfortunately Williams took only 19.1% of the shots when he was on the floor, to Murray’s 39.0% and Green’s 22.2%.

La Salle travels across town Wednesday (1/20) to play Big 5 rival Penn at the Palestra, then hosts Charlotte on Saturday (1/23).

Massachusetts

Their two-game road trip last week was disappointing. Derek Kellogg’s team is a bit young (at 1.24 years, they are ranked #304 out of 346, according to Ken Pomeroy’s Scout Page), but dropping an overtime decision by seven points to Richmond had to hurt. The Minutemen made up their three-point first half deficit, but despite having two possessions in the last minute, were unable to convert and take the win. They were outscored 17-10 in the extra period. Freshman Freddie Riley’s game-high 20 points paced Massachusetts for the second consecutive game. Senior guard Ricky Harris chipped in 17 points on a high volume 8-21 (1-6, 7-15) and 1-1 shooting.

The Minutemen will host St. Bonaventure on Wednesday (1/20), then take a break from conference play, travel to Texas and play the Baylor Bears of the Big 12, on Saturday (1/23).

Rhode Island

The Runnin’ Rams nickname was well earned as Rhode Island dispatched Saint Joseph’s by a 27-point margin, 101-74, on Wednesday (1/13). Senior forward Delroy James scored a career best 24 points on 8-12 (3-6, 5-6) and 5-8 night. Freshman guard Akeem Richmond also had a career night, nearly matching James’ 24 points with 21 of his own. Richmond shot 8-14 (5-8, 3-6) and 0-0 for an efficient 67.9% eFG%. They followed the Saint Joseph’s game with another impressive outing, an 85-67, 17 point win over the Fordham Rams, on Saturday (1/16). Senior guard Keith Cothran scored 26 points, while Lamonte Ulmer recorded a career-high 24 points to complement his double-double (14 rebounds). This was Ulmer’s third double-double of the season and the fifth of his career.

After hosting the Dukes on Wednesday (1/20), the Rams run off to Cincinnati, OH, for a game with Xavier on Saturday (1/23), the first game in a two game road trip that takes them to Dayton for a game with the Flyers on Tuesday (1/26).

Richmond

The Spiders came from behind to knot the Minutemen at 53 and force an overtime period last Wednesday (1/13). They had ceded a three point lead to Massachusetts but managed to outscore their young opponents 17-10 during overtime to seal the victory.  The Spiders’ scoring triumvirate of Kevin Anderson, David Gonzalvez and Justin Harper each scored double-digit points, 19, 16 and 12 respectively, to bring the win home. The Spiders followed that win with another, this one over La Salle, 67-63, on Saturday (1/16). Up by nine 38-29, at the half, the Spiders withstood an Explorer 6-2 run which brought the visitors to within 5, 40-35 with 16:34 to play. Another push by the Explorers trimmed the Spiders’ cushion to 2, 50-48 about 7:30 later. Coach Mooney’s squad gathered themselves, took a 5-2 run to build a seven-point cushion, and did not allow the Explorers to get closer than three thereafter. Anderson, Gonzalvez and Harper again led the Spiders, scoring 21, 12 and 11 points respectively. Sophomore Darrius Garrett gathered six rebounds to pace Richmond rebounders.

Richmond hosts Charlotte on Wednesday (1/20), then travel to George Washington for a Saturday (1/23) game.

Saint Joseph’s

Coach Martelli’s squad played three games in five days, going 1-2 in the process. On Wednesday (1/13) they traveled to Kingston, RI, and lost a 101-74 decision to Rhode Island. Darrin Govens (15), Garrett Williamson (14) and Charoy Bentley (10) scored double-digit points. The second road game was played in Olean, NY, 68-65 on Saturday (1/16) against St. Bonaventure. The upperclassmen, senior guards Darrin Govens and Garrett Williamson, along with junior forward Idris Hilliard led the way with 15, 12 and 12 points respectively. Hilliard hauled in seven rebounds, matching sophomore center Todd O’Brien’s efforts. How did O’Brien score 11 points while taking five field goal attempts? He lived at the line, taking 12 free throw attempts for his five FGAs. That is an FTA/FGA of 240.0%. O’Brien’s 12.0% offensive rebounding rate is very promising. The Hawks took a break from conference play to host Towson of the CAA conference on Monday (1/18). They beat the Pat Kennedy-coached Tigers 64-57 at the Hagan Arena on campus to hold their run of losses to two. Idris Hilliard led the way with 20 points on 8-12 and 4-5 shooting. Freshman Justin Crosgile helped with 13 points on 4-7 (3-5, 1-2) and 2-2 shooting. Senior Garrett Williamson added 12 points in 40 minutes of play.

The Hawks will host Dayton on Saturday (1/23), and then take a second break from conference play for a tilt with Big 5 rival Penn at the Palestra.

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies recorded their first conference win, a 68-65 squeaker, on Saturday (1/16), complements of Saint Joseph’s. Michael Davenport, Andrew Nicholson and Malcolm Eleby powered St. Bonaventure’s offense with both volume and efficient scoring. Davenport matched his season high with 19 points with a 61.5% eFG% performance. He used his 32.9% shot rate (high for a D1 player) very efficiently garnering a 113.9 offensive rating. Eleby, with 10 points in 18 minutes of play, notching a 60.0% eFG% while taking 21.8% of the shots when he was on the court provided the Bonnies with a bit of efficiency. Nicholson converted efficiently (a 63.6 eFG%) and prolifically, scoring 16 points with 11 field goal attempts. His offensive efficiency (95.2) was hurt by a 26% turnover rate. Losing one in four of your possessions is a rally killer waiting to happen.

Coach Schmidt’s squad travels to Amherst on Wednesday (1/20), to play Massachusetts, then to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne on Saturday (1/23).

St. Louis

The Billikens completed a two game road swing last week. Good news greeted the squad at the first stop, as St. Louis defeated Duquesne 79-75 in overtime on Wednesday (1/13), but lost to Charlotte, 63-61 (also in overtime), at the second stop on Sunday (1/17). The best news of the trip may have been Australian Cody Ellis, a 6’8, 240 pound forward from Perth, Australia, who became eligible in time for St. Louis’ 1/9 game with Richmond. In his first three games Ellis has scored 10, 14 and 11 points. Ellis is not afraid to shoot, and for the offense-starved Billikens, that is not a bad thing. Kwamain Mitchell led St. Louis with 19 points, while Kyle Cassity chipped in 15. Ellis posted a double-double, garnering 11 rebounds to go with his 14 points. Versus Charlotte, Jon Smith, a 6’5 freshman forward paced St. Louis with a career-high 15 points. Three others, Kwamain Mitchell (12), Cody Ellis (11) and Willie Reed (10) scored 10 or more points in the losing effort.

St. Louis hosts Fordham on Wednesday (1/20), then take off a week. The Billikens return to action when they travel to Washington DC to play the Colonials of GWU on Wednesday (1/27).

Temple

Coach Dunphy’s squad climbed to #17 in the AP poll this Monday (1/17) and with good reason. Having dispatched the Penn Quakers in a Big 5 contest on Wednesday (1/13) 60-45, the Owls know they are halfway to the first Big 5 Championship of the decade. If the score doesn’t seem particularly impressive given the state of the Quaker program (Coach Glen Miller was fired earlier in the season), consider that Dunphy coached at Penn for 17 seasons, before moving over to Broad Street. And Penn’s interim head coach, Jerome Allen, played ball for Coach Dunphy’s Penn teams in the mid 1990s. Guard Ryan Brooks continued his run by posting a game-high 15 points. Point guard Juan Fernandez added 12 points. Temple returned to conference play with a win over visiting Massachusetts 76-64, on Saturday (1/16). Brooks and Fernandez were effective yet again, scoring 29 and 15 points respectively. Junior forward Lavoy Allen gathered 14 (5-9-14) rebounds.

The Owls host the Musketeers on Wednesday (1/20), and then off to the Bronx for a game against Fordham on Saturday (1/23).

Xavier

Xavier had a two-game home stand last week, leading off with a visit from Charlotte, whom they defeated 86-74 on Wednesday (1/13). Jordan Crawford led all scorers with 18 points, with support from Dante Jackson (14 points), sophomore guard Brad Redford (12 points) and Jason Love (10 points). They were not good hosts on Saturday (1/16) either, as the Musketeers beat Dayton 78-74, at the Cintas Center for the 25th time since 1981. Losing the lead at the 4-minute mark of the first half, Xavier went to the locker room down 3 39-36. The X-men knotted the score at the 19-minute mark of the second half, and retook the lead on the next possession on a Kenny Fraese layup. Over the next four minutes the game saw four ties and three lead changes, but the Musketeers took the lead for good at the 14:32 mark and did not look back. Xavier nursed a lead as high as six and as low as one through the last 14 minutes, closing the Flyers out with a mix of jumpers and layups, masking a shaky showing (4-6) at the free throw line. Dante Jackson led all scorers with 19 points on 6-13 (5-8, 1-5) and 2-2 shooting. Jordan Crawford (16), Terrell Holloway (15) and Jason Love (10) all chipped in at least 10 points apiece.

Coach Mack’s squad travels to Philadelphia for an early season meeting with Temple on Wednesday (1/20), then return home to host Rhode Island on Saturday (1/23). Hosting Dayton on 1/16, followed by these two opponents has made this an especially rough week for the Musketeers.

Games to Catch

  • Richmond at Charlotte – Wednesday 1/20 — Is Richmond ready for the next step? A move up to the top spots in the conference won’t come until the Spiders can secure their home court and then go out and win on the road. With a home record of 7-0 and an efficiency differential of .215, Richmond would appear to have the first test covered. A road win over the 49ers would put them on the road to covering the second.
  • Xavier at Temple – Wednesday 1/20 — The schedule maker must have seen something in the off season that most of us missed, as he (or she?) scheduled a second “sorting out” game in two weeks. The Musketeers travel to Philadelphia to play the Owls. Jordan Crawford should give Ryan Brooks all he can handle, and the Jason Love – Lavoy Allen matchup should be pretty good too.
  • Rhode Island at Xavier – Saturday 1/23 — The Flyers last Saturday, the Owls on Wednesday and then the Rams the Saturday following. The Musketeers might be gunning for a 3-0 sweep (that would really scramble the A10 race), but 2-1 would be a good outcome. The Delroy James – Jason Love/Kenny Fraese matchup should be entertaining. Keith Cothran and Jordan Crawford might turn this into a game of HORSE.
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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 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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A Shootout To Remember

Posted by jstevrtc on December 14th, 2009

This fall I’ve had the pleasure to travel around a little and attend several college basketball games as a media member, but as I walked by the loading docks and into the back of the Cintas Center on Sunday night, I felt it as soon as I got inside.  I’ve attended Xavier basketball games on a media credential in the past, but this time, the buzz, the sounds, the aura…

This was different.

I had expected a different experience, because this was my first Crosstown Shootout.  But this was beyond expectation.  I made a quick detour through the media room and, without being asked, one of the very helpful Xavier Sports Info workers showed me to my seat.  I was positioned just around the corner from the Cincinnati bench, a short bounce pass away from UC head coach Mick Cronin, himself.  If you’re familiar with the Cintas Center setup, you’ve probably already realized — I was right in front of the Xavier student section. 

Total.  Freaking.  Mayhem.

Now, that period-after-every-word emphasis thing you see above is an overused tool by everyone ranging from amateur tweeters (myself included) to professional sportswriters (myself not included), and it’s losing a little luster.  I use it here because…well, if I had to use it once in my life to get a point across, this is when I would choose to use it.  As I said, I’ve been to a number of games in this part of the country this season.  The only way I can think to describe this particular student section on this night is…”beautifully ridiculous.”  I turned around, saw their painted faces and myriad noise-producing implements, heard the unbelievable roar that flowed from them, and I honestly thought I’d see Mel Gibson as William Wallace riding around in front of them on a horse.  They were both exhilarating and horrifying.  And I mean that in the best way possible.  I didn’t grow up in Cincinnati, I didn’t go to either one of these schools, and I brought no allegiance with me for either program to this game.  I was there as an observer.  But they numbered in the hundreds and sounded like thousands.  They were already putting in a legendary performance — and the game hadn’t even tipped off.

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ATB: The A-10 Rises. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on December 13th, 2009

atb
In our first college football-free weekend of the season (except for Mark Ingram’s Heisman and ESPN’s phenomenal documentary on “The U”) we had quite a few interesting story lines from the weekend, but one stood out on Sunday — the pair of upset victories by Atlantic 10 teams over highly ranked Big East teams in crosstown rivalry games (Temple against Villanova and Xavier against Cincinnati). Not only does it give those individual programs some bragging rights and a much needed boost on the recruiting trail, but it also gives a huge lift to the national perception of the Atlantic 10 and might cause some consternation amongst the Big East fans who like to promote their conference as the best in the nation for college basketball.

A great night for Xavier and the A-10 (Credit: AP/David Kohl)

A great night for Xavier and the A-10 (Credit: AP/David Kohl)

The A-10 Rising

  • Xavier 78, #19 Cincinnati 75 (2 OT). This might not be as shocking to the rest of the nation, but it might go down as the game of the year so far. It had a little bit of everything you could ask for in a game at this point of the season. Bitter rivalry? Check. Physical play? Check. Biting fan chants? Check (Brian Kelly). Big comeback? Check. Buzzer beater? Check (later waved off). National TV audience? Not so much thanks to ESPNU’s sparse national penetration, but RTC Live was there. In the end it was Terrell Holloway‘s 26 points and Jason Love‘s 19 rebounds that were the difference as the Musketeers overcame 22 points from Lance Stephenson in a game where neither team led by more than 4 points during the last 19 minutes of the game and that was only after the Bearcats fouled Xavier in an attempt to get the ball back when Dion Dixon missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied the game with 21 seconds left in the second overtime.  To get a really good feel as to how intense this game was, definitely read our accounting from RTC Live above and check the highlight package below.

  • Temple 75, #3 Villanova 65: The Owls used an 11-0 run to start the 2nd half to overcome a 6-point deficit at halftime to knock off the Wildcats. The story of the game was Juan Fernandez who scored 33 points including 7 of 9 from 3-point range to knock off the highest ranked Big East team coming into the weekend. While the casual basketball fan will consider this a huge upset, those of us who follow college basketball closely knew that this would be a tough game for Jay Wright‘s crew against a team that had only lost by one to Georgetown (still undefeated) and St. John’s (only one loss by nine against Duke). The Wildcats managed to keep it relatively close with 23 from Scottie Reynolds, 16 from Antonio Pena, and 14 from Corey Fisher, but in the end it wasn’t enough to overcome Fernandez, 20 points from Ryan Brooks, and 10 points and 17 rebounds from Lavoy Allen. The loss was just the 2nd loss for Villanova in their last 23 games against one of their Big 5 rivals. After the victory, the fans began chanting, “We want Kansas!” in reference to their upcoming game on January 2nd. We love what the Owls have done so far this season, but the student body might want to be careful what they wish for because they might just get it. One bright spot for Villanova fans: Reggie Redding (think he might have been helpful against Allen today?) will return to action against Fordham on Saturday in his first action since he was suspended ten games for his arrest for possession of marijuana and other drug paraphernalia.

In other action…

Saturday’s Games.

  • #1 Kansas 90, La Salle 65: The Jayhawks were able to overcame an off-night from Sherron Collins (1/12 FG) thanks to a season-high 31 points from Xavier Henry (the last KU freshman to score 30 points in a game was some guy named Paul Pierce) and a 12-point, 12-rebound effort from Markieff Morris. Cole Aldrich added 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 blocks while Tyshawn Taylor had 10 points and 6 assists with no turnovers. The Jayhawks’ next two games should be a bit more competitive as they face a pair of teams—Michigan (12/19) and California (12/22)—that have failed to live up to preseason expectations, but both have a lot of talent.

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RTC Live: Cincinnati @ Xavier

Posted by rtmsf on December 13th, 2009

RTCLive

For just about any college basketball fan, It’s one of those games that you find on the schedule and immediately circle.  If you’re from the Cincinnati area and you’ve got a dog in this fight, then it’s even more important.  Since the 1927-28 season, these two teams have come together every year in a tradition known as — say it with me — the Crosstown Shootout.  Cincinnati owns a 47-29 lead but Xavier has won seven of the last ten.  Jordan Crawford and Jason Love battle in the hopes of getting Xavier into the Top 25 and increase their role on the national stage, while Lance Stephenson, Yancy Gates, and Cashmere Wright try to move the Bearcats up the polls now that they’re back on the scene.  There’s no love lost between these two programs and this is certainly a game both of these teams would love to have on the tournament resume.  We’ll be there starting at 6:45 pm ET, so tune in the game and join us as well!

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