Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2011

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

The Week That Was:

How They Measure Up: Results by Conference

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

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

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RTC Conference Primers: #8 – Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 30th, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can find him on Twitter @vbtnBlog.

Reader’s Take I

The A-10 has earned three invitations to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons. Xavier and Temple, as they have for the past two seasons, will claim two bids.

Top Storylines

Xavier's Tu Holloway Is A First-Team All-American Candidate And One Of The Nation's Best Seniors

  • A-10 to Barclays in 2013: Barclays Center, under construction in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is in the market for multi-day sporting events while the Atlantic 10 is looking for a bigger stage for their post season tournament — a perfect match perhaps? The two announced a deal late last month that will move the 2012-13 A-10 Conference Tournament to the 675,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue that will feature an 18,000 seat arena for basketball. The Atlantic 10 has vacillated between rotating campus sites and a “permanent neutral” site since the first conference tournament in 1976-77. The current location since the 2006-07 tournament, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, is a 10,500 seat amphitheater. While technically neutral, the attendance is up when one or more of the Philadelphia contingent (La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and/or Temple) advances to the quarterfinal round and beyond, and down when they do not. The conference will return to Boardwalk Hall for their 2011-12 tournament, then move over to Barclays Center the following season.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 15th, 2010

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

A Look Back

Measuring Up: How does the A-10 compare to the other conference? With 65% of the conference teams’ out of conference schedule completed, the conference-wide out of conference record stands at 71-52, for a winning percentage of 0.577. Though the conference has scheduled games with teams affiliated with a vast majority of the Division-I conferences, they are concentrated, by and large, in the regions they share with those conferences. I have included the composite records for the six BCS conferences and a number of those conferences who share geography with one or more of the A-10 teams.

Of the 189 scheduled games, that over 58% of the games are scheduled with just ten conferences located along the Atlantic seaboard (from Maine to Georgia) and the upper Midwest reflects the A-10’s large geographical footprint. The Big East (19) and Colonial Athletic Association (CAA — 17) drew the largest share of games, again not a surprise considering the number of historic rivalries shared by teams in those two conferences with their A-10 counterparts. The Mid-American Conference (MAC) overlaps the regions covered by Xavier, Dayton and Saint Bonaventure, but the team that scheduled the largest share of MAC opponents was Temple (five), entirely due to the fact that the Owls, MAC members for football, are required by that arraignment to schedule five basketball games with MAC opponents each season. Individual team records versus the Big East (7-8 with four games pending), SEC (2-1 with four games pending), the Big 12 (1-4) and ACC (1-2 with seven games pending) have served as fairly reliable barometers for NCAA postseason prospects. Xavier, one of only two teams that recorded a winning record versus their Big East opponents last season, received an at-large bid. Temple, the other team, earned the conference’s automatic bid. Losing records versus the six BCS conferences (otherwise known as the “power conferences”) are common for conferences below the Red Line, but the A-10 can usually post a record better than the red line number (about an 18% winning percentage). The 40% winning percentage versus the Big Ten is especially gratifying, given that one of those wins was Richmond over Purdue back in November. With a 2-1 record versus the Pac-10 to this point, the conference is guaranteed no worse than a 0.500 (2-2) pending the result of the George Washington-Oregon State rematch this Saturday. Both Richmond and Dayton have a road date with the Big East’s Seton Hall coming the week after Christmas. Outcomes will be important for the Musketeers and Flyers, but also for the Pirates. All three teams nurture aspirations for NCAA bids, and the winners will definitely have a head-to-head comparison advantage come Selection Sunday.

Winning composite records versus lesser conferences are not surprising. The A-10’s record versus the CAA (5-7 with five games pending) and the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC – 4-3 with three games pending) this season, however, is puzzling. Conference teams stumbled badly in games with members from the CAA and the MAAC, but results have improved (despite St. Bonaventure’s loss to Niagara and Dayton’s loss to Old Dominion last weekend) versus both, and there are enough games remaining to bring those records to 0.500 or better.

Power Rankings

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

1. Richmond (8-2)

Last Week: 12/11 vs. Virginia Commonwealth 72-60

Next Week: 12/18 vs. Georgia Tech

The Spiders broke a six-game losing streak against their cross-town rivals Virginia Commonwealth last Saturday, even as senior guard Kevin Anderson moved into fifth place in the Spiders’ all-time scoring list with his game-high 21 point performance. The Spiders pushed the lead out to 30 points early in the second half, and led by 29 at the 12 minute mark, before the Rams closed the gap with a 31-14 run in the last eight minutes. Sophomore guard Darius Brothers (12) and senior wing Justin Harper (16) also scored in double figures in the win. Richmond could not limit VCU’s super forward Jamie Skeen, who scored a team-high 14 points, but they locked down the Rams’ heralded guard trio, Joey Rodriguez, Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell, limiting the three to a combined 16 points on 4-25 (1-10, 3-15) and 7-7 shooting.

2. Temple (7-2)

Last Week: 1/2/9 vs. Georgetown 68-65, 12/12 vs. Akron 82-47

Next Week: 12/18 vs. Northern Illinois

The Owls are back in stride, as their 68-65 win over Georgetown last Thursday demonstrated. After leading, largely by double digits, through most of the game, the Owls had to blunt a Hoya rush at the end to preserve Fran Dunphy’s 400th head coaching victory. Off-guard Ramone Moore was on, scoring a career-high 30 points on 12-18 (2-2, 10-16) and 4-4 shooting to secure game-high honors. The junior guard posted a very strong 72.2% eFG% and 1.51 PPWS for his efforts and earning an Honorable Mention from the conference. The Hoyas reverted to 2009 season form by losing a very high 25.4% of their possessions. Dunphy’s team easily disposed of the Akron Zips, the third of five scheduled MAC opponents on this season’s slate. They will play Northern Illinois next Saturday and Ohio four days later, before they can return to finish up the rest of their out of conference schedule.

3. Dayton (6-2)

Last Week: 12/7 vs. Central Connecticut 63-61, 12/11 @Old Dominion 71-74

Next Week: 12/18 vs. Western Carolina, 12/20 vs. Winthrop 

The Flyers went 1-1 on the week as junior forward Chris Johnson drew a conference Honorable Mention for averaging 21.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in the week’s two games. The Central Connecticut game was too close, but the Monarchs of Old Dominion are the class of the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA), so the road loss, especially by the small margin, should not tarnish Dayton’s NCAA resume too much – not as much as the hiccup versus East Tennessee State. The key will be to limit additional losses, which may be difficult, given the Flyers will close out their out of conference schedule with a road game at Seton Hall followed by a two game home stand that features George Mason and New Mexico.

4. Xavier (6-2)

Last Week: 12/9 vs. Butler 51-49

Next Week: 12/18 vs. Wake Forest

As expected, the X-men beat Butler, albeit by a smaller-than-expected margin. Still adjusting to life without Brad Redford, Xavier’s lack of accuracy from beyond the arc has taken a valuable weapon out of their offensive arsenal. Ken Pomeroy has the Musketeers ranked #313 out of 345 for three point accuracy. Xavier has adjusted by taking fewer three point attempts (only 31.4% of their field goal attempts are threes). Lacking accuracy, Coach Chris Mack’s squad compounds the problem by not getting after the offensive boards (Ken Pomeroy ranks Xavier #253 in this category), something of a double penalty for the lack of accuracy. Wake Forest should be another win, as the Deacons are in bad straits, sporting a 5-4 record under new head coach Jeff Bzdelik.

5. Massachusetts (7-3)

Last Week: 12/8 vs. Maine 56-68, 12/11 vs. Seton Hall 79-104

Next Week: Next game is 12/22 vs. Central Florida

Coach Derek Kellogg’s team is struggling with a three-game losing streak that dates back to their 12/4 game with Boston College. While the nucleus of Javorn Farrell, Freddy Riley and Anthony Gurley has emerged as the offensive engine, only Gurley to this point has proven a reliable offensive option. Farell in particular is struggling, especially with his two-point field goal attempts (40.6% from inside the arc). The Minutemen will have to wait until Central Florida visits on December 22 to try and stop the run at three.

6. Rhode Island (6-4)

Last Week: 12/8 @ Northeastern 79-67, 12/11 @ Quinnipiac 66-73

Next Week: 12/18 vs. New Hampshire

The Runnin’ Rams broke their two game skid with a 12 point-win over the Huskies of Northeastern last Wednesday, but the boo birds were out in force as fans sensed Rhodi’s post season prospects were severely reduced with their road loss to Quinnipiac last Saturday. Senior forward Delroy James drew his fifth consecutive weekly conference Honorable Mention as he led his Rhode Island team in four separate categories (scoring, rebounds, assists and steals) in the Rams’ win over Northeastern. Though Rhode Island has two more potential signature wins (Boston College at home 12/29 and Florida on the road 1/3) on their out of conference schedule, fans who sense Rhodi’s post season prospects are slipping away are directing a good deal of vitriol at Jim Baron. Rhode Island also received a verbal from 6’9 Jonathan Holton, a power forward out of Coral Gables HS in Florida. The high school senior, a Euro-style scorer, will need to put on some muscle and develop a handle to add another element to his game. Baron has had difficulty bringing in early verbals (Kyle Cain, Billy Baron…), so here is hoping Holton breaks that run of bad luck early verbals, and joins the program for the 2011-12 season.

7. La Salle (6-4)

Last Week: 12/9 @ Boston University 84-81, 12/11 vs. Villanova 81-84

Next Week: 12/17 vs. Bucknell

A good win at Boston University was partially negated by a one possession home loss to #13 ranked Villanova out of the Big East. The Explorers led by as much as 12 in the first half, and by nine midway through the second half, but Aaric Murray’s fourth foul at the 17:35 mark of the second half took one of the Explorers’ difference-makers off the floor for nearly ten minutes when the game was on the line. Junior Jerrell Williams earned an Honorable Mention from the conference for his 13 points on 4-10 (0-0, 4-10) and 5-5 shooting at BU and 20 points on 8-13 (0-0, 8-13) and 4-5 shooting versus Nova.

8. St. Bonaventure (5-3)

Last Week: 12/7 @ St. John’s 67-66, 12/11 vs. Niagara 61-65

Next Week: 12/18 vs. Ohio

The week had the Bonnies taking one step forward and one step back, as St. Bonaventure combined with Fordham to do a tag-team on St. John’s of the Big East, but then dropping a five point decision to Little Four rival Niagara four days later. Coach Mark Schmidt’s squad bested Fordham’s feat by beating the Johnnies in their Queens campus facility (Carnesecca Arena). Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson drew his third conference Honorable Mention for averaging a double-double (18.0 points, 12.5 rebounds) for the two games. Nicholson hit the game winner versus St. John’s, and scored his 1,000th point as a Bonnie versus Niagara.

9. Duquesne (4-4)

Last Week: 12/8 @ Wisconsin-Green Bay 81-71, 12/11 vs. West Virginia 61-64

Next Week:  12/18 vs. IUPUI

The Dukes broke their two-game slide with a win over Wisconsin-Green Bay last Wednesday, and took West Virginia to the last possession in their loss on Saturday. Freshman guard TJ McConnell made his quest for Rookie of the Year consideration official when he earned the conference Rookie of the Week honor for scoring team-high points in both of the Dukes’ games last week. McConnell scored 20 points versus Wisconsin-Green Bay on 8-10 shooting from the floor and 2-2 shooting from the line, then followed with 18 points versus West Virginia on a 7-14 outing from the field. Coach Ron Everhart’s squad will not most likely not grow any taller, they currently average, according to Pomeroy, 75.6 inches, good for #300 (out of 345) in D-I, so they might as well play faster. The Dukes currently push it at 71.3 possessions per game, ranked #36 (out of 345) by Ken Pomeroy.

10. Saint Louis (3-4)

Last Week: 12/11 @ Duke 47-84

Next Week: 12/15 vs. Jacksonville, 12/18 @ Missouri State

The game was a systemic failure. The Bills could not stop Duke, nor could (would?) they score consistently on the Blue Devils. The game was played for about 69 possessions, a slightly faster pace than Rick Majerus’ teams usually prefer. Duke converted at a fairly proficient 58.6% eFG%. The Billikens’ turnover rate – 31% — was unusually high for a Majerus-coached squad. This was a game not many could have been optimistic about at the beginning of the season, perhaps it is best to post it to the record book and move on…quickly.

The Billikens have two interesting opponents on tap for next week. Jacksonville sports a 6-2 record, but has problems converting field goal attempts efficiently. The Missouri State Bears dropped a 14 point decision to Oklahoma State last Saturday. While projected (by Ken Pomeroy) to win, the Bears do not steal/force turnovers much (that has to be a relief), foul too much and have difficulty defending the three point line effectively. That last observation should warm the hearts of Billiken faithful, though the Bills’ fate does not rise and fall on their three point efficiency, Saint Louis does convert enough (30.9% as of Sunday) to impact a game.

11. Charlotte (4-6)

Last Week: 12/7 vs. Winthrop 68-57, 12/11 @Davidson 68-82

Next Week: 12/17 vs. Tennessee

The 49ers limped through another 0.500 week, but senior guard Derrio Green drew his first conference Honorable Mention this season as he followed his 10 point output against Winthrop with a team-high 16 points versus Davidson. Sophomore center Chris Braswell also recorded a double digit week with 10 points against Winthrop and 15 against Davidson.

With the announcement that senior forward Shamari Spears had been dismissed from the team, coach Alan Major officially shifted his program into rebuild mode. Spears, a transfer from Boston College who started his second season in the Charlotte program, was slated to play his last year of college ball when he ran afoul of the new head coach over an indiscreet tweet earlier in December and was suspended indefinitely. Though some number of Charlotte fans may have hoped for a reconciliation, that apparently is not the way Major wanted to go.

12. Fordham (5-4)

Last Week: 12/8 vs. Manhattan 73-59, 12/11 vs. St. John’s 84-81

Next Week: Next game 12/22 vs. Kennesaw State

It was weeks like this that Fordham fans could only dream about when Coach Tom Pecora was hired away from Hofstra. With their win over St. John’s last Saturday the Rams of Rose Hill have matched their win total for the past two seasons. Their current winning streak stands at three, the longest run in three seasons, and the first time since December of 2007 that Fordham has sported a record north of .500. Junior guard Brenton Butler was named conference Player of the Week as he followed his 21 point performance versus Manhattan with a 22 point performance against St. John’s. Butler knocked down a jumper with 14 seconds on the clock to push the Rams’ lead out to three, the eventual margin of victory. Good play is becoming contagious as junior forward Kevin Bristol recorded a double-double (11 points, 16 rebounds) versus Manhattan, which sophomore forward Chris Gaston followed on with a double-double (15 points, 13 rebounds) of his own versus St. John’s.

13. George Washington (3-5)

Last Week: 12/8 vs. Towson 73-67

Next Week: 12/18 @Oregon State

The Colonials beat the Towson Tigers and will fly out to the West Coast for a game with Oregon State this weekend.

14. Saint Joseph‘s (3-7)

Last Week: 12/8 vs. Minnesota 73-83, 12/11 @ Creighton 75-82

Next Week: Next game 12/21 vs. Boston University

With the loss over the weekend, the Hawks’ losing streak now sits at five. Phil Martelli’s squad takes next week off and will hopefully find some answers before Saint Joseph’s begins the last stretch of their out of conference schedule against Boston University on December 21.

A Look Ahead

  • The fall semester is winding down. The typical two/three-a-week games will give way to homework, papers and final examinations for the next one-two weeks. Most conference teams have zero or one game this week, with Saint Louis and La Salle jetting out to more exotic places just before or after Christmas to participate in the last round of invitational tournaments.
  • Rhode Island fans have to be anxious for the return of (academically) suspended Orion Outerbridge. If Outerbridge’s returns to good academic standing, he should be able to play as soon as the Fall semester is “officially” over, possibly in time for the Rams’ game with Lafayette on 12/22.
  • St. Louis’ suspended players, Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed, are not due back until the beginning of the spring semester, another (estimated) four-five weeks away. Given the two must reapply for admissions, there is little if no certainty that the two will be back at all.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 8th, 2010

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

A Look Back – Side-by-Side Analyses

A simple method to project winners and losers in conference play involves comparing scores against common opponents. It is crude, but, if timing and conditions are roughly equal, potentially effective for developing a rough sense on how the teams will match up. While the out of conference schedule features 189 games over (roughly) three months, there are quite a few common opponents. The problem with score and margin of victory comparisons is that they do not control for pace. I wanted to match teams that are projected to finish relatively close to each other in the conference rankings, and while this is very early in the season, two side-by-sides looked fairly interesting…

Temple side-by-side with Xavier

Both Temple and Xavier played (and beat) Seton Hall within a nine-day period. Temple may have had a slight advantage on November 12 in that they played the Hall at home, but given it was the season opener, the advantage may not have been that great. The Hall’s leading scorer, Jeremy Hazell, was injured before the Xavier game, another factor to consider in the comparison (that would go against the Musketeers’ defense). As the offensive and defensive efficiencies suggest, defense is decidedly ahead of offense in the first fortnight of D-I play, at least for these two A-10 teams. Seton Hall’s defensive efficiency is, however, consistent with the offensive numbers posted by the A-10 teams. What can the side-by-side tell us about the Owls and Musketeers, particularly when they meet each other? If things progress, probably not volumes, since their appointed time is about six weeks away. Several elements are worth noting though. Temple will probably control the offensive boards, they did a better job matching up with the Hall bigs than did the X-men. Temple will block shots on defense, while Xavier will steal the ball. Neither is particularly adept at getting to the line, and while both turned the ball over quite a bit, that was uncharacteristic of either squad (and neither squad forced turnovers either). The Owls’ shot conversion efficiency (eFG%) has not improved much over the past six (or so) games, and if that element of their offense remains a problem for the next month, expect them to have to compensate for lack of efficiency by grabbing offensive rebounds and limiting. For Xavier, rebounding will no doubt be an issue in a matchup with Temple. The X-men will have problems matching up with Eric Michael and Lavoy Allen, particularly if the Owls’ Allen overcomes his slow start. While pace, according to Pomeroy, can be overrated as a deciding element, Temple showed it can play fast or slow. The SHU game was played for approximately 72 possessions on a neutral floor, about 10% higher than Temple usually plays the game. Xavier played slower than usual, possibly pace dictated by a undermanned SHU squad, and the Musketeers were still successful. Against each other, if the common opponent game is a good predictor, expect a slightly lower than usual possession game — about 65 — with Temple taking a close (one-to-four point) decision.

Fordham side-by-side with George Washington

These are two teams that, according to preseason projections, may not see the first round of the A-10 Conference Tournament. True to form, both lost to the Hampton Pirates of the Mid-East Athletic Conference (MEAC). Hampton, it turns out, is on something of a tear, going 6-0 after dropping their season-opener against Wake Forest. Kyle Whelliston analyzes elements of Hampton’s success in an Unfiltered posting over at Basketball Prospectus. According to Whelliston’s analysis, the Pirates are terrible shooters but great shot defenders. Checking out GWU’s shot defense — that has to be very good news for Fordham (and anyone else who plays the Colonials). Hampton, true to Whelliston’s post, did not turn the ball over much, but Fordham’s turnovers, the Rams’ lost one in three possessions without taking a shot, a very high hurdle to clear if you want to win (Fordham lost by 10 points). Fordham and GW are scheduled to meet January 12, about a month from now. How would the two A-10 teams do against each other? Fordham actually looks pretty good in this comparison. Against a very good shot defender they converted in the high 30s (nothing to write home about), but better than the Colonials who appear to be searching for a scorer (or scorers) to replace the lost Lasan Kromah. Both rebounded well (offensively) against the Pirates, and I would expect Fordham to (again) do a bit better based on the side-by-side. If Fordham can get turnovers under control they should do very well against GW, though given that Chris Gaston and Alberto Estwick are two of Fordham’s principal options on offense and they seem to be contributors, this may be problematic, especially with a seven game lead time. Given the elements though, this one, based on the side-by-side, looks like a close win for Fordham.

Power Rankings

The rankings are jumbled again by a series of unexpected losses (and a few unexpected wins). Next week I will take a closer look at how the conference has fared against some traditional rival conferences.

1. Richmond (7-2)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Old Dominion 70-77, 12/5 @ Arizona State 67-61

Next Week: 12/11 vs. Virginia Commonwealth

The second week in December turned out to be another 1-1 week for coach Chris Mooney’s Spiders. Richmond’s loss to Old Dominion, featured an outstanding effort by senior guard Kevin Anderson who scored a game-high 23 points, while logging a very efficient 76.7% eFG% and 1.53 PPWS. Junior wing Justin Harper’s 14 points and freshman Cedrick Lindsay’s 15 points (70.7% eFG%, 1.44 PPWS coming off the bench) provided strong compliments to Anderson’s efforts. The Spiders led at the 36 minute mark, but 12-0 run by the Monarchs over four and a half minutes dug a nine point hole that Richmond could not climb out of in the remaining 1:45 of play. Two stats that stood out in the loss were the 23.5% offensive rebounding rate, below Richmond’s usually very low 27.4% (ranked #291) and the 1.6% FTA/FGA rate. No, that is not a typo; the Spiders had a single free throw on 63 field goal attempts. They made the most of their opportunity going 1-1 from the line.

Richmond’s bounce-back road win over Arizona State featured an outstanding performance by Harper, who was given an Honorable Mention for his game-high 23 points on a very efficient 10-14 (3-4, 7-10) and 0-0 shooting . Harper garnered an 82.1% eFG% and 1.64 PPWS, outstandingly efficient shooting. The Spiders did a much better job on the boards, grabbing 32.0% of their misses, while limiting the Sun Devils to 34.1% of their misses. Richmond’s FTA/FGA was 37.3%, a significant improvement over their performance against the Monarchs.

2. Temple (5-2) AP #21

Last Week: 12/1 @ Central Michigan 65-53, 12/5 @ Maryland 64-61

Next Week: 12/9 vs. Georgetown, 12/12 vs. Akron

The Owls recovered from their disastrous Old Spice experience with two wins last week. Senior forward Lavoy Allen, who had struggled through Temple’s first five games, broke through with his first two double-doubles of the season, performances which earned him his first Player of the Week citation from the A-10. Allen posted 13 points and 10 rebounds in the win, but junior guard Juan Fernandez scored the team-high 18 points, shooting a 66.7% eFG% with a 1.34 PPWS. Wing Ramone Moore 16 points on a volume shooting night, posting a 40.0% eFG% and 0.90 PPWS. The star of the night, however, was the Owl defense, which limited the Chippewas to a very stingy 0.88 points per possession.

Allen followed with another 13 and 10 performance against Maryland in the BB&T Classic on Sunday. Like the CMU game, Moore provided points (16 points, the team-high) on another volume shooting night, while Fernandez chipped in 14 points and 3 dimes in 38 minutes. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad limited the Terps to 0.91 points per possession with a sterling defensive effort that limited Maryland to 45.5% eFG%. But uncharacteristic of those earlier losses against California and Texas A&M, the Owl front court contingent of Allen, Eric Michael and Rahir Jefferson, along with wing/forward Scootie Randall, controlled the boards, snagging a strong 37.8% of their missed field goal attempts, while limiting Maryland’s second chance points by collecting 75.7% of the Terp’s missed field goal attempts.

3. Dayton (6-2)

Last Week: 12/1 vs. East Tennessee State 68-73, 12/4 vs. Miami (OH) 70-58

Next Week: 12/7 vs. Central Connecticut, 12/11 @Virginia Commonwealth

Coach Brian Gregory’s squad recorded a 1-1 week, like the balance of the conference elites. At least the Flyers came out on top of a head-to-head with cross-state (and conference) rival Xavier with a win over the RedHawks of Miami (OH). Freshman point guard Juwan Staten continues to impress the conference front office and fans around the conference, as he earned his second citation (co-owned with La Salle’s Tyreek Dureen) as Rookie of the Week for his performances against both opponents. Staten earned 14 points against East Tennessee State, while posting eight points and dishing five dimes as the Flyers overcome a second half deficit against Miami. The freshman sank every on of his eight free throw attempts in the last 2:30 of that game. Senior forward Chris Wright drew a conference Honorable Mention for averaging a double-double for the week. His 15 rebounds against East Tennessee State was a career-high. Though the Flyers lost that game, they had four players, junior forward Chris Johnson (15), senior guard Paul Williams (11), Staten (14) and Wright (13) score in double figures. The fan concerned that the ETSU result hints at a regression to last season’s inconsistent outings can probably relax and chalk it up to a learning curve that caught the new point guards off balance. In an odd turn, the game saw Staten, Williams, transfer point guard Josh Parker and rotation front court player Luke Fabrizius take larger-than-normal roles in the offense. Staten, Williams and Fabrizius took 32.8%, 24.3% and 29.8% of the possessions when they were on the court, the higher than normal possession rate due in some measure to the turnovers each committed (five, four and one) during their playing time.

Possessions returned to a more typical distribution with the Saturday game versus Miami, as Johnson and Wright took most of the possessions and shots, while Staten and Parker stepped back into the background and concentrated on distributing the ball.

4. Xavier (5-2)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Miami (OH) 64-75

Next Week:  12/9 vs. Butler

What happened at Miami on Wednesday is anyone’s guess, but mark this one down as a “what the heck?” game. The official recap chalked it up to a “slow start”, but I bet coach Chris Mack filed a “Missing Persons Report” after the game, because the Musketeers’ defense definitely did not show up at the game.  Xavier gave up an appalling 1.14 points per possession (ppp) to the RedHawks, while garnering about 0.98 ppp for themselves. Miami OH shot an efficient 51.8% (eFG%) while tallying a PPWS of 1.16. Miami OH scored on 34 of their (estimated) 66 possessions, just north of the 50% mark. Tu Holloway led Xavier scorers with 18 points, matched by sophomore guard Mark Lyons’ 18, but the lead guard, taking 30% of the possessions and 24.4% of the shots when he was on the floor, simply made it too easy for the RedHawk defense. Holloway’s 18 points was scored by volume shooting, 5-13 (1-4, 4-9) and 7-9, an inefficient 42.3% conversion rate (eFG%). Lyons managed to shoot an equally unimpressive 4-11 (0-3, 4-8) and 10-11, yielding a 36.4% eFG%. Senior forward Jamel McLean did turn in a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds), but the scoring was neither efficient enough (McLean excepted) nor distributed enough to make the Miami defense work. Going into the season, the question was how the squad would make up Jordan Crawford’s production. As of this week, the question is still unanswered.

5. Massachusetts (7-1)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Quinnipiac 66-64, 12/4 vs. Boston College 71-76

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Maine, 12/11 vs. Seton Hall

Senior guard Anthony Gurley made the conference Honorable Mention list for the third time in four weeks as he posted an average of 20.5 points in the two games played last week. Poised to move up again in the rankings, coach Derek Kellogg’s squad fell five points short against Boston College (ACC) on a semi-neutral floor, the TD Arena, in Boston. Gurley scored 19 points on 8-13 (1-2, 7-11) and 2-2 shooting against Quinnipiac for an eFG% of 65.4% from a player known more for quantity the past few games. The surprise of the Quinnipiac game was high-scorer Javorn Farrell, a 6’5 swingman who scored 25 points on 9-16 (1-2, 8-14) and 6-7 shooting. Gurley scored 22 against Boston College, on 10-20 (0-4, 10-16) and 2-4 shooting. Sophomore guard Freddie Riley is struggling, placing a good deal of the scoring load on Gurley.

6. Rhode Island (5-3)

Last Week: 12/4 @ Providence 74-87

Next Week: 12/8 @ Northeastern, 12/11 @ Quinnipiac

College coaching is not an especially good career path for a curmudgeon. If you are going to be irascible, then you better win consistently, at least beat your biggest rivals. The disgruntled elements of the Rams’ fan-base grew a bit louder last week when Jim Baron’s squad dropped a double-digit decision against their biggest in state rival, Providence. This is supposed to be another rebuilding year for the Friars, so the 13 point margin was especially disappointing. Delroy James scored a team-high 25 points while three other Rams, Marquis Jones (15), Daniel West (13) and Nikola Malesevic (10) scored in double-digits as well.

7. La Salle (5-3)

Last Week: 12/4 vs. Oklahoma State 87-92 (2 OT)

Next Week: 12/9 @ Boston University, 12/11 vs. Villanova

Both sophomore center Aaric Murray and freshman guard Tyreek Dureen drew conference nods for their work in games on November 29 (Delaware State, a 65-61 win) and December 4 (the two overtime loss to Oklahoma State). This gives me some idea of how far the conference believes this Explorer program has come this season. Murray, a Conference Honorable Mention, was one of five La Salle players to score double digit points in their 65-61 win over Delaware State. The 6’10 big man tied with senior forward Jerrell Williams for a team-high 23 points against the Cowboys on Saturday. Dureen was cited for his scoring and assists (and steals) in the Delaware State game, and for the amount of time he played (43 minutes) in the Ok State game.

8. St. Bonaventure (4-2)

Last Week: 12/4 vs. Buffalo 76-74

Next Week: 12/7 @ St. John’s, 12/11 vs. Niagara

Bonnie point guard Ogo Adegboye drew Player of the Week honors with his performance against Buffalo. Andrew Nicholson may not have drawn his third Honorable Mention (in the three week old season) but his double-double effort will be noted here. The junior #5 scored 16 points (0-1, 6-10 and 4-6) and grabbed 10 (2-8-10) rebounds in the win. Junior forward Da’Quan Cook and sophomore guard Demetrius Conger continue to be efficient second and third options on offense as they take about 21.6% and 17.2% of the shots, converting at rates of (eFG%) 58.8% and 58.3% respectively. If Adegboye can keep his assist to turnover ratio above 1:1 (and get Conger the ball a bit more often), the Bonnies could beat the preseason projections.

9. Duquesne (3-3)

Last Week: 12/1 vs. Pittsburgh 66-80, 12/4 @ Penn State 73-77

Next Week:  12/8 @ Wisconsin-Green Bay, 12/11 vs. West Virginia

The Dukes suffered through an 0-2 week, though senior forward Damian Saunders recorded a double-double (20 points and 11 rebounds) in the Pittsburgh loss and another 23 in Duquesne’s loss to Penn State and draw an Honorable Mention from the league office. Fellow senior wing Bill Clark matched Saunders point production in the Pitt loss, while freshman guard B.J. McConnell chipped in 14 points on 6-11 (2-5, 4-6) and 0-0 shooting. The key stat for Pittsburgh was rebounding; the Panthers outrebounded the Dukes by a 56-35 margin. The Pitt bigs simply overpowered the smaller Duquesne front line. Clark logged the double-double against Penn State, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 (6-4-10) rebounds. The Dukes had no answer for the Nits’ Talor Battle though, as the senior guard torched Ron Everhart’s squad for 31 points on 12-18 (5-8, 7-10) and 2-4 shooting.

10. Saint Louis (3-3)

Last Week: 11/30 @ Portland 60-69

Next Week: 12/11 @ Duke

The pace was deliberate, about 59 per side, as most Rick Majerus games tend to be, but the defense was very un-Majerus, as the Billikens gave up a whopping 1.15 points per possession to the Portland Pilots. The Pilots’ conversion efficiency (eFG%) was a discouraging 61.7%. Cobbling together a defense for Duke on Saturday will be tough, as the Pilots have logged a Ken Pomeroy adjusted offensive rate of 108.1 good for a #57 ranking in D-I basketball. Duke, by contrast, is 121.9, good for a #1 ranking. Problems for the Billikens however, tend to occur more on the offensive side of the ball, a problem that has persisted for several seasons now, due in part to roster turnover. Saint Louis is (by Ken Pomeroy) currently ranked #157, very middle-of-the-division, with a 100.5 offensive rating (1.005 points per possession). This edition of the Billikens has been a bit of a mulligan stew, which has relatively prominent roles in the offense going to freshmen, while the more experienced players are either struggling (sophomore Cody Ellis), stepping back into minor roles in the offense (junior Kyle Cassidy) or both (sophomores Christian Salecich and Corey Remekun and junior Paul Eckerle). The “reliable” nucleus appears, at this point, to consist of Cassidy, junior Brian Conklin and freshmen guards Dwayne Evans and Mike McCall.

Why McCall has been ignored by the conference front office is the mystery of the season so far. The freshmen scored an extremely efficient 14 points against Portland, converting at a 66.7% (eFG%) rate, good for a 1.41 PPWS. In his last three games, McCall has maintained a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

11. Charlotte (3-5)

Last Week: 12/1 @ East Carolina 61-62

Next Week: 12/7 vs. Winthrop, 12/11 @Davidson

After being declared “probable” for the Winthrop game, graduate senior Charlie Dewhurst broke his finger and is out again, this time indefinitely, pending diagnosis. Charlotte dropped a one point decision at East Carolina, though 49er high-scorer Phil Jones drew an Honorable Mention from the conference for his 14 points and 10 rebounds. The only other Charlotte double digit scorer was Darrio Green with 11 points. Life after Spears is proving tough, at least on the court. With a week to practice and reform the offense, the Winthrop game should tell the fans where the team is headed this season.

12. Saint Joseph‘s (3-5)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Drexel 50-62, 12/3 @ Villanova 71-60, 12/5 @ Princeton 65-74

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Minnesota, 12/11 @ Creighton

Phil Martelli’s Hawks drew an oh-fer last week, losing all three scheduled games. If Drexel was regrettable (but expected) and Villanova predictable (but regretted), the Princeton game had to frustrate the Hawk faithful. While projected as a contender for the Ivy League title this season, the Princeton squad should not match-up well against Saint Joseph’s. The Tigers do not have a power forward to stop CJ Aiken, and their backcourt, the strongest area of their squad, should not match-up with Carl Jones and Langston Galloway. And yet SJU dropped a nine point road game largely on lack of defense. They allowed Princeton to score 1.12 points per possession and shoot a very efficient team-wide 60.0 eFG%, while mustering only a 0.98 ppp and 50.9 eFG%. Princeton had players in double-digits, while Saint Joseph’s guard Carl Jones scored 24 and only one other, freshman forward Ronald Roberts, scored more than nine points (10 points on 4-7 and 2-3 shooting). Such are the growing pains with freshmen-dominated rosters.

13. George Washington (2-5)

Last Week: 12/1 @ George Mason 46-60, 12/5 vs. Navy (BB&T Classic) 57-64

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Towson

Lacking a consistent shooter/scorer, the Colonials are riding a four game slide through the weekend, the last two coming in December. They dropped the over card match at the BB&T Classic to a 4-6 Navy team (out of the Patriot League) which Pomeroy ranks #316 in D-I for offense. Ouch. Of the 11 players identified (and rated) by Ken Pomeroy who have a possession rate equal to or greater than 12.4 (very limited role player), only three (junior Tony Taylor, along with freshmen Chris Fitzgerald and Nemanja Mikic) have offensive ratings of 101 or better. Two (Taylor and Fitzgerald) have ratings of about 101. The Towson game should be very interesting for both teams, as Tiger coach Pat Kennedy is under the gun with a team that has struggled for the past three seasons and currently sports a 2-4 record.

14. Fordham (3-4)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Harvard 57-80, 12/4 @ Lehigh 74-67

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Manhattan, 12/11 vs. St. John’s

The Rams are on a roll! Coach Tom Pecora has recorded his third win of the season, and a road win, the first win not in Rose Hill since 2009, to boot. The sky is probably not the limit, but the prospects for several conference wins this season have improved dramatically. The Lehigh game delivered other good news – Chris Gaston, who logged his sixth double-double of the season was not the high-scorer for Fordham. That honor went to senior guard Brent Butler. While that may sound odd, the sophomore forward draws a good deal of defensive attention whenever he is on the court, and with some justification as he accounted for over 1/3 of the Rams’ possessions and 29.3% of the Rams’ turnovers when he is on the court. Butler, combined with junior guard Alberto Estwick (and occasionally freshman guard Branden Frazier), give three to four legitimate scoring threats for Pecora to throw at an opponent’s defenses.

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