Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback on January 23rd, 2014

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 @vtbnblog.

Bid Talk: 3? 4? 5!?

Two weeks of conference play has scrambled the conference’s NCAA bid picture. Going into conference play, the Atlantic 10 had five teams in the postseason conversation, increasingly a “normal” situation for the A-10. However, five conference games has shuffled the New Year’s pecking order of Massachusetts, Saint Louis, George Washington, Virginia Commonwealth and Dayton (last eight in). The Minutemen picked up their second loss of the season (58-55 at Richmond) after a couple of close calls (with St. Bonaventure and George Mason), as the Billikens edge closer to UMass in the hearts and minds of bracketologists — if not the poll voters (compliments of a strong opening run).

The Saint Louis faithful is gearing up for another run at post season play. (Saint Louis athletics)

The Saint Louis faithful is gearing up for another run at post season play. (Saint Louis athletics)

With the losses of Temple, Xavier, and Butler to other leagues, more than a few publications predicted a step back for the conference’s overall postseason prospects. At this point the conference offers four candidates that will need consistent conference play to maintain their chances. How many bids can the conference get (maximum), and was the non-conference showing strong enough to boost any of the outlier programs into postseason contention (should any of the front runner fade)? Massachusetts (#13 in the January 20 AP poll; #12 in the USA Today/Coaches poll) and St. Louis (#19 AP, #20 in the USA Today/Coaches) are legitimate “High Fliers” that should contend for the conference title and draw NCAA bids with their consistently solid play. The non-conference resumes for George Washington, Virginia Commonwealth and Dayton are good enough, but their conference work could move them out of contention. GW is among those “also receiving votes” from voters in both polls. Note that Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin, the RPI and ESPN (the BPI) all rank five conference teams among their top 60 — see the below table of the consensus top eight conference teams below. Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback on December 19th, 2013

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

Dealing With Expectations

Forgive me if six weeks and 10 games (more or less) into this season I am a little dizzy from all the twists and turns. Most understood Massachusetts would be good, especially with Chaz Williams’ decision to take his last season of eligibility in Amherst, but undefeated? VCU would be nicked in the non-conference schedule — that much was a given — but three losses that include a 14-point loss to Florida State on a neutral court and a loss to Northern Iowa? That is a surprise.

What's new? UMass standout Chaz Williams is having another great season. (AP)

What’s new? UMass standout Chaz Williams is having another great season. (AP)

First Team

  • Chaz Williams (Massachusetts) — It may be hard to believe, but the unanimous pick has actually exceeded expectations. Williams has led the Minutemen to a 10-0 undefeated start and a #22 ranking in AP’s Top 25. UMass is the only conference representative.
  • Dwayne Evans (Saint Louis) — The Billikens’ slashing forward’s sluggish offensive numbers mirror the larger problems facing St. Louis this season. Evans can score inside as his 51 percent two-point completion rate attests, but absent a consistent long-range scorer, opposing teams find it very easy to stop the Bills — pack the lane and wait for Evans (or guard Jordair Jett) to drive. The stingy defense lives on, Saint Louis is ranked #3 defensively by Ken Pomeroy, but a team-wide three-point drought (Jake Barnett excepted) leaves Jim Crews’ squad with a one-dimensional offense.
  • Tyreek Duren (La Salle) — Hobbled by a troublesome plantar fasciitis condition that dates back to last May, the point guard has to adjust his energy to manage the Explorers’ offense rather than create it through his typical to-the-basket drives. There are many reasons the Explorers are struggling this season and with a better start Dureen’s inability to move laterally and plant for a jumper would be a footnote.
  • Treveon Graham (Virginia Commonwealth) — Graham continues the domination that established him as a first teamer last season. He leads the Rams in scoring (196 points, 16.3 PPG) and combines prolific scoring with efficient scoring, earning a 117.9 offensive rating from Ken Pomeroy. Questions on how to get VCU back on track should not start with Graham. He is on pace to accumulate last season’s numbers, and has improved his defensive rebounding to boot.
  • Juvonte Reddic (Virginia Commonwealth) — VCU’s second leading scorer (140 points, 11.7 points per game, 110.1) and leading rebounder (30-56-86) has stepped back slightly in offensive efficiency, but has improved in block and steal rates and in getting to the line. If his contributions hold steady through the season, Reddic should be in the thick of an All-Conference conversation come March.

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Rushed Reactions: #12 La Salle 63, #4 Kansas State 61

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 22nd, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #4 Kansas State and #12 La Salle in Kansas City. 

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Explorers hang on after furious Kansas State comeback. La Salle hit their first three-pointer to start the game and used a balanced attack to race out to a 15-4 lead six minutes into the game. Kansas State’s offense eventually got out of neutral, but the Explorers had an answer seemingly every time and went into the locker room with a 44-26 lead. So what changed at the break?  After an ineffective first half, Thomas Gipson was pulled out of the lineup and replaced with Jordan Henriquez, a more active big man than the bulkier Gipson. Henriquez made an instant impact, collecting offensive rebounds, freeing Rodney McGruder and Shane Southwell with screens and going up strong whenever he had the ball close to the hoop. On defense, he was just as controlling, swatting shots and forcing La Salle to change angles mid-drive, and the Wildcats erased the Explorers’ 18-point lead in 13 minutes. The Wildcats led late in the game until … 

    Jerrell Wright did a little bit of everything for La Salle Friday afternoon. (AP)

    Jerrell Wright did a little bit of everything for La Salle Friday afternoon. (AP)

  2. The Wildcats unraveled in the final thirty seconds. While going up for a rebound, Henriquez committed a tough but decisive foul, going over Jerrell Wright’s back. Wright calmly buried both free throw attempts in front of a hostile backdrop to retake the lead, and Henriquez missed a close look on the next possession. After fouling again, Wright hit one of two free throws to give Kansas State one last shot. La Salle forced Angel Rodriguez to drive awkwardly along the baseline and missed the close look, though Weber tried to call timeout.
  3. Contrary to the halftime deficit, Kansas State showed signs of life late in the first half. The Wildcats had a disappointing first half, but Weber’s team did score 15 points in the final 7:30 in the first half, led by Shane Southwell’s sharp outside shooting. Getting stops was the issue, as Ramon Galloway, Sam Mills and Jerrell Wright kept answering. Fortunately, that late offensive efficiency carried the wave in the second half, but to say that a comeback came out of nowhere would be to lose sight of the fact that it could have easily been a much steeper mountain to climb for Kansas State.

Star of the Game: Jerrell Wright – 21 points, 6-of-6 FG, 9-0f-10 FT, eight rebounds, zero turnovers. Wright gave Kansas State’s defense headaches throughout the first half, playing a vital important in the Explorers’ hot start. Though Wright isn’t immune to criticism in dissecting the Wildcats’ comeback, he’s also deserving of plenty of credit for hitting three crucial free throws in a hostile environment to propel La Salle to a third game later this weekend. Credit also goes to Jordan Henriquez, whose double-double in the losing effort gave Kansas State every chance it needed.

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Rushed Reactions: #13 La Salle 80, #13 Boise State 71

Posted by IRenko on March 20th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after Wednesday’s play-in game between La Salle and Boise State. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

Boise

Boise and La Salle Finished Off the First Four

  1. La Salle Executed Its Offense to Perfection – The Explorers feature a four-guard attack that runs something of a dribble-drive offense. They try to space the floor, drive, kick, and reverse the ball until they get a good shot, either off the dribble in the lane or from behind the three-point arc, where they shoot a healthy 37.1 percent. Tonight they executed this approach perfectly, scoring repeatedly on dribble-drives or threes off of kick outs and ball reversals. They shot 62 percent from the field and 51 percent from the three-point line. It was a highly impressive offensive performance that likely had Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber squirming in his seat.
  2. Drmic Didn’t Get Any Help — For much of the game, Boise State’s Anthony Drmic was almost single-handedly carrying the offense. The sophomore swingman finished with 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting (5-of-10 from three-point range). Derrick Marks, who averages 16.3 points per game, had just two points through the first 30 minutes of action. Marks heated up late, but by then, the Broncos were in a double-digit hole that was too steep to climb out of.
  3. La Salle Knows How to Take Care of the Ball — At various points, in an effort to slow down La Salle’s explosive offense, Boise State started applying some ball pressure, picking up three-quarter court and aggressively guarding the perimeter. It made little difference. La Salle’s experienced backcourt takes excellent care of the ball. Their turnover rate on the year is a low 17.3 percent, and they committed just 10 miscues tonight. Remember, this is a team that beat VCU and its vaunted Havoc defense on the road by eight points. They’re not easily rattled.

Star of the Game:  Junior guard Tyrone Garland may be one of the most underappreciated sixth men in the country. The Virginia Tech transfer is a whirling dervish who is a key cog in La Salle’s dribble drive attack. He never hesitates to show you what he can do off the bounce, dazzling on half-court drives and full-court breaks. He finished tonight with a team-high 22 points on an outstanding 9-of-11 field goal shooting. He added three assists and though he typically struggles with his outside shot (26.6 percent three-point shooter), he hit half of his three-point attempts tonight (2-of-4).

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The Road to the Atlantic 10 Title Doesn’t Run Through Philadelphia

Posted by CNguon on February 8th, 2013

Joseph Dzuback is a RTC correspondent and longtime Big 5 basketball enthusiast.

Where the Road Runs

Halfway through the Atlantic 10 conference schedule, fans find three conference members are earning AP top 25 votes, but none is from the City of Brotherly Love:

Temple and Saint Joseph’s share a 4-4 record and ninth place in conference standings, a game behind the five teams – one of whom is La Salle — that shares fourth place. What happened to Andy Katz’s Philadelphia-centric conference overview, “Atlantic 10 race will run through Philadelphia”, that argued the conference’s three Philadelphia-based members would compete effectively for the top seeds to the conference tournament in Brooklyn or, at the very least, play a critical role (larger than their 42 game contribution to the conference schedule) when time came to crown a conference champion and divvy up the NCAA bids?

Collectively the three Philadelphia teams were, on paper, the strongest they had been in over a decade. Katz’s argument was hardly a stretch.  But now?

  • Saint Joseph’s (13-8, 4-4): The coaches’ pick to take the conference title last October, returned everyone from the 2011-12 squad that won 20 games and earned an NIT bid. Veteran coach Phil Martelli, dean of the A-10 coaching fraternity, assembled the most talented and experienced collection of players since his 2003-2004 squad won the regular season title and ran to the Elite Eight on their way to a 30-win season. Wounded by a thousand pin pricks however, the Hawk has failed to soar this season. Guard Carl Jones was suspended for the Hawks’ last exhibition and first two regular season games. Though Saint Joseph’s beat (then #20 ranked) Notre Dame during Jones’ absence, off guard Langston Galloway lost a tooth in a freak collision while diving for a loose ball. Though he has appeared in every game, Galloway’s production is down nearly two points per game from 2011-11. A mediocre December record of 3-3 included losses to Creighton and Villanova and a two game suspension for junior forward Halil Kanasevic, tabbed by some previews as the sleeper candidate for conference Player of the Year. Kanasevic has yet to appear in more than five consecutive games this season. In addition to the suspension Kanasevic did not appear in St. Joe’s game versus American and missed three conference games when he traveled overseas to attend an uncle’s funeral. With the entire squad finally assembled and healthy, perhaps Martelli can use the last eight games to establish a rhythm.

    Saint Joseph's forward Halil Kanasevic hits a point-blank bucket in the first half of Saint Joe's 70-69 win over Temple. Saint Joseph's outscored Temple in the paint 40-16

    Saint Joseph’s forward Halil Kanasevic hits a point-blank bucket in the first half of Saint Joe’s 70-69 win over Temple. Saint Joseph’s outscored Temple in the paint 40-16.

  • Temple (15-7, 4-4): The Owls fielded a squad a step behind the teams that dominated conference play the past three seasons. The 2012-2013 edition contains upperclassmen who understand, but may not be able to execute coach Fran Dunphy’s system. They have bobbled the baton passed by Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez and Eric Michael, with the accumulated attrition eroding the Owls’ front court enough to force Dunphy to bring fifth year senior Jake O’Brien in to provide depth. An unexpectedly shallow backcourt meant point guard responsibilities passed to sophomore Will Cummings which left West Virginia transfer Dalton Pepper on the bench. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take

The Week That Was:

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

 

 

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

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2011

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

The Week That Was:

How They Measure Up: Results by Conference

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

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

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RTC Summer Updates: Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 3rd, 2011

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

Reader’s Take I

Summer Storylines

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

Tu Holloway Makes the XU Offense Go

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