It should not come as a surprise as we hinted at it weeks ago when Boise State pulled out of the Big East, but it appears that San Diego State will be following their example and staying in the Mountain West Conference. When Boise State opted to stay in the Mountain West, it seemed inevitable that San Diego State would not move to the Big East as they would be the only team west of the Rocky Mountains making it unrealistic as an entity. The two sides are now working to dissolve their previous agreement, which apparently had a clause allowing the Aztecs to leave if they were the only team west of the Rockies in the conference. This will only serve to make the Mountain West an even stronger conference that could potentially become one of the best conferences in the nation on a regular basis. So after all the handwringing about these moves it appears that nothing will come of them and geography teachers will have an easier time explaining our country’s geography to elementary school children.
We are always curious about how Forbes comes up with their valuations for professional teams as they do not reveal the numbers they use to produce those valuations so we have to take their work on the most valuable conferences with a grain of salt, but it is an interesting read. The calculations here are a little bit easier to understand as they are a reflection of revenue rather than implicit value despite the title of the article. The two things that stand out for us are that the SEC comes in fourth and the huge gap in revenue between the BCS conferences and non-BCS conferences. The first part will likely change with the ongoing renegotiation of television contracts, but we doubt that the second part will be changing any time soon.
Many people have questioned the true value of the scholarships that student-athletes are awarded, but they never question what is spent on athletics. And for good reason as a recent study by Delta Cost Project at American Institutes for Research indicates that universities spend on average ~$92,000 on athletics compared to ~$14,000 on academics. As the study indicates this is most pronounced in the SEC where schools spent an average of $163,931 for athletics and $13,390 for academics per student-athletes (remember this supposedly counts all athletes and we are sure that much more is spent on football and to a lesser degree basketball than in non-revenue generating sports). The study also points out that the schools are the ones subsidizing athletics not the other way around. Obviously there are some secondary effects that the school gets from athletic programs such as increased applications, donations, etc., but it should turn the argument about revenue generating sports on its head.
Speaking of ridiculous amounts of money spent on athletics, Rhode Island reached an agreement with its former coach Jim Baron that will pay him $1.1 million over the next four years after he was fired following a season in which he went 7-24. According to the report the school will be able to pay for it with funds generated by the athletic department, which has an annual budget of $8 million per year with only $3 million coming from the “self-generating” revenues that the school will use to pay Baron. The payment will likely affect the program’s ability to spend so perhaps Ram fans should be rooting for Baron’s new team–Canisius–to do well as the last two years of payments (worth a total of $518,000) could be reduced if Baron is paid an undisclosed amount by Canisius.
Kentucky fans took a great deal of joy in making fun of Louisville printing shirts celebrating their ascent to #1 in the polls (to be fair, Kentucky fans like to make fun of anything related to Louisville), but as The Wall Street Journal points out the feat is somewhat impressive when you consider that several prominent programs that have won a national title have never been #1 in the AP poll. The one that stands out to us is Maryland, but as the article points out they have been #2 in the AP poll on multiple occasions. It is also worth pointing out that three of these programs won titles before the AP poll was around. Having said all of that we still think printing the #1 shirts are ridiculous for a program of Louisville’s stature.
In a rather surprising move, Kansas State announced that it was hiring Bruce Weber to be its next head coach. Weber replaces Frank Martin who left the school earlier in the week to take over at South Carolina (technically that was more surprising than the Weber hire). Weber, who has a 313-155 record in stops at Southern Illinois and Illinois, reached the national championship game at Illinois in 2005, but was criticized by Illini fans for having done so with Bill Self’s recruits and then failing to land many of the top recruits out of Illinois. Now he will be tasked with running a program that Martin revitalized and will also have to deal with a familiar foe in-state: Bill Self.
Less than a month after getting fired from Tulsa, Doug Wojcik has found a new head coaching position at Charleston. Wojcik, who went 140-92 at Tulsa in seven seasons, replaces Bobby Cremins, who retired due to health issues. Interestingly, Wojcik was fired in large part because of his inability to make the NCAA Tournament, but he takes over a program where Cremins was widely praised despite his inability to get his team to the NCAA Tournament. Will Charleston be as forgiving if Wojcik continues to fail to make the NCAA Tournament when he is at Charleston?
Mississippi State is taking another route to find its next head coach. Instead of hiring a retread the Bulldogs are going with Rick Ray, who has served as assistant at Indiana State, Purdue, and Clemson. Although Ray has not had any experience as a head coach he has experienced a good amount of success as an assistant and comes in with high praise based on the quotes we have seen. Some may view hiring someone without head coaching experience as a risky proposition and it is to some degree, but we would rather see a program do that than hire someone with a track record of mediocrity as a head coach.
Like Wojcik, Jim Baron did not have to wait long after being fired to find another job. The former Rhode Island coach, who was fired after going 184-165 in 11 seasons, but went 7-24 this past season is set to be named as the next head coach at Canisius later this week. Even though we have been critical of teams hiring retreads (see above) this seems like it would be a decent hire for Canisius as Baron’s team had won 20 or more games in the past four seasons, which would be a huge turnaround from where Canisius has been recently.
In a sign that the times may be changing, Ohio is reportedly has taken Jim Christian away from TCU. Yes, a (soon to be) Big XII school might be losing a coach to a MAC school. Christian’s record at TCU (56-73) is not exactly inspiring, but he was very successful at Kent State, another MAC school, going 138-58 there including 10-5 against Ohio. The school has not released a statement on the topic, but is expected to introduce Christian on Tuesday so we suspect that an official announcement would come out some time later today.
So the Big East went and rolled out its all-conference and all-rookie teams yesterday as we were scrambling to get our picks together. Suffice it to say we had some thoughts but the pesky real announcement beat us to it. Officially the All-Big East first, second, third, and honorable mention teams were announced as well as the Big East All-Rookie team. You can see the full list of selections here. Marquette’s Jae Crowder was the only unanimous selection on any of the teams. Moe Harkless of St. John’s took home both All-Rookie and All Big East Honorable Mention honors. This could be a foreshadowing to tomorrow when Big East Player, Coach, Rookie, and Scholar-Athlete of the Year will be announced between the afternoon and evening sessions of the Big East Championship.
If the Big East represented a portfolio of stocks, despite a fair share of volatility over the years, its investors would certainly have enjoyed a tidy profit. In a fitting confluence of the sports and business worlds, Commissioner John Marinatto along with other conference officials will have the honor of ringing the New York Stock Exchange’s Closing Bell today as a symbolic commencement to tomorrow’s Big East Championship. This is the 30th straight year the Big East Championship has taken place at Madison Square Garden. No conference tournament and setting have had a longer relationship than that of the Big East and the Garden. A live webcast of the Closing Bell ceremony can be seen via the Big East’s website at 3:59 PM Eastern Standard Time.
Connecticut got a lift on Saturday when head coach Jim Calhounreturned to the sideline. Calhoun had been out since February 3 due to spinal stenosis and underwent surgery last Monday. The team appeared to feed off of his presence as they fought of a Pittsburgh rally to pull out a much-needed win. “There are no words to describe what he means to this team,” guard Shabazz Napier told the Hartford Courant. “You think you’re tired, and then you look at him and he shakes his fist and you say, ‘I’m not done.” Calhoun, who was reported to be extremely tired following the game, did not attend Connecticut’s practice on Sunday but is expected to be back today. It is expected Calhoun will accompany his team to New York and coach in the Big East tournament however, should the Huskies beat DePaul on Tuesday Calhoun’s status figures to be a day-to-day decision given the tournament’s rigorous schedule.
Speaking of Connecticut, one of its assistants could be returning to the rank of head coach once the season is over. News broke yesterday that the University of Rhode Island fired head coach Jim Baron after eleven seasons in Kingston and the Huskies’ Glen Miller is reported to be on the short list of candidates to replace him. Miller, who returned to Connecticut last season in his second stint as an assistant under Jim Calhoun, is well known in Rhode Island circles as he coached Brown University for seven seasons (1999 – 2006), posting a 93-99 record. Miller, who has seventeen years of head coaching experience, left Brown for Pennsylvania and took the Quakers to the 2007 NCAA tournament. Wagner’s Danny Hurley is believed to be the lead candidate for the Rhode Island job but should Miller get it, he will be the second Calhoun assistant in as many years to head to the Ocean State. Last offseason Andre LaFleur left Connecticut for an associate head coach’s position at Providence.
Every sports fan has dreams of a ‘man cave’ right? Syracuse.com started a contest to find those who have executed on their interior design goals and now have a man cave to write home about. While the contest did not specify any themes, it turned out to be all about orange. At least five people submitted entries that revealed man caves dedicated to Syracuse athletics, and the men of the house did not even have to establish permanent residence in them at the behest of their better halves. In fact for the most part, save for a veto on naming a child ‘Sara Cuse’, the spaces are wife and family approved.
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.
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.
In the premiere event of ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, these two blueblood programs hit the court under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. It’s all a part of the Champions Classic, a new event designed to grab national headlines for college basketball in the month of November. Although the game is slated for a Tuesday night, that won’t hold back the rabid Kentucky and Kansas fan bases from making the trip to the Garden. Both squads feature all sorts of new faces, especially on the UK side: As usual, coach John Calipari has the task of molding a young group together. For the first time, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague and the rest of the crew will showcase their skills to a national audience. The Jayhawks don’t have as many true newcomers, but coach Bill Self is trying to retool a relatively inexperienced team with just one returning starter. Several players are taking on new roles, including Thomas Robinson, who’s no longer a bench player but instead one of the team’s stars. Robinson looked comfortable in a 100-54 win over Towson on Friday, recording a double-double.
Bill Self's Program Is In the National Spotlight Again
The key individual match-up is… Anthony Davis vs. Thomas Robinson. Robinson is the more experienced player, and he’s primed for a breakout season because of his new opportunity in the starting lineup. The preseason All-Big 12 selection will have his hands full with Davis, however. The 6’10” freshman scored 23 points and grabbed 10 boards in his debut against Marist this weekend, and he’s one of the most physically gifted players in the nation.
Kansas wins if… Tyshawn Taylor controls the offense. The senior point guard dished out four assists in the season opener and turned the ball over just one time. That’s the kind of performance the Jayhawks need out of their leader.
Kentucky wins if…It crashes the glass and gets those forwards involved. Sophomore forward Terrence Jones only took seven shots against Marist, scoring eight points. His guards have to get him the ball, and he needs to form a ferocious trio with Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist. These Wildcats are fast, strong and athletic, and they’ve got an advantage on any team if the offense runs through them.
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
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, MikeLonergan 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.
Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.
2011 was business as usual it seems as two teams, Temple and Xavier, combined to represent the conference in the AP Poll for 11 of the poll’s 19 weeks. Three teams (Richmond, Temple and Xavier) were invited to the NCAA for the fourth consecutive year with two advancing to the second round and one advancing to the Sweet 16 before bowing out. The steady progress, if not the deeper advancement, into the NCAA Tournament field should give the conference cause for celebration. If the A-10 has not gained ground, it certainly hasn’t lost any ground either. The conference beat its Performance Against Seed Expectation (PASE – the number of wins earned in the NCAA versus the historic record for the assigned seed), 2.57, by winning a total of three games in tournament play. This year also marked the sixth consecutive postseason where the conference received at least one at-large bid. And for the second consecutive postseason, seven conference members in all (50% of the conference membership) played on after the final buzzer sounded in Atlantic City. The conference placed two teams (Dayton and Rhode Island) in the NIT and two others (SaintLouis and GeorgeWashington) in the CBI in 2010, with Dayton winning the NIT and Saint Louis losing in the CBI Finals to VCU. This postseason, only Dayton made the NIT, while Duquesne, Rhode Island and St.Bonaventure were invited to the CBI. Unfortunately none of them advanced beyond the second round.
So why are conference observers edgy? Despite the “all steady” in the NCAA Tournament, teams from two other non-BCS conferences, Virginia Commonwealth of CAA and the Horizon League’s Butler were represented in the Final Four, with Butler advancing to Monday night for the second consecutive year. The Atlantic 10 has not sent a team to the Final Four since the Massachusetts squad of 1996, whose Final Four appearance was later vacated by the NCAA, and has had only one representative (Xavier in 2008) [ed. note: corrected] in the Elite Eight since the 2004 Tournament when Saint Joseph’s lost to Oklahoma by two points, 64-62, in East Rutherford, New Jersey on the same weekend that Xavier was eliminated by Duke, 66-63, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Xavier’s Tu Holloway enjoyed a terrific season for the Musketeers. (credit: AP)
Final Ranking, Team-by-Team
Richmond (28-8, 13-3) #12 seed: Coach Chris Mooney’s Spiders had several outstanding performances out of conference including their 65-54 win over Purdue (#3 seed NCAA), but those were negated by head-scratching losses to Iona aand Bucknell. The same held true in conference play, where wins over Dayton and Duquesnewere undermined by a home loss to Rhode Island early in conference play. The Spidersearned a #3 seed in the conference tournament where they knocked off #2 seed Temple that was dealing withinjuries and earned the conference’s automatic bid witha 67-54 win over Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Tournament finals. The Spiders beat #5 seed Vanderbilt (69-66) and #13 seed Morehead State (65-48) to advance to the Sweet Sixteen and a date with#1 seed Kansas. The ride ended witha 77-57 loss, but Mooney signed a contract extension which should keep him at Richmond for the foreseeable future. Mooney loses four key members of the squad this season, but returns 11 players, including two who started multiple games this season, for 2011-12. GRADE: A
Temple(26-8, 14-2) #7 seed NCAA: The consensus favorite to win the conference regular season, the Owls stumbled in the Old Spice Classic, dropping two of their three games in Orlando. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad dropped a third out of conference game to Villanova on the eve of conference play, but ran off three wins to start conference play. Back-to-back losses to Duquesne and Xavier put the Owls in second place in the conference, which is where they finished the regular season. Injuries sidelined sophomore Michael Eric, reducing an already short frontcourt rotation, for the last two weeks of the season. Scootie Randall also battled injuries as the season wound down, leaving Dunphy with a seven-man rotation for the Atlantic 10 tournament. A semifinal loss to Richmond ended Temple’s bid to earn the conference’s automatic bid for a third consecutive year, but the Owls secured a #7 seed to the NCAA Tournament and an in-state match-up with Penn State in the first round game, which they won 66-64 on a last second shot by Juan Fernandez. In the second round, they pushed #2 seed San Diego State to the limit before falling in double overtime. GRADE: B+ Read the rest of this entry »
Joe Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. With the A-10 Championship tipping off Tuesday, get up to speed with RTC’s preview and regular season wrap-up.
Among the first round games, all played at the campus of the higher seed, the strongest upset candidate is the #8/#9 (of course!) game between #8 host Massachusetts and #9 Dayton. The Flyers have not traveled well this season, accumulating a -0.049 net efficiency in games not played at the UD Arena, but a log5 calculation projects a Dayton win (67%-32% probability). Using overall (unadjusted) offensive and defensive efficiencies, this looks like a close game, +/- 3 points in favor of Dayton. For the other three first round games, the order of probability of an upset is:
#6 Rhode Island/#11 St. Louis (50.2-49.7)
#7 St. Bonaventure/#10 La Salle (58-42)
#5 George Washington/#12 Saint Joseph’s (66-33)
The Xavier/Duquesne side of the bracket looks vulnerable to either a Dayton run or a Duquesne run, though the Dukes, new to the dynamics of a bye seed, may fumble their quarter-final game against (most likely) George Washington. Dayton, a squad that plays inconsistently away from the UD Arena, has nevertheless lost twice to rival Xavier, by margins of five and four points. It is very difficult to beat a closely played rival a third time in the same season. Lacking length in the front court has proven to be a problem lately for the Dukes, but over a short duration tournament like the A-10, it is possible that a series of opponents will become caught up in a pace set by the Dukes and fail to properly exploit Duquesne’s vulnerability. I do not, however, see that as a problem for Xavier, an extremely well managed and prepared team and program.
Net Efficiencies, end of season honors: Net efficiencies through Monday of this week (2/14/2011) give us a better sense of the conference race than the won-loss standings. Though Duquesne drops to fourth place in the conference standings, the Dukes have dominated enough games to maintain their spot just below Xavier. Temple and Richmond follow, with both maintaining positive net efficiencies.
Xavier took sole ownership of first place Sunday with their win over Duquesne. The Musketeers’ conference SOS (see above) confirms their fans have no need to credit the conference schedule maker with an assist on their ascension. The Musketeers are back!
One of the developing oddities of late is the number of teams with negative net efficiencies — with a full ten teams logging negative nets through last Sunday. A 50/50 split would be unusual, but a 30/70 split is a bit unusual and a development that should rebalance over the next two weeks. The split however, does not bode well for postseason prospects. Consensus bracketology has the conference with three “solid ins” right now (Xavier, Duquesne and Temple), and Richmond “with work to do.”
With POY handouts and All-Conference Team awards less than a month away, it is time to look at who has been on the conference radar all season. The Player of the Year will most likely come from the list below — I have noted the number of times the player has been cited as Player of the Week and the number of times the player has made the conference Honor Roll.
Someone not named Tu Holloway will have to put on a major push through the end of the month to overtake the Xavier guard for Player of the Year honors. Of the most like candidates (most are shown in the table), the most likely candidate is Justin Harper, Richmond’s talented #4 player, possibly Temple’s Lavoy Allen or Ramone Moore, or if Rhode Island has the kind of February that St. Louis had last season, maybe Delroy James finds his way into the conversation. But let’s be honest, for Rhode Island to have that kind of February, James would have to play like the Player of the Year. I believe the voters tend to look among the conference contenders for the Player of the Year contenders, which eliminates Chris Wright (Dayton), Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure), Chris Gaston (Fordham) and Aaric Murray (LaSalle). All four (and James and Harper) are however, along with James, Moore, Allen, Chris Wright and Duquesne’s Bill Clark, well in the mix for All-Conference Teams. Those not named to the first team will no doubt make the second team.
Rookie of the Year honors appear to be a little tighter, with contenders coming from SaintJoseph‘s, Dayton, La Salle and George Washington. Duquesne’s T.J. McConnell (see table above) is the clear favorite right now, but how he fares with the voters may well be tied to how strongly the Dukes finish out the regular season. The voters may be less inclined to pin conference-contender responsibilities on a freshman/transfer, so Langston Galloway (Saint Joseph’s), Tyreek Duren (La Salle), Juwan Staten (Dayton) and Namanja Mikic (George Washington) should not be handicapped when compared to McConnell. There are two more rounds of weekly citations and a strong closing by Saint Joseph’s or George Washington may scramble this race.
The top team is Xavier. The Muskies settled it on the floor of the Consol Arena Sunday with a comfortable win over Duquesne. Duquesne dropped to #4 in the conference “record rankings”. Oddly the bottom spot was also settled on the court, also on Sunday and also with the host taking the loss. Saint Joseph’s will now battle with Charlotte for the last spot in the first round of the A-10 Conference Tournament. Rhode Island also had a good week, while Dayton did not. And those developments are also reflected in the conference rankings and this week’s power rankings.
1. Xavier (18-6, 9-1)
Last Week: 2/8 @Georgia 65-57, 1/13 @Duquesne 71-63
Next Week: 2/16 @Saint Joseph’s, 2/19 vs. Fordham
After a start to the season that included injuries, academics and unexpected losses, the Musketeers have put them back at the top of the conference and into the NCAAs. Xavier has been gaining national notice over the last half of January, and whispers of Chris Mack for conference coach of the year seemed justified with their comfortable win over Duquesne Sunday. Tu Holloway earned an Honor Roll citation for averaging double digit scoring over the course of the two road games.
The Duquesne game was a classic first half/second half struggle. The home team took a narrow one point lead into the locker room, but Xavier, the larger and more physical team, slowed down the pace (36 possessions was where Duquesne wanted to play) to a more manageable 33 possessions, and took control of the defensive boards. Duquesne had a huge 31-23 FGA advantage in the first half, complements of some terrific offensive board work. The Musketeers shut down the defensive boards, limiting the Dukes to a skimpy 20% rebounding rate of their misses in the second half. Neither team overwhelmed the opponent with an offensive blitz, but by limiting second chance opportunities, Xavier turned the game into a series of one-and-done possessions. And that was a game where their superior conversion abilities could prevail. Coach Mack’s squad has light duty this week — games with Saint Joseph’s and Fordham. No slip-ups, guys.
2. Duquesne (16-7, 8-2)
Last Week: 2/13 vs. Xavier 63-71
Next Week: 2/16 @Massachusetts, 2/19 @Dayton
The Dukes had another 1-1 week, which this time dropped them back to #4 in the conference standings, though they maintain their #2 spot in these power rankings. Ron Everhart‘s charges have two road games this week, coming off a loss to Xavier, this could be a rougher trip than anticipated. Beware of a dangerous Dayton club.
3. Temple (19-5, 9-2)
Last Week: 2/9 vs. Fordham 77-66, 2/12 @Dayton 75-63
Next Week: 2/16 vs. Richmond, 2/19 vs. Saint Joseph’s
It was Lavoy Allen’s turn, as the injury bug took a bite out of the senior forward, forcing him to the bench for Saturday’s game versus Dayton. Ramone Moore stepped up and earned his sixth Honor Roll citation last week as he averaged 24.0 points and 5.0 rebounds over the week. Moore snagged nine rebounds in the Owls’ win over Dayton. Temple has a showdown with Richmond scheduled for Thursday night. The winner should draw at least the #3 seed for the conference tournament in Atlantic City next month.
4. Richmond (20-6, 9-2)
Last Week: 2/9 @George Washington 69-65, 2/12 vs. Saint Louis 64-52
Next Week: 2/16 @Temple, 2/19 vs. St. Bonaventure
The Spiders put some distance between the elites and the middle teams as they posted another 2-0 week complements from two middle-of-the-conference teams. Justin Harper earned his second Player of the Week citation for as he averaged 21.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in Richmond’s two games last week. Coach ChrisMooney and Company take a trip up to Philadelphia for a mini-showdown on Wednesday, then returns home to host the Bonnies on Saturday.
5. Rhode Island (16-9, 7-4)
Last Week: 2/9 vs. Dayton 67-53, 2/12 vs. Charlotte 71-70 OT
Next Week: 2/19 vs. Massachusetts
Rhode Island demolished a struggling Dayton team Wednesday to take over fifth place in the conference standings, and hung on to beat Charlotte on Saturday in overtime. Too little too late? Perhaps for the NCAAs, a number of solid conference wins will not make the Selection Committee forget losses to Quinnipiac and a route at the hands of Florida. Finish solidly and another round in the NITs awaits. Will that be enough for coach Jim Baron? The Runnin’ Rams face regional rival (and conference mate) Massachusetts Saturday in one of their three conference mirror games.
6. Dayton (17-9, 5-6)
Last Week: 2/9 @Rhode Island 53-67, 2/12 vs. Temple 63-75
Next Week: 2/16 @Charlotte, 2/19 vs. Duquesne
Final Judgement Week did not go well for the Flyers, as they went 0-2 against teams they really needed to beat to make any case for the post season. Rhode Island has a two game cushion in the loss column now, and Temple has another important win to stay within striking distance of Xavier. Dayton continues to drift downward in the conference standings. Dayton will play Charlotte in Charlotte Wednesday, then return to host Duquesne on Saturday.
7. George Washington (13-12, 6-5)
Last Week: 2/9 vs. Richmond 65-69, 2/13 @Massachusetts 59-51
Next Week: 2/19 @La Salle
The Colonials logged another 1-1 week, but gained an advantage over Massachusetts by winning their head-to-head. Freshman Namanja Mikic earned his second Honor Roll citation (to go with his Rookie of the Week citation) as he averaged 17.5 points for the week’s games. Karl Hobbs‘ team travels to Philadelphia to play La Salle Saturday in their only game this week.
8. St. Bonaventure (13-10, 5-5)
Last Week: 2/12 vs. La Salle 82-61
Next Week: 2/16 vs. St. Louis, 2/20 @Richmond
Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies hammered a struggling La Salle squad by 21 points, earning Andrew Nicholson his ninth Honor Roll citation this season. The Bonnies host St. Louis Wednesday and travel to Richmond for a tilt with the Spiders Sunday.
9. Massachusetts (13-10, 5-5)
Last Week: 2/13 vs. George Washington 51-59
Next Week: 2/16 vs. Duquesne, 2/19 @Rhode Island
The Minutemen ran their losing streak to three last week with a loss to George Washington Sunday. Derek Kellogg‘s squad looks at two more tough opponents this week as the Minutemen host a two game home stand by hosting the Colonials next Sunday, then the Dukes the following Wednesday.
10. LaSalle (12-14, 4-7)
Last Week: 2/9 @Saint Louis 78-77, 2/12 @St. Bonaventure 61-82
Next Week: 2/19 vs. George Washington
The Explorers won their mini-series with St. Louis, pushing the Billikens another game down in the conference standings, but they have a two game gap to jump if they want to finish in the middle of the conference. Dr. John Giannini‘s squad has earned 16 citations for individual performances from the conference this season, one less than conference-leaders Duquesne and Dayton, two teams ensconced in the conference’s upper division. When working through this season, the La Salle staff and administration is going to have to reconcile the paradox of recognizable individual performances and mediocre team outcomes. La Salle has a single weekend game, as they host George Washington on Saturday. If the Explorers plan to mount a closing rush for an upper division finish this season, they have to start with George Washington.
11. SaintLouis (8-16, 3-8)
Last Week: 2/9 vs. La Salle 77-78, 2/12 @Richmond 52-64
Next Week: 2/16 @St. Bonaventure, 2/19 vs. Charlotte
The Billikens posted an 0-2 week, and run their losing streak to three. The Richmond game raised no eyebrows, but giving up a layup to Ruben Guillandeaux with 19 seconds left (and a one point lead) will hurt for awhile. Freshman Dwayne Evans earned his second Honor Roll citation of the season as he averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 rebounds last week. Coach Rick Majerus‘ squad heads out to Olean, New York to play St. Bonaventure Wednesday, then returns to Chaifetz Arena to host Charlotte in a Saturday game.
12. Charlotte (10-13, 2-7)
Last Week: 2/12 @Rhode Island 70-71 OT
Next Week: 2/16 vs. Dayton, 2/19 @St. Louis
Charlotte logged a 0-1 week and extended their losing streak with Satuday’s result in Rhode Island. Chris Braswell did draw a conference citation for logging his fifth double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) in the loss. Charlotte hosts Dayton Wednesday and travels to St. Louis for a weekend game with the Billikens.
13. Saint Joseph‘s (6-17, 1-8)
Last Week: 2/13 @Fordham 76-70
Next Week: 2/16 vs. Xavier, 2/20 @Temple
The Hawks played a single game last week, but it was a good one as Saint Joseph’s stormed back from a 12 point halftime deficit to notch the program’s 1,500th all-time win, a six point classic, against Fordham last Sunday that also earned Langston Galloway his third Rookie of the Week citation for his career-high 25 point performance against Fordham. Saint Joseph’s’ two-game winning streak has been fun, but the Hawks are back in the meat grinder this week as they host Xavier on Wednesday and then travel across town to play Temple on Sunday.
14. Fordham (6-17, 0-11)
Last Week: 2/9 @Temple 66-77, 2/13 vs. Saint Joseph’s 70-76
Next Week: 2/16 @Xavier
Fordham’s winless string runs to 11 in conference play, with another 0-2 week. The probability they will finish the conference season without a win stand ominously at 44.7% per Ken Pomeroy. The Pythagorean Winning Percentage suggests the Rams will earn a win, but the calculations for individual games shows a “losing” probability for each game. Best chance remains a travel-challenged Massachusetts squad at the end of the season. Fordham travels to Cincinnati to take on Xavier.
A Look Ahead
The week offers a single headliner game, Richmond at Temple on Thursday night. Crucial to settling the question of the #2 and #3 seeds in Atlantic City. A Temple win would assure the Owls of no worse than a #3 seed, with distinct possibilities of a #2 seed should Duquesne falter. A Richmond win will leave the question to be settled on the court in a season-ending clash with Duquesne on March 3. Rebounding has become Richmond’s burden to bear this season. The lack of presence on the glass means their shots have to fall consistently for them to have a chance. So far they have as the Spiders convert at a 54% (eFG%) rate in conference play. They do not however rebound defensively either. And that can be a real problem given Temple’s board domination. This one should go to the Owls, though Temple fans should be warned that Richmond has the strongest road-only efficiency in the conference.
The Rhode Island-Massachusetts game scheduled for Saturday can help the Runnin’ Rams for NIT consideration should Coach Baron’s charges win. With five conference games remaining in the regular season, Rhode Island can solidify a #5 seed in the tournament should they continue to win.
Efficiency Differentials Sort Out the Best and Worst: In an effort to assess the “quality” of each team’s conference record, I included an SOS table below, consistent with Ken Pomeroy’s formula, on the average of the adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies for the conference teams played so far. The four teams at the top of the conference, along with the three teams at the bottom behaved and “fell into place” this week, but Dayton, together with Massachusetts and Rhode Island, continues to be outliers. The Flyers are used to that role, one they assumed virtually all of the 2010 conference season as well.
The SOS will bounce around for the next few weeks, as less than 50% of the conference schedule is official to this point. Duquesne‘s record is consistent with its efficiency differential, but their SOS suggests this may be due to an easier schedule. Games against Dayton, Temple and Richmond, however, suggest the record is legitimate and earned. As the Dukes play through February their record and SOS are elements worth monitoring. Massachusetts’ negative differential is a significant counterpoint to the Minutemen’s conference record. Their two conference losses were blowouts — by 29 to Xavier and by 16 to Richmond. UMass faces the second-best defense in conference (so far) in Saint Louis on Wednesday, and if the Bills can find a scorer somewhere on their roster, that game may be less certain a win for Massachusetts than it first appears. Though Fordham lost both games again last week, they nevertheless narrowed the differential gap that had opened at the start of conference play.
The showdown games broke for the favored teams last week, leaving the top one-third of the conference standings virtually intact. St. Louis had a bad week, as did Charlotte, and both fell to the bottom third of the rankings.
1. Xavier (15-5, 7-0)
Last Week: 1/26 vs. George Washington 81-74, 1/29 @Richmond 85-62
Next Week: 2/2 @Charlotte, 2/5 vs. Saint Louis
The Musketeers had another 2-0 week as Tu Holloway received his fifth Player of the Week citation (second in a row), from the conference. Holloway averaged 27.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists in X’s wins over GWU and Richmond. Coach Chris Mack‘s squad will travel to Charlotte on Wednesday before hosting Saint Louis on Saturday.
2. Duquesne (15-5, 7-0)
Last Week: 1/26 @Fordham 91-72, 1/29 vs. Dayton 81-64
Next Week: 2/2 vs. George Washington, 2/5 @St. Bonaventure
The Dukes closed out a “perfect” January with their fifth 2-0 week, running their winning streak to 10. Duquesne’s “May-November Couple” senior forward Damian Saunders and freshman point guard TJ McConnell were cited together for the third consecutive week. Saunders with an Honor Roll citation (his fourth this season), was cited for averaging a double-double (16.0 points 10.0 rebounds) in games against Fordham and Dayton. McConnell averaged 14.5 points, 7.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds and in the Dukes’ two games. Duquesne, touting the highest possession rate in conference games this season (72.4) won each game by double digits (19 points versus Fordham, 17 points versus Dayton). Duquesne plays at home this Wednesday against George Washington, then take to the road on Saturday to face St. Bonaventure in Olean, NY.
3. Richmond (16-6, 5-2)
Last Week: 1/25 @Dayton 70-61, 1/29 vs. Xavier 62-85
Next Week: 2/2 vs. Saint Joseph’s, 2/5 @Fordham
The Spiders fell another game behind the pace last week, beating Dayton on the road (a bit surprising perhaps), but dropping a home game to co-leader Xavier. Richmond squandered a good opportunity to pull one of the conference leaders back to the pack, but also to post another resume win for Selection Sunday. Richmond is listed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi in the “First Four Out” group as of last Monday (1/31). The squad should have an easier time this week as they face the conference’s two worst teams. No more slip-ups, guys.
4. Temple (15-5, 5-2)
Last Week: 1/26 vs. Charlotte 76-67, 1/29 @Saint Joseph’s 72-54
Next Week: 2/2 @La Salle, 2/5 vs. Rhode Island
A Juan Fernandez-less Temple nevertheless posted 2-0 last week and pulled into a tie with Richmond for third place in the conference standings. Senior Lavoy Allen earned his third citation from the conference (a Player of the Week and two Honor Rolls) for posting back-to-back double-doubles in games with Charlotte and Saint Joseph’s. Fernandez, diagnosed with a bone bruise earlier this month, missed both games, in a prudent move by Coach Fran Dunphy. A wise move given the opponents, the Owls managed a nine point winning margin over the 49ers and an 18 point win over Saint Joseph’s. The back court quartet of Scootie Randall, Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt and TJ DiLeo combined for 42 points versus Charlotte and 39 versus Saint Joseph’s. Next week, the Owls travel across town for a game at La Salle, and host up-and-down Rhode Island on Saturday. Those two games, which Pomeroy projects as wins, should, worst case, have the Owls keep pace (albeit two games back) with Xavier and Duquesne, but coach Fran Dunphy knows that long term he has to get his back court leader healthy to stay in the conference race.
5. Massachusetts (13-7, 5-2)
Last Week: 1/26 @St. Bonaventure 78-69, 1/30 vs. Rhode Island 64-54
Next Week: 2/2 @Saint Louis, 2/5 @Saint Joseph’s
The Minutemen had a 2-0, bounce back week, beating the Bonnies in an important road game, then most importantly, beating Rhode Island in a head-to-head for a piece of third place in the conference standings. Senior guard Anthony Gurley earned his fifth citation (second consecutive) for the Honor Roll as he shot 45.2% from the field while he averaged 24.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in UMass’ two games last week. The Minutemen will take to the road for their longest road trip of the conference season, traveling to Saint Louis for a game against the struggling Billikens and then over to Philadelphia for a game against with the also struggling Hawks of Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.
6. Rhode Island (13-8, 4-3)
Last Week: 1/26 @Saint Louis 59-57, 1/30 @Massachusetts 54-64
Next Week: 2/2 vs. Fordham, 2/5 @Temple
Rhode Island beat a struggling Saint Louis team Wednesday, but dropped a ten-point game to Massachusetts Saturday. The 1-1 week translates into an ever-shrinking post season prospect (NIT anyone?). Senior forward Delroy James earned his eighth Honor Roll citation from the conference as he averaged 18.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists for the Rams last week. A Wednesday game versus struggling Fordham followed by a trip to Philadelphia and Saturday game with a wounded Temple squad lies ahead this week for coach Jim Baron and company. The Runnin’ Rams should be fine versus Fordham, but a win at Temple is chance to stay within striking distance in the conference race.
7. George Washington (11-10, 4-3)
Last Week: 1/26 @Xavier 74-81, 1/29 vs. Saint Louis 52-46
Next Week: 2/2 @Duquesne, 2/5 @Charlotte
The Colonials logged a 1-1 week, stopping their losing steak at four when they beat Saint Louis on Saturday. They stay just north of 0.500 in conference play. Junior Tony Taylor‘s 20.0 point average for the two games earned him an Honor Roll mention, his fifth this season, by the conference. Karl Hobbs takes his team on the road for both games next week. They travel to Pittsburgh for a game with Duquesne on Wednesday. If the odds are long in Pittsburgh, they should be more favorable in Charlotte on Saturday. The Colonials will face the 49ers in a game they will need to win to stay above 0.500 in conference play.
8. Dayton (15-7, 3-4)
Last Week: 1/25 vs. Richmond 61-70, 1/30 @Duquesne 64-82
Next Week: 2/2 vs. St. Bonaventure, 2/5 @La Salle
The Flyers logged their second 0-2 week this season; their first in conference play since last March. If that was “Statement Week” for Dayton, the pronouncement is “not happening”. Senior Chris Wright earned a mention, his sixth (to go with his citation for Player of the Week earlier this season), for the conference Honor Roll with his 15.5 point, 9.0 rebound average for those two games. The losing streak should stop at two as Brian Gregory‘s troops host St. Bonaventure on Wednesday and then travel to La Salle for a Saturday game. Maybe they will have another streak – of the winning nature — going into Week Six of conference play.
9. St. Bonaventure (11-9, 3-4)
Last Week: 1/26 vs. Massachusetts 69-78, 1/29 @Fordham 69-60
Next Week: 2/2 @Dayton, 2/5 vs. Duquesne
Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies broke their three-game slide Saturday at Fordham, but not before dropping a home game versus Massachusetts on Wednesday. Junior center Andrew Nicholson earned his seventh Honor Roll nod as he recorded his eighth double-double (25 points, 11 rebounds) of the season in the Fordham game. The Bonnies travel to Dayton for a Wednesday game with the Flyers, then return home to host Duquesne, on Saturday. A 1-1 week would be a morale boost for the squad.
10. La Salle (11-11, 3-4)
Last Week: 1/26 vs. Saint Joseph’s 76-72, 1/29 @Charlotte 91-86 2OT
Next Week: 2/2 vs. Temple, 2/5 vs. Dayton
The Explorers ran off a 2-0 week, as Dr. John Giannini‘s benching of Aaric Murray appeared to continue to pay dividends. The results put La Salle in a three-way tie for eighth place in conference standings, four games behind conference leaders Duquesne and Xavier. Murray earned his seventh citation to the conference Honor Roll as he shot 63% and averaged a double-double (17.5 points, 11.5 rebounds) in the two games last week. February opens with something of a “Statement Week” for La Salle, as the Explorers host Big 5 rival Temple and faltering Dayton in back-to-back home games. Beating Dayton, a team that has struggled with their A-10 conference road slate, would have an effect on the battle for eighth place (and most likely seventh place as well).
11. Saint Louis (7-13, 2-5)
Last Week: 1/26 vs. Rhode Island 57-59, 1/29 @George Washington 46-52
Next Week: 2/2 vs. Massachusetts, 2/5 @Xavier
The “Sort Out Week” sorted the Billikens to the bottom third of the conference, as Saint Louis closed out January on an 0-2 note. As for relief, the cavalry is not coming, not in 2011 anyway. Head coach Rick Majerus nixed the idea of a 2011 comeback for Kwamain Mitchell, the two year point guard suspended just before the open of fall practice for an incident in the spring of 2010. Though Mitchell was readmitted to Saint Louis University and reinstated to the basketball program for the spring semester, Majerus has insisted that unless “…we ended up with four players and he’s the fifth. He’s not going to play. He’s not ready to play…” While there is virtually no chance Saint Louis can roll out another “Fabulous February” like 2010 (7-1), next week’s opponents, Massachusetts on Wednesday and at Xavier on Saturday, would be the place to begin. Stay tuned.
12. Charlotte (9-12, 1-6)
Last Week: 1/26 @Temple 67-76, 1/29 vs. La Salle 86-91 2OT
Next Week: 2/2 vs. Xavier, 2/5 vs. George Washington
Charlotte ran their current losing streak to four with losses to Temple and La Salle last week. Odds are good (if you follow Ken Pomeroy) that the 49ers will add one, possibly even two, to that streak next week. Guard KJ Sherrill earned his first Honor Roll citation Monday for his first career double-double (24 points, 13 rebounds) in the 49ers’ five point, two overtime loss to La Salle. That loss to La Salle opened a three-game homestand, and if Charlotte wants to solidify at least a first round game in the conference tournament, they should win another two or so conference games this season. George Washington is a reasonable candidate. After that, the pickings get very slim until the last week of conference play.
13. Fordham (6-13, 0-7)
Last Week: 1/25 vs. Duquesne 72-91, 1/29 vs. St. Bonaventure 60-69
Next Week: 2/2 @Rhode Island, 2/5 vs. Richmond
Another 0-2 week for the Rams, as the percentages that they will finish the conference season without a win grew from an ominous 18% to an even more ominous 27.4% per Ken Pomeroy. Pomeroy employs a log5 formula to project winners and losers in each game, and offers the Rams’ 2/13 tilt with Saint Joseph’s, with a 33% chance of winning, as Fordham’s strongest opportunity to dodge a second winless conference season. After Saint Joseph’s, the best opportunity is Fordham’s home season closing game against Massachusetts (24%). News is not all bad however, as the Rams closed the differential gap between itself and the rest of the conference. Fordham travels to Kingston, Rhode Island, in a Battle of the Rams Wednesday, then back home to host Richmond on Saturday.
14. Saint Joseph’s (5-16, 0-7)
Last Week: 1/26 vs. La Salle 72-76, 1/29 vs. Temple 54-72
Next Week: 2/2 @Richmond, 2/5 vs. Massachusetts
The Hawks’ slide numbers eight consecutive games as of last week. Seven of the eight are lodged against their conference record. Freshman forward Ronald Roberts became the third member of the squad to earn an Honor Roll citation from the conference as he came off the bench to average 14.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in the Hawks’ two games. Perhaps it was the prospect of posting a second consecutive 20-loss season, or the realization that the Hawks had lost their eighth consecutive game to the Temple Owls. Or the Temple student rollout (Big 5 contests are notorious for their student rollouts) that read “It’s the Big 5, not the Big 5-15″, or maybe the realization that this would be his first last place finish in the Big 5 this decade. During the Temple post game press conference the Hawks’ coach of 16 years, Phil Martelli, initially attempted to draw a distinction between his squads’ play in 2010 and 2011 — “These aren’t beatings, these are losses, Last year, we were getting ‘beatings’. Now, we’re getting ‘losses’”, but he eventually snapped and lashed out at program critics who are “anonymous… (posters) from the netherworld. It’s not people who have been in the fray.”, pledging that “Vengeance will be sweet. And if my family gets hurt by it, then you are talking about a whole other ballgame”. Martelli, the most media-friendly and media-savvy member of the Big 5 coaching fraternity, has established a strong bond with both the Saint Joseph’s fan-base and the Phildelphia ink and radio media. His two “pillars” reacted in very different ways. Fans took to Hawks message boards Sunday and penned signed replies to the coach. The ink media tended to ignore Martelli’s statements completely in their game recaps, or soften his comments. The program suffered another blow when sophomore guard Justin Crosgile was granted a leave of absence from the team to attend to personal matters. The announcement did not indicate when or if Crosgile would rejoin the team. Crosgile had a promising freshman campaign, but his development stalled this season, and he was unable to get off the bench for a 5-16 team. Saint Joseph’s travels to Richmond for a Wednesday game, and returns to Philadelphia to host Massachusetts on Saturday.
A Look Ahead
The week lacks the headliner games of last week, but there are a handful of games that should sort out the teams in the conference’s upper division. Dayton, La Salle and St. Bonaventure, sport identical 3-4 records, and Dayton will face both this week. The Flyers host St. Bonaventure Wednesday. Dayton’s efficiency differential suggests they should have a better record than their 3-4 tally to date. A Pythagorean Winning Percentage of 0.514 projects an 8-8 conference record. Bonaventure’s Pythagorean Winning Percentage projects (based on conference games only) a six win record, while La Salle’s projects to about five wins. Taking both games will not push Flyers back into the conference elites, but it will provide some definition for the middle tier of the conference. Rhode Island will most likely boast a 5-3 when the Ram visit Temple Saturday. The Owls play La Salle on Wednesday and should have either a 6-2 (likely) or 5-3 record to match Rhode Island’s. The loser falls another game off the pace, and trying to make up three games on the conference leaders with less than a month left in conference play is a pretty tall order.
With non-conference play in the books, it’s time to name the All-Conference Team, based on first half performance. These are the five players I like best for end of the season conference honor. They are off to great starts.
G – Tu Holloway, Xavier; the guard struggled against Cincinnati, but he continues to be Xavier’s best weapon.
G – Bill Clark, Duquesne; the Dukes are back and Clark is a big reason.
F – Chris Wright, Dayton; he may not assert himself enough in tight games.
F – Justin Harper, Richmond; how Harper goes, so go the Spiders.
C – Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure; junior center has been cited in six of the nine week old season.
Honorable Mention – these seven are very much in the hunt for Player of the Year and All-Conference First Team recognition:
G – Kevin Anderson, Richmond; last season’s POY cannot be left out of a conversation about Player of the Year.
G – Derrio Green, Charlotte; like Nicholson, his chances for conference recognition will depend as much on how his team finishes the season as how well he plays.
G – Ramone Moore, Temple; a big reason Owl fans have not missed Ryan Brooks.
G – Tony Taylor, George Washington; the junior has come on strong in December and January, as have the Colonials.
F – Lavoy Allen, Temple; his team’s ranking will boost his prospects, but he needs a few signature games to go with some game-to-game consistency.
F – Delroy James, Rhode Island; James has been cited by the conference in six of the season’s nine weeks. Like Green and Nicholson, his prospects may hang as much on his team’s finish as his own performance.
F – Chris Gaston, Fordham; strong individual performances have earned him multiple conference citations, but how will Fordham finish?
Rookies I Like: The following seven freshmen are the collective favorites for the All Conference Freshmen Team, with TJ McConnell, given Duquesne’s standing at this point, probably the strongest challenger to Juwan Staten. Staten, the projected Rookie of the Year, has had a good season so far, but the Flyers continue to perform inconsistently. The freshman point guard remains my odds-on favorite for Freshman of the Year, but the race is competitive and contains a few unexpected faces.
G – TJ McConnell, Duquesne; Duke fans were high on this high schooler out of central Pennsylvania, has been cited twice for Freshman Honors.
G – Tyreek Duren, La Salle; one of two crucial freshman at La Salle this season, important building blocks for the Explorer program.
G – Langston Galloway, Saint Joseph’s; one of four freshmen recruited by coach Phil Martelli to revive the Hawk program.
G – Brandon Frazier,Fordham; not a favorite due to Fordham’s continued struggles, but has a solid chance, with a solid season, to make the All-Freshmen Team.
F – Nemanja Mikic, George Washington; with Lasan Kromah’s injury, the Colonials drifted, but have started to so signs of pulling the team together. If GWU makes a serious run at the top half of the conference, Mikic will be a big part of that push.
C – CJ Aiken, Saint Joseph’s; Big men take time, and if Martelli is patient, this one could turn his program around.
Seven teams had perfect weeks, while six others were winless. Several teams around the conference midpoint have moved according to their currrent records, but the conference season for most, is only two games old.
1. Temple (11-3, 2-0) #19 AP
Last Week: 1/5 @Fordham 70-51, 1/9 vs. Saint Louis 57-53
Next Week: 1/12 vs. St. Bonaventure, 1/15 @Duquesne
Temple jumped back into the AP’s Top 25, up to #19 on the January 10 poll on the heels of a 2-0 week. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad traveled to the Izod Arena in Secaucus, NJ, to trounce Fordham by 19 points, then returned home to hold off a late Saint Louis rally and notch a four-point win on the Bills. Ramone Moore drew an Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Owls in those two wins.
The Owls get an early-season test in the form of a road trip to Duquesne. The Dukes, an early season darling for stats geek Ken Pomeroy, have cooled off a little, so if Temple has plans to stay ahead of Richmond (who will host Duquesne at the end of the season) and remain in the Top 25, a win is important. The challenge is even greater with Juan Fernandez’s knee injury. The Owls survived the Billikens over the weekend, but will need a mobile point guard if they are to consistently break a press.
2. Richmond (13-4, 2-0)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. Charlotte 71-59, 1/8 @La Salle 87-68
Next Week: 1/13 vs. Rhode Island
The Spiders keep pace with Temple atop the A-10, having opened, like the Owls, with a 2-0 week. Senior forward JustinHarper continues to have an outstanding season as in addition to being cited for three conference Honorable Mentions, he was named conference Player of the Week for his work in the Charlotte and La Salle games. According to the citation, Harper was 19-29 overall (65.5%) and 7-13 (53.8%) from beyond the arc. Against La Salle, Harper also recorded his second double-double in the last four games as he scored 25 points and 10 rebounds at La Salle on Sunday.
Coach Chris Mooney‘s squad will host Rhode Island Thursday and then take the weekend off.
3. Dayton (13-4, 1-1)
Last Week: 1/5 @St. Louis 60-50, 1/9 @Massachusetts 50-55
Next Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Joseph’s, 1/15 @Xavier
The Flyers finished a puzzling 1-1 week, snapping their winning streak at six. Senior forward Chris Wright was cited with a conference Honorable Mention for his double-double (14 points and 14 rebounds) at St. Louis. His work at Massachusetts, six points and seven rebounds, was just not enough in that very low scoring game — game breakdown in the Massachusetts recap.
Coach Brian Gregory’s squad will host Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday and travel to Cincinnati for a Saturday game with Xavier. With three out of conference losses and now a “what the heck?!” effort against Massachusetts, the 2011 edition of the Flyers will have to be more consistent game-to-game if they want avoid a repeat of the 2010 conference season. That starts this week with two important games. Saint Joseph’s is too young to surprise Dayton, ranked #330 out of 345 by Ken Pomeroy for experience, but it is the type of situation (home game, not well regarded opponent) that could give the Flyers unexpected trouble. Saturday’s game at Xavier carries conference seed implications. If Dayton can take the road game in this annual two game series, the Flyers will have an advantage later when the X-men travel to Dayton, and when the two teams are seeded for the conference tournament. Take both games and the Flyers will have the advantage in a tie-breaker with Xavier and two good (but not Top 25) wins for the Selection Committee.
4. Xavier (8-5, 1-0)
Last Week: 1/6 @Cincinnati 66-46, 1/9 @Rhode Island 72-45
Next Week: 1/12 vs. Massachusetts, 1/15 vs. Dayton
The 20-point trouncing at the hands of crosstown rival Cincinnati has to be a bucket of very cold water to the Musketeers, who have dominated this series of late (7-3 over the last decade, coming into this season). Their bounce-back game, a 27-point beat down of Rhode Island may have been a release (that helped earn senior forward Jamel McLean an Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 18.5 points (18 and 19) and 9.0 rebounds (six and 12) against Cincinnati and Rhode Island respectively. .
Chris Mack’s team could use a good run through the conference to revive their hopes for a sixth NCAA post season bid. Hosting two conference opponents gives the X-men a solid opportunity. The Dayton-slaying Minutemen visit on Wednesday and the Flyers follow on Saturday.
5. Massachusetts (9-5, 1-0)
Last Week: 1/9 vs. Dayton 55-50
Next Week: 1/12 @Xavier, 1/15 vs. La Salle
Can you win a basketball game while hitting 12 field goal attempts total and shooting to an overall conversion percentage of 27.3%? Yes, apparently, if the planets align and your opponent is Dayton. Though Dayton actually converted at a higher percentage than UMass (28.6%) and had more field goals, the Minutemen nearly double-upped the Flyers at the free throw line (36 vs. 19 free throw attempts) and scored 16 more points from the line than the Flyers.
With postseason prospects dwindling, Massachusetts and Xavier have an early conference test coming up Wednesday. Massachusetts returns home to host La Salle on Saturday.
6. Duquesne (9-5, 1-0)
Last Week: 1/5 @Saint Joseph’s 75-63, 1/8 vs. Houston Baptist 81-64
Next Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Louis, 1/15 vs. Temple
The Dukes ran their winning streak to four with another 2-0 week. Senior Bill Clark earned his second consecutive Honorable Mention for his work in both games. Clark averaged 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the two games. The Dukes also snapped their nine game losing streak when playing Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia. Duquesne’s road record versus Saint Joseph’s is 2-19.
Coach Ron Everhard‘s troops has an important two game home stand coming up. They host an undermanned, Rick Majerus-less Saint Louis team Wednesday and an Owls squad that may not have junior point guard Juan Fernandez available on Saturday.
7. St. Bonaventure (9-5, 1-0)
Last Week: 1/5 @Arkansas-Little Rock 68-55, 1/8 vs. Charlotte 92-88 3OT
Next Week: 1/12 @Temple, 1/16 @Rhode Island
Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies logged a 2-0 week, raising their 2011 mark to 2-1, and their conference record is an unblemished 2-0. Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson drew his second consecutive Honorable Mention for his game-high block buster 34 points in the Bonnies’ three overtime win over Charlotte. The junior also logged a stunning 55 minutes of playing time in the Bonnies’ 1-0 start.
Saint Bonaventure faces a week on the road in what should be a good early season reality check for their fans and well-wishers. Nicholson and company travel to Philadelphia (weather willing) to take on the conference-leading Temple Owls, then swing out to Kingston, Rhode Island, to face the Runnin’ Rams.
8. Rhode Island (9-6, 0-1)
Last Week: 1/9 vs. Xavier 45-72
Next Week: 1/13 @Richmond, 1/16 vs. St. Bonaventure
Coach Jim Baron‘s charges got their conference season off on the wrong foot with a 26 point home loss to Xavier. While Delroy James earned his sixth conference Honorable Mention this season (tied for highest number of mentions with Bill Clark of Duquesne and Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure), a 26-point home court loss has a way of messing up a tournament resume. The Runnin’ Rams have picked up six losses so far this season, and post season prospects are dimming quickly.
The road to revival runs through Richmond, and any serious hopes for a postseason beyond Atlantic City has to start next week.
9. George Washington (9-6, 2-0)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. La Salle 72-67, 1/8 @Saint Joseph’s 78-71
Next Week: 1/12 vs. Fordham, 1/15 vs. Harvard
The Colonials kicked off conference play with a 2-0 start, beating La Salle at the Charles E. Smith Center and taking Saint Joseph’s at the Hagan in Philadelphia. Junior guard Tony Taylor earned his fourth Honorable Mention from the conference by averaging 24 points for the Colonials’ 2-0 open of their conference slate. Taylor scored a career-high 28 points against La Salle.
George Washington will host Fordham on Wednesday and Harvard on Saturday.
10. La Salle (7-9, 0-2)
Last Week: 1/5 @George Washington 67-72, 1/8 vs. Richmond 68-87
Next Week: 1/12 vs. Pennsylvania, 1/15 @Massachusetts
La Salle had an 0-2 opening week in conference play. Frustrated with the lackluster and tempermental play against George Washington that included a technical assessed to senior forward Jerrell Williams, Coach/Dr. John Ginniani benched sophomore Aaric Murray for the entire game with Richmond, pulledRuben Guillandeaux out of the starting line and held the senior gurad out of the game for the first five minutes. “I know how [Murray] responds when things hit rock bottom,” Giannini said. “He really steps it up…”
Dr. Giannini’s predicted turnaround should start Wednesday against Big 5 rival the University of Pennsylvania. The Explorers have a road game at Massachusetts on Saturday.
11. Charlotte (6-8, 0-2)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. Richmond 59-71, 1/8 @St. Bonaventure 88-92 3OT,
Next Week: 1/15 vs. Fordham
Charlotte stumbled to an 0-2 record in conference play last week. After a 12 point home loss to Richmond, the 49ers traveled to Olean, NY and dropped a four point game to St. Bonaventure. They did not however, go quietly, taking the Bonnies to three overtime periods before bowing. Junior Javarris Barnett scored his second career double-double, 20 points and 10 rebounds, in Charlotte’s triple overtime loss to St. Bonaventure. Barnett’s achievement earned him his first Honorable Mention and the second citation (his first, last week, was a Player of the Week honor) of the season. Barnett is the fifth member of the 49er squad to draw a nod for strong play from the conference.
Coach Alan Major‘s squad continues their Northeastern sojourn as they take in a game at Fordham on Saturday.
12. Fordham (6-7, 0-1)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. Temple 70-51
Next Week: 1/12 @George Washington, 1/15 @Charlotte
Fordham’s losing streak has run to three with the conference-opening loss to Temple. Things may not get better for coach Tom Pecora‘s Rams next week, as Fordham has a two game Southern road swing starting on Wednesday at George Washington and another stop in Charlotte on Saturday.
13. Saint Louis (5-10, 0-2)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. Dayton 50-60, 1/9 @Temple 53-57
Next Week: 1/12 @Duquesne, 1/15 vs. Saint Joseph’s
The Billikens’ losing streak stands at five after Rick Majerus’ squad dropped two more games last week. Majerus’s absence ran to three games as the coach did not take the trip to Philadelphia when Saint Louis played Temple. Majerus is expected to miss one more game (Duquesne on Wednesday). The other personnel question surrounding the team is the status of Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed. Both re-enrolled at Saint Louis for the spring semesters. Mitchell has practiced with the team and awaiting clearance from the NCAA before he can resume play. Reed’s suspension from the team continues. Mitchell may, pending NCAA clearance, play in the Duquesne or the Saint Joseph’s game.
14. Saint Joseph’s (5-10, 0-2)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. Duquesne 63-75, 1/8 vs. George Washington 71-78
Next Week: 1/12 @Dayton, 1/15 @Saint Louis
The Hawks may console themselves on the relatively close loss to George Washington, but there will be no pause in the schedule next week as they take a two game road swing through the Midwest, taking in Dayton on Wednesday and Saint Louis on Saturday. The Dayton game may be problematic, but Saint Louis game, with an undermanned and possibly distracted squad might be winnable.The result may factor into a tie breaker at the end of the conference season.
A Look Ahead
My season preview predicted between three and four (with a bias towards four) teams would garner bids to the NCAA Tournament. At this point last season the conference had six teams whose out of conference records had bracketologists buzzing. The conference showing in their out of conference was below expectations this year, however, and even ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has only Temple in his field of 68 this week while the Mountain West, Missouri Valley, CUSA, WAC and West Coast conferences get multiple bids. Teams at the bottom of the A-10 may not be as weak as last season, but the teams at the top have not demonstrated yet that they are as strong as teams at the top were last season. The conference has three, possibly four legitimate candidates, Temple aside, but each has flaws and a good deal of work to do.
Temple is the clear favorite to sweep the regular season title and conference championship. Lunardi seeds the Owls #7 this week, but the conference schedule favors the Owls, and with an extremely strong showing at 14-2, 15-1, coupled with a run through the conference tournament, they should be able to improve that seed by three or four spots.
Richmond — Lunardi lists the Spiders among the eight bubble teams on the outside looking in. Not blessed with a schedule as favorable as Temple’s, Coach Mooney’s squad can help it’s chances with favorable results in three games at the end of January. The Spiders travel to Amherst for a game with Massachusetts on January 22, then swing out to Ohio for a second road game with Dayton on 1/25 and finally return home to host Xavier on January 29. 3-0 through that week-plus (and no more fumbles before or after) should put Mooney’s charges in the field of 68; while 2-1 would not be fatal, anything lower might not jeopardize the team’s conference standing but will diminish the Spiders’ chances to make it’s second straight NCAA appearance in 2011.
The Dayton Flyers appear to be plagued with the same inconsistent play this season as last. They rally to win road games at Mississippi State and Seton Hall, only to be run out of the U. S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati and dumped four days later by East Tennessee State. The result of the Massachusetts game last Sunday really hurt their postseason prospects. Dayton has a crucial game this weekend versus Xavier, and after a trip to Fordham, the Flyers return home to host Richmond and then travel to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne. 4-0 through this sequence (counting Fordham in the win column) with solid margins would help settle the “good enough” questions. 3-1 would not be fatal, but it depends on how those four in turn finish there seasons.
A home loss to Florida along with road losses to Gonzaga and Miami (OH) (RPI #91), have damaged the Musketeers’ postseason prospects. Rehabilitation of their prospects has to start this week when the Musketeers host Massachusetts then Dayton. Xavier probably needs both. The Southern Road Trip, a journey that takes the Musketeers through Richmond and then Charlotte, scheduled on the cusp of January and February, may well settle Xavier’s prospects. Should the X-men be undefeated going into those games, a 2-0 result would be very good news, while anything less will be very damaging.
Of the three 9-6 teams — Massachusetts, Duquesne and St. Bonaventure — Duquesne may have the best shot. Of the Dukes’ five losses (to Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Penn State, George Mason and Robert Morris), Robert Morris (RPI #99) is the most damaging. Fans should learn a lot about Duquesne this week when Saint Louis and Temple visit. 2-0 is possible given injuries and absences in those programs. The Dukes’ home-away series with Dayton, home game versus Xavier and season-ending road game versus Richmond are the four game Duquesne will have to record a 4-0/3-1 record. That assumes they sweep the other nine games.
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Arizona is still undefeated, thanks in part to dunks like this from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Dude’s got hops. #DunkOfTheYear