Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2010

 

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

The Week in the A-10: Invitational Tournaments

When the NCAA rewrote and relaxed the exemption rules for early season invitational tournaments, they expanded the number of tournaments and the number of bids that could be extended. Playing in a mixed field of high-, mid- and low-majors has become the norm rather than the exception in the 15+ tournaments that dot the D-I schedule from roughly the season tip off (the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic) to the end of the calendar year (the Cable Car Classic and ECAC Holiday Tournament for example) but peak over Thanksgiving Weekend. Although the power conferences continue to dominate the invitational seeds, a variety of higher-profile conferences, not among the above “the Red Line” elites, are increasing their own representation. Dan Hanner’s blog, Yet Another Basketball Blog (YABB), lists 18 separate by-invitation-only tournaments, nine of which have an A-10 team in their field this season. I added the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, because it is an exempt tournament (though none of the teams in the field are from above the Red Line conferences), which brings the total to 10 invitational tournaments this season.  That is more invitational tournaments than teams from the Pac-10, the SEC, and the Big Ten are playing in this season. For a conference that has had problems getting home-and-home contracts with brand-name teams, the invitational tournament offers the next best chance as it provides a match on a neutral court. The door is open, how many conference teams walked through?

Overall, the conference racked up a 22-10 (0.643) record in the eight tournaments played so far. If George Washington held a level (1-1) record through the preliminary pod (held outside of Philadelphia), they were consoled with the hosting responsibilities for one of the three consolation sites. The Colonials finished the tournament with an even 2-2 record. Good surprises included the Richmond sweep of the Chicago Invitational that included a win over #8 Purdue in the tournament finals, a Saint Joseph’s sweep of the Philly Hoops Classic that included a win over Big East representative Rutgers and the 3-1 record posted by La Salle in the Cancun Challenge included a win over Big East representative Providence. The most disappointing showings were turned in by Temple at the Old Spice Classic and Charlotte at the Charleston Classic. The Owls dropped two of their three games over Thanksgiving Weekend, one to a very beatable California team from the Pac-10, and the other, a one possession-squeaker, to Texas A&M of the Big 12. Charlotte may still be working out the kinks in rookie coach Alan Major’s systems, but an embarrassing losing margin to George Mason (22 points) and the consolation overtime loss to Coastal Carolina suggest the 49ers have a good deal of work ahead of them. Eight A-10 players were named to All-Tournament Teams, one taking the Tournament MVP.

Power Rankings

The latest round of invitational tournaments has turned the power rankings into scrambled eggs. The A-10 is used to giving, not receiving, upsets in these early season rows.

1. Richmond (4-1)

Last Week: 11/26 vs. Wright State 71-61 @ Chicago, IL (Chicago Invitational Challenge), 11/27 vs. Purdue 65-54 @ Chicago, IL (Chicago Invitational Challenge)

Next Week: 12/1 @ Old Dominion, 12/5 @ Arizona State

The stumble against Iona (hey, it was an away game after all) is all but forgotten by the neutral win over #8 Purdue at the Chicago Invitational Challenge. Spider point guard Kevin Anderson earned Player of the Week honors for his performance at the Chicago Invitational, where the tournament committee recognized his efforts by naming him the Tourney MVP.

2. Xavier (5-1)

Last Week: 11/27 vs. Wofford 94-90 3OT

Next Week: 12/1 @ Miami (OH)

Brad Redford’s absence is felt still, as the Musketeers, according to Ken Pomeroy, have converted only 31.7% of their three point attempts, earning them a #285 ranking (out of 345) among Division 1 teams. The X-men needed three overtime periods (the first triple overtime game since their 2005 loss to Massachusetts in Amherst)  to subdue Wofford, their only opponent last week. Xavier was 4-12 (33.3%) from beyond the arc, 1-7 (14.3%) after the first half. Jamel McLean and Kenny Frease recorded double-doubles, scoring 22 and 12 points respectively with 12 and 18 rebounds apiece.

3Massachusetts (6-0)

Last Week: 11/24 vs. American International (D2) 83-56, 11/27 vs. Holy Cross 83-76

Next Week: 12/1 @ Quinnipiac, 12/4 vs. Boston College

The Minutemen swept the field at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, an event that has grown from a single game (scheduled in Springfield, MA, the birthplace of basketball) to a four-game exempt event. Among the victims were New Mexico State of the WAC and Texas Christian University of the Mountain West (soon to be Big East) Conference. The 6-0 start is the best since the 1995-96 season during John Calipari’s coaching tenure. The Massachusetts faithful have every reason to be optimistic, as senior guard Anthony Gurley now has six consecutive double-figure scoring games — but best of all — the scoring responsibilities have been distributed across the lineup. The sophomore class is providing good support, as forward Sampson Carter has four double-figure scoring nights this season and guard Freddie Riley has three. All three players are averaging double-figure point scoring through six games.

4. Dayton (5-1)

Last Week: 11/24 vs. Florida A&M 80-60, 11/27 vs. Cincinnati 34-68

Next Week: 12/1 vs. East Tennessee State, 12/4 vs. Miami (OH)

No, 34-68 is not a typo. The game was a good trap opportunity — four games in eight days right after beating SEC contender Mississippi in a come-from-behind-effort — and the Flyers walked right into it. After their comeback win over Mississippi on November 20, the team faced a pair of low-majors with one day of rest between. Though not particularly efficient efforts, the Flyers won both.  The point margin is deceptive, Cincinnati was not particularly good offensively either, Dayton was just far worse. The Flyers scored on about one in five possessions, producing an offensive efficiency of 0.51 points per possession (o-ppp). Collectively the starters (Chris Wright, Chris Johnson, Juwan Staten, Devin Searcy and Paul Williams) shot a forgettable 6-35 (0.171), accounting for 16 of the total 34 points scored. The staff and junior guard Josh Parker blamed unfocused practice sessions and lack of discipline for the let down.

5. Temple (3-2), AP #21

Last Week: 11/25 vs. California 50-57 @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic), 11/26 vs. Georgia 65-58 @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic), 11/28 Texas A&M 51-54 @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic)

Next Week: 12/1 @ Central Michigan, 12/5 @ Maryland

“We are a work in progress… Our defense is pretty solid. We’ve got a chance to be a good basketball team,” confessed Coach Fran Dunphy in the aftermath of the Texas A&M game that concluded the Old Spice Tournament in Orlando, Florida, last Sunday. The Owl offense ran through guards Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore, along with power forward Lavoy Allen.   In the three games in Orlando, those three posted these numbers…

The table confirms there was too little production (ignore the points and focus on PPWS – points per weighted shots – less than 1.00 is “unproductive”) from those three. The lack of efficient point production can in part be traced to turnovers, but the truth is none of the three, as suggested in Dunphy’s postgame comments, shot the ball particularly well — note the eFG% is well below 50% for each of those players. For the combined three games (a loss to California, a win over Georgia and a loss to Texas A&M) the Owl offense converted possessions to points at an 0.85 rate, well below the 1.00 considered minimally efficient for D-I ball. Each of those teams hails from a BCS conference, schools whose RPIs will improve with conference play. Temple whiffed on two good opportunities, and with Villanova still ahead, the chances to impress the Selection Committee are dwindling.

6. Rhode Island (5-2)

Last Week: 11/24 vs. Drexel 74-68, 11/27 vs. Davidson 71-58

Next Week: 12/4 @ Providence

A week without additional roster attrition is a small victory for coach Jim Baron and the Runnin’ Rams. The coach used an eight man rotation in last weeks games, bringing Ben Eaves, Dan West and Nikola Malesevic off the bench for double digit minutes in each game. As option #2 at the point West, a late August JUCO pickup, has averaged 24 minutes and compiled a 1.5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The conference named forward Delroy James an Honorable Mention for the third consecutive week the forward recorded his 1,000 point of college play.

7. La Salle (5-2)

Last Week: 11/23 vs. Providence 84-73 @ Cancun (Cancun Challenge), 11/24 vs. Missouri 83-71 @ Cancun (Cancun Challenge), 11/29 vs. Delaware State 65-61

Next Week: 12/4 vs. Oklahoma City (Philadelphia)

Sophomore Aaric Murray earned his third consecutive Honorable Mention for averaging a double-double in the Explorers three games. Murray was named to the Cancun Challenge All-Tourney team.

8. St. Bonaventure (3-2)

Last Week: 11/27 @ Cleveland State 51-69

Next Week: 12/4 vs. Buffalo

Despite his summer with the Great Britain National Team, Ogo Adegboye continues to struggle at the point. Demitrius Conger and Adegboye combined for five assists (50% of the teams production) in the Bonnies’ loss to Cleveland State but the pair also accounted to nine turnovers (37.5% of the teams turnovers) in the game. Andrew Nicholson drew his second Honorable Mention for his double-double effort versus the Vikings. Nicholson scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the loss.

9. Duquesne (3-1)

Last Week: 11/27 vs. UMD Baltimore County 101-69

Next Week: 12/1 vs. Pittsburgh, 12/4 @Penn State

The only A-10 school to score 100 or more points in a game this season, Coach Ron Everhart’s squad has done it twice in four games, the second time against Maryland-Baltimore County. Six Dukes players scored double-figurepoints against UMBC, led by senior guard/forward Bill Clark’s 18. Since stumbling against Robert Morris in the second game of the season, junior guard/forward B.J. Monteiro and sophomore guard Sean Johnson have gone on a tear, scoring 33 and 24 points respectively, in the next two games. Good news for Everhart that the scoring has been so balanced. A-10 fans may be looking at Dayton’s Juwan Staten as the presumptive Freshman of the Year, but Duquesne faithful like T.J. McConnell, a freshman guard who has started all four games and averaged 10.0 points so far. his team-high 12 steals is nothing to sneeze at either.

10. Saint Joseph‘s (3-2)

Last Week: 11/23 @ Fairfield 60-51 (Philly Hoops Classic), 11/26 vs. Rutgers 76-70 (Philly Hoops Classic, Palestra)

Next Week: 12/1 @ Drexel, 12/3 @ Villanova, 12/5 @ Princeton

After stumbling to an 0-2 record to start the season, the Hawks have put together a 3-0 run to cross over the .500 mark. Langston Galloway took Rookie of the Week honors for his 17.5 points per game average through that three game run. He scored a career-high 20 points against Rutgers on 11/26 to help Saint Joseph’s to the Philly Hoops Classic title. The freshman dished seven dimes in the tournament final.

11. George Washington (2-3)

Last Week: 11/23 vs Hampton 51-62 (NIT Tip-Off, DC Pod), 11/29 vs. NC Wilmington 69-73

Next Week: 12/1 @ George Mason, 12/5 vs. Navy (BB&T Classic)

The Colonials beat the two weakest teams in the NIT Tip-Off field, but had problems with Boston University (American East Conference) and Hampton (MEAC!), not a good sign for coach Karl Hobbs’ squad.

12. Charlotte (3-4)

Last Week: 11/24 @ Oregon State 70-83, 11/27 vs. Radford 73-52

Next Week: 12/1 @ East Carolina

Despite some early optimism, the transition from coach Bobby Lutz to coach Alan Major has not gone smoothly. All eligible members of the squad that finished the 2010 season may have decided to stay, but Major did not, apparently get them all on-board with his agenda over the summer. Injuries to two squad members can account for the sub-.500 start, but a one game suspension (for violation of team rules) doled out on the eve of the 49ers season debut suggests that the battle for their hearts and minds continues. After a terrific showing in the Charleston Classic, that included an average of 16.0 points per game and double-figure scoring in all three games, senior Shamari Spears was named to the five-man All-Tournament team (not to neglect the Honorable Mention awarded by the A-10 front office). No sooner had the senior forward collected his certificate than he was suspended indefinitely by Major for what other sources describe as an indiscreet tweet. A number of programs have told the players to close their social networking accounts before the season began to minimize the chances a down night might trigger a hasty (and later regretted) note.

13. Saint Louis (3-2)

Last Week: 11/23 vs. Tennessee State 78-50, 11/27 vs. IUPUI 58-55

Next Week: 11/30 @ Portland

How is Coach Rick Majerus adjusting in the absence of stars Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed? If the Tennessee State and IUPUI games are typical, he appears to have enlarged his rotation, as only one player per game logs more than 67% of the available minutes at their position. He looked to freshman Mike McCall (72.5%) in the Tennessee State game, and Kyle Cassity (82.5%) in the UIPIU game. As for possessions and shots, the freshmen McCall, Rob Loe (#4/#5), Jordair Jett (#2 guard), along with junior forward Brian Conklin appear to have formed the nucleus of the Billiken offense, with sophomore forwards Cody Ellis and Cory Remekun and junior Kyle Cassity providing support.

14. Fordham (2-3)

Last Week: 11/23 vs. Long Island 70-82, 11/27 vs. Hartford 61-57

Next Week: 12/1 @ Harvard, 12/4 @ Lehigh

With the win over the Hartford Hawks, Coach Tom Pecora’s 2011 Fordham entry managed to match their 2010 win total under two different coaches. There are more wins to be found in the schedule. While sophomore forward Chris Gaston managed his third Honorable Mention from the conference, there are others on the squad who turned in good efforts in the last week, among them freshman guard Branden Frazier, who scored 39 points in the two games (24 vs. LIU, 15 vs. Hartford) on 15-24 (9-16, 6-8) and 2-2 shooting, for an eFG% of 75.0%, and sophomore guard Alberto Estwick, who scored 30 points on 11-20 (6-13, 5-7) and 2-2 shooting (his eFG% was 67.5%).

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Set Your Tivo: 11.22.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 22nd, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

All of these games are from tournaments played on a neutral floor. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Maui Invitational Opening Round: Connecticut vs. Wichita State — 3 pm on ESPN2 (***)

The best game of Maui’s first day features a matchup of teams with contrasting styles. Wichita State is a very deliberate, low scoring team that will sit back and play half court defense. Connecticut, without a dominant big man such as Emeka Okafor or Hasheem Thabeet, prefers to run with its guards and wings led by Kemba Walker. The junior point guard had a good offseason and is tearing it up so far. He had 42/8/3 in a game against Vermont last week, an 89-73 Husky win. Alex Oriakhi has been great for Jim Calhoun in the first two games of the season averaging 11/13 and 3.5 blocks, a Calhoun trademark. As a team, Connecticut pulled down an astounding 52 rebounds per contest in their first two games. Wichita State does a good job on the defensive glass but they will encounter a tough test against Connecticut. The Shockers are fairly efficient on offense despite their slow pace. One thing they have going for them is their three point shooting versus the Huskies’ defense. Wichita shoots it well while UConn ranks 288th in defending the three. To win, the Shockers need to take advantage of this behind 6’4 guards Toure’ Murry and Graham Hatch. Forward J.T. Durley can also step out and stroke it from three so Wichita clearly has the perimeter threats to make this a close game. The Shockers need a strong defensive effort on Walker as well as wing Roscoe Smith. They don’t create a lot of turnovers because of their pace so holding their own on the boards becomes paramount. If Connecticut wins the rebounding battle handily, it’ll be very difficult for Wichita State to win this game.

CBE Classic Semifinal: #1 Duke vs. Marquette – 7:30 pm on ESPN2 (****)

This game is interesting because it’s Duke’s first test against a good team. Marquette has been vastly underrated by many in the crowded Big East but the Golden Eagles have a solid roster full of young talent and experienced players, always a good combination. Everybody knows about Duke and their stars Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler so let’s shine a little light on Buzz Williams’ crew from the Brew City and see what they have to do to win. Marquette is led by senior swing Jimmy Butler, a candidate for first team all-Big East. Butler broke out last season and is the focal point of Williams’ offense this year. He is surrounded by dynamic guard Darius Johnson-Odom, promising freshman Vander Blue and senior Dwight Buycks. Marquette’s strength is in the backcourt and on the wing, as is Duke’s. If there’s one thing these two teams don’t do all that well it is defend the three, especially Marquette. Williams needs a great defensive effort from his guards if they hope to contain their explosive opponent. The Golden Eagles defend the paint well, ranking fairly high in defensive two point percentage. They must limit the interior players for Duke and force all the action on the guards where a strong effort can possibly contain them. Duke is even deeper off the bench with Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins, both deep threats. Duke is a heavy favorite in this game for good reason but Marquette is going to give them a run. We think Buzz can motivate his team enough and parlay that with their talent to be in this game deep into the second half. Marquette needs everything to go right in this game but that’s not as far-fetched as you may think. MU can run but they don’t want to get caught in a track meet with the Blue Devils where transition opportunities will favor Duke. To knock off #1, Marquette has to hold Duke around 40% shooting and get a huge game out of a Butler, Johnson-Odom and someone off the bench like Jae Crowder. We’re not picking Marquette to win the game but don’t be surprised if this one is closer than you may have originally thought.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.21.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 21st, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

All of these games are from tournaments played on a neutral floor. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Third Place Game: #17 North Carolina vs. Vanderbilt — 5:30 pm on ESPN2 (***)

After losing to an upstart Minnesota team on Friday, North Carolina and Harrison Barnes are trying to avoid going 1-2 in this tournament. The star freshman couldn’t get anything to fall against the Golden Gophers as he shot a dreadful 0-12 from the floor. Vanderbilt is one of those teams that always seems to exceed expectations, mostly because of their underrated head coach Kevin Stallings. The Commodores had a strong second half against West Virginia in their last game but fell just short of a berth in the championship game of this event. John Jenkins shot it well from long range but was only 1-8 inside the arc. He figures to have more trouble penetrating and finishing against the taller UNC front court so you have to imagine he’ll play to his strength and shoot quite a few threes yet again. This should be a closer game than some might imagine, mainly because both teams are playing their third game in four days and Stallings always gets his club to fight hard even when they aren’t as talented. Vanderbilt seems to be doing a lot of work on figuring out its rotation as the minute distribution has been fairly balanced and spread out amongst many players. For UNC, Larry Drew II needs to take better care of the ball and get others more involved. His assists are down a bit to start the year but that could also be due to freshman Kendall Marshall earning some quality minutes at the point. North Carolina should win this game but it won’t be easy. Vanderbilt is going to surprise some people this year whether it’s this evening or later in the season.

Paradise Jam Semifinal: Old Dominion vs. Clemson — 6 pm on Fox College Sports (***)

Games like this, where contrasting styles go head to head, are always fun. In this case, the up-tempo Clemson Tigers meet an Old Dominion team that would like nothing more than to turn this game into a slow defensive struggle. Each team got a fairly easy draw in their first round game with Clemson knocking off Long Beach State and ODU taking care of St. Peter’s, though the Monarchs had some trouble closing them out. Blaine Taylor’s team has tall guards and wings who can really get after it on defense by using their length against smaller guards. That’s exactly what they’ll see in Clemson’s Andre Young and Demontez Stitt. Both are talented players but it’s going to be hard for them to get anything going against a stout Monarch defense that ranked tenth last year in defensive efficiency and is 20th so far this year. A great matchup should occur on the wing between each team’s leading scorer, Ben Finney for ODU and Tanner Smith for Clemson. Both are listed at 6’5/220 and have enjoyed solid starts to the season. The teams are evenly matched inside height-wise as they each have two important players that stand at 6’8. You’d have to favor Devin Booker and Jerai Grant for Clemson against ODU’s Frank Hassell and Keyon Carter. One statistic to watch is rebounding, where Old Dominion should enjoy an advantage. Clemson is definitely the more athletic team and probably the more talented one as well but we like the Monarchs to advance to the Paradise Jam finals in a close, low-scoring affair.

Charleston Classic Championship Game: #18 Georgetown vs. NC State — 7:30 pm on ESPNU (****)

NC State received some bad news late Saturday as ESPN.com’s Andy Katz reported that senior forward Tracy Smith will miss three weeks with a knee injury suffered on Thursday against East Carolina. The Wolfpack had no problem against a decent George Mason squad as they placed five players in double figures in a balanced effort, but Georgetown is a different animal. Smith could really have helped NC State expose a suspect Georgetown front court but now they’ll have to turn to others to make up for the loss. The most likely candidate to see his minutes and production increase is stud freshman C.J. Leslie. He scored 21 points in an opening night win over Tennessee Tech and figures to be a main contributor for Sidney Lowe this season. NC State is a very young team, even more so now without Smith in the lineup. That youth, including another freshman star Ryan Harrow, will be tested by the experienced, strong and versatile Georgetown back court trio of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. Clark has been a pleasant surprise for John Thompson III as he’s increased his production quite a bit from last year. Georgetown’s offense is predicated almost exclusively on the backcourt this season, a far cry from historical Georgetown teams dominated by front court strength. The Hoyas are relatively thin yet again with the three guards all logging over 30 minutes a game. Georgetown has tall players on the roster but they’re very inexperienced and rather ineffective except for Julian Vaughn and Hollis Thompson. Look for NC State to take advantage inside early even without Smith and maybe jump out to a lead, but we expect the experienced Hoya back court to assert itself down the stretch as they did against Old Dominion and pull this one out.

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Second Round Game Analysis: Sunday Games

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on January 20th, 2010

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

Efficiency Differentials

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

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

Standings as of – 01/19/10

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

Team Breakdowns

Charlotte

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

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

Dayton

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

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

Duquesne

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

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

Fordham

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

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

George Washington

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

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

La Salle

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

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

Massachusetts

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

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

Rhode Island

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

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

Richmond

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

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

Saint Joseph’s

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

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

St. Bonaventure

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

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

St. Louis

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

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

Temple

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

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

Xavier

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

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

Games to Catch

  • Richmond at Charlotte – Wednesday 1/20 — Is Richmond ready for the next step? A move up to the top spots in the conference won’t come until the Spiders can secure their home court and then go out and win on the road. With a home record of 7-0 and an efficiency differential of .215, Richmond would appear to have the first test covered. A road win over the 49ers would put them on the road to covering the second.
  • Xavier at Temple – Wednesday 1/20 — The schedule maker must have seen something in the off season that most of us missed, as he (or she?) scheduled a second “sorting out” game in two weeks. The Musketeers travel to Philadelphia to play the Owls. Jordan Crawford should give Ryan Brooks all he can handle, and the Jason Love – Lavoy Allen matchup should be pretty good too.
  • Rhode Island at Xavier – Saturday 1/23 — The Flyers last Saturday, the Owls on Wednesday and then the Rams the Saturday following. The Musketeers might be gunning for a 3-0 sweep (that would really scramble the A10 race), but 2-1 would be a good outcome. The Delroy James – Jason Love/Kenny Fraese matchup should be entertaining. Keith Cothran and Jordan Crawford might turn this into a game of HORSE.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by jstevrtc on December 25th, 2009

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

Road Warriors

A few BCS schools developed reputations for rarely venturing far from their home arenas during their out of conference seasons and relying on their conference’s RPI to bolster their resumes come Selection Sunday.  Coach Jim Calhoun masked the inexperience of his 2007 Huskies by keeping them at home from early November to late December where they ran off 11 straight wins and rose to #12 in the polls.  They opened the Big East season with a 10 point loss to West Virginia, and continued to implode with an 6-14 record through January, February and early March.  The 1st round of the Big East Tournament was their post-season.  Florida State’s Len Hamilton nursed his 2006 Seminole squads to an 9-1 OOC record, leaving home once before ACC conference play (a loss to in state rival Florida).  FSU finished with a 9-7 conference record, and despite a signature win over #1-ranked Duke at the end of the conference season, could not tease a dance bid out of the Selection Committee come Selection Sunday.

A10 coaches have no illusions that the conference’s reputation (however good among the non-BCS conferences) will carry a bubble team into the field of 65.  While few subscribe to former Temple head coach John Chaney’s “Anyone, Anywhere” philosophy, everyone recognizes the virtue of playing invitational tournaments and having a healthy dose of road games on the resume.  Most of their OOC resume-building games may come from traditional rivalries and invitational fields, but the road games, at worst, help their squads prepare for the hostile crowds they will face when playing conference opponents.  How did the conference members do this OOC season?

The statistics, drawn from each team’s Game Plan page at Ken Pomeroy’s website, shows the team’s road (away and neutral site) record, the team’s efficiency (points per possession the team scored – offense and allowed – defense), the team’s shot efficiency (on offense and defense) and the estimated average possessions per game.

Temple looks better with each passing week.  The road wins in particular are very encouraging and suggest the Owls will be able to score and defend in hostile venues. Seton Hall is a resume win, and the 46-45 loss at Georgetown (provided the Hoyas don’t implode again in 2010…) will be a good loss.  The nucleus of Fernandez, Brooks, Allen and Guzman (see Temple Team Capsule below) are putting together a very nice run, which they may well be able to sustain going into conference play.  File Rhode Island and Charlotte under “Surprised in a Good Way” also.  Though the Rams’ slate is a bit light (they did not participate in any MTE tournaments this season), it does include a double-digit win over Boston College from the ACC and a 2 point loss to a well-regarded 7-2 Virginia Commonwealth team on 12/2.  Charlotte was torched early in the season by Duke at the Cameron, but has bounced back nicely with double-digit wins over Hofstra, Louisville of the Big East and Winthrop, each of whom has a record of .500 or better.

Filed under “Surprised in a Bad Way” — try Dayton, Duquesne and Richmond. The Flyers participated in the Puerto Rico Tip Off and started strong, taking out Georgia Tech in their first round.  They dropped their next two games to two more BCS teams (Villanova and Kansas State) and have scraped by their two road opponents — Miami, OH and George Mason.  Mason having a down year, is teetering at .500 (5-5) at this point and will, should the trend continue, watch the post-season on CBS and ESPN.  Duquesne started out well, housing Iowa in their second game of the season, but the two-overtime, neutral court loss to Pittsburgh seems to have thrown the team out of synch. They were hammered by West Virginia and lost to UIPIU last weekend.  The Jaguars may be the pick of the litter in the Summit League, but they too have taken three double-digit beatings.  Hardly makes for a stirring endorsement of the Dukes.  Bolding’s return may spark the Dukes, but heading into conference play (they have 2 more OOC games left), Duquesne’s prospects for A10 road wins seem uncertain at best.  Taking South Carolina may have been a stretch for Richmond, but their losses to in-state rivals William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth (both of the CAA) gives me pause to think.  Those games most resemble the conference road conditions Richmond will probably encounter in conference play.  Both may have been “close” losses, but they were losses nevertheless.

George Washington’s 4-0 road record may look impressive, but know the opponents were UNC – Wilmington, Boston University, Navy and Towson. Not a BCS team to be found in a group whose collective record is 15-24.  Their extended, post holiday trek through New England should provide a bit more insight into the state of the program and their prospects in conference road play.  The unimpressive road/neutral records posted by Xavier, Massachusetts, Saint Joseph’s and St. Louis (a combined 3-18) maybe due in large measure to the youth of all three squads.  Ken Pomeroy ranks them by experience level as #259, #305, #156 and #346 respectively, out of D1’s 347 D1.

Standings as of – 12/21/09:

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

Team Rundowns…

Charlotte

Taking to the road, the 49ers beat Winthrop by ten, 57-47, on Sunday (12/20).  Junior forward Shamari Spears delivered from the field, going 5-11 from the floor for 13 points (his 45.5% shooting percentage well ahead of the team’s overall 39.1%), while senior point guard DiJuan Harris delivered from the line, hitting 7 of 8 free throws to pace Charlotte to the win.  Junior center Phil Jones grabbed 11 rebounds as the taller, more physical 49er team dominated with inside play.  The A10 team received ten more free throw opportunities than the host, and made the most of the advantage by converting 13 more times, going 18-22, compared to 5-12 for the Eagles. There indeed was the margin of victory.  Charlotte has now won five straight, all by double-digits.  The Niners traveled to Old Dominion on Wednesday (12/23) for one last game before the Holidays and got thumped, 81-48, after shooting 16% in the first half and appearing generally uninterested.  They resume their schedule when they host Mercer on the 29th.

Dayton

The Flyers beat Presbyterian by 19 (71-52) at the UD Arena on Saturday (12/19), paced by junior forward Chris Wright and senior back-up point guard Mickey Perry, each of whom scored 15 points.  Perry, normally in the rotation for about 17 minutes per game saw 25 minutes when off-guard Marcus Johnson went down with an ankle sprain in the 1st half.  Redshirt freshman Josh Benson scored 10 points, also in extended action, when starter Chris Johnson left the game after a blow to the head, also sustained in the 1st half.  Dayton beat Appalachian State, 65-49, on Monday night.  The Blue Hose and Mountaineers should have been double digit wins, and the Dayton team many expected in November appears to be rounding into form as the conference season approaches.  Wright and Perry led the team in scoring for both games, grossing 29 and 30 points apiece respectively for the two games.  The Flyers return to action after the Holidays with a game versus Boston University on the 29th.  They will ring in the New Year in Albuquerque, New Mexico as they take on the Lobos of New Mexico on New Year’s Day.

Duquesne

The Dukes needed two overtimes to put down the Griffins of Canisius 86-77 on Wednesday 12/16.  Duquesne used size and speed to force turnovers and alter shots, but they did not control the boards.  The game, played for 68 possessions (adjusted for the overtimes), was a bit low for Duquesne home games this season.  The Dukes’ offensive efficiency was about 1.00 (points per possession), very slightly above their home court average, the defense, at 0.90, was higher than the Dukes’ 0.81 home average, suggesting the stifling defense, especially on opponent’s shooting, was simply not there.  Duquesne dropped a nine point road game, 73-64, to IUPUI in Indianapolis, IN on Saturday 12/19.  Continuing a trend for road games, Duquesne’s defensive efficiency again turned in a >1.00 defensive effort, 1.05 this time.  The Iowa game in November aside, the Dukes have had problems keeping opponent’s points per possession under 1.00 this season.  The culprits appear to be shot defense (the Dukes let the Jaguars hit at a 56.5% eFG% clip) and rebounding.  Duquesne hosts St. Francis, PA on Tuesday 12/22, then break for Christmas. They finish their OOC schedule with a trip to Virginia to play the Monarchs of Old Dominion on Wednesday 12/30.

Fordham

The Rams “hosted” Villanova at the IZOD Center, in the New Jersey Meadowlands last Saturday.  Before a Villanova-friendly crowd, Fordham dropped a 96-53 decision to the #9-ranked Wildcats.  The good news has to be that forward Chris Gaston had another good day scoring.  Another Ram has to step into the vacuum left by Jio Fontan.  Fordham faced James Madison in Virginia on Wednesday and dropped a disappointing one, 85-73, after leading by nine at the half.  They now break for the Holiday.  They resume their pre-conference road trip with games against Kennesaw State (in Georgia, Tuesday 12/29) and Hampton (back to Virginia, Sunday 1/3) in the fortnight before they take on Massachusetts in their A10 opener.

George Washington

George Washington took a week to finish the fall semester.  They squeaked out an 84-80 victory at  East Carolina on Tuesday 12/22, led by Damian Hollis’ 21/3 and Tony Taylor’s 20/6/4.  They will take a New England road trip the week after Christmas, facing Holy Cross in Worcester, MA on Monday 12/28, then travelling east to Cambridge, MA to face Harvard on Wednesday 12/30.  They will return to Washington to face cross-town rival Howard on Saturday 1/2.

La Salle

The Explorers beat Bucknell, 83-70, at home on Saturday then dropped a road game to Oklahoma State 77-62, on Monday night.  The Explorers continue to feel the effects of being an undermanned squad.  With senior PG Ruben Guillandeaux out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his right foot, and senior swingman Kimmani Barrett nursing a fractured middle finger on his non-shooting hand, La Salle needs to free Rodney Green to cut and shoot, rather than take over the ball-handling duties.  Green continues to lead the Explorers in points scored — he scored 22 in each of last week’s games (Barrett scored the team-high 23 points versus Bucknell), but needs to maintain his stamina through the end of the game.  La Salle will host Cornell on 12/29 in what may be their last best chance to score a signature win in the OOC. Cornell beat St. John’s to take the ECAC Holiday Festival on Monday (12/21) night.

Massachusetts

Coach Derek Kellogg’s squad scored their best win of the season Saturday night when they downed the Tigers of Memphis 73-72 in Boston.  Freshman Terrell Vinson scored a team-high 21 points on 8-13 (0-1, 8-12) and 5-7 shooting.  Vinson grabbed nine boards, missing the chance to log his second consecutive double-double.  The Minutemen headed out of town to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College on Wednesday night and were stifled from beyond the three-point arc, shooting 3-21 (14.3%) resulting in a 67-79 loss to the Eagles.  After the Holiday break they conclude their OOC schedule with a trip into the South to play Davidson on Wednesday 12/30.

Rhode Island

The Rams extended their winning streak to five when they beat Fairfield 89-84 on Saturday (12/20).  Senior guard Keith Cochran stepped back a bit in this game, letting the forward tandem of Delroy James and Lamonte Ulmer take the offensive lead.  The seniors did not disappoint, scoring 21 and 20 points, respectively.  James logged his first double-double of the season by grabbing 11 rebounds as well.  Marquis Jones and Stevie Mejia handled the point guard duties effectively, dishing ten assists (with only four turnovers) between them.  Rhode Island has three more OOC games before they commence conference play, the first coming next Tuesday (12/29) when they travel to Philadelphia to play Drexel.

Richmond

The Spiders dropped their road game to South Carolina last Wednesday (12/16), 76-58.  The result may not have surprised; after all, Devan Downey, Sam Muldrow and Brandis Raley-Ross can be a handful, especially in front of a Gamecock-friendly crowd.  The margin was troubling as the Spiders will — should their fortunes during conference play pan out —  be looking for an at-large bid from the selection committee come that Sunday in March.  Justin Harper, Dan Geriot and Kevin Anderson took large amounts of the possessions when they were on the floor (29.5%, 28.4% and 30.0% respectively — Anderson played the entire game), but of that core only Harper converted efficiently.  With an eFG% of 54.2% and a PPWS of 1.16, Harper developed an offensive rating of 111.6; an offensive rating greater than 100 is good, greater than 110 is very good.  For Geriot and Anderson however, the numbers were not nearly as impressive.  Both converted (eFG%) in the high 30s to mid 40s, but worse, both lost high percentages of their possessions:  Geriot lost 30.4% of his possessions, while for Anderson the number was 26.1%.  Where was David Gonzalvez? Out of action with four fouls, for starters.  The senior guard logged only 65% of the minutes, in large measure because he picked up his second foul at the 12 minute mark of the first half, sat for five minutes, came back in for another five minutes before picking up his third foul for the half.  Gonzalvez picked up his fourth foul two minutes into the second half, and found himself watching as the Spiders four point advantage became a five point deficit.  The Spiders managed to bring the score to a tie, 52-52, with eight minutes left, but the Gamecocks launched a 24-6 run over the last eight minutes, running away from the Spiders and handing them their third road loss of the season.  Richmond bounced back with a 56-53 win over #13 Florida in the Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday.  The game, played at Sunrise, FL (and not Florida’s homecourt at Gainesville), found the Spiders paced by the backcourt duo of Gonzalvez (16 points) and Anderson (14 points).  The two minute mark of the 1st half found the Spiders down by 13 (32-19), but Gonzalvez and senior center Geriot scored five unanswered points.  Still trailing by eight (32-24), Coach Mooney and his squad took to the locker room to regroup.  A 22-5 run over the first nine minutes of the 2nd half saw the Spiders blow by the Gators and take a nine point lead.  The Gators scored six unanswered points (a jumper by Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin, two converted free throws by sophomore guard Erving Walker and a layup by senior forward Dan Werner) to cut the deficit to three over the next 90 seconds.  The two teams were locked in a tug-of-war, never separated by more than four points (and tied twice) for the last 9:30 of the game.  The Spiders took the lead for good on a Gonzalvez three-pointer at the 1:34 mark, and the Spiders hit their free throws down the stretch to bring home the win.  After beating UNC – Greensboro, 89-63 (David Gonzalves posted a season-high 25 points), the Spiders can now break for the holidays.  Richmond will return to action on the 28th against another North Carolina school, the Seahawks of UNC – Wilmington.  The Spiders will spend New Year’s Eve on the road with yet a third North Carolina school, the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest.

Saint Joseph’s

The Hawks beat Lehigh 77-66 on Sunday (12/20) and are off until after Christmas.  Senior guard Darrin Govens paced the team with 15 points, while three others, starting sophomore guard Chris Prescott along with two freshmen, forward Carl Baptiste and guard Carl Jones chipped in 13 apiece.  Sophomore forward Bryant Irwin scored a career-high 11 points.  Saint Joseph’s will travel to Albany, NY and will face the Siena Saints on Tuesday (12/29).

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies dropped a 13-point decision to the Orange of Syracuse 85-72, Saturday (12/19).  Sophomore forward Andrew Nicholson and senior guard Chris Matthew led the Bonnies with 18 and 17 points, respectively. The Orange answered with 17, 18 and 17 points from junior forward Rick Jackson, transfer wing Wes Johnson and sophomore forward Kris Joseph, respectively.  St. Bonaventure traveled to Little Three rival Niagara on Tuesday (12/22) for one last game before Christmas, but couldn’t get the job done, losing 71-77.  They return to action on Wednesday the 30th, as they host Canisius.

St. Louis

Coach Majerus’ squad beat Belmont, 75-67, on Wednesday (12/16), then lost to Missouri State, 73-63, on Saturday (12/19).  Sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell, poked in the right eye with 2:59 to go in the Belmont game, was held out of the Missouri State game.  The Billikens could have used his 14.3 PPG on Saturday.  After winning by seven (61-54) at home against Missour-Kansas City on Tuesday 12/22, the Billikens break for Christmas, and return to action against Eastern Illinois on Tuesday 12/29.  Let’s hope Mitchell’s recovery is swift and complete.

Temple

Looking for a definition for “on a roll?”  Check out the Owls!

After knocking off Villanova on the 13th, the Owls headed up the New Jersey Turnpike to Newark and housed the Seton Hall Pirates in their downtown arena, the Rock.  Down by 13 twice early in the 2nd half, Temple took a 40-21 run in the last 16 minutes to hand yet another Big East team their first loss of the season.  The two game snapshot above suggests that a nucleus of Ryan Brooks, Juan Fernandez and Lavoy Allen has taken the reins on offense and has efficiently converted possessions into points.  Fernandez and Brooks took turns having career games, but that each was able to step in is a very good sign going forward.  Scootie Randall and Craig Williams should see their minutes grow; Randall because he has provided timely offense in both games, and Williams has taken the injured Michael Eric’s spot in the rotation.  Of particular interest is the Owls’ rebounding.  They dominated both of their Big East opponents, a bit surprising given the Big East’s reputation for physical inside play.  Especially noteworthy is the defensive rebounding coach Fran Dunphy is getting from his backcourt and wing players (Brooks, Guzman, Moore and Di Leo); 15% is a good number for a front court player, the 14%+ the four are registering is terrific.  Allen and Williams’ DR% is phenomenal, but simply not sustainable.  Guzman’s turnovers are high, but he has brought the ball up against two teams known for their press and ability to harass ball handlers.  Like Allen and Williams’ defensive rebounding, the number will probably not hold.

Xavier

The Musketeers traveled to Indianapolis, IN to take on the Butler Bulldogs, losing a 69-68 nail-biter on an unusual clock malfunction.  Xavier trailed through the first half, dropping behind by double digits ranging out to 15. They closed the gap to seven before the break, then came out with an 11-0 run to overtake the Bulldogs.  Jason Love and Kenny Frase were beginning to control the paint, as Terrell Hollaway hit several critical threes from the outside.  The X-Men were held the lead for over 13 minutes in the second half, but a Butler surge tied the game at the four-minute mark, and the teams traded the lead (and tied) five more times over the last four minutes.  Jordan Crawford’s trey with 45 seconds left broke the fourth tie and gave Xavier a three point cushion.  Holloway’s fifth foul at the 39 second mark put Butler guard Shelvin Mack on the line.  Mack hit both free throws, but Xavier had possession with just over a shot clock’s worth of time left.  A steal by Butler guard/forward Gordon Hayward with 36 seconds left gave Butler three tries (two misses and offensive rebounds) before Hayward converted on a layup with an unknown amount of time left on the clock.  According to the clock itself there appeared to be 1.8 seconds left, but the time keeper reported an earlier malfunction had prevented the clock from starting properly earlier in the Butler possession.  The referees (D.J. Carstensen, Sid Rodeheffer and Bo Borowski) decided there was no time left and called the game.  Xavier then hosted in-state rival Miami, OH on Wednesday 12/23.  The Muskies almost fell victim once again to a clock-related question at the end of that one.  Xavier’s Dante Jackson stole an in-bounds pass with less than seven seconds left which would have sealed the Xavier victory, but the play was blown dead because one of the zebras was checking the clock.  On the re-do, Miami’s Kenny Hayes missed a long three at the buzzer that would have tied it and Xavier won, 70-67.  After breaking for the Holiday, the Musketeers will conclude the OOC portion of their season with two BCS opponents — LSU (at home) on Tuesday 12/29 and Wake Forest (in Winston-Salem) on Sunday 1/3.

Games to Catch

  • La Salle vs Cornell, Tuesday 12/29 — The Big Red are heavy favorites to grab the Ivy’s bid to the NCAA.  I am interested, given Cornell’s win over St. John’s (a team looking to improve it’s standing in the Big East this season) in the ECAC Holiday Festival, to see how the Explorers match up.
  • Xavier vs LSU, Tuesday 12/29 — The Musketeers host the Tigers during holiday week.  While LSU was not expected to be a force in the SEC West this season, Xavier has a good chance to match up (indirectly) with two BCS teams expected to make some noise in their respective conferences, Connecticut and Arizona State.  The Huskies beat the Tigers by 26 at the NIT Season Tip-Off (semifinal game), while the Sun Devils took LSU by 19 a round later.
  • Richmond at Wake Forest, Thursday 12/31 — The Spiders get another road test, this time against ACC contender Wake. The Spiders’ front court contingent of Dan Geriot, Justin Harper and Ryan Butler will have to match up with the Deacons’ Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland.
  • Dayton at New Mexico, Friday 1/1 — The Lobos are not a BCS power, nor are they favored to take their conference bid (the Mountain West) this season.  But their homecourt, an 18,000 seat hole-in-the-ground in Albuquerque, NM known simply as “The Pit,” is a legend.  A notoriously difficult place for visitors to win.  The Flyers are expected to win the A10 title this season, and The Pit will be a good place to get ready for hostile crowds, and lots of noise.
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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 12.19.09

Posted by jstevrtc on December 19th, 2009

Welcome back!  Another weekend means another edition of everyone’s favorite college basketball live blog.  Assuming they all actually happen (there was, like, a huge snowstorm, you see), there are actually some pretty darn good games happening today (Michigan at Kansas, anyone?  Maybe a little Xavier at Butler?), and since we know you’ll be watching, and we know we’ll be watching…why not watch with us?  We’ll be commenting all day, but we want to know what your thoughts are on the games as they’re being played.  So keep checking this space and hitting that refresh button, and let’s have your comments as well.  It’ll start at noon and go all day long, so I suggest you grab some hot chocolate (or your beverage of choice), turn on your favorite game, and join us.  Keep checking back every few minutes!

12:03 pm: So here we go.  Starting off with Michigan at Kansas on ESPN as our principle (and as of right now, only noteworthy) game.  This is a good but perplexing Michigan team.  Their four losses are Marquette, Alabama, Boston College, and at Utah.  Michigan was a tournament team last year and returned those two stars in Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, which would make me think they should have at least won a couple of those.  BC is tough, but Michigan has to defend the home floor against a team like that if they want to be taken seriously.  Quite a tall order they’ve got today.  As I type this, Michigan’s last three shots have been threes, none of which went down.  Meanwhile, Kansas has been getting the ball inside every trip down.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #9 – Atlantic 10

Posted by nvr1983 on October 29th, 2009

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

Predicted Order of Finish:

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

All-Conference Team:

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

Impact Newcomer/All-Conference Rookie Team:

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

Atlantic10

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

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

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Checking in on the… Atlantic 10

Posted by nvr1983 on February 25th, 2009

College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

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By CCT Staff | February 4, 2009

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Lavoy Allen (So.), Temple

Allen had perhaps his best week as a collegiate player, averaging 19.5 points and 14.5 rebounds over a two game span. The 6-foot-9 sophomore was sensational from the floor, shooting a sparkling 74% (14-of-19) during the stretch. In his most impressive game of the season, Allen shot 8-of-8 from the floor, scoring 20 points and grabbing 18 rebounds in a win over St. Bonaventure yesterday. The two double-doubles this week were the ninth and tenth of the season for Allen, as he helped lead the Owls to two victories.

HONORABLE MENTION: Kevin Anderson, (So.) Richmond; Ahmad Nivins (Sr.) Saint Joseph’s; Damian Saunders (So.), Duquesne

(Note: College Chalktalk’s week runs from the previous Monday through Sunday, given the release of ‘This Week in the A-10″ each Monday morning.)

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Checking in on the… Atlantic 10

Posted by nvr1983 on February 4th, 2009

College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

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By CCT Staff | February 4, 2009

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

B.J. Raymond (Sr.), Xavier

The versatile guard-forward had a superb week for the A-10 leaders, averaging 22.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in two wins.   Raymond posted a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds in Xavier’s dismantling of Charlotte.   In a tight win over UMass, Raymond scored 22 – several of them clutch – and grabbed five boards.  For the week, Raymond shot the ball at an incendiary 69.5% clip.

Kahiem Seawright (Sr.), Rhode Island

Seawright anchored the Ram attack, leading Rhode Island to a 2-0 week as they knocked off Temple and La Salle.  The forward averaged 21 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 steals in the frame.  Against Temple, the senior led the way for Rhode Island, netting 17.  In the Rams’ overtime win over La Salle, Seawright paced his team once again, scoring 25 points and hauling in eight rebounds.  The forward shot 62.5% in the two contests; 15-for-24 from the floor.

HONORABLE MENTION:  David Gonzalvez (Jr.), Richmond; Andrew Nicholson (Fr.) St. Bonaventure

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2008-09 Season Primers: #7 – Atlantic 10

Posted by nvr1983 on November 4th, 2008

Predicted order of finish:

  1. Xavier (29-6, 14-2; Schedule)
  2. Temple (23-11, 12-4; Schedule)
  3. Charlotte (20-13, 11-5; Schedule)
  4. UMass (19-14, 10-6; Schedule)
  5. Dayton (22-11, 9-7; Schedule)
  6. St. Louis (21-11, 9-7; Schedule)
  7. St. Joseph’s (21-12, 8-8; Schedule)
  8. Rhode Island (16-17, 7-9; Schedule)
  9. Richmond (15-17, 7-9; Schedule)
  10. La Salle (13-18, 6-10; Schedule)
  11. George Washington (13-16, 6-10; Schedule)
  12. Duquesne (11-19, 5-11; Schedule)
  13. Fordham (8-22, 4-12; Schedule)
  14. St. Bonaventure (7-22, 4-12; Schedule)

WYN2K.  If the A-10 wants to lay claim to being one of the premier mid-majors [Note: Hold the e-mails, I’m not putting the A-10 with the big boys yet. If you want to, become an RTC correspondent], they will have plenty of shots against the big boys: Duke (3 times-Rhode Island, Duquesne, and Xavier), Kansas (2 times-UMass and Temple), Memphis (UMass), Tennessee (Temple), Texas (St. Joe’s), and many other less prestigious programs in BCS conferences.

Predicted Champion. Xavier (#4 NCAA). Last year, #3 seed Xavier made it to the Elite 8 before falling to perennial national semifinalist UCLA. While Xavier loses several key seniors, they should be able to remain the dominant team in the A-10 due to their superior depth (6 players last year averaged between 9.7 and 12.4 PPG with 3 of those players returning). The Musketeers return Derrick Brown (10.9 ppg), C.J. Anderson (10.7 ppg), and center Jason Love. The loss of the seniors may also be eased by the addition of 6-11 freshman Kenny Frease, freshman point guard Terrell Holloway, freshman shooting guard Brian Walsh, and Indiana transfer Jordan Crawford.  Helping lead the Musketeers will be Sean Miller who became the first Xavier coach to turn down an offer from a bigger name program in quite some time (see: Gillen, Pete; Prosser, Skip; and Matta, Thad). Xavier has a chance to put itself in position for a very high NCAA seed if they can beat Duke in a “neutral site” game in East Rutherford, NJ, on December 20th.  Here’s a clip on Xavier’s trip to the E8 last season.

Others Considered. To be perfectly honest, Xavier should run away with the A-10 this year. Their depth makes them resistant to any reasonable expectation of injuries. The only other legitimate contender if Xavier slips up is Temple (NCAA #10). The Owls, coached by Fran Dunphy (still seems weird not to see John Chaney on the sidelines or storming into other coach’s press conferences), will need to replace the all-around output of Mark Tyndale. They return Dionte Christmas, the A-10’s leading scorer, but he will face increased defensive pressure this year. The Owls also lost Chris Clark to graduation so they will need Ryan Brooks, Lavoy Allen, and Sergio Olmos to step up this year if they want to seriously challenge Xavier.  We also see Charlotte (NIT) and Dayton (NIT) as postseason teams.

RPI Boosters.

  • Rhode Island at Duke  (11.16.08)
  • UMass at Memphis  (11.17.08)
  • Virginia Commonwealth at Rhode Island  (11.22.08)
  • St. Joe’s vs. Texas (Lahaina, HI)  (11.24.08)
  • Dayton vs. Marquette (Hoffman Estates, IL)  (11.29.08)
  • Boston College at UMass  (12.06.08)
  • UMass vs. Kansas (Kansas City, MO)  (12.13.08)
  • Tennessee at Temple  (12.13.08)
  • Temple at Kansas  (12.20.08)
  • Oklahoma State at Rhode Island  (12.20.08)
  • Xavier vs. Duke (East Rutherford, NJ)  (12.20.08)
  • Butler at Xavier  (12.23.08)
  • Vanderbilt at UMass  (01.03.09)

Neat-O Stat. Despite being a mid-major league, the A-10 managed to get 2 programs into ESPN.com’s Prestige Rankings. Interestingly, they are the only programs to make the top 20 without having made a Final 4. The only A-10 team to have made the Final 4 is UMass, which checks in at #52. I guess this speaks to the rewards of being consistent. A while back some bums stated they were going to revise the criteria to come out with their own rankings. It’s coming. We promise. . .

65 Team Era.  As stated above, the A-10 is often the bridesmaid, never the bride, when it comes to the Final Four.  Ok, UMass did have its one shot at glory in 1996, but ten other times an A-10 team has gotten to the Elite Eight only to have its hopes dashed in that round (five times in the last decade).  This includes Temple five times, Xavier twice, UMass once, St. Joseph’s once, and Rhode Island once.  During the era, the A-10 has gone 63-65 (.492), which puts it right there with CUSA as the top mid-major league over the last quarter century. 

Final Thoughts. Despite my cheap shots, the A-10 is one of the top conferences in the country. Last year, they only managed to get three teams into the NCAA tournament, but has the potential to get a couple of more bids. To do this, teams will have to get to 10 wins in this conference since the bottom of the conference is so weak. If a lot of teams end up 9-7 or 8-8 in conference play, those teams will end up in the NIT again.

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