Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Conference Offensive and Defensive Efficiencies
The top half of the conference has separated clearly from the lower half, despite a number of upsets over the last two weeks. Temple, lurking in the ranking just below the top, emerged as the top team according to the offensive-defensive differential. The statistics apparently provide a numeric affirmation to the AP pollsters at last. It is reassuring to find that the eyeball test and the numbers agree, Dayton notwithstanding. George Washington appears to have joined Dayton as an unlucky team; Pythagoras (based on conference games only) projects a .500 record for the Colonials, a development that if true, should come as very bad news for the Owls (and good news for Xavier). Saint Joseph’s and Fordham have separated from the rest of the conference, settling at the bottom with rather large negative differentials. La Salle sports a record similar to Saint Joseph’s, but their differential suggests this may be more a case of bad luck, than bad defense. This is a good illustration of how the won-loss record tend to more accurately reflect the loss of seniors Ruben Guillandeaux and Kimmani Barrett than the differentials. The differentials are slow to reflect significant (and rapid) changes in personnel (among other game-influencing factors), a fact frequently overlooked. In La Salle’s case, Pomeroy, using a calculation which also relies on cumulative statistical data, continues to project the Explorers as winners in one of their two remaining games. To the observer this may seem to be unjustifiably optimistic, but the rumored collapse of morale on Hawk Hill may eventually make Pomeroy’s projection correct. Right record, wrong opponent.
The Last Week
The teams are down to their last one-to-two games before Atlantic City. The Richmond-Xavier game eliminated Richmond from contention for the #1 seed. Temple can take the #1 spot by winning out. Xavier will take the #2 seed (unless the Musketeers lose both of their remaining games), and Richmond should take the #3 seed (though if the Spiders stumble very badly their fall could scramble seeds #3 through #7). George Washington, Duquesne and St. Bonaventure are locked in a three-way tie for eighth place, but the head-to-head game between St. Bonaventure and Duquesne should drop the loser to the bottom of that cluster (unless Massachusetts puts on a closing rush). The winner is not, however, guaranteed the #8 seed. La Salle and Saint Joseph’s are also tied (for twelfth place), but their season-closing game should settle the seed, and other issues.
Standings (as of 03/02/2010)
- Temple (12-2, 24-5, #16 AP)
- Xavier (12-2, 21-7, #25 AP)
- Richmond (11-3, 22-7)
- St. Louis (10-4, 19-9)
- Charlotte (9-5, 19-9)
- Rhode Island (8-6, 20-7)
- Dayton (8-6, 19-9)
- George Washington (6-8, 16-11)
- Duquesne (6-8, 15-13)
- St. Bonaventure (6-8, 13-14)
- Massachusetts (4-10, 10-18)
- La Salle (3-11, 11-17)
- Saint Joseph’s (3-11, 9-19)
- Fordham (0-14, 2-14)
Charlotte. February was a cruel month for Coach Lutz and the 49ers. They closed the books for the month going 3-4, and 1-4 in their last five games. They opened the month at the top of the conference and very much in the dicussion for an NCAA bid, but they have fallen to #5 in the conference and among Zach Hayes’ “Next Four Out”. Their last two games will not be easy, as both come against conference rivals who compete directly for seeds #3 through #6. First they travel to New England for a game at Rhode Island on Wednesday (3/3). The Rams, ranked #6 in the conference this week, are listed among the “Last Four Out”. The loser will most likely fall off the bubble. Their regular season final versus Richmond (currently #3 in conference standings) provides the 49ers with an opportunity to wreak a little havoc. Should Charlotte sweep both games they will find themselves in a two or three way tie for the #3 seed. Lose both and they will most likely draw the #7 seed.
Dayton. The Flyers started the week with a big (but hardly unexpected) 49-41 loss at Temple. The low score hints at a defensive struggle, which indeed it was. The pace, about 60 for each team, is low for D1 (the average, per Ken Pomeroy, is 67.5), but certainly enough possessions had the teams played to their offensive ratings for a score in the mid-to-high 60s. The Flyers did manage 45 rebounds (against 41 points) and about 0.67 points per possession on offense. The rebounds were overwhelmingly defensive — the Flyers snagged 75% of Temple’s misses, but only 28% of their own. Dayton took their revenge on the Minutemen 96-68, on Saturday (2/27). Tied at sixth in conference with an 8-6 record, the Flyers have opportunities to improve their conference tournament seed and, listed as one of “The Last Four Out” by Zach Hayes (and among the #1 seeds by NIT-ology), to work their way back into the field of 65. Dayton travels to Richmond for a Thursday (3/4) game, then back to Dayton to close the season versus St. Louis. Both teams are higher in the conference pecking order, so a Flyer sweep could scramble the tournament seeds (#3 through #7) going into Atlantic City.
Duquesne. Duquesne lost their only game last week, a 69-59 road loss to St. Louis, on Saturday (2/27). The Dukes are in a three-way tie with St. Bonaventure and George Washington, for the eighth seed in the conference tournament. Should they sweep their last two games, at rival St. Bonaventure on Wednesday (3/3) and a home closer against Fordham on Friday (3/5), Duquesne can square their conference record at eight, and secure the #8 seed in Atlantic City. Lose both, and the Dukes could fall to #10.
George Washington. The Colonials ran off two wins last week, an 81-72 win over a staggering La Salle squad, and 75-70 win that hurt Charlotte’s postseason prospects rather badly. At 6-8, George Washington is playing for seed, specifically #8, at the conference tournament. They have a harder road than Duquesne, but easier than St. Bonaventure, as they play Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday (3/3) and Temple on the road Saturday (3/6).
La Salle. The Explorers ran their losing streak to eight with losses last week to George Washington 81-72, on Wednesday (2/24) and Temple (for the second time) 65-53, on Sunday (2/28). They have two more games left before they head into Atlantic City (as either a #12 or #13 seed) and close the book on this season. They host Massachusetts on Wednesday (3/3), then close out their Big 5 series with a game at Saint Joseph’s on Saturday (3/6) in a game that will most likely decide the fourth place team in the Big 5 series and the #11 through #13 seeds in Atlantic City. Temple wins it outright this year with a 4-0 record. Villanova finishes second with a 3-1 record, while La Salle and Saint Josephs’s both have a 1-2 record going into their last game. Penn finishes last with an 0-4 record. If the Explorers can salvage anything from this season, it may be a win over cross city rival Saint Joseph’s.
Massachusetts. The Minutemen dropped their only game last week 96-68 on the road to Dayton. They finish out the regular season with a last road trip to Philadelphia on Wednesday (3/3) to take on La Salle, then return home to close the regular season against Rhode Island on Saturday (3/6). Lose to La Salle, and Massachusetts drops into an 11th-place tie with La Salle. Unfortunately for Massachusetts, they lose that particular tiebreaker. Though Rhode Island dropped a late season game to St. Bonaventure last week, the chances they drop a second late season upset is probably very small.
Rhode Island. Their loss to St. Bonaventure 81-74 on Saturday (2/27) was unexpected and a case of very inconvenient timing. The Rams have little time and opportunity to “get that one back.” The Rams have two games left — a home game versus Charlotte on Wednesday (3/3) and a road closer in Amherst, MA, on Saturday (3/6). The Charlotte game has both conference tournament seed and postseason implications. Though both teams are considered, by consensus, out of the field of 65, the winner will most likely remain on the bubble, pending conference play and the state of the field at the end of next week.
Richmond. The Spiders took a very tough road loss in Cincinnati on Sunday (2/28). Their game with Xavier went to two overtimes before they lost by two points, 78-76. The loss cost them not only the #1 seed in the conference tournament, but it also dropped them out of the AP’s Top 25 poll, Xavier moving into it in their stead. Coach Mooney’s squad has two more games, nearly as difficult, before Atlantic City. The first is a home game with Dayton on Thursday (3/4); the second is a road game at Halton Arena, with Charlotte, on Saturday (3/6). Should the Spiders sweep they will secure their spot in the conference tournament (and the NCAA’s field of 65), but also burst both Dayton’s and Charlotte’s bubbles.
Saint Joseph’s. Saint Joseph’s losing streak has extended to five games with a road loss to Charlotte last Wednesday (2/24). The Hawks travel to DC to play George Washington on Wednesday (3/3), in a game they are expected (according to Ken Pomeroy) to lose. They close out regular season play by hosting La Salle in a game that will close out both school’s conference play and their Big 5 series play. Tied with La Salle, both in the conference (3-11) and in the City Series (1-2), the Saturday game will determine who gets the #12 (and #13) seed in Atlantic City and who finishes #3 (and #4) in the Philadelphia City Series.
St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies sprung an upset on Rhode Island 81-74, on Saturday (2/27), extending their winning streak to three games, matching the longest winning streak of their 2010 season. Coach Schmidt’s squad reached their 2009 conference win total with two games in hand. Wednesday (3/3) they host Duquesne, probably their best opportunity for win number seven. A win over Duquesne would provide a temporary advantage for the #9 seed in the conference tournament, they close out the regular season with a road game in Cincinnati, versus Xavier, on Saturday (3/6).
St. Louis. Coach Majerus’ team notched their only loss in February when they dropped a 73-71 decision to Xavier, on Wednesday (2/24). They closed February with a 7-1 record as they beat Duquesne 69-59, Saturday (2/27). St. Louis’ current record, 19-9, is a decided improvement over last season, but the Billikens will be hard pressed to notch win number 20 before Atlantic City, as they host Temple Wednesday (3/3), then take to the road to close the regular season at Dayton on Saturday (3/6).
Temple. The Owls had a good week, beating Dayton 49-41, in a defensive tug-of-war, on Wednesday (2/24), then clinching the Big 5 title outright with a 4-0 record, by beating La Salle 65-53, on Sunday (2/28). The Owls moved up to #16 in the AP poll on Monday and, by consensus, is projected as a #4 seed in the NCAA tournament. Coach Dunphy’s squad has two more games in the conference regular season. They travel to St. Louis to play the Billikens on Wednesday (3/3), then return home to close out the season by hosting George Washington on Saturday (3/6). The Billikens will be a good test for Temple. The game will most likely be a defensive struggle, though not on the “rock fight” style of the Temple-Dayton game last week. A second consecutive 2-0 week would put Temple’s winning streak at seven, and give the Owls a 9-1 “Last Ten” record going into Atlantic City.
Xavier. In a make-or-break week, the Musketeers and their rookie head coach came through with two close but necessary wins. They earned a #25 rank in the AP poll after beating a challenging St. Louis team 73-71, on the road Wednesday (2/24), and taking down the conference-leading Richmond Spiders 78-76, in a game that went into two overtimes, on Sunday (2/28). They have largely secured at least a #2 seed for Atlantic City, with the potential to move up should Temple stumble this week. With only a stricken Fordham squad on Wednesday (3/3) and a middle-of-the-pack St. Bonaventure team on Saturday (3/6) left on their schedule, Xavier, 9-1 in their last 10 games, is catching fire at the right time. They could sail into Atlantic City with a seven-game winning streak at their back.
Games to Catch
Charlotte at Rhode Island - Wednesday 3/3 — Each team has inside and outside scorers who drive their offense — Shamari Spears, DiJuan Harris and Derrio Green for Charlotte versus Delroy James, Lamonte Ulmer and Keith Cothran for Rhode Island. The “tie breaker” may well come down to their star freshmen, Akeem Richmond for Rhode Island and Chris Braswell for Charlotte. The 49ers and Rams took turns at the top of the conference back in January. The winner may be contention for the #4 seed and the last bye in the conference tournament and a place on the bubble for the NCAAs. The loser plays Tuesday night and gets the fast track to the NIT.
Temple at St. Louis - Wednesday 3/3 — Temple’s last big road test in the conference this season. The Owls have virtually clinched a #1 or #2 seed in the conference tournament next week, but winning this game would give them a strong leg up for the top spot. St. Louis has been tough in Chaifetz Arena, going 14-2 this season. The Billikens are off the radar for the NCAA Tournament, the product of a young team and inconsistent run through their out of conference schedule, but a win here would turn a few heads, and give them some momentum going into Dayton (on Saturday) and then to Atlantic City.
Dayton at Richmond - Thursday 3/4 — Dayton needs another good win to bolster their NCAA resume. Richmond, after a tough loss at Xavier on Sunday, needs a bounceback game to rebuild their momentum going into Atlantic City. The game will match two of the conference’s more deliberate (and efficient) offenses and best defenses. Dayton’s more athletic frontcourt could present some match-up problems for Richmond. On the other hand, which Flyer will draw Justin Harper as their defensive assignment?
St. Louis at Dayton – Saturday 3/6 — Another weekend, and the conference-makers give Dayton another low possession, highly efficient offense to test the Flyers’ defense. If St. Louis comes in having taken a loss on Wednesday, while Dayton comes in having won on Thursday, a Dayton win would bring in the tie breaker rules to sort out seeds #4 and #5 (and maybe #6).