76 Classic Superlatives

Posted by AMurawa on November 28th, 2011

It wasn’t the sexiest bracket you’ve ever seen in a Thanksgiving weekend tournament. There were no teams ranked in the top 25 prior to this weekend and no player of the year candidates to be found anywhere. But there were some great coaches, some solid teams expected to contend for their respective conference titles, and some good basketball played at the 76 Classic in Anaheim this weekend. By way of putting a bow on this tournament, let’s take a look at some of the highlights of the weekend.

Champion: St. Louis – The Billikens take home the championship without ever being seriously challenged this weekend. They posted a 60.6 effective field goal percentage over the three games, nailing 29 threes, and as a team they posted almost a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. But where the Billikens really excelled was defensively. They limited their opponents to less than seven offensive rebounds per game, forced almost 15 turnovers per game, held their opponents to under 45% shooting from the field, and did all of that while only allowing their opponents 15 free throws per game. With Brian Conklin emerging as an efficient offensive threat, Kwamain Mitchell returning to the fold as a great floor general and playmaker for the team, and a deep and talented bench capable of carrying out head coach Rick Majerus’ game plan, this is a disciplined team that can give all sorts of teams trouble this season.

Brian Conklin, Saint Louis

Brian Conklin Turned In A Career Weekend In Earning The Most Outstanding Player Award At The 76 Classic (Credit: Chris Lee, McClatchy Newspapers)

Surprise Team: Santa Clara/Oklahoma – Both the Broncos and the Sooners came away from this weekend with a 2-1 record, and both teams come away with their share of converts. When Santa Clara senior forward Marc Trasolini went down with a torn ACL in September a lot of people counted out the Broncos. That injury left the Broncos with an inexperienced frontline to pair with its prolific backcourt of junior Kevin Foster (who broke Steve Nash’s all-time record for three-pointers at Santa Clara this weekend) and sophomore Evan Roquemore, but this weekend Kerry Keating’s team proved that those guards (along with junior wing Ray Cowels) were good enough to put this team on their back. Meanwhile, not much was expected of an Oklahoma team that went 14-18 last season. With more or less the same roster returning, similar results were expected, but under new head coach Lon Kruger and with new point guard Sam Grooms taking the reins, the Sooners advanced to the championship game before getting outclassed by the Billikens. While the Sooners should not be expected to contend for a Big 12 title, Kruger definitely has this program headed in the right direction, and this team will rise up and knock off some teams this year.

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2011

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

The Week That Was:

How They Measure Up: Results by Conference

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

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

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RTC Conference Primers: #8 – Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 30th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take I

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


Top Storylines

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

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

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 3rd, 2011

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

Reader’s Take I

Summer Storylines

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

Tu Holloway Makes the XU Offense Go

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Conference Report Card: Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 8th, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.


Looking Back

2011 was business as usual it seems as two teams, Temple and Xavier, combined to represent the conference in the AP Poll for 11 of the poll’s 19 weeks. Three teams (Richmond, Temple and Xavier) were invited to the NCAA for the fourth consecutive year with two advancing to the second round and one advancing to the Sweet 16 before bowing out. The steady progress, if not the deeper advancement, into the NCAA Tournament field should give the conference cause for celebration. If the A-10 has not gained ground, it certainly hasn’t lost any ground either. The conference beat its Performance Against Seed Expectation (PASE – the number of wins earned in the NCAA versus the historic record for the assigned seed), 2.57, by winning a total of three games in tournament play. This year also marked the sixth consecutive postseason where the conference received at least one at-large bid. And for the second consecutive postseason, seven conference members in all (50% of the conference membership) played on after the final buzzer sounded in Atlantic City. The conference placed two teams (Dayton and Rhode Island) in the NIT and two others (Saint Louis and George Washington) in the CBI in 2010, with Dayton winning the NIT and Saint Louis losing in the CBI Finals to VCU. This postseason, only Dayton made the NIT, while Duquesne, Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure were invited to the CBI. Unfortunately none of them advanced beyond the second round.

So why are conference observers edgy? Despite the “all steady” in the NCAA Tournament, teams from two other non-BCS conferences, Virginia Commonwealth of CAA and the Horizon League’s Butler were represented in the Final Four, with Butler advancing to Monday night for the second consecutive year. The Atlantic 10 has not sent a team to the Final Four since the Massachusetts squad of 1996, whose Final Four appearance was later vacated by the NCAA, and has had only one representative (Xavier in 2008) [ed. note: corrected]  in the Elite Eight since the 2004 Tournament when Saint Joseph’s lost to Oklahoma by two points, 64-62, in East Rutherford, New Jersey on the same weekend that Xavier was eliminated by Duke, 66-63, in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Xavier’s Tu Holloway enjoyed a terrific season for the Musketeers. (credit: AP)

Final Ranking, Team-by-Team

  1. Richmond (28-8, 13-3) #12 seed: Coach Chris Mooney’s Spiders had several outstanding performances out of conference including their 65-54 win over Purdue (#3 seed NCAA), but those were negated by head-scratching losses to Iona aand Bucknell. The same held true in conference play, where wins over Dayton and Duquesnewere undermined by a home loss to Rhode Island early in conference play. The Spidersearned a #3 seed in the conference tournament where they knocked off #2 seed Temple that was dealing withinjuries and earned the conference’s automatic bid witha 67-54 win over Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Tournament finals. The Spiders beat #5 seed Vanderbilt (69-66) and #13 seed Morehead State (65-48) to advance to the Sweet Sixteen and a date with#1 seed Kansas. The ride ended witha 77-57 loss, but Mooney signed a contract extension which should keep him at Richmond for the foreseeable future. Mooney loses four key members of the squad this season, but returns 11 players, including two who started multiple games this season, for 2011-12. GRADE: A
  2. Temple (26-8, 14-2) #7 seed NCAA: The consensus favorite to win the conference regular season, the Owls stumbled in the Old Spice Classic, dropping two of their three games in Orlando. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad dropped a third out of conference game to Villanova on the eve of conference play, but ran off three wins to start conference play. Back-to-back losses to Duquesne and Xavier put the Owls in second place in the conference, which is where they finished the regular season. Injuries sidelined sophomore Michael Eric, reducing an already short frontcourt rotation, for the last two weeks of the season. Scootie Randall also battled injuries as the season wound down, leaving Dunphy with a seven-man rotation for the Atlantic 10 tournament. A semifinal loss to Richmond ended Temple’s bid to earn the conference’s automatic bid for a third consecutive year, but the Owls secured a #7 seed to the NCAA Tournament and an in-state match-up with Penn State in the first round game, which they won 66-64 on a last second shot by Juan Fernandez. In the second round, they pushed #2 seed San Diego State to the limit before falling in double overtime. GRADE: B+ Read the rest of this entry »
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Atlantic 10 Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. With the A-10 Championship tipping off Tuesday, get up to speed with RTC’s preview and regular season wrap-up.

Postseason Preview

Among the first round games, all played at the campus of the higher seed, the strongest upset candidate is the #8/#9 (of course!) game between #8 host Massachusetts and #9 Dayton. The Flyers have not traveled well this season, accumulating a -0.049 net efficiency in games not played at the UD Arena, but a log5 calculation projects a Dayton win (67%-32% probability). Using overall (unadjusted) offensive and defensive efficiencies, this looks like a close game, +/- 3 points in favor of Dayton. For the other three first round games, the order of probability of an upset is:

  • #6 Rhode Island/#11 St. Louis (50.2-49.7)
  • #7 St. Bonaventure/#10 La Salle (58-42)
  • #5 George Washington/#12 Saint Joseph’s (66-33)

The Xavier/Duquesne side of the bracket looks vulnerable to either a Dayton run or a Duquesne run, though the Dukes, new to the dynamics of a bye seed, may fumble their quarter-final game against (most likely) George Washington. Dayton, a squad that plays inconsistently away from the UD Arena, has nevertheless lost twice to rival Xavier, by margins of five and four points. It is very difficult to beat a closely played rival a third time in the same season. Lacking length in the front court has proven to be a problem lately for the Dukes, but over a short duration tournament like the A-10, it is possible that a series of opponents will become caught up in a pace set by the Dukes and fail to properly exploit Duquesne’s vulnerability. I do not, however, see that as a problem for Xavier, an extremely well managed and prepared team and program.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 2nd, 2011

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

A Look Back

Efficiency Differentials Sort Out the Best and Worst: In an effort to assess the “quality” of each team’s conference record, I included an SOS table below, consistent with Ken Pomeroy’s formula, on the average of the adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies for the conference teams played so far. The four teams at the top of the conference, along with the three teams at the bottom behaved and “fell into place” this week, but Dayton, together with Massachusetts and Rhode Island, continues to be outliers. The Flyers are used to that role, one they assumed virtually all of the 2010 conference season as well.

The SOS will bounce around for the next few weeks, as less than 50% of the conference schedule is official to this point. Duquesne‘s record is consistent with its efficiency differential, but their SOS suggests this may be due to an easier schedule. Games against Dayton, Temple and Richmond, however, suggest the record is legitimate and earned. As the Dukes play through February their record and SOS are elements worth monitoring. Massachusetts’ negative differential is a significant counterpoint to the Minutemen’s conference record. Their two conference losses were blowouts — by 29 to Xavier and by 16 to Richmond. UMass faces the second-best defense in conference (so far) in Saint Louis on Wednesday, and if the Bills can find a scorer somewhere on their roster, that game may be less certain a win for Massachusetts than it first appears. Though Fordham lost both games again last week, they nevertheless narrowed the differential gap that had opened at the start of conference play.

Power Rankings

The showdown games broke for the favored teams last week, leaving the top one-third of the conference standings virtually intact. St. Louis had a bad week, as did Charlotte, and both fell to the bottom third of the rankings.

1.        Xavier (15-5, 7-0)

Last Week: 1/26 vs. George Washington 81-74, 1/29 @Richmond 85-62

Next Week: 2/2 @Charlotte, 2/5 vs. Saint Louis

The Musketeers had another 2-0 week as Tu Holloway received his fifth Player of the Week citation (second in a row), from the conference. Holloway averaged 27.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists in X’s wins over GWU and Richmond. Coach Chris Mack‘s squad will travel to Charlotte on Wednesday before hosting Saint Louis on Saturday.

2.        Duquesne (15-5, 7-0)

Last Week: 1/26 @Fordham 91-72, 1/29 vs. Dayton 81-64

Next Week: 2/2 vs. George Washington, 2/5 @St. Bonaventure

The Dukes closed out a “perfect” January with their fifth 2-0 week, running their winning streak to 10. Duquesne’s “May-November Couple” senior forward Damian Saunders and freshman point guard TJ McConnell were cited together for the third consecutive week. Saunders with an Honor Roll citation (his fourth this season), was cited for averaging a double-double (16.0 points 10.0 rebounds) in games against Fordham and Dayton. McConnell averaged 14.5 points,  7.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds and in the Dukes’ two games. Duquesne, touting the highest possession rate in conference games this season (72.4) won each game by double digits (19 points versus Fordham, 17 points versus Dayton). Duquesne plays at home this Wednesday against George Washington, then take to the road on Saturday to face St. Bonaventure in Olean, NY.

3.        Richmond (16-6, 5-2)

Last Week: 1/25 @Dayton 70-61, 1/29 vs. Xavier 62-85

Next Week: 2/2 vs. Saint Joseph’s, 2/5 @Fordham

The Spiders fell another game behind the pace last week, beating Dayton on the road (a bit surprising perhaps), but dropping a home game to co-leader Xavier. Richmond squandered a good opportunity to pull one of the conference leaders back to the pack, but also to post another resume win for Selection Sunday. Richmond is listed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi in the “First Four Out” group as of last Monday (1/31). The squad should have an easier time this week as they face the conference’s two worst teams. No more slip-ups, guys.

4.        Temple (15-5, 5-2)

Last Week: 1/26 vs. Charlotte 76-67, 1/29 @Saint Joseph’s 72-54

Next Week: 2/2 @La Salle, 2/5 vs. Rhode Island

A Juan Fernandez-less Temple nevertheless posted 2-0 last week and pulled into a tie with Richmond for third place in the conference standings. Senior Lavoy Allen earned his third citation from the conference (a Player of the Week and two Honor Rolls) for posting back-to-back double-doubles in games with Charlotte and Saint Joseph’s. Fernandez, diagnosed with a bone bruise earlier this month, missed both games, in a prudent move by Coach Fran Dunphy. A wise move given the opponents, the Owls managed a nine point winning margin over the 49ers and an 18 point win over Saint Joseph’s. The back court quartet of Scootie Randall, Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt and TJ DiLeo combined for 42 points versus Charlotte and 39 versus Saint Joseph’s. Next week, the Owls travel across town for a game at La Salle, and host up-and-down Rhode Island on Saturday. Those two games, which Pomeroy projects as wins, should, worst case, have the Owls keep pace (albeit two games back) with Xavier and Duquesne, but coach Fran Dunphy knows that long term he has to get his back court leader healthy to stay in the conference race.

5.        Massachusetts (13-7, 5-2)

Last Week: 1/26 @St. Bonaventure 78-69, 1/30 vs. Rhode Island 64-54

Next Week: 2/2 @Saint Louis, 2/5 @Saint Joseph’s

The Minutemen had a 2-0, bounce back week, beating the Bonnies in an important road game, then most importantly, beating Rhode Island in a head-to-head for a piece of third place in the conference standings. Senior guard Anthony Gurley earned his fifth citation (second consecutive) for the Honor Roll as he shot 45.2% from the field while he averaged 24.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in UMass’ two games last week. The Minutemen will take to the road for their longest road trip of the conference season, traveling to Saint Louis for a game against the struggling Billikens and then over to Philadelphia for a game against with the also struggling Hawks of Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.

6.        Rhode Island (13-8, 4-3)

Last Week: 1/26 @Saint Louis 59-57, 1/30 @Massachusetts 54-64

Next Week: 2/2 vs. Fordham, 2/5 @Temple

Rhode Island beat a struggling Saint Louis team Wednesday, but dropped a ten-point game to Massachusetts Saturday. The 1-1 week translates into an ever-shrinking post season prospect (NIT anyone?). Senior forward Delroy James earned his eighth Honor Roll citation from the conference as he averaged 18.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists for the Rams last week. A Wednesday game versus struggling Fordham followed by a trip to Philadelphia and Saturday game with a wounded Temple squad lies ahead this week for coach Jim Baron and company. The Runnin’ Rams should be fine versus Fordham, but a win at Temple is chance to stay within striking distance in the conference race.

7.        George Washington (11-10, 4-3)

Last Week: 1/26 @Xavier 74-81, 1/29 vs. Saint Louis 52-46

Next Week: 2/2 @Duquesne, 2/5 @Charlotte

The Colonials logged a 1-1 week, stopping their losing steak at four when they beat Saint Louis on Saturday. They stay just north of 0.500 in conference play. Junior Tony Taylor‘s 20.0 point average for the two games earned him an Honor Roll mention, his fifth this season, by the conference. Karl Hobbs takes his team on the road for both games next week. They travel to Pittsburgh for a game with Duquesne on Wednesday. If the odds are long in Pittsburgh, they should be more favorable in Charlotte on Saturday. The Colonials will face the 49ers in a game they will need to win to stay above 0.500 in conference play.

8.        Dayton (15-7, 3-4)

Last Week: 1/25 vs. Richmond 61-70, 1/30 @Duquesne 64-82

Next Week: 2/2 vs. St. Bonaventure, 2/5 @La Salle

The Flyers logged their second 0-2 week this season; their first in conference play since last March. If that was “Statement Week” for Dayton, the pronouncement is “not happening”. Senior Chris Wright earned a mention, his sixth (to go with his citation for Player of the Week earlier this season), for the conference Honor Roll with his 15.5 point, 9.0 rebound average for those two games. The losing streak should stop at two as Brian Gregory‘s troops host St. Bonaventure on Wednesday and then travel to La Salle for a Saturday game. Maybe they will have another streak – of the winning nature — going into Week Six of conference play.

9.        St. Bonaventure (11-9, 3-4)

Last Week: 1/26 vs. Massachusetts 69-78, 1/29 @Fordham 69-60

Next Week: 2/2 @Dayton, 2/5 vs. Duquesne

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies broke their three-game slide Saturday at Fordham, but not before dropping a home game versus Massachusetts on Wednesday. Junior center Andrew Nicholson earned his seventh Honor Roll nod as he recorded his eighth double-double (25 points, 11 rebounds) of the season in the Fordham game. The Bonnies travel to Dayton for a Wednesday game with the Flyers, then return home to host Duquesne, on Saturday. A 1-1 week would be a morale boost for the squad.

10.      La Salle (11-11, 3-4)

Last Week: 1/26 vs. Saint Joseph’s 76-72, 1/29 @Charlotte 91-86 2OT

Next Week: 2/2 vs. Temple, 2/5 vs. Dayton

The Explorers ran off a 2-0 week, as Dr. John Giannini‘s benching of Aaric Murray appeared to continue to pay dividends. The results put La Salle in a three-way tie for eighth place in conference standings, four games behind conference leaders Duquesne and Xavier. Murray earned his seventh citation to the conference Honor Roll as he shot 63% and averaged a double-double (17.5 points, 11.5 rebounds) in the two games last week. February opens with something of a “Statement Week” for La Salle, as the Explorers host Big 5 rival Temple and faltering Dayton in back-to-back home games. Beating Dayton, a team that has struggled with their A-10 conference road slate, would have an effect on the battle for eighth place (and most likely seventh place as well).

11.      Saint Louis (7-13, 2-5)

Last Week: 1/26 vs. Rhode Island 57-59, 1/29 @George Washington 46-52

Next Week: 2/2 vs. Massachusetts, 2/5 @Xavier

The “Sort Out Week” sorted the Billikens to the bottom third of the conference, as Saint Louis closed out January on an 0-2 note. As for relief, the cavalry is not coming, not in 2011 anyway. Head coach Rick Majerus nixed the idea of a 2011 comeback for Kwamain Mitchell, the two year point guard suspended just before the open of fall practice for an incident in the spring of 2010. Though Mitchell was readmitted to Saint Louis University and reinstated to the basketball program for the spring semester, Majerus has insisted that unless “…we ended up with four players and he’s the fifth. He’s not going to play. He’s not ready to play…” While there is virtually no chance Saint Louis can roll out another “Fabulous February” like 2010 (7-1), next week’s opponents, Massachusetts on Wednesday and at Xavier on Saturday, would be the place to begin. Stay tuned.

12.      Charlotte (9-12, 1-6)

Last Week: 1/26 @Temple 67-76, 1/29 vs. La Salle 86-91 2OT

Next Week: 2/2 vs. Xavier, 2/5 vs. George Washington

Charlotte ran their current losing streak to four with losses to Temple and La Salle last week. Odds are good (if you follow Ken Pomeroy) that the 49ers will add one, possibly even two, to that streak next week. Guard KJ Sherrill earned his first Honor Roll citation Monday for his first career double-double (24 points, 13 rebounds) in the 49ers’ five point, two overtime loss to La Salle. That loss to La Salle opened a three-game homestand, and if Charlotte wants to solidify at least a first round game in the conference tournament, they should win another two or so conference games this season. George Washington is a reasonable candidate. After that, the pickings get very slim until the last week of conference play.

13.      Fordham (6-13, 0-7)

Last Week: 1/25 vs. Duquesne 72-91, 1/29 vs. St. Bonaventure 60-69

Next Week: 2/2 @Rhode Island, 2/5 vs. Richmond

Another 0-2 week for the Rams, as the percentages that they will finish the conference season without a win grew from an ominous 18% to an even more ominous 27.4% per Ken Pomeroy. Pomeroy employs a log5 formula to project winners and losers in each game, and offers the Rams’ 2/13 tilt with Saint Joseph’s, with a 33% chance of winning, as Fordham’s strongest opportunity to dodge a second winless conference season. After Saint Joseph’s, the best opportunity is Fordham’s home season closing game against Massachusetts (24%). News is not all bad however, as the Rams closed the differential gap between itself and the rest of the conference. Fordham travels to Kingston, Rhode Island, in a Battle of the Rams Wednesday, then back home to host Richmond on Saturday.

14.      Saint Joseph’s (5-16, 0-7)

Last Week: 1/26 vs. La Salle 72-76, 1/29 vs. Temple 54-72

Next Week: 2/2 @Richmond, 2/5 vs. Massachusetts

The Hawks’ slide numbers eight consecutive games as of last week. Seven of the eight are lodged against their conference record. Freshman forward Ronald Roberts became the third member of the squad to earn an Honor Roll citation from the conference as he came off the bench to average 14.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in the Hawks’ two games. Perhaps it was the prospect of posting a second consecutive 20-loss season, or the realization that the Hawks had lost their eighth consecutive game to the Temple Owls. Or the Temple student rollout (Big 5 contests are notorious for their student rollouts) that read “It’s the Big 5, not the Big 5-15″, or maybe the realization that this would be his first last place finish in the Big 5 this decade. During the Temple post game press conference the Hawks’ coach of 16 years, Phil Martelli, initially attempted to draw a distinction between his squads’ play in 2010 and 2011 — “These aren’t beatings, these are losses, Last year, we were getting ‘beatings’. Now, we’re getting ‘losses’”, but he eventually snapped and lashed out at program critics who are “anonymous… (posters) from the netherworld. It’s not people who have been in the fray.”, pledging that “Vengeance will be sweet. And if my family gets hurt by it, then you are talking about a whole other ballgame”. Martelli, the most media-friendly and media-savvy member of the Big 5 coaching fraternity, has established a strong bond with both the Saint Joseph’s fan-base and the Phildelphia ink and radio media. His two “pillars” reacted in very different ways. Fans took to Hawks message boards Sunday and penned signed replies to the coach. The ink media tended to ignore Martelli’s statements completely in their game recaps, or soften his comments. The program suffered another blow when sophomore guard Justin Crosgile was granted a leave of absence from the team to attend to personal matters. The announcement did not indicate when or if Crosgile would rejoin the team. Crosgile had a promising freshman campaign, but his development stalled this season, and he was unable to get off the bench for a 5-16 team. Saint Joseph’s travels to Richmond for a Wednesday game, and returns to Philadelphia to host Massachusetts on Saturday.

A Look Ahead

The week lacks the headliner games of last week, but there are a handful of games that should sort out the teams in the conference’s upper division. Dayton, La Salle and St. Bonaventure, sport identical 3-4 records, and Dayton will face both this week. The Flyers host St. Bonaventure Wednesday. Dayton’s efficiency differential suggests they should have a better record than their 3-4 tally to date. A Pythagorean Winning Percentage of 0.514 projects an 8-8 conference record. Bonaventure’s Pythagorean Winning Percentage projects (based on conference games only) a six win record, while La Salle’s projects to about five wins. Taking both games will not push Flyers back into the conference elites, but it will provide some definition for the middle tier of the conference. Rhode Island will most likely boast a 5-3 when the Ram visit Temple Saturday. The Owls play La Salle on Wednesday and should have either a 6-2 (likely) or 5-3 record to match Rhode Island’s. The loser falls another game off the pace, and trying to make up three games on the conference leaders with less than a month left in conference play is a pretty tall order.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 26th, 2011

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

(ed. note: this post was written before Tuesday night’s games.)

A Look Back

Some Early Season Definition to the Conference Race: The teams have played five of their 16 games on their conference slate, and the efficiency differentials are beginning to give definition to the conference standings. While the teams at the top and bottom of the conference produce differentials consistent with expectations — the top teams have the highest differentials, the bottom teams have the largest negative differentials — there are a few interesting anomalies that spice the middle layers.

Eight of the conference members have conference records north of .500, but only six of those teams have positive efficiency differentials. The two who do not (Massachusetts and Rhode Island) were trounced in one or more of their conference losses. Whether their won-loss records will come to reflect their efficiency differentials, or their efficiency differentials will come to reflect their records, may be a trend worth tracking over the next month. While it is too early to draw large conclusions, the separation between La Salle, Charlotte, Saint Joseph‘s and Fordham and the rest of the conference has to be troubling for fans of those programs. A conference SOS (next week perhaps?) might be helpful when deciding the problem to this point has been tough opponents or significant problems with the teams. But morale problems may become an issue which depresses win totals going forward (and contributes to outbound transfers come season’s end) for each of those programs.

Power Rankings

The weekend games, particularly the Xavier-Temple bout, established Xavier and Duquesne at the top of the conference rankings, with Richmond keeping pace. There is a log jam in spots #4 through #8. All five teams have identical 3-2 conference records, and each has suffered at least one loss to someone in the top three. The next group of four teams (Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure, Charlotte and La Salle) has one or two conference wins, but are in danger, should they hit a losing slide, to fall into the lowest reaches of the conference.

1. Xavier (13-5, 5-0)

Last Week: 1/19 @St. Bonaventure 79-65, 1/22 vs. Temple 88-77

This Week: 1/26 vs. George Washington, 1/29 @Richmond

The Musketeers had another 2-0 week as Tu Holloway received his fourth citation as Player of the Week from the conference. Holloway averaged 25.0 points and 7.0 assists in X’s wins over St. Bonaventure and Temple. Coach Chris Mack‘s squad will host George Washington on Wednesday before traveling to Richmond for a showdown with the Spiders on Saturday. Without looking at the weather forecast, I know it will be warm in Richmond on Saturday.

2. Duquesne (13-5, 5-0)

Last Week: 1/19 @La Salle 88-71, 1/22 vs. Charlotte 83-67

This Week: 1/26 @Fordham, 1/29 vs. Dayton

The Dukes ran their winning streak to ten with yet another 2-0 week. Freshman point guard TJ McConnell burnished his Rookie of the Year resume with another Rookie of the Week citation (this one shared with St. Bonaventure’s Michael Wright), his third consecutive citation, and fourth this season. The central Pennsylvania recruit averaged 10.0 points, 5.0 steals, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the Dukes’ two games last week. McConnell had seven assists to a single turnover in 56 minutes of play. Senior wing Damian Saunders earned an Honor Roll mention for his 71.4% shot accuracy in the two games. Saunders averaged 15.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 4.0 steals last week. If those wins came against two of the conference’s lesser lights, they were nevertheless earned in convincing fashion, by margins of 17 and 16 points respectively. Ron Everhart‘s squad takes another quick trip east on Wednesday, this time to New York City to take on the Fordham Rams. They return home to host Dayton on Saturday in another crucial match-up. Dayton, at 15-5 overall and 3-2 in conference, would like to pull this leader back to the pack.

3. Richmond (15-5, 4-1)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. George Washington 68-58, 1/22 @Massachusetts 84-68

Next Week: 1/25 @Dayton, 1/29 vs. Xavier

The Spiders kept pace with the leaders this week, registering two wins against middle-of-the-conference foes George Washington and Massachusetts. Both games were taken by double digits, and collectively earned senior forward Justin Harper another citation (his fourth, to go with a Player of the Week nod) on the conference Honor Roll. Harper averaged 25.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks over the course of the two games. Chris Mooney‘s charges head into one of those decisive weeks, as they travel to Dayton for a Tuesday night game, and back to Richmond for a Saturday tilt with Xavier. A sweep this week, extremely difficult, but certainly possible (Ken Pomeroy favors the Spiders in both games), would hand Richmond an advantage over both schools should a tie-breaker be necessary, but more importantly it would bring Xavier back to the pack and Richmond would be poised to leap-frog Duquesne should the Dukes falter.

4. Temple (13-5, 3-2)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Pennsylvania 73-56, 1/22 @Xavier 77-88

This Week: 1/26 vs. Charlotte, 1/29 @Saint Joseph’s

Temple stumbled to another 1-1 week. Guard Khalif Wyatt scored 46 points in 47 minutes of play off the bench, a set of performances that earned him a place on the conference Honor Roll this week. His 19 point scoring outburst, coupled with sophomore Scootie Randall‘s 28 point, 11-16 overall shot performance was not enough to get the Owls by A-10 rival Xavier on Sunday however. The two combined for 47 of the Owls’ 77 points, Noticeably absent however, were junior point Juan Fernandez and senior Lavoy Allen. Virtually neutralized by Xavier’s defense, the pair combined for six points on a collective 2-12 shooting, too little to affect the outcome. That lack of production from Temple’s twin offensive engine was fatal.

This week should be easier for the Owls, as they host up-and-down Charlotte on Wednesday and hike over to City Line Avenue for a game “at” Saint Joseph’s on Saturday. Those two games, which Pomeroy projects as wins, should, worst case, have the Owls keep pace (albeit two games back) with Xavier and Duquesne, but long term, coach Fran Dunphy will have to address the consistency problems plaguing his team leaders.

5. Rhode Island (12-7, 3-2)

Last Week: 1/19 @Saint Joseph’s 64-59, 1/22 vs. La Salle 75-76

This Week: 1/26 @Saint Louis, 1/30 @Massachusetts

Rhode Island beat a struggling Saint Joseph’s team Wednesday, but then negated their unexpected win versus Richmond with an equally unexpected, one point loss, to La Salle Saturday. The 1-1 week translates into an ever-shrinking post season prospect (even an NIT bid would be a stretch at this point). Senior forward Delroy James earned his seventh Honor Roll citation as he averaged a double-double (15.0 points and 12.5 rebounds) through the two games. Another Wednesday road game (it worked last week) at the Hagan versus Saint Joseph’s, and then Rhode Island returns to Kingston to host La Salle. Both the Hawks and Explorers are struggling right now, the Rams can move higher in the standings and create some daylight for themselves.

6. Massachusetts (11-7, 3-2)

Last Week: 1/19 @Charlotte 73-54, 1/22 vs. Richmond 68-84

This Week: 1/26 @St. Bonaventure, 1/30 vs. Rhode Island

The Minutemen had a 1-1, “bi-polar” week. After trouncing Charlotte by 19 at Charlotte on Wednesday, the Minutemen returned home to lose by 16 to Richmond on Saturday. Senior guard Anthony Gurley earned his fourth Honor Roll citation this season for his 23.5 point scoring average over the two games. Gurley dropped 30 points on the Spiders in the Richmond loss, a scoring blitz that included a career-high six three pointers. Massachusetts will take to the road for a game against St. Bonaventure Wednesday, and then will return home for an important test against Richmond on Saturday.

7. George Washington (10-9, 3-2)

Last Week: 1/19 @Richmond 58-68, 1/22 vs. St. Bonaventure 49-62

This Week: 1/26 @Xavier, 1/29 vs. Saint Louis

The Colonials logged an 0-2 week, both games in conference play, to extend their losing run to three games. They followed a 10 point loss on the road to Richmond last Wednesday with a 13 point home loss to the Bonnies. Expect the losing to continue at least one more game, as Karl Hobbs‘ troops go to Cincinnati to take on the Musketeers on Wednesday. The telling game will come Saturday as they host the Billikens. George Washington will need a win to stay above 0.500 for the season and in conference play. Saint Louis enters this week on a two game winning streak, and may well have another win on the record before coming into Amherst to play this Saturday.

8. Dayton (15-5, 3-2)

Last Week: 1/22 vs. Fordham 91-57

This Week: 1/25 vs. Richmond, 1/30 @Duquesne

The Flyers finished a 1-0 week, picking up a 24 point win versus Fordham on Saturday. Transfer guard Josh Parker earned his first Honor Roll nod from the conference for his contribution off the bench against Fordham. The junior pont scored 27 points in 24 minutes as a substitute for freshman point guard Juwan Staten.

This is “Statement Week” for Dayton, as the Flyers host Richmond on Tuesday and travel to Pittsburgh for a rendevous with conference Cinderella Duquesne on Sunday. Dayton’s rebounding will probably not be an advantage in their game with Richmond, as they will need perimeter defense to throttle back a red hot three point shooting Spider squad, ranked #7 in Division 1 for three point conversions (41.3%). Making Chris Johnson Justin Harper’s “second skin” and finding a way to throttle Richmond’s guard squad (Kevin Anderson, Darien Brothers and Cedric Lindsay) which collectively has converted three point attempts at a 43.3% clip would go a long way, but the would still have to find an answer for Dan Geriot. Not an easy task.

9. St. Bonaventure (10-8, 2-3)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Xavier 65-79, 1/22 @George Washington 62-49

This Week: 1/26 vs. Massachusetts, 1/29 @Fordham

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies dropped a third consecutive game (a 14 point loss to Xavier) before breaking their fall complements of George Washington (a 13 point win). Freshman guard Matthew Wright shared Rookie of the Week honors (with TJ McConnell) for his two double digit scoring games. The Toronto native came off the bench to score 10 against Xavier, and followed with a career-high 18-point outburst that helped end St. Bonaventure’s 21-year winless run at George Washington. Senior point guard Ogo Adegboye paced the Bonnies with 16 points while two others, wing Michael Davenport (12) and center Andrew Nicholson (13), along with Wright, chipped in double digit points in the losing effort versus Xavier. The Bonnies led or tied in that game for the first 24 minutes. The Bonnies host a Massachusetts squad coming off of a loss on Wednesday, and then have a possible trap game at Fordham on Saturday (they travel to Dayton first thing in February). Two wins at this point would be very good, as the Bonnies have a two game road trip to start February that takes them through Dayton, then Duquesne, before returning home.

10.  Charlotte (9-10, 1-4)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Massachusetts 65-73, 1/22 @Duquesne 67-83

This Week: 1/26 @Temple, 1/29 vs. La Salle

Charlotte broke their losing run in conference play at mid-month, but started a new losing string with back-to-back loses to Massachusetts and Duquesne. Sophomore center Chris Braswell earned an Honor Roll citation from the conference for his 14.5 point, 9.0 rebound average in the 49ers’ two games. Braswell shot 50% from the floor, shooting 9-18 overall (1-4 from three point land, 8-14 from inside the arc) and 10-13 from the line. Braswell’s shot efficiency (eFG%) was 52.8%, while his PPWS was 1.20. Coach Alan Major‘s squad will find the road does not get much easier as they travel to Philadelphia for a game with Temple Wednesday, then return to host a resurgent La Salle team Saturday. So far the 49ers are 1-1 at home in conference play.

11. Saint Louis (7-11, 2-3)

Last Week: 1/19 @Fordham 68-55

This Week: 1/26 vs. Rhode Island, 1/29 @George Washington

The Billikens added another conference win to their total with a trip to the Meadowlands and a win over Fordham on Wednesday night. Kyle Cassity earned a nod from the conference for his team-leading 13 points in the road win. Kwamain Mitchell was “DNP — pending clearance” again. Rumor is he should be re-instated “shortly”.

A two game “Sort Out Week” for the Billikens is in store. Both games pit the Bills against fellow “middle of the conference” opponents. Should the Billikens sweep (a 31.5% chance per Pomeroy, Pythagoreas & log5), they will vault themselves over the 0.500 mark in conference play and into the tier just below the conference leaders. Wednesday will feature a mini-showdown with the Runnin’ Rams who have faltered after upsetting Richmond at home in early January. Saturday’s road game is in Washington DC versus the Colonials, a team like St. Louis stumbled out of the gate this season, but put on a push early in the conference season. The past week has also seen the Colonials “settle” into the middle of the conference.

12. La Salle (9-11, 1-4)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Duquesne 71-88, 1/22 @Rhode Island 76-75

This Week: 1/26 vs. Saint Joseph’s, 1/29 @Charlotte

The Explorers redeemed a 17 point home loss to Duquesne with a one point 76-75 road win in Kingston, RI, versus Rhode Island. Sophomore center Aaric Murray earned an Honor Roll citation for his game-winning shot with 28 seconds left in regulation at Rhode Island, which broke La Salle’s four game conference losing streak. Coach John Giannini‘s squad plays Saint Joseph’s in a Big 5/A-10 match on Wednesday night at the Palestra. The game may well earn La Salle their second conference win and insure they finish no worse than third in Big 5 play this season. The Explorers then hit the road for a Saturday game in Charlotte. The 49ers and Explorers have identical 1-4 conference records to this point, a two game sweep of the week could put La Salle back into the middle of the conference standings going into February.

13. Fordham (6-11, 0-5)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Saint Louis 55-68, 1/22 @Dayton 57-91

This Week: 1/25 vs. Duquesne, 1/29 vs. St. Bonaventure

Another 0-2 week for the Rams, as the percentages that they will finish the conference season without a win grew from 6.5% to an ominous 18% per Ken Pomeroy. More unsettling however, is the offensive/defensive differential (see Conference Differentials Table at top) that is starting to drift seriously behind the rest of the conference. This happened last season, as Fordham finished their conference season with a -0.213, nearly twice the negative differential as the nearest team (-0.08 — Saint Joseph’s…). Coach Tom Pecora needs a win or two to reverse the tide and maintain the morale of his squad, as lack of improvement has been one of the elements that can influence squad members to stay and recruits to come. The best win opportunity of the week may be St. Bonaventure, a team that has lifted itself out of the conference cellar recently. The Bonnies visit on Saturday for a game that will pit front courts which feature junior Andrew Nicholson against sophmore Chris Gaston.

14. Saint Joseph’s (5-14, 0-5)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Rhode Island 59-64, 1/22 @Penn 61-73

This Week: 1/26 vs. La Salle, 1/29 vs. Temple

The Hawks’ slide numbers six consecutive games, as of last week. Five of the six are logged on their conference record, but the latest, a 12 point out of conference “road” loss to Penn in the Palestra, the most devastating so far. Wednesday’s game versus La Salle is a Big 5 “must win” for Saint Joseph’s. Having lost to Penn, the Hawks are in danger of going 0-4 and finishing last in Big 5 play for 2011.

A Look Ahead

This is “Statement Week” for Richmond and Dayton. The two are featured in a Tuesday night match that will have the loser fall another game behind conference leaders Xavier and Duquesne. Richmond will then host Xavier while Dayton will travel to Duquesne. The Flyers have a unique opportunity to single-handedly scramble the rankings and inject themselves right into the thick of the conference race should they win both games. On the other hand, should Richmond sweep the week, the Spiders would drop the X-men into a second place tie, push the Flyers back into the conference pack, and position themselves for season-ending showdown (last game of the regular season) with Duquesne. A winless week for either would be devastating, and most likely limit NCAA scenarios to those which include a conference tournament championship. (ed. note: Richmond won Tuesday, beating Dayton 70-61)

Wednesday will feature games between Rhode Island versus Saint Louis and Massachusetts versus St. Bonaventure that will either mash up the middle of the conference, or create an even greater separation between the upper and lower division.

The featured games this weekend, Xavier at Richmond (Saturday) and Dayton at Duquesne (Sunday) have the same potential to either mash up the top four-five teams or else separate the two top teams from the cluster immediately below them.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 19th, 2011

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

Looking Back

An Early Season A-10 Masala: Does anyone want to be the regular season champion? The first week-plus of conference play suggests the title and #1 seed in the conference tournament is a hot potato that no one wants to handle. Temple continues to have the fewest losses overall, but the Juan Fernandez-less Owls were dumped rather hard in Pittsburgh over the weekend, dropping a 12-point decision to overlooked Duquesne. Richmond was poised to take over the conference lead, but dropped a four-point game to struggling Rhode Island, leaving the door open for Dayton, who then lost to Xavier by five. The Musketeers, Duquesne and George Washington are the only undefeated schools left in the conference race, but as the chart below suggests, the twists and turns through the first 20%-25% of the conference schedule hint that this conference race will be hotter and closer than anticipated.

Xavier coach Chris Mack, struggling with a roster depleted by injuries and academics and scrambling for some answers on offense in the weeks before conference play has emerged as a very early favorite for conference coach of the year. Of course, if the Dukes maintain their momentum and Richmond puts it back together, the coach’s race may turn into a masala too.

Power Rankings

With upsets over the weekend, the conference standings are jumbled, and though my power rankings differ from the standings, I have moved even more teams around this week.

1. Xavier (11-5, 3-0)

Last Week: 1/12 vs. Massachusetts 79-60, 1/15 vs. Dayton 81-76
Next Week: 1/19 @ St. Bonaventure, 1/22 vs. Temple

The Musketeers had a 2-0 week as Tu Holloway received an Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 25.0 points and 7.0 assists in X’s wins over Massachusetts and Dayton. Mack’s squad will travel to St. Bonaventure for their game Wednesday, and return home for a crucial conference matchup with Temple on Saturday.

2. Temple (12-4, 3-1)

Last Week: 1/12 vs. St. Bonaventure 83-55, 1/15 @ Duquesne 66-78
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Pennsylvania, 1/22 @ Xavier

The conference’s sole representative in Top 25 polls was dropped again, one of several consequences of their Saturday road loss to Duquesne. The Owls finish their “out of conference” portion of their City Series schedule when they host the Penn Quakers on Wednesday, and return to conference action with a crucial game at Xavier on Saturday.

3. Richmond (13-5, 2-1)

Last Week: 1/13 vs. Rhode Island 74-78
Next Week: 1/19 vs. George Washington, 1/22 @ Massachusetts

The Spiders squandered an excellent opportunity to replace Temple at the top of the A-10 Conference standings and the Top 25 polls as they lost their only game of the week, a four point, 74-78 decision to Rhode Island. Richmond will host Rhode Island Thursday and then take the weekend off.

4. Duquesne (11-5, 3-0)

Last Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Louis 67-45, 1/15 vs. Temple 78-66
Next Week: 1/19 @La Salle, 1/22 vs. Charlotte

The Dukes ran their winning streak to eight with yet another 2-0 week. Senior Damian Saunders earned his second Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 2.5 steals over the Dukes’ two wins last week. In the preseason, this pair of games was expected to produce an 0-2 week. Duquesne has, however, caught the eye of stats guru Ken Pomeroy who counted the Pittsburgh-based school’s results so far as one of the surprises of the season. Last week’s wins, both in convincing fashion, will raise the school’s profile and fan expectations as the season progresses. Head coach Ron Everhart and company have a quick road trip to Philadelphia for an important two-game homestand coming up. They host an undermanned, Rick Majerus-less Saint Louis team Wednesday and an Owls squad that may not have junior point guard Juan Fernandez available on Saturday..

5. Rhode Island (11-6, 2-1)

Last Week: 1/13 @Richmond 78-74, 1/16 vs. St. Bonaventure 56-55
Next Week: 1/19 @Saint Joseph’s, 1/22 vs. La Salle

The Runnin’ Rams got an infusion of Orion Outerbridge and the re-instated forward powered them to a 2-0 week and earned himself a Player of the Week nod from the conference for his performance last week.. Another Wednesday road game (it worked last week) at the Hagan versus Saint Joseph’s, and then Rhode Island returns to Kingston to host La Salle. Both the Hawks and Explorers are struggling right now, the Rams can move higher in the standings and create some daylight for themselves.

6. Massachusetts (10-6, 2-1)

Last Week: 1/12 @Xavier 50-79, 1/15 vs. La Salle 74-71
Next Week: 1/15 @Charlotte, 1/22 vs. Richmond

The Minutemen had a 1-1 week. After a painful 29-point loss at the hands of Xavier, Coach Kellogg’s squad bounced back with a three point win over La Salle. Massachusetts takes to the road for a game in Charlotte Wednesday, and then return home for an important test against Richmond on Saturday.

7. George Washington (10-7, 3-0)

Last Week: 1/12 vs. Fordham 72-52, 1/15 vs. Harvard 62-67
Next Week: 1/19 @Richmond, 1/22 vs. St. Bonaventure

The Colonials logged a 1-1 week, routing Fordham to go 3-0 in conference play, then dropping a five-point decision to Harvard out of the Ivy League. George Washington has worked through the softer part of their A-10 schedule (Saint Joseph’s, La Salle and Fordham), and their road game with Richmond should give fans an indication of where the team stands. The Colonials return to DC to host St. Bonaventure Saturday.

8. Dayton (14-5, 2-2)

Last Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Joseph’s 65-59, 1/15 @Xavier 76-81
Next Week: 1/22 vs. Fordham

The Flyers finished another 1-1 week. Senior forward Chris Wright earned an Honorable Mentio from the conference as he averaged a double-double (12.0 points and 10.0 rebounds) for the third straight week. Wright and freshman point guard Juwan Staten, who earned a Freshman of the Week citation himself for his 13.0 point per game average and 58% accuracy in the Flyers’ two games last week, have emerged as the principal offensive options for Dayton, drawing 27.9% and 24.1% of the possessions and taking 25.6% and 21.1% of the shots, respectively, when they are on the floor. Neither however has been particularly efficient with those possesions, posting offensive ratings in the mid 90′s (about 0.95 points per possesion). There are other, more efficient options (Chris Johnson? Paul Williams?) available. While neither Staten nor Wright have been shooting particularly well from the floor, both could boost their ratings (and help their team offensively) by hitting their free throws. Wright shoots about 60% from the line, while Staten converts about 56%. Wright’s ability to get to the line is an important offensive option, but with a below average conversion rate, he does not punish the opponent enough for the foul. Dayton plays a single game this week as they host Fordham on Saturday. A win would put them back above 0.500 in conference play, a place they need to be as the week following will be very tough (Richmond and Duquesne).

9. St. Bonaventure (9-7, 1-2)

Last Week: 1/12 @Temple 55-83, 1/16 @Rhode Island 55-56
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Xavier, 1/22 @George Washington

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies stumbled through an 0-2 week, dropping their conference record to 1-2. Guard Michael Davenport led the Bonnies in scoring for both games, and recorded a career-high 28 points and 12 rebounds in the loss to Rhode Island. The Bonnies have another challenging week, as they host Xavier Wednesday and travel to Washington DC for a tilt with George Washington. St. Bonaventure has an advantage in the Xavier game as the Musketeers may be looking past them to their Temple game on Saturday. The George Washington holds conference seeding implications, as both SBU and GWU may be in need of a tie-breaker come March.

10. Charlotte (9-8, 1-2)

Last Week: 1/15 vs. Fordham 71-61
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Massachusetts, 1/22 @Duquesne

Charlotte broke their losing run in conference play with a 10 win over Fordham. Senior Derrio Green was honorably mentioned by the conference for his season-high (second time) 21 points, 19 of which were scored in the second half, in the 49ers’ Fordham game. Coach Alan Major‘s squad will host Massachusetts on Wednesday and travel to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne on Saturday. While Charlotte is favored against the shot-challenged Minutmen, they will have to value the ball (something they have struggled with this season) against a team that typically ends 22% of their opponents’ possessions without a shot. The Charlotte front court is bigger than their Duke counterparts, but Temple struggled to gain an advantage in the lane and low post last weekend.

11. Saint Louis (6-11, 1-3)

Last Week: 1/12 @Duquesne 45-67, 1/15 vs. Saint Joseph’s 67-51
Next Week: 1/19 @Fordham

The Billikens’ broke their fall with a win over Saint Joseph’s, but not before recording loss number six in their run. Freshman forward Dwayne Evans recorded a career-high 16 points and 18 rebounds — his first career double-double — in the Bills’ win over Saint Joseph’s. The confernce cited Evans for his performance. Recently re-admitted and re-instated Kwamain Mitchell is listed on the Billiken roster as “awaiting NCAA clearance”. No sign of Willie Reed.

12. La Salle (8-10, 0-3)

Last Week: 1/12 vs. Pennsylvania 89-83, 1/15 @Massachusetts 71-74
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Duquesne, 1/22 @Rhode Island

La Salle bounced back against Big 5 rival Penn to insure they would not suffer another winless week. Aaric Murray, as predicted by Explorers Coach Dr. John Giannini, did respond to the benching by averaging 15.0 points in La Salle’s two games. The sophomore center notched a 19 point, eight rebound game against Penn and followed with a 12 point, eight rebound performance in the Explorers’ three point loss to Massachusetts. The Explorers’ shot defense is the biggest (but not the only) problem so far. They have enough offense to prosper in the conference, but allowing opponents to convert 50.5% of the field goal attempts puts a large onus on their offense to keep up. Oddly, they defend the two-point field goal attempt only slightly better than the three-point field goal attempt. If Murray and company can step up their defensive intensity (and rebounding…) they may have a chance to drop Duquesne from the ranks of the conference undefeateds as the Dukes visit the Gola Wednesday. They travel to Rhode Island for a Saturday game. Neither will be easy.

13. Fordham (6-9, 0-3)

Last Week: 1/12 @George Washington 52-72, 1/15 @Charlotte 61-71
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Saint Louis, 1/22 @Dayton

Three games into 2011 and Fordham continues to look for their first win of the new year. Their losing streak has stretched to five games with their just concluded 0-2 week on the road, and things are not looking up as the Rams host Saint Louis Wednesday and travel to Dayton for a Saturday game. The squad is plagued by the twin demons of poor offense and porous defense, a common problem for inexperienced squads. And coach Tom Pecora has a squad Ken Pomeroy ranks in the bottom 19% for experience (ranked #279 out of 345). Pecora has to break the cycle established during the previous two coaching regimes — the staff recruits promising players; the team loses; the recruits become discouraged; the recruits transfer out; repeat. Right now, Pomeroy gives the squad a 6.5% chance of finishing their conference slate winless. Though the Rams are not favored to win any of their remaining conference games by Ken Pomeroy, there are several home games which should give them better opportunities. There are none coming this week however. The first step may well be to be competitive in the games they do have.

14. Saint Joseph’s (5-12, 0-4)

Last Week: 1/12 @Dayton 59-65, 1/15 @Saint Louis 51-67
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Rhode Island, 1/22 @Penn

The Hawks’ slide numbers four consecutive games, all logged on their conference slate, with those two additional losses last week. The road loss by six to Dayton might be a sign of hope for Hawk fans, but the 16 point road loss to a Saint Louis squad with even less experience (per Ken Pomeroy – , Saint Joseph’s is ranked #329 while St. Louis is ranked #338) has to be a bucket of cold water, but the more immediate task (like Fordham) may be to hold onto a nucleus of promising players as the program weathers the storm, and build on them for next season.

Looking Ahead

  • The game to catch this week will be on Saturday, when Temple visits Xavier. In less confusing times this was tabbed as an early season showdown for the top spot in the conference. When Xavier lost Jay Canty, Justin Martin and Brad Redford, Owl fans no doubt sensed blood in the water and an early knockout for Temple. Juan Fernandez’s injury however has exposed a shallow Temple rotation, and Temple’s loss to Duquesne over the weekend has made this a very, very important game for Temple. Lose in Cincinnati and the Owls risk falling two games off the pace.
  • Wednesday will feature a matchup important to Richmond, who dropped a home game to a re-energized Rhode Island team last Thursday. The Spiders like Temple find themselves in a scramble at an unexpected point in the season. Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the Spiders on the outside looking in right now. Taking a second loss at home and to George Washington would seriously damage their case for an at-large bid should they not win the conference tournament. George Washington’s conference schedule so far has included Saint Joseph’s, La Salle and Fordham. Richmond is their first serious conference test.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 12th, 2011

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

A Look Back

With non-conference play in the books, it’s time to name the All-Conference Team, based on first half performance. These are the five players I like best for end of the season conference honor. They are off to great starts.

  • G – Tu Holloway, Xavier; the guard struggled against Cincinnati, but he continues to be Xavier’s best weapon.
  • G – Bill Clark, Duquesne; the Dukes are back and Clark is a big reason.
  • F – Chris Wright, Dayton; he may not assert himself enough in tight games.
  • F – Justin Harper, Richmond; how Harper goes, so go the Spiders.
  • C – Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure; junior center has been cited in six of the nine week old season.

Honorable Mention – these seven are very much in the hunt for Player of the Year and All-Conference First Team recognition:

  • G – Kevin Anderson, Richmond; last season’s POY cannot be left out of a conversation about Player of the Year.
  • G – Derrio Green, Charlotte; like Nicholson, his chances for conference recognition will depend as much on how his team finishes the season as how well he plays.
  • G – Ramone Moore, Temple; a big reason Owl fans have not missed Ryan Brooks.
  • G – Tony Taylor, George Washington; the junior has come on strong in December and January, as have the Colonials.
  • F – Lavoy Allen, Temple; his team’s ranking will boost his prospects, but he needs a few signature games to go with some game-to-game consistency.
  • F – Delroy James, Rhode Island; James has been cited by the conference in six of the season’s nine weeks. Like Green and Nicholson, his prospects may hang as much on his team’s finish as his own performance.
  • F – Chris Gaston, Fordham; strong individual performances have earned him multiple conference citations, but how will Fordham finish?

Rookies I Like: The following seven freshmen are the collective favorites for the All Conference Freshmen Team, with TJ McConnell, given Duquesne’s standing at this point, probably the strongest challenger to Juwan Staten.  Staten, the projected Rookie of the Year, has had a good season so far, but the Flyers continue to perform inconsistently. The freshman point guard remains my odds-on favorite for Freshman of the Year, but the race is competitive and contains a few unexpected faces.

  • G – TJ McConnell, Duquesne; Duke fans were high on this high schooler out of central Pennsylvania, has been cited twice for Freshman Honors.
  • G – Tyreek Duren, La Salle; one of two crucial freshman at La Salle this season, important building blocks for the Explorer program.
  • G – Langston Galloway, Saint Joseph’s; one of four freshmen recruited by coach Phil Martelli to revive the Hawk program.
  • G – Brandon Frazier, Fordham; not a favorite due to Fordham’s continued struggles, but has a solid chance, with a solid season, to make the All-Freshmen Team.
  • F – Nemanja Mikic, George Washington; with Lasan Kromah’s injury, the Colonials drifted, but have started to so signs of pulling the team together. If GWU makes a serious run at the top half of the conference, Mikic will be a big part of that push.
  • C – CJ Aiken, Saint Joseph’s; Big men take time, and if Martelli is patient, this one could turn his program around.

Power Rankings

Seven teams had perfect weeks, while six others were winless. Several teams around the conference midpoint have moved according to their currrent records, but the conference season for most, is only two games old.

1. Temple (11-3, 2-0) #19 AP

Last Week: 1/5 @Fordham 70-51, 1/9 vs. Saint Louis 57-53

Next Week: 1/12 vs. St. Bonaventure, 1/15 @Duquesne

Temple jumped back into the AP’s Top 25, up to #19 on the January 10 poll on the heels of a 2-0 week. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad traveled to the Izod Arena in Secaucus, NJ, to trounce Fordham by 19 points, then returned home to hold off a late Saint Louis rally and notch a four-point win on the Bills. Ramone Moore drew an Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Owls in those two wins.

The Owls get an early-season test in the form of a road trip to Duquesne. The Dukes, an early season darling for stats geek Ken Pomeroy, have cooled off a little, so if Temple has plans to stay ahead of Richmond (who will host Duquesne at the end of the season) and remain in the Top 25, a win is important. The challenge is even greater with Juan Fernandez’s knee injury. The Owls survived the Billikens over the weekend, but will need a mobile point guard if they are to consistently break a press.

2. Richmond (13-4, 2-0)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. Charlotte 71-59, 1/8 @La Salle 87-68

Next Week: 1/13 vs. Rhode Island

The Spiders keep pace with Temple atop the A-10, having opened, like the Owls, with a 2-0 week. Senior forward Justin Harper continues to have an outstanding season as in addition to being cited for three conference Honorable Mentions, he was named conference Player of the Week for his work in the Charlotte and La Salle games. According to the citation, Harper was 19-29 overall (65.5%) and 7-13 (53.8%) from beyond the arc. Against La Salle, Harper also recorded his second double-double in the last four games as he scored 25 points and 10 rebounds at La Salle on Sunday.

Coach Chris Mooney‘s squad will host Rhode Island Thursday and then take the weekend off.

3. Dayton (13-4, 1-1)

Last Week: 1/5 @St. Louis 60-50, 1/9 @Massachusetts 50-55

Next Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Joseph’s, 1/15 @Xavier

The Flyers finished a puzzling 1-1 week, snapping their winning streak at six. Senior forward Chris Wright was cited with a conference Honorable Mention for his double-double (14 points and 14 rebounds) at St. Louis. His work at Massachusetts, six points and seven rebounds, was just not enough in that very low scoring game — game breakdown in the Massachusetts recap.

Coach Brian Gregory’s squad will host Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday and travel to Cincinnati for a Saturday game with Xavier. With three out of conference losses and now a “what the heck?!” effort against Massachusetts, the 2011 edition of the Flyers will have to be more consistent game-to-game if they want avoid a repeat of the 2010 conference season. That starts this week with two important games. Saint Joseph’s is too young to surprise Dayton, ranked #330 out of 345 by Ken Pomeroy for experience, but it is the type of situation (home game, not well regarded opponent) that could give the Flyers unexpected trouble. Saturday’s game at Xavier carries conference seed implications. If Dayton can take the road game in this annual two game series, the Flyers will have an advantage later when the X-men travel to Dayton, and when the two teams are seeded for the conference tournament. Take both games and the Flyers will have the advantage in a tie-breaker with Xavier and two good (but not Top 25) wins for the Selection Committee.

4. Xavier (8-5, 1-0)

Last Week: 1/6 @Cincinnati 66-46, 1/9 @Rhode Island 72-45

Next Week: 1/12 vs. Massachusetts, 1/15 vs. Dayton

The 20-point trouncing at the hands of crosstown rival Cincinnati has to be a bucket of very cold water to the Musketeers, who have dominated this series of late (7-3 over the last decade, coming into this season). Their bounce-back game, a 27-point beat down of Rhode Island may have been a release (that helped earn senior forward Jamel McLean an Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 18.5 points (18 and 19) and 9.0 rebounds (six and 12) against Cincinnati and Rhode Island respectively. .

Chris Mack’s team could use a good run through the conference to revive their hopes for a sixth NCAA post season bid. Hosting two conference opponents gives the X-men a solid opportunity. The Dayton-slaying Minutemen visit on Wednesday and the Flyers follow on Saturday.

5. Massachusetts (9-5, 1-0)

Last Week: 1/9 vs. Dayton 55-50

Next Week: 1/12 @Xavier, 1/15 vs. La Salle

Can you win a basketball game while hitting 12 field goal attempts total and shooting to an overall conversion percentage of 27.3%? Yes, apparently, if the planets align and your opponent is Dayton. Though Dayton actually converted at a higher percentage than UMass (28.6%) and had more field goals, the Minutemen nearly double-upped the Flyers at the free throw line (36 vs. 19 free throw attempts) and scored 16 more points from the line than the Flyers.

With postseason prospects dwindling, Massachusetts and Xavier have an early conference test coming up Wednesday. Massachusetts returns home to host La Salle on Saturday.

6. Duquesne (9-5, 1-0)

Last Week: 1/5 @Saint Joseph’s 75-63, 1/8 vs. Houston Baptist 81-64

Next Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Louis, 1/15 vs. Temple

The Dukes ran their winning streak to four with another 2-0 week. Senior Bill Clark earned his second consecutive Honorable Mention for his work in both games. Clark averaged 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the two games. The Dukes also snapped their nine game losing streak when playing Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia. Duquesne’s road record versus Saint Joseph’s is 2-19.

Coach Ron Everhard‘s troops has an important two game home stand coming up. They host an undermanned, Rick Majerus-less Saint Louis team Wednesday and an Owls squad that may not have junior point guard Juan Fernandez available on Saturday.

7. St. Bonaventure (9-5, 1-0)

Last Week: 1/5 @Arkansas-Little Rock 68-55, 1/8 vs. Charlotte 92-88 3OT

Next Week: 1/12 @Temple, 1/16 @Rhode Island

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies logged a 2-0 week, raising their 2011 mark to 2-1, and their conference record is an unblemished 2-0. Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson drew his second consecutive Honorable Mention for his game-high block buster 34 points in the Bonnies’ three overtime win over Charlotte. The junior also logged a stunning 55 minutes of playing time in the Bonnies’ 1-0 start.

Saint Bonaventure faces a week on the road in what should be a good early season reality check for their fans and well-wishers. Nicholson and company travel to Philadelphia (weather willing) to take on the conference-leading Temple Owls, then swing out to Kingston, Rhode Island, to face the Runnin’ Rams.

8. Rhode Island (9-6, 0-1)

Last Week: 1/9 vs. Xavier 45-72

Next Week: 1/13 @Richmond, 1/16 vs. St. Bonaventure

Coach Jim Baron‘s charges got their conference season off on the wrong foot with a 26 point home loss to Xavier. While Delroy James earned his sixth conference Honorable Mention this season (tied for highest number of mentions with Bill Clark of Duquesne and Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure), a 26-point home court loss has a way of messing up a tournament resume. The Runnin’ Rams have picked up six losses so far this season, and post season prospects are dimming quickly.

The road to revival runs through Richmond, and any serious hopes for a postseason beyond Atlantic City has to start next week.

9. George Washington (9-6, 2-0)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. La Salle 72-67, 1/8 @Saint Joseph’s 78-71

Next Week: 1/12 vs. Fordham, 1/15 vs. Harvard

The Colonials kicked off conference play with a 2-0 start, beating La Salle at the Charles E. Smith Center and taking Saint Joseph’s at the Hagan in Philadelphia. Junior guard Tony Taylor earned his fourth Honorable Mention from the conference by averaging 24 points for the Colonials’ 2-0 open of their conference slate. Taylor scored a career-high 28 points against La Salle.

George Washington will host Fordham on Wednesday and Harvard on Saturday.

10. La Salle (7-9, 0-2)

Last Week: 1/5 @George Washington 67-72, 1/8 vs. Richmond 68-87

Next Week: 1/12 vs. Pennsylvania, 1/15 @Massachusetts

La Salle had an 0-2 opening week in conference play. Frustrated with the lackluster and tempermental play against George Washington that included a technical assessed to senior forward Jerrell Williams, Coach/Dr. John Ginniani benched sophomore Aaric Murray for the entire game with Richmond, pulled Ruben Guillandeaux out of the starting line and held the senior gurad out of the game for the first five minutes. “I know how [Murray] responds when things hit rock bottom,” Giannini said. “He really steps it up…”

Dr. Giannini’s predicted turnaround should start Wednesday against Big 5 rival the University of Pennsylvania. The Explorers have a road game at Massachusetts on Saturday.

11. Charlotte (6-8, 0-2)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. Richmond 59-71, 1/8 @St. Bonaventure 88-92 3OT,

Next Week: 1/15 vs. Fordham

Charlotte stumbled to an 0-2 record in conference play last week. After a 12 point home loss to Richmond, the 49ers traveled to Olean, NY and dropped a four point game to St. Bonaventure. They did not however, go quietly, taking the Bonnies to three overtime periods before bowing. Junior Javarris Barnett scored his second career double-double, 20 points and 10 rebounds, in Charlotte’s triple overtime loss to St. Bonaventure. Barnett’s achievement earned him his first Honorable Mention and the second citation (his first, last week, was a Player of the Week honor) of the season. Barnett is the fifth member of the 49er squad to draw a nod for strong play from the conference.

Coach Alan Major‘s squad continues their Northeastern sojourn as they take in a game at Fordham on Saturday.

12. Fordham (6-7, 0-1)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. Temple 70-51

Next Week: 1/12 @George Washington, 1/15 @Charlotte

Fordham’s losing streak has run to three with the conference-opening loss to Temple. Things may not get better for coach Tom Pecora‘s Rams next week, as Fordham has a two game Southern road swing starting on Wednesday at George Washington and another stop in Charlotte on Saturday.

13. Saint Louis (5-10, 0-2)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. Dayton 50-60, 1/9 @Temple 53-57

Next Week: 1/12 @Duquesne, 1/15 vs. Saint Joseph’s

The Billikens’ losing streak stands at five after Rick Majerus’ squad dropped two more games last week. Majerus’s absence ran to three games as the coach did not take the trip to Philadelphia when Saint Louis played Temple. Majerus is expected to miss one more game (Duquesne on Wednesday). The other personnel question surrounding the team is the status of Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed. Both re-enrolled at Saint Louis for the spring semesters. Mitchell has practiced with the team and awaiting clearance from the NCAA before he can resume play. Reed’s suspension from the team continues. Mitchell may, pending NCAA clearance, play in the Duquesne or the Saint Joseph’s game.

14. Saint Joseph’s (5-10, 0-2)

Last Week: 1/5 vs. Duquesne 63-75, 1/8 vs. George Washington 71-78

Next Week: 1/12 @Dayton, 1/15 @Saint Louis

The Hawks may console themselves on the relatively close loss to George Washington, but there will be no pause in the schedule next week as they take a two game road swing through the Midwest, taking in Dayton on Wednesday and Saint Louis on Saturday. The Dayton game may be problematic, but Saint Louis game, with an undermanned and possibly distracted squad might be winnable.The result may factor into a tie breaker at the end of the conference season.

A Look Ahead

My season preview predicted between three and four (with a bias towards four) teams would garner bids to the NCAA Tournament. At this point last season the conference had six teams whose out of conference records had bracketologists buzzing. The conference showing in their out of conference was below expectations this year,  however, and even ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has only Temple in his field of 68 this week while the Mountain West, Missouri Valley, CUSA, WAC and West Coast conferences get multiple bids. Teams at the bottom of the A-10 may not be as weak as last season, but the teams at the top have not demonstrated yet that they are as strong as teams at the top were last season. The conference has three, possibly four legitimate candidates, Temple aside, but each has flaws and a good deal of work to do.

  • Temple is the clear favorite to sweep the regular season title and conference championship. Lunardi seeds the Owls #7 this week, but the conference schedule favors the Owls, and with an extremely strong showing at 14-2, 15-1, coupled with a run through the conference tournament, they should be able to improve that seed by three or four spots.
  • Richmond — Lunardi lists the Spiders among the eight bubble teams on the outside looking in. Not blessed with a schedule as favorable as Temple’s, Coach Mooney’s squad can help it’s chances with favorable results in three games at the end of January. The Spiders travel to Amherst for a game with Massachusetts on January 22, then swing out to Ohio for a second road game with Dayton on 1/25 and finally return home to host Xavier on January 29. 3-0 through that week-plus (and no more fumbles before or after) should put Mooney’s charges in the field of 68; while 2-1 would not be fatal, anything lower might not jeopardize the team’s conference standing but will diminish the Spiders’ chances to make it’s second straight NCAA appearance in 2011.
  • The Dayton Flyers appear to be plagued with the same inconsistent play this season as last. They rally to win road games at Mississippi State and Seton Hall, only to be run out of the U. S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati and dumped four days later by East Tennessee State. The result of the Massachusetts game last Sunday really hurt their postseason prospects. Dayton has a crucial game this weekend versus Xavier, and after a trip to Fordham, the Flyers return home to host Richmond and then travel to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne. 4-0 through this sequence (counting Fordham in the win column) with solid margins would help settle the “good enough” questions. 3-1 would not be fatal, but it depends on how those four in turn finish there seasons.
  • A home loss to Florida along with road losses to Gonzaga and Miami (OH) (RPI #91), have damaged the Musketeers’ postseason prospects. Rehabilitation of their prospects has to start this week when the Musketeers host Massachusetts then Dayton. Xavier probably needs both. The Southern Road Trip, a journey that takes the Musketeers through Richmond and then Charlotte, scheduled on the cusp of January and February, may well settle Xavier’s prospects. Should the X-men be undefeated going into those games, a 2-0 result would be very good news, while anything less will be very damaging.
  • Of the three 9-6 teams — Massachusetts, Duquesne and St. Bonaventure — Duquesne may have the best shot. Of the Dukes’ five losses (to Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Penn State, George Mason and Robert Morris), Robert Morris (RPI #99) is the most damaging. Fans should learn a lot about Duquesne this week when Saint Louis and Temple visit. 2-0 is possible given injuries and absences in those programs. The Dukes’ home-away series with Dayton, home game versus Xavier and season-ending road game versus Richmond are the four game Duquesne will have to record a 4-0/3-1 record. That assumes they sweep the other nine games.
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Morning Five: 01.07.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 7th, 2011

  1. It’s been a very difficult season in St. Louis after its two stars were thrown out of school for disciplinary reasons last fall and Rick Majerus has had to sit out several games with a gash in his leg suffered during a recent game.  Perhaps the tide is turning a little.  Yesterday SLU re-admitted star guard Kwamain Mitchell to the university for the Spring semester, which means he could theoretically suit up this season.  Theoretically.  Majerus has counseled Mitchell to sit out this year to get his life back in order, and the argument makes sense.  At 5-9 and with a loss to Dayton in the A-10 already under its belt, SLU would have a very difficult time making a run at the NCAA Tournament even with Mitchell back in action at 100%.  Furthermore, the school made no mention of the status of his former teammate, Willie Reed, who Billiken fans would hope be allowed to return at the same time as Mitchell.
  2. You know it’s coming every week, so here it is.  The best weekly read that the college basketball scribing industry has to offer:  Luke Winn’s Power Rankings.  Grab your coffee, turn off the phone and relish in the knowledge you’re about to pick up.  It simply keeps getting better.
  3. Next Thursday Oregon will open its brand spanking new Matthew Knight Arena ["the Matt"], the $200M Phil Knight-funded temple to the hopes and dreams of Duck basketball.  Notwithstanding that ridiculous court design, the building looks phenomenal.  Addicted to Quack was privileged to do a tour recently and provided us with this accompanying photo essay.  As soon as Oregon gets their program in a little better shape, we can’t wait to check that joint out.
  4. Some transfer news dropped on Thursday.  Seton Hall forward Ferrokhan Hall announced that he would be heading west to play for his hometown school, Memphis.  He will be eligible to play in December 2012, providing some nice depth to the Memphis front line.  Meanwhile, Minnesota guard Devoe Joseph is looking at a number of destinations, including West Virginia, Oregon, Baylor, Pittsburgh, Charlotte and Niagara.
  5. It looks like we’re finally going to put this Enes Kanter situation to bed soon.  According to Jeff Goodman, the NCAA heard Kentucky’s re-argument about the Turkish center’s eligibility yesterday, and the underlying assumption is that they will rule on this rather quickly (it could be as soon as today).  Honestly, we just want to see it over with so that the “Free Enes” nonsense will end.  Kentucky is already better than most of us thought they would be; if Kanter becomes eligible, you can easily add the Wildcats to the short list of favorites for the 2011 national title.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 5th, 2011

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

A Look Back

Closing the Book on Invitational Tournaments

The conference’s “Invitational Season” ended on a disappointing note as both Fordham and Saint Louis struggled in their respective tournaments. Saint Louis won their first round game in the Cancun Governor’s Cup against Northeastern, but dropped the last two, first to Southern Mississippi and the second to Mississippi (Ole Miss lost to Dayton at home in November). The Cable Car Classic harkens back to the days of Christmas-to-New Year’s tournaments that typically revolved around the bowl games. Unlike most, the Cable Car filled the field with non-BCS teams.

Richmond’s run through the Chicago Invitational field included a 65-54 win over #11 Purdue, but the conference co-favorite Temple squandered opportunities to garner positive national attention when the Owls dropped games to Texas A&M and California at the Milk House in Orlando. Xavier advanced to the finals of the Paradise Jam, but fell 67-58 to tournament winner Old Dominion. Saint Joseph’s collected the conference’s other tournament trophy when the Hawks beat Rutgers in the finals of the Philly Hoops Classic. The Philly Hoops Classic has undergone several format revisions over the tournament’s four0year history, the number and locations of the preliminary round games has changed nearly every season, but that each member of the city’s Big 5 takes a turn hosting the event has not changed.

Power Rankings

Is the entire conference regressing to the mean? The top teams lost while the bottom team(s) won. Three teams had perfect weeks.

1. Temple (9-3)

Last Week: 12/30 @Villanova 74-78

Next Week: 1/5 @Fordham, 1/9 vs. Saint Louis

The Owls dropped out of the AP’s Top 25 again, one result of their four-point loss to Villanova. Despite leading 40-39 at the half, Temple’s shooting cooled off in the second half and the Owls could not hold the lead. Lavoy Allen scored 22 points and nine rebounds in the loss to earn a conference Honorable Mention. Point guard Juan Fernandez scored 20 points, going 4-6 from beyond the arc. Ramone Moore (16 points) and Scootie Randall (11 points) also scored in double figures.

Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad will open their A-10 slate against Fordham with an away game at the Izod Center. They return to Philadelphia to host Saint Louis Saturday.

2. Richmond (11-4)

Last Week: 12/29 vs. Wake Forest 90-74, 1/2 vs. Bucknell 61-62

Next Week: 1/5 vs. Charlotte, 1/8 @La Salle

Richmond stumbled to a 1-1 record last week, missing an opportunity to pass Temple in the power rankings when they dropped a one point decision to Bucknell, 62-61, on January 2. The Bison snapped the Spiders’ 11-game home winning streak. Bucknell managed to limit Kevin Anderson’s touches, and limited the point guard to 13 points on 6-14 overall (1-3 on threes, 5-11 on twos) and 1-2 from the line shooting. Senior forward Justin Harper shot 6-8 (3-3 from beyond the arc and 3-5 on twos) and 4-6 from the charity stripe. The Bison also contained Justin Harper by taking him off the floor his fourth foul at the 10:00 minute mark of the second half, with Richmond down by five. Harper sat for the next six minutes. Coach Chris Mooney put Harper back in on an offense-defense rotation, but the forward had cooled off, going 1-2 overall (1-1 on threes, 0-1 from twos) and 0-2 from the line to close out the game.

The Spiders drew a favorable mention last week as ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas listed Richmond as one of six teams which deserve “more love” (subscription required). The widely respected announcer and analyst of Division-I basketball identified Richmond’s senior stars:  “The Spiders have Kevin Anderson, the A-10 player of the year, and have one of the most unheralded players in the country in Justin Harper. If this guy played at Butler, we’d be talking about him incessantly…Richmond can play with anyone…”

Mooney’s charges open the conference slate on Wednesday when they host Charlotte.

3. Dayton (12-3)

Last Week: 12/29 vs. George Mason 73-67, 1/1 vs. New Mexico 76-73

Next Week: 1/5 @St. Louis, 1/9 @Massachusetts

The Flyers had a 2-0 week, extending their winning streak to five. Senior forward Chris Wright shared conference Player of the Week honors with Charlotte’s Javarris Barrett for his performance in both games, scoring a total of 30 points and collecting 23 rebounds in the two games. The Dayton faithful have waited four years to see Wright put the team on his back in the late going in close games. He did it twice last week, first scoring all of his 13 points and grabbing five of his nine rebounds versus George Mason in the second half. Against New Mexico, Wright scored 12 of his team-high 17 points and nabbed six of his 14 rebounds in the second half and two overtime periods it took to settle matters with the Lobos. Dayton opens opens conference play Wednesday against St. Louis.

4. Xavier (8-4)

Last Week: 12/28 vs. Albany 88-64, 12/31 vs. Florida 67-71

Next Week: 1/6 @Cincinnati, 1/9 @Rhode Island

If the fried gator offered at the concessions did not give the Xavier faithful heartburn, the game itself, a 71-67 beating at the hands of Florida (a return engagement) last Friday most certainly did. The loss, Xavier’s fourth (an unusually high number of losses in out of conference play lately), snapped a 30-game Cintas Center winning streak, and put even more pressure on the Musketeers to do well in conference play. Tu Holloway played all 40 minutes and led all scorers with 26 points. Jamel McLean scored six points and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.

Coach Chris Mack‘s squad could use another out of conference resume win to counter a few of last month’s head scratchers, and Crosstown Shootout rival Cincinnati may be just what the doctor ordered. X travels to Fifth-Third to take on their Big East rival – even better for the RPI if they win. Xavier opens their A-10 slate this Sunday, when they travel to Kingston, RI to play Rhode Island.

5. Rhode Island (9-5)

Last Week: 12/29 vs. Boston College 67-65, 1/3 @Florida 59-84

Next Week: 1/9 vs. Xavier

The Rams finished their out of conference slate with a 1-1 week, knocking off Boston College and then losing to Florida on the road. Coach Jim Baron threw reinstated forward Orion Outerbridge right into the fray, allocating to the junior forward 41 minutes of play in the two games. Outerbridge scored 20 points total, grabbing eight rebounds and bocking three shots. Against Boston College, three other Rams, Akeem Richmond (15 points), Marquis Jones (11 points) and Nikola Malesovic (16 points – team high) recorded double digit points. At Florida, the Rams’ senior front court players, Delroy James (29 points – game high) and Will Martel (13 points) led the scoring.

Rhode Island opens their A-10 regular season schedule Sunday when they host Xavier.

6. Massachusetts (8-5)

Last Week: 12/31 vs. Boston University 71-54, 1/3 @Central Connecticut 63-92

Next Week: 1/9 vs. Dayton

Massachusetts snapped their four-game losing streak when they beat the Terriers of Boston University on New Year’s Eve. The celebration however lasted only slightly longer than New Year’s, as the Minutemen dropped their next game, a 29 point thumping at the hands of NEC member Central Connecticut on January 3. Both games reinforced perceptions that the Minutemen fortunes rest on the scoring abilities of senior guard Anthony Gurley. Gurley led Massachusetts scorers in both games, garnering 21 points versus Boston University (next highest UMass scorer was sophomore forward Sampson Carter with 10) and 18 points versus Central Connecticut (the next highest total from a Minuteman came courtesy of freshman forward Raphael Putney with 14)

7. St. Bonaventure (7-5)

Last Week: 12/28 vs. Siena 82-79, 2/2 vs. Marshall 65-74

Next Week: 1/5 @Arkansas-Little Rock, 1/8 vs. Charlotte

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies logged a 1-1 week, finishing 2010 on a winning note against MAAC member Siena but opening the new year with a loss to CUSA member Marshall. Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson drew an Honorable Mention for his game-high scoring week. Nicholson scored 26 points against the Saints on Tuesday, and returned to score 29 against the Herd on Sunday. Guard Michael Davenport was second high Bonnie scorer in both games, recording 20 versus Siena and 14 versus Marshall. Senior point guard Ogo Adegboyo continues tomake progress. The Nigerian-by-way-of-London import averaged 32.5 minutes for the two games while scoring 23 points and dishing nine dimes versus three turnovers.

Saint Bonaventure will travel to Arkansas-Little Rock to finish their out of conference slate against the Sun Belt Conference member and return home to Olean, NY to face Charlotte on January 8.

8. Duquesne (7-5)

Last Week: 12/31 vs. Northwestern State 91-64, 1/2 vs. Norfolk State 95-73

Next Week: 1/5 @Saint Joseph’s, 1/8 vs. Houston Baptist

The Dukes pushed north of 0.500 last week with two strong wins against low-major competition. Senior Bill Clark earned an Honorable Mention for his work in both games. Clark averaged 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the two games. The Northwestern State game featured five double digit scorers. Clark (21 points) plus four others, BJ Monteiro (15 points), Mike Talley (11 points), Joel Wright (10 points) and Sean Johnson (10 points) logged double digit points. Clark earned a double-double by nabbing 10 rebounds. In a impressive distribution of scoring in the Norfolk State game, Clark (13 points) and five teammates, Johnson (19 points – game high), Damian Saunders (14 points), Montiero (11 points), Eric Evans (10 points) and Wright (10 points), scored ten or more points.

Duquesne opens in Philadelphia as they visit Hawk Hill for a game with Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday, then close out their out of conference slate by hosting Houston Baptist Saturday.

9. La Salle (7-7)

Last Week: 12/29 vs. Towson 90-93 OT, 1/2 vs. Binghamton 87-64

Next Week: 1/5 @George Washington, 1/8 vs. Richmond

La Salle had a 1-1 week, an overtime loss to Towson of the CAA was countered by a win over Binghamton of the American East. Freshman point guard Tyreek Duren took Rookie of the Week honors for the third time this season, tying him with Dayton’s point guard Juwan Staten for most times recognized. Duren was cited for averaging 18.5 points and 5.0 assists in the Explorers’ two games. Senior forward Jerrell Williams also earned a conference citation, in his case Honorable Mention, for upping his career-high scoring to 32 points in the Towson game.

Dr. Giannini’s squad will open at George Washington on Wednesday, and return home to host Richmond on Saturday.

10. Charlotte (8-6)

Last Week: 12/30 @Mercer 64-63, 1/2 @Georgia Tech 86-83 2 OT

Next Week: 1/5 @St. Bonaventure, 1/8 St. Josesh’s

Coach Alan Major’s squad squared their record at six with a 2-0 sweep of the week. The results are impressive because both were taken on the road. The A-10 recognized Javaris Barnett, a junior guard/forward for two tremendous outings. Barnett shares the honor with Dayton’s forward Chris Wright. Barnett led the charge with a team-high 18 points (career-high) as the 49ers came from behind to beat Mercer by a point. Barnett chipped in 15 points, to support Derrio Green’s game-high 21 points in Charlotte’s 3 point, 2 overtime win at Georgia Tech.

Charlotte opens their A-10 slate in Olean, NY, as they face St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, then return home to host Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.

11. George Washington (7-6)

Last Week: 12/31 vs. Holy Cross 58-57, 1/3 @Howard 85-50

Next Week: 1/5 vs. La Salle, 1/8 @Saint Joseph’s

Freshman forward Nemanja Mikic drew a conference Honorable Mention for his nine three point field goals over the Colonials’ last two games. George Washington’s 2-0 run put Karl Hobbs’ team over the 0.500 mark for the first time since game three of the season.

12. Fordham (6-6)

Last Week: 12/29 vs. American (Cable Car Classic) 57-73, 12/30 TBD (Cable Car Classic) 70-85 Next Week: 1/5 vs. Temple

Fordham was knocked back to an even record with an 0-2 run in the Cable Car Classic last week. Prospects for staying at or above 0.500 through the week are bleak, as the Rams open their A-10 slate by hosting Temple on Wednesday.

13. Saint Louis (5-8)

Last Week: 1/1 vs. Bowling Green 61-67

Next Week: 1/5 vs. Dayton, 1/9 @Temple

The Billikens dropped a six-point decision to the Falcons of Bowling Green on New Year’s Day. In possibly a bad omen for the team’s fortunes, coach Rick Majerus left the game with a lacerated leg and did not return. The 62-year-old coach missed the previous game, St. Louis’ third round the Cancun Governor’s Cup game versus Mississippi at the end of the year. Majerus’ recovery will extend to the Billikens’ A-10 opener Wednesday against Dayton.

The roster headline this week is that suspended center Willie Reed completed his paperwork for re-admission to the university. Billiken fans are hardly unanimous on whether Reed and Kwamain Mitchell will be granted admission, but the reality, that the semester-long suspension for all practical purposes ended the season for both players (there is a consensus forming that they will most likely red shirt the season, concentrate on academics, so that they will be in a strong position to graduate in May of 2012).

14. Saint Joseph’s (5-8)

Last Week: 12/28 @Holy Cross 65-54, 12/31 vs. Siena 58-48

Next Week: 1/5 vs. Duquesne, 1/8 vs. George Washington

Freshman CJ Aiken was named to the conference Honorable Mention rolls for averaging 8.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game during the Hawks’ 2-0 run last week. Saint Joseph’s, having a single out of conference opponent left (Big 5 rival Penn) on their schedule, will open their A-10 schedule by hosting Duquesne on Wednesday and George Washington on Saturday.

A Look Ahead

  • Saint Louis fans will wait to find out if suspended players Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed will be re-admitted for the spring 2011 semester. Without an official statement, fans will not know until class lists are released on Monday, January 10. Coach Rick Majerus’ status is less than certain, as his leg injury will hold him out for at least one more game.
  • Stats guru Ken Pomeroy ran simulations for the 335 teams affiliated with the 31 Division-I conferences and released his projections in two separate posts on Monday and Tuesday this week. Pomeroy noted in his introductory notes that the simulation assumes the Pythagorean Winning Percentages (the heart of his ranking system) will not change over the course of the conference season, a factor that skews the simulations to overly favor the highest ranked team. Pomeroy notes that those teams which finished second, third, even fourth in his projection had better possibilities for improvement than the first place teams. Pomeroy ranked (and divided his postings) by the degree to which the conference race would be competitive. Least competitive conference races were published in Pomeroy’s Monday post (part 1), while the more competitive conferences were published Tuesday (part 2).
  • Pomeroy ranked Atlantic 10 race #15 of the 31 races in competitiveness and placed the conference in the second post, among the more competitive races. Temple, the highest ranked A-10 team in Pomeroy’s system, won 54.6% of the simulations, with #2 Richmond winning 27%, surprise team, #3 ranked Duquesne, taking 11% and #4 Xavier 4%. Duquesne has played a fairly light out of conference schedule, but the Dukes’ wins have been by comfortable margins. Pomeroy, while not quite ready to proclaim the Dukes legitimate threats to win the conference (“Let’s keep an eye on the Dukes over the next two weeks…”) does suggest they will be good enough “…to screw up somebody’s tourney hopes…”. The other surprise is the relatively low ranking (#7) for Dayton. The Flyers won 0.7% of the conference race simulations, a strong suggestion that the Flyers, while not absolutely precluded from winning the conference title, will again fall short in conference play.
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