20 Questions: Who is This Year’s Wichita State?

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on November 4th, 2013

seasonpreview-11Before answering the question of who this year’s Wichita State might be, we should probably make sure we know who last year’s Wichita State was. Gregg Marshall’s eventual national semifinalists overachieved (relative to preseason expectations) their way to a #8 seed, but even then, the Shockers were largely ignored as a candidate to reach the Sweet Sixteen, let alone the Final Four. Well, four NCAA Tournament wins later – and a competitive Final Four loss to eventual champion Louisville – and the Shockers label of “solid mid-major” was due for a major upgrade. So, what team could be in line for a similarly eye-opening run in the 2014 Dance? Three teams stand out as especially viable candidates, but the preseason buzz surrounding Harvard and Boise State has them sporting a trendiness that wasn’t circulating in Wichita this time last year. The Saint Louis Billikens, however, enter the year a bit more under the radar. Their preseason aspirations may be slightly elevated from those of the Shockers’ 12 months ago, but after disappointing pundits as a sleeper pick in last season’s tourney, SLU could be bound for a quiet, productive season that leaves them poised for a March Madness run that nobody sees coming.

Dwayne Evans (#21) Quietly Averaged 14 Points And 7.7 Rebounds A Game Last Year; Could He Lead Saint Louis To Greater March Heights? (Getty)

Dwayne Evans (#21) Quietly Averaged 14 Points And 7.7 Rebounds A Game Last Year. Could He Lead Saint Louis To Greater March Heights? (Getty)

Like Wichita State last season, Saint Louis comes into this year not expected to match the success of last season’s wildly successful campaign. Despite that authoritative early dismissal (Oregon defeated the Billikens by 17 in the round of 32), SLU swept the A-10 regular season and tournament crowns en route to earning a #4 seed. These Billikens will be hard-pressed to match the 28 games won by that group, but the nucleus does return mostly intact. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Other 26: Bracket-Busting, East and Midwest Edition

Posted by IRenko on March 20th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC columnist and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

This is part two of our TO26 bracket analysis, focusing on the 17 non-power-conference teams that populate the East and Midwest regions. The teams are grouped into five rough categories, and, within each category, they are ordered by their likelihood of advancing.  For our analysis of the South and West regions, see here.

Regional Threats

These are the teams that have a credible chance of dancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.

  • St. Louis (#4 Midwest) — The Bilikens are flying a bit under the radar, but this is a team that should be a favorite for a Sweet 16 run. They have one of the best defenses in the country, a group of experienced guards who can attack and shoot (Kwamain Mitchell, Mike McCall, Jordair Jett), a surprisingly effective post presence in Dwayne Evans, and a pair of pick-‘n-pop big men (Rob Loe, Cody Ellis) who can drain the three. It should be said, though, that the Bilikens’ draw is not necessarily ideal. A first-round game against New Mexico State presents some matchup quandaries (see below), as does a potential Third Round game against Oklahoma State — both teams are prepared to bang and grind with the Bilikens down low. Ultimately, I think the St. Louis’ defense is strong enough to get them to the Sweet 16, where their steady guard play gives them a non-trivial chance of knocking off the Cards.
Can Rotnei Clarke Lead Butler Back to the Final Four?

Can Rotnei Clarke Lead Butler Back to the Final Four?

  • Butler (#6, East) — Yes, they’re back. Neither Bucknell nor their potential Third Round opponent (Marquette or Davidson) will be an easy team to conquer, but all three of these teams will give Butler an important reprieve from its biggest vulnerability — a tendency to turn it over. Bucknell and Marquette will also play at the kind of grinding pace at which the Bulldogs excel. And they’ll focus their offense on the areas of the floor where Butler’s defense is strongest — the paint. Butler also has the shooters — Rotnei Clark, Kellen Dunham — to bombard Marquette’s compact defense and the rebounders to exploit Marquette’s weakness on the glass. If anything, Bucknell may pose a bigger matchup problem, as they tend to chase teams off the three-point line and they don’t give up much on the offensive glass. The Bison will be a tough opponent, but when you look at Butler’s pod as a whole, a Sweet 16 run looks well within reach.

One and Done

These teams have at least a 50/50 (or better) chance of picking up a win, but are unlikely to get two.

  • Colorado State (#8, Midwest) – I would actually bump the Rams up to the tail end of the “Regional Threats” group if not for the uncertain status of starting point guard Dorian Green. The team’s unquestioned floor general, Green suffered an ankle injury in the first round of the MWC tournament, and though he played in a semifinal loss to UNLV, was ineffective. With a fully healthy Green, the Rams’ have a good chance of toppling Missouri. The two teams are somewhat similar in that they try to score in the paint on offense, while keeping opponents out of the paint of it on defense. Neither team is especially potent from the three-point line, and both rely a fair amount on offensive rebounding, though the Rams’ have the advantage here, especially as they are equally adept at controlling their defensive glass. That, along with Missouri’s tendency to be a bit loose with the ball, may be the difference-maker. And don’t sleep on Colorado State’s chances against Louisville in the next round. The Cardinals’ weak points are defensive rebounding and three-point shooting. The Rams are the best offensive rebounding team in the country, and as noted above, their defense forces teams to beat them from the three-point line. They also take pretty good care of the ball, which will serve them well against Louisville’s pressure defense. But this analysis could be all for naught if Green isn’t healthy enough to be effective.
  • Creighton (#7, Midwest) Doug McDermott is perhaps the most fundamentally sound player in college basketball. His All-American status owes itself to his incredibly precise offensive footwork, positioning, movement, shot, and cuts. He has inside-outside skills that present a very tough matchup if you’re not used to guarding him. And he’s surrounded by lots of great three-point shooters. Cincinnati’s defense has generally been strong, so they might be able to contain McDermott and the Bluejays’ three-point attack. But they’ll have to be especially effective because their offense has been truly miserable. I like the Bluejays’ chances here. A Third Round matchup with Duke would be a tougher proposition, as the Blue Devils combine a defense that shuts down the three-point line with an offense that is far more high-powered than Cincinnati’s. McDermott may well get his points, especially posting up inside, but that’s not likely to be sufficient.

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Bracket Prep: Saint Louis, Miami, Mississippi & Ohio State

Posted by BHayes on March 17th, 2013

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The last four auto-bids were handed out on this most special of college basketball Sundays, and as we have for each of the 31 automatic qualifiers to play their way into the Dance, we take some time to give you an analytical snapshot of each team that you can refer back to when you’re picking your brackets.

Saint Louis

Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett And The Rest Of The Billikens Are Headed Back To The Big Dance

Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett And The Rest Of The Billikens Are Headed Back To The Big Dance

  • Atlantic-10 Champion (27-6, 16-3)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #22/#17/#15
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +12.2
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #3-#5

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. In a crazy year of Atlantic-10 basketball, one complete with new faces, wild finishes and a constantly changing standings page, no team stayed the course better than the Saint Louis Billikens. They overcame the tragedy of losing Rick Majerus in November while fighting through their own early-season on-court struggles, eventually righting the ship in a major way. They enter the NCAA Tournament with a sweep of the A-10 titles, and winners of 24 of their last 27 games. A top four seed is not only possible but expected – relatively uncharted territory for the Atlantic-10.
  2. While the notion may be a bit clichéd at this point, it’s impossible to look at this Saint Louis team and not think of Majerus. His fingerprints are all over these Billikens. It’s evident in the stingy defense (8th in the country in defensive efficiency), apparent in the patient, mistake-free offense (36th nationally in turnover %), and undoubtedly a factor in the gritty, tough identity that his former team has taken on. Former Majerus assistant  Jim Crews deserves a lot of credit (and some serious COY consideration) for keeping the ship upright and moving in the right direction, but at their core, this is still a Rick Majerus team.
  3. The Majerus effect, slow tempo, and balanced offense have obscured the individual Billikens from the national spotlight, but there is some talent on this roster. Kwamain Mitchell (10.0 PPG, 3.1 APG, 1.4 SPG) is perhaps the most finest of that talent, and it was his return in late December that gave the Billikens a needed boost. Juniors Dwayne Evans (13.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG) and Mike McCall (10.0 PPG, 42% 3PT) have stepped forward this season as well. On this balanced, unselfish team, there is no member of the eight-man rotation that does not know their role and play it effectively. A year ago they showed well at the Big Dance, beating Memphis before giving #1 seeded Michigan State all they could handle in the third round. That Tournament experience will surely serve them well this time around, as they continue to dedicate this season to Majerus. That alone won’t carry them through this loaded field, but when you give a talented and focused team a real purpose, the sky can often become the limit. The Billikens may not be legitimate national title contenders, but anything short of that? Well within reach.

Miami

There's Been Plenty Of Reasons To Celebrate For Julian Gamble And The Canes This Season -- How About Adding An ACC Tournament Title To That List?

There’s Been Plenty Of Reasons To Celebrate For Julian Gamble And The Canes This Season — How About Adding An ACC Tournament Title To That List?

  • ACC Champion (27-6, 18-3)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #4/#14/#14
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +12.3
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #1-#2

 Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

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The Other 26: This Is Not Mark Few’s Best Team… Yet

Posted by IRenko on February 16th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

After a 17-point win at St. Mary’s on Thursday night pushed Gonzaga’s record to 24-2 and cleared its biggest hurdle to a regular season record tainted with just two losses, some are wondering whether this is the best team that Mark Few has put together in his 14 years at the helm. It’s a fair question, given the way they’re playing. But the best ever? Sure, not since Adam Morrison was dragged off the court after a heartbreaking loss to UCLA ended his college career, have the Zags had a player with the combination of star power, All-American credentials, and curious hairstyle that Kelly Olynyk has brought this year. And, true, moreso than the Morrison-led team of 2006, this squad is a well-balanced offensive machine, with a multitude of frontcourt and backcourt options. They proved that on Thursday, when Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, who have deferred most of the scoring load this year to Olynyk and Elias Harris, dropped a combined 38 points on St. Mary’s.

This Gonzaga Team is Good, But Not Mark Few’s Best … Yet (James Snook / USA TODAY Sports)

This Gonzaga Team is Good, But Not Mark Few’s Best … Yet (James Snook / USA TODAY Sports)

But Few’s best team ever? They have a ways to go before they can claim such an honor. Take, for example, the 2004 team, which also dropped just two contests heading into the NCAA Tournament.  That squad was led by All-American senior guard Blake Stepp, and like Olynyk, he had lots of help. Junior Ronny Turiaf, sophomore Morrison, and senior Cory Violette shared the scoring load, with all four players averaging in double-digits. They coasted through league play undefeated, never winning a game by less than double digits, and ended the season on a 20-game win streak en route to a 2 seed in the Tournament, Gonzaga’s best ever. Their two pre-Tournament losses were to St. Joe’s and Stanford, both of which went on to earn 1 seeds that year. By contrast, this year’s Gonzaga team lost to Illinois, a bubble team, at home by 11 points.

Of course, this year’s squad could prove itself a superior to the 2004 team — or any team that Few has coached — if it can get past the Sweet Sixteen. Since Gonzaga burst onto the college hoops scene 14 years ago with a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight, they’ve yet to get reach the brink of a Final Four, much less a Final Four itself. The ballyhooed ’04 squad was upset by 10th-seeded Nevada in the second round, the ’05 team squandered a 3 seed with a second round loss to Texas Tech, and the ’06 Zags memorably collapsed against UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen (a game to which one cannot refer without remarking that it was perhaps the finest moment of Gus Johnson’s illustrious career). This Gonzaga team stacks up well with those predecessors, but unless it breaks through to the second game of the second weekend, it won’t prove to be their clear superior.

What’s undisputed, however, is that the Zags have been dominant enough to remain at the top of this year’s Top 10.  On to that, our Honor Roll, and this week’s games to watch  . . .

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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 1st, 2013

CIO header

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

[Ed. Note: this article was written prior to Thursday night’s St. Louis-Butler game.] 

Looking Back

Difference Margins…Three Weeks into Conference Play: About 20% of the conference games are in the books, enough for the offensive and defensive efficiency (points per possession scored and allowed) margins provide some insight to race so far. I have included strength of schedule (conference games only) to provide a sense of how the schedule may have impacted the difference margin for any particular team.

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Overall the margins appear to be behaving, about half of the conference teams have positive margins (offense greater than defense), and seven of those eight teams have winning records. The margins do not correspond exactly to the conference records, and those teams with divergent margins tend to draw out attention.

A few observations:

  1. Butler’s spot in the rankings is no surprise. Their #1 ranking in strength of schedule suggests the other numbers are going to hold up over the next six weeks.
  2. Fans familiar with difference margins from past seasons see Dayton in a familiar spot, as the Flyers’ record has typically run either ahead of their difference margin or well behind. This season the margin is far wider (and positive) than the record — back-to-back routs of Fordham and Duquesne are the reason. Expect the record and margin to close in the next two to three weeks.
  3. Charlotte appears to be the negative counterpart to Dayton. Huge road losses to Richmond and George Washington explain the negative margin, but a strength of schedule ranking of #13 suggest that the 4-2 record so far may be vulnerable.

Power Rankings

Upsets and inconsistent play add excitement to the conference race and jumble the rankings again this week. The question is how these unpredictable turns will affect the number of bids the conference garners at the end of the season. And whose phone will ring come Selection Sunday.

  1. Butler (17-4, 4-2, #9 AP) – The Bulldogs’ stumble (the first since late November) may have given La Salle a boost onto the bubble. Hopefully it will not cost them too much over the next six weeks. Rotnei Clarke is back and Kellen Dunham is blossoming, but the team’s recovery has been slow, especially in holding onto the ball, as they are in 10th in the league in turnover percentage.
  2. Virginia Commonwealth (17-5, 5-2) – The Rams’ defensive efficiency (points per possession allowed) has been rising steadily (see chart below) since the start of the conference season. In three of their last four games, coach Shaka Smart’s squad has allowed 1.0 point per possession or more (not good). Note that the offensive and defensive efficiency averages are curving towards each other, a trend that began after game #17 (the first conference game). Read the rest of this entry »
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Night Line: In Wake of Majerus Passing On, His Billikens Push On

Posted by BHayes on January 11th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

No team endured a more difficult first month of the season than the Saint Louis Billikens. November was a struggle on the court, as they listlessly stumbled to a 3-3 beginning. Not the opening that the preseason Atlantic 10 favorites had hoped for, but all that mattered little on December 2 when news came that former coach Rick Majerus had passed away. The controversial Majerus’ legacy is still being sorted out, but what cannot be denied is the SLU basketball revival he oversaw. More importantly, as he had done at each of his previous coaching stops, the charismatic Majerus profoundly impacted many of his players’ lives along the way. His passing left this Saint Louis basketball season at a crossroads; a disappointing year could easily head into complete freefall, or a core that Majerus brought to SLU could use their old coach’s passing as inspiration for a turnaround. Nine wins and zero losses later, it appears quite clear which direction the Billikens have chosen.

Saint Louis Is Happy To Have Kwamain Mitchell Back

Saint Louis Is Happy To Have Kwamain Mitchell Back

Majerus’ death will be a motivator for St. Louis right up until the moment their season ends, but there are practical reasons for the turnaround as well. For starters, none of the three early season losses look especially bad anymore, now that Santa Clara has surprisingly continued its winning ways (12-5 on the year) with the Broncos even giving Duke a scare at Cameron Indoor Stadium at the end of 2012. The December schedule also relented somewhat for the Billikens, as their next six games came in the friendly confines of Chaifetz Arena, and only one pitted St. Louis against a top-200 team (Valparaiso). Six straight wins had to help their confidence before the Billikens’ next real test, and SLU responded against a solid New Mexico team, delivering a resounding 60-46 New Years’ Eve victory. Also making things easier against the Lobos was the return of senior guard Kwamain Mitchell, who had made his season debut just three days earlier. Mitchell may not have been his sharpest self against New Mexico (or even tonight against UMass), but SLU head man Jim Crews has to feel better with his star player back on the floor.

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

Early Season Performances – The Oooh Aaaah Variety (Teams & Individuals)

The A-10 evened the record versus the six power conferences again last week, largely on the strength of performances by Xavier and Richmond. Xavier needed overtime to beat Vanderbilt in Nashville. Down by two with just under four minutes in regulation, Xavier held Vanderbilt scoreless and managed to tie on a Mark Lyons jumper with six seconds remaining in regulation. In overtime the Musketeers took the lead for good 68-66 on two Dezmine Wells free throws and Tu Holloway put a large enough margin between the teams (about eight points) when he hit two threes in successive possessions to absorb a Commodore mini-run. Vanderbilt chipped the Musketeers’ lead down to four, but could get no closer. Forced to foul, Holloway and Travis Taylor went a perfect 6 for 6 from the line to stretch the lead to 10 and suck the life out of the Commodore comeback.

Hosting Purdue five days later, Xavier again went down early, allowing Purdue to take the lead at the 18:49 mark of the first half and hold it for the next 37 minutes of play. The Boilermakers took an 11-point lead into the intermission and stretched it to 15 in the first 6:30 of the second half. Over the next 12:24 Xavier outscored Purdue 29-13 to take the lead for only the second time in the game. Once in control, the Musketeers did not let the Boilermakers back in, pushing their lead out to three in the last minute of the game.

As for Tu Holloway’s (and Xavier’s) week, we can’t say it any better than Rob Dauster over at Ballin’ is a Habit. Ok we could, but cut and paste required fewer key strokes and brain cells:

Those numbers are more interesting, however, when you break up the game. For example, with 3:30 left in overtime against Vanderbilt, Holloway had just 14 points on 4-17 shooting. That stat line looks much more impressive after he hit back-to-back threes on the next two possessions and four straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Likewise, against Purdue, Holloway had just 10 points and six turnovers in the first 38 minutes of the game, but in the final two minutes he hit a three on three consecutive possessions (video of the last two below) and followed that up with two free throws, completing the most impressive comeback of the young season…in the final three minutes against Vanderbilt and the last two minutes against Purdue, Holloway had 21 points, went 5-6 from beyond the arc and knocked down all six of his free throws attempts.

The Richmond squad had to replace 59% of their minutes and 68.6% of their scoring from the squad that won the A-10 conference tournament and ran to the Sweet Sixteen last March. Freshman point guard Kendall Anthony, three times designated Rookie of the Week by the conference, has picked up a load of time and scoring responsibilities for the Spiders so far. Richmond leaned heavily on Anthony along with sophomores Cedrick Lindsay and Derrick Williams for offense. Both chipped in double digit points to complement Anthony’s production. Lindsay was a serviceable back-up to senior point guard Kevin Anderson last season, but Williams, who has started all eight games for the Spiders, saw very little action as a freshman.

Overlooked Temple off guard Aaron Brown turned heads the summer before coming to North Broad, but had few opportunities to show Temple fans and the A-10 what he could do. Brown scored 21 points in 22 minutes in a display during Temple’s 86-74 win over Central Michigan. Ken Pomeroy would find hard to ignore his performance, as he hit 7-11 (4-7 from three point land, 3-4 from inside the arc) shots from the floor while getting to the line for five free throws, of which he hit three. That computes to an 81.8% eFG% with a 1.57 points per weighted shot, an outstanding outing for the sophomore, who was pressed into action due to the injury-depleted squad.

Early Season Performances – The What the !@#!@@!# Variety (Teams & Individuals)

After winning their early season invitational tournaments, beating four power conference opponents (two each) during the tournament, both Dayton and Saint Louis stumbled in post tournament games. The losses are puzzling because for both teams, the games were winnable. Saint Louis took an “and-one” game with Loyola Marymount of the West Coast Conference, losing by seven with a performance that had team observers scratching their heads. Dayton compounded the first post tournament loss (by 29 to Buffalo of the MAC) with a second loss, this one by 17, to Murray State of the Ohio Valley Conference. The opponents were beatable, making the scoring margins downright consternating. Dayton was pegged to finish in the middle of the conference, but the two unexpected losses (albeit the Racers will most likely contend for the OVC title this season) could damage the Flyers chances for a post season NIT bid. Other inexplicable losses go to Saint Bonaventure’s home loss to Arkansas State of the Sun Belt Conference, a 3-4 team no one expects to make noise this season. The Bonnies were not helped by a lackluster six-point, nine-rebound effort from Andrew Nicholson.

Power Rankings

The Power Rankings are shuffled again this week in response to the Ooohs, Aaaahs and What the heck games listed above. For the Atlantic-10 the post season margin for error is exceedingly slim. Three losses going into the first or second week of December can take a school off the RPI short list pretty quickly.

1. Xavier (6-0) #8 AP – Xavier took down two more power conference programs last week in fashion impressive enough to climb three more spots in the AP poll. I listed many of the impressive details in the impressive performances section above, but  in addition to the video link below that shows two of Tu Holloway’s three “last two minute” three point field goals below (h/t to Dana & Victory Blog for the link). I should also mention that in Nashville Mark Lyons (19 points) and Travis Taylor (11 points) chipped in more than 10 apiece to go with Holloway’s 24 point performance, while Antoine Walker collected 14 rebounds in his return to Vanderbilt where he played for three years. Versus Purdue three Musketeers, Lyons (14 points), Walker (10 points) and Kenny Fraese (10 points) chipped in double digit points to complement Holloway’s 21 point outburst.

 

 

Xavier will travel to Indianapolis Wednesday for a game with Butler, then return home to host this season’s Crosstown Shootout versus Cincinnati on Saturday. Win these next two and Chris Mack’s squad deserves something special, like Christmas in Hawaii…wait.

2. Saint Louis (7-1) –Their top 25 ranking proved surprisingly short, the penalty for stumbling against the Lions last Tuesday. St. Louis recovered to beat another WCC team, Portland  by 20, 73-53 at the Chaifetz. The Billikens’ defense limited Portland to 0.90 points per possession, much as they had Boston College and Oklahoma. Scoring centered on Brian Conklin and Cody Ellis, with Kyle Cassidy and Mike McCall providing efficient long-range scoring. They will host Vermont on Wednesday and Division II Illinois-Springfield on Saturday.

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take

The Week That Was:

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

 

 

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

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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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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2010

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

Looking Back in the A-10: Road Warriors & Homebodies

Playing some part of the out of conference schedule away from the comforts of the home arena is increasingly a fact of life for every Division 1 program that has any aspirations for life beyond the conference championship tournament. Travel is a budgetary requirement for some teams in a few conferences, but by and large A-10 teams travel either because of the challenge (Temple’s former Head Coach John Chaney had an “anytime, anywhere” policy for scheduling out of conference games), for the RPI bump or for the national exposure that comes from participation in the early season invitational tournaments. The Road Warriors this season are listed first in the table below:

In addition to counting all away (a game played in the opponent’s arena) or neutral court games as a “not at home” game, I also count games neither neutral nor technically “away”, but out of the program’s home arena, as a “not at home” game. That half of the conference has played at least 50% of their games “not at home” is a little surprising (but not shocking). That ten of the conference’s 14 members (71.4%) play at least 40% of their schedule away from their home arena makes me wonder if this is a strategy to help the boost the conference RPI. For Xavier, the strategy may have backfired. The Musketeers took three neutral court games at the Paradise Jam and scheduled an away game with Miami (OH) as a balance to their west coast trip to Gonzaga (this Wednesday) and their Crosstown Shootout game with rival Cincinnati, but they lost the Miami game in possibly their worst performance of the season. Rhode Island’s Jim Baron scheduled quite a few for the Rams this season, especially in the early part of the season. Duquesne had a terrible travel record last season, and Coach Ron Everhart appears to have taken the bull by the horns and scheduled a greater number of road games early in the season. The Dukes opened a four-game home stand with a game against IUPUI, and will take to the road to open the A-10 conference season (and take one last out of conference road foray, this time to cupcake Houston Baptist in Houston, TX).

Can anyone blame Fordham for being a bit road shy? Going into the season it appeared Coach Tom Pecora would have his hands full just logging wins. The Rams have done that much and more, logging their first road win in two seasons already.

Taking the team on the road is one thing, but how did A-10 team’s fare once out there? The table above suggests that the teams perform about as well as teams from most “above the Red Line” conference can expect. Rhode Island and Saint Joseph’s, the two programs that have taken the largest portion of their schedules out of their own arenas, appear to be underperforming (compare their won-loss records with their efficiency differential in the far right column above), which might be expected from so much time away from the comforts of home. Massachusetts and Fordham might surprise, but remember that Fordham has taken very few games out of Rose Hill, and two of the Minutemen “not on the home court” games came in the Hall of Fame Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts, just a few miles away from the campus and thousands of miles (and a few climate zones) away from the homes of Texas Christian and New Mexico State. Given the last minutes roster changes at St. Louis, the Billikens’ difficulties are hardly surprising. Replacing critical members of the squad is tricky enough, but having to implement the transition in hostile environs can really kill a team’s post season chances. The biggest disappointment on the list (so far) has to be Dayton. The Flyers are supposed to mount a serious challenge for the conference title this season, but though the squad has a good share of upperclassmen, they have struggled at times. The road loss to Cincinnati was devastating, and the efficiency numbers for out of home court games reflects that.

Power Rankings

Movement in the rankings comes among the bottom three this week, as Fordham has pushed their record to 5-4, and leapfrogged George Washington and Saint Joseph’s. The conference season will most likely bring the rankings back to “regular order”, but for now, Fordham has the better record won against good competition. They earned the bump this past week.

1.  Temple (8-2)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Northern Illinois 84-74

Next Week: 12/22 @Ohio

Like most teams, Temple faces that between-the-semesters slump in student support. Coach Dunphy penned a thank you note for fan support at the Georgetown win (December 2, 68-65) and an appeal for a big turnout for the Northern Illinois game last Saturday. The response from the Temple fanbase was a bit less than resounding, though probably better than all but one other Division 1 game played in Philadelphia last Saturday. If Ramone Moore was upset he took it out on the (NIU) Huskies, as he earned his third Honorable Mention from the conference for his 21 point, (career-high) six assist and (career-high) two blocked shot effort Saturday night. He scored his 21 efficiently, recording a 62.5% eFG% on 7-12 overall (1-3 on threes, 6-9 on twos) and 6-10 from the stripe.  The nucleus of the Temple offense is forming around senior forward Lavoy Allen, junior center/forward Michael Eric (when he is in the game) and a committee of junior guards Juan Fernandez, wing Scootie Randall and Moore. The Northern Illinois game is the latest in the pattern that saw Allen and Eric score efficiently (and often) when they are in the game, with either Moore of Randall lighting it up from the back court/wing spots. Fernandez might join the party as well, or just set the others up offensively. For NIU, Moore was hitting his shots and Randall was not.

2.  Richmond (8-3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Georgia Tech 54-67

Next Week: 12/22 UNC-Greensboro, 12/26 @Seton Hall

Down by one at the half (25-24), the Spiders managed to take a two point lead (36-34) 25 minutes into their game at Atlantis in the Bahamas on a Kevin Anderson three. Over the last 15 (or so) minutes of the game however, the Spiders collapsed…on both sides of the ball. Over their last 25 possessions Chris Mooney’s squad posted a terrible 0.63 points per possession, considerably less than the 1.0 considered minimally efficient in D1 ball. Georgia Tech by contrast converted their possessions to points at a 1.34 rate, good enough for an additional 33 points and a 13-point winning margin. If fouls and turnovers are an indication of lost composure, Richmond’s 10 fouls and five turnovers over that last 15 minutes suggest the squad unraveled a bit. The Jackets managed a 123.1 FTA/FGA, capitalizing on Richmond’s tendency to foul when Tech went to the basket. Justin Harper and Darien Brothers in particular struggled with their shots, going a collective 2-10 overall (1-5 for threes, 1-5 for two point attempts) from the field.

3.  Dayton (9-3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Western Carolina 71-60, 12/20 vs. Winthrop 73-58

Next Week: 12/22 @Seton Hall

The Flyers posted a 2-0 week as senior forward Chris Wright drew a conference honorable mention for his career-high 30 points in Dayton’s win over Western Carolina. The senior forward scored another 10 points versus Winthrop to average 20.0 for the week. Freshman point guard Jawan Staten dished 18 assists against 4 turnovers in the Flyers’ two wins.  Coach Gregory’s squad returns to the New York City metro area, scene of their NIT triumph last March, as they look for this season’s 10th win at Seton Hall. Rush the Court will host a live blog Wednesday night from Seton Hall’s home court (“The Rock”) in downtown Newark, NJ.

4.  Xavier (7-2)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Wake Forest 83-75

Next Week: 12/22 @Gonzaga

With the win over struggling Wake Forest, Xavier pushed their record to 7-2. Junior guard Tu Holloway shared Player of the Week honors with St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson. Holloway notched a triple-double when he scored 14 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists, the rebounds and assists are career-highs for Holoway. Junior Kenny Frease paced the X-men with a double-double of his own, his third this season. Frease scored 22 points on 11-19 overall shooting and 0-1 from the line and pulled down 14 rebounds.

5.  Massachusetts (7-3)

Last Week:  None.

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Central Florida

Finals and end of the fall semester sidelined the Minutemen last week.

6.  Rhode Island (7-4)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. New Hampshire 64-52

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Lafayette

Coach Jim Baron’s squad downed New Hampshire by 12 points as senior Delroy James again led the Rams in scoring with 22 points on 8-22 overall (4-8 three pointer attempts, 4-14 two point attempts) and 2-2 from the free throw line. Sophomore forward Nikola Malesevic was the second squad member to break into double figure scoring, as he hit 3-6 overall (2-4 three pointers, 1-2 two pointers) and 3-4 from the line to score 11 points. The Rams should have little trouble taking Lafayette out of the Patriot League, and they two more chances for resume wins as they host Boston College on the 29th and travel to Florida for a game on January 2nd. They should have suspended sophomore Orion Outerbridge, benched this fall for academic problems, back shortly. Outerbridge should provide more rebounding and another scoring option to go with James, Malesevic, and guards Akeem Richmond and Marquis Jones.

7. La Salle (6-5)

Last Week: 12/17 vs. Bucknell 77-89

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Rider

Sophomore Aaric Murray earned his fourth conference honorable mention for his career-high 28 points as the Explorers dropped the second straight game in their home stand, 77-89, to Bucknell of the Patriot League. Although two other squad members, guard Ruben Guillandeaux and forward Jerrell Williams chipped in more than 10 points apiece (15 and 13 respectively), La Salle could not avoid their fifth loss on the season.

8.  St. Bonaventure (5-3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Ohio 112-107 (4OT)

Next Week: 12/23 vs. Virginia Tech, 12/28 vs. Siena

The conference split the Player of the Week honors between Tu Holloway and the Bonnies’ forward/center Andrew Nicholson this week. The junior joined the list of “Most Points Scored in a Single Game” in the Bonaventure program at #8 while posting his fifth consecutive double-double. Three other Bonnies, senior Ogo Adegboye (with 13), sophomore Demitrius Conger (with 23) and junior Michael Davenport (with 19) scored in double digits in the longest game played by a St. Bonaventure team.

9.  Duquesne (5-4)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. IUPUI 81-54

Next Week: 12/22 vs. George Mason

The Dukes pushed their record north of 0.500 with a 17 point win over IUPUI.  Four Dukes, senior wing Damian Saunders (12 points), freshman forward Joel Wright (11 points) and junior BJ Monteiro (11 points) scored double-digit points as senior forward Bill Clark drew his fourth conference Honorable Mention in six weeks for his double-double which included 17 points and 14 rebounds. Clark also dished five dimes, tied with freshman point TJ McConnell and two less than freshman guard Mike Talley’s seven.

10.  Saint Louis (4-5)

Last Week: 12/15 vs. Jacksonville 69-64, 12/18 @Missouri State 61-85

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Northeastern (Cancun Governor’s Cup), 12/23 TBD (Cancun Governor’s Cup), 12/24 TBD (Cancun Governor’s Cup)

The Billikens continue to struggle to get north of the 0.500 mark. Coach Rick Majerus is looking for leaders, and so far the freshmen appear to be the ones stepping forward. The St. Louis scoring leader in both games last week was freshman guard Jordair Jett (16 vs. Jacksonville and 18 versus Missouri State), with junior wing Kyle Cassity next (14 and 11)  the third scorer in each game was a different player, but always a freshman (Jacksonville – Dwayne Evans with 11; Missouri State – Mike McCall with 11).

11.  Charlotte (5-6)

Last Week: 12/17 vs. Tennessee 49-48

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Wright State

The 49ers recorded the first big win of the Alan Major Era with their one point win before 8,400 fans in the Time Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte. The game was played for 60 possessions, about 12% lower than the Division 1 average, and about 15% below the 70 possessions the Vols normally play for. Darrio Green was the most efficient Charlotte scorer, converting at a 50% eFG% rate with a 1.32 PPWS, though he only took 17% of the shots while he was on the court. Jamar Briscoe, playing about the same amount of time (92.5% of the minutes at pg) took 32% of the shots and hit at a far less efficient 30% eFG%. Briscoe scored a point more than Green (14 vs. 13), but was considerably less efficient doing so.

12.  Fordham (5-4)

Last Week:  None.

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Kennesaw State, 12/27 @Georgia Tech

The Rams are on hiatus, concentrating on finals. Coach Tom Pecora’s charges will swing back into action against Kennesaw State and then take a post holiday trip to Atlanta, Georgia to face the Yellow Jackets.

13.  George Washington (4-5)

Last Week: 12/18 @Oregon State 87-79

Next Week: 12/22 vs. East Carolina, 12/27 @UAB

Freshman forward Namanja Mikic became the latest name in the Rookie of the Year conversation with his 19 point performance against Oregon State last Saturday. Mikic shot 6-11 from the field (6-10 three pointers, 0-1 two pointers) and 1-3 from the line for a striking 81.8% eFG%. The eight point win was the first Colonial road win over an above the Red Line team since 2001. Junior wing Tony Taylor also drew an Honorable Mention for his double-double versus the Beavers. Taylor scored 19 points while dishing 11 assists.

14.  Saint Joseph’s (3-7)

Last Week:  None.

Next Week: 12/21 @Boston University,

Off for finals and a much needed regrouping, the Hawks take to the road to play Boston University.

Looking Ahead in the A-10

  • Rush the Court will play close attention to the road games of Dayton and Richmond this week, as both travel to the Rock in Newark to take on the Pirates of Seton Hall University. This correspondent will host a live blog from the Rock in Newark for each game.
  • Rhode Island should have news about Orion Outerbridge this week. If the sophomore has passed his fall classes he should rejoin the team for the Rams’ Wednesday game versus Lafayette.
  • St. Louis will head south to participate in the Cancun Governor’s Cup Invitational. The Bills drew Northeastern in the first round, with East Tennessee State or Southern Mississippi in the second round. Third round candidates include Mississippi, Appalachian State, Colorado State, or Texas State. This three game set will be the longest out-of-Chaifetz experience for the Bills this season, with ESPN televising some of the games. The Cancun Governor’s Cup is the second-to-last invitational tournament in which an A-10 team is slated to participate. Fordham will play two games in Santa Clara, CA on December 29 & 30 to close out the A-10’s early season invitational participation.
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