Atlantic 10 Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2012

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)

Tournament Glance

Postseason Preview

All first round games will be played at the campus of the higher seed on Tuesday (3/6) night. Using the log5 calculation, the order of probability of an upset is:

#8 Massachusetts/#9 Duquesne (73-27)
#7 La Salle/#10 Richmond (76-24)
#6 Dayton/#11 George Washington (86-14)
#5 Saint Joseph’s/#12 Charlotte (84-16)

  • Probability follows seed this season, a departure from previous seasons. The Dayton/George Washington game will be a return engagement. The Flyers beat the Colonials by 16 at home last Saturday. A rookie coach with a team that may be overconfident could spell upset. But unlike 2010-11, the higher seeds in this round have proven over the last 16 games to be the stronger teams. Seed should hold. If Xavier, Saint Joseph’s and Dayton all win at least once more, the conference will boast seven 20-game winning programs for the 2011-12 season, only the second time in conference history when seven members collected 20 or more wins.
  • The Temple/Saint Bonaventure side of the bracket offers (if seed holds) two interesting quarterfinal matchups for a Friday afternoon. Both could well become “do-overs” of games played in the last week of the season. Temple barely beat Massachusetts (at the Liacouras in Philadelphia) on February 29, but only after an overtime period. Neither squad should need much by way of motivation. The Hawks dropped their last game of the regular season to the Bonnies, by five, on the road. A Bonnies win would bolster their NIT credentials (and put them into a winnable semi-final game with either Temple or Massachusetts), while a Saint Joseph’s win could well set-up an all-Philadelphia semi-final that should cause a traffic jam as Big 5 fans and partisans of both schools pile onto the Atlantic City Expressway to see the rubber game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on February 29th, 2012

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)

Editor’s Note: Report written before Tuesday’s contests.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was:

Does Anyone Want to Win This Conference?

  • One of the odder turns this late in the season is the sudden spate of losses suffered by upper division conference teams. Though Charlotte bounded out of the gate with two quick wins and Xavier stumbled mysteriously for much of January, the conference appeared on the way to sorting itself as January turned into February. Not so last week as the two conference elites, Temple and Saint Louis each dropped a game. Temple’s loss may be understandable as Saint Joseph’s is putting together a great turnaround from last season, but Saint Louis stumbled against bottom dweller Rhode Island, a squad that posted 20 losses before St. Valentine’s Day. The conference’s flagship program, Xavier, was in the midst of a late season push when they dropped a very important road decision to Massachusetts last Tuesday. Other notable late season hiccups, Saint Joseph’s loss to a young Richmond squad, La Salle’s three game losing streak (which has all but eliminated the Explorers from NIT consideration) and the aforementioned Massachusetts squad, whose win over Xavier is the only win in the last four games.

    Fran Dunphy's Temple Squad Stumbled Last Week, But The Owls Still Look To Be The Top Team In the A-10 (AP)

  • Early season results hinted that the middle of the conference was stronger this season, a theory born out by the continued uncertainty over bye bids to Atlantic City even into the last week of conference play. The resurgence is not limited to the middle of the conference however. Consider that in each of the last two seasons the bottom two teams in the conference combined to win four games. This season Fordham and Rhode Island have combined for six wins, with at least one more before the seeds for the conference tournament are finalized Sunday. I have also noted several times over the last month that the points per possession margin between Saint Louis (at the top) and Fordham (at the bottom) is much closer than last season.
  • With a loss to Saint Joseph’s last weekend Temple dropped back towards the rest of the conference, leaving Saint Louis virtually alone at the top with a wide, +0.04 margin in points per possession. Comparing the statistics to the Billikens’ conference record (and especially the record of late), leaves one wondering if Saint Louis’ Top 25 status (as suggested by Pomeroy) is the product of an illusion fostered by the numbers or a genuine sleeper going into the postseason. The conference tournament may be the last best chance to gauge the Billikens before the NCAA opening rounds.

  • The results last week produced a few strange late season upsets, but even more surprising is that the point per possession margins are beginning to align more consistently with conference records. Teams with losing records show negative point per possession margins, an expected pattern in theory that does not always play out in practice. Saint Louis continues to be an outlier atop the conference and Massachusetts, which has an 8-6 conference record should, according to the Pythagorean Winning Percentage, show a 7-7 record through 14 conference games.

Power Rankings

The top teams developed a ripping case of hiccups at just the wrong time. If the power rankings do not look terribly different from last week however, consider that they all hiccupped at the same time. Saint Bonaventure moved up and La Salle crashed, but the other teams moved very little over the past week.

  1. Temple (22-6, 11-3 #23 AP) – Temple went 1-1 last week, beating La Salle in overtime by a single point (80-79), and then dropping a 10-point decision to Saint Joseph’s (82-72) and holding onto their Top 25 ranking for the second consecutive week. Though the result was disappointing to the Owl faithful and prevented Temple from clinching the #1 seed in the conference tournament, it was actually better than Ken Pomeroy predicted. The college basketball stats sage’s model had Fran Dunphy’s squad losing both games (and dropping into second place behind Saint Louis). Games with Massachusetts (at home) and Fordham will close out the regular season for the Owls, and both should be wins (though stranger things have happened this season). Temple can finish no worse than #2 even if they lose their last two, so they have a bye seed in hand right now. The Minutemen, with dwindling hopes for a bye seed themselves, come to Philadelphia for a February 29 date at the Liacouras. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on February 25th, 2012

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)

Note: Standings are up-to-date but games earlier in the week have already taken place

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was:

Points per Possession Margins Through February 19

Ken Pomeroy has shown Saint Louis as the top team since late December, but college basketball’s stats guru looks at an overall margin as an indirect part of his formulation. For the past four weeks Temple posted the largest positive margin derived from conference games.

Saint Louis and Temple were not the only two squads whose conference points per possession margins moved closer to alignment with their overall numbers. Count Richmond among those whose skew was rectified last week. The Spiders stubbornly posted a +0.006 points per possession margin even though the team was three games below 0.500 in conference play. Though the Spiders posted a “positive” 1-1 week, their points per possession margin slid into negative territory, consistent with their record. Though throughout the conference the records and points per possession margins do not align exactly with the won-loss conference rankings (see Duquesne above), the alignment is the most consistent in the three seasons I have tracked the numbers. Identifying and explaining the discrepancies will be one of the bullet points for next week.

A Look at Conference Honors Two Weeks Out

The race for conference Player of the Year was not a serious contest in 2011. Tu Holloway won recognition either as Player of the Week or at least a nod in nine of the sixteen weeks the conference posted weekly honors. Honored as Player of the Week six times, Holloway’s nearest competitors had not gathered more than two, one-third the number of times Holloway was honored.

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on February 15th, 2012

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:

Points per Possession Margins Through February 12

Temple and Saint Louis continue to “walk away” from the rest of the conference, leaving the next four teams in the upper division (Xavier, Massachusetts, La Salle and Saint Bonaventure) clustered on the “plus side” of the points per possession margin. Though nine of the conference’s 14 teams have .500 or better records, only those six (and Saint Joseph’s with a 0.000 margin) have offenses that scored more points per possession that their defenses yielded, suggesting that some of those .500 or better teams suffered one or more blowouts in conference games this season.

Though Fordham and Rhode Island have firm holds on the bottom two spots in the conference standings, their negative points per possession margin is still not large enough to suggest they are uncompetitive with their conference mates. The gap between top-ranked Temple and bottom-ranked Fordham remains at about 1/3 of a point (0.337), well below the half-point gap last season. With nearly 37% of the conference games still to be played this season these margins can shift.

Conference Realignment: Does the Road to the Big East Go Through Irvine, Texas?

The Big East filled out their dance card for the 2013 football season last week and Temple, one of two schools who have vigorously lobbied for a spot in the power conference over the past four seasons, was passed over for the other long-term applicant, the University of Memphis. The conference negotiated a 20 million dollar early exit fee from West Virginia, and promptly invited C-USA member Memphis to join for 2013-14 season.

Passed over for the second time since last October, Memphis is the fourth C-USA school to accept a Big East invitation in 2011-12 and the ninth C-USA member to be invited since 2004-05. CBS Sports writer Brett McMurphy reported that Temple had been contacted by C-USA officials about possible membership. The membership is rumored to be for all sports, and with the proposed C-USA merger with the Mountain West Conference and a planned two round playoff system for the conference championship (that would, I assume, culminate with a BCS bowl bid). Though the Owls have a 55 year relationship with fellow Big 5 and A-10 members La Salle and Saint Joseph’s, the prospects (and money?) may be too good to pass on.

Despite Consistently Producing Quality Teams and Players Such as Ramone Moore, Temple Was Passed Over For A Spot in The Big East (AP)

Massachusetts is expected to join Temple in the MAC – like the Owls for football only – when the Minutemen move up to the Bowl Division in football. Temple signed an agreement to continue play in the MAC just last summer. No details concerning an exit fee were disclosed at the time of the signing.

Power Rankings

Temple continues to roll through their conference schedule but has yet to regain a spot in the AP or USA Today Top 25. Saint Louis and Massachusetts continue to nip at the Owls heels, while five others (Xavier, La Salle, Saint Bonaventure, and Duquesne) battle for the conference’s last bye seed. Most bracketology sites put either two or three teams in the field (Temple, Saint Louis plus one other…), so games played between Xavier, La Salle, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s, Massachusetts, and Dayton will carry extra-conference implications.

  1. Temple (19-5, 8-2) – Temple continued their run with another 2-0 week, beating George Washington by just enough, then answering the bell against Xavier on Saturday night. Ramone Moore again earned conference recognition, in no small part from his game versus the Musketeers. The strength of schedule (table above) may suggest an easier path than most for Coach Fran Dunphy’s charges, but even with the Xavier hurdle cleared, the Owls still have rematches with city rivals: a road game with Saint Bonaventure and a tilt with Massachusetts. If the Owls keep winning, no one can catch them. Temple takes a mid-winter road trip to one of the least hospitable stops in the conference on Wednesday — Saint Bonaventure in a western New York winter. They return to Philadelphia for a home game with Duquesne on Saturday (2/18). Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2012

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

 

Week That Was:

The Homogenization of the A-10: The surprise team through the first two weeks (Dayton) has fallen to earth with a 4-5 record at the halfway mark. Now what? The points per possession table (conference game only) below may suggest the conference is breaking into a series of tiers (three for the top half of the conference, then everyone else … ), but the striking number is how closely the top and bottom teams are to each other, a hint at the parity also suggested by the first half won-loss records. In sharp contrast to this point (about mid-way through the conference regular season) last season, Temple and Fordham show a mere 0.353 difference in their points per possession margin, a much smaller gap than last season’s 0.512 margin. Note there are no undefeated teams at this point, last season two teams (Xavier and Duquesne) sported 7-0 marks. Fordham and Saint Joseph’s were looking for their first wins last season (both broke into the win column before the end of the regular season), while the bottom two teams this season have both logged two wins apiece. Parity of a sort perhaps, but is this a sign the conference is “better” or “worse”?

The computed conference strength of schedule (Number and Rank, leftmost two columns) suggest Temple’s record may be due in part to their slate of opponents. Early evaluations underestimated the strength of La Salle and Saint Joseph’s, two Big 5 rivals who did not give Temple much competition the past three or four seasons. This time around may be different though, as the Owls must play those two one more time, along with Xavier, Massachusetts and Saint Bonaventure. Temple’s last half of the season should prove more challenging than season’s past.

A Midpoint Look at All-Conference Team Candidates:

  • Each week the conference designates a Player of the Week, a Rookie of the Week along with a number of Honorable Mention players, based on their performance in the last week (usually a 2-3 games per week). If the season ended today, the Player of the Year vote would be split between Ramone Moore from Temple and Saint Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2012

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)

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • New Sheriff in Town? The surprise team so far is Dayton. The Flyers, under first year head coach Archie Miller, have unveiled a revamped offense with a decidedly different approach to player rotation. Under Brian Gregory all members in the rotation, with the exception of forwards Chris Wright (graduated in May 2011) and Chris Johnson (a senior this season) saw game time in four minute (or less) slices. Wright, Johnson and freshman point guard Juwan Staten (who transferred to West Virginia in the off season) played 70% or more at their positions, which translates to about 28 minutes per game. The junior guard Paul Williams aside, everyone else on the squad logged no more than 44.2% of the available time (Josh Benson, about 18 minutes per game) at their respective positions. The rotation this season also features two players (transfer guard Kevin Dillard and Williams) who have logged better than 70% of the available time (with Johnson playing 63%), but Miller uses three other players for 50% or more of the time, and fourth, sophomore Devin Oliver, who plays about 46% of the time on the wing. If Gregory’s approach gave more players some game-time exposure, Miller’s style, more tradition in the distribution of minutes, allows team members to acclimate to the game. Though Miller uses fewer players per game, the Flyers continue to get a bit more than 66 possessions per game, consistent with the last season under Gregory.

    Archie Miller Has Done Wonders At Dayton

  • A Points per Possession Look at the teams. Last season I used points per possession (conference games only) to give the reader a more insightful look into each team’s play. The numbers for the 3-5 games the teams have played so far.

Those who followed this column last season know that the efficiency margin will not always track with a team’s won-loss record. The approach can suggest where strength of schedule, consistency and luck may play a larger than expected role in shaping the team’s record. Two differences from this point last season (four-six games into the conference schedule) include the top-to-bottom size of the margin has shrunk considerably. Xavier, at the top of the conference, was +0.267 last season while Fordham at the bottom, was -0.277, a gap of nearly 0.55 points per possession, while this season (see above) shows a gap of 0.342 points per possession. Note the lack of undefeated (in conference play) teams this season, while One of the more obvious differences this season is thth wider efficiency margins (plus or minus)

Power Rankings

Dayton continues to win, Xavier goes sideways while Charlotte and Richmond find the road rockier than expected? Looks like my promotion of Dayton last week was the right move as the Flyers handed Xavier a crushing 15 point loss last Saturday (1/21). The rematch next month in Cincinnati should be very interesting.

  1. Saint Louis (15-4, 3-2) – The Billikens beat Duquesne Saturday for their only game this past week. The conference record may not say #1, but the point per possession margin (+0.131 – see above) says Coach Rick Majerus’ team is on track. According to their Pythagorean Winning Percentage (conference games only) the Bills are on track to win 13 games, a very tall order given they have already logged 2/3 of their projected losses. Saint Louis has had problems winning away from Chaifetz, and the upcoming two game road swing will be an important early season test. Saint Louis will travel to Cincinnati for an early season showdown with Xavier on Wednesday (1/25) and then continue east to Amherst for a tilt with Massachusetts on Saturday (1/28).

    Rick Majerus And Saint Louis Continue To Lead The Pack

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on January 18th, 2012

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)

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • No A-10 Teams in the Top 25… Again: The latest round of the AP and Coaches polls (January 16) show no Atlantic 10 team gathered enough support nationally to be ranked…  for the fourth consecutive week. Saint Louis missed a good opportunity to impress when the Billikens dropped a four-point decision to New Mexico on New Year’s Eve, picking up their second loss in the process. With the next six teams showing three or four losses, the conference is out of the Top 25 conversation for the next three or so weeks. The other name brands, Xavier and Temple, did not help their causes this past week. Xavier dropped their third game in the last four, this time to Gonzaga in what might have been a good “comparison” game for the Selection Committee. Temple beat #3 Duke but dropped two of their first three conference games. Lacking another marquee out-of-conference game (Temple versus Maryland is a pale imitation), the conference may have to wait until early February and hope that one or two teams will dominate conference play while their power conference counterparts beat each other up.
  • Bernadette McGlade’s Recipe for Basketball Masala: Masalas are a variety of spicey soups or stews favored throughout India, Pakistan and most parts of south Asia. A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade and her schedule maker served up their own brand of basketball masala in this opening week of conference play. Strong preseason favorites Saint Louis, Xavier and Temple did not survive the week undefeated (Temple has yet to win with a tough game coming up this week) while recently downtrodden Charlotte and La Salle started strong, each has sustained at least one loss. Rookie Coach Archie Miller of Dayton (whose squad was depleted with graduations and transfers) is riding high, while veteran Mike Lonergan of George Washington (whose squad is well stocked with experienced players) is struggling. Far too early to throw the power rankings (see below) up in the air perhaps, but a few of the results from the past two weeks (Dayton at Temple, Saint Louis at Dayton, Charlotte at Saint Joseph’s for example) maybe critical tiebreakers come March.

Rick Majerus And Saint Louis Are On Top Of Our RTC Power Rankings (AP)

Power Rankings

Results from the first quarter of conference play (and a few of the last few out of conference games) hold a strong hint that the conference may be more competitive through the first 12 spots than preseason projections indicated. First week losses to the favorites force me to take a long second (and third…) look at Dayton. With only a few games scheduled, and those yielding mixed results for the teams at the top of last week’s power rankings, the conference appears to be sliding sideways. Massachusetts disposes of their last out of conference opponents fairly easily to move up a spot, while Temple finishes the month 6-1 and Fordham upsets a ranked team.

  1. Saint Louis (14-4, 2-2) – The Billikens are .500 through the first four games of conference play. They opened conference play with a 79-72 overtime loss at Dayton, the first time Rick Majerus’ squad has lost back-to-back games this season (St. Louis lost their last out of conference game to New Mexico on New Year’s). Their bounce back 78-56 win over George Washington on January 7 was the largest margin win in conference play, with the three other games decided by five or fewer points. Against Dayton, the Billikens held Dayton to a respectable 1.04 point per possession (about 75 total possessions in the overtime game), but failed to break the 1.0 (PPP) mark themselves, a persistent problem last season that Brian Conklin, Kwamain Mitchell and Cody Ellis had resolved this season. None of the three had a good outing however, as they combined for a horrific 12-33 from the field, yielding a 40.9% eFG% and 0.96 points per weighted shot. One can have an off night (there are enough secondary options on the bench and the floor at anytime), but count those game where all three have problems scoring efficiently as an “L”. Saint Louis committed the double sin of allowing the Flyers to score efficiently (over 50% eFG% overall), and rebound for second chances when they did not convert. The Billikens posted similar efficiencies in their loss to Temple last Wednesday. Saint Louis hosts Duquesne on Saturday (1/21) in their only game this week. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on January 4th, 2012

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)

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • No A-10 Teams in the Top 25, Again: The latest round of the AP and Coaches polls (January 2) show no Atlantic 10 team that gathered enough support nationally to be ranked … for the second consecutive week. Saint Louis missed a good opportunity to impress when the Billikens dropped a four-point decision to New Mexico on Saturday, picking up their second loss in the process. With the next six teams showing three or four losses, the conference is out of the Top 25 conversation for the next few weeks. The other name brands, Xavier and Temple, did not help their causes this past week. Xavier dropped their third game in the last four, this time to Gonzaga in what might have been a good “comparison” game for the Selection Committee. Temple won their third straight, but the last two have not been especially impressive. The Owls may get the conference’s last good chance for some noise when they host #3 Duke tonight.
  • Conference ComparisonsNearly 90% of the out-of-conference games are on the books and the Atlantic 10 has posted a 62.6% winning percentage:

  • Against the six power conferences, the conference has logged a respectable 22-26 (0.458) record. Highlights include .500 or better records against the ACC (7-6, 0.538 – note Temple hosts Duke tonighit, see below), the Big Ten (4-4, 0.500) and the SEC (4-1, 0.800). Conference members logged their strongest numbers against the teams within the conference footprint – those traditional opponents during the out-of-conference portion of the schedule, posting a 63.8% (30-17) winning record against teams located throughout New England, the Middle Atlantic and upper Midwest regions. Against those conferences most likely to compete for the at-large bids not allocated to the power conference teams, the A-10 posted a strong – but deceptive – 23-12 (0.657) record, largely at the expense of the CAA (15-5, 0.750) and C-USA (4-3, 0.571); both show improvement over the 2010-11 season when, through the end of December, the A-10 went 7-10 versus the CAA and 2-5 with C-USA.
  • Conference Play Commences: The conference maintains their traditional “opening night” tipoff with five conference games and a sixth game to be played on Thursday night. Saturday will feature six conference games with the seventh game to be played on Sunday. By next Monday, every member will have logged at least one conference game.

Despite A Tough Start, Tu Holloway And Xavier Will Be A Major Challenger For The A-10 Crown (AP)

Power Rankings

With only a few games scheduled, and those yielding mixed results for the teams at the top of last week’s power ranking, the conference appears to be sliding sideways. Massachusetts disposes of their last out of conference opponents fairly easily to move up a spot, while Temple finishes the month 6-1 and Fordham upsets a ranked team.

  1. Saint Louis (12-2) – The Billikens ended the week 1-1 — the loss coming at the hands of New Mexico (WAC) at the notorious Pit, UNM’s homecourt. Rick Majerus’ crew smothered Texas Southern with defense in a 71-39 win on 12/27, limiting the Tigers to a paltry 0.57 points per possession (or PPP, with 68 possessions per team calculated), about half a point per possession, just over half of the Division I average. Saint Louis’ own 1.04 point per possession hints at the ongoing point production problem with Saint Louis, but when a defense holds an opponent under 0.6 PPP, the team does not need a very efficient offense to win. Brian Conklin earned an Honorable Mention for his 35-point performance over the two games which yielded an average of 17.5 points per game with an eFG% of 68.4%. Very impressive numbers indeed. The Lobos were a different matter, as the Billikens were down two at the half, and gave up another two points in the second half. Saint Louis opens conference play at Dayton Wednesday, then returns home to host George Washington on Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 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)

Ed. Note – This post was written prior to Wednesday night’s action.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • No A-10 Teams in the Top 25: The release of the AP and Coaches polls on Mon., December 26 showed no Atlantic 10 conference member for the first time in 12 weeks (going back to January 31, 2011 – week #13).  A Xavier three-game losing streak, coming on the heels of the bench clearing brawl in the “Crosstown Shootout” dropped the Musketeers from #15 in the December 19 poll right out of the Top 25. Saint Louis’ own five-game winning streak includes a win over Division II Illinois-Springfield, Alabama State and Arkansas State — not a slate of opponents that will wow the voters.
  • Early Season Invitational Tournaments – Final Tally: The only good news out of the Diamond Head Classic was that the Musketeers finally broke their three-game losing streak with a win over Southern Illinois in the invitational tournament’s seventh place game. Invitational tournament formats frequently match A-10 teams with power conference opponents on neutral courts, giving the conference their best opportunity for quality wins. Results for the 2011-12 season:

At the end of the first cycle, the conference held a promising 21-13 (0.600) margin with six first and third place finishes, suggesting the team either swept the field or won the first two games (before dropping the final). The brightest lights were Dayton (winner of the Old Spice Classic) and Saint Louis (who beat three power conference schools on their way to the championship in the 76 Classic). Temple may have disappointed slightly, but the Owls, along with Richmond, George Washington and Saint Joseph’s, posted very respectable results in their tournaments.

  • Free Todd O’Brien? Attention to the resurgence of the Saint Joseph’s program was diverted two days after the Hawks’ best win of the season, a 16-point drubbing of Big 5 rival Villanova, when Sports Illustrated released fifth year senior Todd O’Brien’s side of his attempt to take his post season eligibility at Alabama-Birmingham instead of Saint Joseph’s. Buzz about Phil Martelli’s squad notching 10 wins before the start of conference play (virtually certain given their last two out of conference opponents) was pushed aside with the details of the Todd O’Brien imbroglio. The fifth year senior, a transfer from Bucknell who started 28 games in the 2009-10 season and was a serviceable rotation player last season, completed his undergraduate course work over the summer and enrolled in one of Alabama-Birmingham’s MBA programs and play for Mike Davis in his last season of eligibility. Saint Joseph’s, however, denied O’Brien’s application for a Graduate Student Transfer Exception (a release from his athletic scholarship) with no explanation given. O’Brien went public with his version of events, and so far, Saint Joseph’s, and specifically Martelli, has cited student confidentiality as the reason for not responding.

Fordham (Dereck Whittenburg and Jio Fontan), Providence (Keno Davis and Joseph Young) and Siena (Fran McCaffery and Kojo Mensah) were warning signs that Saint Joseph’s ignored. Though Martelli, as did McCaffrey, Davis and Whittenberg before him, may feel justified in denying O’Brien his release (fans and “program insiders” floated three variations of “Todd O’Brien is a bad boy” in the first 24-48 hours after the story was released), the veteran coach has to understand that the notion of a coach and program were gamed by a scholarship athlete never gets much traction with the public, and the university’s strategy of not talking about it gives O’Brien all of the air time on this issue.

Todd O'Brien (right) and Phil Martelli (left) Have Been Caught In A Verbal Tug-Of-War

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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 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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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 2nd, 2011

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

A Look Back

Duquesne, despite an 0-2 week, continues to be ranked #2 in net efficiencies through Monday of this week (2/28/2011). Duquesne dropped into a fourth-place tie with Rhode Island after they sustained losses to the Rams and Saint Louis last week. While they have dominated enough games that their decline in net efficiency has not matched the decline in their won-loss record, it is clear the Dukes are suffering a severe end of the season slump. Bad timing, as a few of the conference teams need to finish their schedules strongly to earn bye seeds to Atlantic City, or at least secure home court advantage for the first round of conference tournament play. Xavier, Temple, Duquesne and Richmond, all of whom have maintained positive net efficiencies through the entire conference slate, were joined this week by a revitalized Dayton squad.

An oddity noted the past several weeks, but present through much of the A-10 conference regular season, is the inbalance between the teams with positive net efficiencies and those with negative net efficiencies, narrowed yet again when Dayton “crossed over” and joined Rhode Island on the plus side of net efficiency line. The gap between the “haves” and “have nots” has narrowed, as well, with the range between the top (Rhode Island with +0.020) of the middle four schools in the conference and the bottom (Saint Louis -0.019) is only 0.039, a gap less than that which separates Xavier from Temple (0.046) and less than a third of the gap which separates Fordham from Saint Joseph’s (0.122). I speculated last week about whether the relatively “bottom-heavy” conference would hurt Richmond’s chances for an NCAA berth, and it now appears as if that was premature as both Bracketology 101 (best predictive record over the past five seasons) and Joe Lunardi over at ESPN have Richmond in their field of 68. RTC bracketologist Zach Hayes lists the Spiders among the “first four out” in his February 28 bracket.

For those who wonder what happened to their team in conference play, the grid below should be helpful. The average efficiency for the conference is 1.018 (or 101.8 points per 100 possessions) — conference games only. By comparing each team’s offensive and defensive efficiency to the conference average (average for all conference games), I was able to determine whether the team had a “better than average” offense or defense (or both or neither). The grid below confirms the narrative of the conference season…

…with a few twists and insights. While two of the three “Good/Good” teams, Xavier and Temple, are entirely predictable, those who wonder why Richmond, despite preseason predictions, has struggled to secure their place in the NCAAs, the answer (from the chart) suggests it may have to do with defense. The Spiders have provided enough offense, but have struggled defensively in several conference games this season (Xavier, Temple and at George Washington). Through 14 conference games the Spiders are ranked #10 in shot defense (eFG%) and #9 in defensive rebounding, two factors that hurt when matching up with Xavier and Temple in particular. The key to the Bonnies revival this season is offense, while Rhode Island’s late season resugence has come through defense. The oddest team on the grid is George Washington. The Colonials tout an 8-6 record through 14 conference games, yet register below average (“Bad/Bad”) in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The paradox is resolved by noting that Coach Hobbs’ club as won a number of close conference games, two with La Salle (72-67 & 82-80), versus Saint Louis (52-46) and at Charlotte (73-67) for example, while also losing by double digits to Temple (41-57), at Duquesne (59-84) and at Richmond (58-68). Consistency matters too, it seems.

Power Rankings

The top team is Xavier. The Muskies settled it on the floor of the Consol Arena Sunday with a comfortable win over Duquesne, who dropped to #4 in the conference “record rankings.” Oddly, the bottom spot was also settled on the court, on Sunday and also with the host taking the loss. Saint Joseph‘s will now battle with Charlotte for the last spot in the first round of the A-10 Conference Tournament. Rhode Island also had a good week, while Dayton did not. Those developments are also reflected in the conference rankings and this week’s power rankings.

1. Xavier (22-6, 13-1) #23 AP

Last Week: 2/27 @Dayton 66-62

Next Week: 3/2 vs. Charlotte, 3/5 @St. Louis

Xavier continues to roll, pushing Dayton away 66-62 in a late season game that has become a conference television event. Tu Holloway again posted game-high points, 26 this time, as the Musketeers completed their sweep of the Flyers. The X-men moved up to #23 in the latest AP poll (Monday 2/28). In retrospect, the late season road game at Georgia was a very smart scheduling move. Coach Chris Mack‘s squad has games against Charlotte and a visit to Saint Louis to finish the week. Should Xavier drop both games, the #1 seed in Atlantic City would most likely go to Temple. Given the 49ers and Billikens have a combined 7-21 conference record however, those chances are pretty small (a quick log5 calculation puts the probabilities of winning both games at 70% — very, very likely). Go 1-1 and Xavier will still take the #1 seed by virtue of their holding the tie breaker over Temple. For a team that looked like their season was over on January 6, Xavier’s comeback is remarkable and a tribute to the coaching staff and players.

2. Temple (22-6, 12-2)

Last Week: 2/23 @Duke 61-78, 2/26 @George Washington 57-41

Next Week: 3/2 @Massachusetts, 3/5 vs. La Salle

A 1-1 week with a 17-point loss at Duke was the lowlight to Temple’s next-to-last week of the regular season play. Lavoy Allen took his second Player of the Week citation from the conference. The Owls are adjusting to life without Michael Eric. Temple has two conference games this week. They travel to Massachusetts for a game with the Minutemen on Wednesday, then back home for the regular season closer with Big 5 rival La Salle. A 2-0 week is very probable (the log5 probability per Ken Pomeroy is 78.9%, very likely). The Owls own the tie-breaker over Richmond, so a 1-1 week most likely still earns them the #2 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

3. Duquesne (17-10, 9-5)

Last Week: 2/23 vs. Rhode Island 76-77, 2/26 @St. Louis 51-62

Next Week: 3/2 vs. St. Bonaventure, 3/5 @Richmond

The Dukes ran their losing streak to three through the games of last week. After an 8-0 start to conference play, Duquesne has logged a 1-5 record in conference play. Talk of an NCAA bid (remote short of an outstanding record — 14 or more wins for example — in conference play), vanished with their loss to Xavier on February 13, the Dukes nevertheless hold a #3 in the NIT field per The Bracket Project and an #8 seed per John Templon’s computer projection. Templon’s #8 seed puts the Dukes on the NIT bubble, something that could be addressed with at least one win in games of the last week of conference play. Ron Everhart and the Dukes host the Bonnies on Wednesday, then take to the road to close out the regular season in Richmond on Saturday. The Dukes have lost out on the last bye seed in Atlantic 10 Tournament, but even if they log another 0-2 week (not probable) they will host a first round A-10 Tournament game. No question Duquesne fans have to be disappointed with the team’s play over the last six games (a -0.020 net efficiency and 0.440 Pythagorean Winning Percentage), the good news is wins away from the Palumbo this season. The 2010 Dukes logged a 3-8 (0.273) record in away and neutral games that included a net efficiency of -0.102. This season Duquesne has a 0.093 net efficiency reflected in their 8-7 (0.533) record.

4. Richmond (22-7, 11-3)

Last Week: 2/26 @Charlotte 72-59

Next Week: 3/2 @Saint Joseph’s, 3/5 vs. Duquesne

Richmond closed their series with Charlotte with a 13 point road win. The Spiders have locked down at least a #4 seed in Atlantic City, bypassing the first round game for the second consecutive season, irrespective of how they play against Duquesne. A worst case for Coach Mooney’s team is an 0-2 week with a corresponding 2-0 from Rhode Island, in which case the Runnin’ Rams would take the #3 seed and push the Spiders down to a #4 seed (with a semi-final game versus Xavier, should both survive the quarter final round on Friday). A relatively unlikely possibility however, since the Spiders have a two loss edge over Rhode Island and play 3-11 Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday, a game Pomeroy projects as a win to a 80% probability. While Richmond has had some inconvenient timing with home games this season (Bucknell, Rhode Island and Xavier ring a bell?) and the Dukes have improved away from Palumbo this season, the Spiders have to be favored to close out the regular season with a win and a 13-3 conference record because Richmond is a consensus bubble team for the NCAAs right now, and finishing with a good run can only help their chances. Bracketology 101 has Richmond in as an #11 seed (last eight in territory), while RTC’s Zach Hayes has Richmond (just barely) out.

5. Rhode Island (18-10, 9-5)

Last Week: 2/23 @Duquesne 77-76, 2/26 @Fordham 90-58

Next Week: 3/2 vs. George Washington, 3/5 @St. Bonaventure

Rhode Island logged a 2-0 week to bounce back yet again and leapfrog the Flyers in my power ranking. The road win over slumping Duquesne gives Jim Barron‘s team the tie-breaker over the Dukes — both share #4 in the conference standings through March 1. Fourth place is the last bye seed in Atlantic City, and would allow the Runnin’ Rams to rest through the front end of next week, when eight of the conference’s 14 teams will go head-to-head one last time to decide who goes on to spend the weekend in Atlantic City, NJ. Rhodi’s last two will not be easy, hosting George Washington on Wednesday and traveling to St. Bonaventure on Saturday. Both the Bonnies and Colonials have improved with more season play. Sweep and Rhode Island has the last bye seed irrespective of other outcomes. Lose one or (horrors…) both, and final standings get complicated. Though an NCAA invitation will only come should the Runnin’ Rams run the table in Atlantic City, they are very much in play for an NIT berth, currently seeded #8 in both The NIT Bracket Project and John Templon’s computerized projection Rhode Island is on the (NIT) bubble, but a second 20 win season and strong finish in conference play should secure them a place in the field of 32.

6. Dayton (19-10, 7-7)

Last Week: 2/27 vs. Xavier 62-66

Next Week: 3/2 vs. Saint Louis, 3/5 @George Washington

Dayton logged an 0-1 week and dropped back to a 0.500 record in conference play. The Flyers, currently in a three-way tie for #7 (Massachusetts holds the tie-breaker), have an opportunity to move up to sole possession of #6 if they can beat both Saint Louis and George Washington to close out conference play. The Colonials have not been dominant at home during conference play (a 0.013 net efficiency for their seven conference home games), but the Flyers have been something less than Road Warriors themselves, logging an anemic -0.018 net efficiency in seven conference road games. Pomeroy’s log5 projection narrowly gives the game to the Flyers.

7. George Washington (15-13, 8-6)

Last Week: 2/23 vs. Charlotte 74-57, 2/26 vs. Temple 41-57

Next Week: 3/2 @Rhode Island, 3/5 vs. Dayton

The Colonials beat Charlotte on Wednesday, but lost (predictably) to Temple Saturday. This last week could be a Statement Week for Coach Karl Hobbs’ squad. Both games are with NIT teams from 2010, and teams close to the sixth ranked (in conference standings) Colonials. Take both and GW has assured themselves of home court advantage for the first round of conference play. Lose both and GWU closes the regular season with a 0.500 records, both in conference (8-8) and overall (15-15).

8. St. Bonaventure (15-12, 7-7)

Last Week: 2/23 vs. Fordham 82-63, 2/26 @Saint Joseph’s 65-79

Next Week: 3/2 @Duquesne, 3/5 vs. Rhode Island

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies thumped Fordham, but lost by 14 to struggling Saint Joseph’s. Though finishing the regular season above 0.500 and assuring themselves of at least a first round game in the Atlantic 10 Tournament has to be gratifying, locking down a homecourt advantage for the tournament has been squandered with the Saint Joseph’s loss. The last two games are interesting because both Duquesne and Rhode Island are tied for #4 in the conference standings and in the conversation for an NIT berth. Win both and the Bonnies will most likely tie for #6 in the conference standings and grab the #7 seed (and home court advantage) for the first round of the A-10 tournament (and play St. Louis). Win neither and St. Bonaventure will do no worse than last season’s 7-9, a #9 seed and trip to Washington DC for a first round tournament game at George Washington.

9. Massachusetts (15-12, 7-7)

Last Week: 2/23 vs. Saint Joseph’s 69-51, 2/27 @La Salle 49-72

Next Week: 3/2 vs. Temple, 3/5 @Fordham

The Minutemen posted another 1-1 week, beating Saint Joseph’s by two and dropping a 130point decision on the road to La Salle. Best case scenario for Derek Kellogg‘s squad is a 9-7 finish and a #6 place tie with Dayton. UMass holds the tie-breaker, which would give the Minutemen the home court for a first round game versus Saint Louis, a team they lost to during the season. A more likely 1-1 week would probably put UMass in tie for #7, good for the #8 seed and a first round game (at home) versus (most likely) St. Bonaventure.

10. La Salle (13-16, 5-9)

Last Week: 2/27 vs. Massachusetts 72-49

Next Week: 3/2 vs. Fordham, 3/5 @Temple

The Explorers logged a 1-0 week, beating Massachusetts in convincing. The losing streak stops at three games. Best finish for the Explorers at this point would give them a win over Big 5 rival Temple (and level their season series at 1 apiece) and a #10 seed for the A-10 tournament. Dr. Giannini’s squad would most likely travel to Massachusetts for a first round game with the Minutemen, a team that beat them by 23 last week. A more likely scenario has La Salle finishing conference play with a 6-10 record, but still with a claim to the #10 seed in the tournament.

11. Saint Louis (11-17, 5-9)

Last Week: 2/26 vs. Duquesne 62-51

Next Week: 3/2 @Dayton, 3/5 vs. Xavier

The Billikens posted a 1-0 week, complements of an 11 point win over fading Duquesne and a Rookie of the Week effort from Dwayne Evans. Finishing out with Dayton and Xavier is a tough road for Rick Majerus‘ charges. No doubt the schedule-makers anticipated a Mitchell and Reed-led team would challenge the Musketeers and Flyers for a piece of the conference elite. The late season games should be a valuable experience for the freshmen and sophomore-heavy team. Something they can build on for next season. Worst case, the Bills drop both and draw the #11 seed for the A-10 Conference Tournament. They will most likely travel to Dayton or Duquesne for a first-round tournament game.

12. Charlotte (10-18, 2-12)

Last Week: 2/23 @George Washington 57-74, 2/26 vs. Richmond 59-72

Next Week: 3/2 @Xavier, 3/5 vs. Saint Joseph’s

Another 0-2 week has extended coach Alan Major‘s losing streak to six. Prospects to break the run at six are slim as Charlotte takes to the road for a game with Xavier Wednesday. Prospects are a bit better on Saturday, as the 49ers host Saint Joseph’s. The last ticket to the first round of conference tournament play is on the line.

13. Saint Josephs (8-20, 3-11)

Last Week: 2/23 @Massachusetts 51-69, 2/26 vs. St. Bonaventure 79-65

Next Week: 3/2 vs. Richmond, 3/5 @Charlotte

The Hawks logged their second consecutive 20 loss season during the course of a 1-1 week. Langston Galloway earned his fourth Rookie of the Week citation (shared with Saint Louis forward Dwayne Evans). Looking ahead, beating Richmond, improbable (about a 20% probability per Ken Pomeroy), would nevertheless assure the Hawks of a first round game in the A-10 Tournament. Should they lose, their road game with Charlotte will decide who gets the last ticket to the A-10’s first round, and one last game for the season.

14. Fordham (6-20, 0-14)

Last Week: 2/23 @St. Bonaventure 63-82, 2/26 vs. Rhode Island 58-90

Next Week: 3/2 @La Salle, 3/5 vs. Massachusetts

Fordham’s winless string runs to 14 in conference play, with an 0-2 week. The probabilities (per Ken Pomeroy) have climbed to an ominous 59.9%. The Rams are staring at a two season winless run in conference.

A Look Ahead

No conference titles on the line this week, and in retrospect, it seems the schedule-makers in September overestimated Saint Louis and Dayton, while underestimating Rhode Island. Places #1 and #14, however, are the only two that are absolutely settled going into the last week of conference play. Virtually every other place will be settled by play either Wednesday or Saturday. The season will end Saturday for those teams finishing #13 and #14. At the bottom of the conference Saint Joseph’s and Charlotte will most likely settle who gets the last berth in the first round in Halton Arena, Charlotte Saturday.

The last A-10 Conference Tournament bye seed (#4) is still in play, with Rhode Island and Duquesne the primary candidates. Both will play St. Bonaventure this last week of the season, so the Bonnies, who have no hope of finishing higher than #7, can play the spoiler. Of particular interest is the Wednesday game between Duquesne and St. Bonaventure, to be played in Pittsburgh. The Bonnies beat the Dukes in Olean early last month, the loss that started the Dukes’ fall from grace. Places #5 through #10 will also be settled on the court this week, with Dayton, George Washington, St. Bonaventure, Massachusetts, along with Duquesne and Rhode Island all having a stake in the outcome. St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island and George Washington have games with two teams ranked in that group, several with each other (Rhode Island-St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island-GWU). Of interest is Dayton’s Saturday game with George Washington, as the winner will hold the tie-breaker over the other in the event Rhode Island loses to George Washington.

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