Four Thoughts on Marquette, Creighton, SDSU & GW at the Wooden Legacy

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 30th, 2013

The Wooden Legacy created a lot of buzz on Friday night during its action. Here are four thoughts on what happened last night in Fullerton.

  1. As of today, more than three months from the NCAA Tournament, it remains to be seen just how good Marquette really is. There are some serious question marks about this team, mostly offensively, including just exactly who on this team, aside from specialist Jake Thomas, is going to hit some outside shots. But, we could probably think back to last year about this time and come up with some similar questions. And the year before. And the year before that. But still, Buzz Williams’ teams have wound up experiencing plenty of success in each of those years (just to remind you, they’ve been in at least the Sweet Sixteen for three years running), despite those weaknesses never getting fully resolved. Why? A lot of it is because his teams have taken on the personality of their coach: humble, intense, blue collar, and hard-working. A great example of the fire that Williams brings out and celebrates in his team came with under a minute to go Friday afternoon in the waning moments of a Marquette blowout. With George Washington refusing to give up the ghost despite a 16-point deficit, the Golden Eagles did the same, fighting to the final buzzer. And there was that aforementioned specialist Thomas, diving on the floor for a loose ball, thinking of calling for a timeout on an otherwise meaningless possession, but then, from the seat of his pants, finding his bulldog point guard Derrick Wilson for a breakaway layup. It was a play that caused the entire Marquette bench, Williams included, to erupt with a passion normally reserved for a tight game. Distill that play, bottle it and you’ve got the very essence of “Marquette basketball” under Williams. Williams on that play: “That’s a Marquette play. You can argue as a fan that maybe it wasn’t a meaningful possession. You can argue that mathematically the game was over. But for Jake to dive on the floor with both feet and both hands and come up with the loose ball, and then to pitch it ahead to Derrick for a layup, I hope that that’s a reflection not only of him and of our current team, but also our program.”

    Marquette Basketball Has Come To Embody Many Of The Same Characteristics As Their Head Coach, Buzz Williams (MJS/R. Wood)

    Marquette Basketball Has Come To Embody Many Of The Same Characteristics As Their Head Coach, Buzz Williams (MJS/R. Wood)

  2. George Washington did not play particularly well on Friday afternoon, and head coach Mike Lonergan was the first to admit it. But, this is a team that, again, as Lonergan admitted, probably didn’t expect to be playing for a championship on Sunday anyway. They knew they were going to be in for a battle every game this tournament, and the fact that they have a chance to be playing for third place on Sunday is a boon for them. Meanwhile, for Creighton, it is a disappointment. If Creighton isn’t careful, they’re liable to suffer a letdown on Sunday, especially playing in the cavernous Honda Center in front of a sparse crowd rather than the band box Titan Gym where the first two rounds were played. And if that happens, a GW team with shooters on the wing like Maurice Creek and Nemanja Mikic, grinders in the middle and nothing to lose, could make the Bluejays earn their lunch on Sunday, something Greg McDermott alluded to in his postgame press conference: “I’m not looking too much down the road, because I think George Washington is a heck of a basketball team and we’re going to need to be ready to play on Sunday or we’re going to be in big trouble.” Read the rest of this entry »
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Atlantic 10 Season Recap and Postseason Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 13th, 2013

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 @vtbnblog.

Tournament Bracket


Looking Back

Conference Realignment: Who’s Got Next? A non-story for the entire season, the divorce negotiated between the Catholic 7 and the Conference Formerly Known as the Big East was finalized last week, a development guaranteed to kick off another round of musical partners. The Catholic 7 got custody of the last name (Big East) and the house (an older but stately palace in downtown New York), along with a promise to process the paperwork quickly. The new/old conference needs three more members to share the TV money and national exposure they are rumored to have negotiated with Fox Sports. The yearly payout per team, believed to be just under ten times the per-team amount the Atlantic 10 just agreed to with CBS, should draw interest. Butler and Xavier have been at the center of Catholic 7 alignment rumors since last October. Unlike Temple’s announced exit in February of last season, however, neither school has confirmed – or denied – the rumors. Xavier, a member since 1995-96, would be the second flagship program (behind Temple) to exit the conference in that last 13 months. Butler who twice went to the Final Four within the last five years, has barely had time to unpack before moving on. When given the news of Temple’s exit in February of 2012, commissioner Bernadette McGlade took a proactive tack and had two replacements in place eight weeks into the offseason. Expect her to do the same this off season. George Mason and Wichita State are the two mentioned most by fans and conference followers.

The Best Basketball-Centric Conference? Mountain West fans may disagree, but it seems certain that the Atlantic 10 Conference will send at least five members to the NCAA Tournament, equaling the highest ever achieved (1997 and 1998). Saint Louis, Butler and Virginia Commonwealth are all but certain to receive bids regardless of what happens this weekend, and prospects for Temple and La Salle remain very strong. On top of that, Massachusetts or Xavier could, with strong conference tournament showings, squeeze out an unprecedented sixth bid for the conference, though it seems unlikely.

Power Rankings

The last week of conference play opens with only three conference tournament spots – all three on the sidelines, determined. Others (that Saint Louis will take the #1 seed, Virginia Commonwealth will take #2 and La Salle most likely the #3) seem nearly certain, but note that seeds #4 through #12 are pretty much up for grabs…at least until Wednesday.

Jim Crews can smirk a little after leading the Billikens from afterthought to league champions. (USATSI)

Jim Crews has the right to smirk a little after leading the Billikens to their first regular season title in 42 years. (USATSI)

  1. Saint Louis (24-6, 13-3; #16 AP; Projected NCAA Seed #5) – The Billikens stumbled in the last week versus Xavier, but locked down the #1 seed in Brooklyn by beating La Salle. Off until Friday, coach Jim Crews’ team will meet the winner of the Richmond/Charlotte game (most likely Richmond), and if seed holds, most likely La Salle Saturday (and Virginia Commonwealth on Sunday). On the radar however is the NCAA tournament (yes the Bills are a lock at this point, win or lose Friday) seed. The consensus today is a #4-#5 seed with little prospect of moving up without a slew of early conference tournament losses elsewhere. RTC’s Dan Evans’ early March bracket matched the #5 Bills against #12 seed OVC Champion Belmont. The Bears run and gun, which would make this an interesting matchup.
    Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 28th, 2012

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.

Looking Back

  • The (Early Season Invitational) Returns Are In – Thirteen of the conference’s 16 teams are participating in early season invitational tournaments this season. While several tournaments continue play through this week, 11 of the higher-profile tournaments finished play over the Thanksgiving Weekend. Conference teams (see below) took a first-place, three second-places, two fourth-places and two fifth-places. Versus the field in those nine tournaments the conference posted an 18-17 (0.514) record, below their 60% winning percentage overall. Charlotte (Great Alaska Shootout), Butler (Maui Invitational), Saint Joseph’s (Coaches vs. Cancer) and Saint Louis (CBE Classic) reached their respective tournament championship games. Charlotte (see story below) swept the field in Anchorage, Alaska, to take first place and preserve their undefeated record.
  • Pride of the A-10 – Entering their last season of conference play, the Charlotte 49ers’ men’s basketball team seems at last to have caught fire, completing the first fifth of its 2012-13 schedule with a perfect 6-0 record, taking the Great Alaska Shootout title Saturday night with a win 67-59 over Northeastern of the CAA. Since moving over from C-USA, the 49ers have dominated A-10 sports, as 11 of Charlotte’s 16 sports programs have garnered a total of 30 titles — either regular season championships or conference tournament titles – in the school’s eight-year run. The move to the A-10, basketball-driven for the most part, was resisted by more than a few fans (and former men’s basketball coach Bobby Lutz), due largely to the conference’s more northern and eastern focus. That the men’s hoops program, a source of pride for the school, could only muster a mediocre 48-64 (0.429) in conference play has been a huge disappointment, taken by some as a confirmation that the move from the southern and western-centric C-USA was ill-considered. Charlotte’s 6-0 start matches the 1975-76 club’s 6-0 opening of their 24-6 campaign.

Reader’s Take


Power Rankings

Phil Martelli Sits Atop the Power Rankings at This Early Point of the Season

  1. Saint Joseph’s (3-1) – The Hawks easily handled a Harvard squad that earned an NCAA bid last March 75-66, before breaking for the Thanksgiving Weekend. Junior forward Ronald Roberts was named the Player of the Week for the A-10 Conference for his work at the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament over the November 17 weekend. The six man nucleus — Carl Jones, Langston Galloway, Chris Wilson, Ron Roberts, Halil Kanacevic and C. J. Aiken – has done a tremendous job sharing the touches and scoring so far. The squad goes back into action Wednesday when they host American. The Creighton game Saturday should be a featured game next weekend.
  2. Temple (3-0)Scootie Randall continued his comeback by playing 38 minutes as the Owls downed Delaware Saturday 80-75. Randall and backcourt mate Khalif Wyatt chipped in 18 points apiece (45% of the Owl’s total point production), notching an efficient 51% eFG%. Better yet, the two combined for 10 assists to five turnovers, as they helped each other and their front court teammates. Fans who held their breath last season as then-freshman center Anthony Lee stepped in for then injured senior Michael Eric are seeing the benefits now. The sophomore has become a rebounding workhorse, grabbing an astonishing one in three of the opponent misses while he is on the court. Fifth year senior Jake O’Brien has garnered impressive numbers on the Owls’ offensive boards. The next two games, versus Buffalo (Wednesday) and Wagner (Saturday) should bump the win total to five. Read the rest of this entry »
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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 Brian Goodman on January 12th, 2011

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

A Look Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week: 1/13 vs. Rhode Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week: 1/15 vs. Fordham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. Saint Joseph’s (5-10, 0-2)

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

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

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

A Look Ahead

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

  • Temple is the clear favorite to sweep the regular season title and conference championship. Lunardi seeds the Owls #7 this week, but the conference schedule favors the Owls, and with an extremely strong showing at 14-2, 15-1, coupled with a run through the conference tournament, they should be able to improve that seed by three or four spots.
  • Richmond — Lunardi lists the Spiders among the eight bubble teams on the outside looking in. Not blessed with a schedule as favorable as Temple’s, Coach Mooney’s squad can help it’s chances with favorable results in three games at the end of January. The Spiders travel to Amherst for a game with Massachusetts on January 22, then swing out to Ohio for a second road game with Dayton on 1/25 and finally return home to host Xavier on January 29. 3-0 through that week-plus (and no more fumbles before or after) should put Mooney’s charges in the field of 68; while 2-1 would not be fatal, anything lower might not jeopardize the team’s conference standing but will diminish the Spiders’ chances to make it’s second straight NCAA appearance in 2011.
  • The Dayton Flyers appear to be plagued with the same inconsistent play this season as last. They rally to win road games at Mississippi State and Seton Hall, only to be run out of the U. S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati and dumped four days later by East Tennessee State. The result of the Massachusetts game last Sunday really hurt their postseason prospects. Dayton has a crucial game this weekend versus Xavier, and after a trip to Fordham, the Flyers return home to host Richmond and then travel to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne. 4-0 through this sequence (counting Fordham in the win column) with solid margins would help settle the “good enough” questions. 3-1 would not be fatal, but it depends on how those four in turn finish there seasons.
  • A home loss to Florida along with road losses to Gonzaga and Miami (OH) (RPI #91), have damaged the Musketeers’ postseason prospects. Rehabilitation of their prospects has to start this week when the Musketeers host Massachusetts then Dayton. Xavier probably needs both. The Southern Road Trip, a journey that takes the Musketeers through Richmond and then Charlotte, scheduled on the cusp of January and February, may well settle Xavier’s prospects. Should the X-men be undefeated going into those games, a 2-0 result would be very good news, while anything less will be very damaging.
  • Of the three 9-6 teams — Massachusetts, Duquesne and St. Bonaventure — Duquesne may have the best shot. Of the Dukes’ five losses (to Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Penn State, George Mason and Robert Morris), Robert Morris (RPI #99) is the most damaging. Fans should learn a lot about Duquesne this week when Saint Louis and Temple visit. 2-0 is possible given injuries and absences in those programs. The Dukes’ home-away series with Dayton, home game versus Xavier and season-ending road game versus Richmond are the four game Duquesne will have to record a 4-0/3-1 record. That assumes they sweep the other nine games.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 5th, 2011

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

A Look Back

Closing the Book on Invitational Tournaments

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

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

Power Rankings

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

1. Temple (9-3)

Last Week: 12/30 @Villanova 74-78

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

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

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

2. Richmond (11-4)

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

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

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

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

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

3. Dayton (12-3)

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

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

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

4. Xavier (8-4)

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

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

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

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

5. Rhode Island (9-5)

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

Next Week: 1/9 vs. Xavier

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

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

6. Massachusetts (8-5)

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

Next Week: 1/9 vs. Dayton

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

7. St. Bonaventure (7-5)

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

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

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

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

8. Duquesne (7-5)

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

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

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

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

9. La Salle (7-7)

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

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

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

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

10. Charlotte (8-6)

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

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

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

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

11. George Washington (7-6)

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

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

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

12. Fordham (6-6)

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

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

13. Saint Louis (5-8)

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

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

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

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

14. Saint Joseph’s (5-8)

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

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

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

A Look Ahead

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

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 30th, 2010

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

*Ed. note – this piece was written before Wednesday night’s action.

A Look BackHanging With The Big Guns

With 81.5% of the out of conference schedule in the books, the A-10 holds a 58.4% winning percentage (90-54) over all opponents. How has the conference fared against their above the Red Line opponents? The table below shows the results to date:

The conference still has a relatively large number of games to clear with the ACC, though one was cancelled (most likely not to be rescheduled) and three more are to be played this week. Their schedules with the Pacific-10, Big Ten and Big 12 in the books, and the conference has to be happy with their winning record against the Pac-10 and 40% winning percentage versus the Big Ten. With two games remaining with the Big East, the conference is guaranteed a worst-case winning percentage of 42.1% and a best-case 52.6% winning percentage. Overall the conference holds a 47.6% winning percentage, with games versus ACC and SEC teams still outstanding.

Against those below the Red Line conferences, which fall inside the A-10’s rather large footprint, the numbers are very promising, with one or two exceptions:

Filling out nearly 60% (59.3%) of their schedules with opponents from these conferences is not surprising, as local affiliations and historic rivalries with teams in these and the regional above the Red Line (Big East and ACC) conferences are powerful motivators. CUSA excepted, the conferences in the table above fall below Kyle Whelliston’s Red Line. CUSA, like the A-10, the Mountain West, Missouri Valley and Western Athletic conferences, is a “straddle” conference, for football reasons not above (the Red Line), but for a variety of budgetary and resource allocation reasons, not below either. The A-10’s 2-4 record in CUSA matchups to date is disappointing but understandable. There is one last opportunity (St. Bonaventure vs. Marshall on 1/2) to level the record a bit. The most puzzling result so far is that 6-8 record versus the Colonial Athletic Association. Seventeen games with CAA opponents makes sense, but why the relatively poor showing? Multiple games with George Mason and Old Dominion played a large role skewing the record as combined those two teams account for seven of the 17 games on the schedule. To date the two CAA teams have a 6-0 record versus their A-10 opponents. The two CAA powers cut a wide swath through the conference notching wins against Charlotte, Duquesne, George Washington, Dayton, Richmond and Xavier. Dayton has a last chance at redemption as they Flyers face George Mason on 12/29.

Power Rankings

Temple moved back into the AP Top 25 at #25 in the December 27 poll, and continues to top our power rankings. Richmond and Dayton kept pace with come from behind road wins, while Xavier missed their chance for a signature road win at Gonzaga, an opportunity that may haunt them at the end of the season. A few teams shuffled around in the middle and bottom levels of the conference as the conference overall worked through a 9-9 – with one cancellation – week versus their out of conference opponents.

1. Temple (9-2)  AP #25

Last Week: 12/22 @Ohio 76-65

Next Week: 12/30 @Villanova

The Owls re-entered the AP’s Top 25 (at #25) as they completed their MAC obligation with an 11 point win over the University of Ohio. Sophomore forward Rahir Jefferson earned a conference Honorable Mention for his double career-high outing. The sophomore forward posted 18 points in 31 minutes of play (both career highs) versus the Bobcats. Temple has swept their MAC slate of five teams by an average of 20.5 points per game. The MAC contingent had an average Pomeroy Ranking of 225 (out of 345).

Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad will open their Big 5 slate when they travel to the Main Line to take on rival Villanova.

2. Richmond (10-3)

Last Week: 12/22 UNC-Greensboro 63-53, 12/26 @Seton Hall 69-61

Next Week: 12/29 vs. Wake Forest, 1/2 vs. Bucknell

Richmond swept the week, beating UNC-Greensboro by 10 three days before Christmas, then traveling to Seton Hall and beating the Pirates by eight as a blizzard howled outside of the arena. Senior forward Justin Harper drew his third conference Honorable Mention as he posted team-high points in both contests. Against Seton Hall he posted a team-high and season-high 24 points as the Spiders erased a five point half-time deficit to win by eight. Down by two with 5:33 to go Harper hit two consecutive field goals, a two point attempt, followed by a three pointer, to key Richmond’s closing 12-2 run.

Coach Chris Mooney’s team will finish their out of conference slate with a two game home stand before launching into the A-10 regular season slate. The Spiders open their A-10 schedule versus Charlotte on 1/5. Prospects are very good they will sweep the Demon Deacons and Bison on their way to a 12-3 out of conference record.

3. Dayton (10-3)

Last Week: 12/22 @Seton Hall 65-61

Next Week: 12/29 vs. George Mason, 1/1 vs. New Mexico

The Flyers posted a 1-0 week as junior forward Chris Johnson drew a conference Honorable Mention for his work in Dayton’s wins over Winthrop (on 12/20) and Seton Hall. Johnson averaged 13.0 points and 9.0 rebounds over the two games. Johnson recorded a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) against Seton Hall. Freshman point guard Juwan Staten was cited as co-Rookie of the Week, shared with Fordham’s Brandon Frazier. Staten posted two 9 point outings, grabbed three rebounds, dished three assists and notched a steal in his outing versus Seton Hall.

Dayton will host George Mason on the 29th, the fourth A-10 team to meet the Patriots this season. Hopefully the Flyers can do what the other three (Charlotte, Duquesne and George Washington) could not, and beat the Colonial Athletic Association power. They will close out their out of conference slate by hosting New Mexico in a return engagement from last season’s New Year’s trip to the Pit. Should the Flyers close out both with wins, they will start the conference slate (at Saint Louis on 1/5) with a 12-3 record and two solid road wins for the post season resume.

4. Xavier (7-3)

Last Week: 12/22 @Gonzaga 54-64

Next Week: 12/28 vs. Albany, 12/31 vs. Florida

The loss to Gonzaga dropped the Musketeers to 7-3, squandering an opportunity for a resume road win over the West Coast Conference powerhouse.  Tu Holloway scored 48% of the team’s  points while taking over 35% of the available shots and 43% of the team’s possessions when he was on the court. His 1.15 PPWS was efficient only because he scored 13-14 from the line. Xavier’s three guard back court of Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dante Jackson, was remarkably inefficient as the table below suggests:

Holloway’s five steals was the highlight for the trio, as they combined for 13 turnovers against four assists. Chris Mack’s squad will be the first of two A-10 programs to meet Florida in the week before conference play commences as the Musketeers host the Gators on New Year’s Eve.

5. Rhode Island (8-4) 

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Lafayette 73-65

Next Week: 12/29 vs. Boston College, 1/3 @Florida

The Rams downed Lafayette by six points as sophomore guard Akeem Richmond was named Player of the Week by the conference. Richmond logged a career-high 25 points while grabbing three rebounds and two steals in the Rams’ come from behind win. Richmond’s scoring spree included a career-high seven three point conversions. Other double digit scorers included senior guard Marquis Jones (14 points) and sophomore forward Nikola Malesevic (15 points).

6. Massachusetts (7-4)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Central Florida 59-64

Next Week: 12/31 vs. Boston University, 1/3 @Central Connecticut

The Minutemen returned from their end of the semester hiatus to continue their losing streak, extending it to four with the loss to the Golden Knights of CUSA. Senior guard Anthony Gurley scored the team-high 17 points on another high-volume (6-19 overall, 3-4 from the line) outing. Gurley takes about 31.7% of the team’s shots when on the court, and while he is efficient against lesser opponents (Rider, New Mexico State, Holy Cross and Quinnipiac), against more defense-minded teams (Seton Hall, UCF) he tends to falter.  Coach Derek Kellogg’s team takes another extended break, this one for nine days, before returning for action as they host Boston University of the American East Conference. BU has a winning record, 2-1 versus A-10 opponents. Massachusetts has a chance to even the A-10’s record against this regional rival.

7. St. Bonaventure (6-4)

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Virginia Tech 68-76 OT

Next Week: 12/28 vs. Siena, 2/2 vs. Marshall

The Bonnies took Virginia Tech to overtime in Rochester, NY, before bowing by eight points. The final score may be disappointing, but they’ve improved enough to where they should be able to notch a couple more wins before conference play starts. Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson was cited by the conference for the fourth time (in six weeks) for his 21-point scoring night against the Hokies. Junior guard Michael Davenport notched his first double-double of the season with his 15 point, 10 rebound performance.

8. La Salle (6-6)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Rider 68-77

Next Week: 12/29 vs. Towson, 1/2 vs. Binghamton

Dr. Giannini’s woes continue as the Explorers dropped their third game in a row, this time a nine point head scratcher to MAAC contender Rider. The Broncs, expected to finish somewhere near the middle-top of the conference, were beaten by Massachusetts early in November, but have since gone on to compile an 8-5 record. The 0.500 record will impress none of the post season selection committees, the Explorer staff will most likely concentrate on finishing out their out of conference schedule with two more wins, and try to address the defensive problems – lack of aggressive ball defense and defensive rebounding — for conference play.

9. Duquesne (5-5)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. George Mason 79-85 2OT

Next Week: 12/31 vs. Northwestern State, 1/2 vs. Norfolk State

Senior forwards Damian Saunders and Bill Clark, along with freshman TJ McConnell are emerging as the offensive nucleus for the Dukes. McConnell was cited among the conference Honorable Mentions for his career-high 19 point effort against George Mason. McConnell also had five steals. Saunders recorded a double-double in the two overtime period game, while Clark scored a team-high 21 points. Saunders, Clark and McConnell took 27.8%, 32.7% and 22.9% of the shots respectively when on the court. Clark and McConnell converted efficiently, but Saunders had an off night, recording an eFG% of 29.4% — his points came from volume shooting, going 5-17 overall. Size was again an issue, as the Hokies were able to grab over 53% of their misses for second chance opportunities.

George Mason has been one of the peskier CAA programs for the A-10 this season, as Duquesne, Charlotte and George Washington can attest. The Dukes faces two more out of conference opponents in Northwestern State and Norfolk State before beginning conference play with a game against Saint Joseph’s.

10. Charlotte (6-6)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Wright State 57-53

Next Week: 12/30 @Mercer, 1/2 @Georgia Tech

The 49ers won consecutive games for the first time this season as they beat a visiting Wright State team 57-53 three days before Christmas. Off guard Derrio Green is beginning to find his rhythm, as the junior drew a conference Honorable Mention for the third week running. Green’s heroics included scoring the game-high 16 points versus Wright State, seven of them coming in the final two minutes as Charlotte came from behind to take the win. Junior forward Javarris Barnett chipped in 13 points and paced the team with seven rebounds. The 6’6 wing is becoming a strong complement to centers Chris Braswell and Phil Jones.

Coach Alan Major’s squad takes to the road in the week before conference play starts, first taking in a game with Mercer and then a trip to Atlanta for a game with Georgia Tech.

11. Saint Louis (5-7)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Northeastern (Cancun Governor’s Cup) 71-49, 12/23 Southern Mississippi (Cancun Governor’s Cup) 67-74, 12/24 Mississippi (Cancun Governor’s Cup) 61-69

Next Week: 1/1 vs. Bowling Green

The Cancun Governor’s Cup Invitational started well enough for the Saint Louis squad, as the Billikens downed Northeastern by 22 points. They were unable to follow up however, and dropped a seven point decision to Southern Mississippi of CUSA and then, as Rick Majerus DQ’d himself (food poisoning), they dropped an eight point decision to Mississippi of the SEC in the third round of play. Associate head coach Porter Moser filled in for the 64-year-old head coach. Junior forward Brian Conklin was named to the All-Tournament team and drew a conference Honorable Mention for his career-high 19 point effort against Ole Miss.

While the Reed/Mitchell situation has, to date, not been resolved, Coach Majerus’ only public statement of support for Reed (“…I did not want him to leave…”) was published about two weeks ago, around the time the Reed family began to hint he would like to return to Saint Louis. One last wrinkle for the Billikens is whether either or both would redshirt this season (assuming they are re-admitted and rejoin the team).

12. Fordham (6-4)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. Kennesaw State 80-67, 12/27 @Georgia Tech cancelled

Next Week: 12/29 vs. American (Cable Car Classic), 12/30 TBD (Cable Car Classic)

Heady days in the Bronx as the Rams beat Kennesaw State while freshman Brandon Frazier shared Rookie of the Week honors with Dayton’s Juwan Staten. Frazier went 7-8 from the field and 2-2 from the line to go with four assists and four rebounds, as the Rams took their fourth straight win. In what might have been the best all around effort in two seasons, the Rams’ offense posted 1.21 points per possession while limiting the Owls offense to 0.99 ppp. Sophomore forward Chris Gaston posted a team-high 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as he recorded his 27th career double-double in 38 (career) games. Gaston earned his fifth Honorable Mention in seven weeks. Two other Rams, guards Alberto Estwick (15) and Brenton Butler (14) scored double digits points for a promising distribution of touches and shots. The Sunday blizzard shuttered all New York area airports, forcing Fordham to cancel their game with ACC power Georgia Tech.

Coach Tom Pecora’s team will fly out to Santa Clara, California, to participate in the Cable Car Classic, facing American University of the CAA in the first round. The second round opponent will be determined by the results of the American game.

13. George Washington (4-5)

Last Week: 12/22 vs. East Carolina 82-80, 12/27 @UAB 44-79

Next Week: 12/31 vs. Holy Cross, 1/3 @Howard

Coach Karl Hobbs’ squad posted a 1-1 week, taking a two point win, 82-80, over East Carolina and dropping a 25 point road loss to University of Alabama Birmingham, 44-79. Junior guard Tony Taylor drew an Honorable Mention from the conference for his career-high 26 points in the East Carolina win. With the loss of Lasan Kromah at the beginning of the season, the Colonials continue to search for players around which the offense can rally. Taylor has stepped into the central role, but reliable second and third options are hard to come by. Foul-prone senior center Joseph Katuka does not log enough minutes to have a lasting impact (though his numbers when he does play are solid), while sophomores Dwayne Smith and Tim Johnson (and freshman Chris Fitzgerald), though willing shooters when playing, are not efficient. Freshman Nemanja Mikic, while efficient, is not consistently assertive to this point in the season. With conference play around the corner GW will need some answer quickly, or their season could get very ugly very quickly.

George Washington has two more out of conference games, at home versus Holy Cross and a “road” game versus cross town rival Howard, to find some offensive answers.

14. Saint Joseph‘s (3-8)

Last Week: 12/21 @Boston University 79-85

Next Week: 12/28 @Holy Cross, 12/31 vs. Siena

Back from their finals, there is little evidence the Hawks did much regrouping and refocusing. They dropped a six point road decision to Boston University four days before Christmas. The loss extends Saint Joseph’s losing streak to six games. While scoring may be an obvious concern, as (per Ken Pomeroy) they are currently (through 12/27) ranked #252 (out of 345) in efficient field goal conversions with a 46.1% conversion rate, they could survive the low efficiency outing if their defense were better.  Their shot defense (eFG%) is 50.7, ranking them (through 12/27) at #227 (out of 345) in Division 1. Poor rebounding on both ends of the court really costs the Hawks. At the offensive end (30.3%, #250) it means they not only struggle to convert, but obtain few second chance opportunities. On the defensive end, they provide, with a 64.6% (#262 our of 345), their opponents with a better than one-in-three opportunity for a second field goal attempt opportunity. Against good offensive rebounding teams this margin can swell to nearly one-in-two second chance opportunities (Villanova – 47.1%, Drexel 46.5%, BU 45.2%), margins they cannot afford to concede.

Coach Phil Martelli has two more opportunities (at Holy Cross and versus Siena) to find some answers before conference play commences. After conference begins, the Hawks will have a single one last out of conference game – their match up with Big 5 rival Pennsylvania in late January.

Looking Ahead in the A-10

  • Rhode Island should have Orion Outerbridge back this week for games against Boston College and Florida if the sophomore has passed his fall classes.
  • As the out of conference schedule winds down there are few marquee match ups to offer this week, #25 Temple’s Big 5 tangle with #8 Villanova (12/30 7:00 pm ET ESPN2) the only Top 25 game on the slate. There are several above the Red Line opponents on tap, as Richmond faces a vulnerable Wake Forest (12/29, 7:00 pm ET; the Deacons’ second game versus an A-10 opponent this season), Rhode Island squares off against regional rival Boston College (12/29 7:00 pm ET) and Charlotte travels to Georgia Tech (1/2 6:00 pm ET; the Jackets third game versus a A-10 opponent, though the Fordham game was canceled). SEC contender Florida will face Xavier (12/31 4:00 pm ET ESPN2, at Xavier) and Rhode Island (1/3 9:00 pm ET ESPNU, in Gainesville).
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 8th, 2010

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

A Look Back – Side-by-Side Analyses

A simple method to project winners and losers in conference play involves comparing scores against common opponents. It is crude, but, if timing and conditions are roughly equal, potentially effective for developing a rough sense on how the teams will match up. While the out of conference schedule features 189 games over (roughly) three months, there are quite a few common opponents. The problem with score and margin of victory comparisons is that they do not control for pace. I wanted to match teams that are projected to finish relatively close to each other in the conference rankings, and while this is very early in the season, two side-by-sides looked fairly interesting…

Temple side-by-side with Xavier

Both Temple and Xavier played (and beat) Seton Hall within a nine-day period. Temple may have had a slight advantage on November 12 in that they played the Hall at home, but given it was the season opener, the advantage may not have been that great. The Hall’s leading scorer, Jeremy Hazell, was injured before the Xavier game, another factor to consider in the comparison (that would go against the Musketeers’ defense). As the offensive and defensive efficiencies suggest, defense is decidedly ahead of offense in the first fortnight of D-I play, at least for these two A-10 teams. Seton Hall’s defensive efficiency is, however, consistent with the offensive numbers posted by the A-10 teams. What can the side-by-side tell us about the Owls and Musketeers, particularly when they meet each other? If things progress, probably not volumes, since their appointed time is about six weeks away. Several elements are worth noting though. Temple will probably control the offensive boards, they did a better job matching up with the Hall bigs than did the X-men. Temple will block shots on defense, while Xavier will steal the ball. Neither is particularly adept at getting to the line, and while both turned the ball over quite a bit, that was uncharacteristic of either squad (and neither squad forced turnovers either). The Owls’ shot conversion efficiency (eFG%) has not improved much over the past six (or so) games, and if that element of their offense remains a problem for the next month, expect them to have to compensate for lack of efficiency by grabbing offensive rebounds and limiting. For Xavier, rebounding will no doubt be an issue in a matchup with Temple. The X-men will have problems matching up with Eric Michael and Lavoy Allen, particularly if the Owls’ Allen overcomes his slow start. While pace, according to Pomeroy, can be overrated as a deciding element, Temple showed it can play fast or slow. The SHU game was played for approximately 72 possessions on a neutral floor, about 10% higher than Temple usually plays the game. Xavier played slower than usual, possibly pace dictated by a undermanned SHU squad, and the Musketeers were still successful. Against each other, if the common opponent game is a good predictor, expect a slightly lower than usual possession game — about 65 — with Temple taking a close (one-to-four point) decision.

Fordham side-by-side with George Washington

These are two teams that, according to preseason projections, may not see the first round of the A-10 Conference Tournament. True to form, both lost to the Hampton Pirates of the Mid-East Athletic Conference (MEAC). Hampton, it turns out, is on something of a tear, going 6-0 after dropping their season-opener against Wake Forest. Kyle Whelliston analyzes elements of Hampton’s success in an Unfiltered posting over at Basketball Prospectus. According to Whelliston’s analysis, the Pirates are terrible shooters but great shot defenders. Checking out GWU’s shot defense — that has to be very good news for Fordham (and anyone else who plays the Colonials). Hampton, true to Whelliston’s post, did not turn the ball over much, but Fordham’s turnovers, the Rams’ lost one in three possessions without taking a shot, a very high hurdle to clear if you want to win (Fordham lost by 10 points). Fordham and GW are scheduled to meet January 12, about a month from now. How would the two A-10 teams do against each other? Fordham actually looks pretty good in this comparison. Against a very good shot defender they converted in the high 30s (nothing to write home about), but better than the Colonials who appear to be searching for a scorer (or scorers) to replace the lost Lasan Kromah. Both rebounded well (offensively) against the Pirates, and I would expect Fordham to (again) do a bit better based on the side-by-side. If Fordham can get turnovers under control they should do very well against GW, though given that Chris Gaston and Alberto Estwick are two of Fordham’s principal options on offense and they seem to be contributors, this may be problematic, especially with a seven game lead time. Given the elements though, this one, based on the side-by-side, looks like a close win for Fordham.

Power Rankings

The rankings are jumbled again by a series of unexpected losses (and a few unexpected wins). Next week I will take a closer look at how the conference has fared against some traditional rival conferences.

1. Richmond (7-2)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Old Dominion 70-77, 12/5 @ Arizona State 67-61

Next Week: 12/11 vs. Virginia Commonwealth

The second week in December turned out to be another 1-1 week for coach Chris Mooney’s Spiders. Richmond’s loss to Old Dominion, featured an outstanding effort by senior guard Kevin Anderson who scored a game-high 23 points, while logging a very efficient 76.7% eFG% and 1.53 PPWS. Junior wing Justin Harper’s 14 points and freshman Cedrick Lindsay’s 15 points (70.7% eFG%, 1.44 PPWS coming off the bench) provided strong compliments to Anderson’s efforts. The Spiders led at the 36 minute mark, but 12-0 run by the Monarchs over four and a half minutes dug a nine point hole that Richmond could not climb out of in the remaining 1:45 of play. Two stats that stood out in the loss were the 23.5% offensive rebounding rate, below Richmond’s usually very low 27.4% (ranked #291) and the 1.6% FTA/FGA rate. No, that is not a typo; the Spiders had a single free throw on 63 field goal attempts. They made the most of their opportunity going 1-1 from the line.

Richmond’s bounce-back road win over Arizona State featured an outstanding performance by Harper, who was given an Honorable Mention for his game-high 23 points on a very efficient 10-14 (3-4, 7-10) and 0-0 shooting . Harper garnered an 82.1% eFG% and 1.64 PPWS, outstandingly efficient shooting. The Spiders did a much better job on the boards, grabbing 32.0% of their misses, while limiting the Sun Devils to 34.1% of their misses. Richmond’s FTA/FGA was 37.3%, a significant improvement over their performance against the Monarchs.

2. Temple (5-2) AP #21

Last Week: 12/1 @ Central Michigan 65-53, 12/5 @ Maryland 64-61

Next Week: 12/9 vs. Georgetown, 12/12 vs. Akron

The Owls recovered from their disastrous Old Spice experience with two wins last week. Senior forward Lavoy Allen, who had struggled through Temple’s first five games, broke through with his first two double-doubles of the season, performances which earned him his first Player of the Week citation from the A-10. Allen posted 13 points and 10 rebounds in the win, but junior guard Juan Fernandez scored the team-high 18 points, shooting a 66.7% eFG% with a 1.34 PPWS. Wing Ramone Moore 16 points on a volume shooting night, posting a 40.0% eFG% and 0.90 PPWS. The star of the night, however, was the Owl defense, which limited the Chippewas to a very stingy 0.88 points per possession.

Allen followed with another 13 and 10 performance against Maryland in the BB&T Classic on Sunday. Like the CMU game, Moore provided points (16 points, the team-high) on another volume shooting night, while Fernandez chipped in 14 points and 3 dimes in 38 minutes. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad limited the Terps to 0.91 points per possession with a sterling defensive effort that limited Maryland to 45.5% eFG%. But uncharacteristic of those earlier losses against California and Texas A&M, the Owl front court contingent of Allen, Eric Michael and Rahir Jefferson, along with wing/forward Scootie Randall, controlled the boards, snagging a strong 37.8% of their missed field goal attempts, while limiting Maryland’s second chance points by collecting 75.7% of the Terp’s missed field goal attempts.

3. Dayton (6-2)

Last Week: 12/1 vs. East Tennessee State 68-73, 12/4 vs. Miami (OH) 70-58

Next Week: 12/7 vs. Central Connecticut, 12/11 @Virginia Commonwealth

Coach Brian Gregory’s squad recorded a 1-1 week, like the balance of the conference elites. At least the Flyers came out on top of a head-to-head with cross-state (and conference) rival Xavier with a win over the RedHawks of Miami (OH). Freshman point guard Juwan Staten continues to impress the conference front office and fans around the conference, as he earned his second citation (co-owned with La Salle’s Tyreek Dureen) as Rookie of the Week for his performances against both opponents. Staten earned 14 points against East Tennessee State, while posting eight points and dishing five dimes as the Flyers overcome a second half deficit against Miami. The freshman sank every on of his eight free throw attempts in the last 2:30 of that game. Senior forward Chris Wright drew a conference Honorable Mention for averaging a double-double for the week. His 15 rebounds against East Tennessee State was a career-high. Though the Flyers lost that game, they had four players, junior forward Chris Johnson (15), senior guard Paul Williams (11), Staten (14) and Wright (13) score in double figures. The fan concerned that the ETSU result hints at a regression to last season’s inconsistent outings can probably relax and chalk it up to a learning curve that caught the new point guards off balance. In an odd turn, the game saw Staten, Williams, transfer point guard Josh Parker and rotation front court player Luke Fabrizius take larger-than-normal roles in the offense. Staten, Williams and Fabrizius took 32.8%, 24.3% and 29.8% of the possessions when they were on the court, the higher than normal possession rate due in some measure to the turnovers each committed (five, four and one) during their playing time.

Possessions returned to a more typical distribution with the Saturday game versus Miami, as Johnson and Wright took most of the possessions and shots, while Staten and Parker stepped back into the background and concentrated on distributing the ball.

4. Xavier (5-2)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Miami (OH) 64-75

Next Week:  12/9 vs. Butler

What happened at Miami on Wednesday is anyone’s guess, but mark this one down as a “what the heck?” game. The official recap chalked it up to a “slow start”, but I bet coach Chris Mack filed a “Missing Persons Report” after the game, because the Musketeers’ defense definitely did not show up at the game.  Xavier gave up an appalling 1.14 points per possession (ppp) to the RedHawks, while garnering about 0.98 ppp for themselves. Miami OH shot an efficient 51.8% (eFG%) while tallying a PPWS of 1.16. Miami OH scored on 34 of their (estimated) 66 possessions, just north of the 50% mark. Tu Holloway led Xavier scorers with 18 points, matched by sophomore guard Mark Lyons’ 18, but the lead guard, taking 30% of the possessions and 24.4% of the shots when he was on the floor, simply made it too easy for the RedHawk defense. Holloway’s 18 points was scored by volume shooting, 5-13 (1-4, 4-9) and 7-9, an inefficient 42.3% conversion rate (eFG%). Lyons managed to shoot an equally unimpressive 4-11 (0-3, 4-8) and 10-11, yielding a 36.4% eFG%. Senior forward Jamel McLean did turn in a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds), but the scoring was neither efficient enough (McLean excepted) nor distributed enough to make the Miami defense work. Going into the season, the question was how the squad would make up Jordan Crawford’s production. As of this week, the question is still unanswered.

5. Massachusetts (7-1)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Quinnipiac 66-64, 12/4 vs. Boston College 71-76

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Maine, 12/11 vs. Seton Hall

Senior guard Anthony Gurley made the conference Honorable Mention list for the third time in four weeks as he posted an average of 20.5 points in the two games played last week. Poised to move up again in the rankings, coach Derek Kellogg’s squad fell five points short against Boston College (ACC) on a semi-neutral floor, the TD Arena, in Boston. Gurley scored 19 points on 8-13 (1-2, 7-11) and 2-2 shooting against Quinnipiac for an eFG% of 65.4% from a player known more for quantity the past few games. The surprise of the Quinnipiac game was high-scorer Javorn Farrell, a 6’5 swingman who scored 25 points on 9-16 (1-2, 8-14) and 6-7 shooting. Gurley scored 22 against Boston College, on 10-20 (0-4, 10-16) and 2-4 shooting. Sophomore guard Freddie Riley is struggling, placing a good deal of the scoring load on Gurley.

6. Rhode Island (5-3)

Last Week: 12/4 @ Providence 74-87

Next Week: 12/8 @ Northeastern, 12/11 @ Quinnipiac

College coaching is not an especially good career path for a curmudgeon. If you are going to be irascible, then you better win consistently, at least beat your biggest rivals. The disgruntled elements of the Rams’ fan-base grew a bit louder last week when Jim Baron’s squad dropped a double-digit decision against their biggest in state rival, Providence. This is supposed to be another rebuilding year for the Friars, so the 13 point margin was especially disappointing. Delroy James scored a team-high 25 points while three other Rams, Marquis Jones (15), Daniel West (13) and Nikola Malesevic (10) scored in double-digits as well.

7. La Salle (5-3)

Last Week: 12/4 vs. Oklahoma State 87-92 (2 OT)

Next Week: 12/9 @ Boston University, 12/11 vs. Villanova

Both sophomore center Aaric Murray and freshman guard Tyreek Dureen drew conference nods for their work in games on November 29 (Delaware State, a 65-61 win) and December 4 (the two overtime loss to Oklahoma State). This gives me some idea of how far the conference believes this Explorer program has come this season. Murray, a Conference Honorable Mention, was one of five La Salle players to score double digit points in their 65-61 win over Delaware State. The 6’10 big man tied with senior forward Jerrell Williams for a team-high 23 points against the Cowboys on Saturday. Dureen was cited for his scoring and assists (and steals) in the Delaware State game, and for the amount of time he played (43 minutes) in the Ok State game.

8. St. Bonaventure (4-2)

Last Week: 12/4 vs. Buffalo 76-74

Next Week: 12/7 @ St. John’s, 12/11 vs. Niagara

Bonnie point guard Ogo Adegboye drew Player of the Week honors with his performance against Buffalo. Andrew Nicholson may not have drawn his third Honorable Mention (in the three week old season) but his double-double effort will be noted here. The junior #5 scored 16 points (0-1, 6-10 and 4-6) and grabbed 10 (2-8-10) rebounds in the win. Junior forward Da’Quan Cook and sophomore guard Demetrius Conger continue to be efficient second and third options on offense as they take about 21.6% and 17.2% of the shots, converting at rates of (eFG%) 58.8% and 58.3% respectively. If Adegboye can keep his assist to turnover ratio above 1:1 (and get Conger the ball a bit more often), the Bonnies could beat the preseason projections.

9. Duquesne (3-3)

Last Week: 12/1 vs. Pittsburgh 66-80, 12/4 @ Penn State 73-77

Next Week:  12/8 @ Wisconsin-Green Bay, 12/11 vs. West Virginia

The Dukes suffered through an 0-2 week, though senior forward Damian Saunders recorded a double-double (20 points and 11 rebounds) in the Pittsburgh loss and another 23 in Duquesne’s loss to Penn State and draw an Honorable Mention from the league office. Fellow senior wing Bill Clark matched Saunders point production in the Pitt loss, while freshman guard B.J. McConnell chipped in 14 points on 6-11 (2-5, 4-6) and 0-0 shooting. The key stat for Pittsburgh was rebounding; the Panthers outrebounded the Dukes by a 56-35 margin. The Pitt bigs simply overpowered the smaller Duquesne front line. Clark logged the double-double against Penn State, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 (6-4-10) rebounds. The Dukes had no answer for the Nits’ Talor Battle though, as the senior guard torched Ron Everhart’s squad for 31 points on 12-18 (5-8, 7-10) and 2-4 shooting.

10. Saint Louis (3-3)

Last Week: 11/30 @ Portland 60-69

Next Week: 12/11 @ Duke

The pace was deliberate, about 59 per side, as most Rick Majerus games tend to be, but the defense was very un-Majerus, as the Billikens gave up a whopping 1.15 points per possession to the Portland Pilots. The Pilots’ conversion efficiency (eFG%) was a discouraging 61.7%. Cobbling together a defense for Duke on Saturday will be tough, as the Pilots have logged a Ken Pomeroy adjusted offensive rate of 108.1 good for a #57 ranking in D-I basketball. Duke, by contrast, is 121.9, good for a #1 ranking. Problems for the Billikens however, tend to occur more on the offensive side of the ball, a problem that has persisted for several seasons now, due in part to roster turnover. Saint Louis is (by Ken Pomeroy) currently ranked #157, very middle-of-the-division, with a 100.5 offensive rating (1.005 points per possession). This edition of the Billikens has been a bit of a mulligan stew, which has relatively prominent roles in the offense going to freshmen, while the more experienced players are either struggling (sophomore Cody Ellis), stepping back into minor roles in the offense (junior Kyle Cassidy) or both (sophomores Christian Salecich and Corey Remekun and junior Paul Eckerle). The “reliable” nucleus appears, at this point, to consist of Cassidy, junior Brian Conklin and freshmen guards Dwayne Evans and Mike McCall.

Why McCall has been ignored by the conference front office is the mystery of the season so far. The freshmen scored an extremely efficient 14 points against Portland, converting at a 66.7% (eFG%) rate, good for a 1.41 PPWS. In his last three games, McCall has maintained a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

11. Charlotte (3-5)

Last Week: 12/1 @ East Carolina 61-62

Next Week: 12/7 vs. Winthrop, 12/11 @Davidson

After being declared “probable” for the Winthrop game, graduate senior Charlie Dewhurst broke his finger and is out again, this time indefinitely, pending diagnosis. Charlotte dropped a one point decision at East Carolina, though 49er high-scorer Phil Jones drew an Honorable Mention from the conference for his 14 points and 10 rebounds. The only other Charlotte double digit scorer was Darrio Green with 11 points. Life after Spears is proving tough, at least on the court. With a week to practice and reform the offense, the Winthrop game should tell the fans where the team is headed this season.

12. Saint Joseph‘s (3-5)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Drexel 50-62, 12/3 @ Villanova 71-60, 12/5 @ Princeton 65-74

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Minnesota, 12/11 @ Creighton

Phil Martelli’s Hawks drew an oh-fer last week, losing all three scheduled games. If Drexel was regrettable (but expected) and Villanova predictable (but regretted), the Princeton game had to frustrate the Hawk faithful. While projected as a contender for the Ivy League title this season, the Princeton squad should not match-up well against Saint Joseph’s. The Tigers do not have a power forward to stop CJ Aiken, and their backcourt, the strongest area of their squad, should not match-up with Carl Jones and Langston Galloway. And yet SJU dropped a nine point road game largely on lack of defense. They allowed Princeton to score 1.12 points per possession and shoot a very efficient team-wide 60.0 eFG%, while mustering only a 0.98 ppp and 50.9 eFG%. Princeton had players in double-digits, while Saint Joseph’s guard Carl Jones scored 24 and only one other, freshman forward Ronald Roberts, scored more than nine points (10 points on 4-7 and 2-3 shooting). Such are the growing pains with freshmen-dominated rosters.

13. George Washington (2-5)

Last Week: 12/1 @ George Mason 46-60, 12/5 vs. Navy (BB&T Classic) 57-64

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Towson

Lacking a consistent shooter/scorer, the Colonials are riding a four game slide through the weekend, the last two coming in December. They dropped the over card match at the BB&T Classic to a 4-6 Navy team (out of the Patriot League) which Pomeroy ranks #316 in D-I for offense. Ouch. Of the 11 players identified (and rated) by Ken Pomeroy who have a possession rate equal to or greater than 12.4 (very limited role player), only three (junior Tony Taylor, along with freshmen Chris Fitzgerald and Nemanja Mikic) have offensive ratings of 101 or better. Two (Taylor and Fitzgerald) have ratings of about 101. The Towson game should be very interesting for both teams, as Tiger coach Pat Kennedy is under the gun with a team that has struggled for the past three seasons and currently sports a 2-4 record.

14. Fordham (3-4)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Harvard 57-80, 12/4 @ Lehigh 74-67

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Manhattan, 12/11 vs. St. John’s

The Rams are on a roll! Coach Tom Pecora has recorded his third win of the season, and a road win, the first win not in Rose Hill since 2009, to boot. The sky is probably not the limit, but the prospects for several conference wins this season have improved dramatically. The Lehigh game delivered other good news – Chris Gaston, who logged his sixth double-double of the season was not the high-scorer for Fordham. That honor went to senior guard Brent Butler. While that may sound odd, the sophomore forward draws a good deal of defensive attention whenever he is on the court, and with some justification as he accounted for over 1/3 of the Rams’ possessions and 29.3% of the Rams’ turnovers when he is on the court. Butler, combined with junior guard Alberto Estwick (and occasionally freshman guard Branden Frazier), give three to four legitimate scoring threats for Pecora to throw at an opponent’s defenses.

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