Joe Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 conference.
A Look Back
Measuring Up: How does the A-10 compare to the other conference? With 65% of the conference teams’ out of conference schedule completed, the conference-wide out of conference record stands at 71-52, for a winning percentage of 0.577. Though the conference has scheduled games with teams affiliated with a vast majority of the Division-I conferences, they are concentrated, by and large, in the regions they share with those conferences. I have included the composite records for the six BCS conferences and a number of those conferences who share geography with one or more of the A-10 teams.
Of the 189 scheduled games, that over 58% of the games are scheduled with just ten conferences located along the Atlantic seaboard (from Maine to Georgia) and the upper Midwest reflects the A-10’s large geographical footprint. The Big East (19) and Colonial Athletic Association (CAA — 17) drew the largest share of games, again not a surprise considering the number of historic rivalries shared by teams in those two conferences with their A-10 counterparts. The Mid-American Conference (MAC) overlaps the regions covered by Xavier, Dayton and Saint Bonaventure, but the team that scheduled the largest share of MAC opponents was Temple (five), entirely due to the fact that the Owls, MAC members for football, are required by that arraignment to schedule five basketball games with MAC opponents each season. Individual team records versus the Big East (7-8 with four games pending), SEC (2-1 with four games pending), the Big 12 (1-4) and ACC (1-2 with seven games pending) have served as fairly reliable barometers for NCAA postseason prospects. Xavier, one of only two teams that recorded a winning record versus their Big East opponents last season, received an at-large bid. Temple, the other team, earned the conference’s automatic bid. Losing records versus the six BCS conferences (otherwise known as the “power conferences”) are common for conferences below the Red Line, but the A-10 can usually post a record better than the red line number (about an 18% winning percentage). The 40% winning percentage versus the Big Ten is especially gratifying, given that one of those wins was Richmond over Purdue back in November. With a 2-1 record versus the Pac-10 to this point, the conference is guaranteed no worse than a 0.500 (2-2) pending the result of the George Washington-Oregon State rematch this Saturday. Both Richmond and Dayton have a road date with the Big East’s Seton Hall coming the week after Christmas. Outcomes will be important for the Musketeers and Flyers, but also for the Pirates. All three teams nurture aspirations for NCAA bids, and the winners will definitely have a head-to-head comparison advantage come Selection Sunday.
Winning composite records versus lesser conferences are not surprising. The A-10’s record versus the CAA (5-7 with five games pending) and the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC – 4-3 with three games pending) this season, however, is puzzling. Conference teams stumbled badly in games with members from the CAA and the MAAC, but results have improved (despite St. Bonaventure’s loss to Niagara and Dayton’s loss to Old Dominion last weekend) versus both, and there are enough games remaining to bring those records to 0.500 or better.
Movement in the rankings comes among the bottom three this week, as Fordham has pushed their record to 5-4, leap-frogging George Washington and Saint Joseph’s. The regular conference season will most likely bring the rankings back to “regular order”, but for now, Fordham has the better record, won against good competition. They earned the bump this past week.
1. Richmond (8-2)
Last Week: 12/11 vs. Virginia Commonwealth 72-60
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Georgia Tech
The Spiders broke a six-game losing streak against their cross-town rivals Virginia Commonwealth last Saturday, even as senior guard Kevin Anderson moved into fifth place in the Spiders’ all-time scoring list with his game-high 21 point performance. The Spiders pushed the lead out to 30 points early in the second half, and led by 29 at the 12 minute mark, before the Rams closed the gap with a 31-14 run in the last eight minutes. Sophomore guard Darius Brothers (12) and senior wing Justin Harper (16) also scored in double figures in the win. Richmond could not limit VCU’s super forward Jamie Skeen, who scored a team-high 14 points, but they locked down the Rams’ heralded guard trio, Joey Rodriguez, Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell, limiting the three to a combined 16 points on 4-25 (1-10, 3-15) and 7-7 shooting.
2. Temple (7-2)
Last Week: 1/2/9 vs. Georgetown 68-65, 12/12 vs. Akron 82-47
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Northern Illinois
The Owls are back in stride, as their 68-65 win over Georgetown last Thursday demonstrated. After leading, largely by double digits, through most of the game, the Owls had to blunt a Hoya rush at the end to preserve Fran Dunphy’s 400th head coaching victory. Off-guard Ramone Moore was on, scoring a career-high 30 points on 12-18 (2-2, 10-16) and 4-4 shooting to secure game-high honors. The junior guard posted a very strong 72.2% eFG% and 1.51 PPWS for his efforts and earning an Honorable Mention from the conference. The Hoyas reverted to 2009 season form by losing a very high 25.4% of their possessions. Dunphy’s team easily disposed of the Akron Zips, the third of five scheduled MAC opponents on this season’s slate. They will play Northern Illinois next Saturday and Ohio four days later, before they can return to finish up the rest of their out of conference schedule.
3. Dayton (6-2)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. Central Connecticut 63-61, 12/11 @Old Dominion 71-74
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Western Carolina, 12/20 vs. Winthrop
The Flyers went 1-1 on the week as junior forward Chris Johnson drew a conference Honorable Mention for averaging 21.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in the week’s two games. The Central Connecticut game was too close, but the Monarchs of Old Dominion are the class of the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA), so the road loss, especially by the small margin, should not tarnish Dayton’s NCAA resume too much – not as much as the hiccup versus East Tennessee State. The key will be to limit additional losses, which may be difficult, given the Flyers will close out their out of conference schedule with a road game at Seton Hall followed by a two game home stand that features George Mason and New Mexico.
4. Xavier (6-2)
Last Week: 12/9 vs. Butler 51-49
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Wake Forest
As expected, the X-men beat Butler, albeit by a smaller-than-expected margin. Still adjusting to life without Brad Redford, Xavier’s lack of accuracy from beyond the arc has taken a valuable weapon out of their offensive arsenal. Ken Pomeroy has the Musketeers ranked #313 out of 345 for three point accuracy. Xavier has adjusted by taking fewer three point attempts (only 31.4% of their field goal attempts are threes). Lacking accuracy, Coach Chris Mack’s squad compounds the problem by not getting after the offensive boards (Ken Pomeroy ranks Xavier #253 in this category), something of a double penalty for the lack of accuracy. Wake Forest should be another win, as the Deacons are in bad straits, sporting a 5-4 record under new head coach Jeff Bzdelik.
5. Massachusetts (7-3)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Maine 56-68, 12/11 vs. Seton Hall 79-104
Next Week: Next game is 12/22 vs. Central Florida
Coach Derek Kellogg’s team is struggling with a three-game losing streak that dates back to their 12/4 game with Boston College. While the nucleus of Javorn Farrell, Freddy Riley and Anthony Gurley has emerged as the offensive engine, only Gurley to this point has proven a reliable offensive option. Farell in particular is struggling, especially with his two-point field goal attempts (40.6% from inside the arc). The Minutemen will have to wait until Central Florida visits on December 22 to try and stop the run at three.
6. Rhode Island (6-4)
Last Week: 12/8 @ Northeastern 79-67, 12/11 @ Quinnipiac 66-73
Next Week: 12/18 vs. New Hampshire
The Runnin’ Rams broke their two game skid with a 12 point-win over the Huskies of Northeastern last Wednesday, but the boo birds were out in force as fans sensed Rhodi’s post season prospects were severely reduced with their road loss to Quinnipiac last Saturday. Senior forward Delroy James drew his fifth consecutive weekly conference Honorable Mention as he led his Rhode Island team in four separate categories (scoring, rebounds, assists and steals) in the Rams’ win over Northeastern. Though Rhode Island has two more potential signature wins (Boston College at home 12/29 and Florida on the road 1/3) on their out of conference schedule, fans who sense Rhodi’s post season prospects are slipping away are directing a good deal of vitriol at Jim Baron. Rhode Island also received a verbal from 6’9 Jonathan Holton, a power forward out of Coral Gables HS in Florida. The high school senior, a Euro-style scorer, will need to put on some muscle and develop a handle to add another element to his game. Baron has had difficulty bringing in early verbals (Kyle Cain, Billy Baron…), so here is hoping Holton breaks that run of bad luck early verbals, and joins the program for the 2011-12 season.
7. La Salle (6-4)
Last Week: 12/9 @ Boston University 84-81, 12/11 vs. Villanova 81-84
Next Week: 12/17 vs. Bucknell
A good win at Boston University was partially negated by a one possession home loss to #13 ranked Villanova out of the Big East. The Explorers led by as much as 12 in the first half, and by nine midway through the second half, but Aaric Murray’s fourth foul at the 17:35 mark of the second half took one of the Explorers’ difference-makers off the floor for nearly ten minutes when the game was on the line. Junior Jerrell Williams earned an Honorable Mention from the conference for his 13 points on 4-10 (0-0, 4-10) and 5-5 shooting at BU and 20 points on 8-13 (0-0, 8-13) and 4-5 shooting versus Nova.
8. St. Bonaventure (5-3)
Last Week: 12/7 @ St. John’s 67-66, 12/11 vs. Niagara 61-65
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Ohio
The week had the Bonnies taking one step forward and one step back, as St. Bonaventure combined with Fordham to do a tag-team on St. John’s of the Big East, but then dropping a five point decision to Little Four rival Niagara four days later. Coach Mark Schmidt’s squad bested Fordham’s feat by beating the Johnnies in their Queens campus facility (Carnesecca Arena). Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson drew his third conference Honorable Mention for averaging a double-double (18.0 points, 12.5 rebounds) for the two games. Nicholson hit the game winner versus St. John’s, and scored his 1,000th point as a Bonnie versus Niagara.
9. Duquesne (4-4)
Last Week: 12/8 @ Wisconsin-Green Bay 81-71, 12/11 vs. West Virginia 61-64
Next Week: 12/18 vs. IUPUI
The Dukes broke their two-game slide with a win over Wisconsin-Green Bay last Wednesday, and took West Virginia to the last possession in their loss on Saturday. Freshman guard TJ McConnell made his quest for Rookie of the Year consideration official when he earned the conference Rookie of the Week honor for scoring team-high points in both of the Dukes’ games last week. McConnell scored 20 points versus Wisconsin-Green Bay on 8-10 shooting from the floor and 2-2 shooting from the line, then followed with 18 points versus West Virginia on a 7-14 outing from the field. Coach Ron Everhart’s squad will not most likely not grow any taller, they currently average, according to Pomeroy, 75.6 inches, good for #300 (out of 345) in D-I, so they might as well play faster. The Dukes currently push it at 71.3 possessions per game, ranked #36 (out of 345) by Ken Pomeroy.
10. Saint Louis (3-4)
Last Week: 12/11 @ Duke 47-84
Next Week: 12/15 vs. Jacksonville, 12/18 @ Missouri State
The game was a systemic failure. The Bills could not stop Duke, nor could (would?) they score consistently on the Blue Devils. The game was played for about 69 possessions, a slightly faster pace than Rick Majerus’ teams usually prefer. Duke converted at a fairly proficient 58.6% eFG%. The Billikens’ turnover rate – 31% — was unusually high for a Majerus-coached squad. This was a game not many could have been optimistic about at the beginning of the season, perhaps it is best to post it to the record book and move on…quickly.
The Billikens have two interesting opponents on tap for next week. Jacksonville sports a 6-2 record, but has problems converting field goal attempts efficiently. The Missouri State Bears dropped a 14 point decision to Oklahoma State last Saturday. While projected (by Ken Pomeroy) to win, the Bears do not steal/force turnovers much (that has to be a relief), foul too much and have difficulty defending the three point line effectively. That last observation should warm the hearts of Billiken faithful, though the Bills’ fate does not rise and fall on their three point efficiency, Saint Louis does convert enough (30.9% as of Sunday) to impact a game.
11. Charlotte (4-6)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. Winthrop 68-57, 12/11 @Davidson 68-82
Next Week: 12/17 vs. Tennessee
The 49ers limped through another 0.500 week, but senior guard Derrio Green drew his first conference Honorable Mention this season as he followed his 10 point output against Winthrop with a team-high 16 points versus Davidson. Sophomore center Chris Braswell also recorded a double digit week with 10 points against Winthrop and 15 against Davidson.
With the announcement that senior forward Shamari Spears had been dismissed from the team, coach Alan Major officially shifted his program into rebuild mode. Spears, a transfer from Boston College who started his second season in the Charlotte program, was slated to play his last year of college ball when he ran afoul of the new head coach over an indiscreet tweet earlier in December and was suspended indefinitely. Though some number of Charlotte fans may have hoped for a reconciliation, that apparently is not the way Major wanted to go.
12. Fordham (5-4)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Manhattan 73-59, 12/11 vs. St. John’s 84-81
Next Week: Next game 12/22 vs. Kennesaw State
It was weeks like this that Fordham fans could only dream about when Coach Tom Pecora was hired away from Hofstra. With their win over St. John’s last Saturday the Rams of Rose Hill have matched their win total for the past two seasons. Their current winning streak stands at three, the longest run in three seasons, and the first time since December of 2007 that Fordham has sported a record north of .500. Junior guard Brenton Butler was named conference Player of the Week as he followed his 21 point performance versus Manhattan with a 22 point performance against St. John’s. Butler knocked down a jumper with 14 seconds on the clock to push the Rams’ lead out to three, the eventual margin of victory. Good play is becoming contagious as junior forward Kevin Bristol recorded a double-double (11 points, 16 rebounds) versus Manhattan, which sophomore forward Chris Gaston followed on with a double-double (15 points, 13 rebounds) of his own versus St. John’s.
13. George Washington (3-5)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Towson 73-67
Next Week: 12/18 @Oregon State
The Colonials beat the Towson Tigers and will fly out to the West Coast for a game with Oregon State this weekend.
14. Saint Joseph‘s (3-7)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Minnesota 73-83, 12/11 @ Creighton 75-82
Next Week: Next game 12/21 vs. Boston University
With the loss over the weekend, the Hawks’ losing streak now sits at five. Phil Martelli’s squad takes next week off and will hopefully find some answers before Saint Joseph’s begins the last stretch of their out of conference schedule against Boston University on December 21.
A Look Ahead
The fall semester is winding down. The typical two/three-a-week games will give way to homework, papers and final examinations for the next one-two weeks. Most conference teams have zero or one game this week, with Saint Louis and La Salle jetting out to more exotic places just before or after Christmas to participate in the last round of invitational tournaments.
Rhode Island fans have to be anxious for the return of (academically) suspended Orion Outerbridge. If Outerbridge’s returns to good academic standing, he should be able to play as soon as the Fall semester is “officially” over, possibly in time for the Rams’ game with Lafayette on 12/22.
St. Louis’ suspended players, Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed, are not due back until the beginning of the spring semester, another (estimated) four-five weeks away. Given the two must reapply for admissions, there is little if no certainty that the two will be back at all.