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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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2009

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

Go-to Guys

The term “Go-to” guy was Ken Pomeroy’s first attempt to describe a player who took more than 25% of his team’s possessions and shots when he was on the floor. The term might be a cliche, a slight misrepresentation even, so Pomeroy over time modified the adjective several times, eventually settling on “Major Contributor” to describe a player who took 24% or more of the team’s possessions (irrespective of the number of minutes played).

Who are the “Go-to” guys of the A10? If the first 10-12 games of the season are an indication, these 27 players will find their names in game previews, usually at the end of sentences that begin “…must shut down.” And of course in postgame newspaper and blog accounts. Maybe even a highlight spot or two. Note, the A10′s All-Conference team pool is not limited to these players alone (there is, after all, about 224 conference games still to play), but more than a few of these guys will find their way onto voter ballots by late February.

Player stats for games through 12/20/09. Many thanks to Ken Pomeroy for providing player breakdowns on his web site.

The names ought to be familiar, especially if the reader follows the conference’s Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week awards. Ten of the players listed above have earned “OtW” (“Of the Week”) recognition at least once. To be sure more will be recognized before the end of the regular season.

Shamari Spears and Darrio Green (Charlotte) are typical of a number of players in the table — “Significant/Major Contributors” in either (or both of) possessions and shots, but a bit light on playing time (Min%). I set the lower (%Min) boundary at 50% in an effort to find those players whose time is/will be increasing over the course of the non-conference schedule. It’s a shame Jio Fontan bailed out on Fordham this season, as the sophomore could have paired with freshman Chris Gaston to form a potent scoring combination on both the perimeter and with penetration in the lane. Instead he will sit a year at another school, rumored to be USC, before he can resume his career. La Salle’s freshman Aaric Murray forms a kind of odd couple with senior guard Rodney Green. According to Ken Pomeroy’s inside/outside measure, Green is an “inside” player with a rating of 9.7, but the 6’10, 250 pound Murray, with a rating of 3.0, veers more to neutral (0.0) than even Green. Murray has taken 17 3-point attempts (and converted 9) and gotten to the line for only 20 free throw attempts. Murray’s 98.1 offensive rating is typical of freshmen (see also Chris Gaston and Carl Jones of St. Joseph’s). In time he will learn to use his body to score more efficiently near the basket, instead of stepping away from the defender for a three. St. Louis’ pair, Willie Reed and Kwamain Mitchell, along with Xavier’s Jordan Crawford, epitomize the notion of the “Go-to” guy — they combine lots of minutes (well maybe not so much for Mitchell…) with high usage (possessions and shot taking) and efficiency (ORtgs greater than their team). These guys consume a lot of possessions, but they make their teams better in the process.

And Then There Is…

I wanted to keep the list to 1-2 players per team at most, but a few teams/player combinations posed a challenge. Charlotte, Duquesne and La Salle are cases in point. Charlotte’s freshman Chris Braswell will most likely make the short list for the All-Conference Newcomers team, but his 24.8% possession rate was probably inflated by his 26.5 turnover rate. His 98.3 offensive rating (about 0.98 points per possession), though low for a “go-to” type player, is typical for a freshman. Braswell may well find the ball in his hands at a crucial juncture of a few of Charlotte’s games this season, but Green and Spears will probably have to pass on their shots first. La Salle’s junior forward, Jerrell Williams, also had a high possesion rate (about 24.4%), but took relatively few shots, 18.6%, more typical of a role or basic “starter”, rather than a go-to type player. The difference between possession and shot rates may be explained by Williams’ outstanding offensive rebounding rate (15%) and FTA/FGA rate (about 90%). Duquesne’s Malquan Bolding has been out with a broken wrist, injured  in the Dukes’ first game of the season. His offensive role may well have passed to guards Bill Clark and Eric Evans. Bolding logged an offensive rating of 102.7 by the end of the 2009 season, an efficiency mark Evans (79.7) and Clark (99.5) have been unable to achieve, though both were more efficient last season than this. Which may explain in part why the Dukes have been tagged with four losses so early in this season. The last two, a road loss to Summit League member UIPIU and a blowout in Morgantown at the hands of West Virginia, have to be especially damaging to Duquesne’s postseason expectations. Temple’s Lavoy Allen takes even fewer possessions just below “Regular” (or Pomeroy’s new descriptor “Significant Contributor”), but any team taking on the Owls has to account for Allen’s board work, under both baskets, and his efficienct conversion rate (52% eFG%). Richmond’s David Gonzalvez logs 82% of the minutes, takes 21.3% of the shots and converts at a very efficient 59.8% (eFG%), but possessions, and even shots when compared to Anderson (and Harper when he is in) suggest those two get looks before Gonzalvez. Too bad, given that his offensive rating is an outstanding 117.4 (100.0 is good). If he could develop consistency, game-to-game, Coach Mooney would probably figure out how to get him more looks and shots.

Standings as of 12/29/09

  1. Temple (10-2)
  2. Rhode Island (10-1)
  3. Charlotte (10-2)
  4. Dayton (10-2)
  5. Richmond ((10-3)
  6. George Washington (9-2)
  7. Duquesne (9-4)
  8. St. Louis (9-4)
  9. Xavier (8-4)
  10. La Salle (7-5)
  11. St. Bonaventure (6-5)
  12. Massachusetts (6-6)
  13. Saint Joseph’s (4-7)
  14. Fordham (2-9)

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

The 49ers hosted Mercer Tuesday night, beating them soundly, 91-80, before 5,400 hometown fans. Dario Green and Shamari Spears (see above) led the way with 23 points apiece. Freshman forward Chris Braswell logged his fifth double-double of he season, scoring 14 points to go with 14 rebounds. Reserve center Phil Jones also scored 10 points. The 49ers have won 8 of their last 9 games.

Charlotte will host the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech on Saturday (1/2) and then travel to Knoxville to play Tennessee next Wednesday (1/6) before they open their A10 schedule against St. Bonaventure.

Dayton

The Flyers dropped out of the rankings on the heels of their 1-2 trip to Puerto Rico at the end of November are back and knocking at the door this week. The AP has them ranked #28 (listed among “those receiving votes”), 50 votes below #25 Northwestern. While guard Marcus Johnson is working himself back into game shape after his sprained ankle, wing Luke Fabrizius is doubtful, having not practiced (according to local reports) last week. Guard Chris Johnson was also doubtful, but the sophomore wing logged 16 minutes off the bench, scoring 12 points in Dayton’s 74-60 win over Boston University on Tuesday (12/29). Rob Lowery might be approaching 100%, the guard led all scorers with 23 points in 23 minutes of play. Forward Chris Wright was the third Flyer to log double digit minutes with his 19 points on 8-10 (0-1, 8-9) and 3-4 shooting. The Flyers led end-to-end, with a 2-2 tie the closest Boston came.

Dayton will celebrate New Year’s at New Mexico’s home court, the Pit, in Albuquerque, then return home to host Ball State on Tuesday (1/5) before opening their A10 schedule with Duquesne a week from Saturday (1/9).

Duquesne

The Dukes await the return of Melquan Bolding as they travel to Norfolk, VA, to play Old Dominion Wednesday night (12/30). Duquesne will then take another week to get ready for Richmond on 1/6.

Fordham

Coach Grasso’s team will take a Southern Swing before starting their A10 schedule. Against the Kennesaw State Owls, the Rams lost a 13 decision, 79-66 on Tuesday (12/29). Chris Gaston logged his eighth double-double of the season, and led the Rams in scoring, notching 26 points on 11-23 (0-2, 11-21) and 4-8 shooting. Senior guard Brenton Butler scored 25 points on 9-21 (2-7, 7-14) and 5-5 shooting. Butler tied his season-high effort against Stony Brook, and has now scored 20 or more points 8 times in his 4 years on Rose Hill. Fordham heads up to Virginia to play Hampton on 1/3.

George Washington

The Colonials squeaked by the Crusaders, 70-68, extending their run to 5 of the last 6 games, as they have won 5 road games so far this season. Damian Hollis scored a team-high 19 points on 7-14 (1-4, 6-10) and 4-4 shooting. Freshman forward Dwayne Smith broke his career-high 19 minutes at East Carolina with a 21 minute run Monday night. Smith’s 13 points were second on the team. Sophomore guard Tony Taylor chipped in 10 points and 5 assists in 36 minutes of play.

George Washington will swing into Cambridge, MA to play Harvard Wednesday (12/30), then return home and close out their OOC schedule with a game against cross-town rival Howard on Saturday 1/2.

La Salle

La Salle dropped a 78-75 decision to Cornell of the Ivy League on Tuesday (12/29) at the Tom Gola Arena on campus. Big Red senior forward Ryan Wittman led all scorers with a 34 point on 11-21 (4-9, 7-12) and 2-3 shooting. The win can only fuel speculation that Cornell head coach Steve Donahue, a former assistant under Fran Dunphy at Penn, will be a “person of interest” as Penn AD Steve Bilsky looks around for a candidate for the Quakers’ vacant coaching position. Rodney Green led the Explorers with 19 points, as all of their starters scored double digit points.

The Explorers will take to the road to play Binghamton on Saturday (1/2), then open their A10 schedule against Xavier on 1/6.

Massachusetts

The Minutemen swing back into action on Wednesday (12/30) with a trip to Davidson. They return to host Fordham in their A10 opening game on 1/6.

Rhode Island

Someone has noticed the Rams’ great start as Rhode Island received 5 votes in the AP’s 12/27 poll, making them the 3rd A10 team to receive votes in the poll this week. The nine day layover ended Tuesday (12/29) as the Rams squeezed by the Dragons of Drexel University 80-79 in Philadelphia. Rhode Island was led by senior guard Keith Cothran’s game-high 28 points (no surprise, see table above), augmented by rotation player Orion Outerbridge, a sophomore forward who scored 13 points on 5-6 (0-0, 5-6) and 3-5 shooting, in just 16 minutes of play.

The Rams travel to Uncasville, CT to meet Oklahoma State in the 9,500 seat arena in the Mohegan Sun casino on Saturday (1/2). Not quite a neutral setting, the Rams have a great opportunity for a Top 50 RPI win (Ok State is #40) for their resume. Rhode Island will close out their out of conference schedule with a trip to Ohio to take on the Akron Zips on Tuesday (1/5).

Richmond

The Spiders scraped by UNC-Wilmington 66-64 on Monday night. Richmond took a 5 point lead into the locker room at the half,but lost it quickly in the 2nd half, dropping behind by 10 at the 5:00 mark. Led by Kevin Anderson who scored 13 points (with support from David Gonzalvez and junior forward Kevin Smith), the Spiders launched a 22-10 blitz to overtake the Seahawks and close out the game.

Richmond will take an extended road trip as a bridge to the New Year. They face Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, NC on Thursday (12/31), then travel to Lewisburg, PA to play the Bison of Bucknell on Saturday (1/2), then swing down to Pittsburgh to open their A10 schedule against Duquesne the following Wednesday (1/6).

Saint Joseph’s

Congratulations to Carl Baptiste for his Rookie of the Week honor. The forward scored a career-high 13 points in 22 minutes of play when the Hawks downed Lehigh,77-66, on 12/20. The Hawks lost to the Saints of Siena 92-75 in Albany, NY on Tuesday (12/29). Junior forward Idris Hilliard scored a team-high 13 points as the Hawks were again outrebounded 29-39 by an opponent.

Saint Joseph’s will host the Princeton Tigers at the Hagan on Saturday (1/2), then travel across town to play Temple on 1/6.

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies play their last game of 2009 on Wednesday (12/30), hosting Canisius in Olean, NY. They then take to the road to play Marshall Saturday (1/2) before starting their A10 schedule by hosting George Washington the following Wednesday (1/6).

St. Louis

The Conference Office named Kwamain Mitchell the Player of the Week, citing his career-high 33 points scored in St. Louis’ 61-54 win over Missouri-Kansas City and noting that 20 of those points came in the 2nd half. The Billikens hosted, and clobbered, Eastern Illinois, 60-42 on Tuesday (12/29). Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed led all scorers with 19 and 13 points respectively. Mitchell shot 7-17 (5-12, 2-5) and 0-0, while Reed’s numbers were 5-7 (0-0, 5-7) and 3-6.

The Billikens travel to Bowling Green for a game with the Falcons on Saturday (1/2), then return home to open the A10 season against Richmond the following Saturday (1/9).

Temple

Coach Dunphy’s Owls strangled the MAC’s Bowling Green, 63-39, on Monday night. Concerned the semester break would cut into attendance, Temple moved the game to the old McGonigle Hall, where, according to reports, they sold out their 3,700 seat gym and even turned fans away. The Owls donned retro unis reminiscent of the 1990s when playing in McGonigle and residing in the AP Top 25 were the norm. Maybe the old time feeling accounts for the smothering defense they put on the Falcons, as the Owls limited Bowling Green to an outstanding 0.66 points per possession in a game that played for about 59 possessions. Temple’s 1.06 ppp is very respectable. Ryan Brooks, Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez continued to dominate possessions and shots, with junior Lavoy Allen again contributing as a 4th/5th option on offense. Brooks played virtually the entire game (90% of the available minutes) and logged an impressive eFG% of 81.8% (with a PPWS of 1.54), Ramone scored an notable 17 points in 21 minutes, recording an eFG% of 83.3% and a PPWS of 1.56. The duo of Fernandez, and Allen (along with senior guard Luiz Guzman) logged eFG%s in the range of 50.0 – 55.0 as well.

The Owls close out the MAC portion of their schedule at Northern Illinois on Wednesday (12/30) when they travel to De Kalb, IL. Temple plays D1-A (Bowl Division) football in the Mid American Conference, and are obligated to schedule 4 teams from that conference in basketball. Temple’s standing should help the MAC’s conference RPI this season. Temple will return to Philadelphia to host Kansas on Saturday night (1/2) before starting their A10 schedule with a game against Saint Joseph’s on 1/6.

Xavier

Xavier hosted Louisana State on Tuesday (12/29) and pummelled the Tigers 89-65 at the Cintas Center. Four Musketeers, led by guard Terrell Holloway’s 20 points, scored in double digits. Junior forward Jamel McLean recorded his second career double-double (10 & 10) and the first this season. X’s record versus Top 100 (RPI) teams improves to 3-3.

The Musketeers take to the road with a game in Winston-Salem, NC against Wake Forest on Sunday (1/3). And then to Philadelphia to open their A10 schedule against La Salle next Thursday (1/7).

Games to Catch

  • Richmond at Wake Forest, Thursday 12/31 – This is the last big OOC opponent for the Spiders. And another opportunity for a top 75 RPI win (the Demon Deacons’ RPI is #51).  Richmond’s front court contingent, Dan Geriot, Justin Harper and Ryan Butler will have to match up with the Deacons’ Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland.
  • Dayton at New Mexico, Friday 1/1 – New Mexico’s home court, the Pit, is a notoriously difficult place for a visitor to win. The Lobos, expected to contend in the Mountain West Conference this season, are off to a 12-1 start and sport a #16 RPI. A good line on the resume and a great confidence builder going into conference play (the Flyers are 3-2 when playing away from their home court), if the Flyers can bring home a win.
  • Temple vs Kansas,  Saturday 1/2 — The #19 ranked Owls host #1 ranked Kansas in a game that could be a signature win for their tournament resume, and boost their chances of an at-large bid should they fail to win the A10 Tournament.
  • Charlotte vs Georgia Tech, Saturday 1/2 — Ranked #20 in the Coaches’ Poll, the Jackets are Charlotte’s second ACC opponent this season, and provide a great opportunity to add another signature win to their resume.
  • Rhode Island vs Oklahoma State, Saturday 1/2 — The Rams have a short  trip down I-95 (to I-395) to Uncasville, CT where they will match up with the #40 ranked (RPI) Cowboys in a sort of neutral site game. Big 12 teams have been very tough to beat this season (ask Dayton, La Salle and Xavier). A good win if the Rams can bring it home.
  • Xavier at Wake Forest, Sunday 1/3 — The Demon Deacons are the X-Men’s last BCS opponent this season.  Xavier is 1-3 (thank heaven for LSU!), so this one is for the tournament resume. Win or lose, another road test can only make the Musketeers stronger for conference play.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by jstevrtc on December 25th, 2009

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

Road Warriors

A few BCS schools developed reputations for rarely venturing far from their home arenas during their out of conference seasons and relying on their conference’s RPI to bolster their resumes come Selection Sunday.  Coach Jim Calhoun masked the inexperience of his 2007 Huskies by keeping them at home from early November to late December where they ran off 11 straight wins and rose to #12 in the polls.  They opened the Big East season with a 10 point loss to West Virginia, and continued to implode with an 6-14 record through January, February and early March.  The 1st round of the Big East Tournament was their post-season.  Florida State’s Len Hamilton nursed his 2006 Seminole squads to an 9-1 OOC record, leaving home once before ACC conference play (a loss to in state rival Florida).  FSU finished with a 9-7 conference record, and despite a signature win over #1-ranked Duke at the end of the conference season, could not tease a dance bid out of the Selection Committee come Selection Sunday.

A10 coaches have no illusions that the conference’s reputation (however good among the non-BCS conferences) will carry a bubble team into the field of 65.  While few subscribe to former Temple head coach John Chaney’s “Anyone, Anywhere” philosophy, everyone recognizes the virtue of playing invitational tournaments and having a healthy dose of road games on the resume.  Most of their OOC resume-building games may come from traditional rivalries and invitational fields, but the road games, at worst, help their squads prepare for the hostile crowds they will face when playing conference opponents.  How did the conference members do this OOC season?

The statistics, drawn from each team’s Game Plan page at Ken Pomeroy’s website, shows the team’s road (away and neutral site) record, the team’s efficiency (points per possession the team scored – offense and allowed – defense), the team’s shot efficiency (on offense and defense) and the estimated average possessions per game.

Temple looks better with each passing week.  The road wins in particular are very encouraging and suggest the Owls will be able to score and defend in hostile venues. Seton Hall is a resume win, and the 46-45 loss at Georgetown (provided the Hoyas don’t implode again in 2010…) will be a good loss.  The nucleus of Fernandez, Brooks, Allen and Guzman (see Temple Team Capsule below) are putting together a very nice run, which they may well be able to sustain going into conference play.  File Rhode Island and Charlotte under “Surprised in a Good Way” also.  Though the Rams’ slate is a bit light (they did not participate in any MTE tournaments this season), it does include a double-digit win over Boston College from the ACC and a 2 point loss to a well-regarded 7-2 Virginia Commonwealth team on 12/2.  Charlotte was torched early in the season by Duke at the Cameron, but has bounced back nicely with double-digit wins over Hofstra, Louisville of the Big East and Winthrop, each of whom has a record of .500 or better.

Filed under “Surprised in a Bad Way” — try Dayton, Duquesne and Richmond. The Flyers participated in the Puerto Rico Tip Off and started strong, taking out Georgia Tech in their first round.  They dropped their next two games to two more BCS teams (Villanova and Kansas State) and have scraped by their two road opponents — Miami, OH and George Mason.  Mason having a down year, is teetering at .500 (5-5) at this point and will, should the trend continue, watch the post-season on CBS and ESPN.  Duquesne started out well, housing Iowa in their second game of the season, but the two-overtime, neutral court loss to Pittsburgh seems to have thrown the team out of synch. They were hammered by West Virginia and lost to UIPIU last weekend.  The Jaguars may be the pick of the litter in the Summit League, but they too have taken three double-digit beatings.  Hardly makes for a stirring endorsement of the Dukes.  Bolding’s return may spark the Dukes, but heading into conference play (they have 2 more OOC games left), Duquesne’s prospects for A10 road wins seem uncertain at best.  Taking South Carolina may have been a stretch for Richmond, but their losses to in-state rivals William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth (both of the CAA) gives me pause to think.  Those games most resemble the conference road conditions Richmond will probably encounter in conference play.  Both may have been “close” losses, but they were losses nevertheless.

George Washington’s 4-0 road record may look impressive, but know the opponents were UNC – Wilmington, Boston University, Navy and Towson. Not a BCS team to be found in a group whose collective record is 15-24.  Their extended, post holiday trek through New England should provide a bit more insight into the state of the program and their prospects in conference road play.  The unimpressive road/neutral records posted by Xavier, Massachusetts, Saint Joseph’s and St. Louis (a combined 3-18) maybe due in large measure to the youth of all three squads.  Ken Pomeroy ranks them by experience level as #259, #305, #156 and #346 respectively, out of D1’s 347 D1.

Standings as of – 12/21/09:

  1. Temple (9-2)
  2. Rhode Island (9-1)
  3. Charlotte (9-2)
  4. Dayton (9-2)
  5. Richmond (9-3)
  6. George Washington (8-2)
  7. Duquesne (8-4)
  8. La Salle (7-4)
  9. Xavier (7-4)
  10. St. Louis (8-4)
  11. St. Bonaventure (6-5)
  12. Massachusetts (6-6)
  13. Saint Joseph’s (4-6)
  14. Fordham (2-8)

Team Rundowns…

Charlotte

Taking to the road, the 49ers beat Winthrop by ten, 57-47, on Sunday (12/20).  Junior forward Shamari Spears delivered from the field, going 5-11 from the floor for 13 points (his 45.5% shooting percentage well ahead of the team’s overall 39.1%), while senior point guard DiJuan Harris delivered from the line, hitting 7 of 8 free throws to pace Charlotte to the win.  Junior center Phil Jones grabbed 11 rebounds as the taller, more physical 49er team dominated with inside play.  The A10 team received ten more free throw opportunities than the host, and made the most of the advantage by converting 13 more times, going 18-22, compared to 5-12 for the Eagles. There indeed was the margin of victory.  Charlotte has now won five straight, all by double-digits.  The Niners traveled to Old Dominion on Wednesday (12/23) for one last game before the Holidays and got thumped, 81-48, after shooting 16% in the first half and appearing generally uninterested.  They resume their schedule when they host Mercer on the 29th.

Dayton

The Flyers beat Presbyterian by 19 (71-52) at the UD Arena on Saturday (12/19), paced by junior forward Chris Wright and senior back-up point guard Mickey Perry, each of whom scored 15 points.  Perry, normally in the rotation for about 17 minutes per game saw 25 minutes when off-guard Marcus Johnson went down with an ankle sprain in the 1st half.  Redshirt freshman Josh Benson scored 10 points, also in extended action, when starter Chris Johnson left the game after a blow to the head, also sustained in the 1st half.  Dayton beat Appalachian State, 65-49, on Monday night.  The Blue Hose and Mountaineers should have been double digit wins, and the Dayton team many expected in November appears to be rounding into form as the conference season approaches.  Wright and Perry led the team in scoring for both games, grossing 29 and 30 points apiece respectively for the two games.  The Flyers return to action after the Holidays with a game versus Boston University on the 29th.  They will ring in the New Year in Albuquerque, New Mexico as they take on the Lobos of New Mexico on New Year’s Day.

Duquesne

The Dukes needed two overtimes to put down the Griffins of Canisius 86-77 on Wednesday 12/16.  Duquesne used size and speed to force turnovers and alter shots, but they did not control the boards.  The game, played for 68 possessions (adjusted for the overtimes), was a bit low for Duquesne home games this season.  The Dukes’ offensive efficiency was about 1.00 (points per possession), very slightly above their home court average, the defense, at 0.90, was higher than the Dukes’ 0.81 home average, suggesting the stifling defense, especially on opponent’s shooting, was simply not there.  Duquesne dropped a nine point road game, 73-64, to IUPUI in Indianapolis, IN on Saturday 12/19.  Continuing a trend for road games, Duquesne’s defensive efficiency again turned in a >1.00 defensive effort, 1.05 this time.  The Iowa game in November aside, the Dukes have had problems keeping opponent’s points per possession under 1.00 this season.  The culprits appear to be shot defense (the Dukes let the Jaguars hit at a 56.5% eFG% clip) and rebounding.  Duquesne hosts St. Francis, PA on Tuesday 12/22, then break for Christmas. They finish their OOC schedule with a trip to Virginia to play the Monarchs of Old Dominion on Wednesday 12/30.

Fordham

The Rams “hosted” Villanova at the IZOD Center, in the New Jersey Meadowlands last Saturday.  Before a Villanova-friendly crowd, Fordham dropped a 96-53 decision to the #9-ranked Wildcats.  The good news has to be that forward Chris Gaston had another good day scoring.  Another Ram has to step into the vacuum left by Jio Fontan.  Fordham faced James Madison in Virginia on Wednesday and dropped a disappointing one, 85-73, after leading by nine at the half.  They now break for the Holiday.  They resume their pre-conference road trip with games against Kennesaw State (in Georgia, Tuesday 12/29) and Hampton (back to Virginia, Sunday 1/3) in the fortnight before they take on Massachusetts in their A10 opener.

George Washington

George Washington took a week to finish the fall semester.  They squeaked out an 84-80 victory at  East Carolina on Tuesday 12/22, led by Damian Hollis’ 21/3 and Tony Taylor’s 20/6/4.  They will take a New England road trip the week after Christmas, facing Holy Cross in Worcester, MA on Monday 12/28, then travelling east to Cambridge, MA to face Harvard on Wednesday 12/30.  They will return to Washington to face cross-town rival Howard on Saturday 1/2.

La Salle

The Explorers beat Bucknell, 83-70, at home on Saturday then dropped a road game to Oklahoma State 77-62, on Monday night.  The Explorers continue to feel the effects of being an undermanned squad.  With senior PG Ruben Guillandeaux out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his right foot, and senior swingman Kimmani Barrett nursing a fractured middle finger on his non-shooting hand, La Salle needs to free Rodney Green to cut and shoot, rather than take over the ball-handling duties.  Green continues to lead the Explorers in points scored — he scored 22 in each of last week’s games (Barrett scored the team-high 23 points versus Bucknell), but needs to maintain his stamina through the end of the game.  La Salle will host Cornell on 12/29 in what may be their last best chance to score a signature win in the OOC. Cornell beat St. John’s to take the ECAC Holiday Festival on Monday (12/21) night.

Massachusetts

Coach Derek Kellogg’s squad scored their best win of the season Saturday night when they downed the Tigers of Memphis 73-72 in Boston.  Freshman Terrell Vinson scored a team-high 21 points on 8-13 (0-1, 8-12) and 5-7 shooting.  Vinson grabbed nine boards, missing the chance to log his second consecutive double-double.  The Minutemen headed out of town to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College on Wednesday night and were stifled from beyond the three-point arc, shooting 3-21 (14.3%) resulting in a 67-79 loss to the Eagles.  After the Holiday break they conclude their OOC schedule with a trip into the South to play Davidson on Wednesday 12/30.

Rhode Island

The Rams extended their winning streak to five when they beat Fairfield 89-84 on Saturday (12/20).  Senior guard Keith Cochran stepped back a bit in this game, letting the forward tandem of Delroy James and Lamonte Ulmer take the offensive lead.  The seniors did not disappoint, scoring 21 and 20 points, respectively.  James logged his first double-double of the season by grabbing 11 rebounds as well.  Marquis Jones and Stevie Mejia handled the point guard duties effectively, dishing ten assists (with only four turnovers) between them.  Rhode Island has three more OOC games before they commence conference play, the first coming next Tuesday (12/29) when they travel to Philadelphia to play Drexel.

Richmond

The Spiders dropped their road game to South Carolina last Wednesday (12/16), 76-58.  The result may not have surprised; after all, Devan Downey, Sam Muldrow and Brandis Raley-Ross can be a handful, especially in front of a Gamecock-friendly crowd.  The margin was troubling as the Spiders will — should their fortunes during conference play pan out –  be looking for an at-large bid from the selection committee come that Sunday in March.  Justin Harper, Dan Geriot and Kevin Anderson took large amounts of the possessions when they were on the floor (29.5%, 28.4% and 30.0% respectively — Anderson played the entire game), but of that core only Harper converted efficiently.  With an eFG% of 54.2% and a PPWS of 1.16, Harper developed an offensive rating of 111.6; an offensive rating greater than 100 is good, greater than 110 is very good.  For Geriot and Anderson however, the numbers were not nearly as impressive.  Both converted (eFG%) in the high 30s to mid 40s, but worse, both lost high percentages of their possessions:  Geriot lost 30.4% of his possessions, while for Anderson the number was 26.1%.  Where was David Gonzalvez? Out of action with four fouls, for starters.  The senior guard logged only 65% of the minutes, in large measure because he picked up his second foul at the 12 minute mark of the first half, sat for five minutes, came back in for another five minutes before picking up his third foul for the half.  Gonzalvez picked up his fourth foul two minutes into the second half, and found himself watching as the Spiders four point advantage became a five point deficit.  The Spiders managed to bring the score to a tie, 52-52, with eight minutes left, but the Gamecocks launched a 24-6 run over the last eight minutes, running away from the Spiders and handing them their third road loss of the season.  Richmond bounced back with a 56-53 win over #13 Florida in the Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday.  The game, played at Sunrise, FL (and not Florida’s homecourt at Gainesville), found the Spiders paced by the backcourt duo of Gonzalvez (16 points) and Anderson (14 points).  The two minute mark of the 1st half found the Spiders down by 13 (32-19), but Gonzalvez and senior center Geriot scored five unanswered points.  Still trailing by eight (32-24), Coach Mooney and his squad took to the locker room to regroup.  A 22-5 run over the first nine minutes of the 2nd half saw the Spiders blow by the Gators and take a nine point lead.  The Gators scored six unanswered points (a jumper by Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin, two converted free throws by sophomore guard Erving Walker and a layup by senior forward Dan Werner) to cut the deficit to three over the next 90 seconds.  The two teams were locked in a tug-of-war, never separated by more than four points (and tied twice) for the last 9:30 of the game.  The Spiders took the lead for good on a Gonzalvez three-pointer at the 1:34 mark, and the Spiders hit their free throws down the stretch to bring home the win.  After beating UNC – Greensboro, 89-63 (David Gonzalves posted a season-high 25 points), the Spiders can now break for the holidays.  Richmond will return to action on the 28th against another North Carolina school, the Seahawks of UNC – Wilmington.  The Spiders will spend New Year’s Eve on the road with yet a third North Carolina school, the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest.

Saint Joseph’s

The Hawks beat Lehigh 77-66 on Sunday (12/20) and are off until after Christmas.  Senior guard Darrin Govens paced the team with 15 points, while three others, starting sophomore guard Chris Prescott along with two freshmen, forward Carl Baptiste and guard Carl Jones chipped in 13 apiece.  Sophomore forward Bryant Irwin scored a career-high 11 points.  Saint Joseph’s will travel to Albany, NY and will face the Siena Saints on Tuesday (12/29).

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies dropped a 13-point decision to the Orange of Syracuse 85-72, Saturday (12/19).  Sophomore forward Andrew Nicholson and senior guard Chris Matthew led the Bonnies with 18 and 17 points, respectively. The Orange answered with 17, 18 and 17 points from junior forward Rick Jackson, transfer wing Wes Johnson and sophomore forward Kris Joseph, respectively.  St. Bonaventure traveled to Little Three rival Niagara on Tuesday (12/22) for one last game before Christmas, but couldn’t get the job done, losing 71-77.  They return to action on Wednesday the 30th, as they host Canisius.

St. Louis

Coach Majerus’ squad beat Belmont, 75-67, on Wednesday (12/16), then lost to Missouri State, 73-63, on Saturday (12/19).  Sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell, poked in the right eye with 2:59 to go in the Belmont game, was held out of the Missouri State game.  The Billikens could have used his 14.3 PPG on Saturday.  After winning by seven (61-54) at home against Missour-Kansas City on Tuesday 12/22, the Billikens break for Christmas, and return to action against Eastern Illinois on Tuesday 12/29.  Let’s hope Mitchell’s recovery is swift and complete.

Temple

Looking for a definition for “on a roll?”  Check out the Owls!

After knocking off Villanova on the 13th, the Owls headed up the New Jersey Turnpike to Newark and housed the Seton Hall Pirates in their downtown arena, the Rock.  Down by 13 twice early in the 2nd half, Temple took a 40-21 run in the last 16 minutes to hand yet another Big East team their first loss of the season.  The two game snapshot above suggests that a nucleus of Ryan Brooks, Juan Fernandez and Lavoy Allen has taken the reins on offense and has efficiently converted possessions into points.  Fernandez and Brooks took turns having career games, but that each was able to step in is a very good sign going forward.  Scootie Randall and Craig Williams should see their minutes grow; Randall because he has provided timely offense in both games, and Williams has taken the injured Michael Eric’s spot in the rotation.  Of particular interest is the Owls’ rebounding.  They dominated both of their Big East opponents, a bit surprising given the Big East’s reputation for physical inside play.  Especially noteworthy is the defensive rebounding coach Fran Dunphy is getting from his backcourt and wing players (Brooks, Guzman, Moore and Di Leo); 15% is a good number for a front court player, the 14%+ the four are registering is terrific.  Allen and Williams’ DR% is phenomenal, but simply not sustainable.  Guzman’s turnovers are high, but he has brought the ball up against two teams known for their press and ability to harass ball handlers.  Like Allen and Williams’ defensive rebounding, the number will probably not hold.

Xavier

The Musketeers traveled to Indianapolis, IN to take on the Butler Bulldogs, losing a 69-68 nail-biter on an unusual clock malfunction.  Xavier trailed through the first half, dropping behind by double digits ranging out to 15. They closed the gap to seven before the break, then came out with an 11-0 run to overtake the Bulldogs.  Jason Love and Kenny Frase were beginning to control the paint, as Terrell Hollaway hit several critical threes from the outside.  The X-Men were held the lead for over 13 minutes in the second half, but a Butler surge tied the game at the four-minute mark, and the teams traded the lead (and tied) five more times over the last four minutes.  Jordan Crawford’s trey with 45 seconds left broke the fourth tie and gave Xavier a three point cushion.  Holloway’s fifth foul at the 39 second mark put Butler guard Shelvin Mack on the line.  Mack hit both free throws, but Xavier had possession with just over a shot clock’s worth of time left.  A steal by Butler guard/forward Gordon Hayward with 36 seconds left gave Butler three tries (two misses and offensive rebounds) before Hayward converted on a layup with an unknown amount of time left on the clock.  According to the clock itself there appeared to be 1.8 seconds left, but the time keeper reported an earlier malfunction had prevented the clock from starting properly earlier in the Butler possession.  The referees (D.J. Carstensen, Sid Rodeheffer and Bo Borowski) decided there was no time left and called the game.  Xavier then hosted in-state rival Miami, OH on Wednesday 12/23.  The Muskies almost fell victim once again to a clock-related question at the end of that one.  Xavier’s Dante Jackson stole an in-bounds pass with less than seven seconds left which would have sealed the Xavier victory, but the play was blown dead because one of the zebras was checking the clock.  On the re-do, Miami’s Kenny Hayes missed a long three at the buzzer that would have tied it and Xavier won, 70-67.  After breaking for the Holiday, the Musketeers will conclude the OOC portion of their season with two BCS opponents — LSU (at home) on Tuesday 12/29 and Wake Forest (in Winston-Salem) on Sunday 1/3.

Games to Catch

  • La Salle vs Cornell, Tuesday 12/29 — The Big Red are heavy favorites to grab the Ivy’s bid to the NCAA.  I am interested, given Cornell’s win over St. John’s (a team looking to improve it’s standing in the Big East this season) in the ECAC Holiday Festival, to see how the Explorers match up.
  • Xavier vs LSU, Tuesday 12/29 — The Musketeers host the Tigers during holiday week.  While LSU was not expected to be a force in the SEC West this season, Xavier has a good chance to match up (indirectly) with two BCS teams expected to make some noise in their respective conferences, Connecticut and Arizona State.  The Huskies beat the Tigers by 26 at the NIT Season Tip-Off (semifinal game), while the Sun Devils took LSU by 19 a round later.
  • Richmond at Wake Forest, Thursday 12/31 — The Spiders get another road test, this time against ACC contender Wake. The Spiders’ front court contingent of Dan Geriot, Justin Harper and Ryan Butler will have to match up with the Deacons’ Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland.
  • Dayton at New Mexico, Friday 1/1 — The Lobos are not a BCS power, nor are they favored to take their conference bid (the Mountain West) this season.  But their homecourt, an 18,000 seat hole-in-the-ground in Albuquerque, NM known simply as “The Pit,” is a legend.  A notoriously difficult place for visitors to win.  The Flyers are expected to win the A10 title this season, and The Pit will be a good place to get ready for hostile crowds, and lots of noise.
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