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 Back – Hanging 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.
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).