Joe Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.
A Look Back
Won-loss Records vs. Net Efficiency: Net efficiencies through Monday of this week (2/7/2011) give us a better sense of the conference race than the won-loss standings. With the front-runners (Xavier and Duquesne) taking losses last week, the race appears to have tightened up with just over three weeks (and 43.8% of the slate) left to play. As the table below illustrates, two teams, Duquesne and Xavier, are tied for the lead with two others, Temple and Richmond, tied for third a single game behind the leaders. Four more teams, Dayton, George Washington, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are tied for fourth just two games out of third place and four games out of first, all with seven games left to play.
The won-loss standings are deceptive however, as the table below reveals. The positive-negative split is five and nine, well off of the seven team split one would expect, and definitely at odds with the eight-five above-below 0.500 split based on conference records. The efficiency split suggests the top four teams at least are far better than their nine “net negative” conference mates. Dayton, unlike last season when the Flyers sported a net efficiency that was clearly at odds with their conference won-loss record, find those two numbers in closer alignment. The three teams they “share” fifth place with however, all show negative efficiency nets, suggesting their won-loss records may be a bit misleading. All three are clustered fairly closely, with Rhode Island bringing up the rear in the group. The conference SOS shows all three have had schedules that fall around the mid-point for difficulty (note even Saint Louis clusters into that SOS grouping), so the schedules to date are not especially helpful for projecting through the end of the season.
Who in that cluster (Dayton, Saint Louis, Massachusetts, George Washington and Rhode Island) has the tougher road home? Looking over the next five weeks, Saint Louis and Dayton both have three more games versus the top four teams. For the Billikens, that slate includes a trip to Richmond and two home games versus Duquesne and Xavier. The Flyers also face three of those teams — Temple, Duquesne and Xavier — but do not leave Dayton in the process, possibly a slight advantage over Saint Louis. The Flyers also have a chance to clear some space at fifth place as they also play Rhode Island and George Washington during that run. The season-ending run suggest the Billikens should not anticipate a repeat of last February’s run. Rhode Island may have the easiest run, as the Rams have a single top four game left, at Duquesne, and head-to-head games with the other three fifth place teams.
The top teams logged a loss apiece, and while they stayed on pace with each other, they did drift one back closer to the trailing teams. This is coming down to a four-team race and assuming no more slip-ups by those four, the head-to-head games will decide the seeds for the conference tournament, and most likely who will earn at-large bids to the NCAAs.
1. Duquesne (16-6, 8-1)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. George Washington 84-59, 2/5 @St. Bonaventure 62-64
Next Week: 2/13 vs. Xavier
The Dukes’ winning streak snapped at 11 in Olean, NY on the fifth, as Duquesne lost by two, 62-64 to St. Bonaventure. B.J. Monteiro picked up his first Honor Roll mention for his 18.0 point average on the week. Coach Ron Everhart‘s squad goes home to prepare for their shootout with Xavier on Sunday. Pomeroy favors the Dukes by eight right now, which is about four more points than he gives to the home team.
2. Xavier (17-6, 8-1)
Last Week: 2/2 @Charlotte 62-66, 2/5 vs. Saint Louis 76-68
Next Week: 2/8 @Georgia 65-57, 1/13 @Duquesne
The Musketeers stumbled first, dropping a “What the heck?!” game to the 49ers in Charlotte, the kind of game more common in the first two months of the season than in the last five weeks. A bounce back win over Saint Louis Saturday leveled the week at 1-1, as Mark Lyons drew an Honor Roll nod from the conference for his career-high 25 point performance at Charlotte, 20.0 point average for the week and 52% shot accuracy. Chris Mack and his crew take to the road this week, stopping first in Athens, Georgia for a late season out of conference game with the Georgia Bull Dogs. What, at the beginning of the season appeared to be a late season distraction, may prove to be RPI gold for the X-Men. Georgia ranks #39 in the RPI and should Xavier win (Pomeroy shows them as four point underdogs right now), they would have a Top 50 road win for their post season resume – the X-Men won this game, by eight, 65-57. The weekend road stop brings the Musketeers to Pittsburgh for a showdown with conference co-leader Duquesne on Saturday.
3. Richmond (18-6, 7-2)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. Saint Joseph’s 62-52, 2/5 @Fordham 77-60
Next Week: 2/9 @George Washington, 2/12 vs. Saint Louis
The Spiders beat up the conference underdogs — Saint Joseph’s and Fordham, rather handily, taking each game by double digit points. Senior big man Dan Geriot earned his first conference Honor Roll mention as he averaged 15.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in last week’s games. Chris Mooney‘s squad takes a trip up to Washington DC for a game with the Colonials on Wednesday, then return home to host the staggering Billikens on Saturday.
4. Temple (17-5, 7-2)
Last Week: 2/2 @La Salle 71-67, 2/5 vs. Rhode Island 81-67
Next Week: 2/9 vs. Fordham, 2/12 @Dayton
Juan Fernandez returned to the lineup just in time as Temple posted another 2-0 last week and kept pace with Richmond (which had a much easier draw last week) for third place in the conference standings. Junior forward Scootie Randall drew his first Player of the Week citation (only the second all season for a Temple player) for his 20.5 point average over the two games. Randall hit his first eight shots in the Rhode Island game on his way to a game-high 25 points. The back court quartet of Randall, Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt and T.J. DiLeo (plus the returned Fernandez) continues to power the Owls, combining for 48 of the Owls’ 71 points versus La Salle and 54 of the Owls’ 80 points versus Rhode Island. The Owls host Fordham Wednesday, then travel to Dayton for a showdown game on Saturday. Pomeroy projects both as wins, which will be necessary if Temple’s showdown with Richmond on 2/17 is to be a true throw down for the #3 seed (or better) in Atlantic City.
5. Dayton (17-7, 5-4)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. St. Bonaventure 63-61, 2/5 @La Salle 85-81
Next Week: 2/9 @Rhode Island, 2/12 vs. Temple
The Flyers bounced back with a 2-0 week, their first in conference play this season. Senior forward Chris Wright earned his eighth citation from the conference (one Player of the Week & seven Honor Rolls), his second consecutive Honor Roll mention, for averaging 19.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game in Dayton’s two wins.
If January 23 – January 30 was Dayton’s “Statement Week”, then February 6 – February 12 should be “Statement Week II (Final Judgment?)” as the Flyers travel to Kingston, RI to throw Rhode Island out of their extended tie for fifth place, then return home to host Temple on Saturday. The Owls, tied with Richmond for third place and a strong favorite to make the NCAAs, has a two loss advantage over Dayton in conference standings. A 2-0 week would not vault Dayton into conference leadership, but it would really scramble the conference standings in the last month of the season, and provide coach Brian Gregory‘s squad with a good resume win for the Selection Committee.
6. Rhode Island (14-9, 5-4)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. Fordham 72-52, 2/5 @Temple 80-67
Next Week: 2/9 vs. Dayton, 2/12 vs. Charlotte
Rhode Island demolished struggling Fordham team Wednesday, but then dropped their road game against Temple (not shocking, but…) to post a 1-1 week. Senior forward Delroy James earned his ninth Honor Roll citation (third consecutive) from the conference as he averaged 22.0 points, 6.5 for the Rams last week.
A Wednesday shootout with Dayton for fifth place, then a Saturday game versus struggling Charlotte constitutes next week’s slate. With post season options, short of a run through the conference tournament, limited to three lettered tournaments, the Runnin’ Rams have nine losses with seven more conference games to play, which leaves no more room for slip ups. Chances they will run the table going into Atlantic are slim, especially with Duquesne coming up in two weeks. Shooting deficiencies have hobbled Coach Baron’s team, and Delroy James, practically a lock for All Conference honors (First team most likely) cannot carry the team, despite what the succession of Honor Roll citations would have one believe. Some combination from among Nikola Malesevic, Orion Outerbridge, Marquis Jones and Akeem Richmond has to take the pressure off James offensively. Malesevic or Outerbridge has to touch the ball more, while Jones and Richmond have to be more accurate with the shots they take.
7. Massachusetts (13-9, 5-4)
Last Week: 2/2 @Saint Louis 53-69, 2/5 @Saint Joseph’s 64-67
Next Week: 2/13 vs. George Washington
The Minutemen had an 0-2 week, dropping games to the Billikens and to the previously winless (in conference play) Hawks. After standing with a 5-2 record ready to take a big leap into the thick of the conference race, the week knocked the Minutemen back into the jumble of teams grasping and clawing for a chance at one of the bye seeds. Derek Kellogg and the Minutemen open a two-game home stand by hosting the Colonials next Sunday, then the Dukes the following Wednesday.
8. George Washington (12-11, 5-4)
Last Week: 2/2 @Duquesne 59-84, 2/5 @Charlotte 73-67
Next Week: 2/9 vs. Richmond, 2/13 @Massachusetts
The Colonials logged another 1-1 week, getting blasted by 25 points at the hands of Duquesne, then took a road game in Charlotte over the weekend. They continue to stay just north of 0.500 in conference play even as junior Tony Taylor was cited for his second consecutive Honor Roll mention (sixth of the season) for averaging 23.0 points and 6.0 assists in last weeks’ road games. Coach Karl Hobbs takes his charges home for a battle against the third place Spiders of Richmond Wednesday night, the travel to Amherst to play the Minutemen in a battle for fifth place, on Saturday..
9. St. Bonaventure (12-10, 4-5)
Last Week: 2/2 @Dayton 61-63, 2/5 vs. Duquesne 64-62
Next Week: 12/12 vs. La Salle
Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies finished a 1-1 week on a pair of two point games, a loss 61-63 at Dayton, and a win 64-62 versus Duquesne. Junior center Andrew Nicholson earned his seventh Honor Roll nod as he recorded his eighth double-double (25 points, 11 rebounds) of the season in the Fordham game. The Bonnies travel to Dayton for a Wednesday game with the Flyers, then return home to host Duquesne, on Saturday. A 1-1 week would be a morale boost for the squad.
10. La Salle (11-13, 3-6)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. Temple 67-71, 2/5 vs. Dayton 81-85
Next Week: 2/9 @Saint Louis, 12/12 @St. Bonaventure
If the past week was indeed La Salle’s “Statement Week”, the words are “Not this year”, as the Explorers stumbled through an 0-2 week, dropping home games to Temple and Dayton. Starting center Aaric Murray was benched seven and half minutes into the game, and did not appear again in the half. “We subbed him when we were down by a whole bunch (9-21), and the guys who came in gave great effort…I was extremely pleased with the guys who were in the game…” Dr. John Giannini explained. The Explorers in the game did battle back and took a three point lead, 38-35, into the intermission. Devon White started the second half as Murray remained benched. A few minutes into the half the sophomore asked to go back in and, with Dayton up 46-40 about six minutes into the second half, Giannini obliged. Murray logged another 3:29 and, with the Dayton lead out to 17, 59-42, Giannini pulled him for the second and last time. “…they (Dayton) went up big on us again, and I went back with that team that made the run in the first half — and they made another run…”. The Explorers trimmed their deficit to two in the last 0:09, but a last possession foul put the visitors on the line one last time, accounting for the winning margin. La Salle has two road games coming up, Saint Louis on Wednesday and St. Bonaventure on Saturday. At this point the assumption is that Murray will play.
11. Saint Louis (8-14, 3-6)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. Massachusetts 69-63, 2/5 @Xavier 68-76
Next Week: 2/9 vs. La Salle, 2/12 @Richmond
The Billikens posted a 1-1 week, beating middle-of-the-conference Massachusetts by six, then dropping an eight point decision at Xavier. Freshman Rob Loe earned his first Honor Roll mention because he averaged 14.0 points (while leading the team) for the two games. He went 5-5 at Xavier, including 4-4 from beyond the arc. Coach Rick Majerus‘ squad hosts La Salle Wednesday, then travels to Richmond for a Saturday game.
12. Charlotte (10-13, 2-7)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. Xavier 66-62, 2/5 vs. George Washington 67-73
Next Week: 2/12 @Rhode Island,
Charlotte snapped their four game skid complements of Xavier. Senior guard Derrio Green earned his fifth Honor Roll citation because he led the 49ers last week, but more noteworthy, he was a perfect 10-10 from the line in Charlotte’s win over Xavier. Charlotte closed their three game home stand with a 1-2 note, losing to GWU by six. Charlotte goes back into action with a trip to Rhode Island for a Saturday game with the Runnin’ Rams.
13. Saint Joseph’s (6-17, 1-8)
Last Week: 2/2 @Richmond 52-62, 2/5 vs. Massachusetts 67-64
Next Week: 2/13 @Fordham
The Hawks’ will not register an O’fer conference season, complements of the Minutemen. Freshman Langston Galloway earned his second Rookie of the Week nod from the conference. The guard posted his best numbers of the season, 25 points, in the Massachusetts game. Galloway hit 6-6 from three point land. He scored 11 points in the Hawks’ loss at Richmond. Saint Joseph’s will travel to the Meadowlands of New Jersey for a Saturday game versus Fordham, the last winless team in the conference.
14. Fordham (6-15, 0-9)
Last Week: 2/2 @Rhode Island 52-72, 2/5 vs. Richmond 60-77
Next Week: 2/9 @Temple, 2/13 vs. Saint Joseph’s
Fordham’s winless string runs to nine in conference play, with another 0-2 week. The probabilities that they will finish the conference season without a win stand at 35.6% per Ken Pomeroy. The Pythagorean Winning Percentage suggests the Rams will earn a win in some game before the end of conference play, but the calculations for individual games shows a “losing” probability for each game. Fordham travels to Philadelphia to close out their home-away series with Temple, then back home to host Saint Joseph’s on Saturday in a game that represents their best chance to log their first conference win in two seasons.
A Look Ahead
The week offers two headliner games this week, with the conference’s two heavy weights, Xavier and Duquesne, facing off in Pittsburgh. The game will pit the conference’s best defense (Duquesne) against the conference’s strongest offense (Xavier). Duquesne will match their third-best offense against Xavier’s fifth-best defense. Shot making will be the key, as each squad’s shot defense is among the conference’s best. Duquesne relies on turnovers to augment their strong shot defense (and mask weak defensive rebounding), but the Musketeers do not turn the ball over and shoot the ball very well (#1 eFG% in conference play), so expect a strength-on-strength matchup. On the other side of the court, the teams have similar strength-on-strength matchups. The Dukes have to shoot well and rebound their misses, two defensive strengths for the Musketeers who lead the conference in defensive rebounding. If the Dukes can force Musketeer turnovers and chill the visitor’s shooters, they may parlay their strengths into a win, but should Musketeers dominate the defensive boards and shut down the Duquesne shooters, they should come out the winner.
The Dayton-Rhode Island game on Wednesday also promises to sort out the teams just below the “bye” rankings. Dayton has been maddeningly inconsistent on the road this and last season. For Rhode Island it comes down to shooting (eFG%). If the Rams hit their shots, they win. If their opponents make their shots, the Rams lose. Rhodi’s offensive efficiency and shot conversion efficiency in conference games so far has been well below their overall efficiency numbers. They have struggled to find a second and third option behind James. For Dayton, efficient shot conversion is extremely important, but the Flyers also look to offensive rebounding (and second chance points) when they are cold. Rhode Island is an average rebounding team (defensively), so the boards, should become a key to this outcome. The Flyers have a terrible habit of going down early in road games and relying on half time adjustments and second half rallies to turn the tide.