The Week That Was: December 18-27

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

It’s that time of year again: Conference season. UConn and Pittsburgh opened up the Big East slate Monday night with the first of what will be many highly-anticipated conference matchups over the next couple of months. It won’t be much longer until we get Pitt-Georgetown, Duke-Maryland, Washington-Washington State, Ohio State-Purdue and plenty over other mouth-watering games. It’s definitely a more appealing prospect than watching Kentucky pummel Winthrop or Texas beat down North Florida.

What We Learned

Taylor & Pitt Easily Ripped UConn

  • It might have been wise for Jim Calhoun to schedule some true road games for his young UConn squad before its Big East opener at Pittsburgh. The Huskies certainly played as though they weren’t prepared for what was waiting for them in the amped up Peterson Events Center. But honestly, there was little reason to think that this game was going to be anything other than a wakeup call for UConn. The Huskies boast seven freshmen, and only three players in its rotation that had ever played at that venue. No surprises here that the Panthers jumped out to an early double-digit lead and cruised to a 78-63 win. At least the Huskies can take solace in the fact that they don’t have to face Pittsburgh again until possibly the Big East Tournament. The Panthers’ length along the perimeter makes them a tough matchup for Kemba Walker, who needed 27 shots and 11 free throws to score 31 points against the likes of Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker.
  • After a less-than-stellar start to its season, in which Butler got smoked by Louisville and lost in overtime to Evansville en route to a 4-4 record through its first eight games, it now looks like Brad Stevens’ squad has righted the ship. The Bulldogs have won five in a row and just beat Washington State on Christmas Day to win the Diamond Head Classic. Key to the Bulldogs recent surge has been their improved play on the defensive end. Butler has not allowed more than 68 points since Mississippi Valley St. put up 71 on Dec. 11, and in their last four wins, the Bulldogs have allowed their opponents to shoot the following percentages: Stanford, 31.4%; Utah, 39.6%; Florida State, 38%; and Washington State, 40.7%. The Bulldogs’ defensive numbers still aren’t great, they rank 48th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings and they’re #272 in turnover %, but they’re on their way back to being a squad that can win games on the defensive end. As the schedule shifts to Horizon League play, the Bulldogs again are a safe bet to claim another conference championship.
  • When we last checked in with Tennessee, the Vols just had erased most of the momentum gained from a win over Pittsburgh with a home loss to Oakland (nothing to be embarrassed about, but not what we like to see from one of our top-10 teams). As it turns out, that loss to the Golden Grizzlies was a harbinger for what turned out to be a very unhappy holiday season for Bruce Pearl. The Vols lost their next two games, both to unranked opponents. Tennessee lost 49-48 to a Charlotte squad without leading scored Shamari Spears, who was kicked off the team a few days earlier. Then the Vols lost again by one point, this time to USC. To make matters worse, their win to halt the three-game skid did little to make people believe the Vols aren’t in the middle of a tailspin. Tennessee blew a 13-point lead to Belmont and needed a layup from Scotty Hopson with 5.7 left to escape with a 66-65 win. Despite his last-second bucket, Hopson’s recent play has been a major reason for the Vols’ struggles. Hopson scored a combined 28 points his losses to Oakland, Charlotte and USC on 8-31 shooting. He rebounded to score 19 points against Belmont, but he’s still suffering from a shooting slump. Hopson is 2-14 from three in his last four games.
  • TWTW isn’t a huge fan of making sweeping proclamations before conference play begins, nor do we like to divulge its national championship favorite until the most opportune moment. (Personally, TWTW prefers to wait until about 10 seconds left in the title game to announce who we think will win it all). But if TWTW was forced to name a team it would be Ohio State. UConn, Duke, Syracuse and Kansas are all fine choices, but there’s something about the Buckeyes that separates them from the pack. Everything starts with Jared Sullinger, who is first on the team in points (17.5) and rebounds (10.1) and is the clubhouse leader for national freshman of the year. Sullinger has owned the paint from Day 1 and has shown a knack for dominating games like few other big men this year (see his 40/13 against IUPUI and his 30/19 against South Carolina). What’s remarkable about Sullinger, though, has been his ability to avoid foul trouble. Sullinger hasn’t fouled out of one game this season and only has one game (his first) in which he had four infractions. But OSU isn’t just limited to Sullinger. The Buckeyes boast five players who average at least 10 points a game. They can beat you just as easily outside as they can inside with shooters like David Lighty and Jon Diebler, who shoot 45.5% and 47.4% from three, respectively. And freshman Deshaun Thomas is the kind of athletic wing that can score in bunches off the bench. Could Ohio State be better without Evan Turner? TWTW thinks so.
  • People wondered how Kansas would be able to integrate freshman phenom Josh Selby into its rotation once he returned from his NCAA-imposed nine-game suspension, the question being whether Selby’s presence would disrupt the Jayhawks’ chemistry from their 9-0 start. After two games, two wins and two electric performances by Selby, it’s obvious there was never a need to worry whether his addition would be anything but welcome. In his debut against USC, Selby scored 21 points and drilled a go-ahead three with 26 seconds ago to lead the Jayhawks to 70-68 win. There was no need for any late heroics in his second game, but Selby still made his presence felt, to the tune of 18 points and a 3-4 shooting night from beyond the arc. Selby’s already established himself as one of Kansas’ go-to scorers, and the fact that Bill Self had Selby not only on the court in the waning seconds against USC but shows how important Selby will be to any title run for KU.

Media Blackout

The three pieces of news to know if you’ve been living in complete isolation all week.

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Set Your Tivo: Weekend Review

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 17th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

This is the last major weekend before conference play begins in earnest and it features a bunch of solid games but none that really jump out at you as must-watch. All in all it’s a pretty good set of games. Don’t forget about the two games in the Bahamas on Saturday (Richmond vs. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State). They’re not on television but are meaningful, especially the latter. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Texas vs. North Carolina (Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC) – 4 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

A Smaller Venue in Greenboro, But Still a Great Game

You may never see a game between two unranked teams have this much talent on the court as this one. Yes the Longhorns are ranked in both the AP and Coaches polls but they aren’t in our own top 25. Texas has played better this year on the strength of defense and better chemistry though a loss at USC was cause for concern. Still, Texas has a ton of talent and has the ability to turn this season into a successful one. Leading scorer Jordan Hamilton still has a so-so shot selection but he’s connecting on 41% of his treys, a positive sign for Rick Barnes. Freshman Tristan Thompson has also been a plus for the Longhorns, giving them an athletic post presence who can score and defend very well. When you look at this matchup with North Carolina however, Tyler Zeller (16/8) is going to have a significant height advantage inside. You may see Barnes turn to Matt Hill for a bigger defensive presence in the paint in an attempt to control UNC’s big man. Each team has had some issues at the point guard, especially North Carolina. The Tar Heels have seen better play from Larry Drew II (2:1 A/T ratio) but questions remain with the team averaging 15 turnovers per contest. With a talented freshman in waiting, Roy Williams has to make a decision on who should see the majority of time at the point as they head into ACC play. For Texas, Dogus Balbay has seen his minutes drop in favor of freshman Cory Joseph, a move that’s understandable from an offensive standpoint but questionable in the eyes of some who see the experienced Balbay as a team leader and an effective distributor, not to mention an outstanding defender. Texas is not a particularly great shooting team as a whole so the transition to Joseph could be more about transition opportunities and easy buckets plus Joseph is a much better shooter. As for North Carolina, getting Harrison Barnes going could be the key between middling outside the top 25 and being a consistently ranked team and #2 in the ACC. Barnes is still in a slump, shooting just 33% overall over his last five games including a dismal 5-24 (21%) from three. He’s still averaging double figures and has done a nice job rebounding but the Tar Heels need more out of their star freshman. To become a really good team, UNC needs John Henson to become a consistent third option. He rebounds very well but he’s in double figures one night and single digits the next. He may have a hard time with Thompson inside but Henson is able to stretch his game out a bit and that may open things up inside for the Tar Heels. This figures to be another close game, far different from last year’s Texas blowout. This time North Carolina has the crowd to their advantage and may come out on top by a few points. It’s a huge game for UNC, their last non-conference opportunity for a quality win. Texas still has games with Michigan State and Connecticut but this is a big game for them too in a quasi-road environment. We wouldn’t be surprised either way but a slight edge has to go to UNC in this game.

#5 Kansas State vs. Florida (BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise, FL) – 3:30 pm Saturday on FSN (****)

This is the first of two key games for Kansas State, the second coming on Tuesday against UNLV. Winning one or both will certainly help the Wildcats grab a better seed in the NCAA Tournament come March. Against Florida, K-State will have to contend with the Gators’ trapping pressure defense, something that could be a problem given their propensity for turnovers and some point guard issues. Jacob Pullen has been the main distributor at four assists per game but he turns it over more than three times per game, the most on a team that averages 16 turnovers as a unit. Florida’s back court pressure could cause a lot of problems for Kansas State and plenty of extra possessions for the Gators. Pullen doing a lot of ball handling could also be a factor in his overall struggle relative to last season. He’s never been a great shooter, 40% overall from the floor for his career, but his three point shooting is down over six percent to 33% this season. It is true that other teams are trying to lock him up like Duke did, but Pullen has to work through this and become a better player in order to lift Kansas State to the next level where they can compete for a national championship. Frank Martin may go with Will Spradling at the point in order to take some pressure off Pullen. As for Florida, expect them to fire up three’s as usual (17 per game) even though the Gators shoot just 32% as a team. Billy Donovan loves the trey, yet another Rick Pitino protégé who sticks to the system no matter the personnel he has. Erving Walker has improved dramatically but Kenny Boynton still can’t find the range for Florida. Walker shoots 20% better than Boynton from deep yet Boynton has 15 more attempts this season. Kansas State should look to isolate Walker and aggressively defend him, keeping the ball out of his hands. Pullen and Rodney McGruder may have to match Walker’s deep shooting but Martin will be content with Boynton chucking shots up and hitting once in a while, requiring Kansas State to clear the boards well. Both teams rank high in offensive rebounding percentage so the Wildcats must put an emphasis on keeping Florida off the glass as that will lead to easy Gator put backs. Florida is #15 in two point percentage, largely a result of offensive rebounds and the play of Vernon Macklin inside. Macklin against Curtis Kelly will be a key matchup to watch in the low post as each player finishes well and can rebound the basketball effectively. Kansas State should not bank on outscoring Florida from the line considering their awful free throw shooting (55%) and Florida’s ability to keep opponents off the line, second in the nation in defensive free throw rate. Only three players on K-State’s roster shoot over 70% from the line and Pullen is the only one of those three who gets there often. Martin’s depth will take a hit if Wally Judge is out, dealing with personal issues, but we don’t think that will have a major impact on the game. Kansas State is still a very deep team, able to go eight or nine deep if necessary. This should be a terrific game that may come down to the very end. Ken Pomeroy predicts a two-point Florida win so this game is essentially a toss-up. We see it that way as well.

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The Week That Was: December 11-17

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

It’s the holiday season, and this past week teams in the top 25 definitely got into the spirit of giving. Now these squads weren’t giving away toys to needy girls and boys. Instead #4 Tennessee, #20 Louisville and #21 UNLV gave the gift of an RPI-boosting upset, and in the college hoops world that’s a pretty nice present. TWTW hopes that Oakland, Drexel and UC Santa Barbara enjoyed their gifts this week, they certainly came at a hefty price — a chance to be the last undefeated squad standing. But hey, it’s the thought that counts, and we’re sure that deep down our ranked friends knew they did the right thing given the season.

Now if only #22 Memphis wasn’t such a Grinch …

Is the Presumptive Puerto Rican Olympic Coach's Louisville Team Legit?

What We Learned

  • Last week we openly wondered if Notre Dame’s hot start was an aberration or the start of a strong season for the Irish, and their loss to Kentucky made TWTW more inclined to label them a fraud rather than a legit power. This week we get to dissect another Big East squad that just suffered its first loss of the season — Louisville. The Cardinals’ eight-game winning streak to open the season came ended in disastrous fashion Tuesday night when Louisville fell 52-46 to Drexel. Yes, you read that correctly. The Cardinals could only muster 46 points against Drexel of all teams. Louisville connected on only 15 of 47 shots from the floor and struggled to adjust once it was apparently the Dragons weren’t going to let the Cardinals get out and run up and down the court. While shooting 33.3% is bad, what’s more troubling is Louisville’s 12-25 effort at the free throw line, and its -20 rebound loss on the boards. Those two things could haunt the Cardinals in Big East play and make TWTW hesitant to think they’re dramatically better than last year’s team that lost to Cal in the first round of the NCAAs.
  • What a week for Tennessee. On Saturday the Vols scored arguably the best win of the young season when they traveled to Pittsburgh and beat Jamie Dixon’s squad at the “neutral” Consol Energy Center. TWTW was ready to join the rest of the nation in singing Bruce Pearl’s praises and declaring the Vols the team to beat in a down SEC. While UT still may be the top dog down South, TWTW can’t fully endorse Tennessee right now. Not after the Vols lost at home to Oakland 89-82 on Tuesday night. That’s no knock against the Golden Grizzlies, who made the NCAA Tournament out of the Summit League last year and fell one point short of beating Michigan State this past weekend. Oakland is good, but we expect more from Tennessee. And we at least expect better defense. The Vols shouldn’t give up 89 points to any squad, especially not at home, and Oakland hit 54% of its shots (30-56) led by Keith Benson’s 26. Pearl better hope this loss refocuses his squad. Tennessee will definitely need all the mental strength it can muster when he begins his eight-game suspension at the start of conference play.
  • Gonzaga just might have overextended itself with its scheduling. Mark Few at least is entertaining that idea after his Bulldogs’ 4-5 start to the season, the worst record in Few’s 12-year tenure at Gonzaga. Four of Gonzaga’s five losses came in games against teams currently ranked in RTC’s top 25 (San Diego State, Kansas State, Illinois and Notre Dame), and the Bulldogs still have to play Baylor on Saturday and Memphis in February. TWTW wonders why that kind of scheduling is necessary for a team with Gonzaga’s cache. It’s tough to think of the Zags as a mid-major anymore based on their 12 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, and their consistent presence in the top 25 (at least until this year). Gonzaga doesn’t need to prove itself with a murderers’ row schedule. Sure, schedule a couple of games against elite competition, but there’s no need to have a slate of games that could shatter a team’s confidence. Gonzaga isn’t a program that’s used to struggling in December, it will be interesting to see how the Zags respond to this adversity once play begins in the WCC.
  • Think you know all there is about Coach K? Think all of your hate is justified? Well you should do yourself a favor and sit down and read the first two parts of Dan Wiederer’s mega-feature in the Fayetteville Observer. Part one delves into K off the court and his family life. It includes this incredible anecdote of the Duke coach at the beach during a family vacation and declaring that he’s the “Black Mamba of Beach Bocce” after pulling off a game-winning bocce toss. The second part discusses all the hate Coach K and the Duke program endures from the rest of the nation. While that angle has been written before, Wiederer’s piece comes off fresh because of all of his great tidbits and inside access. And there’s more to come with Part 3 scheduled to run this Sunday. So check it out. TWTW guarantees you’ll learn something new about K, and maybe it will open your mind to the notion that he’s not that bad of a guy. After all, with Krzyzewski likely to become college basketball’s all-time wins leader either this season or early next year, it’s the perfect time to dissect one of the most polarizing characters in the sport.

Media Blackout

The three pieces of news to know if you’ve been living in complete isolation all week.

  • Like many of you out there, TWTW watched the basketball competition during 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and thought, “Boy this is great. But you know what’s missing? Rick Pitino.” We kid, we kid. But it looks like there’s a real possibility Pitino will coach the Puerto Rican nation team during next summer’s pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in Argentina. Carlos J. Beltran, president of the Puerto Rican Basketball Federation, said the national team is in “very advanced talks” with Pitino, and J.J. Barea of the Dallas Mavericks told ESPNDallas.com that he and fellow nation team member Carlos Arroyo would meet with Pitino on Sunday if any deal with the Louisville coach is finalized. With Pitino on board, Puerto Rico would instantly become one of the most compelling squads in the Olympics should it qualify. That’s a big if, though. Puerto Rico failed to qualify for the 2008 Games and was eliminated in the first round during this summer’s World Championships in Turkey. Should a Pitino-led Puerto Rico squad make the Olympics, TWTW has but one request. Puerto Rico must face Team USA (and Coach K) at some point in round-robin play.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 15th, 2010


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

A Look Back

Measuring Up: How does the A-10 compare to the other conference? With 65% of the conference teams’ out of conference schedule completed, the conference-wide out of conference record stands at 71-52, for a winning percentage of 0.577. Though the conference has scheduled games with teams affiliated with a vast majority of the Division-I conferences, they are concentrated, by and large, in the regions they share with those conferences. I have included the composite records for the six BCS conferences and a number of those conferences who share geography with one or more of the A-10 teams.

Of the 189 scheduled games, that over 58% of the games are scheduled with just ten conferences located along the Atlantic seaboard (from Maine to Georgia) and the upper Midwest reflects the A-10’s large geographical footprint. The Big East (19) and Colonial Athletic Association (CAA — 17) drew the largest share of games, again not a surprise considering the number of historic rivalries shared by teams in those two conferences with their A-10 counterparts. The Mid-American Conference (MAC) overlaps the regions covered by Xavier, Dayton and Saint Bonaventure, but the team that scheduled the largest share of MAC opponents was Temple (five), entirely due to the fact that the Owls, MAC members for football, are required by that arraignment to schedule five basketball games with MAC opponents each season. Individual team records versus the Big East (7-8 with four games pending), SEC (2-1 with four games pending), the Big 12 (1-4) and ACC (1-2 with seven games pending) have served as fairly reliable barometers for NCAA postseason prospects. Xavier, one of only two teams that recorded a winning record versus their Big East opponents last season, received an at-large bid. Temple, the other team, earned the conference’s automatic bid. Losing records versus the six BCS conferences (otherwise known as the “power conferences”) are common for conferences below the Red Line, but the A-10 can usually post a record better than the red line number (about an 18% winning percentage). The 40% winning percentage versus the Big Ten is especially gratifying, given that one of those wins was Richmond over Purdue back in November. With a 2-1 record versus the Pac-10 to this point, the conference is guaranteed no worse than a 0.500 (2-2) pending the result of the George Washington-Oregon State rematch this Saturday. Both Richmond and Dayton have a road date with the Big East’s Seton Hall coming the week after Christmas. Outcomes will be important for the Musketeers and Flyers, but also for the Pirates. All three teams nurture aspirations for NCAA bids, and the winners will definitely have a head-to-head comparison advantage come Selection Sunday.

Winning composite records versus lesser conferences are not surprising. The A-10’s record versus the CAA (5-7 with five games pending) and the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC – 4-3 with three games pending) this season, however, is puzzling. Conference teams stumbled badly in games with members from the CAA and the MAAC, but results have improved (despite St. Bonaventure’s loss to Niagara and Dayton’s loss to Old Dominion last weekend) versus both, and there are enough games remaining to bring those records to 0.500 or better.

Power Rankings

Movement in the rankings comes among the bottom three this week, as Fordham has pushed their record to 5-4, leap-frogging George Washington and Saint Joseph’s. The regular conference season will most likely bring the rankings back to “regular order”, but for now, Fordham has the better record, won against good competition. They earned the bump this past week.

1. Richmond (8-2)

Last Week: 12/11 vs. Virginia Commonwealth 72-60

Next Week: 12/18 vs. Georgia Tech

The Spiders broke a six-game losing streak against their cross-town rivals Virginia Commonwealth last Saturday, even as senior guard Kevin Anderson moved into fifth place in the Spiders’ all-time scoring list with his game-high 21 point performance. The Spiders pushed the lead out to 30 points early in the second half, and led by 29 at the 12 minute mark, before the Rams closed the gap with a 31-14 run in the last eight minutes. Sophomore guard Darius Brothers (12) and senior wing Justin Harper (16) also scored in double figures in the win. Richmond could not limit VCU’s super forward Jamie Skeen, who scored a team-high 14 points, but they locked down the Rams’ heralded guard trio, Joey Rodriguez, Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell, limiting the three to a combined 16 points on 4-25 (1-10, 3-15) and 7-7 shooting.

2. Temple (7-2)

Last Week: 1/2/9 vs. Georgetown 68-65, 12/12 vs. Akron 82-47

Next Week: 12/18 vs. Northern Illinois

The Owls are back in stride, as their 68-65 win over Georgetown last Thursday demonstrated. After leading, largely by double digits, through most of the game, the Owls had to blunt a Hoya rush at the end to preserve Fran Dunphy’s 400th head coaching victory. Off-guard Ramone Moore was on, scoring a career-high 30 points on 12-18 (2-2, 10-16) and 4-4 shooting to secure game-high honors. The junior guard posted a very strong 72.2% eFG% and 1.51 PPWS for his efforts and earning an Honorable Mention from the conference. The Hoyas reverted to 2009 season form by losing a very high 25.4% of their possessions. Dunphy’s team easily disposed of the Akron Zips, the third of five scheduled MAC opponents on this season’s slate. They will play Northern Illinois next Saturday and Ohio four days later, before they can return to finish up the rest of their out of conference schedule.

3. Dayton (6-2)

Last Week: 12/7 vs. Central Connecticut 63-61, 12/11 @Old Dominion 71-74

Next Week: 12/18 vs. Western Carolina, 12/20 vs. Winthrop 

The Flyers went 1-1 on the week as junior forward Chris Johnson drew a conference Honorable Mention for averaging 21.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in the week’s two games. The Central Connecticut game was too close, but the Monarchs of Old Dominion are the class of the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA), so the road loss, especially by the small margin, should not tarnish Dayton’s NCAA resume too much – not as much as the hiccup versus East Tennessee State. The key will be to limit additional losses, which may be difficult, given the Flyers will close out their out of conference schedule with a road game at Seton Hall followed by a two game home stand that features George Mason and New Mexico.

4. Xavier (6-2)

Last Week: 12/9 vs. Butler 51-49

Next Week: 12/18 vs. Wake Forest

As expected, the X-men beat Butler, albeit by a smaller-than-expected margin. Still adjusting to life without Brad Redford, Xavier’s lack of accuracy from beyond the arc has taken a valuable weapon out of their offensive arsenal. Ken Pomeroy has the Musketeers ranked #313 out of 345 for three point accuracy. Xavier has adjusted by taking fewer three point attempts (only 31.4% of their field goal attempts are threes). Lacking accuracy, Coach Chris Mack’s squad compounds the problem by not getting after the offensive boards (Ken Pomeroy ranks Xavier #253 in this category), something of a double penalty for the lack of accuracy. Wake Forest should be another win, as the Deacons are in bad straits, sporting a 5-4 record under new head coach Jeff Bzdelik.

5. Massachusetts (7-3)

Last Week: 12/8 vs. Maine 56-68, 12/11 vs. Seton Hall 79-104

Next Week: Next game is 12/22 vs. Central Florida

Coach Derek Kellogg’s team is struggling with a three-game losing streak that dates back to their 12/4 game with Boston College. While the nucleus of Javorn Farrell, Freddy Riley and Anthony Gurley has emerged as the offensive engine, only Gurley to this point has proven a reliable offensive option. Farell in particular is struggling, especially with his two-point field goal attempts (40.6% from inside the arc). The Minutemen will have to wait until Central Florida visits on December 22 to try and stop the run at three.

6. Rhode Island (6-4)

Last Week: 12/8 @ Northeastern 79-67, 12/11 @ Quinnipiac 66-73

Next Week: 12/18 vs. New Hampshire

The Runnin’ Rams broke their two game skid with a 12 point-win over the Huskies of Northeastern last Wednesday, but the boo birds were out in force as fans sensed Rhodi’s post season prospects were severely reduced with their road loss to Quinnipiac last Saturday. Senior forward Delroy James drew his fifth consecutive weekly conference Honorable Mention as he led his Rhode Island team in four separate categories (scoring, rebounds, assists and steals) in the Rams’ win over Northeastern. Though Rhode Island has two more potential signature wins (Boston College at home 12/29 and Florida on the road 1/3) on their out of conference schedule, fans who sense Rhodi’s post season prospects are slipping away are directing a good deal of vitriol at Jim Baron. Rhode Island also received a verbal from 6’9 Jonathan Holton, a power forward out of Coral Gables HS in Florida. The high school senior, a Euro-style scorer, will need to put on some muscle and develop a handle to add another element to his game. Baron has had difficulty bringing in early verbals (Kyle Cain, Billy Baron…), so here is hoping Holton breaks that run of bad luck early verbals, and joins the program for the 2011-12 season.

7. La Salle (6-4)

Last Week: 12/9 @ Boston University 84-81, 12/11 vs. Villanova 81-84

Next Week: 12/17 vs. Bucknell

A good win at Boston University was partially negated by a one possession home loss to #13 ranked Villanova out of the Big East. The Explorers led by as much as 12 in the first half, and by nine midway through the second half, but Aaric Murray’s fourth foul at the 17:35 mark of the second half took one of the Explorers’ difference-makers off the floor for nearly ten minutes when the game was on the line. Junior Jerrell Williams earned an Honorable Mention from the conference for his 13 points on 4-10 (0-0, 4-10) and 5-5 shooting at BU and 20 points on 8-13 (0-0, 8-13) and 4-5 shooting versus Nova.

8. St. Bonaventure (5-3)

Last Week: 12/7 @ St. John’s 67-66, 12/11 vs. Niagara 61-65

Next Week: 12/18 vs. Ohio

The week had the Bonnies taking one step forward and one step back, as St. Bonaventure combined with Fordham to do a tag-team on St. John’s of the Big East, but then dropping a five point decision to Little Four rival Niagara four days later. Coach Mark Schmidt’s squad bested Fordham’s feat by beating the Johnnies in their Queens campus facility (Carnesecca Arena). Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson drew his third conference Honorable Mention for averaging a double-double (18.0 points, 12.5 rebounds) for the two games. Nicholson hit the game winner versus St. John’s, and scored his 1,000th point as a Bonnie versus Niagara.

9. Duquesne (4-4)

Last Week: 12/8 @ Wisconsin-Green Bay 81-71, 12/11 vs. West Virginia 61-64

Next Week:  12/18 vs. IUPUI

The Dukes broke their two-game slide with a win over Wisconsin-Green Bay last Wednesday, and took West Virginia to the last possession in their loss on Saturday. Freshman guard TJ McConnell made his quest for Rookie of the Year consideration official when he earned the conference Rookie of the Week honor for scoring team-high points in both of the Dukes’ games last week. McConnell scored 20 points versus Wisconsin-Green Bay on 8-10 shooting from the floor and 2-2 shooting from the line, then followed with 18 points versus West Virginia on a 7-14 outing from the field. Coach Ron Everhart’s squad will not most likely not grow any taller, they currently average, according to Pomeroy, 75.6 inches, good for #300 (out of 345) in D-I, so they might as well play faster. The Dukes currently push it at 71.3 possessions per game, ranked #36 (out of 345) by Ken Pomeroy.

10. Saint Louis (3-4)

Last Week: 12/11 @ Duke 47-84

Next Week: 12/15 vs. Jacksonville, 12/18 @ Missouri State

The game was a systemic failure. The Bills could not stop Duke, nor could (would?) they score consistently on the Blue Devils. The game was played for about 69 possessions, a slightly faster pace than Rick Majerus’ teams usually prefer. Duke converted at a fairly proficient 58.6% eFG%. The Billikens’ turnover rate – 31% — was unusually high for a Majerus-coached squad. This was a game not many could have been optimistic about at the beginning of the season, perhaps it is best to post it to the record book and move on…quickly.

The Billikens have two interesting opponents on tap for next week. Jacksonville sports a 6-2 record, but has problems converting field goal attempts efficiently. The Missouri State Bears dropped a 14 point decision to Oklahoma State last Saturday. While projected (by Ken Pomeroy) to win, the Bears do not steal/force turnovers much (that has to be a relief), foul too much and have difficulty defending the three point line effectively. That last observation should warm the hearts of Billiken faithful, though the Bills’ fate does not rise and fall on their three point efficiency, Saint Louis does convert enough (30.9% as of Sunday) to impact a game.

11. Charlotte (4-6)

Last Week: 12/7 vs. Winthrop 68-57, 12/11 @Davidson 68-82

Next Week: 12/17 vs. Tennessee

The 49ers limped through another 0.500 week, but senior guard Derrio Green drew his first conference Honorable Mention this season as he followed his 10 point output against Winthrop with a team-high 16 points versus Davidson. Sophomore center Chris Braswell also recorded a double digit week with 10 points against Winthrop and 15 against Davidson.

With the announcement that senior forward Shamari Spears had been dismissed from the team, coach Alan Major officially shifted his program into rebuild mode. Spears, a transfer from Boston College who started his second season in the Charlotte program, was slated to play his last year of college ball when he ran afoul of the new head coach over an indiscreet tweet earlier in December and was suspended indefinitely. Though some number of Charlotte fans may have hoped for a reconciliation, that apparently is not the way Major wanted to go.

12. Fordham (5-4)

Last Week: 12/8 vs. Manhattan 73-59, 12/11 vs. St. John’s 84-81

Next Week: Next game 12/22 vs. Kennesaw State

It was weeks like this that Fordham fans could only dream about when Coach Tom Pecora was hired away from Hofstra. With their win over St. John’s last Saturday the Rams of Rose Hill have matched their win total for the past two seasons. Their current winning streak stands at three, the longest run in three seasons, and the first time since December of 2007 that Fordham has sported a record north of .500. Junior guard Brenton Butler was named conference Player of the Week as he followed his 21 point performance versus Manhattan with a 22 point performance against St. John’s. Butler knocked down a jumper with 14 seconds on the clock to push the Rams’ lead out to three, the eventual margin of victory. Good play is becoming contagious as junior forward Kevin Bristol recorded a double-double (11 points, 16 rebounds) versus Manhattan, which sophomore forward Chris Gaston followed on with a double-double (15 points, 13 rebounds) of his own versus St. John’s.

13. George Washington (3-5)

Last Week: 12/8 vs. Towson 73-67

Next Week: 12/18 @Oregon State

The Colonials beat the Towson Tigers and will fly out to the West Coast for a game with Oregon State this weekend.

14. Saint Joseph‘s (3-7)

Last Week: 12/8 vs. Minnesota 73-83, 12/11 @ Creighton 75-82

Next Week: Next game 12/21 vs. Boston University

With the loss over the weekend, the Hawks’ losing streak now sits at five. Phil Martelli’s squad takes next week off and will hopefully find some answers before Saint Joseph’s begins the last stretch of their out of conference schedule against Boston University on December 21.

A Look Ahead

  • The fall semester is winding down. The typical two/three-a-week games will give way to homework, papers and final examinations for the next one-two weeks. Most conference teams have zero or one game this week, with Saint Louis and La Salle jetting out to more exotic places just before or after Christmas to participate in the last round of invitational tournaments.
  • Rhode Island fans have to be anxious for the return of (academically) suspended Orion Outerbridge. If Outerbridge’s returns to good academic standing, he should be able to play as soon as the Fall semester is “officially” over, possibly in time for the Rams’ game with Lafayette on 12/22.
  • St. Louis’ suspended players, Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed, are not due back until the beginning of the spring semester, another (estimated) four-five weeks away. Given the two must reapply for admissions, there is little if no certainty that the two will be back at all.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2010

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

A Look Back

The start of fall Practice on October 15 shook out the statii on a few linger question marks in Saint Louis and Rhode Island, but the attrition that has followed the opening of practice, whether injury or other causes, seems heavier than usual in 2010. As the table below shows, bumps and bruises and one-game suspensions aside, 18 players (more than one per team) have missed practice and playing time due to injuries or academic issues since Midnight Madness. Five players will sit out the season, with others missing anywhere from several games to several months of the season.

For some teams and players, it is a matter of not having what you did not have before (Xavier and Justin Martin, Rhode Island and Levan Shengelia…unless you believe one minute of playing time had an impact on the team), but for others — Lasan Kromah and George Washington, Brad Redford of Xavier for example — the impact could affect the season. Among the unresolved is Luka Voncina, Charlottes freshman point guard from Slovenia, whose eligibility ruling (ineligible) was appealed in late October.

Power Rankings

Throw out the preview, a fortnight into the season and the ink of mid-October is already obsolete. The Power Rankings will reshuffle several times over the next month as teams react to player comings and goings, and a gradually tougher schedule.

1. Temple (2-0) AP #21

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Seton Hall 62-56, 11/14 vs Toledo 82-49

Next Week: 11/25 vs. California @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic), 11/26 vs. TBD @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic), 11/28 TBD @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic)

Temple beat middle-of-the-conference team Seton Hall by six at home to open the season, and will have an opportunity to notch a few resume wins in Orlando as they take on California on Thanksgiving Day, to be followed by either Georgia or Notre Dame Friday 11/26. Depending on the results of the first two games, the Owls could face Wisconsin (most likely), Texas A&M or Boston College. Georgia and Wisconsin received votes in the most recent Coaches Poll.

2. Dayton (4-0)

Season Start: 11/13 vs. Mount St. Mary’s 67-52, 11/16 vs. Akron 76-68, 11/20 @ Mississippi 78-71 (OT), 11/22 vs. Savannah State 61-59

Next Week: 11/24 vs. Florida A&M, 11/27 vs. Cincinnati

Devin Searcy was cited on the November 15 conference Honor Roll for his double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) versus Mount St. Mary’s (a 70-52 Flyer win). Dayton travelled to Oxford, Mississippi, Saturday and beat the Rebels of Ole Miss, 78-71, for the second time in eight months. The two teams met in the NIT semi-finals last March, and coach Andy Kennedy’s squad has been projected as a top-two finisher in the SEC West Division this season. The win should look very good on the Flyers’ resume. The conference named Jawan Staten Rookie of the Week (the first of several citations he will receive this season) for his performance against Mississippi in particular. The freshman point guard dished seven dimes, matching his effort from his debut versus Akron. Staten also hit the layup that gave the Flyers their first lead (in the overtime period) of the game.

3. Xavier (4-1)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Western Michigan 68-65, 11/16 vs. IUPUFW 76-66 (OT), 11/19 vs. Iowa 86-73 @ Virgin Islands (Paradise Jam), 11/21 vs. Seton Hall 57-52 @ Virgin Islands (Paradise Jam), 11/22 vs Old Dominion 58-67 @ Virgin Islands (Paradise Jam)

Next Week: 11/27 vs. Wofford

Jamal McLean, expected to miss a month due to an orbital fracture suffered just before the start of the season, missed in fact only a single game. Is he 100%? Tu Holloway earned Conference Player of the Week honors in each of the first two weeks of the season, scoring 25 points in the Musketeers season opening win, 68-65, over Central Michigan, 28 points in Xaviers win over Iowa in the first round of the Paradise Jam and a scorching 35 points in Xs 57-52 win over Seton Hall, but the well went dry against Old Dominion, as Holloway and wing Dante Jackson went 6-21 from the field (28.6%) and 7-10 from the stripe for 22 points. The Monarchs managed to exploit two Xavier weaknesses that have emerged in the early games – rebounding, where ODU held a 36-25 advantage, and three point shooting. Xavier managed an offensive rebounding rate of just 10.7% while allowing ODU a more normal (for D-I) rate of 33%. Perhaps because they were down eight at the half, Xavier took 20 of 45 field goal attempts from beyond the arc, a whopping 44.4% of their field goal attempts overall, well above their typical 33.7% ratio. They converted only five of those threes, yielding a 25% conversion rate, below their 33.3% conversion rate coming into the game. The X-Men missed injured Brad Redford, a wing with a deep range.

4.  Richmond (4-1)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. The Citadel 79-37, 11/15 vs. William & Mary 73-49, 11/18 @ Iona 77-81, 11/21 vs. Charleston Southern 82-71 (Chicago Invitational Challenge), 11/23 vs. Southern 81-40 (Chicago Invitational Challenge),

Next Week: 11/26 vs. Wright State @ Chicago, IL (Chicago Invitational Challenge), 11/27 vs. TBD @ Chicago, IL (Chicago Invitational Challenge)

The Spiders’ first two wins were impressive displays of efficiency, as Richmond held both to less than 0.8 points per possession, outstanding among games in the opening week. The Iona loss was disappointing, but coach Tim Cluess developed a strong reputation as a game coach during his days in Division-II. Yet, it does not explain the sluggish performance in a win against Charleston Southern. The Spiders rounded back into form with an efficient 81-40 midday win over Southern, featuring a 66-possession game with Richmond holding Southern to 0.61 points per possession defensively, while scoring at a rate of 1.23 points per possession. The story of the first two weeks is Richmond’s defense.

5. Massachusetts (4-0)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Rider 77-67, 11/17 vs. Sacred Heart 73-65, 11/20 vs. New Mexico State @ Springfield, MA 71-57 (Hall of Fame Tip-Off), 11/22 vs. Texas Christian 67-48 @ Springfield, MA (Hall of Fame Tip-Off)

Next Week: 11/27 vs. Holy Cross

Massachusetts opened their season with a 77-67 win over Rider of the MAAC, during which senior Anthony Gurley logged his 1000th point as a Minute Man on his way to a game and career-high 31 points. The conference cited Gurley on for his scoring in the Minutemen wins over Sacred Heart and New Mexico State. Wins over the Aggies and Mountain West Conference member Texas Christian are a pleasant surprise and a stars on their resume.

6. St. Bonaventure (3-1)

Season Start: 11/12 @ Canisius 70-80, 11/14 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock 77-64, 11/19 @ Cornell 56-54, 11/21 @ Binghamton 69-44

Next Week: 11/27 @ Cleveland State

The Bonnies stumbled out of the gate, dropping a 80-70 decision to Canisius, but coach Mark Schmidt’s squad has followed with three wins, two on the road. Andrew Nicholson was cited in the November 15 conference Honor Roll for his 23 and 25-point efforts in the first two games. Best of all, Demitrius Conger was cited for his double-double versus Cornell. The sophomore wing logged career-highs in points scored (22) and rebounds (16) in the Cornell game. Good news for the Bonaventure faithful, as they will need an alternative on offense if Nicholson is to be effective this season.

7. Rhode Island (3-2)

Season Start: 11/8 @ Pittsburgh 83-75 (Coaches vs. Cancer), 11/16 vs. Brown 92-67, 11/19 vs. College of Charleston 75-66 @ Toledo (Coaches vs. Cancer), 11/20 @ Toledo 75-65 (Coaches vs. Cancer), 11/21 vs. University of Illinois-Chicago 68-74 @ Toledo (Coaches vs. Cancer)

Next Week: 11/24 vs. Drexel, 11/27 vs. Davidson

The conference Honor Roll cited Delroy James two weeks running for his season average (19.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game) and performance at the Toledo Pod of the 2K Sports Classic Benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer. James scored 17 second half points in the Runnin’ Rams’ season-opening loss to Pittsburgh November 8. With both Xavier and Saint Louis struggling to overcome injuries, coach Jim Baron wanted to see URI move up. The loss to UIC could come back to sting the Rams come March.

8George Washington (2-1)

Season Start: 11/16 vs. Boston University 67-76 (@ Villanova, NIT Tip-Off), 11/17 vs Marist 79-59 (@ Villanova, NIT Tip-Off) 11/22 vs Nevada  58-56 (NIT Tip-Off, DC Pod)

Next Week: 11/23 vs Hampton (NIT Tip-Off, DC Pod), 11/29 vs. NC Wilmington

Even with Lasan Kromah out indefinitely with an left foot sprain, the Colonials went 1-1 (76-67 vs. Boston U; 79-59 vs. Marist) the NIT Tip-Off the North Pod, The Colonial host one of three consolation pods, and needed that home court advantage to knock off the Nevada Wolf Pack on Monday night.

9. La Salle (3-1)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Columbia 82-71, 11/16 @ Baylor 64-74, 11/18 vs. Prairie View A&M 88-74, 11/20 vs. Morgan State 79-74

Next Week: 11/23 vs. Providence @ Cancun (Cancun Challenge), 11/24 vs. TBD (Missouri or Wyoming) @ Cancun (Cancun Challenge), 11/29 vs. Delaware State

Tyreek Duren took the first week’s Rookie of the Week honors his work in La Salle’s 82-71 season-opening win against Columbia on November 12. The guard dished nine dimes in his collegiate debut, tying an 11-year-old program record set by Julian Blanks in his collegiate debut in 1999. Another performance that had to raise the hopes and warm the hearts of Explorer fans, was fifth-year senior Ruben Guillandeaux’s career-high 29 points. The senior, one of three La Salle seniors who finished the 2010 on the sidelines, was granted a redshirt waiver by the NCAA and will finish his career at La Salle as the mentor for a corps of promising freshmen guards. Aaric Murray is another Explorer performing admirably. When he notched nine blocks and five steals against Morgan State on November 20, he became the first D-I player to do so since Sitapha Savane of Navy back on January 31, 2000.

10. Duquesne (2-1)

Season Start: 11/13 vs. Bluefield State (D-II) 110-67, 11/19 @ Robert Morris 63-69, 11/22 vs. Bowling Green 90-54

Next Week: 11/27 vs. UMD Baltimore County

Senior forward/guard Bill Clark drew a conference nod for his near-triple-double (a Duke player has only turned that trick once) with his 15 point, nine assist, eight rebound effort as Duquesne opened their season against D-II Bluefield State (WV) with a 110-67 rout of the Big Blues. The stumble against Robert Morris is a point of pride. The local rivalry goes back to 1981, and the Dukes hold a 15-5 advantage, last losing to Robert Morris in 2006. The school is investigating allegations that coach Ron Everhard had a student manager send 15 pairs of basketball shoes to the coach of Broward Community College as a gift to the Broward basketball program, strictly prohibited under NCAA regulations. Duquesne officials have described the equipment as a donation to a program operated by Broward CC coach Bob Starkman that supplies athletic equipment and accessories to troops stationed in Afghanistan and indicated they notified the NCAA of “the secondary violation” on November 19.

11. Charlotte (2-3)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Gardner-Webb 70-78, 11/13 vs. South Carolina State 90-81, 11/18 vs. George Mason 56-78 @ Charleston (Charleston Classic), 11/19 vs. East Carolina 74-63 @ Charleston (Charleston Classic), 11/21 vs. Coastal Carolina 79-75 (2 OT) @ Charleston (Charleston Classic)

Next Week: 11/24 @ Oregon State, 11/27 vs. Radford

Newcomer Jamar Brisco drew conference kudos for his 30-point debut against Gardner-Webb on 11/12. If the 49er faithful loved Brisco, their feelings about the game itself were far cooler, as Charlotte stumbled to a 2-3 record out of the gate. Losses to Gardiner-Webb, 78-70 (the one-game suspension of forwards Shamari Spears and An’Juan Wilderness did not help the 49er cause), in coach Alan Majors’ debut and the double-overtime loss 79-75, to Coastal Carolina in the Charleston Classic (the 49ers went 1-2 in that invitational) are particularly distressing given both teams are out of the Big South Conference. The 49ers may want to cut back on three point attempts until Darrio Green can find the range. Through their first five games the 49ers have taken 39.9% of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc, but have hit an abysmal 28.2%. When you are in a hole, stop digging. Charlotte limped out of Charleston with a 1-2 record on the event.

12. Saint Louis (1-2)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Austin Peay 62-64, 11/15 vs. Rockhurst (D2) 72-45, 11/20 vs. Georgia 59-61

Next Week: 11/23 vs. Tennessee State, 11/27 vs. IUPUI

The Billikens dropped a bunny against Austin Peay of the Ohio Valley Conference and fans started a Facebook paged titled: Free Willie & Kwamain Facebook page. That has to make a 2010 list for Most Ironic Website Name or Website Name in Poorest Taste somewhere. After exploring the transfer option for a month, an apologetic and contrite Willie Reed has indicated he would like to re-enroll at Saint Louis and play for the Billikens once the spring semester hits. The good news in those losses is that that the margin of victory was within a single possession. Freshman center Rob Low has started every game and averages 20.3 minutes and 14.0 points per contest.

13. Saint Joseph‘s (1-2)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Western Kentucky 70-98, 11/16 @ Penn State 57-66, 11/20 vs. Norfolk State 70-65

Next Week: 11/23 @ Fairfield, 11/26 vs. Rutgers

It is tough being young. The freshmen collectively contributed 95 points on 31-98 (31.6%) shooting, to go with 59 rebounds in the Hawks’ three games. Each of them have averaged just under 20 minutes per game, ranging from 27.3 minutes and 10.7 points per game (Langston Galloway) down to 13.0 minutes and 2.7 points per game (Patrick Swilling). If minutes and points vary widely, efficiency sadly does not, as their eFG%s ranges from a relatively inefficient 42.5% (CJ Aiken) down to a very inefficient 33.3% (Ronald Roberts and Swilling). The freshmen, however, are not alone in their shooting woes, as the entire squad suffers from an inability to convert shots (and possessions) into points. Typical of younger teams, they also need to rebound better.

14. Fordham (1-2)

Season Start: 11/12 vs. Brown 65-69, 11/15 vs. Sacred Heart 69-51, 11/19 vs. Hampton 48-58

Next Week: 11/23 vs. Long Island, 11/27 vs. Hartford

Though Chris Gaston was cited on the November 15 conference Honor Roll for his 20th career double-double (21 points, 17 rebounds) in the Rams season opening loss, 63-59, to Brown on 11/12 Fordham continues to struggle. More competitive than the 2010 squad, coach Tom Pecora still needs to solve Fordham’s lack of offensive production. Gaston combines with junior guard Alberto Estwick and freshman guard Branden Frazier to form the nucleus of Fordham’s offense. So far however, only Estwick’s 42.9% field goal conversion rate (52.8% eFG%) is efficient enough to move the offense. When Frazier finds his groove perhaps he and Estwick can draw enough defensive attention to free up Gaston, who at this point, is mostly a volume scorer.

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – South Atlantic Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 11th, 2010

It’s October.  The leaves are starting to turn colors.  Halloween candy is already in the stores.  There have been a few nights where you may have even turned on the heat.  Midnight Madness is imminent and RTC is full bore into the 2010-11 Season Preview materials.  For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

South Atlantic Region (VA, NC, SC)

  • Kyrie Irving – Fr, G – Duke. To get an idea how highly touted Kyrie Irving is, consider this: coming off a season where Duke won the national title and only lost one key playmaker on offense, most people believe that the Blue Devils will run their offense through the talented freshman from New Jersey who many recruiting experts rank among the best to ever come from the state that has produced so many great college players, including Duke legends Bobby Hurley and Jason Williams. His development during his sophomore year of high school when ESPN analysts stated that he “would be a top 300 player nationally in the 2010 class” and then said a few months later “could be an impact player in the Atlantic 10 or a high-major role player” to his senior year when he was a top five recruit (#1 according to some services) and those same recruiting analysts were stating “it will be shocking if he isn’t an all-conference performer and possible all-american his freshman season” portends the potential for his development into a truly special player. Irving is one of the rare players who arrives on campus with the ability to both score and distribute the ball to his teammates. After all the talk about how Coach K had lost his edge in recruiting, Irving might be his most dynamic recruit since Williams arrived in Durham back in 1999. Despite only being on campus for a few months, his Blue Devil teammates have probably already begun to appreciate his high basketball IQ, competitiveness, and all-around ability.  Even though many will question his inclusion on our Impact Player team over his more proven teammate Nolan Smith, Irving has demonstrated a skill set in high school that goes beyond what Smith has demonstrated even with three additional years of experience under the watchful eye of Coach K. If Irving is able to make a smooth transition from the high school game to the college game (and having Singler, Smith, Seth Curry, and the Plumlees around should help), his game could make the Blue Devils heavy favorites to repeat when March arrives. With Irving’s game we don’t think it will be question of if but rather when he feels truly comfortable at the college level, so all the Duke haters should be preparing for a long season ahead.

Kyrie Irving Could be the Best Duke Guard Since J-Will

  • Malcolm Delaney - Sr, G – Virginia Tech. If you’re a Hokies fan and a Twitter fiend, back on May 8th you were probably just a little surprised but very happy that Malcolm Delaney tweeted that he was going to put off NBA riches for a year and return to school for his senior season. Nobody, however, could have been happier than Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg. We shudder to think at the number of blood pressure medications that man must be taking these days, having seemingly been the victim of more last-second heartbreakers and burst NCAA Tournament bubbles (are we allowed to refer to “the bubble” in October?) than any one man should ever be expected to endure, but the return of Delaney to Blacksburg should have lowered Greenberg’s systolic by about 20 points. It probably went back up over the summer, though, after Greenberg lost two of his forwards for the season — specifically presumptive sixth man J.T. Thompson to a left ACL tear and Allan Chaney to viral myocarditis (a condition slightly less than 0.6% of all people in America have) — and has another one in Cadarian Raines recovering from surgery in March to repair a re-fractured left foot. The importance of Delaney, then, and the impact he’ll have in this geographical region become obvious. VT will have to go small, and that means more touches for Malcolm, who we’re guessing will have no problem taking on more responsibility in terms of both scoring and rebounding, and we’re saying this about the top scorer in the ACC last season (20.2 PPG). He played an average of 35.8 MPG last year (4th ACC, 58th nationally) and we wonder if he’ll even sit at all this season. Most importantly, if the Hokies are going to attempt to return to only their second NCAA Tournament in the last 15 years (and what would be Delaney’s first), Greenberg will be counting on emotional and vocal leadership on the floor and in the locker room from Delaney, his RTC South Atlantic Impact Player and ACC Player of the Year candidate.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2010

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

Conference Offensive and Defensive Efficiencies

The efficiencies delineate the conference’s upper and lower division rather clearly…with one or two exceptions. Richmond, Temple and Xavier cluster clearly as top tier, consistent with, if not identical to, their conference records. Joining them as an outlier is Dayton, the team that entered the season with great expectations, but has fallen a bit short. St. Louis and Rhode Island form the next tier, with Charlotte next in line, but grouped with the lower division teams. Charlotte in particular is a paradox. The 49ers have had a number of very bad outings, particularly on the road (though in fairness they have had a good out of conference win on the road too). Charlotte has been a “better than average” team at home, but more a wimp than a warrior on the road. Among the lower division teams George Washington stands apart. The Colonials have, looking at all games this season, a surprisingly strong away efficiency differential, but a weaker than expected home differential. The differential suggests they should have a better record (by about 2 wins) than they do. Looking ahead, the Pythagorean winning percentage formula (conference games only) suggest the Colonials will sweep their remaining games. With closing games at Rhode Island and versus Richmond, I do not see a sweep as a likely outcome.

The Races Within the Race

The three-way (#1 & #2/#3 — Richmond and Temple/Xavier) race at the top of the conference represents only one of several heated standings races as the conference regular season enters it’s last two weeks. Rewards going to the winners of those mini-battles include seeds and pairings in Atlantic City, possible postseason invitations and for a few another opportunity or two to redeem irredeemable seasons. Just below the three leaders stand four teams battling it out for seeds #4 through #7. Theoretically St. Louis or Charlotte may be able to overcome one or more of the top tier teams, but their remaining schedules, loaded with fellow second tier opponents, makes those schedules seems less like a stepping stone and more like an elimination process. Charlotte has only one top tier team remaining, but must face an also hopeful Rhode Island team that would welcome every win it can gather at this point in the season. St. Louis still has Temple and Xavier to play, and as a bonus gets them both in the friendly confines of Chaifetz Arena. They also have to take to the road for their last game — Dayton, before heading out to Atlantic City. So the Billikens could hand another loss on both the Owls and the Musketeers, but still fall behind them by losing to Dayton. Should the Billikens lose either or both of those games, their season-closer in Dayton becomes even more important to both teams, as it could well be a battle that decides the #5, #6 and #7 seeds in the conference tournament. Fordham has largely lost contact with the rest of the conference, but George Washington, St. Bonaventure, Massachusetts and La Salle are all within a loss of each other in spots #8 through #11, with Saint Joseph’s just another loss (at 10) behind that cluster. Within that group only George Washington has a winning record, and an outside chance at a post season bid (NIT or CBI possibly). An inopportune losing would sink the Colonials. A late season surge by the Bonnies on the other hand, could put Coach Schmidt’s squad over the .500 mark, and lend promise to an otherwise very uneven season.

Standings as of – 02/23/10

  1. Richmond (11-2, 22-6 #24 AP)
  2. Temple (10-2, 22-5, #18 AP)
  3. Xavier (10-2, 19-7)
  4. St. Louis (9-3, 18-8)
  5. Charlotte (8-4, 18-8)
  6. Rhode Island (8-5, 20-6)
  7. Dayton (7-5, 18-8)
  8. Duquesne (6-7, 15-12)
  9. George Washington (4-8, 14-11)
  10. St. Bonaventure (4-8, 11-14)
  11. Massachusetts (4-9, 10-17)
  12. La Salle (3-9, 11-15)
  13. Saint Joseph’s (3-10, 9-18)
  14. Fordham (0-13, 2-23)

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

Charlotte lost two more games last week. The A10′s leader earlier this month has now dropped back to join Rhode Island and Dayton at the bottom of the upper division. The heretofore reliable Shamari Spears and Derrio Green have faltered, and with them, the 49ers’ fortunes. For the Dayton, Duquesne and Xavier games, the two players have taken 66%, 59% and 76% of the shots when they have been on the floor together. Having 40% of your rotation take 60% and more of your field goal attempts makes defense much easier. Having freshman Chris Braswell and junior An’Juan Wilderness (and virtually the rest of the squad as well) struggling offensively does not take the pressure to drive the offense off of Green and Spears. Rush the Court bracketologist Zach Hayes lists the 49ers among the last four out in his February 22 column.

If the turnaround is to happen for the 49ers, it will have to start this week. Charlotte will host Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday (2/24) and travel to DC for a Saturday (2/27) game with George Washington. The homestretch includes games with Rhode Island and Richmond before taking off for Atlantic City and the conference tournament. Beating both the Hawks and Colonials will be necessary to stay ahead of Rhode Island, and keep Charlotte in position to move up should any of the top three (Richmond, Temple and Xavier) stumble at the end.

Dayton

The Flyers beat a crippled La Salle team Thursday (2/18) 68-54, but inexplicably dropped their road game with Duquesne 73-71, on Sunday (2/21). Three losses behind the conference leaders with four games to play means Coach Gregory’s team is nearly (mathematically) out of the race for the regular season conference title. They may still have games to play with Temple (Wednesday 2/24) and Richmond (Thursday 3/4), but at this point in the season, with their RPI drifting into the mid-high 40s, RTC’s Zach Hayes has them listed among the last four in with good reason.

Next up is Temple in Philadelphia on Wednesday (2/24) — a win would probably cinch their spot in the field of 65 — then a Saturday (2/27) home game with Massachusetts.

Duquesne

The Dukes decided to play spoiler last week, beating contenders Charlotte in Charlotte 83-77, on Wednesday (2/17), then returning to Pittsburgh to beat Dayton, 73-71 on Sunday (2/21). After a disappointing 2-5 in January, Coach Everhart’s squad has put together a 4-2 (and counting) February. The revival will not be enough to get them back into the postseason conversation, but they can force another squad or two to join them in an early off-season.

Duquesne has two road games this week. First stop is the also-hot St. Louis on Saturday (2/27), and then a trip to Olean, NY, for a tilt with St. Bonaventure on Wednesday (3/3).

Fordham

Two more games tallies to two more losses for Coach Grasso’s team. The Rams’ biggest challenge in the last four regular season games will be to find their first A10 win. The prognosis grows gloomier by the game; Pomeroy puts their probability of going winless at 78.5% as of Tuesday (2/23). Fordham’s last best chance comes quickly — St. Bonaventure, at Rose Hill, on Wednesday (2/24).

George Washington

The Colonials beat Massachusetts in DC 66-60 on Wednesday (2/17), but dropped their road game in a 74-70 squeaker, to Richmond on Saturday (2/20). GW is one loss out of a three-way tie for ninth place. With hope for life after Atlantic City largely reduced to the NIT (or CBI?), Coach Hobbs has to, in the back of his mind perhaps, look to what experience the underclassmen can get as preparation for next season. Freshman Lasan Kromah, co-winner of his third Rookie of the Week citation, has to be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year honors. Several sophomores have shown potential as well, so the nucleus may be in place for an upward move in 2011.

George Washington will host La Salle on Wednesday (2/24), and Charlotte on Saturday (2/27).

La Salle

Another week through which the crippled Explorers have to pass to get to the end of the season. The good news is no additions to the injured list. The bad news was two more losses.

Next up for the Explorers is a trip to DC and a game with George Washington on Wednesday (2/24) and home to host Temple in their Big 5 game on Sunday (2/21). The preseason expectation for the Temple-La Salle match was that this game would be an excellent game with which to close the City Series this season. La Salle’s casualty list has deferred the exciting matchup for another season perhaps.

Massachusetts

The Minutemen dropped two games last week, a 66-60 loss in DC to George Washington last Wednesday (2/17) and a 69-56 loss to St. Louis last Sunday (2/21). Coach Kellogg’s squad will travel to Dayton to take on the Flyers Saturday (2/27), then head into their last full week of play against La Salle and Rhode Island.

Rhode Island

Freshman Akeem Richmond shared Rookie of the Week honors (the second time he has been named) for averaging 19 points in the two games Rhode Island played last week. Unfortunately, the Rams finished the week 1-1, rather than 2-0. The loss, 62-57 to St. Louis last Wednesday (2/17), extended their losing streak to three. Their weekend 101-75 win over Fordham last Saturday (2/20).

Rhode Island travels to St. Bonaventure for a game Saturday (2/27) before taking on Charlotte and Massachusetts to close out the season.

Richmond

The Spiders moved up to #24 in the AP Top 25 this past Monday, as Coach Mooney’s squad continues to jockey with Temple and Xavier for top ranking in the conference. Richmond holds a half-game advantage by virtue of an additional win, but that should even out as the others complete their schedule. Adding to the honors, junior guard Kevin Anderson was recognized as co-player of the week for the second time. The announcement cited his 19-point effort against Fordham and his 24-point night against George Washington. Richmond’s efficiency differential has them ranked #3 in the conference, largely on their offense. The Spiders’ weakness is offensive rebounding, a statistic which suggests they have rebounded only 24% of their misses, the lowest rebounding margin in conference play. The lack of board presence (they are ranked #11 for defensive rebounding percentage, slightly better than their #16 ranking for ORebs) is a common feature in teams that employ perimeter-oriented offenses like the Princeton Offense favored by Coach Mooney. RTC bracketologist Zach Hayes moved Richmond up to a #6 seed, assigned to the Salt Lake City Region, in his February 22 column.

Richmond gets back to business this week with a game at Xavier on Sunday (2/28) and a last home game with Dayton on Thursday (3/4).

Saint Joseph’s

Saint Joseph’s losing streak has extended to four games with a two-loss week. The Hawks suffered a 38 point beating, 88-52, at the hands of Xavier in Cincinnati last Wednesday (2/17), and an overtime loss in their Big 5 game with Temple 75-67, on Saturday (2/20). For the Hawks and Coach Martelli, the opponent may well have become despair, rather than Big 5 or A10 opponents. Rumors on Hawk Hill have freshman guard Carl Jones mulling a transfer to USC in the off season. Jones, the brightest light in the 2010 entering class for Saint Joseph’s, would be the third guard in the last three seasons to transfer after his freshmen year.

The Hawks travel to Charlotte for a game Wednesday (2/24), then to DC for their last conference road game this season next Wednesday (3/3) with George Washington.

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies lost to Temple 73-55, last Wednesday (2/17), but beat a staggering La Salle squad 77-66, on Sunday (2/21). The road win was promising, as the Bonnies have found the road not very kind at all this season. They have to run the table to level their conference record at 8-8, but a road game with Fordham on Wednesday (2/24) should, if all goes well, go down as their second consecutive road win, a promising sign going into Atlantic City (and next season). They return home to host Rhode Island, a one-time conference leader whose February record so far is a disappointing 3-3, on Saturday (2/27). Four wins in hand with a good chance for number five coming against Fordham leaves the Bonnies with three opportunities to notch number six, and match last season’s conference win total, and a possible ninth place finish.

St. Louis

Coach Majerus’ team beat Rhode Island 62-57, on Wednesday (2/17), which put another loss between Billikens and the Rams in conference play. Every loss (and win) counts. They ran their February winning streak to six on Sunday (2/21) with a road win, 69-56, at Massachusetts. Two more February games, Wednesday (2/24) they host top tiered Xavier and Saturday (2/27) they host and close out their mirror series with Duquesne. Winning both may well put St. Louis into the NCAA conversation, as Xavier would be a quality win. They are not on anyone’s radar at this point. St. Louis is 18-8 right now, even finishing the conference with a 2-2 run would give them 20 wins, an 11-5 conference record (along with, most likely, a four seed in the A10 Tournament) and life beyond Atlantic City (if not the NCAA, then the NIT or CBI). Given their ninth place, 18-14, 8-8 finish last season, this would be progress.

Temple

The Owls won both of their games last week pushing their conference record to 10-2 and keeping pace (in the loss column) with Richmond. They moved up to #21 in the AP poll, and continue to be listed as “in” Wednesday (2/17) they beat St. Bonaventure, 73-55, and then crossed town on Saturday (2/20) to Saint Joseph’s 75-67, and take their Big 5-designated game in overtime.

Coach Dunphy’s team will host Dayton on Wednesday (2/24) and close out their Big 5 series with a home game against La Salle on Sunday (2/28). Should the Owls beat the Explorers they would take their first outright Big 5 title in 14 seasons. Temple shared the title with Villanova in 2008 and 2005.

Xavier

The Musketeers jumped to the top of the efficiency differential with two strong, double digit wins last week. They beat Saint Joseph’s by 26 points 88-52, on Wednesday (2/17) and Charlotte by 14 points 81-67, on Saturday (2/20).

Xavier travels to St. Louis for an important game with St. Louis on Wednesday (2/24), then back to Cincinnati for a Sunday (2/28) game with rival Richmond. The Musketeers can finish either second (if they win) or third (if they lose).

Games to Catch

  • Xavier at St. Louis – Wednesday 2/24 — The Billikens are challenging for one of the top three seeds at the A10 Tournament and some consideration for the NCAAs. The Musketeers have to win to keep pace with Richmond in the loss column, and keep their fate in their hands.
  • Richmond at Xavier - Sunday 2/28 — Should Richmond win, the Spiders take the conference regular season title and the #1 seed in the A10 Tournament and Xavier comes in third. Should Xavier win, the Musketeers will finish second in the conference and take the #2 seed in the A10 Tournament, while the Spiders most likely finish third.
  • Charlotte at Rhode Island - Wednesday 3/3 — This is a match between two NCAA bubble teams, in the A10′s in conference version of Bracket Buster Wednesday.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by jstevrtc on February 11th, 2010

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

The Threshing Floor

If conference play muddied the rankings for the teams at the top (Charlotte moved into #1, pushing the trio of Rhode Island, Temple and Xavier, teams that had topped the standing since New Years, down a notch), the teams in the middle and bottom are sorting out, both by record and efficiency differentials. A threshing floor is a wide and flat surface, located in an open area (always breezy, though sometimes windy), where farmers can spread their wheat, and through a process of beating the stalks and kernels and tossing them straight up in the air, separate the edible grain from their husks and stalks. The grain is heavy and when tossed in the air will fall (more or less) straight to the threshing floor. The wind will carry the lighter husks and stalks to the side, off the floor. The schedule may be unbalanced, but the repetitive process of playing conference games has (as suggested by the table below) separated the upper division teams from the lower division teams. And that separation is obvious, even to the casual observer.

Table reflects conference games played through February 9.

The efficiency differential divides the conference cleanly into an upper and lower division. The separation between the two grows. St. Louis is a full 0.51 points higher than #8 La Salle. Using a Pythagorean Winning Percentage formula to develop a quick projection of each team’s conference record suggests Xavier, Temple and Dayton will end up in a three-way tie with (roughly) 13-3 records. While it would play to many preseason projections, the notion that Dayton will launch a 5-0 run through the remainder of their conference schedule is a bit optimistic. The Pythagorean Winning Percentage also suggests Charlotte will go 3-4 through their last seven conference games, possible perhaps since four of their opponents are upper division teams. They do, however, face two of those opponents (Richmond and Xavier) at home. The 49ers are 9-1 at home this season.

Standings as of 02/10/10

  1. Charlotte (8-1, 18-5)
  2. Xavier (8-2, 16-7)
  3. Temple (7-2, 19-5, #21)
  4. Rhode Island (7-2, 19-3)
  5. Richmond (7-2, 18-6)
  6. St. Louis (6-3, 15-8)
  7. Dayton (5-3, 16-6)
  8. Duquesne (3-6, 12-11)
  9. La Salle (3-6, 11-12)
  10. Saint Joseph’s (3-7, 9-15)
  11. St. Bonaventure (2-6, 9-12)
  12. George Washington (2-7, 12-10)
  13. Massachusetts (2-7, 8-15)
  14. Fordham (0-9, 2-19)

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

Coach Lutz’s squad took sole possession of the #1 ranking in the conference with wins over George Washington 72-68, on Wednesday (2/3) and Fordham 77-72, on Saturday (2/6), even as Xavier stumbled in Dayton over the weekend. Junior Shamari Spears was named co-Player of the Week by the Conference which noted he scored a career-high 31 points versus George Washington and logged his second double-double of the season (15 points and 13 rebounds) versus Fordham. This is the second time the conference has acknowledged Spears’ contributions to the 49ers. A good run by Spears is only part of the story of the 49ers’ seven game winning streak. Spears, freshmen Chris Braswell and guard Shamarr Bowden, all combine with sophomore Darrio Green to power Charlotte’s offense. Green, whose offensive rating tops 113, is the squad’s most efficient scorer. Bowden, Spears, and Green shoulder most of the shot-making responsibilities. Braswell, whose most recent offensive rating (per Ken Pomeroy) of 102.2 has received multiple nods from the conference for his work this season.

A rendezvous with the Flyers in Dayton Wednesday (2/10) is next up for Charlotte, and then a week off to regroup for Duquesne. This is a game Coach Lutz needs to get to solidify his team’s hold on the top of the A10. The Flyers, coupled with St. Louis in the last group North of the conference’s dividing line, needs to pull Charlotte back to the pack. Using the Pythagorean Winning Percentage (for conference games only) suggests Coach Lutz’s squad will go 3-4 in their last seven games. Taking a road win in Dayton would buck that trend, bolster team confidence, and reassure the selection committee that Charlotte can be competitive away from Halton Arena. An early season blowout at the hands of Duke and OOC road losses to Old Dominion and Tennessee leave that question open.

Dayton

With a week to prepare, the Flyers waxed the Musketeers 90-65, on Saturday (2/6).

As the table derived from the Xavier box score suggests, Rob Lowery, a senior guard whose injury in February 2009 cut short his run last season. Lowery has been working himself back into shape this season, and the Flyers, whose defensive efficiency (0.914) is second only to Temple’s in conference play, will need all of Lowery’s offensive capabilities in the last four weeks of the regular season. For Dayton, inconsistent offense in the form of mediocre shot efficiency and higher-than-average turnovers, is the principle reason the team trails conference leader Charlotte with two losses. Their efficiency differential is high enough to suggest (using the Pythagorean Winning Percentage for conference games only) Dayton can run the table for their last eight conference games, compiling a record that should put them back into the conversation for a post season bid (without having to run through the field in Atlantic City).

Having pulled the Musketeers out of a first place tie, Dayton hosts Charlotte on Wednesday (2/10) in another chance to muddy the top of the conference. A Dayton win over Charlotte would knot the top of conference again, putting Xavier, Temple and Charlotte into a three-way tie with about three weekends left in the conference season.

Duquesne

The Dukes’ season has fallen well short of expectations so far. Melquan Bolding has returned to the rotation, but the sophomore is coming back very slowly, and the season is running out. To date, Duquesne has beaten only those teams in the bottom half of the conference, not a credential that would impress a selection committee. Against upper division teams the Dukes have come up short time and again. Coach Everhart’s squad is bedeviled by demons on both sides of the ball. Extremely poor shot conversion (an eFG% of 44.7%, ranked at #13 in the conference, ahead of only Fordham) undermines an otherwise average-to-good conference offense. The problems on defense involve more elements of the game; poor defensive rebounding and a propensity to foul combine with extremely bad shot defense to produce a defense that has yielded 1.05 points per possession, ranked ahead of only Massachusetts and Fordham in conference play.

Duquesne has a two game home stand this week, facing Massachusetts on Thursday (2/11), followed by La Salle on Sunday (2/14). Both are good opportunities for wins, which would move the Dukes to the top of the A10′s lower division.

Fordham

Chris Gaston was named Rookie of the Week for the fourth time this season as he scored 55 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in Fordham’s losses to Xavier (108-60, 1/30) and to Charlotte (77-72, 2/6). A pity that Jio Fontan transferred before Gaston exploded. The two could have formed a dynamic inside/outside combination. Probably not enough to turn the program around, but enough to improve on the Rams’ record from last season — and throw a scare into Coach Martelli’s Hawks. Ken Pomeroy’s “no win” probability remained at 63.14%. With a -0.240 differential, Fordham is nearly as far behind #13 Duquesne as the Dukes are from #7 St. Louis, the last team with a positive efficiency differential in conference games. For Coach Grasso, a commitment from Gaston (and guards Lance Brown and Alberto Eastwick) to return next season would carry more significance than a conference win, though a conference win (or two) would probably help Gaston, Brown and Eastwick decide to stay.

One of Fordham’s better prospects for a win, the George Washington Colonials are coming to town for a Saturday (2/13) game. Before that one, however, the Rams have to travel to New York’s Western Tier to take on St. Bonaventure on Wednesday (2/10).

George Washington

The January 30 loss to Rhode Island started a losing run that now extends to three games. The Colonials dropped games to Charlotte 72-68 (2/3) and to Duquesne 70-63 (2/6), this past week. That home loss to Duquesne is especially damaging, as the Dukes are also struggling through a season of lowered expectations. Post season prospects, short of running the table in Atlantic City next month, are nil. The team may have started the season well, but ineffective shooting (#11 in conference, ahead of only Saint Joseph’s, Duquesne and Fordham) is the principal culprit for an offense that has generated a paltry 0.97 points per possession in conference play (the conference average is 1.01). The defense is not fatally flawed, but giving up 1.02 points per possession is higher than the conference average (1.01). For Coach Hobbs, a losing season — the third since he led the Colonials to the NCAAs in 2007 with a 23-7 record — could not have come at a worse time. Many believe that Connecticut will begin it’s search for a successor to the Hall of Fame coach among those assistants who left to head programs of their own. At one point Hobbs was generally recognized as the most successful in that group.

The Colonials have perhaps their best opportunity to end their losing run as they take on Fordham on Saturday (2/13). The game will be played in the Bronx, though, and George Washington has dropped four straight road games in conference play.

La Salle

Coach Giannini’s squad is three games into a losing slide, having dropped a 68-65 home game to St. Louis last Saturday (2/6). Losing seniors Ruben Guillandeaux (last played 11/22/09) and Kimmani Barrett (last played 1/13 — the conference announced he would undergo surgery, thereby ending his college career) has reduced the Explorers from one of the conference’s most experienced squads to one of its least experienced in just under eight weeks. The Explorers are 2-5 in Barrett’s absence. Getting freshman Parrish Grant some court time in preparation for next season may become the higher priority as the current season slips away.

Next up for La Salle is a St. Valentine’s date with Duquesne, in Pittsburgh.

Massachusetts

The Minutemen are riding a three game losing streak, and two of the three games were added this past week. Both games were lost by identical eight point margins: Xavier, 87-79 on Wednesday (2/3), and Rhode Island, 93-85 on Saturday (2/6). Like Duquesne, UMass demonstrates yet again why shot efficiency is the most important of Dean Oliver’s four factors. The Minutemen are ranked #11 in the conference for efficiency differential, and #10 in the conference for (offensive) shot efficiency. As a dribble-drive squad that prefers to kick the ball out to the perimeter for a three, the Minutemen do not get to the line much either. For defensive shot efficiency Massachusetts is ranked #13, ahead of only Fordham.

Massachusetts’ schedule going forward (they have seven conference games left) looks fairly favorable compared to the front end of their schedule. With only three games remaining against upper division opponents, the Minutemen could acquire another 3-4 wins over the last month of conference play. The future starts Thursday (2/11) with a trip to Pittsburgh for a game with Duquesne, and continues with a visit from Saint Joseph’s on Sunday (2/14).

Rhode Island

The Rams extended their winning run to four games with a win over Massachusetts, 93-85, last Saturday (2/6). Rhode Island has put the second most efficient offense together, despite being ranked #4 in shot efficiency (50.6%), through strong offensive rebounding and a conference-leading low turnover rate (16.9%). According to Ken Pomeroy, every member of the Rams’ regular rotation has an individual offensive rating of 104.5 or higher. Four of Rhode Island’s remaining seven conference games are against upper division teams, but two of those games (versus Richmond and Charlotte) are home games. The Rams ought to prevail in both.

Rhode Island hosts Richmond on Wednesday (2/10), then travels to Philadelphia on Saturday (2/13) for their mirror game against Temple.

Richmond

Among the six conference teams currently in the NCAA postseason discussion, Richmond, with a solid 7-2 record to date, is often overlooked. The Spiders have assembled a solid conference resume, but out-of-conference road losses to William & Mary, VCU, Wake Forest and South Carolina may give the Selection Committee pause to think. In conference play Richmond has compiled a 3-1 road record, the sole loss coming at the hands of St. Louis, a fellow upper division team in the A10. Richmond’s bread and butter comes from defense, as they are #2 in the conference behind St. Louis for shot defense (eFG% is 43.7%) and #2 in conference play behind Rhode Island in turnover rates (22.6%). Their offense offers solid shooting efficiency (52.0%, #1 in conference play), but conference-worst offensive rebounding (26.0%), combined with a somewhat passive offense (FTA/FGA rate is 32.7%, well below the conference average of 36.1%) suggest the Spiders are a perimeter-oriented team that needs to convert their three point field goal attempts more effectively to prosper.

Richmond takes in two road games this week (terrible week to travel in the Northeast). First stop Wednesday (2/10) will be Rhode Island, followed by a Saturday (2/13) game at St. Bonaventure. If past is prolog, Richmond should beat St. Bonaventure, but their Rhode Island game is more complicated.

Saint Joseph’s

The problem with the Hawks’ season is that it has gone largely as planned. Seniors Garrett Williamson and Darrin Govens have shouldered much of the offensive responsibility, but neither had been especially efficient at posting points. Freshmen guards Carl Jones and Justin Crosgile are good players, but neither has developed into the impact player that Coach Martelli’s offense needs. The offense has not produced points efficiently in conference play. 0.96 points per possession is below the conference average of 1.00, and the Hawk defense allows nearly 1.05 points per possession, a deadly combination when trying to fashion a winning record.

The Hawks travel to Massachusetts for a Sunday (2/14) game. The Hawks’ road record this season is an underwhelming 1-8.

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies are riding a four game losing streak that dates back to the last week in January. They added two of those games last week, dropping a 67-65 road decision to St. Louis on Wednesday (2/3), followed by a 78-71 loss at Saint Joseph’s on Sunday (2/7). The Bonnies convert shots at a conference-average 48.3% (eFG%), but they produce 4% fewer points per possession on average because they lose a conference-high 23.6% of their possessions. Andrew Nicholson may be a top 250 rebounder (per Ken Pomeroy), but as a team St. Bonaventure ranks only #13 in the conference in offensive rebounding. Senior Jon Hall and sophomore Nicholson can convert efficiently if the back court can consistently deliver the ball. Five of the Bonnies’ remaining eight games will come at home, so a move into the middle of the conference is only possible if St. Bonaventure can take advantage of a home court advantage.

The Bonnies open a three game home stand this week by hosting Fordham on Wednesday (2/10), followed by Richmond on Saturday (2/10).

St. Louis

The Billikens have put together a three game winning streak this week. First, they snagged a 67-65 home win versus St. Bonaventure last Wednesday (2/3), followed by a road win versus La Salle, 68-65 last Saturday (2/6), and lastly a win over Saint Joseph’s, 56-52 on Tuesday (2/9). The last two are of particular interest because they were road wins, a rare element in St. Louis’ resumen this season. Identified by Pomeroy as one of the youngest squads in D1 (at 0.56 years they are ranked #346, dead last), Coach Majerus’ squad was 1-6 in away games going into the week. The Billikens are getting it done with defense. They have posted a conference-best 43.0 shot defense (eFG%), combined with the #5 best turnover rate. Sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell earned conference recognition in the form of A10 Player Of The Week for the second time this season with his 42 point/7 assist efforts in St. Louis’ games with St. Bonaventure and Syracuse.

St. Louis hosts Dayton Saturday (2/13). A win over the veteran Flyer squad would be a huge boost to Coach Majerus’ team.

Temple

Temple recorded a second consecutive 1-1 week in conference play as they beat Duquesne 76-60 on Wednesday (2/3), but lost their weekend game to Richmond, 71-54 on Saturday (2/6). That second loss dropped the Owls a half-game behind Xavier. Coach Dunphy’s offense and defense share a common set of priorities: that is, take care of the shot and then the rebound. On offense that translates in to a #3 conference rank for eFG% (51.4) and #5 rank for offensive rebounding (35.0%). On defense, the Owls rank #4 for shot defense (46.2% eFG) and #1 for defensive rebounding (26.4%). Ryan Brooks, Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez continue to be productive offensively, as Allen, sophomore Eric Michael, and Scottie Randall control the boards.

Temple will come off of a week-long break to host Rhode Island on Saturday (2/13).

Xavier

The Musketeers lost their second conference game last week, a 90-65 road game at Dayton on Saturday (2/6). Timing is everything as Temple also lost (to Richmond), keeping those two programs even in the loss column, and one loss behind Charlotte. Their offense, ranked #1 in conference games, earns them 1.11 points per possession. Combined with their #6 ranked defense, which allows 0.98 points per possession, that puts them at the top of the conference for efficiency differentials. On offense, top of the conference ranking in shot efficiency (eFG% of 54.3%) combined with frequent trips to the line (FTR of 45.7%) explain how Xavier earns their points. They have Jordan Crawford to thank, taking over a third of Xavier’s shots when he is on the court.  But as defenses concentrate on Crawford, Xavier has two other players — Terrell Holloway and Jason Love — who convert shots very efficiently.

Xavier takes a break from conference action to travel to Florida for a game with the Gators of the SEC.

Games to Catch:

Rhode Island at Temple Saturday 2/13 — An early season matchup gave Temple their first important conference road win, and knocked the Rams, who were flirting with #25 in the national polls, down a peg or two. Both teams, saddled with two losses apiece, need a win to keep pace with Xavier and remain one loss behind Charlotte. Lavoy Allen versus Delroy James should be interesting. Juan Fernandez and Luis Guzman will be tested by the conference’s best team in terms of forcing turnovers.

Xavier at Florida Saturday 2/13 — A top 50 RPI win up for grabs. Jason Love and Kenny Frease will have their hands full with Vernon Macklin and Dan Werner. If it comes down to a shootout between Kenny Boyton and Jordan Crawford, I have to like Crawford.

Dayton at St. Louis Saturday 2/13 — Two of the conference’s better defenses lock up in this game. St. Louis has been very tough at home (11-1 this season), while Dayton is less impressive on the road (4-3). This is the second game in a tough week for Dayton, but the Flyers cannot relax if they want to keep pace with the five teams clustered at the top of the conference.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on January 20th, 2010

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

Efficiency Differentials

The Atlantic 10 teams have played just over 20% of their conference schedule (as of Sunday, 1/17); every team has posted three or four games to the conference ledger. I might be a week (maybe?) early for conference-only efficiency differentials (offensive points per possession – defensive points per possession), but I was curious to see what the numbers and rankings could tell me now…

Xavier may have the most wins, but Temple has the largest positive differential. The Owls’ toughest win was on the road over Rhode Island (and a bit of a surprise because Rhode Island is ranked second), and that trumps the Musketeers’ home win over Dayton last Saturday (though that one is impressive given the progress Xavier has made since the beginning of the season). Are you surprised that, having absorbed a loss against Temple, the Runnin’ Rams of Rhode Island are ranked second? Consider that their next two opponents, Saint Joseph’s and Fordham, are #13 and #14 respectively. Blame the unbalanced nature of all conference schedules at this point in the season for a number of quirks. Rhode Island embarks on a two-game road trip, with stops in Cincinnati (Xavier) and Dayton, beginning on Saturday (1/23). That trip should clear up a few questions about Rhode Island, not to mention Dayton and Xavier. Even though it is early, the differentials do confirm that Saint Joseph’s and Fordham are struggling. That will most likely continue through the rest of the season.

Standings as of – 01/19/10

  1. Xavier (4-0, 12-5)
  2. Temple (3-0, 15-3, #17)
  3. Richmond (3-1, 14-5)
  4. Rhode Island (2-1, 14-2)
  5. Dayton (2-1, 13-4)
  6. St. Louis (2-1, 11-6)
  7. Charlotte (2-1, 12-5)
  8. La Salle (2-2, 9-8)
  9. George Washington (1-2, 11-5)
  10. St. Bonaventure (1-2, 9-8)
  11. Massachusetts (1-3, 7-10)
  12. Saint Joseph’s (1-3, 6-11)
  13. Duquesne (0-3, 9-8)
  14. Fordham (0-4, 2-14)

Team Breakdowns

Charlotte

Crushed in the first half 44-28, at Xavier, the 49ers rallied to “win” the second half 46-42, but it was not enough, however, as they came up on the short end of a 12-point decision 86-74 on Wednesday (1/13). Four starters, led by junior forward An’Juan Wilderness’ 15 points, scored in double digits. Charlotte beat Xavier on the boards 32-28, but that was not enough as the 49ers shot a terrible 9% from beyond the arc. They bounced back against St. Louis on Sunday (1/17) with a 63-61 overtime win in Halton Arena. Junior forward Shamari Spears played nearly 40 minutes and, along with freshman forward Chris Braswell, led all scorers with 16 points. Spears logged his seventh career double-double, the first with Charlotte. The win came with a price however, as senior forward RaShad Coleman suffered an avulsion fracture of the patella from the base of his left kneecap during the overtime period in the game. The senior, having taken an outlet pass from Dijuan Harris, put in a layup that gave Charlotte a 59-54 lead, but landed badly after. Most likely his career at Charlotte is over.

Next up for the 49ers is a trip to St. Louis for a game at the Chaifetz on Wednesday (1/20), followed by another trip to Philadelphia for a Saturday (1/23) game with La Salle.

Dayton

Luke Fabrizius’ 13 points led the Flyers over Fordham 74-58 on Wednesday (1/13). They shot an impressive 42% (8-19) from beyond the arc, as they posted their second conference win. Dayton traveled to Cincinnati and dropped their game at Xavier 78-74, on Saturday (1/16). Although they led at halftime 39-36, Coach Gregory’s squad could not hold off the Musketeers in the second half. Xavier came back to tie 39-all at the 19-minute mark of the second half, and the Flyers could not stop Kenny Frease from putting the Musketeers up by two with a layup on Xavier’s next possession. The two teams wrestled over the next four minutes, tying the score four times and exchanging the lead three more times before Xavier took over with about 14 minutes to play. Dayton’s Marcus Johnson shared scoring honors, 17 points, with his backcourt opponent, Terrell Holloway. Chris Johnson led rebounders (Dayton won the boards by a large margin — 48-28) with 16 and posted his third double-double of the season, and his second in the last three games. The Flyers lost their 26th straight game at Xavier, 78-74, on Saturday (1/16). Pushing a lead out to seven points twice in the first half, Dayton took a three point lead into the locker room. Coach Gregory’s squad fell behind by eight at the 2:51 mark of the second half, but after whittling Xaviers’ lead down to three with 0:48, they could not stop Jordan Crawford on Xavier’s next possession. They had it down to two with 0:03 left, but the change of possession foul put Terrell Holloway on the line, and the junior guard converted both free throws to ice the game. Marcus Johnson paced the Flyers with 17 points; he was one of four Flyers in double figures. Chris Johnson logged his third double-double of the season.

The Flyers will host George Washington on Wednesday (1/20), and then travel to Philadelphia for a game with the Saint Joseph’s Hawks on Saturday (1/23).

Duquesne

The Dukes dropped a double-overtime decision to St. Louis on Wednesday (1/13), 79-75. Damian Saunders played the entire 50 minutes (regulation plus two overtime periods) and paced Duquesne with a game-high 23 points on 9-21 (0-2, 9-19) and 5-7 shooting. Saunders made it a game-leading double-double, (his 14th of season, leading all of D1) as he also grabbed a game-high 17 (10-7-17) rebounds. Getting more offensive than defensive rebounds is unusual, and getting double-digit offensive rebounds more unusual still. Bill Clark notched his fifth career double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Melquan Bolding logged 5 minutes of the 50 minutes allocated by regulation and two overtime periods. Strep throat was blamed for a missed practice and the limited action. Bolding has yet to his stride, but the Dukes clearly need him now.

Duquesne will take to the road for a game with Rhode Island on Wednesday (1/20), then return home to host the Bonnies on Saturday (1/23).

Fordham

Fordham extended its consecutive loss run by two more over the last week. After dropping a 16-point decision (74-58) to Dayton, they lost to Rhode Island 85-67, an 18 point loss. Both were home games for the Rams, but there was no advantage for the Fordham Rams. Brent Butler, relying on volume shooting, scored 20 points on 18 attempts against Dayton. Chris Gaston secured eight rebounds, though the Flyers clearly outrebounded the Rams. Gaston logged his ninth double-double, as he paced Fordham with 29 points and 16 (10-6-16) rebounds on 13-24 (0-0, 13-24) and 3-6 shooting. Butler chipped in 19 points

Next up for Fordham is a visit with the Billikens in St. Louis on Wednesday (1/20), and then back to the Bronx to host the Temple Owls on Saturday (1/23).

George Washington

George Washington dropped a heartbreaker to the Explorers on Wednesday (1/13), 65-64 in Philadelphia. In a game decided on the very last possession, Aaron Ware scored four points in the last 1:08 to close the deficit to a single point. Damian Hollis forced a La Salle turnover with 0:08 on the clock, but Travis King left a three point attempt on the rim as time expired. Damian Hollis and Aaron Ware paced the Colonials with 17 and 16 points respectively. Hollis made his a double-double, the ninth of his career and his first this season, as he grabbed 10 rebounds.

The Colonials go to Dayton to play the Flyers on Wednesday (1/20), and then return to DC to host Richmond on Saturday (1/23).

La Salle

Dr. Giannini’s squad won a nail-biter against George Washington 65-64, on Wednesday (1/13). Down one  at the half, the Explorers outscored the Colonials 34-32 in the second half to take the decision. In a game that saw 11 ties and 12 lead changes, the Explorers took the lead for good, 61-59, on a Rodney Green layup with 2:43 remaining. The Explorers stretched their lead out to five, 65-60 on four made free throws. The Colonials closed with an Aaron Ware-one man scoring rush in the last 1:08, but La Salle survived. La Salle freshman center Aaric Murray led all scorers with 21 points on 9-11 (2-2, 7-9) and 1-1 shooting. Yves Mekongo Mbala and Rodney Green each chipped in double-digit points, 17 and 15 respectively. The Explorers could get no bounce out of the win however, as they dropped a road game 67-63, to Richmond on Saturday (1/16). In contrast to his effort against George Washington, Aaric Murray took the “high volume” shooting route to a double-double night. The freshman scored 19 points to go with his 15 (3-12-15) rebounds as he recorded his fourth double-double of the season, the first in conference play. Junior Jerrell Williams, who shot 6-9 (0-0, 6-9) and 2-2 scored his 14 points far more efficiently (66.7% – eFG%) than Murray did his 19 (42.5% – eFG%) or Green his 10 (41.8% – eFG%). Unfortunately Williams took only 19.1% of the shots when he was on the floor, to Murray’s 39.0% and Green’s 22.2%.

La Salle travels across town Wednesday (1/20) to play Big 5 rival Penn at the Palestra, then hosts Charlotte on Saturday (1/23).

Massachusetts

Their two-game road trip last week was disappointing. Derek Kellogg’s team is a bit young (at 1.24 years, they are ranked #304 out of 346, according to Ken Pomeroy’s Scout Page), but dropping an overtime decision by seven points to Richmond had to hurt. The Minutemen made up their three-point first half deficit, but despite having two possessions in the last minute, were unable to convert and take the win. They were outscored 17-10 in the extra period. Freshman Freddie Riley’s game-high 20 points paced Massachusetts for the second consecutive game. Senior guard Ricky Harris chipped in 17 points on a high volume 8-21 (1-6, 7-15) and 1-1 shooting.

The Minutemen will host St. Bonaventure on Wednesday (1/20), then take a break from conference play, travel to Texas and play the Baylor Bears of the Big 12, on Saturday (1/23).

Rhode Island

The Runnin’ Rams nickname was well earned as Rhode Island dispatched Saint Joseph’s by a 27-point margin, 101-74, on Wednesday (1/13). Senior forward Delroy James scored a career best 24 points on 8-12 (3-6, 5-6) and 5-8 night. Freshman guard Akeem Richmond also had a career night, nearly matching James’ 24 points with 21 of his own. Richmond shot 8-14 (5-8, 3-6) and 0-0 for an efficient 67.9% eFG%. They followed the Saint Joseph’s game with another impressive outing, an 85-67, 17 point win over the Fordham Rams, on Saturday (1/16). Senior guard Keith Cothran scored 26 points, while Lamonte Ulmer recorded a career-high 24 points to complement his double-double (14 rebounds). This was Ulmer’s third double-double of the season and the fifth of his career.

After hosting the Dukes on Wednesday (1/20), the Rams run off to Cincinnati, OH, for a game with Xavier on Saturday (1/23), the first game in a two game road trip that takes them to Dayton for a game with the Flyers on Tuesday (1/26).

Richmond

The Spiders came from behind to knot the Minutemen at 53 and force an overtime period last Wednesday (1/13). They had ceded a three point lead to Massachusetts but managed to outscore their young opponents 17-10 during overtime to seal the victory.  The Spiders’ scoring triumvirate of Kevin Anderson, David Gonzalvez and Justin Harper each scored double-digit points, 19, 16 and 12 respectively, to bring the win home. The Spiders followed that win with another, this one over La Salle, 67-63, on Saturday (1/16). Up by nine 38-29, at the half, the Spiders withstood an Explorer 6-2 run which brought the visitors to within 5, 40-35 with 16:34 to play. Another push by the Explorers trimmed the Spiders’ cushion to 2, 50-48 about 7:30 later. Coach Mooney’s squad gathered themselves, took a 5-2 run to build a seven-point cushion, and did not allow the Explorers to get closer than three thereafter. Anderson, Gonzalvez and Harper again led the Spiders, scoring 21, 12 and 11 points respectively. Sophomore Darrius Garrett gathered six rebounds to pace Richmond rebounders.

Richmond hosts Charlotte on Wednesday (1/20), then travel to George Washington for a Saturday (1/23) game.

Saint Joseph’s

Coach Martelli’s squad played three games in five days, going 1-2 in the process. On Wednesday (1/13) they traveled to Kingston, RI, and lost a 101-74 decision to Rhode Island. Darrin Govens (15), Garrett Williamson (14) and Charoy Bentley (10) scored double-digit points. The second road game was played in Olean, NY, 68-65 on Saturday (1/16) against St. Bonaventure. The upperclassmen, senior guards Darrin Govens and Garrett Williamson, along with junior forward Idris Hilliard led the way with 15, 12 and 12 points respectively. Hilliard hauled in seven rebounds, matching sophomore center Todd O’Brien’s efforts. How did O’Brien score 11 points while taking five field goal attempts? He lived at the line, taking 12 free throw attempts for his five FGAs. That is an FTA/FGA of 240.0%. O’Brien’s 12.0% offensive rebounding rate is very promising. The Hawks took a break from conference play to host Towson of the CAA conference on Monday (1/18). They beat the Pat Kennedy-coached Tigers 64-57 at the Hagan Arena on campus to hold their run of losses to two. Idris Hilliard led the way with 20 points on 8-12 and 4-5 shooting. Freshman Justin Crosgile helped with 13 points on 4-7 (3-5, 1-2) and 2-2 shooting. Senior Garrett Williamson added 12 points in 40 minutes of play.

The Hawks will host Dayton on Saturday (1/23), and then take a second break from conference play for a tilt with Big 5 rival Penn at the Palestra.

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies recorded their first conference win, a 68-65 squeaker, on Saturday (1/16), complements of Saint Joseph’s. Michael Davenport, Andrew Nicholson and Malcolm Eleby powered St. Bonaventure’s offense with both volume and efficient scoring. Davenport matched his season high with 19 points with a 61.5% eFG% performance. He used his 32.9% shot rate (high for a D1 player) very efficiently garnering a 113.9 offensive rating. Eleby, with 10 points in 18 minutes of play, notching a 60.0% eFG% while taking 21.8% of the shots when he was on the court provided the Bonnies with a bit of efficiency. Nicholson converted efficiently (a 63.6 eFG%) and prolifically, scoring 16 points with 11 field goal attempts. His offensive efficiency (95.2) was hurt by a 26% turnover rate. Losing one in four of your possessions is a rally killer waiting to happen.

Coach Schmidt’s squad travels to Amherst on Wednesday (1/20), to play Massachusetts, then to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne on Saturday (1/23).

St. Louis

The Billikens completed a two game road swing last week. Good news greeted the squad at the first stop, as St. Louis defeated Duquesne 79-75 in overtime on Wednesday (1/13), but lost to Charlotte, 63-61 (also in overtime), at the second stop on Sunday (1/17). The best news of the trip may have been Australian Cody Ellis, a 6’8, 240 pound forward from Perth, Australia, who became eligible in time for St. Louis’ 1/9 game with Richmond. In his first three games Ellis has scored 10, 14 and 11 points. Ellis is not afraid to shoot, and for the offense-starved Billikens, that is not a bad thing. Kwamain Mitchell led St. Louis with 19 points, while Kyle Cassity chipped in 15. Ellis posted a double-double, garnering 11 rebounds to go with his 14 points. Versus Charlotte, Jon Smith, a 6’5 freshman forward paced St. Louis with a career-high 15 points. Three others, Kwamain Mitchell (12), Cody Ellis (11) and Willie Reed (10) scored 10 or more points in the losing effort.

St. Louis hosts Fordham on Wednesday (1/20), then take off a week. The Billikens return to action when they travel to Washington DC to play the Colonials of GWU on Wednesday (1/27).

Temple

Coach Dunphy’s squad climbed to #17 in the AP poll this Monday (1/17) and with good reason. Having dispatched the Penn Quakers in a Big 5 contest on Wednesday (1/13) 60-45, the Owls know they are halfway to the first Big 5 Championship of the decade. If the score doesn’t seem particularly impressive given the state of the Quaker program (Coach Glen Miller was fired earlier in the season), consider that Dunphy coached at Penn for 17 seasons, before moving over to Broad Street. And Penn’s interim head coach, Jerome Allen, played ball for Coach Dunphy’s Penn teams in the mid 1990s. Guard Ryan Brooks continued his run by posting a game-high 15 points. Point guard Juan Fernandez added 12 points. Temple returned to conference play with a win over visiting Massachusetts 76-64, on Saturday (1/16). Brooks and Fernandez were effective yet again, scoring 29 and 15 points respectively. Junior forward Lavoy Allen gathered 14 (5-9-14) rebounds.

The Owls host the Musketeers on Wednesday (1/20), and then off to the Bronx for a game against Fordham on Saturday (1/23).

Xavier

Xavier had a two-game home stand last week, leading off with a visit from Charlotte, whom they defeated 86-74 on Wednesday (1/13). Jordan Crawford led all scorers with 18 points, with support from Dante Jackson (14 points), sophomore guard Brad Redford (12 points) and Jason Love (10 points). They were not good hosts on Saturday (1/16) either, as the Musketeers beat Dayton 78-74, at the Cintas Center for the 25th time since 1981. Losing the lead at the 4-minute mark of the first half, Xavier went to the locker room down 3 39-36. The X-men knotted the score at the 19-minute mark of the second half, and retook the lead on the next possession on a Kenny Fraese layup. Over the next four minutes the game saw four ties and three lead changes, but the Musketeers took the lead for good at the 14:32 mark and did not look back. Xavier nursed a lead as high as six and as low as one through the last 14 minutes, closing the Flyers out with a mix of jumpers and layups, masking a shaky showing (4-6) at the free throw line. Dante Jackson led all scorers with 19 points on 6-13 (5-8, 1-5) and 2-2 shooting. Jordan Crawford (16), Terrell Holloway (15) and Jason Love (10) all chipped in at least 10 points apiece.

Coach Mack’s squad travels to Philadelphia for an early season meeting with Temple on Wednesday (1/20), then return home to host Rhode Island on Saturday (1/23). Hosting Dayton on 1/16, followed by these two opponents has made this an especially rough week for the Musketeers.

Games to Catch

  • Richmond at Charlotte – Wednesday 1/20 — Is Richmond ready for the next step? A move up to the top spots in the conference won’t come until the Spiders can secure their home court and then go out and win on the road. With a home record of 7-0 and an efficiency differential of .215, Richmond would appear to have the first test covered. A road win over the 49ers would put them on the road to covering the second.
  • Xavier at Temple – Wednesday 1/20 — The schedule maker must have seen something in the off season that most of us missed, as he (or she?) scheduled a second “sorting out” game in two weeks. The Musketeers travel to Philadelphia to play the Owls. Jordan Crawford should give Ryan Brooks all he can handle, and the Jason Love – Lavoy Allen matchup should be pretty good too.
  • Rhode Island at Xavier – Saturday 1/23 — The Flyers last Saturday, the Owls on Wednesday and then the Rams the Saturday following. The Musketeers might be gunning for a 3-0 sweep (that would really scramble the A10 race), but 2-1 would be a good outcome. The Delroy James – Jason Love/Kenny Fraese matchup should be entertaining. Keith Cothran and Jordan Crawford might turn this into a game of HORSE.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on January 13th, 2010

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

First Night

The Atlantic 10, though large at 14 teams, maintains a 16-game conference schedule. Conference play can be scheduled easily into the 10 weeks between New Year’s and Conference Tournament Week (roughly the second week in March). Sixteen games in just under 10 weeks allows for about two conference games (more or less) with a spot or two for another out of conference game. This is good news for the Philadelphia teams (La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and Temple), because it allows them to schedule one of their Big 5 rivals (Penn) into the latter part of the season, thereby sustaining a bit of suspense in their annual City Series. If a 16-game season cannot accommodate a balanced schedule (A10 teams would have to play 26 games; the season most likely starting in late November), it can sustain the idea of an inaugural day of conference play. This season’s First Night fell on Wednesday, January 6, as eight teams opened their conference season with four games. A ninth team, Charlotte, finished out their out of conference season against Tennessee, and two others, La Salle and Xavier, opened their conference slate (against each other) on Thursday (1/7). Opening night winners included George Washington (over St. Bonaventure), Massachusetts (over Fordham), Richmond (over Duquesne) and Temple (over Saint Joseph’s).

Home Court Advantage

The records and efficiency differentials include both out of conference and any conference games played to last Sunday. Both Xavier and Richmond appear quite formidable at home, a bit of a contrast to their performance on the road. Games those two can pick up out of their own house will benefit their conference records greatly. For teams who dream of getting to conference’s upper division, maximizing the advantage provided by a home arena is crucial. Fans have turned out in large numbers and been very vocal for the hometown team. For Fordham, Saint Joseph’s, La Salle and Massachusetts, whose records suggest no significant advantage is given for home games, we find the notion is bolstered by a low differential. Rhode Island shows a strong winning record, but a weak differential advantage. The Rams need to rebound better and get a hand in the shooter’s face.  Temple is an enigma. The Owls show a better differential away from home rather than in Philadelphia. It seems the Kansas game (not to mention the seven point loss to St. John’s at the Palestra) left a few scars.

Standings (as of 01/12/10)

  1. Temple (13-3, 2-0, #19 AP)
  2. Xavier (10-5, 2-0)
  3. Dayton (12-3, 1-0)
  4. Charlotte (11-4, 1-0)
  5. St. Louis (10-5, 1-0)
  6. George Washington (11-4, 1-1)
  7. Richmond (12-5, 1-1)
  8. La Salle (8-7, 1-1)
  9. Massachusetts (7-8, 1-1)
  10. Saint Joseph’s (8-9, 1-1)
  11. Rhode Island (12-2, 0-1)
  12. Duquesne (9-7, 0-2)
  13. St. Bonaventure (7-8, 0-2)
  14. Fordham (2-12, 0-2)

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

Coach Lutz’s squad closed their out of conference schedule with another road loss, this time to Tennessee on Wednesday (1/6). The score, 86-71, was especially disappointing given the suspension of four scholarship players on gun, achohol and drug charges the previous Friday. One would think the turmoil, the absence of a starter (Tyler Smith) a crucial rotation player (Cameron Tatum) and the primary backup point guard (Melvin Goins) would diminish the Vols’ effectiveness. The 49ers missed a good opportunity for a quality win as the Vols used to playing complementary roles to Tyler Smith stepped up to fill the void (and basket). Though Charlotte held a 3-point lead early (14-11), Tennessee took two 14-0 runs in the first half to put Charlotte back on its heels, and took a 51-29 lead into halftime. It got a little ugly at the end, as both Shamari Spears and Tennessee center Wayne Chism drew a technical with about 5:00 left in the 2nd half (Tennessee up 80-54). The 49ers returned home to host St. Bonaventure on Saturday (1/09). They beat the Bonnies 57-54 in a game not decided until the last minute. After Marquise Simmons dunked to cut the lead to one, a Bonnie turnover and foul put junior guard Charles Dewhurst on the line to settle matters. Dewhurst hit both free throws to push the lead to three with two ticks left.

Charlotte goes back to work on Wednesday (1/13) with a trip to Cincinnati, OH, and a game with Xavier. The 49ers will host St. Louis on Sunday (1/17), then travel to Richmond to play the Spiders the following Wednesday (1/20).

Dayton

The Flyers’s 6’6 Chris Johnson shared Player of the Week honors with Xavier’s Jordan Crawford. Johnson posted career-high points (26) and rebounds (20) as he led Dayton to a 78-72 overtime win at Duquesne in Dayton’s home conference opener on Saturday (1/9).

Dayton takes in the Big Apple on Wednesday (1/13) as they play Fordham at Rose Hill, then out to Cincinnati to take on Xavier on Saturday (1/13).

Duquesne

Duquesne opened conference play with a loss at the hands of Richmond, 80-68, on Wednesday (1/6). This was a home game for the Dukes, which makes it especially difficult. Coach Everhart’s squad then traveled to Dayton and dropped their second conference game to the Flyers, 78-72 (OT), on Saturday (1/9). Damian Saunders (21), Sean Johnson (14), Melquan Bolding (13) and Jason Duty (12) all scored in double digits. Saunders made it a double-double with 11 rebounds.

The Dukes host St. Louis Wednesday (1/13), then take a one week break to get ready for the Rhode Island Rams (1/20).

Fordham

The Rams opened on the road, dropping a 78-76 decision to Massachusetts last Wednesday (1/6). Brenton Butler led all scorers with 31 points on a very efficient 12-23 (6-11, 6-12) and 1-4 shooting. Chris Gaston (16) and Lance Brown (11) also scored double-digit points. Gaston logged his ninth double-double in this, his freshman season. Fordham then traveled to Philadelphia and lost their second A10 game to Saint Joseph’s, 82-69, at the Hagan. Freshman center Fahro Alihodzic, a 6’10, 235 pound native of Great Britain, scored a career-high 16 points in the losing effort.

Fordham will host Dayton on Wednesday (1/13), then Rhode Island on Saturday (1/16).

George Washington

The Colonials opened their A10 schedule with a road win, 78-71, over St. Bonaventure on Wednesday (1/6). Guard Lasan Kromah led all scorers with 23 very, very efficiently scored points on 9-11 (5-7, 4-4) and 0-0 shooting. Kromah’s eFG%, 104.5%, should turn a few heads (and change a few game plans) around the conference, and in fact earned Lasan the Freshman of the Week honors for January 10. A 65% eFG% is considered terrific. Coach Hobbs’ squad returned home and dropped their home opener to Xavier, 76-69, on Saturday (1/9). Damian Hollis led all scorers with 23 points on 8-22 (2-8, 6-14) and 5-6 shooting.

GW faces La Salle in Philadelphia on Wednesday (1/13), then takes a seven-day break to prepare for Dayton on Wednesday (1/20).

La Salle

Dr. Giannini’s Explorers opened at home against the Musketeers last Thursday (1/7), dropping their first conference game 68-62. A 20-2 second half run brought La Salle close, 54-56, but they could not get the next stop, and were shut out the final 2:03 of the game. The Rodney Green-Jordan Crawford duel went to the visitor, 22-20. The Explorers traveled to Massachusetts and beat the Minutemen 80-74 to square their conference record at 1. Freshman center Aaric Murray scored the team-high 18 points while teammate forward Jerrell Williams snagged 12 rebounds. Murray missed his fourth double-double of the season by a single rebound.

La Salle will host George Washington on Wednesday (1/13), and then travel to Richmond to play the Spiders on Saturday (1/16).

Massachusetts

Massachusetts beat Fordham, 78-76, to open their A10 schedule on Wednesday (1/6), then dropped a 80-74 decision to La Salle on Saturday (1/9). Senior guard Ricky Harris’ 21 points paced the Minutemen against Fordham, while freshman guard Freddie Riley did the honors against La Salle, scoring 21 points on 7-15 (6-14, 1-1) and 2-2 shooting.

The Minutemen travel to Richmond to play the Spiders on Wednesday (1/13), then to Philadelphia to play Temple on Saturday (1/16).

Rhode Island

The rankings above are deceptive. The Rams’ loss was to #19 ranked Temple 68-64 in overtime, on Sunday (1/10). A few ESPN/USA Today voters recognized the effort, as the Rams garnered 7 votes (#37 in the poll). Delroy James and Keith Cothran dominated the Rams’ offense, taking between them over 75% of the available shots when they were on the floor. That might have made defending them too easy. James had a relatively efficient 52.9% eFG% with a 1.05 PPWS. Cothran by contrast, had a rough night. The senior guard could muster only a 35.3 eFG% with a 0.82 PPWS. The Rams were very average on the offensive boards, and had difficulty keeping the Owls (i.e., Lavoy Allen) off the offensive boards.

Things should turnaround quickly, as the  Rams host Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday (1/13), then travel to the Bronx to play Fordham on Saturday (1/16).

Richmond

Coach Mooney’s Spiders opened the A10 season with a two game road trip. First stop was Pittsburgh where the Spiders drubbed the Dukes 80-68, on Wednesday. David Gonzalvez led all scorers with 19 points. Gonzalvez and four other Spiders (Kevin Anderson 18; Ryan Butler 14; Justin Harper 12; Dan Geriot 11) all logged double-digit points. Next stop was St. Louis where the Spiders dropped a 5 point decision (63-58) to the Billikens on Saturday (1/09).

Richmond will host Massachusetts on Wednesday (1/13), then host the Explorers of La Salle on Saturday (1/16).

Saint Joseph’s

The Hawks dropped their first A10 game to crosstown (and Big 5) rival Temple 73-49, on Wednesday (1/06). No Hawk scored more than eight points, though two, sophomore guard Scott Prescott and freshman guard Carl Jones logged eight points. They managed to even the record with a visit from Fordham. They beat the Rams 82-69, on Saturday (1/09). Four Hawks managed to score more than 10 points (junior center Todd O’Brien with 20; senior guard Garrett Williamson with 10 and freshman guard Carl Jones with 15), with senior Darrin Govins leading the way with 21.

Saint Joseph’s takes on it’s second Ram in five days when they travel to Kingston, RI, to play Rhode Island on Wednesday (1/13). The road trip has one more stop, in Olean, NY as the Hawks take on the Bonnies on Saturday (1/16).

St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure opened the season as hosts to the Colonials, and dropped that decision 78-71, on Wednesday (1/6). Sophomore forward Andrew Nicholson scored 16 points to lead St. Bonaventure. Three other starters, all guards contributed 10 or more points to the effort. The Bonnies dropped their second A10 game, 57-54, this one on the road, to Charlotte, on Saturday (1/09). Freshman forward Marquise Simmons’ dunk brought the Bonnies to within a point, 55-54, with 0:45 left. Charlotte burned two 30 second timeouts and missed a jumper with 0:10 seconds left. A Jon Hall turnover and foul put a Charlotte junior guard on the line. Charles Dewhurst hit both free throws to push the lead back out to three with two seconds left.

The Bonnies will host St. Joseph’s on Saturday (1/16).

St. Louis

Coach Majerus’ squad hosted Richmond to open their A10 season, and beat the Spiders 63-58 on Saturday (1/9). Sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell scored a team-high 16 points on 7-12 (2-3, 5-9) and 0-0 shooting. Also posting double digit points for the Billikens, sophomore forward Brian Conklin (12 points) and, playing in his first collegiate game, freshman forward Cody Ellis (10).

The Billikens hit the road for two games, the first at Duquesne on Wednesday (1/13), the second on Sunday (1/17) at Charlotte.

Temple

Temple opened their A10 slate by hosting, and beating Saint Joseph’s 73-46, on Wednesday (1/6). Their offense went through Juan Fernandez, Lavoy Allen and Ryan Brooks (as usual). Fernandez had a horrific night from the floor, going 0-10. He managed 4 rebounds, 2 assists (and 3 turnovers) and 3 steals in 33 minutes. The team as a whole converted at a 48.5% (eFG%), as Allen (with a double-double 20 and 11) and Brooks (13 points) were the heros. Sophomore Michael Eric scored 13 points in 15 minutes. They traveled to Kingston, RI, and beat the Rams 68-64 in overtime on Sunday (1/10). Fernandez was back in his zone, leading the team with 18 points on 7-16 (3-3, 4-13) and 1-2 shooting. Brooks contributed 16 points, just better than his season average 15.3, while Allen his second consecutive (and fifth of the season) double-double, with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

The Owls take a break from their conference schedule on Wednesday (1/13) as they play the Penn Quakers of the Ivy League (and Big 5) in the historic Palestra on Penn’s campus. On Saturday (1/16) it’s back to conference play as they host Massachusetts.

Xavier

Congratulations to Jordan Crawford who shared the A10 Player of the Week honors with Dayton’s Chris Johnson, for his efforts in X’s loss to Wake Forest on 1/3 and his 22 points in the Musketeers’ 68-62 win over La Salle last Thursday (1/7). The Musketeers traveled to Washington, DC, and beat the Colonials 76-69 on Sunday (1/10). Senior forward Jason Love led Xavier with 19 points.

Coach Mack’s squad hosts Charlotte on Wednesday (1/13), then Dayton comes calling on Saturday (1/16) for a noon (ET) game.

Games to Catch

  • Charlotte at Xavier – Wednesday 1/13 — Charlotte wants to move up in the conference and has played well (forget about Tennessee) on the road. For the Musketeers to maintain their standing in the conference they need to hold serve at home. This one will pit Shamari Spears against Chris Wright in what should be a good matchup.
  • St. Louis at Duquesne –  Wednesday 1/13 — Two teams fighting for a place in the A10′s upper division match up as the Billikens travel to Pittsburgh to play the Dukes. Coach Majerus’ very deliberate 4-out-1-in motion offense (about 64 possessions per game) matches against Coach Everhart’s uptempo style (about 71 possessions per game). St. Louis has not traveled well this season, an inexperienced squad the most likely cause. After starting hot, the Dukes have cooled down. Maybe rehabbed Melquan Bolding can help them regain momentum. Both teams play good defense, so the game may go to the team that can make a shot.
  • Dayton at Xavier - Saturday 1/16 — Dayton was the preseason favorite, but Xavier had a surprisingly good out of conference run. Is this an instance of the Changing of the Guard, or of Some Things Never Change? Jordan Crawford and Chris Wright should be a lot of fun to watch.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on January 7th, 2010

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

Looking Back/Looking Forward

The Atlantic 10 conference season has begun (literally) — the first games were played Wednesday 1/6, and next weekend will find virtually every conference team playing a conference schedule. How did the conference fare in the out of conference portion of the season? I have pulled together efficiency statistics from Ken Pomeroy’s web site and combined them with each team’s record (through January 5) and the difference of their offensive efficiency and their defensive efficiency (expressed as points per possession). To provide a context for the team’s won/lost record and efficiency difference, I have also provided (from Realtime RPI) each team’s current SOS (through January 4).

I did not credit St. Louis and St. Bonaventure with their in-season wins over their D2 opponents (Rockhurst and Le Moyne, respectively) because the possession-based stats from those games were not included in those team’s OOC stats, nor were they included in those teams’ SOS computation and ranking.

The order is mildly surprising — Temple remains at the top of the list, Kansas blowout notwithstanding, and Xavier holds the second spot, despite 4 losses. Some things never change it seems. Preseason favorite Dayton holds a very respectable spot, but I feel a little disappointed in that I thought the Flyers would do a little better, taking another game in Puerto Rico, or maybe the New Mexico game. Rhode Island‘s won/lost record appears to be confirmed by the Rams’ SOS, efficiency differential and recent results (their win over Oklahoma State last weekend). Richmond‘s SOS also invests credibility in their won/lost record and efficiency differential. It’s not clear from the table, but an element to factor when calculating the Spiders’ conference season prospects (and by inference, their postseason prospects) is their road record, where at 1-4, they seem overly sensitive to hostile environments. Optimism based on their out of conference records seems a bit premature for George Washington and Charlotte. Their efficiency differentials when juxtaposed with their respective SOSs, suggests these two teams may struggle in conference play. Charlotte was easily handled at Tennessee last night, while the Colonials will be tested early with a visit from Xavier this evening.

Standings as of 01/06/10

  1. Temple (12-3) (#21 AP)
  2. Rhode Island (12-1)
  3. Dayton (11-3)
  4. Charlotte (10-4)
  5. George Washington (11-3)
  6. Richmond (12-4) WC
  7. Xavier (8-5)
  8. Duquesne (9-6)
  9. St. Louis (9-5)
  10. St. Bonaventure (7-7)
  11. La Salle (7-6)
  12. Massachusetts (7-7)
  13. St. Joseph’s (4-9)
  14. Fordham (2-11)

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

Charlotte thumped Mercer 91-80, last Wednesday (12/29), to close out 2009, but dropped a 9-point decision to Georgia Tech, 76-67, to open 2010 last Saturday (1/2). Dario Green and Shamari Spears led the 49ers with 23 points apiece against Mercer, but Green, with 31 points in 35 minutes of play, was only 1 of 2 Charlotte players (DiJuan Harris, with 13 points was the other) to score more than 10 points against the Yellow Jackets. The 42 point loss at Duke was embarrassing, but not fatal to Charlotte’s postseason prospects. The 49ers have a solid win at Louisville (#55 RPI). Coach Lutz’s squad missed three top 100 win opportunities, at Old Dominion (#41 RPI), and versus Georgia Tech (#63 RPI), and at Tennessee last night. They show no bad losses to this point. Perhaps an outstanding A10 record, combined with a strong showing at the A10′s postseason tournament will be enough to swing the Selection Committee. The Atlantic 10 Conference Offices recognized Dario Green as the co-player of the week and Chris Braswell as the co-rookie of the week.

The 49ers open their A10 slate on Saturday (1/9) when they host St. Bonaventure.

Dayton

Coach Gregory’s squad dropped their New Year’s Day game to New Mexico 68-66. Chris Johnson scored a team-high 21 points, 11 coming in the last 55 seconds of the game (three 3s and a 2). The Flyers were down seven when Johnson decided to make his run, but were not able (until Johnson’s last three closed the game) to cut the Lobos’ lead to less than four. Neither team was particularly efficient at converting possessions into points, but shot defense failed the Flyers as it did in the Kansas State game, and the Flyers could not keep the Lobos off the free throw line. New Mexico had nearly twice as many FTAs as Dayton. The Lobos took it to the cup at every chance, especially in the 2nd half. They were rewarded with over 1 FTA for every FGA they took (107.5), high even for the Lobos (see the New Mexico Game Plan page at Ken Pomeroy’s website). New Mexico earned 38.2% of their points at the line, high for a D1 team. Dayton did get votes in both polls Monday, enough to rank the Flyers #34 in the AP poll (placing them behind Temple and Rhode Island). With Tuesday’s 24-point blowout versus Ball State, 59-35, the Flyers close out their out of conference schedule with a 11-3 record. On a night when only three players logged more than 20 minutes (50% of the available playing time at their position), Chris Wright was the game-high scorer with 10 points. Coach Gregory emptied his bench and passed 14 different players through the game. Only two logged a minute of playing time, and a third logged less than five minutes. Postseason prospects will depend more heavily on their conference record than I anticipated in my season preview. The Flyers go into their conference slate with no signature (Top 25 RPI) wins. Their best wins are against Old Dominion (RPI #43 in Dayton) and Georgia Tech (RPI #63 in Puerto Rico). Their three losses are on the road or in neutral sites, all to top 25 RPI teams.

Dayton will host Duquesne in their A10 opener on Saturday (1/9).

Duquesne

The Dukes dropped a 9-point decision, 63-54, to the Monarchs of Old Dominion on Wednesday. Freshman guard Sean Johnson posted a career-high 17 points as he led the Dukes. Damian Saunders, Eric Evans and Bill Clark all scored in double digits as well, but the freshman posted an efficient 58.3% eFG% in the losing effort. The good news is that injured Melquan Bolding has been cleared to practice and will hopefully see some playing time in the next week or so. Odds for an NCAA invitation hang on a strong A10 record, which was given an early jolt with a loss at home to Richmond last night, 80-68. Given their difficulties on the offensive side of the ball (shot making, turnovers and very average offensive rebounding) against average (OOC) competition, I wonder how effective the Dukes will be in conference play. A relatively young team, they have struggled on the road (efficiency differential for road games is -0.147). That may not change much in conference play, despite Bolding’s return (remember he is not 100% nor is he in game condition at this point). The Dukes have a single notable (top 100 RPI) win, and that is against Radford (RPI #90). All of their losses are against top 100 teams. No ugly losses, but no signature wins (despite several chances) either.

Duquesne travels to Dayton to play the Flyers on Saturday (1/9).

Fordham

The Rams’ Southern Road Trip was a study in disappointment as Fordham dropped a 79-66 game to Kennesaw State last Tuesday (12/29) and another to Hampton, 78-54, on Sunday (1/3). Against Kennesaw State Chris Gaston (26) and Brenton Butler (25) scored 51 of Fordham’s 66 points. Against Hampton, Butler was the only double-digit scorer for the Rams, posting 21 points, about 38.9% of Fordham’s total production. Last night Fordham lost a 2-point heartbreaker at UMass.  Lacking consistent offense (Fordham is last in the A10 for offensive efficiency right now), prospects beyond Atlantic City are bleak. Ironically there are a number of A10 teams with worse defense, and even a few with worse offensive turnover rates and rebounding rates. But no team converts FGAs less efficiently than Fordham. Chris Gaston (who takes 37.4% of the team’s FGAs) and Brenton Butler (who takes 24.5%), their two principal threats, have eFG%s of 48.0 and 38.5 respectively, very tough conversion rates if the Rams expect to win. The Rams take about 69.2% of the FGAs as 2-point shots, which is pretty smart given they convert their 3s at a 24.2% rate. In other words they pose no serious threat from the perimeter. Defenses can collapse and concentrate on stopping lane penetration from Gaston (Butler takes 49.8% of his FGAs from beyond the arc). Hopefully Coach Grasso can use the season to experiment with the offense and develop/adopt a system that will make the most of the roster’s strengths, setting the foundation for next season. And Chris Gaston will decide he wants to be a part of the rebuilding. Gaston was named co-rookie of the week for the 2nd time this season.

Fordham will travel to Saint Joseph’s on Saturday (1/9).

George Washington

The Colonials were 1-1 on their New England Holiday Sojourn. After beating Holy Cross they dropped a 66-53 decision to Harvard on Wednesday (12/30). Damian Hollis scored 11 points (5-14, 0-6, 5-8 & 1-1) to lead George Washington. GW returned to Washington, DC, and beat Howard 81-63 on Saturday (1/2), paced again by Damian Hollis (18 points & 8 rebounds, both team-high) and Tony Taylor (13 points). Last night the Colonials got a 78-71 road win to open conference play against St. Bonaventure.  The 11-3 record looks promising, but it comes against competition with an SOS ranked #291. There are no signature wins in the offerings, with two of the three losses coming against their toughest competition (Harvard ranked #26 RPI & Providence, ranked #78 RPI). Their loss to Oregon State (#209 RPI) is bad. Against mediocre competition the Colonials have come to own the conference’s second worst (tied with Duquesne, ahead of only La Salle) turnover rate. They lost 21.9% of their possessions. Field goal efficiency is lower than the conference average, which, given GW’s SOS, raises a yellow flag for conference play. The Colonials have to rely on the strength of the conference (assuming they compile a good record in conference play) to bolster their credentials for the NCAA Selection Committee. Not a great plan.

Coach Hobbs’ squad will play their home opener against Xavier on Sunday (1/10).

La Salle

La Salle closed December with a loss to Ivy League favorite Cornell, then opened January with a catastrophe, a 5-point loss (66-61) to Binghamton on Saturday (1/2). Rodney Green’s 20 points (backed by Kimmani Barrett’s 17 points) was not enough to turn back the Binghamton Bearcats, shut down freshman Aaric Murray, limiting him to 4 (2-2-4) rebounds and 3 points over 33 minutes of play. The prospects for life after Atlantic City are bleak at this point. Though their resume lacked a signature win, the Explorers could at least plead their losses as having all been at the hands of top 100 teams. Until the Binghamton Bearcats. Like George Washington, La Salle will have to create a (NCAA) tournament-worthy resume on a strong conference showing. Risky business that may rely too heavily on a conference tournament run that would require an adjective like “miraculous,” “magical” or “remarkable” to accurately describe the effort.

The Explorers open their A10 season on Thursday (1/7) as they host Xavier. The squad will then take to the road for a game at Massachusetts on Sunday (1/10).

Massachusetts

Coach Kellogg’s squad dropped a 2-point decision to Davidson, 63-61, on Wednesday (12/30). Senior guard Ricky Harris and junior guard Anthony Gurley split the scoring duties, posting 21 and 17 points respectively. Sophomore center Sean Carter collected 10 rebounds (4-6-10), matching a career-high. Last night the Minutemen got a solid home win to begin conference play versus Fordham.  If tournament prospects are bleak, the Minutemen’s progress from this time last season is encouraging. The team headed into conference play with a 5-8 record, as opposed to this season’s 6-7 record. As the table below suggests their offense improved in the face of poorer shooting, on the strength of better rebounding, improved ball handling and more aggression getting to the basket. Massachusetts’ record would be (much) better if they had garnered 2009′s defensive numbers. Progress for the Minutemen might be better measured in getting more road wins and asserting a stronger home court advantage (and improving those defensive numbers), rather than post season bids.

Massachusetts will host La Salle on Sunday (1/10).

Rhode Island

Rhode Island continued to build it’s resume with a 4-point win over Oklahoma State, 63-59, on Saturday (1/2). Played more like a chess game than a basketball game, the teams took 61 possessions each (a pace more to Ok State’s liking than Rhode Island’s). If the game was not an offensive masterpiece, the Rams nevertheless posted some of their best defensive numbers of the season, as they limited the Cowboys to 0.97 points per possession and exploited the Cowboys systemic lack of rebounding. Delroy James, Keith Cothran and Stevie Mejia all posted double digit points, with Delroy leading the way with 14 points and 9 (7-2-9) rebounds. The effort did not go unnoticed, as the Rams upped their 5-vote 12/28 total in the AP poll to 52 votes in the current (1/4) poll. They need another 95 or so votes to break into the Top 25. Given their 5-point road win, 68-63, at Akron on Tuesday (1/5) perhaps a few more voters will remember them on their ballots next Monday. With 4 wins over top 100 RPI teams (Oklahoma State — #36, Northeastern — #67, Providence — #77 and Boston College on the road — #100) against a single loss (also to a Top 100 RPI team, a road loss to VCU — #37), Rhode Island has used their out of conference schedule to position themselves very well for postseason consideration. A strong showing in conference play (1 – 3 losses versus the better competition) should have them in the NCAAs.

Coach Baron’s squad opens their A10 schedule Sunday by hosting a marquee opponent, Temple, in a game that should have immediate repercussions in the conference race.

Richmond

The Spiders dropped a New Year’s Eve overtime decision at Wake Forest (74-68), Kevin Anderson leading the way with a career-high 31 points. Justin Harper was the only other Richmond player to post double-digit points as he scored 10 points on 3-8 (2-4, 1-4) and 2-4 shooting. They swung north to Lewisburg, PA to beat the struggling Bison of Bucknell on Saturday (1/2) 59-50, Anderson again led the team in scoring (the 7th time in 15 games) with 25 points on 9-17 (2-5, 7-12) and 5-7 shooting. Starting forwards Justin Harper and Ryan Butler chipped in 13 and 11 points respectively. Coach Mooney’s squad picked up four quality wins (ODU — #42, Mississippi St — #69, Missouri — #71 and Florida — #76) in their out of conference schedule. Their four losses, all to Top 100 RPI opponents were missed opportunities, one or two of which (that 20 point loss to South Carolina for example?) might be cause for regret come Selection Sunday. Their defense has been surprisingly effective (ranked #4 in the conference versus the #6 most difficult schedule) suggests they can do well in conference play if they can find a little more offense (calling David Gonzalvez…). Congratulations to Kevin Anderson who was named co-player of the week by the Atlantic 10 Conference. The article cited his career-high against Wake Forest and his point total against Bucknell.

Richmond opened their A10 schedule with another extended road trip that matches them against two of the A10′s youngest teams. First stop was Pittsburgh where Richmond handled Duquesne easily (80-68) Wednesday, followed with a stop in St. Louis for a play date with the Billikens on Saturday (1/9). Richmond has struggled in other team’s arenas; this trip will be a good test to see where they stand in the conference.

Saint Joseph’s

St. Joseph’s started a new losing streak, currently standing at two, as they dropped a game to Princeton over the weekend (Saturday 1/2) 70-62, at home. An Alpha and Omega combination, freshman Carl Jones came off the bench to lead the Hawks with 17 points on 6-13 (1-5, 5-8) and 4-5 shooting, coupled with starting senior Darrin Govens who chipped in 13 points on 5-14 (1-6, 4-8) and 2-2 shooting, led the team in scoring. Coach Martelli is working with a young team this season, and it is clear from the out of conference record that this will be a rebuilding year. With a 3-2 home record, the first step may be to establish a home court advantage in conference. And develop those young guards.

The Hawks open their A10 schedule with three games in 8 days. First they flew across town to get waxed by the Temple Owls last night 73-46, then they host Fordham on Saturday (1/9) and travel to Kingston, RI, to play Rhode Island the following Wednesday (1/13).

St. Bonaventure

Coach Schmidt’s squad beat Little Three rival Canisius 82-75, on Wednesday night (12/30). Jon Hall posted a 20 point night, leading the Bonnies. Hall grabbed 7 rebounds and dished 6 assists (and 0 turnovers) to boot. Chris Matthews notched 15 points. In all, five St. Bonaventure players scored double-digit points. They closed out their out of conference schedule on a down note, falling to Marshall 80-61, in Huntington, WV, on Saturday (1/2). While the Bonnies’ efficiency stats, both offensive and defensive, are good, their 6-6 record juxtaposed with their efficiency difference of 0.044, suggests they lack game-to-game consistency. The Bonnies are about a year (and a sure-handed point guard) away from the postseason. Among their six losses, only the Niagara loss (the Purple Eagles are ranked #114 in the RPI) is considered bad.

St. Bonaventure lost at home to George Washington on Wednesday 78-71, and will then travel to Charlotte to play the 49ers on Saturday (1/9).

St. Louis

The Billikens closed out their out of conference slate with a loss to Bowling Green, 59-50, on the road. Kwamain Mitchell and Ohio-native Jon Smith paced St. Louis with 13 and 11 points respectively. The Billikens’ record as the visitor in hostile arenas is 0-2 (true a small sample, but not because of NCAA scheduling). And for a postseason bid, therein lies the rub. A 9-0 home record (that includes a win over D2 Rockhurst) will not impress the Selection Committee, especially if compared to their 0-4 record when playing away from Chaifetz Arena.

St. Louis opens their A10 season with a home game against Richmond on Saturday (1/9), followed by a road game at Charlotte the following Wednesday (1/13).

Temple

The Owls closed out 2009 with another win, this one at Northern Illinois. Temple sports a 4-0 record versus MAC opponents (can they claim the conference’s automatic bid?). It was Juan Fernandez’s turn to go off, and the Argentine put up 26 points on 7-12 (4-7, 3-5) and 8-8 shooting. Ryan Brooks put up 19 points on 7-18 (0-6, 7-12) 5-7 shooting. Lavoy Allen harvested (4-7-11) 11 rebounds. The Kansas Jayhawks ran them out of the Liacouras Center Saturday (1/2), hanging an ugly 32 point loss (84-52) on the Owls. Kansas dominated the boards (43 vs 31) and outshot Temple (30-55 versus 16-64) badly enough to negate a very modest turnover advantage held by the Owls.

Coach Dunphy’s squad hosted the Hawks of Saint Joseph’s Wednesday night and handled them easily, 73-46, and will then travel to Kingston, RI, to tackle the Rams of URI Sunday (1/10). The following Wednesday (1/13) Temple will take care of some Big 5 business as they take on the Penn Quakers at the historic Palestra on Penn’s campus.

Xavier

The X-men lost to Wake Forest Sunday (1/3) in the inaugural play of the Skip Prosser Classic, dropping a 4-point decision, 96-92, after 2 overtimes. Jordan Crawford led all scorers with a career-high 31 points, while Jamel McLean and Terrell Holloway chipped in 21 and 13 points apiece. Despite lacking the seasoning playing together several seasons might provide, Xavier has done well with a demanding out of conference schedule. The offensive/defensive differential (+0.144) ranks the Musketeers second in the conference despite the loss of five games. Though they lack a Top 25 win and have a loss to Marquette (RPI rank #108), Xavier’s prospects in conference seem good, and a resume-building signature win in conference (Temple and Rhode Island offer opportunities) is possible. Going into conference play the Musketeers sport an 0-2 record against Top 25 competition, and a 2-2 record versus top 100 competition.

XU will travel to Philadelphia to open their A10 season Thursday (1/7) at La Salle, then extend the road trip with one more stop, in Washington DC to play George Washington in Sunday (1/10), before returning home to Cincinnati to host Charlotte the following Wednesday (1/13).

Games to Catch

  • Xavier at La Salle Thursday 1/7 — Had La Salle had a better out of conference showing, this early season matchup would have garnered some national attention. For those who have not seen La Salle’s Rodney Green and Aaric Murray and Xavier’s Jordan Crawford and Terrell Holloway, this one might be worth a look. (CBS College Sports)
  • Richmond at St. Louis Saturday 1/9 — The best of Saturday’s three conference games, the Billikens have been tough at Chaifetz Arena, but the Spiders need some road wins if they want to keep their postseason hopes alive. Both coaches have installed complex, motion-based offenses (Moody is a Princeton Offense coach, Majerus is a 4 out 1 in motion coach) that when working properly, can be very efficient. This one should remind spectators of a chess game played with a ball and five players per side.
  • Temple at Rhode Island Sunday 1/10 — Starts off the conference slate with a bang, the consensus two best teams coming out of their out of conference schedules lock horns in the 1st weekend of full conference play. (Cox Cable).
  • Xavier at George Washington Sunday 1/10 — A significant game for both teams. Xavier does not want to fall too far this season, but GW wants to recover the standing they had three seasons ago. The Musketeers have not traveled well in the out of conference season, so this game, as the closer on their extended road trip, can help set a different tone on the squad. If the Colonials hope to regain their standing, defending the home court is a first step. (CSS, FSN Ohio & Comcast Sportsnet).
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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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