Rushed Reactions: #9 Temple 76, #8 North Carolina State 72

Posted by IRenko on March 22nd, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after Friday’s Second Round game between #8 North Carolina State and #9 Temple. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

NC State Finishes Off a Disappointing Season

NC State Finishes Off a Disappointing Season

  1. A Microcosm of N.C. State’s Season – There was some reasonable talk that an 8 seed was a bit low for N.C. State, but this game proved to be a microcosm of N.C. State’s inconsistent and, ultimately, underachieving season. The Wolfpack came out flat, with the offense looked tentative and sluggish, and the defense indifferent, en route to a 38-22 halftime deficit. They coughed up the ball 10 times in the first half against a Temple defense that ranks outside the top 300 in the nation in causing turnovers. And despite their size and athleticism advantage, their frontcourt trio of C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and T.J. Warren began the game settling for missed jumpers. They woke up in the second half, outscoring Temple 50-38, but it proved to be too little, too late.
  2. Temple Slowed the Wolfpack’s Transition Game Just Enough – Before the game, N.C. State’s players talked about the importance of getting out in transition. In the first half, Temple largely shut down this part of the Wolfpack’s offense, holding them to just five fast break points. It helps that the Owls take very good care of the ball (just five turnovers the entire game), minimizing transition opportunities. The Wolfpack pressed the issue in the second half, scoring 19 points on the break, allowing them to make this a competitive game. But the hole they dug themselves over the first 20 minutes with a stagnant offense was too deep to escape.
  3. The Charity Stripe Saved Temple From Collapse — With the Owls’ halfcourt offense out of rhythm in the second half, and their once formidable 17-point lead dwindling, they needed to scratch out any points that they could. After shooting just two free throws in the first half, the Owls managed 31 trips to the charity stripe in in the second half. They didn’t make it easy on themselves, shooting just 63.6 percent from the line, but they scraped together enough freebies to hold off N.C. State’s charge. Indeed, 20 out of the Owls’ 38 second-half points came from the free throw line.

Star of the Game: For much of the year, Temple has relied heavily — at times, too heavily — on point guard Khalif Wyatt, who takes almost 30 percent of the team’s shots. But graduate transfer Jake O’Brien‘s role as a complementary offensive piece increased over the season. He’s been getting more minutes, scoring more points, and given Temple a big man who can stretch the defense with his shooting. Today, he showed how valuable he is by scoring 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting (4-of-6 from three-point range). Though Wyatt finished with a team-high 31 points, that total came on 22 shots and was inflated by some late free throws. O’Brien’s efficient scoring is what fueled Temple’s first-half offensive surge.

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RTC Summer Updates: Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 3rd, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Atlantic 10 correspondent, Joe Dzuback. You can read more of his in-depth writing and analysis at Villanova By The Numbers.

Reader’s Take I

Summer Storylines

  • Bobinski to Chair NCAA Selection Committee: While the conference again sent seven teams, half of its membership, to the postseason — three to the NCAA, one to the NIT and three to the CBI, the Final Four runs by Butler (Horizon League) and Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial Athletic Association) overshadowed a showing, Xavier’s loss to Marquette excepted, that exceeded 2010’s NCAA results. The NCAA announced that Xavier Athletic Director Mike Bobinski will succeed Connecticut’s Jeff Hathaway as Chairman of the 2012 NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Bobinski just completed his third year of a five-year term on the Selection Committee. While the Atlantic 10 has been the most successful non-BCS conference in placing teams in the tournament field (with 20 NCAA bids allotted to six teams since 2004), its representatives have tended to draw the short straw when it comes to seeding, and Bobinski will likely lobby hard for that cause.
  • The Coaching Carousel:  The conference had two coaching vacancies during the early phase of the coaching carousel. If the 2010 offseason saw coaching turnovers due to firings, the 2011 offseason saw suitors come to call on the Atlantic 10 coaching fraternity. Tennessee, having fired Bruce Pearl on March 21, made its first call to Xavier to talk with Chris Mack. Mack reportedly turned aside an offer of $2 million per year to coach the Volunteers in favor of staying in Cincinnati with the Musketeers. Richmond’s Chris Mooney signed a 10-year contract extension, his second extension in two years, ending Georgia Tech’s courtship. Mooney’s decision triggered a spate of articles (see “Old coaching assumptions are fading” by Dana O’Neil for example) about non-BCS coaches who pass on BCS offers to stay with their programs. The Yellow Jackets turned their attention to Dayton’s Brian Gregory, who succumbed to the lure of the BCS and packed his bags for Atlanta on March 28. Dayton conducted a six-day search and hired Archie Miller, brother of former Xavier head man Sean Miller, away from Arizona to succeed Gregory. In late April, George Washington’s Athletic Director, Patrick Nero, fired 10-year veteran Karl Hobbs. Nero, who succeeded retiring AD Jack Kvancz on June 30, was hired on April 20, and wasted no time in turning over the men’s basketball staff. Nero reached into his old stomping grounds, the American East Conference, and hired the league’s premier head basketball coach, Mike Lonergan of Vermont, on May 6 to replace Hobbs. The resignation of Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis on May 24 (DeChellis took over the Navy program) triggered a few tense days among the Duquesne faithful as coach Ron Everhart landed an interview for the Happy Valley position. The Dukes exhaled on June 1 when Everhart withdrew his name from consideration in favor of staying with the Pittsburgh school next season.
  • Media Coverage: The Atlantic 10 and ESPN renewed their deal to have eight games (selected by ESPN) televised on either ESPN or ESPN2 in each of the next two seasons. The ESPN networks are committed to broadcasting the Women’s Championship and up to 32 appearances in each of the next two seasons.

Tu Holloway Makes the XU Offense Go

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 9th, 2011

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

A Look Back

Won-loss Records vs. Net Efficiency: Net efficiencies through Monday of this week (2/7/2011) give us a better sense of the conference race than the won-loss standings. With the front-runners (Xavier and Duquesne) taking losses last week, the race appears to have tightened up with just over three weeks (and 43.8% of the slate) left to play. As the table below illustrates, two teams, Duquesne and Xavier, are tied for the lead with two others, Temple and Richmond, tied for third a single game behind the leaders. Four more teams, Dayton, George Washington, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are tied for fourth just two games out of third place and four games out of first, all with seven games left to play.

The won-loss standings are deceptive however, as the table below reveals. The positive-negative split is five and nine, well off of the seven team split one would expect, and definitely at odds with the eight-five above-below 0.500 split based on conference records. The efficiency split suggests the top four teams at least are far better than their nine “net negative” conference mates. Dayton, unlike last season when the Flyers sported a net efficiency that was clearly at odds with their conference won-loss record, find those two numbers in closer alignment. The three teams they “share” fifth place with however, all show negative efficiency nets, suggesting their won-loss records may be a bit misleading. All three are clustered fairly closely, with Rhode Island bringing up the rear in the group. The conference SOS shows all three have had schedules that fall around the mid-point for difficulty (note even Saint Louis clusters into that SOS grouping), so the schedules to date are not especially helpful for projecting through the end of the season.

Who in that cluster (Dayton, Saint Louis, Massachusetts, George Washington and Rhode Island) has the tougher road home? Looking over the next five weeks, Saint Louis and Dayton both have three more games versus the top four teams. For the Billikens, that slate includes a trip to Richmond and two home games versus Duquesne and Xavier. The Flyers also face three of those teams — Temple, Duquesne and Xavier — but do not leave Dayton in the process, possibly a slight advantage over Saint Louis. The Flyers also have a chance to clear some space at fifth place as they also play Rhode Island and George Washington during that run. The season-ending run suggest the Billikens should not anticipate a repeat of last February’s run. Rhode Island may have the easiest run, as the Rams have a single top four game left, at Duquesne, and head-to-head games with the other three fifth place teams.

Power Rankings

The top teams logged a loss apiece, and while they stayed on pace with each other, they did drift one back closer to the trailing teams. This is coming down to a four-team race and assuming no more slip-ups by those four, the head-to-head games will decide the seeds for the conference tournament, and most likely who will earn at-large bids to the NCAAs.

1. Duquesne (16-6, 8-1)

Last Week: 2/2 vs. George Washington 84-59, 2/5 @St. Bonaventure 62-64

Next Week: 2/13 vs. Xavier

The Dukes’ winning streak snapped at 11 in Olean, NY on the fifth, as Duquesne lost by two, 62-64 to St. Bonaventure. B.J. Monteiro picked up his first Honor Roll mention for his 18.0 point average on the week. Coach Ron Everhart‘s squad goes home to prepare for their shootout with Xavier on Sunday. Pomeroy favors the Dukes by eight right now, which is about four more points than he gives to the home team.

2. Xavier (17-6, 8-1)

Last Week: 2/2 @Charlotte 62-66, 2/5 vs. Saint Louis 76-68

Next Week: 2/8 @Georgia 65-57, 1/13 @Duquesne

The Musketeers stumbled first, dropping a “What the heck?!” game to the 49ers in Charlotte, the kind of game more common in the first two months of the season than in the last five weeks. A bounce back win over Saint Louis Saturday leveled the week at 1-1, as Mark Lyons drew an Honor Roll nod from the conference for his career-high 25 point performance at Charlotte, 20.0 point average for the week and 52% shot accuracy. Chris Mack and his crew take to the road this week, stopping first in Athens, Georgia for a late season out of conference game with the Georgia Bull Dogs. What, at the beginning of the season appeared to be a late season distraction, may prove to be RPI gold for the X-Men. Georgia ranks #39 in the RPI and should Xavier win (Pomeroy shows them as four point underdogs right now), they would have a Top 50 road win for their post season resume —  the X-Men won this game, by eight, 65-57. The weekend road stop brings the Musketeers to Pittsburgh for a showdown with conference co-leader Duquesne on Saturday.

3. Richmond (18-6, 7-2)

Last Week: 2/2 vs. Saint Joseph’s 62-52, 2/5 @Fordham 77-60

Next Week: 2/9 @George Washington, 2/12 vs. Saint Louis

The Spiders beat up the conference underdogs — Saint Joseph’s and Fordham, rather handily, taking each game by double digit points. Senior big man Dan Geriot earned his first conference Honor Roll mention as he averaged 15.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in last week’s games. Chris Mooney‘s squad takes a trip up to Washington DC for a game with the Colonials on Wednesday, then return home to host the staggering Billikens on Saturday.

4. Temple (17-5, 7-2)

Last Week: 2/2 @La Salle 71-67, 2/5 vs. Rhode Island 81-67

Next Week: 2/9 vs. Fordham, 2/12 @Dayton

Juan Fernandez returned to the lineup just in time as Temple posted another 2-0 last week and kept pace with Richmond (which had a much easier draw last week) for third place in the conference standings. Junior forward Scootie Randall drew his first Player of the Week citation (only the second all season for a Temple player) for his 20.5 point average over the two games. Randall hit his first eight shots in the Rhode Island game on his way to a game-high 25 points. The back court quartet of Randall, Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt and T.J. DiLeo (plus the returned Fernandez) continues to power the Owls, combining for 48 of the Owls’ 71 points versus La Salle and 54 of the Owls’ 80 points versus Rhode Island. The Owls host Fordham Wednesday, then travel to Dayton for a showdown game on Saturday. Pomeroy projects both as wins, which will be necessary if Temple’s showdown with Richmond on 2/17 is to be a true throw down for the #3 seed (or better) in Atlantic City.

5. Dayton (17-7, 5-4)

Last Week: 2/2 vs. St. Bonaventure 63-61, 2/5 @La Salle 85-81

Next Week: 2/9 @Rhode Island, 2/12 vs. Temple

The Flyers bounced back with a 2-0 week, their first in conference play this season. Senior forward Chris Wright earned his eighth citation from the conference (one Player of the Week & seven Honor Rolls), his second consecutive Honor Roll mention, for averaging 19.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game in Dayton’s two wins.

If January 23 – January 30 was Dayton’s “Statement Week”, then February 6 – February 12 should be “Statement Week II (Final Judgment?)” as the Flyers travel to Kingston, RI to throw Rhode Island out of their extended tie for fifth place, then return home to host Temple on Saturday. The Owls, tied with Richmond for third place and a strong favorite to make the NCAAs, has a two loss advantage over Dayton in conference standings. A 2-0 week would not vault Dayton into conference leadership, but it would really scramble the conference standings in the last month of the season, and provide coach Brian Gregory‘s squad with a good resume win for the Selection Committee.

6. Rhode Island (14-9, 5-4)

Last Week: 2/2 vs. Fordham 72-52, 2/5 @Temple 80-67

Next Week: 2/9 vs. Dayton, 2/12 vs. Charlotte

Rhode Island demolished struggling Fordham team Wednesday, but then dropped their road game against Temple (not shocking, but…) to post a 1-1 week. Senior forward Delroy James earned his ninth Honor Roll citation (third consecutive) from the conference as he averaged 22.0 points, 6.5 for the Rams last week.

A Wednesday shootout with Dayton for fifth place, then a Saturday game versus struggling Charlotte constitutes next week’s slate. With post season options, short of a run through the conference tournament, limited to three lettered tournaments, the Runnin’ Rams have nine losses with seven more conference games to play, which leaves no more room for slip ups. Chances they will run the table going into Atlantic are slim, especially with Duquesne coming up in two weeks. Shooting deficiencies have hobbled Coach Baron’s team, and Delroy James, practically a lock for All Conference honors (First team most likely) cannot carry the team, despite what the succession of Honor Roll citations would have one believe. Some combination from among Nikola Malesevic, Orion Outerbridge, Marquis Jones and Akeem Richmond has to take the pressure off James offensively. Malesevic or Outerbridge has to touch the ball more, while Jones and Richmond have to be more accurate with the shots they take.

7. Massachusetts (13-9, 5-4)

Last Week: 2/2 @Saint Louis 53-69, 2/5 @Saint Joseph’s 64-67

Next Week: 2/13 vs. George Washington

The Minutemen had an 0-2 week, dropping games to the Billikens and to the previously winless (in conference play) Hawks. After standing with a 5-2 record ready to take a big leap into the thick of the conference race, the week knocked the Minutemen back into the jumble of teams grasping and clawing for a chance at one of the bye seeds. Derek Kellogg and the Minutemen open a two-game home stand by hosting the Colonials next Sunday, then the Dukes the following Wednesday.

8. George Washington (12-11, 5-4)

Last Week: 2/2 @Duquesne 59-84, 2/5 @Charlotte 73-67

Next Week: 2/9 vs. Richmond, 2/13 @Massachusetts

The Colonials logged another 1-1 week, getting blasted by 25 points at the hands of Duquesne, then took a road game in Charlotte over the weekend. They continue to stay just north of 0.500 in conference play even as junior Tony Taylor was cited for his second consecutive Honor Roll mention (sixth of the season) for averaging 23.0 points and 6.0 assists in last weeks’ road games. Coach Karl Hobbs takes his charges home for a battle against the third place Spiders of Richmond Wednesday night, the travel to Amherst to play the Minutemen in a battle for fifth place, on Saturday..

9. St. Bonaventure (12-10, 4-5)

Last Week: 2/2 @Dayton 61-63, 2/5 vs. Duquesne 64-62

Next Week: 12/12 vs. La Salle

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies finished a 1-1 week on a pair of two point games, a loss 61-63 at Dayton, and a win 64-62 versus Duquesne. Junior center Andrew Nicholson earned his seventh Honor Roll nod as he recorded his eighth double-double (25 points, 11 rebounds) of the season in the Fordham game. The Bonnies travel to Dayton for a Wednesday game with the Flyers, then return home to host Duquesne, on Saturday. A 1-1 week would be a morale boost for the squad.

10. La Salle (11-13, 3-6)

Last Week: 2/2 vs. Temple 67-71, 2/5 vs. Dayton 81-85

Next Week: 2/9 @Saint Louis, 12/12 @St. Bonaventure

If the past week was indeed La Salle’s “Statement Week”, the words are “Not this year”, as the Explorers stumbled through an 0-2 week, dropping home games to Temple and Dayton. Starting center Aaric Murray was benched seven and half minutes into the game, and did not appear again in the half. “We subbed him when we were down by a whole bunch (9-21), and the guys who came in gave great effort…I was extremely pleased with the guys who were in the game…” Dr. John Giannini explained. The Explorers in the game did battle back and took a three point lead, 38-35, into the intermission. Devon White started the second half as Murray remained benched. A few minutes into the half the sophomore asked to go back in and, with Dayton up 46-40 about six minutes into the second half, Giannini obliged. Murray logged another 3:29 and, with the Dayton lead out to 17, 59-42, Giannini pulled him for the second and last time. “…they (Dayton) went up big on us again, and I went back with that team that made the run in the first half — and they made another run…”. The Explorers trimmed their deficit to two in the last 0:09, but a last possession foul put the visitors on the line one last time, accounting for the winning margin. La Salle has two road games coming up, Saint Louis on Wednesday and St. Bonaventure on Saturday. At this point the assumption is that Murray will play.

11. Saint Louis (8-14, 3-6)

Last Week: 2/2 vs. Massachusetts 69-63, 2/5 @Xavier 68-76

Next Week: 2/9 vs. La Salle, 2/12 @Richmond

The Billikens posted a 1-1 week, beating middle-of-the-conference Massachusetts by six, then dropping an eight point decision at Xavier. Freshman Rob Loe earned his first Honor Roll mention because he averaged 14.0 points (while leading the team) for the two games. He went 5-5 at Xavier, including 4-4 from beyond the arc. Coach Rick Majerus‘ squad hosts La Salle Wednesday, then travels to Richmond for a Saturday game.

12. Charlotte (10-13, 2-7)

Last Week: 2/2 vs. Xavier 66-62, 2/5 vs. George Washington 67-73

Next Week: 2/12 @Rhode Island,

Charlotte snapped their four game skid complements of Xavier. Senior guard Derrio Green earned his fifth Honor Roll citation because he led the 49ers last week, but more noteworthy, he was a perfect 10-10 from the line in Charlotte’s win over Xavier. Charlotte closed their three game home stand with a 1-2 note, losing to GWU by six. Charlotte goes back into action with a trip to Rhode Island for a Saturday game with the Runnin’ Rams.

13. Saint Joseph’s (6-17, 1-8)

Last Week: 2/2 @Richmond 52-62, 2/5 vs. Massachusetts 67-64

Next Week: 2/13 @Fordham

The Hawks’ will not register an O’fer conference season, complements of the Minutemen. Freshman Langston Galloway earned his second Rookie of the Week nod from the conference. The guard posted his best numbers of the season, 25 points, in the Massachusetts game. Galloway hit 6-6 from three point land. He scored 11 points in the Hawks’ loss at Richmond. Saint Joseph’s will travel to the Meadowlands of New Jersey for a Saturday game versus Fordham, the last winless team in the conference.

14. Fordham (6-15, 0-9)

Last Week: 2/2 @Rhode Island 52-72, 2/5 vs. Richmond 60-77

Next Week: 2/9 @Temple, 2/13 vs. Saint Joseph’s

Fordham’s winless string runs to nine in conference play, with another 0-2 week. The probabilities that they will finish the conference season without a win stand at 35.6% per Ken Pomeroy. The Pythagorean Winning Percentage suggests the Rams will earn a win in some game before the end of conference play, but the calculations for individual games shows a “losing” probability for each game. Fordham travels to Philadelphia to close out their home-away series with Temple, then back home to host Saint Joseph’s on Saturday in a game that represents their best chance to log their first conference win in two seasons.

A Look Ahead

The week offers two headliner games this week, with the conference’s two heavy weights, Xavier and Duquesne, facing off in Pittsburgh. The game will pit the conference’s best defense (Duquesne) against the conference’s strongest offense (Xavier). Duquesne will match their third-best offense against Xavier’s fifth-best defense. Shot making will be the key, as each squad’s shot defense is among the conference’s best. Duquesne relies on turnovers to augment their strong shot defense (and mask weak defensive rebounding), but the Musketeers do not turn the ball over and shoot the ball very well (#1 eFG% in conference play), so expect a strength-on-strength matchup. On the other side of the court, the teams have similar strength-on-strength matchups. The Dukes have to shoot well and rebound their misses, two defensive strengths for the Musketeers who lead the conference in defensive rebounding. If the Dukes can force Musketeer turnovers and chill the visitor’s shooters, they may parlay their strengths into a win, but should Musketeers dominate the defensive boards and shut down the Duquesne shooters, they should come out the winner.

The Dayton-Rhode Island game on Wednesday also promises to sort out the teams just below the “bye” rankings. Dayton has been maddeningly inconsistent on the road this and last season. For Rhode Island it comes down to shooting (eFG%). If the Rams hit their shots, they win. If their opponents make their shots, the Rams lose. Rhodi’s offensive efficiency and shot conversion efficiency in conference games so far has been well below their overall efficiency numbers. They have struggled to find a second and third option behind James. For Dayton, efficient shot conversion is extremely important, but the Flyers also look to offensive rebounding (and second chance points) when they are cold. Rhode Island is an average rebounding team (defensively), so the boards, should become a key to this outcome. The Flyers have a terrible habit of going down early in road games and relying on half time adjustments and second half rallies to turn the tide.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 2nd, 2011

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

A Look Back

Efficiency Differentials Sort Out the Best and Worst: In an effort to assess the “quality” of each team’s conference record, I included an SOS table below, consistent with Ken Pomeroy’s formula, on the average of the adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies for the conference teams played so far. The four teams at the top of the conference, along with the three teams at the bottom behaved and “fell into place” this week, but Dayton, together with Massachusetts and Rhode Island, continues to be outliers. The Flyers are used to that role, one they assumed virtually all of the 2010 conference season as well.

The SOS will bounce around for the next few weeks, as less than 50% of the conference schedule is official to this point. Duquesne‘s record is consistent with its efficiency differential, but their SOS suggests this may be due to an easier schedule. Games against Dayton, Temple and Richmond, however, suggest the record is legitimate and earned. As the Dukes play through February their record and SOS are elements worth monitoring. Massachusetts’ negative differential is a significant counterpoint to the Minutemen’s conference record. Their two conference losses were blowouts — by 29 to Xavier and by 16 to Richmond. UMass faces the second-best defense in conference (so far) in Saint Louis on Wednesday, and if the Bills can find a scorer somewhere on their roster, that game may be less certain a win for Massachusetts than it first appears. Though Fordham lost both games again last week, they nevertheless narrowed the differential gap that had opened at the start of conference play.

Power Rankings

The showdown games broke for the favored teams last week, leaving the top one-third of the conference standings virtually intact. St. Louis had a bad week, as did Charlotte, and both fell to the bottom third of the rankings.

1.        Xavier (15-5, 7-0)

Last Week: 1/26 vs. George Washington 81-74, 1/29 @Richmond 85-62

Next Week: 2/2 @Charlotte, 2/5 vs. Saint Louis

The Musketeers had another 2-0 week as Tu Holloway received his fifth Player of the Week citation (second in a row), from the conference. Holloway averaged 27.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists in X’s wins over GWU and Richmond. Coach Chris Mack‘s squad will travel to Charlotte on Wednesday before hosting Saint Louis on Saturday.

2.        Duquesne (15-5, 7-0)

Last Week: 1/26 @Fordham 91-72, 1/29 vs. Dayton 81-64

Next Week: 2/2 vs. George Washington, 2/5 @St. Bonaventure

The Dukes closed out a “perfect” January with their fifth 2-0 week, running their winning streak to 10. Duquesne’s “May-November Couple” senior forward Damian Saunders and freshman point guard TJ McConnell were cited together for the third consecutive week. Saunders with an Honor Roll citation (his fourth this season), was cited for averaging a double-double (16.0 points 10.0 rebounds) in games against Fordham and Dayton. McConnell averaged 14.5 points,  7.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds and in the Dukes’ two games. Duquesne, touting the highest possession rate in conference games this season (72.4) won each game by double digits (19 points versus Fordham, 17 points versus Dayton). Duquesne plays at home this Wednesday against George Washington, then take to the road on Saturday to face St. Bonaventure in Olean, NY.

3.        Richmond (16-6, 5-2)

Last Week: 1/25 @Dayton 70-61, 1/29 vs. Xavier 62-85

Next Week: 2/2 vs. Saint Joseph’s, 2/5 @Fordham

The Spiders fell another game behind the pace last week, beating Dayton on the road (a bit surprising perhaps), but dropping a home game to co-leader Xavier. Richmond squandered a good opportunity to pull one of the conference leaders back to the pack, but also to post another resume win for Selection Sunday. Richmond is listed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi in the “First Four Out” group as of last Monday (1/31). The squad should have an easier time this week as they face the conference’s two worst teams. No more slip-ups, guys.

4.        Temple (15-5, 5-2)

Last Week: 1/26 vs. Charlotte 76-67, 1/29 @Saint Joseph’s 72-54

Next Week: 2/2 @La Salle, 2/5 vs. Rhode Island

A Juan Fernandez-less Temple nevertheless posted 2-0 last week and pulled into a tie with Richmond for third place in the conference standings. Senior Lavoy Allen earned his third citation from the conference (a Player of the Week and two Honor Rolls) for posting back-to-back double-doubles in games with Charlotte and Saint Joseph’s. Fernandez, diagnosed with a bone bruise earlier this month, missed both games, in a prudent move by Coach Fran Dunphy. A wise move given the opponents, the Owls managed a nine point winning margin over the 49ers and an 18 point win over Saint Joseph’s. The back court quartet of Scootie Randall, Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt and TJ DiLeo combined for 42 points versus Charlotte and 39 versus Saint Joseph’s. Next week, the Owls travel across town for a game at La Salle, and host up-and-down Rhode Island on Saturday. Those two games, which Pomeroy projects as wins, should, worst case, have the Owls keep pace (albeit two games back) with Xavier and Duquesne, but coach Fran Dunphy knows that long term he has to get his back court leader healthy to stay in the conference race.

5.        Massachusetts (13-7, 5-2)

Last Week: 1/26 @St. Bonaventure 78-69, 1/30 vs. Rhode Island 64-54

Next Week: 2/2 @Saint Louis, 2/5 @Saint Joseph’s

The Minutemen had a 2-0, bounce back week, beating the Bonnies in an important road game, then most importantly, beating Rhode Island in a head-to-head for a piece of third place in the conference standings. Senior guard Anthony Gurley earned his fifth citation (second consecutive) for the Honor Roll as he shot 45.2% from the field while he averaged 24.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in UMass’ two games last week. The Minutemen will take to the road for their longest road trip of the conference season, traveling to Saint Louis for a game against the struggling Billikens and then over to Philadelphia for a game against with the also struggling Hawks of Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.

6.        Rhode Island (13-8, 4-3)

Last Week: 1/26 @Saint Louis 59-57, 1/30 @Massachusetts 54-64

Next Week: 2/2 vs. Fordham, 2/5 @Temple

Rhode Island beat a struggling Saint Louis team Wednesday, but dropped a ten-point game to Massachusetts Saturday. The 1-1 week translates into an ever-shrinking post season prospect (NIT anyone?). Senior forward Delroy James earned his eighth Honor Roll citation from the conference as he averaged 18.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists for the Rams last week. A Wednesday game versus struggling Fordham followed by a trip to Philadelphia and Saturday game with a wounded Temple squad lies ahead this week for coach Jim Baron and company. The Runnin’ Rams should be fine versus Fordham, but a win at Temple is chance to stay within striking distance in the conference race.

7.        George Washington (11-10, 4-3)

Last Week: 1/26 @Xavier 74-81, 1/29 vs. Saint Louis 52-46

Next Week: 2/2 @Duquesne, 2/5 @Charlotte

The Colonials logged a 1-1 week, stopping their losing steak at four when they beat Saint Louis on Saturday. They stay just north of 0.500 in conference play. Junior Tony Taylor‘s 20.0 point average for the two games earned him an Honor Roll mention, his fifth this season, by the conference. Karl Hobbs takes his team on the road for both games next week. They travel to Pittsburgh for a game with Duquesne on Wednesday. If the odds are long in Pittsburgh, they should be more favorable in Charlotte on Saturday. The Colonials will face the 49ers in a game they will need to win to stay above 0.500 in conference play.

8.        Dayton (15-7, 3-4)

Last Week: 1/25 vs. Richmond 61-70, 1/30 @Duquesne 64-82

Next Week: 2/2 vs. St. Bonaventure, 2/5 @La Salle

The Flyers logged their second 0-2 week this season; their first in conference play since last March. If that was “Statement Week” for Dayton, the pronouncement is “not happening”. Senior Chris Wright earned a mention, his sixth (to go with his citation for Player of the Week earlier this season), for the conference Honor Roll with his 15.5 point, 9.0 rebound average for those two games. The losing streak should stop at two as Brian Gregory‘s troops host St. Bonaventure on Wednesday and then travel to La Salle for a Saturday game. Maybe they will have another streak – of the winning nature — going into Week Six of conference play.

9.        St. Bonaventure (11-9, 3-4)

Last Week: 1/26 vs. Massachusetts 69-78, 1/29 @Fordham 69-60

Next Week: 2/2 @Dayton, 2/5 vs. Duquesne

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies broke their three-game slide Saturday at Fordham, but not before dropping a home game versus Massachusetts on Wednesday. Junior center Andrew Nicholson earned his seventh Honor Roll nod as he recorded his eighth double-double (25 points, 11 rebounds) of the season in the Fordham game. The Bonnies travel to Dayton for a Wednesday game with the Flyers, then return home to host Duquesne, on Saturday. A 1-1 week would be a morale boost for the squad.

10.      La Salle (11-11, 3-4)

Last Week: 1/26 vs. Saint Joseph’s 76-72, 1/29 @Charlotte 91-86 2OT

Next Week: 2/2 vs. Temple, 2/5 vs. Dayton

The Explorers ran off a 2-0 week, as Dr. John Giannini‘s benching of Aaric Murray appeared to continue to pay dividends. The results put La Salle in a three-way tie for eighth place in conference standings, four games behind conference leaders Duquesne and Xavier. Murray earned his seventh citation to the conference Honor Roll as he shot 63% and averaged a double-double (17.5 points, 11.5 rebounds) in the two games last week. February opens with something of a “Statement Week” for La Salle, as the Explorers host Big 5 rival Temple and faltering Dayton in back-to-back home games. Beating Dayton, a team that has struggled with their A-10 conference road slate, would have an effect on the battle for eighth place (and most likely seventh place as well).

11.      Saint Louis (7-13, 2-5)

Last Week: 1/26 vs. Rhode Island 57-59, 1/29 @George Washington 46-52

Next Week: 2/2 vs. Massachusetts, 2/5 @Xavier

The “Sort Out Week” sorted the Billikens to the bottom third of the conference, as Saint Louis closed out January on an 0-2 note. As for relief, the cavalry is not coming, not in 2011 anyway. Head coach Rick Majerus nixed the idea of a 2011 comeback for Kwamain Mitchell, the two year point guard suspended just before the open of fall practice for an incident in the spring of 2010. Though Mitchell was readmitted to Saint Louis University and reinstated to the basketball program for the spring semester, Majerus has insisted that unless “…we ended up with four players and he’s the fifth. He’s not going to play. He’s not ready to play…” While there is virtually no chance Saint Louis can roll out another “Fabulous February” like 2010 (7-1), next week’s opponents, Massachusetts on Wednesday and at Xavier on Saturday, would be the place to begin. Stay tuned.

12.      Charlotte (9-12, 1-6)

Last Week: 1/26 @Temple 67-76, 1/29 vs. La Salle 86-91 2OT

Next Week: 2/2 vs. Xavier, 2/5 vs. George Washington

Charlotte ran their current losing streak to four with losses to Temple and La Salle last week. Odds are good (if you follow Ken Pomeroy) that the 49ers will add one, possibly even two, to that streak next week. Guard KJ Sherrill earned his first Honor Roll citation Monday for his first career double-double (24 points, 13 rebounds) in the 49ers’ five point, two overtime loss to La Salle. That loss to La Salle opened a three-game homestand, and if Charlotte wants to solidify at least a first round game in the conference tournament, they should win another two or so conference games this season. George Washington is a reasonable candidate. After that, the pickings get very slim until the last week of conference play.

13.      Fordham (6-13, 0-7)

Last Week: 1/25 vs. Duquesne 72-91, 1/29 vs. St. Bonaventure 60-69

Next Week: 2/2 @Rhode Island, 2/5 vs. Richmond

Another 0-2 week for the Rams, as the percentages that they will finish the conference season without a win grew from an ominous 18% to an even more ominous 27.4% per Ken Pomeroy. Pomeroy employs a log5 formula to project winners and losers in each game, and offers the Rams’ 2/13 tilt with Saint Joseph’s, with a 33% chance of winning, as Fordham’s strongest opportunity to dodge a second winless conference season. After Saint Joseph’s, the best opportunity is Fordham’s home season closing game against Massachusetts (24%). News is not all bad however, as the Rams closed the differential gap between itself and the rest of the conference. Fordham travels to Kingston, Rhode Island, in a Battle of the Rams Wednesday, then back home to host Richmond on Saturday.

14.      Saint Joseph’s (5-16, 0-7)

Last Week: 1/26 vs. La Salle 72-76, 1/29 vs. Temple 54-72

Next Week: 2/2 @Richmond, 2/5 vs. Massachusetts

The Hawks’ slide numbers eight consecutive games as of last week. Seven of the eight are lodged against their conference record. Freshman forward Ronald Roberts became the third member of the squad to earn an Honor Roll citation from the conference as he came off the bench to average 14.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in the Hawks’ two games. Perhaps it was the prospect of posting a second consecutive 20-loss season, or the realization that the Hawks had lost their eighth consecutive game to the Temple Owls. Or the Temple student rollout (Big 5 contests are notorious for their student rollouts) that read “It’s the Big 5, not the Big 5-15″, or maybe the realization that this would be his first last place finish in the Big 5 this decade. During the Temple post game press conference the Hawks’ coach of 16 years, Phil Martelli, initially attempted to draw a distinction between his squads’ play in 2010 and 2011 — “These aren’t beatings, these are losses, Last year, we were getting ‘beatings’. Now, we’re getting ‘losses’”, but he eventually snapped and lashed out at program critics who are “anonymous… (posters) from the netherworld. It’s not people who have been in the fray.”, pledging that “Vengeance will be sweet. And if my family gets hurt by it, then you are talking about a whole other ballgame”. Martelli, the most media-friendly and media-savvy member of the Big 5 coaching fraternity, has established a strong bond with both the Saint Joseph’s fan-base and the Phildelphia ink and radio media. His two “pillars” reacted in very different ways. Fans took to Hawks message boards Sunday and penned signed replies to the coach. The ink media tended to ignore Martelli’s statements completely in their game recaps, or soften his comments. The program suffered another blow when sophomore guard Justin Crosgile was granted a leave of absence from the team to attend to personal matters. The announcement did not indicate when or if Crosgile would rejoin the team. Crosgile had a promising freshman campaign, but his development stalled this season, and he was unable to get off the bench for a 5-16 team. Saint Joseph’s travels to Richmond for a Wednesday game, and returns to Philadelphia to host Massachusetts on Saturday.

A Look Ahead

The week lacks the headliner games of last week, but there are a handful of games that should sort out the teams in the conference’s upper division. Dayton, La Salle and St. Bonaventure, sport identical 3-4 records, and Dayton will face both this week. The Flyers host St. Bonaventure Wednesday. Dayton’s efficiency differential suggests they should have a better record than their 3-4 tally to date. A Pythagorean Winning Percentage of 0.514 projects an 8-8 conference record. Bonaventure’s Pythagorean Winning Percentage projects (based on conference games only) a six win record, while La Salle’s projects to about five wins. Taking both games will not push Flyers back into the conference elites, but it will provide some definition for the middle tier of the conference. Rhode Island will most likely boast a 5-3 when the Ram visit Temple Saturday. The Owls play La Salle on Wednesday and should have either a 6-2 (likely) or 5-3 record to match Rhode Island’s. The loser falls another game off the pace, and trying to make up three games on the conference leaders with less than a month left in conference play is a pretty tall order.

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