Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 8th, 2010

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

A Look Back – Side-by-Side Analyses

A simple method to project winners and losers in conference play involves comparing scores against common opponents. It is crude, but, if timing and conditions are roughly equal, potentially effective for developing a rough sense on how the teams will match up. While the out of conference schedule features 189 games over (roughly) three months, there are quite a few common opponents. The problem with score and margin of victory comparisons is that they do not control for pace. I wanted to match teams that are projected to finish relatively close to each other in the conference rankings, and while this is very early in the season, two side-by-sides looked fairly interesting…

Temple side-by-side with Xavier

Both Temple and Xavier played (and beat) Seton Hall within a nine-day period. Temple may have had a slight advantage on November 12 in that they played the Hall at home, but given it was the season opener, the advantage may not have been that great. The Hall’s leading scorer, Jeremy Hazell, was injured before the Xavier game, another factor to consider in the comparison (that would go against the Musketeers’ defense). As the offensive and defensive efficiencies suggest, defense is decidedly ahead of offense in the first fortnight of D-I play, at least for these two A-10 teams. Seton Hall’s defensive efficiency is, however, consistent with the offensive numbers posted by the A-10 teams. What can the side-by-side tell us about the Owls and Musketeers, particularly when they meet each other? If things progress, probably not volumes, since their appointed time is about six weeks away. Several elements are worth noting though. Temple will probably control the offensive boards, they did a better job matching up with the Hall bigs than did the X-men. Temple will block shots on defense, while Xavier will steal the ball. Neither is particularly adept at getting to the line, and while both turned the ball over quite a bit, that was uncharacteristic of either squad (and neither squad forced turnovers either). The Owls’ shot conversion efficiency (eFG%) has not improved much over the past six (or so) games, and if that element of their offense remains a problem for the next month, expect them to have to compensate for lack of efficiency by grabbing offensive rebounds and limiting. For Xavier, rebounding will no doubt be an issue in a matchup with Temple. The X-men will have problems matching up with Eric Michael and Lavoy Allen, particularly if the Owls’ Allen overcomes his slow start. While pace, according to Pomeroy, can be overrated as a deciding element, Temple showed it can play fast or slow. The SHU game was played for approximately 72 possessions on a neutral floor, about 10% higher than Temple usually plays the game. Xavier played slower than usual, possibly pace dictated by a undermanned SHU squad, and the Musketeers were still successful. Against each other, if the common opponent game is a good predictor, expect a slightly lower than usual possession game — about 65 — with Temple taking a close (one-to-four point) decision.

Fordham side-by-side with George Washington

These are two teams that, according to preseason projections, may not see the first round of the A-10 Conference Tournament. True to form, both lost to the Hampton Pirates of the Mid-East Athletic Conference (MEAC). Hampton, it turns out, is on something of a tear, going 6-0 after dropping their season-opener against Wake Forest. Kyle Whelliston analyzes elements of Hampton’s success in an Unfiltered posting over at Basketball Prospectus. According to Whelliston’s analysis, the Pirates are terrible shooters but great shot defenders. Checking out GWU’s shot defense — that has to be very good news for Fordham (and anyone else who plays the Colonials). Hampton, true to Whelliston’s post, did not turn the ball over much, but Fordham’s turnovers, the Rams’ lost one in three possessions without taking a shot, a very high hurdle to clear if you want to win (Fordham lost by 10 points). Fordham and GW are scheduled to meet January 12, about a month from now. How would the two A-10 teams do against each other? Fordham actually looks pretty good in this comparison. Against a very good shot defender they converted in the high 30s (nothing to write home about), but better than the Colonials who appear to be searching for a scorer (or scorers) to replace the lost Lasan Kromah. Both rebounded well (offensively) against the Pirates, and I would expect Fordham to (again) do a bit better based on the side-by-side. If Fordham can get turnovers under control they should do very well against GW, though given that Chris Gaston and Alberto Estwick are two of Fordham’s principal options on offense and they seem to be contributors, this may be problematic, especially with a seven game lead time. Given the elements though, this one, based on the side-by-side, looks like a close win for Fordham.

Power Rankings

The rankings are jumbled again by a series of unexpected losses (and a few unexpected wins). Next week I will take a closer look at how the conference has fared against some traditional rival conferences.

1. Richmond (7-2)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Old Dominion 70-77, 12/5 @ Arizona State 67-61

Next Week: 12/11 vs. Virginia Commonwealth

The second week in December turned out to be another 1-1 week for coach Chris Mooney’s Spiders. Richmond’s loss to Old Dominion, featured an outstanding effort by senior guard Kevin Anderson who scored a game-high 23 points, while logging a very efficient 76.7% eFG% and 1.53 PPWS. Junior wing Justin Harper’s 14 points and freshman Cedrick Lindsay’s 15 points (70.7% eFG%, 1.44 PPWS coming off the bench) provided strong compliments to Anderson’s efforts. The Spiders led at the 36 minute mark, but 12-0 run by the Monarchs over four and a half minutes dug a nine point hole that Richmond could not climb out of in the remaining 1:45 of play. Two stats that stood out in the loss were the 23.5% offensive rebounding rate, below Richmond’s usually very low 27.4% (ranked #291) and the 1.6% FTA/FGA rate. No, that is not a typo; the Spiders had a single free throw on 63 field goal attempts. They made the most of their opportunity going 1-1 from the line.

Richmond’s bounce-back road win over Arizona State featured an outstanding performance by Harper, who was given an Honorable Mention for his game-high 23 points on a very efficient 10-14 (3-4, 7-10) and 0-0 shooting . Harper garnered an 82.1% eFG% and 1.64 PPWS, outstandingly efficient shooting. The Spiders did a much better job on the boards, grabbing 32.0% of their misses, while limiting the Sun Devils to 34.1% of their misses. Richmond’s FTA/FGA was 37.3%, a significant improvement over their performance against the Monarchs.

2. Temple (5-2) AP #21

Last Week: 12/1 @ Central Michigan 65-53, 12/5 @ Maryland 64-61

Next Week: 12/9 vs. Georgetown, 12/12 vs. Akron

The Owls recovered from their disastrous Old Spice experience with two wins last week. Senior forward Lavoy Allen, who had struggled through Temple’s first five games, broke through with his first two double-doubles of the season, performances which earned him his first Player of the Week citation from the A-10. Allen posted 13 points and 10 rebounds in the win, but junior guard Juan Fernandez scored the team-high 18 points, shooting a 66.7% eFG% with a 1.34 PPWS. Wing Ramone Moore 16 points on a volume shooting night, posting a 40.0% eFG% and 0.90 PPWS. The star of the night, however, was the Owl defense, which limited the Chippewas to a very stingy 0.88 points per possession.

Allen followed with another 13 and 10 performance against Maryland in the BB&T Classic on Sunday. Like the CMU game, Moore provided points (16 points, the team-high) on another volume shooting night, while Fernandez chipped in 14 points and 3 dimes in 38 minutes. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad limited the Terps to 0.91 points per possession with a sterling defensive effort that limited Maryland to 45.5% eFG%. But uncharacteristic of those earlier losses against California and Texas A&M, the Owl front court contingent of Allen, Eric Michael and Rahir Jefferson, along with wing/forward Scootie Randall, controlled the boards, snagging a strong 37.8% of their missed field goal attempts, while limiting Maryland’s second chance points by collecting 75.7% of the Terp’s missed field goal attempts.

3. Dayton (6-2)

Last Week: 12/1 vs. East Tennessee State 68-73, 12/4 vs. Miami (OH) 70-58

Next Week: 12/7 vs. Central Connecticut, 12/11 @Virginia Commonwealth

Coach Brian Gregory’s squad recorded a 1-1 week, like the balance of the conference elites. At least the Flyers came out on top of a head-to-head with cross-state (and conference) rival Xavier with a win over the RedHawks of Miami (OH). Freshman point guard Juwan Staten continues to impress the conference front office and fans around the conference, as he earned his second citation (co-owned with La Salle’s Tyreek Dureen) as Rookie of the Week for his performances against both opponents. Staten earned 14 points against East Tennessee State, while posting eight points and dishing five dimes as the Flyers overcome a second half deficit against Miami. The freshman sank every on of his eight free throw attempts in the last 2:30 of that game. Senior forward Chris Wright drew a conference Honorable Mention for averaging a double-double for the week. His 15 rebounds against East Tennessee State was a career-high. Though the Flyers lost that game, they had four players, junior forward Chris Johnson (15), senior guard Paul Williams (11), Staten (14) and Wright (13) score in double figures. The fan concerned that the ETSU result hints at a regression to last season’s inconsistent outings can probably relax and chalk it up to a learning curve that caught the new point guards off balance. In an odd turn, the game saw Staten, Williams, transfer point guard Josh Parker and rotation front court player Luke Fabrizius take larger-than-normal roles in the offense. Staten, Williams and Fabrizius took 32.8%, 24.3% and 29.8% of the possessions when they were on the court, the higher than normal possession rate due in some measure to the turnovers each committed (five, four and one) during their playing time.

Possessions returned to a more typical distribution with the Saturday game versus Miami, as Johnson and Wright took most of the possessions and shots, while Staten and Parker stepped back into the background and concentrated on distributing the ball.

4. Xavier (5-2)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Miami (OH) 64-75

Next Week:  12/9 vs. Butler

What happened at Miami on Wednesday is anyone’s guess, but mark this one down as a “what the heck?” game. The official recap chalked it up to a “slow start”, but I bet coach Chris Mack filed a “Missing Persons Report” after the game, because the Musketeers’ defense definitely did not show up at the game.  Xavier gave up an appalling 1.14 points per possession (ppp) to the RedHawks, while garnering about 0.98 ppp for themselves. Miami OH shot an efficient 51.8% (eFG%) while tallying a PPWS of 1.16. Miami OH scored on 34 of their (estimated) 66 possessions, just north of the 50% mark. Tu Holloway led Xavier scorers with 18 points, matched by sophomore guard Mark Lyons’ 18, but the lead guard, taking 30% of the possessions and 24.4% of the shots when he was on the floor, simply made it too easy for the RedHawk defense. Holloway’s 18 points was scored by volume shooting, 5-13 (1-4, 4-9) and 7-9, an inefficient 42.3% conversion rate (eFG%). Lyons managed to shoot an equally unimpressive 4-11 (0-3, 4-8) and 10-11, yielding a 36.4% eFG%. Senior forward Jamel McLean did turn in a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds), but the scoring was neither efficient enough (McLean excepted) nor distributed enough to make the Miami defense work. Going into the season, the question was how the squad would make up Jordan Crawford’s production. As of this week, the question is still unanswered.

5. Massachusetts (7-1)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Quinnipiac 66-64, 12/4 vs. Boston College 71-76

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Maine, 12/11 vs. Seton Hall

Senior guard Anthony Gurley made the conference Honorable Mention list for the third time in four weeks as he posted an average of 20.5 points in the two games played last week. Poised to move up again in the rankings, coach Derek Kellogg’s squad fell five points short against Boston College (ACC) on a semi-neutral floor, the TD Arena, in Boston. Gurley scored 19 points on 8-13 (1-2, 7-11) and 2-2 shooting against Quinnipiac for an eFG% of 65.4% from a player known more for quantity the past few games. The surprise of the Quinnipiac game was high-scorer Javorn Farrell, a 6’5 swingman who scored 25 points on 9-16 (1-2, 8-14) and 6-7 shooting. Gurley scored 22 against Boston College, on 10-20 (0-4, 10-16) and 2-4 shooting. Sophomore guard Freddie Riley is struggling, placing a good deal of the scoring load on Gurley.

6. Rhode Island (5-3)

Last Week: 12/4 @ Providence 74-87

Next Week: 12/8 @ Northeastern, 12/11 @ Quinnipiac

College coaching is not an especially good career path for a curmudgeon. If you are going to be irascible, then you better win consistently, at least beat your biggest rivals. The disgruntled elements of the Rams’ fan-base grew a bit louder last week when Jim Baron’s squad dropped a double-digit decision against their biggest in state rival, Providence. This is supposed to be another rebuilding year for the Friars, so the 13 point margin was especially disappointing. Delroy James scored a team-high 25 points while three other Rams, Marquis Jones (15), Daniel West (13) and Nikola Malesevic (10) scored in double-digits as well.

7. La Salle (5-3)

Last Week: 12/4 vs. Oklahoma State 87-92 (2 OT)

Next Week: 12/9 @ Boston University, 12/11 vs. Villanova

Both sophomore center Aaric Murray and freshman guard Tyreek Dureen drew conference nods for their work in games on November 29 (Delaware State, a 65-61 win) and December 4 (the two overtime loss to Oklahoma State). This gives me some idea of how far the conference believes this Explorer program has come this season. Murray, a Conference Honorable Mention, was one of five La Salle players to score double digit points in their 65-61 win over Delaware State. The 6’10 big man tied with senior forward Jerrell Williams for a team-high 23 points against the Cowboys on Saturday. Dureen was cited for his scoring and assists (and steals) in the Delaware State game, and for the amount of time he played (43 minutes) in the Ok State game.

8. St. Bonaventure (4-2)

Last Week: 12/4 vs. Buffalo 76-74

Next Week: 12/7 @ St. John’s, 12/11 vs. Niagara

Bonnie point guard Ogo Adegboye drew Player of the Week honors with his performance against Buffalo. Andrew Nicholson may not have drawn his third Honorable Mention (in the three week old season) but his double-double effort will be noted here. The junior #5 scored 16 points (0-1, 6-10 and 4-6) and grabbed 10 (2-8-10) rebounds in the win. Junior forward Da’Quan Cook and sophomore guard Demetrius Conger continue to be efficient second and third options on offense as they take about 21.6% and 17.2% of the shots, converting at rates of (eFG%) 58.8% and 58.3% respectively. If Adegboye can keep his assist to turnover ratio above 1:1 (and get Conger the ball a bit more often), the Bonnies could beat the preseason projections.

9. Duquesne (3-3)

Last Week: 12/1 vs. Pittsburgh 66-80, 12/4 @ Penn State 73-77

Next Week:  12/8 @ Wisconsin-Green Bay, 12/11 vs. West Virginia

The Dukes suffered through an 0-2 week, though senior forward Damian Saunders recorded a double-double (20 points and 11 rebounds) in the Pittsburgh loss and another 23 in Duquesne’s loss to Penn State and draw an Honorable Mention from the league office. Fellow senior wing Bill Clark matched Saunders point production in the Pitt loss, while freshman guard B.J. McConnell chipped in 14 points on 6-11 (2-5, 4-6) and 0-0 shooting. The key stat for Pittsburgh was rebounding; the Panthers outrebounded the Dukes by a 56-35 margin. The Pitt bigs simply overpowered the smaller Duquesne front line. Clark logged the double-double against Penn State, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 (6-4-10) rebounds. The Dukes had no answer for the Nits’ Talor Battle though, as the senior guard torched Ron Everhart’s squad for 31 points on 12-18 (5-8, 7-10) and 2-4 shooting.

10. Saint Louis (3-3)

Last Week: 11/30 @ Portland 60-69

Next Week: 12/11 @ Duke

The pace was deliberate, about 59 per side, as most Rick Majerus games tend to be, but the defense was very un-Majerus, as the Billikens gave up a whopping 1.15 points per possession to the Portland Pilots. The Pilots’ conversion efficiency (eFG%) was a discouraging 61.7%. Cobbling together a defense for Duke on Saturday will be tough, as the Pilots have logged a Ken Pomeroy adjusted offensive rate of 108.1 good for a #57 ranking in D-I basketball. Duke, by contrast, is 121.9, good for a #1 ranking. Problems for the Billikens however, tend to occur more on the offensive side of the ball, a problem that has persisted for several seasons now, due in part to roster turnover. Saint Louis is (by Ken Pomeroy) currently ranked #157, very middle-of-the-division, with a 100.5 offensive rating (1.005 points per possession). This edition of the Billikens has been a bit of a mulligan stew, which has relatively prominent roles in the offense going to freshmen, while the more experienced players are either struggling (sophomore Cody Ellis), stepping back into minor roles in the offense (junior Kyle Cassidy) or both (sophomores Christian Salecich and Corey Remekun and junior Paul Eckerle). The “reliable” nucleus appears, at this point, to consist of Cassidy, junior Brian Conklin and freshmen guards Dwayne Evans and Mike McCall.

Why McCall has been ignored by the conference front office is the mystery of the season so far. The freshmen scored an extremely efficient 14 points against Portland, converting at a 66.7% (eFG%) rate, good for a 1.41 PPWS. In his last three games, McCall has maintained a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

11. Charlotte (3-5)

Last Week: 12/1 @ East Carolina 61-62

Next Week: 12/7 vs. Winthrop, 12/11 @Davidson

After being declared “probable” for the Winthrop game, graduate senior Charlie Dewhurst broke his finger and is out again, this time indefinitely, pending diagnosis. Charlotte dropped a one point decision at East Carolina, though 49er high-scorer Phil Jones drew an Honorable Mention from the conference for his 14 points and 10 rebounds. The only other Charlotte double digit scorer was Darrio Green with 11 points. Life after Spears is proving tough, at least on the court. With a week to practice and reform the offense, the Winthrop game should tell the fans where the team is headed this season.

12. Saint Joseph‘s (3-5)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Drexel 50-62, 12/3 @ Villanova 71-60, 12/5 @ Princeton 65-74

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Minnesota, 12/11 @ Creighton

Phil Martelli’s Hawks drew an oh-fer last week, losing all three scheduled games. If Drexel was regrettable (but expected) and Villanova predictable (but regretted), the Princeton game had to frustrate the Hawk faithful. While projected as a contender for the Ivy League title this season, the Princeton squad should not match-up well against Saint Joseph’s. The Tigers do not have a power forward to stop CJ Aiken, and their backcourt, the strongest area of their squad, should not match-up with Carl Jones and Langston Galloway. And yet SJU dropped a nine point road game largely on lack of defense. They allowed Princeton to score 1.12 points per possession and shoot a very efficient team-wide 60.0 eFG%, while mustering only a 0.98 ppp and 50.9 eFG%. Princeton had players in double-digits, while Saint Joseph’s guard Carl Jones scored 24 and only one other, freshman forward Ronald Roberts, scored more than nine points (10 points on 4-7 and 2-3 shooting). Such are the growing pains with freshmen-dominated rosters.

13. George Washington (2-5)

Last Week: 12/1 @ George Mason 46-60, 12/5 vs. Navy (BB&T Classic) 57-64

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Towson

Lacking a consistent shooter/scorer, the Colonials are riding a four game slide through the weekend, the last two coming in December. They dropped the over card match at the BB&T Classic to a 4-6 Navy team (out of the Patriot League) which Pomeroy ranks #316 in D-I for offense. Ouch. Of the 11 players identified (and rated) by Ken Pomeroy who have a possession rate equal to or greater than 12.4 (very limited role player), only three (junior Tony Taylor, along with freshmen Chris Fitzgerald and Nemanja Mikic) have offensive ratings of 101 or better. Two (Taylor and Fitzgerald) have ratings of about 101. The Towson game should be very interesting for both teams, as Tiger coach Pat Kennedy is under the gun with a team that has struggled for the past three seasons and currently sports a 2-4 record.

14. Fordham (3-4)

Last Week: 12/1 @ Harvard 57-80, 12/4 @ Lehigh 74-67

Next Week: 12/8 vs. Manhattan, 12/11 vs. St. John’s

The Rams are on a roll! Coach Tom Pecora has recorded his third win of the season, and a road win, the first win not in Rose Hill since 2009, to boot. The sky is probably not the limit, but the prospects for several conference wins this season have improved dramatically. The Lehigh game delivered other good news – Chris Gaston, who logged his sixth double-double of the season was not the high-scorer for Fordham. That honor went to senior guard Brent Butler. While that may sound odd, the sophomore forward draws a good deal of defensive attention whenever he is on the court, and with some justification as he accounted for over 1/3 of the Rams’ possessions and 29.3% of the Rams’ turnovers when he is on the court. Butler, combined with junior guard Alberto Estwick (and occasionally freshman guard Branden Frazier), give three to four legitimate scoring threats for Pecora to throw at an opponent’s defenses.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by 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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