Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter (@vbtnblog)
The Week That Was
New Sheriff in Town? The surprise team so far is Dayton. The Flyers, under first year head coach Archie Miller, have unveiled a revamped offense with a decidedly different approach to player rotation. Under Brian Gregory all members in the rotation, with the exception of forwards Chris Wright (graduated in May 2011) and Chris Johnson (a senior this season) saw game time in four minute (or less) slices. Wright, Johnson and freshman point guard Juwan Staten (who transferred to West Virginia in the off season) played 70% or more at their positions, which translates to about 28 minutes per game. The junior guard Paul Williams aside, everyone else on the squad logged no more than 44.2% of the available time (Josh Benson, about 18 minutes per game) at their respective positions. The rotation this season also features two players (transfer guard Kevin Dillard and Williams) who have logged better than 70% of the available time (with Johnson playing 63%), but Miller uses three other players for 50% or more of the time, and fourth, sophomore Devin Oliver, who plays about 46% of the time on the wing. If Gregory’s approach gave more players some game-time exposure, Miller’s style, more tradition in the distribution of minutes, allows team members to acclimate to the game. Though Miller uses fewer players per game, the Flyers continue to get a bit more than 66 possessions per game, consistent with the last season under Gregory.
Archie Miller Has Done Wonders At Dayton
A Points per Possession Look at the teams. Last season I used points per possession (conference games only) to give the reader a more insightful look into each team’s play. The numbers for the 3-5 games the teams have played so far.
Those who followed this column last season know that the efficiency margin will not always track with a team’s won-loss record. The approach can suggest where strength of schedule, consistency and luck may play a larger than expected role in shaping the team’s record. Two differences from this point last season (four-six games into the conference schedule) include the top-to-bottom size of the margin has shrunk considerably. Xavier, at the top of the conference, was +0.267 last season while Fordham at the bottom, was -0.277, a gap of nearly 0.55 points per possession, while this season (see above) shows a gap of 0.342 points per possession. Note the lack of undefeated (in conference play) teams this season, while One of the more obvious differences this season is thth wider efficiency margins (plus or minus)
Dayton continues to win, Xavier goes sideways while Charlotte and Richmond find the road rockier than expected? Looks like my promotion of Dayton last week was the right move as the Flyers handed Xavier a crushing 15 point loss last Saturday (1/21). The rematch next month in Cincinnati should be very interesting.
Saint Louis (15-4, 3-2) – The Billikens beat Duquesne Saturday for their only game this past week. The conference record may not say #1, but the point per possession margin (+0.131 – see above) says Coach Rick Majerus’ team is on track. According to their Pythagorean Winning Percentage (conference games only) the Bills are on track to win 13 games, a very tall order given they have already logged 2/3 of their projected losses. Saint Louis has had problems winning away from Chaifetz, and the upcoming two game road swing will be an important early season test. Saint Louis will travel to Cincinnati for an early season showdown with Xavier on Wednesday (1/25) and then continue east to Amherst for a tilt with Massachusetts on Saturday (1/28).
Rick Majerus And Saint Louis Continue To Lead The Pack
No A-10 Teams in the Top 25… Again: The latest round of the AP and Coaches polls (January 16) show no Atlantic 10 team gathered enough support nationally to be ranked… for the fourth consecutive week. Saint Louis missed a good opportunity to impress when the Billikens dropped a four-point decision to New Mexico on New Year’s Eve, picking up their second loss in the process. With the next six teams showing three or four losses, the conference is out of the Top 25 conversation for the next three or so weeks. The other name brands, Xavier and Temple, did not help their causes this past week. Xavier dropped their third game in the last four, this time to Gonzaga in what might have been a good “comparison” game for the Selection Committee. Temple beat #3 Duke but dropped two of their first three conference games. Lacking another marquee out-of-conference game (Temple versus Maryland is a pale imitation), the conference may have to wait until early February and hope that one or two teams will dominate conference play while their power conference counterparts beat each other up.
Bernadette McGlade’s Recipe for Basketball Masala: Masalas are a variety of spicey soups or stews favored throughout India, Pakistan and most parts of south Asia. A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade and her schedule maker served up their own brand of basketball masala in this opening week of conference play. Strong preseason favorites Saint Louis, Xavier and Temple did not survive the week undefeated (Temple has yet to win with a tough game coming up this week) while recently downtrodden Charlotte and La Salle started strong, each has sustained at least one loss. Rookie Coach Archie Miller of Dayton (whose squad was depleted with graduations and transfers) is riding high, while veteran Mike Lonergan of George Washington (whose squad is well stocked with experienced players) is struggling. Far too early to throw the power rankings (see below) up in the air perhaps, but a few of the results from the past two weeks (Dayton at Temple, Saint Louis at Dayton, Charlotte at Saint Joseph’s for example) maybe critical tiebreakers come March.
Rick Majerus And Saint Louis Are On Top Of Our RTC Power Rankings (AP)
Results from the first quarter of conference play (and a few of the last few out of conference games) hold a strong hint that the conference may be more competitive through the first 12 spots than preseason projections indicated. First week losses to the favorites force me to take a long second (and third…) look at Dayton. With only a few games scheduled, and those yielding mixed results for the teams at the top of last week’s power rankings, the conference appears to be sliding sideways. Massachusetts disposes of their last out of conference opponents fairly easily to move up a spot, while Temple finishes the month 6-1 and Fordham upsets a ranked team.
Saint Louis (14-4, 2-2) – The Billikens are .500 through the first four games of conference play. They opened conference play with a 79-72 overtime loss at Dayton, the first time Rick Majerus’ squad has lost back-to-back games this season (St. Louis lost their last out of conference game to New Mexico on New Year’s). Their bounce back 78-56 win over George Washington on January 7 was the largest margin win in conference play, with the three other games decided by five or fewer points. Against Dayton, the Billikens held Dayton to a respectable 1.04 point per possession (about 75 total possessions in the overtime game), but failed to break the 1.0 (PPP) mark themselves, a persistent problem last season that Brian Conklin, Kwamain Mitchell and Cody Ellis had resolved this season. None of the three had a good outing however, as they combined for a horrific 12-33 from the field, yielding a 40.9% eFG% and 0.96 points per weighted shot. One can have an off night (there are enough secondary options on the bench and the floor at anytime), but count those game where all three have problems scoring efficiently as an “L”. Saint Louis committed the double sin of allowing the Flyers to score efficiently (over 50% eFG% overall), and rebound for second chances when they did not convert. The Billikens posted similar efficiencies in their loss to Temple last Wednesday.Saint Louis hosts Duquesne on Saturday (1/21) in their only game this week. Read the rest of this entry »
Early Season Performances – The Oooh Aaaah Variety (Teams & Individuals)
The A-10 evened the record versus the six power conferences again last week, largely on the strength of performances by Xavier and Richmond. Xavier needed overtime to beat Vanderbilt in Nashville. Down by two with just under four minutes in regulation, Xavier held Vanderbilt scoreless and managed to tie on a Mark Lyons jumper with six seconds remaining in regulation. In overtime the Musketeers took the lead for good 68-66 on two Dezmine Wells free throws and Tu Holloway put a large enough margin between the teams (about eight points) when he hit two threes in successive possessions to absorb a Commodore mini-run. Vanderbilt chipped the Musketeers’ lead down to four, but could get no closer. Forced to foul, Holloway and Travis Taylor went a perfect 6 for 6 from the line to stretch the lead to 10 and suck the life out of the Commodore comeback.
Hosting Purdue five days later, Xavier again went down early, allowing Purdue to take the lead at the 18:49 mark of the first half and hold it for the next 37 minutes of play. The Boilermakers took an 11-point lead into the intermission and stretched it to 15 in the first 6:30 of the second half. Over the next 12:24 Xavier outscored Purdue 29-13 to take the lead for only the second time in the game. Once in control, the Musketeers did not let the Boilermakers back in, pushing their lead out to three in the last minute of the game.
Those numbers are more interesting, however, when you break up the game. For example, with 3:30 left in overtime against Vanderbilt, Holloway had just 14 points on 4-17 shooting. That stat line looks much more impressive after he hit back-to-back threes on the next two possessions and four straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Likewise, against Purdue, Holloway had just 10 points and six turnovers in the first 38 minutes of the game, but in the final two minutes he hit a three on three consecutive possessions (video of the last two below) and followed that up with two free throws, completing the most impressive comeback of the young season…in the final three minutes against Vanderbilt and the last two minutes against Purdue, Holloway had 21 points, went 5-6 from beyond the arc and knocked down all six of his free throws attempts.
The Richmond squad had to replace 59% of their minutes and 68.6% of their scoring from the squad that won the A-10 conference tournament and ran to the Sweet Sixteen last March. Freshman point guard Kendall Anthony, three times designated Rookie of the Week by the conference, has picked up a load of time and scoring responsibilities for the Spiders so far. Richmond leaned heavily on Anthony along with sophomores Cedrick Lindsay and Derrick Williams for offense. Both chipped in double digit points to complement Anthony’s production. Lindsay was a serviceable back-up to senior point guard Kevin Anderson last season, but Williams, who has started all eight games for the Spiders, saw very little action as a freshman.
Overlooked Temple off guard Aaron Brown turned heads the summer before coming to North Broad, but had few opportunities to show Temple fans and the A-10 what he could do. Brown scored 21 points in 22 minutes in a display during Temple’s 86-74 win over Central Michigan. Ken Pomeroy would find hard to ignore his performance, as he hit 7-11 (4-7 from three point land, 3-4 from inside the arc) shots from the floor while getting to the line for five free throws, of which he hit three. That computes to an 81.8% eFG% with a 1.57 points per weighted shot, an outstanding outing for the sophomore, who was pressed into action due to the injury-depleted squad.
Early Season Performances – The What the !@#!@@!# Variety (Teams & Individuals)
After winning their early season invitational tournaments, beating four power conference opponents (two each) during the tournament, both Dayton and Saint Louis stumbled in post tournament games. The losses are puzzling because for both teams, the games were winnable. Saint Louis took an “and-one” game with Loyola Marymount of the West Coast Conference, losing by seven with a performance that had team observers scratching their heads. Dayton compounded the first post tournament loss (by 29 to Buffalo of the MAC) with a second loss, this one by 17, to Murray State of the Ohio Valley Conference. The opponents were beatable, making the scoring margins downright consternating. Dayton was pegged to finish in the middle of the conference, but the two unexpected losses (albeit the Racers will most likely contend for the OVC title this season) could damage the Flyers chances for a post season NIT bid. Other inexplicable losses go to Saint Bonaventure’s home loss to Arkansas State of the Sun Belt Conference, a 3-4 team no one expects to make noise this season. The Bonnies were not helped by a lackluster six-point, nine-rebound effort from Andrew Nicholson.
The Power Rankings are shuffled again this week in response to the Ooohs, Aaaahs and What the heck games listed above. For the Atlantic-10 the post season margin for error is exceedingly slim. Three losses going into the first or second week of December can take a school off the RPI short list pretty quickly.
1. Xavier (6-0) #8 AP – Xavier took down two more power conference programs last week in fashion impressive enough to climb three more spots in the AP poll. I listed many of the impressive details in the impressive performances section above, but in addition to the video link below that shows two of Tu Holloway’s three “last two minute” three point field goals below (h/t to Dana & Victory Blog for the link). I should also mention that in Nashville Mark Lyons (19 points) and Travis Taylor (11 points) chipped in more than 10 apiece to go with Holloway’s 24 point performance, while Antoine Walker collected 14 rebounds in his return to Vanderbilt where he played for three years. Versus Purdue three Musketeers, Lyons (14 points), Walker (10 points) and Kenny Fraese (10 points) chipped in double digit points to complement Holloway’s 21 point outburst.
Xavier will travel to Indianapolis Wednesday for a game with Butler, then return home to host this season’s Crosstown Shootout versus Cincinnati on Saturday. Win these next two and Chris Mack’s squad deserves something special, like Christmas in Hawaii…wait.
2. Saint Louis (7-1) –Their top 25 ranking proved surprisingly short, the penalty for stumbling against the Lions last Tuesday. St. Louis recovered to beat another WCC team, Portland by 20, 73-53 at the Chaifetz. The Billikens’ defense limited Portland to 0.90 points per possession, much as they had Boston College and Oklahoma. Scoring centered on Brian Conklin and Cody Ellis, with Kyle Cassidy and Mike McCall providing efficient long-range scoring. They will host Vermont on Wednesday and Division II Illinois-Springfield on Saturday.
The A-10 teams played 51 games from November 9 through November 22 against teams from 22 conferences and an independent. The overall record, 34-17 (0.667) may leave fans optimistic as last season’s final winning percentage was 0.589, but the season is very, very early with less than 25% of the schedule in the books. Whether conference members can draw a fourth (or even a third?) bid depends to a considerable degree on how the conference as a whole fares against the power conferences and against schools that will form the pool of at-large candidates.
Conferences not played have been omitted. A few oddities should catch the reader’s attention. First, only Saint Bonaventure has engaged a MAAC school so far, unusual for the conference. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference is largely made up of private colleges (many of them Catholic) located in a footprint that stretches from the Capital Region in New York State, west to Lake Erie and south through metropolitan New York down to Maryland. Many MAAC schools share basketball traditions with Fordham and St. Bonaventure, and many of the other A-10 members from New England and Philadelphia. Second, the A-10 is killing the CAA this season, notching a 5-1 record so far. Granted less than a third of the scheduled games have been played, but A-10 teams had to close with a rush of wins to bring last season’s head-to-head record to 7-10, and conference fans watched with mixed emotions as the second CAA team in four seasons advanced to the Final Four last March. While only George Mason from among the CAA’s elite teams has been engaged (and GMU squeaked by, beating Rhode Island in overtime), the early returns are promising. The winning percentage against the power conferences is much lower than last season’s 0.469, but again the season is early as the conference has completed only 20% of their anticipated slate. Excluding the ACC where the A-10 holds a 2-0 edge so far, the conference’s only other power conference win came Sunday against Washington. While the lopsided record compiled against the CAA is the largest influence in the composite record, the A-10 has compiled an 8-1 record versus conferences with a similar profile (the CAA, CUSA, MWC, WAC and MVC), conference teams have sustained winning records against MWC and CUSA competition as well as the CAA.
Xavier's Tu Holloway Is A First-Team All-American Candidate And One Of The Nation's Best Seniors
A-10 to Barclays in 2013: Barclays Center, under construction in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is in the market for multi-day sporting events while the Atlantic 10 is looking for a bigger stage for their post season tournament — a perfect match perhaps? The two announced a deal late last month that will move the 2012-13 A-10 Conference Tournament to the 675,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue that will feature an 18,000 seat arena for basketball. The Atlantic 10 has vacillated between rotating campus sites and a “permanent neutral” site since the first conference tournament in 1976-77. The current location since the 2006-07 tournament, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, is a 10,500 seat amphitheater. While technically neutral, the attendance is up when one or more of the Philadelphia contingent (La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and/or Temple) advances to the quarterfinal round and beyond, and down when they do not. The conference will return to Boardwalk Hall for their 2011-12 tournament, then move over to Barclays Center the following season.
Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.
2011 was business as usual it seems as two teams, Temple and Xavier, combined to represent the conference in the AP Poll for 11 of the poll’s 19 weeks. Three teams (Richmond, Temple and Xavier) were invited to the NCAA for the fourth consecutive year with two advancing to the second round and one advancing to the Sweet 16 before bowing out. The steady progress, if not the deeper advancement, into the NCAA Tournament field should give the conference cause for celebration. If the A-10 has not gained ground, it certainly hasn’t lost any ground either. The conference beat its Performance Against Seed Expectation (PASE – the number of wins earned in the NCAA versus the historic record for the assigned seed), 2.57, by winning a total of three games in tournament play. This year also marked the sixth consecutive postseason where the conference received at least one at-large bid. And for the second consecutive postseason, seven conference members in all (50% of the conference membership) played on after the final buzzer sounded in Atlantic City. The conference placed two teams (Dayton and Rhode Island) in the NIT and two others (SaintLouis and GeorgeWashington) in the CBI in 2010, with Dayton winning the NIT and Saint Louis losing in the CBI Finals to VCU. This postseason, only Dayton made the NIT, while Duquesne, Rhode Island and St.Bonaventure were invited to the CBI. Unfortunately none of them advanced beyond the second round.
So why are conference observers edgy? Despite the “all steady” in the NCAA Tournament, teams from two other non-BCS conferences, Virginia Commonwealth of CAA and the Horizon League’s Butler were represented in the Final Four, with Butler advancing to Monday night for the second consecutive year. The Atlantic 10 has not sent a team to the Final Four since the Massachusetts squad of 1996, whose Final Four appearance was later vacated by the NCAA, and has had only one representative (Xavier in 2008) [ed. note: corrected] in the Elite Eight since the 2004 Tournament when Saint Joseph’s lost to Oklahoma by two points, 64-62, in East Rutherford, New Jersey on the same weekend that Xavier was eliminated by Duke, 66-63, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Xavier’s Tu Holloway enjoyed a terrific season for the Musketeers. (credit: AP)
Final Ranking, Team-by-Team
Richmond (28-8, 13-3) #12 seed: Coach Chris Mooney’s Spiders had several outstanding performances out of conference including their 65-54 win over Purdue (#3 seed NCAA), but those were negated by head-scratching losses to Iona aand Bucknell. The same held true in conference play, where wins over Dayton and Duquesnewere undermined by a home loss to Rhode Island early in conference play. The Spidersearned a #3 seed in the conference tournament where they knocked off #2 seed Temple that was dealing withinjuries and earned the conference’s automatic bid witha 67-54 win over Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Tournament finals. The Spiders beat #5 seed Vanderbilt (69-66) and #13 seed Morehead State (65-48) to advance to the Sweet Sixteen and a date with#1 seed Kansas. The ride ended witha 77-57 loss, but Mooney signed a contract extension which should keep him at Richmond for the foreseeable future. Mooney loses four key members of the squad this season, but returns 11 players, including two who started multiple games this season, for 2011-12. GRADE: A
Temple(26-8, 14-2) #7 seed NCAA: The consensus favorite to win the conference regular season, the Owls stumbled in the Old Spice Classic, dropping two of their three games in Orlando. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad dropped a third out of conference game to Villanova on the eve of conference play, but ran off three wins to start conference play. Back-to-back losses to Duquesne and Xavier put the Owls in second place in the conference, which is where they finished the regular season. Injuries sidelined sophomore Michael Eric, reducing an already short frontcourt rotation, for the last two weeks of the season. Scootie Randall also battled injuries as the season wound down, leaving Dunphy with a seven-man rotation for the Atlantic 10 tournament. A semifinal loss to Richmond ended Temple’s bid to earn the conference’s automatic bid for a third consecutive year, but the Owls secured a #7 seed to the NCAA Tournament and an in-state match-up with Penn State in the first round game, which they won 66-64 on a last second shot by Juan Fernandez. In the second round, they pushed #2 seed San Diego State to the limit before falling in double overtime. GRADE: B+ Read the rest of this entry »
Net Efficiencies, end of season honors: Net efficiencies through Monday of this week (2/14/2011) give us a better sense of the conference race than the won-loss standings. Though Duquesne drops to fourth place in the conference standings, the Dukes have dominated enough games to maintain their spot just below Xavier. Temple and Richmond follow, with both maintaining positive net efficiencies.
Xavier took sole ownership of first place Sunday with their win over Duquesne. The Musketeers’ conference SOS (see above) confirms their fans have no need to credit the conference schedule maker with an assist on their ascension. The Musketeers are back!
One of the developing oddities of late is the number of teams with negative net efficiencies — with a full ten teams logging negative nets through last Sunday. A 50/50 split would be unusual, but a 30/70 split is a bit unusual and a development that should rebalance over the next two weeks. The split however, does not bode well for postseason prospects. Consensus bracketology has the conference with three “solid ins” right now (Xavier, Duquesne and Temple), and Richmond “with work to do.”
With POY handouts and All-Conference Team awards less than a month away, it is time to look at who has been on the conference radar all season. The Player of the Year will most likely come from the list below — I have noted the number of times the player has been cited as Player of the Week and the number of times the player has made the conference Honor Roll.
Someone not named Tu Holloway will have to put on a major push through the end of the month to overtake the Xavier guard for Player of the Year honors. Of the most like candidates (most are shown in the table), the most likely candidate is Justin Harper, Richmond’s talented #4 player, possibly Temple’s Lavoy Allen or Ramone Moore, or if Rhode Island has the kind of February that St. Louis had last season, maybe Delroy James finds his way into the conversation. But let’s be honest, for Rhode Island to have that kind of February, James would have to play like the Player of the Year. I believe the voters tend to look among the conference contenders for the Player of the Year contenders, which eliminates Chris Wright (Dayton), Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure), Chris Gaston (Fordham) and Aaric Murray (LaSalle). All four (and James and Harper) are however, along with James, Moore, Allen, Chris Wright and Duquesne’s Bill Clark, well in the mix for All-Conference Teams. Those not named to the first team will no doubt make the second team.
Rookie of the Year honors appear to be a little tighter, with contenders coming from SaintJoseph‘s, Dayton, La Salle and George Washington. Duquesne’s T.J. McConnell (see table above) is the clear favorite right now, but how he fares with the voters may well be tied to how strongly the Dukes finish out the regular season. The voters may be less inclined to pin conference-contender responsibilities on a freshman/transfer, so Langston Galloway (Saint Joseph’s), Tyreek Duren (La Salle), Juwan Staten (Dayton) and Namanja Mikic (George Washington) should not be handicapped when compared to McConnell. There are two more rounds of weekly citations and a strong closing by Saint Joseph’s or George Washington may scramble this race.
The top team is Xavier. The Muskies settled it on the floor of the Consol Arena Sunday with a comfortable win over Duquesne. Duquesne dropped to #4 in the conference “record rankings”. Oddly the bottom spot was also settled on the court, also on Sunday and also with the host taking the loss. Saint Joseph’s will now battle with Charlotte for the last spot in the first round of the A-10 Conference Tournament. Rhode Island also had a good week, while Dayton did not. And those developments are also reflected in the conference rankings and this week’s power rankings.
1. Xavier (18-6, 9-1)
Last Week: 2/8 @Georgia 65-57, 1/13 @Duquesne 71-63
Next Week: 2/16 @Saint Joseph’s, 2/19 vs. Fordham
After a start to the season that included injuries, academics and unexpected losses, the Musketeers have put them back at the top of the conference and into the NCAAs. Xavier has been gaining national notice over the last half of January, and whispers of Chris Mack for conference coach of the year seemed justified with their comfortable win over Duquesne Sunday. Tu Holloway earned an Honor Roll citation for averaging double digit scoring over the course of the two road games.
The Duquesne game was a classic first half/second half struggle. The home team took a narrow one point lead into the locker room, but Xavier, the larger and more physical team, slowed down the pace (36 possessions was where Duquesne wanted to play) to a more manageable 33 possessions, and took control of the defensive boards. Duquesne had a huge 31-23 FGA advantage in the first half, complements of some terrific offensive board work. The Musketeers shut down the defensive boards, limiting the Dukes to a skimpy 20% rebounding rate of their misses in the second half. Neither team overwhelmed the opponent with an offensive blitz, but by limiting second chance opportunities, Xavier turned the game into a series of one-and-done possessions. And that was a game where their superior conversion abilities could prevail. Coach Mack’s squad has light duty this week — games with Saint Joseph’s and Fordham. No slip-ups, guys.
2. Duquesne (16-7, 8-2)
Last Week: 2/13 vs. Xavier 63-71
Next Week: 2/16 @Massachusetts, 2/19 @Dayton
The Dukes had another 1-1 week, which this time dropped them back to #4 in the conference standings, though they maintain their #2 spot in these power rankings. Ron Everhart‘s charges have two road games this week, coming off a loss to Xavier, this could be a rougher trip than anticipated. Beware of a dangerous Dayton club.
3. Temple (19-5, 9-2)
Last Week: 2/9 vs. Fordham 77-66, 2/12 @Dayton 75-63
Next Week: 2/16 vs. Richmond, 2/19 vs. Saint Joseph’s
It was Lavoy Allen’s turn, as the injury bug took a bite out of the senior forward, forcing him to the bench for Saturday’s game versus Dayton. Ramone Moore stepped up and earned his sixth Honor Roll citation last week as he averaged 24.0 points and 5.0 rebounds over the week. Moore snagged nine rebounds in the Owls’ win over Dayton. Temple has a showdown with Richmond scheduled for Thursday night. The winner should draw at least the #3 seed for the conference tournament in Atlantic City next month.
4. Richmond (20-6, 9-2)
Last Week: 2/9 @George Washington 69-65, 2/12 vs. Saint Louis 64-52
Next Week: 2/16 @Temple, 2/19 vs. St. Bonaventure
The Spiders put some distance between the elites and the middle teams as they posted another 2-0 week complements from two middle-of-the-conference teams. Justin Harper earned his second Player of the Week citation for as he averaged 21.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in Richmond’s two games last week. Coach ChrisMooney and Company take a trip up to Philadelphia for a mini-showdown on Wednesday, then returns home to host the Bonnies on Saturday.
5. Rhode Island (16-9, 7-4)
Last Week: 2/9 vs. Dayton 67-53, 2/12 vs. Charlotte 71-70 OT
Next Week: 2/19 vs. Massachusetts
Rhode Island demolished a struggling Dayton team Wednesday to take over fifth place in the conference standings, and hung on to beat Charlotte on Saturday in overtime. Too little too late? Perhaps for the NCAAs, a number of solid conference wins will not make the Selection Committee forget losses to Quinnipiac and a route at the hands of Florida. Finish solidly and another round in the NITs awaits. Will that be enough for coach Jim Baron? The Runnin’ Rams face regional rival (and conference mate) Massachusetts Saturday in one of their three conference mirror games.
6. Dayton (17-9, 5-6)
Last Week: 2/9 @Rhode Island 53-67, 2/12 vs. Temple 63-75
Next Week: 2/16 @Charlotte, 2/19 vs. Duquesne
Final Judgement Week did not go well for the Flyers, as they went 0-2 against teams they really needed to beat to make any case for the post season. Rhode Island has a two game cushion in the loss column now, and Temple has another important win to stay within striking distance of Xavier. Dayton continues to drift downward in the conference standings. Dayton will play Charlotte in Charlotte Wednesday, then return to host Duquesne on Saturday.
7. George Washington (13-12, 6-5)
Last Week: 2/9 vs. Richmond 65-69, 2/13 @Massachusetts 59-51
Next Week: 2/19 @La Salle
The Colonials logged another 1-1 week, but gained an advantage over Massachusetts by winning their head-to-head. Freshman Namanja Mikic earned his second Honor Roll citation (to go with his Rookie of the Week citation) as he averaged 17.5 points for the week’s games. Karl Hobbs‘ team travels to Philadelphia to play La Salle Saturday in their only game this week.
8. St. Bonaventure (13-10, 5-5)
Last Week: 2/12 vs. La Salle 82-61
Next Week: 2/16 vs. St. Louis, 2/20 @Richmond
Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies hammered a struggling La Salle squad by 21 points, earning Andrew Nicholson his ninth Honor Roll citation this season. The Bonnies host St. Louis Wednesday and travel to Richmond for a tilt with the Spiders Sunday.
9. Massachusetts (13-10, 5-5)
Last Week: 2/13 vs. George Washington 51-59
Next Week: 2/16 vs. Duquesne, 2/19 @Rhode Island
The Minutemen ran their losing streak to three last week with a loss to George Washington Sunday. Derek Kellogg‘s squad looks at two more tough opponents this week as the Minutemen host a two game home stand by hosting the Colonials next Sunday, then the Dukes the following Wednesday.
10. LaSalle (12-14, 4-7)
Last Week: 2/9 @Saint Louis 78-77, 2/12 @St. Bonaventure 61-82
Next Week: 2/19 vs. George Washington
The Explorers won their mini-series with St. Louis, pushing the Billikens another game down in the conference standings, but they have a two game gap to jump if they want to finish in the middle of the conference. Dr. John Giannini‘s squad has earned 16 citations for individual performances from the conference this season, one less than conference-leaders Duquesne and Dayton, two teams ensconced in the conference’s upper division. When working through this season, the La Salle staff and administration is going to have to reconcile the paradox of recognizable individual performances and mediocre team outcomes. La Salle has a single weekend game, as they host George Washington on Saturday. If the Explorers plan to mount a closing rush for an upper division finish this season, they have to start with George Washington.
11. SaintLouis (8-16, 3-8)
Last Week: 2/9 vs. La Salle 77-78, 2/12 @Richmond 52-64
Next Week: 2/16 @St. Bonaventure, 2/19 vs. Charlotte
The Billikens posted an 0-2 week, and run their losing streak to three. The Richmond game raised no eyebrows, but giving up a layup to Ruben Guillandeaux with 19 seconds left (and a one point lead) will hurt for awhile. Freshman Dwayne Evans earned his second Honor Roll citation of the season as he averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 rebounds last week. Coach Rick Majerus‘ squad heads out to Olean, New York to play St. Bonaventure Wednesday, then returns to Chaifetz Arena to host Charlotte in a Saturday game.
12. Charlotte (10-13, 2-7)
Last Week: 2/12 @Rhode Island 70-71 OT
Next Week: 2/16 vs. Dayton, 2/19 @St. Louis
Charlotte logged a 0-1 week and extended their losing streak with Satuday’s result in Rhode Island. Chris Braswell did draw a conference citation for logging his fifth double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) in the loss. Charlotte hosts Dayton Wednesday and travels to St. Louis for a weekend game with the Billikens.
13. Saint Joseph‘s (6-17, 1-8)
Last Week: 2/13 @Fordham 76-70
Next Week: 2/16 vs. Xavier, 2/20 @Temple
The Hawks played a single game last week, but it was a good one as Saint Joseph’s stormed back from a 12 point halftime deficit to notch the program’s 1,500th all-time win, a six point classic, against Fordham last Sunday that also earned Langston Galloway his third Rookie of the Week citation for his career-high 25 point performance against Fordham. Saint Joseph’s’ two-game winning streak has been fun, but the Hawks are back in the meat grinder this week as they host Xavier on Wednesday and then travel across town to play Temple on Sunday.
14. Fordham (6-17, 0-11)
Last Week: 2/9 @Temple 66-77, 2/13 vs. Saint Joseph’s 70-76
Next Week: 2/16 @Xavier
Fordham’s winless string runs to 11 in conference play, with another 0-2 week. The probability they will finish the conference season without a win stand ominously at 44.7% per Ken Pomeroy. The Pythagorean Winning Percentage suggests the Rams will earn a win, but the calculations for individual games shows a “losing” probability for each game. Best chance remains a travel-challenged Massachusetts squad at the end of the season. Fordham travels to Cincinnati to take on Xavier.
A Look Ahead
The week offers a single headliner game, Richmond at Temple on Thursday night. Crucial to settling the question of the #2 and #3 seeds in Atlantic City. A Temple win would assure the Owls of no worse than a #3 seed, with distinct possibilities of a #2 seed should Duquesne falter. A Richmond win will leave the question to be settled on the court in a season-ending clash with Duquesne on March 3. Rebounding has become Richmond’s burden to bear this season. The lack of presence on the glass means their shots have to fall consistently for them to have a chance. So far they have as the Spiders convert at a 54% (eFG%) rate in conference play. They do not however rebound defensively either. And that can be a real problem given Temple’s board domination. This one should go to the Owls, though Temple fans should be warned that Richmond has the strongest road-only efficiency in the conference.
The Rhode Island-Massachusetts game scheduled for Saturday can help the Runnin’ Rams for NIT consideration should Coach Baron’s charges win. With five conference games remaining in the regular season, Rhode Island can solidify a #5 seed in the tournament should they continue to win.
With non-conference play in the books, it’s time to name the All-Conference Team, based on first half performance. These are the five players I like best for end of the season conference honor. They are off to great starts.
G – Tu Holloway, Xavier; the guard struggled against Cincinnati, but he continues to be Xavier’s best weapon.
G – Bill Clark, Duquesne; the Dukes are back and Clark is a big reason.
F – Chris Wright, Dayton; he may not assert himself enough in tight games.
F – Justin Harper, Richmond; how Harper goes, so go the Spiders.
C – Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure; junior center has been cited in six of the nine week old season.
Honorable Mention – these seven are very much in the hunt for Player of the Year and All-Conference First Team recognition:
G – Kevin Anderson, Richmond; last season’s POY cannot be left out of a conversation about Player of the Year.
G – Derrio Green, Charlotte; like Nicholson, his chances for conference recognition will depend as much on how his team finishes the season as how well he plays.
G – Ramone Moore, Temple; a big reason Owl fans have not missed Ryan Brooks.
G – Tony Taylor, George Washington; the junior has come on strong in December and January, as have the Colonials.
F – Lavoy Allen, Temple; his team’s ranking will boost his prospects, but he needs a few signature games to go with some game-to-game consistency.
F – Delroy James, Rhode Island; James has been cited by the conference in six of the season’s nine weeks. Like Green and Nicholson, his prospects may hang as much on his team’s finish as his own performance.
F – Chris Gaston, Fordham; strong individual performances have earned him multiple conference citations, but how will Fordham finish?
Rookies I Like: The following seven freshmen are the collective favorites for the All Conference Freshmen Team, with TJ McConnell, given Duquesne’s standing at this point, probably the strongest challenger to Juwan Staten. Staten, the projected Rookie of the Year, has had a good season so far, but the Flyers continue to perform inconsistently. The freshman point guard remains my odds-on favorite for Freshman of the Year, but the race is competitive and contains a few unexpected faces.
G – TJ McConnell, Duquesne; Duke fans were high on this high schooler out of central Pennsylvania, has been cited twice for Freshman Honors.
G – Tyreek Duren, La Salle; one of two crucial freshman at La Salle this season, important building blocks for the Explorer program.
G – Langston Galloway, Saint Joseph’s; one of four freshmen recruited by coach Phil Martelli to revive the Hawk program.
G – Brandon Frazier,Fordham; not a favorite due to Fordham’s continued struggles, but has a solid chance, with a solid season, to make the All-Freshmen Team.
F – Nemanja Mikic, George Washington; with Lasan Kromah’s injury, the Colonials drifted, but have started to so signs of pulling the team together. If GWU makes a serious run at the top half of the conference, Mikic will be a big part of that push.
C – CJ Aiken, Saint Joseph’s; Big men take time, and if Martelli is patient, this one could turn his program around.
Seven teams had perfect weeks, while six others were winless. Several teams around the conference midpoint have moved according to their currrent records, but the conference season for most, is only two games old.
1. Temple (11-3, 2-0) #19 AP
Last Week: 1/5 @Fordham 70-51, 1/9 vs. Saint Louis 57-53
Next Week: 1/12 vs. St. Bonaventure, 1/15 @Duquesne
Temple jumped back into the AP’s Top 25, up to #19 on the January 10 poll on the heels of a 2-0 week. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad traveled to the Izod Arena in Secaucus, NJ, to trounce Fordham by 19 points, then returned home to hold off a late Saint Louis rally and notch a four-point win on the Bills. Ramone Moore drew an Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Owls in those two wins.
The Owls get an early-season test in the form of a road trip to Duquesne. The Dukes, an early season darling for stats geek Ken Pomeroy, have cooled off a little, so if Temple has plans to stay ahead of Richmond (who will host Duquesne at the end of the season) and remain in the Top 25, a win is important. The challenge is even greater with Juan Fernandez’s knee injury. The Owls survived the Billikens over the weekend, but will need a mobile point guard if they are to consistently break a press.
2. Richmond (13-4, 2-0)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. Charlotte 71-59, 1/8 @La Salle 87-68
Next Week: 1/13 vs. Rhode Island
The Spiders keep pace with Temple atop the A-10, having opened, like the Owls, with a 2-0 week. Senior forward JustinHarper continues to have an outstanding season as in addition to being cited for three conference Honorable Mentions, he was named conference Player of the Week for his work in the Charlotte and La Salle games. According to the citation, Harper was 19-29 overall (65.5%) and 7-13 (53.8%) from beyond the arc. Against La Salle, Harper also recorded his second double-double in the last four games as he scored 25 points and 10 rebounds at La Salle on Sunday.
Coach Chris Mooney‘s squad will host Rhode Island Thursday and then take the weekend off.
3. Dayton (13-4, 1-1)
Last Week: 1/5 @St. Louis 60-50, 1/9 @Massachusetts 50-55
Next Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Joseph’s, 1/15 @Xavier
The Flyers finished a puzzling 1-1 week, snapping their winning streak at six. Senior forward Chris Wright was cited with a conference Honorable Mention for his double-double (14 points and 14 rebounds) at St. Louis. His work at Massachusetts, six points and seven rebounds, was just not enough in that very low scoring game — game breakdown in the Massachusetts recap.
Coach Brian Gregory’s squad will host Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday and travel to Cincinnati for a Saturday game with Xavier. With three out of conference losses and now a “what the heck?!” effort against Massachusetts, the 2011 edition of the Flyers will have to be more consistent game-to-game if they want avoid a repeat of the 2010 conference season. That starts this week with two important games. Saint Joseph’s is too young to surprise Dayton, ranked #330 out of 345 by Ken Pomeroy for experience, but it is the type of situation (home game, not well regarded opponent) that could give the Flyers unexpected trouble. Saturday’s game at Xavier carries conference seed implications. If Dayton can take the road game in this annual two game series, the Flyers will have an advantage later when the X-men travel to Dayton, and when the two teams are seeded for the conference tournament. Take both games and the Flyers will have the advantage in a tie-breaker with Xavier and two good (but not Top 25) wins for the Selection Committee.
4. Xavier (8-5, 1-0)
Last Week: 1/6 @Cincinnati 66-46, 1/9 @Rhode Island 72-45
Next Week: 1/12 vs. Massachusetts, 1/15 vs. Dayton
The 20-point trouncing at the hands of crosstown rival Cincinnati has to be a bucket of very cold water to the Musketeers, who have dominated this series of late (7-3 over the last decade, coming into this season). Their bounce-back game, a 27-point beat down of Rhode Island may have been a release (that helped earn senior forward Jamel McLean an Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 18.5 points (18 and 19) and 9.0 rebounds (six and 12) against Cincinnati and Rhode Island respectively. .
Chris Mack’s team could use a good run through the conference to revive their hopes for a sixth NCAA post season bid. Hosting two conference opponents gives the X-men a solid opportunity. The Dayton-slaying Minutemen visit on Wednesday and the Flyers follow on Saturday.
5. Massachusetts (9-5, 1-0)
Last Week: 1/9 vs. Dayton 55-50
Next Week: 1/12 @Xavier, 1/15 vs. La Salle
Can you win a basketball game while hitting 12 field goal attempts total and shooting to an overall conversion percentage of 27.3%? Yes, apparently, if the planets align and your opponent is Dayton. Though Dayton actually converted at a higher percentage than UMass (28.6%) and had more field goals, the Minutemen nearly double-upped the Flyers at the free throw line (36 vs. 19 free throw attempts) and scored 16 more points from the line than the Flyers.
With postseason prospects dwindling, Massachusetts and Xavier have an early conference test coming up Wednesday. Massachusetts returns home to host La Salle on Saturday.
6. Duquesne (9-5, 1-0)
Last Week: 1/5 @Saint Joseph’s 75-63, 1/8 vs. Houston Baptist 81-64
Next Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Louis, 1/15 vs. Temple
The Dukes ran their winning streak to four with another 2-0 week. Senior Bill Clark earned his second consecutive Honorable Mention for his work in both games. Clark averaged 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the two games. The Dukes also snapped their nine game losing streak when playing Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia. Duquesne’s road record versus Saint Joseph’s is 2-19.
Coach Ron Everhard‘s troops has an important two game home stand coming up. They host an undermanned, Rick Majerus-less Saint Louis team Wednesday and an Owls squad that may not have junior point guard Juan Fernandez available on Saturday.
7. St. Bonaventure (9-5, 1-0)
Last Week: 1/5 @Arkansas-Little Rock 68-55, 1/8 vs. Charlotte 92-88 3OT
Next Week: 1/12 @Temple, 1/16 @Rhode Island
Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies logged a 2-0 week, raising their 2011 mark to 2-1, and their conference record is an unblemished 2-0. Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson drew his second consecutive Honorable Mention for his game-high block buster 34 points in the Bonnies’ three overtime win over Charlotte. The junior also logged a stunning 55 minutes of playing time in the Bonnies’ 1-0 start.
Saint Bonaventure faces a week on the road in what should be a good early season reality check for their fans and well-wishers. Nicholson and company travel to Philadelphia (weather willing) to take on the conference-leading Temple Owls, then swing out to Kingston, Rhode Island, to face the Runnin’ Rams.
8. Rhode Island (9-6, 0-1)
Last Week: 1/9 vs. Xavier 45-72
Next Week: 1/13 @Richmond, 1/16 vs. St. Bonaventure
Coach Jim Baron‘s charges got their conference season off on the wrong foot with a 26 point home loss to Xavier. While Delroy James earned his sixth conference Honorable Mention this season (tied for highest number of mentions with Bill Clark of Duquesne and Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure), a 26-point home court loss has a way of messing up a tournament resume. The Runnin’ Rams have picked up six losses so far this season, and post season prospects are dimming quickly.
The road to revival runs through Richmond, and any serious hopes for a postseason beyond Atlantic City has to start next week.
9. George Washington (9-6, 2-0)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. La Salle 72-67, 1/8 @Saint Joseph’s 78-71
Next Week: 1/12 vs. Fordham, 1/15 vs. Harvard
The Colonials kicked off conference play with a 2-0 start, beating La Salle at the Charles E. Smith Center and taking Saint Joseph’s at the Hagan in Philadelphia. Junior guard Tony Taylor earned his fourth Honorable Mention from the conference by averaging 24 points for the Colonials’ 2-0 open of their conference slate. Taylor scored a career-high 28 points against La Salle.
George Washington will host Fordham on Wednesday and Harvard on Saturday.
10. La Salle (7-9, 0-2)
Last Week: 1/5 @George Washington 67-72, 1/8 vs. Richmond 68-87
Next Week: 1/12 vs. Pennsylvania, 1/15 @Massachusetts
La Salle had an 0-2 opening week in conference play. Frustrated with the lackluster and tempermental play against George Washington that included a technical assessed to senior forward Jerrell Williams, Coach/Dr. John Ginniani benched sophomore Aaric Murray for the entire game with Richmond, pulledRuben Guillandeaux out of the starting line and held the senior gurad out of the game for the first five minutes. “I know how [Murray] responds when things hit rock bottom,” Giannini said. “He really steps it up…”
Dr. Giannini’s predicted turnaround should start Wednesday against Big 5 rival the University of Pennsylvania. The Explorers have a road game at Massachusetts on Saturday.
11. Charlotte (6-8, 0-2)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. Richmond 59-71, 1/8 @St. Bonaventure 88-92 3OT,
Next Week: 1/15 vs. Fordham
Charlotte stumbled to an 0-2 record in conference play last week. After a 12 point home loss to Richmond, the 49ers traveled to Olean, NY and dropped a four point game to St. Bonaventure. They did not however, go quietly, taking the Bonnies to three overtime periods before bowing. Junior Javarris Barnett scored his second career double-double, 20 points and 10 rebounds, in Charlotte’s triple overtime loss to St. Bonaventure. Barnett’s achievement earned him his first Honorable Mention and the second citation (his first, last week, was a Player of the Week honor) of the season. Barnett is the fifth member of the 49er squad to draw a nod for strong play from the conference.
Coach Alan Major‘s squad continues their Northeastern sojourn as they take in a game at Fordham on Saturday.
12. Fordham (6-7, 0-1)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. Temple 70-51
Next Week: 1/12 @George Washington, 1/15 @Charlotte
Fordham’s losing streak has run to three with the conference-opening loss to Temple. Things may not get better for coach Tom Pecora‘s Rams next week, as Fordham has a two game Southern road swing starting on Wednesday at George Washington and another stop in Charlotte on Saturday.
13. Saint Louis (5-10, 0-2)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. Dayton 50-60, 1/9 @Temple 53-57
Next Week: 1/12 @Duquesne, 1/15 vs. Saint Joseph’s
The Billikens’ losing streak stands at five after Rick Majerus’ squad dropped two more games last week. Majerus’s absence ran to three games as the coach did not take the trip to Philadelphia when Saint Louis played Temple. Majerus is expected to miss one more game (Duquesne on Wednesday). The other personnel question surrounding the team is the status of Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed. Both re-enrolled at Saint Louis for the spring semesters. Mitchell has practiced with the team and awaiting clearance from the NCAA before he can resume play. Reed’s suspension from the team continues. Mitchell may, pending NCAA clearance, play in the Duquesne or the Saint Joseph’s game.
14. Saint Joseph’s (5-10, 0-2)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. Duquesne 63-75, 1/8 vs. George Washington 71-78
Next Week: 1/12 @Dayton, 1/15 @Saint Louis
The Hawks may console themselves on the relatively close loss to George Washington, but there will be no pause in the schedule next week as they take a two game road swing through the Midwest, taking in Dayton on Wednesday and Saint Louis on Saturday. The Dayton game may be problematic, but Saint Louis game, with an undermanned and possibly distracted squad might be winnable.The result may factor into a tie breaker at the end of the conference season.
A Look Ahead
My season preview predicted between three and four (with a bias towards four) teams would garner bids to the NCAA Tournament. At this point last season the conference had six teams whose out of conference records had bracketologists buzzing. The conference showing in their out of conference was below expectations this year, however, and even ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has only Temple in his field of 68 this week while the Mountain West, Missouri Valley, CUSA, WAC and West Coast conferences get multiple bids. Teams at the bottom of the A-10 may not be as weak as last season, but the teams at the top have not demonstrated yet that they are as strong as teams at the top were last season. The conference has three, possibly four legitimate candidates, Temple aside, but each has flaws and a good deal of work to do.
Temple is the clear favorite to sweep the regular season title and conference championship. Lunardi seeds the Owls #7 this week, but the conference schedule favors the Owls, and with an extremely strong showing at 14-2, 15-1, coupled with a run through the conference tournament, they should be able to improve that seed by three or four spots.
Richmond — Lunardi lists the Spiders among the eight bubble teams on the outside looking in. Not blessed with a schedule as favorable as Temple’s, Coach Mooney’s squad can help it’s chances with favorable results in three games at the end of January. The Spiders travel to Amherst for a game with Massachusetts on January 22, then swing out to Ohio for a second road game with Dayton on 1/25 and finally return home to host Xavier on January 29. 3-0 through that week-plus (and no more fumbles before or after) should put Mooney’s charges in the field of 68; while 2-1 would not be fatal, anything lower might not jeopardize the team’s conference standing but will diminish the Spiders’ chances to make it’s second straight NCAA appearance in 2011.
The Dayton Flyers appear to be plagued with the same inconsistent play this season as last. They rally to win road games at Mississippi State and Seton Hall, only to be run out of the U. S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati and dumped four days later by East Tennessee State. The result of the Massachusetts game last Sunday really hurt their postseason prospects. Dayton has a crucial game this weekend versus Xavier, and after a trip to Fordham, the Flyers return home to host Richmond and then travel to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne. 4-0 through this sequence (counting Fordham in the win column) with solid margins would help settle the “good enough” questions. 3-1 would not be fatal, but it depends on how those four in turn finish there seasons.
A home loss to Florida along with road losses to Gonzaga and Miami (OH) (RPI #91), have damaged the Musketeers’ postseason prospects. Rehabilitation of their prospects has to start this week when the Musketeers host Massachusetts then Dayton. Xavier probably needs both. The Southern Road Trip, a journey that takes the Musketeers through Richmond and then Charlotte, scheduled on the cusp of January and February, may well settle Xavier’s prospects. Should the X-men be undefeated going into those games, a 2-0 result would be very good news, while anything less will be very damaging.
Of the three 9-6 teams — Massachusetts, Duquesne and St. Bonaventure — Duquesne may have the best shot. Of the Dukes’ five losses (to Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Penn State, George Mason and Robert Morris), Robert Morris (RPI #99) is the most damaging. Fans should learn a lot about Duquesne this week when Saint Louis and Temple visit. 2-0 is possible given injuries and absences in those programs. The Dukes’ home-away series with Dayton, home game versus Xavier and season-ending road game versus Richmond are the four game Duquesne will have to record a 4-0/3-1 record. That assumes they sweep the other nine games.
The conference’s “Invitational Season” ended on a disappointing note as both Fordham and Saint Louis struggled in their respective tournaments. Saint Louis won their first round game in the Cancun Governor’s Cup against Northeastern, but dropped the last two, first to Southern Mississippi and the second to Mississippi (Ole Miss lost to Dayton at home in November). The Cable Car Classic harkens back to the days of Christmas-to-New Year’s tournaments that typically revolved around the bowl games. Unlike most, the Cable Car filled the field with non-BCS teams.
Richmond’s run through the Chicago Invitational field included a 65-54 win over #11 Purdue, but the conference co-favorite Temple squandered opportunities to garner positive national attention when the Owls dropped games to Texas A&M and California at the Milk House in Orlando. Xavier advanced to the finals of the Paradise Jam, but fell 67-58 to tournament winner Old Dominion. Saint Joseph’s collected the conference’s other tournament trophy when the Hawks beat Rutgers in the finals of the Philly Hoops Classic. The Philly Hoops Classic has undergone several format revisions over the tournament’s four0year history, the number and locations of the preliminary round games has changed nearly every season, but that each member of the city’s Big 5 takes a turn hosting the event has not changed.
Is the entire conference regressing to the mean? The top teams lost while the bottom team(s) won. Three teams had perfect weeks.
1. Temple (9-3)
Last Week: 12/30 @Villanova 74-78
Next Week: 1/5 @Fordham, 1/9 vs. Saint Louis
The Owls dropped out of the AP’s Top 25 again, one result of their four-point loss to Villanova. Despite leading 40-39 at the half, Temple’s shooting cooled off in the second half and the Owls could not hold the lead. Lavoy Allen scored 22 points and nine rebounds in the loss to earn a conference Honorable Mention. Point guard Juan Fernandez scored 20 points, going 4-6 from beyond the arc. Ramone Moore (16 points) and Scootie Randall (11 points) also scored in double figures.
Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad will open their A-10 slate against Fordham with an away game at the Izod Center. They return to Philadelphia to host Saint Louis Saturday.
2. Richmond (11-4)
Last Week: 12/29 vs. Wake Forest 90-74, 1/2 vs. Bucknell 61-62
Next Week: 1/5 vs. Charlotte, 1/8 @La Salle
Richmond stumbled to a 1-1 record last week, missing an opportunity to pass Temple in the power rankings when they dropped a one point decision to Bucknell, 62-61, on January 2. The Bison snapped the Spiders’ 11-game home winning streak. Bucknell managed to limit Kevin Anderson’s touches, and limited the point guard to 13 points on 6-14 overall (1-3 on threes, 5-11 on twos) and 1-2 from the line shooting. Senior forward Justin Harper shot 6-8 (3-3 from beyond the arc and 3-5 on twos) and 4-6 from the charity stripe. The Bison also contained Justin Harper by taking him off the floor his fourth foul at the 10:00 minute mark of the second half, with Richmond down by five. Harper sat for the next six minutes. Coach Chris Mooney put Harper back in on an offense-defense rotation, but the forward had cooled off, going 1-2 overall (1-1 on threes, 0-1 from twos) and 0-2 from the line to close out the game.
The Spiders drew a favorable mention last week as ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas listed Richmond as one of six teams which deserve “more love” (subscription required). The widely respected announcer and analyst of Division-I basketball identified Richmond’s senior stars: “The Spiders have Kevin Anderson, the A-10 player of the year, and have one of the most unheralded players in the country in Justin Harper. If this guy played at Butler, we’d be talking about him incessantly…Richmond can play with anyone…”
Mooney’s charges open the conference slate on Wednesday when they host Charlotte.
3. Dayton (12-3)
Last Week: 12/29 vs. George Mason 73-67, 1/1 vs. New Mexico 76-73
Next Week: 1/5 @St. Louis, 1/9 @Massachusetts
The Flyers had a 2-0 week, extending their winning streak to five. Senior forward Chris Wright shared conference Player of the Week honors with Charlotte’s Javarris Barrett for his performance in both games, scoring a total of 30 points and collecting 23 rebounds in the two games. The Dayton faithful have waited four years to see Wright put the team on his back in the late going in close games. He did it twice last week, first scoring all of his 13 points and grabbing five of his nine rebounds versus George Mason in the second half. Against New Mexico, Wright scored 12 of his team-high 17 points and nabbed six of his 14 rebounds in the second half and two overtime periods it took to settle matters with the Lobos. Dayton opens opens conference play Wednesday against St. Louis.
4. Xavier (8-4)
Last Week: 12/28 vs. Albany 88-64, 12/31 vs. Florida 67-71
Next Week: 1/6 @Cincinnati, 1/9 @Rhode Island
If the fried gator offered at the concessions did not give the Xavier faithful heartburn, the game itself, a 71-67 beating at the hands of Florida (a return engagement) last Friday most certainly did. The loss, Xavier’s fourth (an unusually high number of losses in out of conference play lately), snapped a 30-game Cintas Center winning streak, and put even more pressure on the Musketeers to do well in conference play. Tu Holloway played all 40 minutes and led all scorers with 26 points. Jamel McLean scored six points and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.
Coach Chris Mack‘s squad could use another out of conference resume win to counter a few of last month’s head scratchers, and Crosstown Shootout rival Cincinnati may be just what the doctor ordered. X travels to Fifth-Third to take on their Big East rival – even better for the RPI if they win. Xavier opens their A-10 slate this Sunday, when they travel to Kingston, RI to play Rhode Island.
5. Rhode Island (9-5)
Last Week: 12/29 vs. Boston College 67-65, 1/3 @Florida 59-84
Next Week: 1/9 vs. Xavier
The Rams finished their out of conference slate with a 1-1 week, knocking off Boston College and then losing to Florida on the road. Coach Jim Baron threw reinstated forward Orion Outerbridge right into the fray, allocating to the junior forward 41 minutes of play in the two games. Outerbridge scored 20 points total, grabbing eight rebounds and bocking three shots. Against Boston College, three other Rams, Akeem Richmond (15 points), Marquis Jones (11 points) and Nikola Malesovic (16 points – team high) recorded double digit points. At Florida, the Rams’ senior front court players, Delroy James (29 points – game high) and Will Martel (13 points) led the scoring.
Rhode Island opens their A-10 regular season schedule Sunday when they host Xavier.
6. Massachusetts (8-5)
Last Week: 12/31 vs. Boston University 71-54, 1/3 @Central Connecticut 63-92
Next Week: 1/9 vs. Dayton
Massachusetts snapped their four-game losing streak when they beat the Terriers of Boston University on New Year’s Eve. The celebration however lasted only slightly longer than New Year’s, as the Minutemen dropped their next game, a 29 point thumping at the hands of NEC member Central Connecticut on January 3. Both games reinforced perceptions that the Minutemen fortunes rest on the scoring abilities of senior guard Anthony Gurley. Gurley led Massachusetts scorers in both games, garnering 21 points versus Boston University (next highest UMass scorer was sophomore forward Sampson Carter with 10) and 18 points versus Central Connecticut (the next highest total from a Minuteman came courtesy of freshman forward Raphael Putney with 14)
7. St. Bonaventure (7-5)
Last Week: 12/28 vs. Siena 82-79, 2/2 vs. Marshall 65-74
Next Week: 1/5 @Arkansas-Little Rock, 1/8 vs. Charlotte
Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies logged a 1-1 week, finishing 2010 on a winning note against MAAC member Siena but opening the new year with a loss to CUSA member Marshall. Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson drew an Honorable Mention for his game-high scoring week. Nicholson scored 26 points against the Saints on Tuesday, and returned to score 29 against the Herd on Sunday. Guard Michael Davenport was second high Bonnie scorer in both games, recording 20 versus Siena and 14 versus Marshall. Senior point guard Ogo Adegboyo continues tomake progress. The Nigerian-by-way-of-London import averaged 32.5 minutes for the two games while scoring 23 points and dishing nine dimes versus three turnovers.
Saint Bonaventure will travel to Arkansas-Little Rock to finish their out of conference slate against the Sun Belt Conference member and return home to Olean, NY to face Charlotte on January 8.
8. Duquesne (7-5)
Last Week: 12/31 vs. Northwestern State 91-64, 1/2 vs. Norfolk State 95-73
Next Week: 1/5 @Saint Joseph’s, 1/8 vs. Houston Baptist
The Dukes pushed north of 0.500 last week with two strong wins against low-major competition. Senior Bill Clark earned an Honorable Mention for his work in both games. Clark averaged 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the two games. The Northwestern State game featured five double digit scorers. Clark (21 points) plus four others, BJ Monteiro (15 points), Mike Talley (11 points), Joel Wright (10 points) and Sean Johnson (10 points) logged double digit points. Clark earned a double-double by nabbing 10 rebounds. In a impressive distribution of scoring in the Norfolk State game, Clark (13 points) and five teammates, Johnson (19 points – game high), Damian Saunders (14 points), Montiero (11 points), Eric Evans (10 points) and Wright (10 points), scored ten or more points.
Duquesne opens in Philadelphia as they visit Hawk Hill for a game with Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday, then close out their out of conference slate by hosting Houston Baptist Saturday.
9. La Salle (7-7)
Last Week: 12/29 vs. Towson 90-93 OT, 1/2 vs. Binghamton 87-64
Next Week: 1/5 @George Washington, 1/8 vs. Richmond
La Salle had a 1-1 week, an overtime loss to Towson of the CAA was countered by a win over Binghamton of the American East. Freshman point guard Tyreek Duren took Rookie of the Week honors for the third time this season, tying him with Dayton’s point guard Juwan Staten for most times recognized. Duren was cited for averaging 18.5 points and 5.0 assists in the Explorers’ two games. Senior forward Jerrell Williams also earned a conference citation, in his case Honorable Mention, for upping his career-high scoring to 32 points in the Towson game.
Dr. Giannini’s squad will open at George Washington on Wednesday, and return home to host Richmond on Saturday.
10. Charlotte (8-6)
Last Week: 12/30 @Mercer 64-63, 1/2 @Georgia Tech 86-83 2 OT
Next Week: 1/5 @St. Bonaventure, 1/8 St. Josesh’s
Coach Alan Major’s squad squared their record at six with a 2-0 sweep of the week. The results are impressive because both were taken on the road. The A-10 recognized Javaris Barnett, a junior guard/forward for two tremendous outings. Barnett shares the honor with Dayton’s forward Chris Wright. Barnett led the charge with a team-high 18 points (career-high) as the 49ers came from behind to beat Mercer by a point. Barnett chipped in 15 points, to support Derrio Green’s game-high 21 points in Charlotte’s 3 point, 2 overtime win at Georgia Tech.
Charlotte opens their A-10 slate in Olean, NY, as they face St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, then return home to host Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.
11. George Washington (7-6)
Last Week: 12/31 vs. Holy Cross 58-57, 1/3 @Howard 85-50
Next Week: 1/5 vs. La Salle, 1/8 @Saint Joseph’s
Freshman forward Nemanja Mikic drew a conference Honorable Mention for his nine three point field goals over the Colonials’ last two games. George Washington’s 2-0 run put Karl Hobbs’ team over the 0.500 mark for the first time since game three of the season.
12. Fordham (6-6)
Last Week: 12/29 vs. American (Cable Car Classic) 57-73, 12/30 TBD (Cable Car Classic) 70-85 Next Week: 1/5 vs. Temple
Fordham was knocked back to an even record with an 0-2 run in the Cable Car Classic last week. Prospects for staying at or above 0.500 through the week are bleak, as the Rams open their A-10 slate by hosting Temple on Wednesday.
13. Saint Louis (5-8)
Last Week: 1/1 vs. Bowling Green 61-67
Next Week: 1/5 vs. Dayton, 1/9 @Temple
The Billikens dropped a six-point decision to the Falcons of Bowling Green on New Year’s Day. In possibly a bad omen for the team’s fortunes, coach Rick Majerus left the game with a lacerated leg and did not return. The 62-year-old coach missed the previous game, St. Louis’ third round the Cancun Governor’s Cup game versus Mississippi at the end of the year. Majerus’ recovery will extend to the Billikens’ A-10 opener Wednesday against Dayton.
The roster headline this week is that suspended center Willie Reed completed his paperwork for re-admission to the university. Billiken fans are hardly unanimous on whether Reed and Kwamain Mitchell will be granted admission, but the reality, that the semester-long suspension for all practical purposes ended the season for both players (there is a consensus forming that they will most likely red shirt the season, concentrate on academics, so that they will be in a strong position to graduate in May of 2012).
14. Saint Joseph’s (5-8)
Last Week: 12/28 @Holy Cross 65-54, 12/31 vs. Siena 58-48
Next Week: 1/5 vs. Duquesne, 1/8 vs. George Washington
Freshman CJ Aiken was named to the conference Honorable Mention rolls for averaging 8.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game during the Hawks’ 2-0 run last week. Saint Joseph’s, having a single out of conference opponent left (Big 5 rival Penn) on their schedule, will open their A-10 schedule by hosting Duquesne on Wednesday and George Washington on Saturday.
A Look Ahead
Saint Louis fans will wait to find out if suspended players Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed will be re-admitted for the spring 2011 semester. Without an official statement, fans will not know until class lists are released on Monday, January 10. Coach Rick Majerus’ status is less than certain, as his leg injury will hold him out for at least one more game.
Stats guru Ken Pomeroy ran simulations for the 335 teams affiliated with the 31 Division-I conferences and released his projections in two separate posts on Monday and Tuesday this week. Pomeroy noted in his introductory notes that the simulation assumes the Pythagorean Winning Percentages (the heart of his ranking system) will not change over the course of the conference season, a factor that skews the simulations to overly favor the highest ranked team. Pomeroy notes that those teams which finished second, third, even fourth in his projection had better possibilities for improvement than the first place teams. Pomeroy ranked (and divided his postings) by the degree to which the conference race would be competitive. Least competitive conference races were published in Pomeroy’s Monday post (part 1), while the more competitive conferences were published Tuesday (part 2).
Pomeroy ranked Atlantic 10 race #15 of the 31 races in competitiveness and placed the conference in the second post, among the more competitive races. Temple, the highest ranked A-10 team in Pomeroy’s system, won 54.6% of the simulations, with #2 Richmond winning 27%, surprise team, #3 ranked Duquesne, taking 11% and #4 Xavier 4%. Duquesne has played a fairly light out of conference schedule, but the Dukes’ wins have been by comfortable margins. Pomeroy, while not quite ready to proclaim the Dukes legitimate threats to win the conference (“Let’s keep an eye on the Dukes over the next two weeks…”) does suggest they will be good enough “…to screw up somebody’s tourney hopes…”. The other surprise is the relatively low ranking (#7) for Dayton. The Flyers won 0.7% of the conference race simulations, a strong suggestion that the Flyers, while not absolutely precluded from winning the conference title, will again fall short in conference play.