With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Atlantic 10 correspondent, Joe Dzuback. You can read more of his in-depth writing and analysis at Villanova By The Numbers.
Reader’s Take I
Bobinski to Chair NCAA Selection Committee: While the conference again sent seven teams, half of its membership, to the postseason — three to the NCAA, one to the NIT and three to the CBI, the Final Four runs by Butler (Horizon League) and Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial Athletic Association) overshadowed a showing, Xavier’s loss to Marquette excepted, that exceeded 2010’s NCAA results. The NCAA announced that Xavier Athletic Director Mike Bobinski will succeed Connecticut’s Jeff Hathaway as Chairman of the 2012 NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Bobinski just completed his third year of a five-year term on the Selection Committee. While the Atlantic 10 has been the most successful non-BCS conference in placing teams in the tournament field (with 20 NCAA bids allotted to six teams since 2004), its representatives have tended to draw the short straw when it comes to seeding, and Bobinski will likely lobby hard for that cause.
The Coaching Carousel: The conference had two coaching vacancies during the early phase of the coaching carousel. If the 2010 offseason saw coaching turnovers due to firings, the 2011 offseason saw suitors come to call on the Atlantic 10 coaching fraternity. Tennessee, having fired Bruce Pearl on March 21, made its first call to Xavier to talk with Chris Mack. Mack reportedly turned aside an offer of $2 million per year to coach the Volunteers in favor of staying in Cincinnati with the Musketeers. Richmond’s Chris Mooney signed a 10-year contract extension, his second extension in two years, ending Georgia Tech’s courtship. Mooney’s decision triggered a spate of articles (see “Old coaching assumptions are fading” by Dana O’Neil for example) about non-BCS coaches who pass on BCS offers to stay with their programs. The Yellow Jackets turned their attention to Dayton’s Brian Gregory, who succumbed to the lure of the BCS and packed his bags for Atlanta on March 28. Dayton conducted a six-day search and hired Archie Miller, brother of former Xavier head man Sean Miller, away from Arizona to succeed Gregory. In late April, George Washington’s Athletic Director, Patrick Nero, fired 10-year veteran Karl Hobbs. Nero, who succeeded retiring AD Jack Kvancz on June 30, was hired on April 20, and wasted no time in turning over the men’s basketball staff. Nero reached into his old stomping grounds, the American East Conference, and hired the league’s premier head basketball coach, MikeLonergan of Vermont, on May 6 to replace Hobbs. The resignation of Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis on May 24 (DeChellis took over the Navy program) triggered a few tense days among the Duquesne faithful as coach Ron Everhart landed an interview for the Happy Valley position. The Dukes exhaled on June 1 when Everhart withdrew his name from consideration in favor of staying with the Pittsburgh school next season.
Media Coverage: The Atlantic 10 and ESPN renewed their deal to have eight games (selected by ESPN) televised on either ESPN or ESPN2 in each of the next two seasons. The ESPN networks are committed to broadcasting the Women’s Championship and up to 32 appearances in each of the next two seasons.
In absolutely no surprise whatsoever, UConn All-American and Final Four MOP Kemba Walker is expected to announce that he will forgo his final season of eligibility in Storrs and enter the NBA Draft. His decision to go pro has been an open secret for some time, as he will graduate in May and his jersey has already been retired into the rafters at Gampel Pavilion. The RTC NPOY will without question go down as the most popular player in UConn history, and when you consider some of the tremendous names who have come through that program — Chris Smith, Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, Emeka Okafor, etc. — this is high praise, indeed.
Conversely, it was a rather large surprise that a presumptive top five pick, Baylor’s Perry Jones, announced on Monday that he will be returning to Waco for his sophomore season. The 6’11 forward had a solid 2010-11 campaign, averaging 14/7 and earning a spot on the all-Big 12 freshman team, although his offensive production tailed off in the later part of the season. Jones’ return, along with UNC’s Harrison Barnes and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger (supposedly), means that three of the very best members of the Class of 2010 will be back playing college basketball again next season. Thanks, NBA lockout.
The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported on Monday that the NCAA secondary violation that contributed to Bruce Pearl’s dismissal last month involved the director of basketball operations providing two free tickets to a player’s mother. According to a report sent from UT to the SEC discussing the violation, neither the coaching staff nor the player knew of the violation at the time, which begs the question as to why such a relatively minor problem was deemed a final straw in leading to Pearl’s firing. Of course, there was the 30-point Second Round NCAA loss to Michigan where his players quit on him… there’s that, too.
While on the subject of tickets, one of the Kansas “consultants” to the KU Athletic Department who was involved in the selling of ducats for private profit was sentenced yesterday to 46 months in federal prison. Kenneth Blubagh and his wife Charlette, the former Director of the KU Ticket Office, had pleaded guilty to bilking Kansas out of nearly a million dollars in ticket sales over the past half-decade that they used to buy extravagant vacations and other lavish toys. The best line from this article referred to Kenneth’s role as consultant: “Blubaugh…was on the Kansas Athletics payroll as a consultant from August 2007 until January 2010. Prosecutors say they still aren’t sure what consulting duties he had handled, other than furthering the conspiracy.”
Some transfer news… St. Louis center Willie Reed, one of two star players (along with Kwamain Mitchell) involved in an on-campus sexual assault last summer and subsequently booted from school for the fall semester, has dropped out of SLU after having become reinstated in January. There’s no report as to whether he plans on transferring anywhere else, but he’ll obviously need to get his academic house back in order after missing two consecutive semesters if he plans on playing college basketball again. Also, South Carolina guard Ramon Galloway is leaving the Gamecock program for LaSalle, despite playing nearly 25 MPG and averaging 11/3 for Darrin Horn’s squad last season. He represents the seventh player to transfer out of the program in Horn’s three-year tenure at the school. Considering that SC has finished at or near the bottom of the SEC East the last two seasons, this isn’t the kind of confidence-inspiring news that Horn needs as he tries to rebuild that program.
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 »
Joe Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. With the A-10 Championship tipping off Tuesday, get up to speed with RTC’s preview and regular season wrap-up.
Among the first round games, all played at the campus of the higher seed, the strongest upset candidate is the #8/#9 (of course!) game between #8 host Massachusetts and #9 Dayton. The Flyers have not traveled well this season, accumulating a -0.049 net efficiency in games not played at the UD Arena, but a log5 calculation projects a Dayton win (67%-32% probability). Using overall (unadjusted) offensive and defensive efficiencies, this looks like a close game, +/- 3 points in favor of Dayton. For the other three first round games, the order of probability of an upset is:
#6 Rhode Island/#11 St. Louis (50.2-49.7)
#7 St. Bonaventure/#10 La Salle (58-42)
#5 George Washington/#12 Saint Joseph’s (66-33)
The Xavier/Duquesne side of the bracket looks vulnerable to either a Dayton run or a Duquesne run, though the Dukes, new to the dynamics of a bye seed, may fumble their quarter-final game against (most likely) George Washington. Dayton, a squad that plays inconsistently away from the UD Arena, has nevertheless lost twice to rival Xavier, by margins of five and four points. It is very difficult to beat a closely played rival a third time in the same season. Lacking length in the front court has proven to be a problem lately for the Dukes, but over a short duration tournament like the A-10, it is possible that a series of opponents will become caught up in a pace set by the Dukes and fail to properly exploit Duquesne’s vulnerability. I do not, however, see that as a problem for Xavier, an extremely well managed and prepared team and program.
An Early Season A-10 Masala: Does anyone want to be the regular season champion? The first week-plus of conference play suggests the title and #1 seed in the conference tournament is a hot potato that no one wants to handle. Temple continues to have the fewest losses overall, but the Juan Fernandez-less Owls were dumped rather hard in Pittsburgh over the weekend, dropping a 12-point decision to overlooked Duquesne. Richmond was poised to take over the conference lead, but dropped a four-point game to struggling Rhode Island, leaving the door open for Dayton, who then lost to Xavier by five. The Musketeers, Duquesne and George Washington are the only undefeated schools left in the conference race, but as the chart below suggests, the twists and turns through the first 20%-25% of the conference schedule hint that this conference race will be hotter and closer than anticipated.
Xavier coach Chris Mack, struggling with a roster depleted by injuries and academics and scrambling for some answers on offense in the weeks before conference play has emerged as a very early favorite for conference coach of the year. Of course, if the Dukes maintain their momentum and Richmond puts it back together, the coach’s race may turn into a masala too.
With upsets over the weekend, the conference standings are jumbled, and though my power rankings differ from the standings, I have moved even more teams around this week.
1. Xavier (11-5, 3-0)
Last Week: 1/12 vs. Massachusetts 79-60, 1/15 vs. Dayton 81-76
Next Week: 1/19 @ St. Bonaventure, 1/22 vs. Temple
The Musketeers had a 2-0 week as Tu Holloway received an Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 25.0 points and 7.0 assists in X’s wins over Massachusetts and Dayton. Mack’s squad will travel to St. Bonaventure for their game Wednesday, and return home for a crucial conference matchup with Temple on Saturday. 2. Temple (12-4, 3-1)
Last Week: 1/12 vs. St. Bonaventure 83-55, 1/15 @ Duquesne 66-78
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Pennsylvania, 1/22 @ Xavier
The conference’s sole representative in Top 25 polls was dropped again, one of several consequences of their Saturday road loss to Duquesne. The Owls finish their “out of conference” portion of their City Series schedule when they host the Penn Quakers on Wednesday, and return to conference action with a crucial game at Xavier on Saturday.
3. Richmond (13-5, 2-1)
Last Week: 1/13 vs. Rhode Island 74-78
Next Week: 1/19 vs. George Washington, 1/22 @ Massachusetts
The Spiders squandered an excellent opportunity to replace Temple at the top of the A-10 Conference standings and the Top 25 polls as they lost their only game of the week, a four point, 74-78 decision to Rhode Island. Richmond will host Rhode Island Thursday and then take the weekend off.
4. Duquesne (11-5, 3-0)
Last Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Louis 67-45, 1/15 vs. Temple 78-66
Next Week: 1/19 @La Salle, 1/22 vs. Charlotte
The Dukes ran their winning streak to eight with yet another 2-0 week. Senior Damian Saunders earned his second Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 2.5 steals over the Dukes’ two wins last week. In the preseason, this pair of games was expected to produce an 0-2 week. Duquesne has, however, caught the eye of stats guru Ken Pomeroy who counted the Pittsburgh-based school’s results so far as one of the surprises of the season. Last week’s wins, both in convincing fashion, will raise the school’s profile and fan expectations as the season progresses. Head coach Ron Everhart and company have a quick road trip to Philadelphia for an important two-game homestand 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..
5. Rhode Island (11-6, 2-1)
Last Week: 1/13 @Richmond 78-74, 1/16 vs. St. Bonaventure 56-55
Next Week: 1/19 @Saint Joseph’s, 1/22 vs. La Salle
The Runnin’ Rams got an infusion of Orion Outerbridge and the re-instated forward powered them to a 2-0 week and earned himself a Player of the Week nod from the conference for his performance last week.. Another Wednesday road game (it worked last week) at the Hagan versus Saint Joseph’s, and then Rhode Island returns to Kingston to host La Salle. Both the Hawks and Explorers are struggling right now, the Rams can move higher in the standings and create some daylight for themselves.
6. Massachusetts (10-6, 2-1)
Last Week: 1/12 @Xavier 50-79, 1/15 vs. La Salle 74-71
Next Week: 1/15 @Charlotte, 1/22 vs. Richmond
The Minutemen had a 1-1 week. After a painful 29-point loss at the hands of Xavier, Coach Kellogg’s squad bounced back with a three point win over La Salle. Massachusetts takes to the road for a game in Charlotte Wednesday, and then return home for an important test against Richmond on Saturday.
7. George Washington (10-7, 3-0)
Last Week: 1/12 vs. Fordham 72-52, 1/15 vs. Harvard 62-67
Next Week: 1/19 @Richmond, 1/22 vs. St. Bonaventure
The Colonials logged a 1-1 week, routing Fordham to go 3-0 in conference play, then dropping a five-point decision to Harvard out of the Ivy League. George Washington has worked through the softer part of their A-10 schedule (Saint Joseph’s, La Salle and Fordham), and their road game with Richmond should give fans an indication of where the team stands. The Colonials return to DC to host St. Bonaventure Saturday.
8. Dayton (14-5, 2-2)
Last Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Joseph’s 65-59, 1/15 @Xavier 76-81
Next Week: 1/22 vs. Fordham
The Flyers finished another 1-1 week. Senior forward Chris Wright earned an Honorable Mentio from the conference as he averaged a double-double (12.0 points and 10.0 rebounds) for the third straight week. Wright and freshman point guard Juwan Staten, who earned a Freshman of the Week citation himself for his 13.0 point per game average and 58% accuracy in the Flyers’ two games last week, have emerged as the principal offensive options for Dayton, drawing 27.9% and 24.1% of the possessions and taking 25.6% and 21.1% of the shots, respectively, when they are on the floor. Neither however has been particularly efficient with those possesions, posting offensive ratings in the mid 90’s (about 0.95 points per possesion). There are other, more efficient options (Chris Johnson? Paul Williams?) available. While neither Staten nor Wright have been shooting particularly well from the floor, both could boost their ratings (and help their team offensively) by hitting their free throws. Wright shoots about 60% from the line, while Staten converts about 56%. Wright’s ability to get to the line is an important offensive option, but with a below average conversion rate, he does not punish the opponent enough for the foul. Dayton plays a single game this week as they host Fordham on Saturday. A win would put them back above 0.500 in conference play, a place they need to be as the week following will be very tough (Richmond and Duquesne).
9. St. Bonaventure (9-7, 1-2)
Last Week: 1/12 @Temple 55-83, 1/16 @Rhode Island 55-56
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Xavier, 1/22 @George Washington
Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies stumbled through an 0-2 week, dropping their conference record to 1-2. Guard Michael Davenport led the Bonnies in scoring for both games, and recorded a career-high 28 points and 12 rebounds in the loss to Rhode Island. The Bonnies have another challenging week, as they host Xavier Wednesday and travel to Washington DC for a tilt with George Washington. St. Bonaventure has an advantage in the Xavier game as the Musketeers may be looking past them to their Temple game on Saturday. The George Washington holds conference seeding implications, as both SBU and GWU may be in need of a tie-breaker come March.
10. Charlotte (9-8, 1-2)
Last Week: 1/15 vs. Fordham 71-61
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Massachusetts, 1/22 @Duquesne
Charlotte broke their losing run in conference play with a 10 win over Fordham. Senior Derrio Green was honorably mentioned by the conference for his season-high (second time) 21 points, 19 of which were scored in the second half, in the 49ers’ Fordham game. Coach Alan Major‘s squad will host Massachusetts on Wednesday and travel to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne on Saturday. While Charlotte is favored against the shot-challenged Minutmen, they will have to value the ball (something they have struggled with this season) against a team that typically ends 22% of their opponents’ possessions without a shot. The Charlotte front court is bigger than their Duke counterparts, but Temple struggled to gain an advantage in the lane and low post last weekend.
11. Saint Louis (6-11, 1-3)
Last Week: 1/12 @Duquesne 45-67, 1/15 vs. Saint Joseph’s 67-51
Next Week: 1/19 @Fordham
The Billikens’ broke their fall with a win over Saint Joseph’s, but not before recording loss number six in their run. Freshman forward Dwayne Evans recorded a career-high 16 points and 18 rebounds — his first career double-double — in the Bills’ win over Saint Joseph’s. The confernce cited Evans for his performance. Recently re-admitted and re-instated Kwamain Mitchell is listed on the Billiken roster as “awaiting NCAA clearance”. No sign of Willie Reed.
12. La Salle (8-10, 0-3)
Last Week: 1/12 vs. Pennsylvania 89-83, 1/15 @Massachusetts 71-74
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Duquesne, 1/22 @Rhode Island
La Salle bounced back against Big 5 rival Penn to insure they would not suffer another winless week. Aaric Murray, as predicted by Explorers Coach Dr. John Giannini, did respond to the benching by averaging 15.0 points in La Salle’s two games. The sophomore center notched a 19 point, eight rebound game against Penn and followed with a 12 point, eight rebound performance in the Explorers’ three point loss to Massachusetts. The Explorers’ shot defense is the biggest (but not the only) problem so far. They have enough offense to prosper in the conference, but allowing opponents to convert 50.5% of the field goal attempts puts a large onus on their offense to keep up. Oddly, they defend the two-point field goal attempt only slightly better than the three-point field goal attempt. If Murray and company can step up their defensive intensity (and rebounding…) they may have a chance to drop Duquesne from the ranks of the conference undefeateds as the Dukes visit the Gola Wednesday. They travel to Rhode Island for a Saturday game. Neither will be easy.
13. Fordham (6-9, 0-3)
Last Week: 1/12 @George Washington 52-72, 1/15 @Charlotte 61-71
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Saint Louis, 1/22 @Dayton
Three games into 2011 and Fordham continues to look for their first win of the new year. Their losing streak has stretched to five games with their just concluded 0-2 week on the road, and things are not looking up as the Rams host Saint Louis Wednesday and travel to Dayton for a Saturday game. The squad is plagued by the twin demons of poor offense and porous defense, a common problem for inexperienced squads. And coach Tom Pecora has a squad Ken Pomeroy ranks in the bottom 19% for experience (ranked #279 out of 345). Pecora has to break the cycle established during the previous two coaching regimes — the staff recruits promising players; the team loses; the recruits become discouraged; the recruits transfer out; repeat. Right now, Pomeroy gives the squad a 6.5% chance of finishing their conference slate winless. Though the Rams are not favored to win any of their remaining conference games by Ken Pomeroy, there are several home games which should give them better opportunities. There are none coming this week however. The first step may well be to be competitive in the games they do have.
14. Saint Joseph’s (5-12, 0-4)
Last Week: 1/12 @Dayton 59-65, 1/15 @Saint Louis 51-67
Next Week: 1/19 vs. Rhode Island, 1/22 @Penn
The Hawks’ slide numbers four consecutive games, all logged on their conference slate, with those two additional losses last week. The road loss by six to Dayton might be a sign of hope for Hawk fans, but the 16 point road loss to a Saint Louis squad with even less experience (per Ken Pomeroy — , Saint Joseph’s is ranked #329 while St. Louis is ranked #338) has to be a bucket of cold water, but the more immediate task (like Fordham) may be to hold onto a nucleus of promising players as the program weathers the storm, and build on them for next season.
The game to catch this week will be on Saturday, when Temple visits Xavier. In less confusing times this was tabbed as an early season showdown for the top spot in the conference. When Xavier lost Jay Canty, Justin Martin and Brad Redford, Owl fans no doubt sensed blood in the water and an early knockout for Temple. Juan Fernandez’s injury however has exposed a shallow Temple rotation, and Temple’s loss to Duquesne over the weekend has made this a very, very important game for Temple. Lose in Cincinnati and the Owls risk falling two games off the pace.
Wednesday will feature a matchup important to Richmond, who dropped a home game to a re-energized Rhode Island team last Thursday. The Spiders like Temple find themselves in a scramble at an unexpected point in the season. Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the Spiders on the outside looking in right now. Taking a second loss at home and to George Washington would seriously damage their case for an at-large bid should they not win the conference tournament. George Washington’s conference schedule so far has included Saint Joseph’s, La Salle and Fordham. Richmond is their first serious conference test.
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.
Measuring Up: How does the A-10 compare to the other conference? With 65% of the conference teams’ out of conference schedule completed, the conference-wide out of conference record stands at 71-52, for a winning percentage of 0.577. Though the conference has scheduled games with teams affiliated with a vast majority of the Division-I conferences, they are concentrated, by and large, in the regions they share with those conferences. I have included the composite records for the six BCS conferences and a number of those conferences who share geography with one or more of the A-10 teams.
Of the 189 scheduled games, that over 58% of the games are scheduled with just ten conferences located along the Atlantic seaboard (from Maine to Georgia) and the upper Midwest reflects the A-10’s large geographical footprint. The Big East (19) and Colonial Athletic Association (CAA — 17) drew the largest share of games, again not a surprise considering the number of historic rivalries shared by teams in those two conferences with their A-10 counterparts. The Mid-American Conference (MAC) overlaps the regions covered by Xavier, Dayton and Saint Bonaventure, but the team that scheduled the largest share of MAC opponents was Temple (five), entirely due to the fact that the Owls, MAC members for football, are required by that arraignment to schedule five basketball games with MAC opponents each season. Individual team records versus the Big East (7-8 with four games pending), SEC (2-1 with four games pending), the Big 12 (1-4) and ACC (1-2 with seven games pending) have served as fairly reliable barometers for NCAA postseason prospects. Xavier, one of only two teams that recorded a winning record versus their Big East opponents last season, received an at-large bid. Temple, the other team, earned the conference’s automatic bid. Losing records versus the six BCS conferences (otherwise known as the “power conferences”) are common for conferences below the Red Line, but the A-10 can usually post a record better than the red line number (about an 18% winning percentage). The 40% winning percentage versus the Big Ten is especially gratifying, given that one of those wins was Richmond over Purdue back in November. With a 2-1 record versus the Pac-10 to this point, the conference is guaranteed no worse than a 0.500 (2-2) pending the result of the George Washington-Oregon State rematch this Saturday. Both Richmond and Dayton have a road date with the Big East’s SetonHall coming the week after Christmas. Outcomes will be important for the Musketeers and Flyers, but also for the Pirates. All three teams nurture aspirations for NCAA bids, and the winners will definitely have a head-to-head comparison advantage come Selection Sunday.
Winning composite records versus lesser conferences are not surprising. The A-10’s record versus the CAA (5-7 with five games pending) and the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC – 4-3 with three games pending) this season, however, is puzzling. Conference teams stumbled badly in games with members from the CAA and the MAAC, but results have improved (despite St. Bonaventure’s loss to Niagara and Dayton’s loss to Old Dominion last weekend) versus both, and there are enough games remaining to bring those records to 0.500 or better.
Movement in the rankings comes among the bottom three this week, as Fordham has pushed their record to 5-4, leap-frogging George Washington and Saint Joseph’s. The regular conference season will most likely bring the rankings back to “regular order”, but for now, Fordham has the better record, won against good competition. They earned the bump this past week.
1. Richmond (8-2)
Last Week: 12/11 vs. Virginia Commonwealth 72-60
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Georgia Tech
The Spiders broke a six-game losing streak against their cross-town rivals Virginia Commonwealth last Saturday, even as senior guard Kevin Anderson moved into fifth place in the Spiders’ all-time scoring list with his game-high 21 point performance. The Spiders pushed the lead out to 30 points early in the second half, and led by 29 at the 12 minute mark, before the Rams closed the gap with a 31-14 run in the last eight minutes. Sophomore guard Darius Brothers (12) and senior wing Justin Harper (16) also scored in double figures in the win. Richmond could not limit VCU’s super forward Jamie Skeen, who scored a team-high 14 points, but they locked down the Rams’ heralded guard trio, Joey Rodriguez, Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell, limiting the three to a combined 16 points on 4-25 (1-10, 3-15) and 7-7 shooting.
2. Temple (7-2)
Last Week: 1/2/9 vs. Georgetown 68-65, 12/12 vs. Akron 82-47
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Northern Illinois
The Owls are back in stride, as their 68-65 win over Georgetown last Thursday demonstrated. After leading, largely by double digits, through most of the game, the Owls had to blunt a Hoya rush at the end to preserve Fran Dunphy’s 400th head coaching victory. Off-guard Ramone Moore was on, scoring a career-high 30 points on 12-18 (2-2, 10-16) and 4-4 shooting to secure game-high honors. The junior guard posted a very strong 72.2% eFG% and 1.51 PPWS for his efforts and earning an Honorable Mention from the conference. The Hoyas reverted to 2009 season form by losing a very high 25.4% of their possessions. Dunphy’s team easily disposed of the Akron Zips, the third of five scheduled MAC opponents on this season’s slate. They will play Northern Illinois next Saturday and Ohio four days later, before they can return to finish up the rest of their out of conference schedule.
3. Dayton (6-2)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. Central Connecticut 63-61, 12/11 @Old Dominion 71-74
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Western Carolina, 12/20 vs. Winthrop
The Flyers went 1-1 on the week as junior forward Chris Johnson drew a conference Honorable Mention for averaging 21.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in the week’s two games. The Central Connecticut game was too close, but the Monarchs of Old Dominion are the class of the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA), so the road loss, especially by the small margin, should not tarnish Dayton’s NCAA resume too much – not as much as the hiccup versus East TennesseeState. The key will be to limit additional losses, which may be difficult, given the Flyers will close out their out of conference schedule with a road game at Seton Hall followed by a two game home stand that features George Mason and New Mexico.
4. Xavier (6-2)
Last Week: 12/9 vs. Butler 51-49
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Wake Forest
As expected, the X-men beat Butler, albeit by a smaller-than-expected margin. Still adjusting to life without Brad Redford, Xavier’s lack of accuracy from beyond the arc has taken a valuable weapon out of their offensive arsenal. Ken Pomeroy has the Musketeers ranked #313 out of 345 for three point accuracy. Xavier has adjusted by taking fewer three point attempts (only 31.4% of their field goal attempts are threes). Lacking accuracy, Coach Chris Mack’s squad compounds the problem by not getting after the offensive boards (Ken Pomeroy ranks Xavier #253 in this category), something of a double penalty for the lack of accuracy. Wake Forest should be another win, as the Deacons are in bad straits, sporting a 5-4 record under new head coach Jeff Bzdelik.
5. Massachusetts (7-3)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Maine 56-68, 12/11 vs. Seton Hall 79-104
Next Week: Next game is 12/22 vs. Central Florida
Coach Derek Kellogg’s team is struggling with a three-game losing streak that dates back to their 12/4 game with Boston College. While the nucleus of Javorn Farrell, Freddy Riley and Anthony Gurley has emerged as the offensive engine, only Gurley to this point has proven a reliable offensive option. Farell in particular is struggling, especially with his two-point field goal attempts (40.6% from inside the arc). The Minutemen will have to wait until Central Florida visits on December 22 to try and stop the run at three.
6. Rhode Island (6-4)
Last Week: 12/8 @ Northeastern 79-67, 12/11 @ Quinnipiac 66-73
Next Week: 12/18 vs. New Hampshire
The Runnin’ Rams broke their two game skid with a 12 point-win over the Huskies of Northeastern last Wednesday, but the boo birds were out in force as fans sensed Rhodi’s post season prospects were severely reduced with their road loss to Quinnipiac last Saturday. Senior forward Delroy James drew his fifth consecutive weekly conference Honorable Mention as he led his Rhode Island team in four separate categories (scoring, rebounds, assists and steals) in the Rams’ win over Northeastern. Though Rhode Island has two more potential signature wins (Boston College at home 12/29 and Florida on the road 1/3) on their out of conference schedule, fans who sense Rhodi’s post season prospects are slipping away are directing a good deal of vitriol at Jim Baron. Rhode Island also received a verbal from 6’9 Jonathan Holton, a power forward out of Coral Gables HS in Florida. The high school senior, a Euro-style scorer, will need to put on some muscle and develop a handle to add another element to his game. Baron has had difficulty bringing in early verbals (Kyle Cain, Billy Baron…), so here is hoping Holton breaks that run of bad luck early verbals, and joins the program for the 2011-12 season.
7. La Salle (6-4)
Last Week: 12/9 @ Boston University 84-81, 12/11 vs. Villanova 81-84
Next Week: 12/17 vs. Bucknell
A good win at Boston University was partially negated by a one possession home loss to #13 ranked Villanova out of the Big East. The Explorers led by as much as 12 in the first half, and by nine midway through the second half, but Aaric Murray’s fourth foul at the 17:35 mark of the second half took one of the Explorers’ difference-makers off the floor for nearly ten minutes when the game was on the line. Junior Jerrell Williams earned an Honorable Mention from the conference for his 13 points on 4-10 (0-0, 4-10) and 5-5 shooting at BU and 20 points on 8-13 (0-0, 8-13) and 4-5 shooting versus Nova.
8. St. Bonaventure (5-3)
Last Week: 12/7 @ St. John’s 67-66, 12/11 vs. Niagara 61-65
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Ohio
The week had the Bonnies taking one step forward and one step back, as St. Bonaventure combined with Fordham to do a tag-team on St. John’s of the Big East, but then dropping a five point decision to Little Four rival Niagara four days later. Coach Mark Schmidt’s squad bested Fordham’s feat by beating the Johnnies in their Queens campus facility (Carnesecca Arena). Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson drew his third conference Honorable Mention for averaging a double-double (18.0 points, 12.5 rebounds) for the two games. Nicholson hit the game winner versus St. John’s, and scored his 1,000th point as a Bonnie versus Niagara.
9. Duquesne (4-4)
Last Week: 12/8 @ Wisconsin-Green Bay 81-71, 12/11 vs. West Virginia 61-64
Next Week: 12/18 vs. IUPUI
The Dukes broke their two-game slide with a win over Wisconsin-Green Bay last Wednesday, and took West Virginia to the last possession in their loss on Saturday. Freshman guard TJ McConnell made his quest for Rookie of the Year consideration official when he earned the conference Rookie of the Week honor for scoring team-high points in both of the Dukes’ games last week. McConnell scored 20 points versus Wisconsin-Green Bay on 8-10 shooting from the floor and 2-2 shooting from the line, then followed with 18 points versus West Virginia on a 7-14 outing from the field. Coach Ron Everhart’s squad will not most likely not grow any taller, they currently average, according to Pomeroy, 75.6 inches, good for #300 (out of 345) in D-I, so they might as well play faster. The Dukes currently push it at 71.3 possessions per game, ranked #36 (out of 345) by Ken Pomeroy.
10. Saint Louis (3-4)
Last Week: 12/11 @ Duke 47-84
Next Week: 12/15 vs. Jacksonville, 12/18 @ Missouri State
The game was a systemic failure. The Bills could not stop Duke, nor could (would?) they score consistently on the Blue Devils. The game was played for about 69 possessions, a slightly faster pace than Rick Majerus’ teams usually prefer. Duke converted at a fairly proficient 58.6% eFG%. The Billikens’ turnover rate – 31% — was unusually high for a Majerus-coached squad. This was a game not many could have been optimistic about at the beginning of the season, perhaps it is best to post it to the record book and move on…quickly.
The Billikens have two interesting opponents on tap for next week. Jacksonville sports a 6-2 record, but has problems converting field goal attempts efficiently. The Missouri State Bears dropped a 14 point decision to Oklahoma State last Saturday. While projected (by Ken Pomeroy) to win, the Bears do not steal/force turnovers much (that has to be a relief), foul too much and have difficulty defending the three point line effectively. That last observation should warm the hearts of Billiken faithful, though the Bills’ fate does not rise and fall on their three point efficiency, Saint Louis does convert enough (30.9% as of Sunday) to impact a game.
11. Charlotte (4-6)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. Winthrop 68-57, 12/11 @Davidson 68-82
Next Week: 12/17 vs. Tennessee
The 49ers limped through another 0.500 week, but senior guard Derrio Green drew his first conference Honorable Mention this season as he followed his 10 point output against Winthrop with a team-high 16 points versus Davidson. Sophomore center Chris Braswell also recorded a double digit week with 10 points against Winthrop and 15 against Davidson.
With the announcement that senior forward Shamari Spears had been dismissed from the team, coach Alan Major officially shifted his program into rebuild mode. Spears, a transfer from Boston College who started his second season in the Charlotte program, was slated to play his last year of college ball when he ran afoul of the new head coach over an indiscreet tweet earlier in December and was suspended indefinitely. Though some number of Charlotte fans may have hoped for a reconciliation, that apparently is not the way Major wanted to go.
12. Fordham (5-4)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Manhattan 73-59, 12/11 vs. St. John’s 84-81
Next Week: Next game 12/22 vs. Kennesaw State
It was weeks like this that Fordham fans could only dream about when Coach Tom Pecora was hired away from Hofstra. With their win over St. John’s last Saturday the Rams of Rose Hill have matched their win total for the past two seasons. Their current winning streak stands at three, the longest run in three seasons, and the first time since December of 2007 that Fordham has sported a record north of .500. Junior guard Brenton Butler was named conference Player of the Week as he followed his 21 point performance versus Manhattan with a 22 point performance against St. John’s. Butler knocked down a jumper with 14 seconds on the clock to push the Rams’ lead out to three, the eventual margin of victory. Good play is becoming contagious as junior forward Kevin Bristol recorded a double-double (11 points, 16 rebounds) versus Manhattan, which sophomore forward Chris Gaston followed on with a double-double (15 points, 13 rebounds) of his own versus St. John’s.
13. George Washington (3-5)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Towson 73-67
Next Week: 12/18 @Oregon State
The Colonials beat the Towson Tigers and will fly out to the West Coast for a game with Oregon State this weekend.
14. Saint Joseph‘s (3-7)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Minnesota 73-83, 12/11 @ Creighton 75-82
Next Week: Next game 12/21 vs. Boston University
With the loss over the weekend, the Hawks’ losing streak now sits at five. Phil Martelli’s squad takes next week off and will hopefully find some answers before Saint Joseph’s begins the last stretch of their out of conference schedule against Boston University on December 21.
A Look Ahead
The fall semester is winding down. The typical two/three-a-week games will give way to homework, papers and final examinations for the next one-two weeks. Most conference teams have zero or one game this week, with Saint Louis and La Salle jetting out to more exotic places just before or after Christmas to participate in the last round of invitational tournaments.
Rhode Island fans have to be anxious for the return of (academically) suspended Orion Outerbridge. If Outerbridge’s returns to good academic standing, he should be able to play as soon as the Fall semester is “officially” over, possibly in time for the Rams’ game with Lafayette on 12/22.
St. Louis’ suspended players, Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed, are not due back until the beginning of the spring semester, another (estimated) four-five weeks away. Given the two must reapply for admissions, there is little if no certainty that the two will be back at all.
Game #21. RTC Live travels to the banks of the Mighty Mississippi for an interesting intersectional clash between the A-10 and the SEC.
During the first three years of the Rick Majerus era, Saint Louis has hosted just two major-conference opponents at Chaifetz Arena. Tonight, the Georgia Bulldogs of the SEC become the third. After showing signs of improvement during coach Mark Fox’s first season in 2009-10, Georgia enters the year as America’s favorite sleeper in the SEC thanks to the decision of juniors Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to pass on the NBA. The Bulldogs’ season already hit a roadblock, though, when Thompkins suffered a high ankle sprain last month. It’s still unclear when he’ll return, and without him, UGa survived a 72-70 nail-biter over Mississippi Valley State in the season opener before earning a solid home win against Colorado Tuesday night. Georgia’s personnel issues with the Thompkins’ injury is minor compared to what Majerus dealt with this off-season. An impending sexual assault case involving point guard Kwamain Mitchell and center Willie Reed has left them suspended. Reed won’t return to Saint Louis and is rumored to enroll at Kansas State for the second semester, while Mitchell wants to return to SLU after winter break. Without their two leading scorers, the Billikens dropped their opener to Austin Peay at home before rolling D-II Rockhurst. We’ll be watching the battle in the frontcourt tonight. Emerging sophomore Cody Ellis and highly touted freshman Rob Loe are versatile scorers for SLU, but can they match Georgia’s bulk defensively and score in the post against a beefy front line? The Billikens may also have issues defending Leslie—but then again, he’s a match-up nightmare for everybody. SLU plays four freshmen extensively and still relies on a ton of youth. Without Mitchell and Reed, there’s no playmaker to take the reins offensively. Even without Thompkins, Georgia’s the favorite tonight thanks to its clear advantage in size, athleticism and experience.
Ray Floriani of NBE Basketball Report and College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC, but he also covers many events and games in the NYC metropolitan area. He had the opportunity to attend the Big East and Atlantic 10 Media Days last week and snap a few photos.
Big East Media Day – Wednesday, October 20 – New York City
The media days are upon us, a sign as indicative of the first leaves falling that the opening tip is not far away. Last Wednesday, the Big East had their day at Madison Square Garden.
The media days often provide a host of scripted quotes. “We have a big challenge… our seniors must step up… there are no nights off in the (fill in your league) conference…” Despite their regularity, they serve a purpose of promoting the conference and they afford the chance to renew acquaintances. For us media types, it is great to see friends you haven’t seen since March and to discuss the game with the coaches in a calm environment. All coaches are 0-0 and optimistic (for the most part) about the upcoming campaign. With games a few weeks away, you can actually get a chance to engage in some small talk if there isn’t a big media crush at that coach’s table.
The day started with everyone in a theater-type seating area. Commissioner John Marinatto gave a short “state of the conference.” Marinatto opened with a call to remember Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand, injured a few days ago, in everyone’s thoughts. Marinatto said renovations at MSG will make the “Big East postseason tournament the premier conference tourney in the country.” The commissioner also noted that since expanding to 16 teams, NCAA bids have increased by 20% for the Big East. Austin Freeman of Georgetown, the preseason Player of the Year choice, addressed the group on behalf of the players.
Marquette head coach Buzz Williams fields questions at the Big East’s Media Day at Madison Square Garden
The working media session was broken into two parts. Each school had its own table where the head coach and a few players were present to field questions. The first half saw eight coaches interviewed by electronic media as TV affiliates. The other half stayed at their tables with a few players from their team as print media ascended. After about 90 minutes, the procedure was reversed. Following the work session a luncheon was provided before everyone adjourned.
A few short notes from someone in attendance:
Buzz Williams’ methods of attention to detail and organization always intrigued me, as the Marquette leader is an advocate of maximizing each possession, even if it means limiting them. We discussed the concept of possessions and points per possession. As I discussed the four factors often seen on this site, which include free throw rate, offensive rebounding percentage, turnover percentage and effective field goal percentage, Williams dutifully made extremely meticulous notes in his book. Turnover rate is something of paramount importance to the Marquette mentor. “We have been outstanding in taking care of the ball,” Williams said. “It is something we emphasize.” Looking at the turnover rate (percentage of possessions ending in dreaded TOs) the last two seasons, Marquette’s TO rate has been 15.3% and 14.8%. I noted that 20% is the threshold that teams want to avoid; hitting it, or even worse, exceeding it, is unacceptable. “If one-fifth of your possessions end in a turnover, your offense is not good,” Williams added. Amen.