Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 ConferencePosted by rtmsf on February 15th, 2012
Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the A-10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @(vbtnBlog)
The Week That Was:
Points per Possession Margins Through February 12
Temple and Saint Louis continue to “walk away” from the rest of the conference, leaving the next four teams in the upper division (Xavier, Massachusetts, La Salle and Saint Bonaventure) clustered on the “plus side” of the points per possession margin. Though nine of the conference’s 14 teams have .500 or better records, only those six (and Saint Joseph’s with a 0.000 margin) have offenses that scored more points per possession that their defenses yielded, suggesting that some of those .500 or better teams suffered one or more blowouts in conference games this season.
Though Fordham and Rhode Island have firm holds on the bottom two spots in the conference standings, their negative points per possession margin is still not large enough to suggest they are uncompetitive with their conference mates. The gap between top-ranked Temple and bottom-ranked Fordham remains at about 1/3 of a point (0.337), well below the half-point gap last season. With nearly 37% of the conference games still to be played this season these margins can shift.
Conference Realignment: Does the Road to the Big East Go Through Irvine, Texas?
The Big East filled out their dance card for the 2013 football season last week and Temple, one of two schools who have vigorously lobbied for a spot in the power conference over the past four seasons, was passed over for the other long-term applicant, the University of Memphis. The conference negotiated a 20 million dollar early exit fee from West Virginia, and promptly invited C-USA member Memphis to join for 2013-14 season.
Passed over for the second time since last October, Memphis is the fourth C-USA school to accept a Big East invitation in 2011-12 and the ninth C-USA member to be invited since 2004-05. CBS Sports writer Brett McMurphy reported that Temple had been contacted by C-USA officials about possible membership. The membership is rumored to be for all sports, and with the proposed C-USA merger with the Mountain West Conference and a planned two round playoff system for the conference championship (that would, I assume, culminate with a BCS bowl bid). Though the Owls have a 55 year relationship with fellow Big 5 and A-10 members La Salle and Saint Joseph’s, the prospects (and money?) may be too good to pass on.
Massachusetts is expected to join Temple in the MAC – like the Owls for football only – when the Minutemen move up to the Bowl Division in football. Temple signed an agreement to continue play in the MAC just last summer. No details concerning an exit fee were disclosed at the time of the signing.
Temple continues to roll through their conference schedule but has yet to regain a spot in the AP or USA Today Top 25. Saint Louis and Massachusetts continue to nip at the Owls heels, while five others (Xavier, La Salle, Saint Bonaventure, and Duquesne) battle for the conference’s last bye seed. Most bracketology sites put either two or three teams in the field (Temple, Saint Louis plus one other…), so games played between Xavier, La Salle, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s, Massachusetts, and Dayton will carry extra-conference implications.
- Temple (19-5, 8-2) – Temple continued their run with another 2-0 week, beating George Washington by just enough, then answering the bell against Xavier on Saturday night. Ramone Moore again earned conference recognition, in no small part from his game versus the Musketeers. The strength of schedule (table above) may suggest an easier path than most for Coach Fran Dunphy’s charges, but even with the Xavier hurdle cleared, the Owls still have rematches with city rivals: a road game with Saint Bonaventure and a tilt with Massachusetts. If the Owls keep winning, no one can catch them. Temple takes a mid-winter road trip to one of the least hospitable stops in the conference on Wednesday — Saint Bonaventure in a western New York winter. They return to Philadelphia for a home game with Duquesne on Saturday (2/18).
- Saint Louis (20-5, 8-3) –The Billikens kept pace with the Owls last week, winning both of their Philadelphia road game (St. Joseph’s on Wednesday and La Salle on Saturday). Rick Majerus’ team has to make up a half game on the Owls, and continued winning will not be enough (Temple will have to lose again). The problem is that there is no likely spot in the Owls’ remaining schedule. As for Saint Louis, the games this week (Richmond on Wednesday and Fordham on Saturday) look easy enough. And that makes them dangerous.
- Massachusetts (18-7, 7-4) – The Minutemen dropped another game (and a half-game in the standings) last week when they lost to Saint Joseph’s 73-62, on Saturday. The week was not a complete disaster however, as Derek Kellogg’s squad beat Saint Bonaventure 76-67 the Wednesday before. Listed on several bracketology sites as either one of the Last Four In or the First Four Out, they are clearly far from assured of a spot in the NCAA at this point. More wins (and a nice run in Atlantic City perhaps?) is necessary. Massachusetts hosts La Salle Saturday for their only game this week. If the Minutemen can beat the Explorers they will secure the conference tournament’s third bye seed, and could put themselves back into the postseason conversation.
- Xavier (16-9, 7-4) – The Musketeers posted yet another 1-1 week, and most likely burned through any cushioning they may need for an NCAA bid. Last Wednesday’s 84-66 win over Rhode Island would have impressive the Selection Committee, but the Musketeers have too many losses, some to not very good teams at that. Losing to Temple by 13, 85-72, last Saturday just offered more than a suggestion that this team could well fall short of the NCAA tournament. Xavier hosts Dayton Wednesday (2/15) for a rematch of an earlier conference game (Dayton won) and then travels to Amherst Saturday (2/18) for another showdown, this one with bubble team Massachusetts. An Xavier win here might well snatch the Minutemen’s bid and award it to the Musketeers.
- La Salle (17-9, 6-5) – The Explorers logged a costly 0-2 week at precisely the wrong time, losing ground to the conference leaders, and momentum in their quest for an NCAA bid. Whispered here and there last week as one of the A-10’s candidate schools for bubble status, Dr. John Giannini’s best team in three seasons may have played themselves out of the NCAA conversation. The Richmond loss, by 78-76 last Wednesday (2/8) was especially damaging, as a road win would have nice add to the resume. Instead La Salle is stuck with a narrow loss to a lower division (in the conference) opponent. The loss to Saint Louis on Saturday (79-72) will not help their postseason bid. Can the Explorers regain momentum? Beginning the trek back with a road game at Massachusetts is not the best place to start, but that is where the schedule sends them on Saturday (2/18), in their only game this week.
- Saint Joseph’s (16-10, 6-5) – Phil Martelli’s squad turned in a 1-1 week, with a loss to Saint Louis (72-60) and a crucial win over Massachusetts (73-62) on Saturday (2/11). The Hawks will have to win a few more to put themselves into a tiebreaker with the Minutemen (and UMass will have to cooperate with another two losses as well). NCAA talk has stopped altogether at this point. This week presents the Hawks with the last long road trip of the season. It starts with a visit to Kingston for a game with Rhode Island on Wednesday (2/15) with a second stop in Washington D.C. for a game with George Washington on Saturday (2/18).
- St. Bonaventure (13-9, 6-4) – Mike Schmidt’s crew posted a disappointing 1-1 record this past week, dropping a nine-point decision on the road to Massachusetts on Wednesday, balanced by a win, 69-48, over Duquesne on Saturday. If the Bonnie faithful were whispering about an NCAA bid in the preseason, were all but silenced by inconsistent play through the out of conference portion of the season. Closing out the season strongly will help an NIT bid that may still be in play for Saint Bonaventure. And that starts with a visit from the Temple Owls on Wednesday (2/15), to be followed by a visit from Rhode Island on Saturday (2/18).
- Duquesne (14-10, 5-5) – The Dukes lost their only game last week to Saint Bonaventure, 69-48. They have two game upcoming for this week, the first with Fordham on Wednesday, and the second, an especially challenging visit to Philadelphia for a game with Temple on Saturday.
- Dayton (15-9, 5-5) – As January wound down the Flyers appeared in more than one bracketologists’ postseason NCAA field. That talk vaporized with the Flyers’ four-game losing streak to close out January and open February. Archie Miller’s squad may have snapped the streak, but the overtime win versus Fordham last Saturday was far too narrow to pronounce Dayton fully recovered. A road game at Charlotte Wednesday has the earmarks of a trap game. On most nights the talent gap, which favors Dayton, would be too much for the 49ers to overcome, but the Dayton squad may be thinking ahead to their road game with Xavier next Saturday (2/18). And it could be costly if Charlotte wins.
- Richmond (13-13, 4-7) – The Spiders’ +0.006 points per possession margin (see table at the top of this week’s column) puts the Spiders among the better half of the conference, a point not supported by their won–loss record. Their win over an over confident La Salle club last Wednesday however does support the points per possession ranking. Chris Mooney’s team may not be headed to any postseason tournaments, but they may have something to say about which conference mates do get invitations. Richmond takes a road trip to Saint Louis for a Wednesday game with the Billikens, and then returns home to host Charlotte Saturday in their mirror game.
- Charlotte (12-11, 4-6) – Alan Major’s squad has a two-game winning streak, their latest victim Rhode Island in a game last Saturday. Charlotte takes their next two on the road, the first at Dayton on Wednesday (2/15) and their second in Richmond against the Spiders, on Saturday (2/18).
- George Washington (9-16, 4-7) – Coach Mike Lonergan found that fire break last Saturday, as the Colonials snapped their losing run at five with a win over Richmond last Saturday (69-67). GW has a single game scheduled for this week, a Saturday game with Saint Joseph’s at the Smith Center.
- Fordham (9-14, 2-8) – Fordham lost their only game last week, a two-point decision 72-70, to Dayton in overtime. Hanging with the Flyers through 40 minutes (and losing by two points) is recorded simply as a “L” in the won-loss column, obfuscating any distinction between it and that 44-point loss they took against Richmond in January. But those differences are reflected in the points per possession margin, where last season there were virtually no two-point losses to balance against the 40 point losses. The points per possession margin suggest the Rams are playing tougher this season. It is only a matter of time before those two point OT losses become wins. Tom Pecora’s squad has two tough road games coming this week. On Wednesday (2/15) they travel to Pittsburgh for a game against Duquesne, and then out to Saint Louis for a game with the Billikens on Saturday (2/18).
- Rhode Island (5-21, 2-9) – Last week was another 0-2 week for the Runnin’ Rams as they dropped games against Xavier (84-66 on Wednesday) and Charlotte (73-66 on Saturday). The slate this week is no better. Saint Joseph’s visits on Wednesday, and then Rhode Island travels to Saint Bonaventure for a Saturday game.
A few of the games I will be following this week:
- Temple at Saint Bonaventure, Wednesday 2/15, 8:00 p.m. – One of the Owls’ few remaining challenges in conference play, the Bonnies have been too inconsistent to call this an upset special, but in dire need of a signature win for their postseason resume, stranger things have happened. With Michael Eric back, Temple has a serviceable answer for Andrew Nicholson, and how well Temple can “hold the center” will turn on whose man in the middle stays in the game longer. Temple’s back court, Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt, is far more experienced than Saint Bonaventure’s combination of Eric Mosley/ Charlon Kloof (at the point) and Matt Wright/Michael Davenport (at the off guard). How many Temple fans will make the trek to the wilds of Olean, NY to root their team on? I hear New York’s western tier can get pretty cold this time of year.
- La Salle at Massachusetts, Saturday 2/18, 6:00 p.m. – The Explorers have to win if they want to gain ground on the Minutemen, but UMass is having a great season so far. Chaz Williams may well be the missing piece in Derek Kellogg’s DDM system. The game will feature two of the A-10’s better back courts with Williams and Freddie Riley squaring off against Tyreek Duren and Ramon Galloway. Home court advantage (about four points per Ken Pomeroy) may be the margin in this game.
- Dayton at Xavier, Saturday 2/18, 8:00 p.m. – Status quo ante from a month ago would have billed this game as the game for the #1 seed in the conference tournament. Though neither is in position for that honor, this is nevertheless a must-win for both. Dayton is flirting with a .500 conference record, well below where they thought they would finish a month ago. Xavier is fighting for a spot on the NCAA bubble. They have exhausted their quota of missteps, and must post a few impressive winning margins here on out.