Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2011

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vbtnblog.

The Week That Was:

How They Measure Up: Results by Conference

The A-10 teams played 51 games from November 9 through November 22 against teams from 22 conferences and an independent. The overall record, 34-17 (0.667) may leave fans optimistic as last season’s final winning percentage was 0.589, but the season is very, very early with less than 25% of the schedule in the books. Whether conference members can draw a fourth (or even a third?) bid depends to a considerable degree on how the conference as a whole fares against the power conferences and against schools that will form the pool of at-large candidates.

Conferences not played have been omitted. A few oddities should catch the reader’s attention. First, only Saint Bonaventure has engaged a MAAC school so far, unusual for the conference. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference is largely made up of private colleges (many of them Catholic) located in a footprint that stretches from the Capital Region in New York State, west to Lake Erie and south through metropolitan New York down to Maryland. Many MAAC schools share basketball traditions with Fordham and St. Bonaventure, and many of the other A-10 members from New England and Philadelphia. Second, the A-10 is killing the CAA this season, notching a 5-1 record so far. Granted less than a third of the scheduled games have been played, but A-10 teams had to close with a rush of wins to bring last season’s head-to-head record to 7-10, and conference fans watched with mixed emotions as the second CAA team in four seasons advanced to the Final Four last March. While only George Mason from among the CAA’s elite teams has been engaged (and GMU squeaked by, beating Rhode Island in overtime), the early returns are promising. The winning percentage against the power conferences is much lower than last season’s 0.469, but again the season is early as the conference has completed only 20% of their anticipated slate. Excluding the ACC where the A-10 holds a 2-0 edge so far, the conference’s only other power conference win came Sunday against Washington. While the lopsided record compiled against the CAA is the largest influence in the composite record, the A-10 has compiled an 8-1 record versus conferences with a similar profile (the CAA, CUSA, MWC, WAC and MVC), conference teams have sustained winning records against MWC and CUSA competition as well as the CAA.

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Atlantic 10 Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2011

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.

Postseason Preview

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.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 2nd, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10.

A Look Back

Duquesne, despite an 0-2 week, continues to be ranked #2 in net efficiencies through Monday of this week (2/28/2011). Duquesne dropped into a fourth-place tie with Rhode Island after they sustained losses to the Rams and Saint Louis last week. While they have dominated enough games that their decline in net efficiency has not matched the decline in their won-loss record, it is clear the Dukes are suffering a severe end of the season slump. Bad timing, as a few of the conference teams need to finish their schedules strongly to earn bye seeds to Atlantic City, or at least secure home court advantage for the first round of conference tournament play. Xavier, Temple, Duquesne and Richmond, all of whom have maintained positive net efficiencies through the entire conference slate, were joined this week by a revitalized Dayton squad.

An oddity noted the past several weeks, but present through much of the A-10 conference regular season, is the inbalance between the teams with positive net efficiencies and those with negative net efficiencies, narrowed yet again when Dayton “crossed over” and joined Rhode Island on the plus side of net efficiency line. The gap between the “haves” and “have nots” has narrowed, as well, with the range between the top (Rhode Island with +0.020) of the middle four schools in the conference and the bottom (Saint Louis -0.019) is only 0.039, a gap less than that which separates Xavier from Temple (0.046) and less than a third of the gap which separates Fordham from Saint Joseph’s (0.122). I speculated last week about whether the relatively “bottom-heavy” conference would hurt Richmond’s chances for an NCAA berth, and it now appears as if that was premature as both Bracketology 101 (best predictive record over the past five seasons) and Joe Lunardi over at ESPN have Richmond in their field of 68. RTC bracketologist Zach Hayes lists the Spiders among the “first four out” in his February 28 bracket.

For those who wonder what happened to their team in conference play, the grid below should be helpful. The average efficiency for the conference is 1.018 (or 101.8 points per 100 possessions) — conference games only. By comparing each team’s offensive and defensive efficiency to the conference average (average for all conference games), I was able to determine whether the team had a “better than average” offense or defense (or both or neither). The grid below confirms the narrative of the conference season…

…with a few twists and insights. While two of the three “Good/Good” teams, Xavier and Temple, are entirely predictable, those who wonder why Richmond, despite preseason predictions, has struggled to secure their place in the NCAAs, the answer (from the chart) suggests it may have to do with defense. The Spiders have provided enough offense, but have struggled defensively in several conference games this season (Xavier, Temple and at George Washington). Through 14 conference games the Spiders are ranked #10 in shot defense (eFG%) and #9 in defensive rebounding, two factors that hurt when matching up with Xavier and Temple in particular. The key to the Bonnies revival this season is offense, while Rhode Island’s late season resugence has come through defense. The oddest team on the grid is George Washington. The Colonials tout an 8-6 record through 14 conference games, yet register below average (“Bad/Bad”) in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The paradox is resolved by noting that Coach Hobbs’ club as won a number of close conference games, two with La Salle (72-67 & 82-80), versus Saint Louis (52-46) and at Charlotte (73-67) for example, while also losing by double digits to Temple (41-57), at Duquesne (59-84) and at Richmond (58-68). Consistency matters too, it seems.

Power Rankings

The top team is Xavier. The Muskies settled it on the floor of the Consol Arena Sunday with a comfortable win over Duquesne, who dropped to #4 in the conference “record rankings.” Oddly, the bottom spot was also settled on the court, on Sunday and also with the host taking the loss. Saint Joseph‘s will now battle with Charlotte for the last spot in the first round of the A-10 Conference Tournament. Rhode Island also had a good week, while Dayton did not. Those developments are also reflected in the conference rankings and this week’s power rankings.

1. Xavier (22-6, 13-1) #23 AP

Last Week: 2/27 @Dayton 66-62

Next Week: 3/2 vs. Charlotte, 3/5 @St. Louis

Xavier continues to roll, pushing Dayton away 66-62 in a late season game that has become a conference television event. Tu Holloway again posted game-high points, 26 this time, as the Musketeers completed their sweep of the Flyers. The X-men moved up to #23 in the latest AP poll (Monday 2/28). In retrospect, the late season road game at Georgia was a very smart scheduling move. Coach Chris Mack‘s squad has games against Charlotte and a visit to Saint Louis to finish the week. Should Xavier drop both games, the #1 seed in Atlantic City would most likely go to Temple. Given the 49ers and Billikens have a combined 7-21 conference record however, those chances are pretty small (a quick log5 calculation puts the probabilities of winning both games at 70% — very, very likely). Go 1-1 and Xavier will still take the #1 seed by virtue of their holding the tie breaker over Temple. For a team that looked like their season was over on January 6, Xavier’s comeback is remarkable and a tribute to the coaching staff and players.

2. Temple (22-6, 12-2)

Last Week: 2/23 @Duke 61-78, 2/26 @George Washington 57-41

Next Week: 3/2 @Massachusetts, 3/5 vs. La Salle

A 1-1 week with a 17-point loss at Duke was the lowlight to Temple’s next-to-last week of the regular season play. Lavoy Allen took his second Player of the Week citation from the conference. The Owls are adjusting to life without Michael Eric. Temple has two conference games this week. They travel to Massachusetts for a game with the Minutemen on Wednesday, then back home for the regular season closer with Big 5 rival La Salle. A 2-0 week is very probable (the log5 probability per Ken Pomeroy is 78.9%, very likely). The Owls own the tie-breaker over Richmond, so a 1-1 week most likely still earns them the #2 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

3. Duquesne (17-10, 9-5)

Last Week: 2/23 vs. Rhode Island 76-77, 2/26 @St. Louis 51-62

Next Week: 3/2 vs. St. Bonaventure, 3/5 @Richmond

The Dukes ran their losing streak to three through the games of last week. After an 8-0 start to conference play, Duquesne has logged a 1-5 record in conference play. Talk of an NCAA bid (remote short of an outstanding record — 14 or more wins for example — in conference play), vanished with their loss to Xavier on February 13, the Dukes nevertheless hold a #3 in the NIT field per The Bracket Project and an #8 seed per John Templon’s computer projection. Templon’s #8 seed puts the Dukes on the NIT bubble, something that could be addressed with at least one win in games of the last week of conference play. Ron Everhart and the Dukes host the Bonnies on Wednesday, then take to the road to close out the regular season in Richmond on Saturday. The Dukes have lost out on the last bye seed in Atlantic 10 Tournament, but even if they log another 0-2 week (not probable) they will host a first round A-10 Tournament game. No question Duquesne fans have to be disappointed with the team’s play over the last six games (a -0.020 net efficiency and 0.440 Pythagorean Winning Percentage), the good news is wins away from the Palumbo this season. The 2010 Dukes logged a 3-8 (0.273) record in away and neutral games that included a net efficiency of -0.102. This season Duquesne has a 0.093 net efficiency reflected in their 8-7 (0.533) record.

4. Richmond (22-7, 11-3)

Last Week: 2/26 @Charlotte 72-59

Next Week: 3/2 @Saint Joseph’s, 3/5 vs. Duquesne

Richmond closed their series with Charlotte with a 13 point road win. The Spiders have locked down at least a #4 seed in Atlantic City, bypassing the first round game for the second consecutive season, irrespective of how they play against Duquesne. A worst case for Coach Mooney’s team is an 0-2 week with a corresponding 2-0 from Rhode Island, in which case the Runnin’ Rams would take the #3 seed and push the Spiders down to a #4 seed (with a semi-final game versus Xavier, should both survive the quarter final round on Friday). A relatively unlikely possibility however, since the Spiders have a two loss edge over Rhode Island and play 3-11 Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday, a game Pomeroy projects as a win to a 80% probability. While Richmond has had some inconvenient timing with home games this season (Bucknell, Rhode Island and Xavier ring a bell?) and the Dukes have improved away from Palumbo this season, the Spiders have to be favored to close out the regular season with a win and a 13-3 conference record because Richmond is a consensus bubble team for the NCAAs right now, and finishing with a good run can only help their chances. Bracketology 101 has Richmond in as an #11 seed (last eight in territory), while RTC’s Zach Hayes has Richmond (just barely) out.

5. Rhode Island (18-10, 9-5)

Last Week: 2/23 @Duquesne 77-76, 2/26 @Fordham 90-58

Next Week: 3/2 vs. George Washington, 3/5 @St. Bonaventure

Rhode Island logged a 2-0 week to bounce back yet again and leapfrog the Flyers in my power ranking. The road win over slumping Duquesne gives Jim Barron‘s team the tie-breaker over the Dukes — both share #4 in the conference standings through March 1. Fourth place is the last bye seed in Atlantic City, and would allow the Runnin’ Rams to rest through the front end of next week, when eight of the conference’s 14 teams will go head-to-head one last time to decide who goes on to spend the weekend in Atlantic City, NJ. Rhodi’s last two will not be easy, hosting George Washington on Wednesday and traveling to St. Bonaventure on Saturday. Both the Bonnies and Colonials have improved with more season play. Sweep and Rhode Island has the last bye seed irrespective of other outcomes. Lose one or (horrors…) both, and final standings get complicated. Though an NCAA invitation will only come should the Runnin’ Rams run the table in Atlantic City, they are very much in play for an NIT berth, currently seeded #8 in both The NIT Bracket Project and John Templon’s computerized projection Rhode Island is on the (NIT) bubble, but a second 20 win season and strong finish in conference play should secure them a place in the field of 32.

6. Dayton (19-10, 7-7)

Last Week: 2/27 vs. Xavier 62-66

Next Week: 3/2 vs. Saint Louis, 3/5 @George Washington

Dayton logged an 0-1 week and dropped back to a 0.500 record in conference play. The Flyers, currently in a three-way tie for #7 (Massachusetts holds the tie-breaker), have an opportunity to move up to sole possession of #6 if they can beat both Saint Louis and George Washington to close out conference play. The Colonials have not been dominant at home during conference play (a 0.013 net efficiency for their seven conference home games), but the Flyers have been something less than Road Warriors themselves, logging an anemic -0.018 net efficiency in seven conference road games. Pomeroy’s log5 projection narrowly gives the game to the Flyers.

7. George Washington (15-13, 8-6)

Last Week: 2/23 vs. Charlotte 74-57, 2/26 vs. Temple 41-57

Next Week: 3/2 @Rhode Island, 3/5 vs. Dayton

The Colonials beat Charlotte on Wednesday, but lost (predictably) to Temple Saturday. This last week could be a Statement Week for Coach Karl Hobbs’ squad. Both games are with NIT teams from 2010, and teams close to the sixth ranked (in conference standings) Colonials. Take both and GW has assured themselves of home court advantage for the first round of conference play. Lose both and GWU closes the regular season with a 0.500 records, both in conference (8-8) and overall (15-15).

8. St. Bonaventure (15-12, 7-7)

Last Week: 2/23 vs. Fordham 82-63, 2/26 @Saint Joseph’s 65-79

Next Week: 3/2 @Duquesne, 3/5 vs. Rhode Island

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies thumped Fordham, but lost by 14 to struggling Saint Joseph’s. Though finishing the regular season above 0.500 and assuring themselves of at least a first round game in the Atlantic 10 Tournament has to be gratifying, locking down a homecourt advantage for the tournament has been squandered with the Saint Joseph’s loss. The last two games are interesting because both Duquesne and Rhode Island are tied for #4 in the conference standings and in the conversation for an NIT berth. Win both and the Bonnies will most likely tie for #6 in the conference standings and grab the #7 seed (and home court advantage) for the first round of the A-10 tournament (and play St. Louis). Win neither and St. Bonaventure will do no worse than last season’s 7-9, a #9 seed and trip to Washington DC for a first round tournament game at George Washington.

9. Massachusetts (15-12, 7-7)

Last Week: 2/23 vs. Saint Joseph’s 69-51, 2/27 @La Salle 49-72

Next Week: 3/2 vs. Temple, 3/5 @Fordham

The Minutemen posted another 1-1 week, beating Saint Joseph’s by two and dropping a 130point decision on the road to La Salle. Best case scenario for Derek Kellogg‘s squad is a 9-7 finish and a #6 place tie with Dayton. UMass holds the tie-breaker, which would give the Minutemen the home court for a first round game versus Saint Louis, a team they lost to during the season. A more likely 1-1 week would probably put UMass in tie for #7, good for the #8 seed and a first round game (at home) versus (most likely) St. Bonaventure.

10. La Salle (13-16, 5-9)

Last Week: 2/27 vs. Massachusetts 72-49

Next Week: 3/2 vs. Fordham, 3/5 @Temple

The Explorers logged a 1-0 week, beating Massachusetts in convincing. The losing streak stops at three games. Best finish for the Explorers at this point would give them a win over Big 5 rival Temple (and level their season series at 1 apiece) and a #10 seed for the A-10 tournament. Dr. Giannini’s squad would most likely travel to Massachusetts for a first round game with the Minutemen, a team that beat them by 23 last week. A more likely scenario has La Salle finishing conference play with a 6-10 record, but still with a claim to the #10 seed in the tournament.

11. Saint Louis (11-17, 5-9)

Last Week: 2/26 vs. Duquesne 62-51

Next Week: 3/2 @Dayton, 3/5 vs. Xavier

The Billikens posted a 1-0 week, complements of an 11 point win over fading Duquesne and a Rookie of the Week effort from Dwayne Evans. Finishing out with Dayton and Xavier is a tough road for Rick Majerus‘ charges. No doubt the schedule-makers anticipated a Mitchell and Reed-led team would challenge the Musketeers and Flyers for a piece of the conference elite. The late season games should be a valuable experience for the freshmen and sophomore-heavy team. Something they can build on for next season. Worst case, the Bills drop both and draw the #11 seed for the A-10 Conference Tournament. They will most likely travel to Dayton or Duquesne for a first-round tournament game.

12. Charlotte (10-18, 2-12)

Last Week: 2/23 @George Washington 57-74, 2/26 vs. Richmond 59-72

Next Week: 3/2 @Xavier, 3/5 vs. Saint Joseph’s

Another 0-2 week has extended coach Alan Major‘s losing streak to six. Prospects to break the run at six are slim as Charlotte takes to the road for a game with Xavier Wednesday. Prospects are a bit better on Saturday, as the 49ers host Saint Joseph’s. The last ticket to the first round of conference tournament play is on the line.

13. Saint Josephs (8-20, 3-11)

Last Week: 2/23 @Massachusetts 51-69, 2/26 vs. St. Bonaventure 79-65

Next Week: 3/2 vs. Richmond, 3/5 @Charlotte

The Hawks logged their second consecutive 20 loss season during the course of a 1-1 week. Langston Galloway earned his fourth Rookie of the Week citation (shared with Saint Louis forward Dwayne Evans). Looking ahead, beating Richmond, improbable (about a 20% probability per Ken Pomeroy), would nevertheless assure the Hawks of a first round game in the A-10 Tournament. Should they lose, their road game with Charlotte will decide who gets the last ticket to the A-10′s first round, and one last game for the season.

14. Fordham (6-20, 0-14)

Last Week: 2/23 @St. Bonaventure 63-82, 2/26 vs. Rhode Island 58-90

Next Week: 3/2 @La Salle, 3/5 vs. Massachusetts

Fordham’s winless string runs to 14 in conference play, with an 0-2 week. The probabilities (per Ken Pomeroy) have climbed to an ominous 59.9%. The Rams are staring at a two season winless run in conference.

A Look Ahead

No conference titles on the line this week, and in retrospect, it seems the schedule-makers in September overestimated Saint Louis and Dayton, while underestimating Rhode Island. Places #1 and #14, however, are the only two that are absolutely settled going into the last week of conference play. Virtually every other place will be settled by play either Wednesday or Saturday. The season will end Saturday for those teams finishing #13 and #14. At the bottom of the conference Saint Joseph’s and Charlotte will most likely settle who gets the last berth in the first round in Halton Arena, Charlotte Saturday.

The last A-10 Conference Tournament bye seed (#4) is still in play, with Rhode Island and Duquesne the primary candidates. Both will play St. Bonaventure this last week of the season, so the Bonnies, who have no hope of finishing higher than #7, can play the spoiler. Of particular interest is the Wednesday game between Duquesne and St. Bonaventure, to be played in Pittsburgh. The Bonnies beat the Dukes in Olean early last month, the loss that started the Dukes’ fall from grace. Places #5 through #10 will also be settled on the court this week, with Dayton, George Washington, St. Bonaventure, Massachusetts, along with Duquesne and Rhode Island all having a stake in the outcome. St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island and George Washington have games with two teams ranked in that group, several with each other (Rhode Island-St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island-GWU). Of interest is Dayton’s Saturday game with George Washington, as the winner will hold the tie-breaker over the other in the event Rhode Island loses to George Washington.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 23rd, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

A lot has happened the past two weeks, so let’s tackle it in chronological order and we’ll sum things up at the end.

  • Duke and North Carolina lived up to the hype.  Last year just didn’t feel right with the games being lopsided.  Kendall Marshall is probably the best passer from halfcourt I’ve ever seen.  He’s not fast, but he pushes the ball up the court just as fast as Ty Lawson or Raymond Felton but he dishes from halfcourt instead of right around the basket.  Marshall looked terrific in the first half against Duke, killing the Blue Devils on long rebounds which turned into quick points in transition and in halfcourt sets.  Duke finally managed to neutralize him by playing the passing lanes in the second half and forcing him to score first and pass second.  The other Carolina player that impressed me is John Henson.  I’ve never been huge on Henson: he’s always struck me as a soft player that you should just back down.  Why face up against him and allow him to use his length to alter your shot when you can back him down?  But the more games I watch, the more shots I see Henson affect.  The infusion of Kendall Marshall’s lobs has also made Henson much more dangerous on the offensive end.  On Duke’s side of the rivalry, Seth Curry deserves some props for his recent play.  Curry has been outstanding lately, becoming a legitimate third option and giving Nolan Smith some valuable time to work off the ball.  This Duke team definitely has flaws, but if it plays like it did in the second half against Carolina, there aren’t many teams in the country that could keep pace.

Bubble Trouble: With only Duke and North Carolina representing the ACC in the “lock” category–though I’m inclined to put Florida State in assuming it wins two of its remaining four games (11-5 in the ACC with a win over Duke has to be enough, right?)–there are a lot of teams still working towards at-large bids.  Perennial bubbler Virginia Tech leads the way, closely followed by Clemson, Boston College and Maryland.  Only the Seminoles and Hokies managed a winning record during the last two weeks.  Here’s a recap of those on the Bubble:

  • Florida State went 3-0 against arguably the worst teams in the conference.
  • Virginia Tech went 2-1, slaughtering Georgia Tech and beating Maryland at home, allowing Virginia to complete the sweep on the season before dispatching Wake Forest.
  • Clemson beat Boston College (a huge game, bubble-wise), barely lost in Chapel Hill, inexplicably lost at NC State before beating Miami on the road.
  • Boston College lost at Clemson, beat Maryland and barely lost at North Carolina.
  • Maryland slaughtered Longwood in a meaningless nonconference game, lost at Boston College, lost at Virginia Tech and barely beat NC State at home.

Add all of that up and you get Florida State sitting at 9-3 in ACC play, Virginia Tech and Clemson suffering horrible losses, Boston College avoiding marquee wins and Maryland continuing to avoid any wins that might be described as decent.  Ouch.  Not a good week for the ACC bubble.  Past Florida State, I think all of these teams need a significant ACC Tournament run (Maryland and Boston College might need to win the whole thing at this point).  Conceivably, the ACC could have three teams in the tournament if no one steps up down the stretch.  That’s pathetic for a conference that prides itself on basketball greatness (or really any major conference aside from the Pac-10 or SEC).

As for injuries, Chris Singleton hurt his foot in the game against Virginia.  You can’t overstate Singleton’s importance for the Seminoles: he’s one of the best on-ball defenders in the country and he’s their primary scoring option.  His versatility allows him to shut down the opposing team’s best player at the two, three or four.  This gives the selection committee a lot to think about with Florida State.  Without Singleton, this is a very different team.  At the same time, a favorable schedule will mean it probably closes out the season at 11-5 in conference play.  Personally, I think the Seminoles will squeak by barring a collapse of epic proportions, but the injury certainly opens the door for a lot more questions.  Kyrie Irving is back in the news after a couple of optimistic tweets about his injury: from Saturday: “Rehab going really well…I’m getting that feeling back!!! Yessir”; from Monday: “I’m definitely op(toe)mistic!!”.  Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com later tweeted: “Getting mixed reports on whether he [Irving] will return. Tough to say yet.”  Essentially, no one knows anything (largely because Duke has been so quiet in the matter), but things are sounding much more optimistic.

Player of the Week: Nolan Smith has been tremendous in ACC play.  Currently, he’s averaging almost 22 points per game with more than five assists and just under five rebounds.  He’s on pace to be the only player ever to lead the ACC in scoring and assists for a season.  Against North Carolina, he had 34 (22 in the second half), good for his season high.  He also put up 18, 22 and 28 points in wins at Miami, at Virginia and against Georgia Tech.  Smith puts up gaudy tempo-free numbers too, posting the fifth-highest offensive rating among players used in more than 28% of their team’s possessions.  You might recognize a couple of household names right below him: Jimmer Fredette (8) and Kemba Walker (9).  I suspect we won’t see a unanimous national player of the year like last year, but Smith has certainly put himself in that top group (that should probably include Arizona’s Derrick Williams too).

Team of the Week: Duke.  I just can’t give the award to a Florida State team that beat Georgia Tech, Virginia (at home) and Wake, so that leaves the Blue Devils.  Ever since the St. John’s beating (which doesn’t look nearly as bad now), Duke has played at a much higher level–especially on the defensive end.  Duke did get off to a very shaky start against North Carolina, but good teams make adjustments and win games (which Mike Krzyzewski did).  My one concern with this team right now is its consistent struggle stopping penetration.  That’s going to be crucial during the NCAA Tournament.  Mason and Miles Plumlee need to be better at coming to help stop the drive (and I don’t mean by committing stupid reaching fouls).  But other than that, Duke is one of the best teams in the country with the top spot in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings to prove it.  Side note: the Blue Devils also sport top rankings in both polls, though their current resume lags behind Pittsburgh and Ohio State.

Bizarro Team of the Week: Maryland.  Frankly, the Terps are trying to steal the season’s award out from under Wake Forest’s feet.  Watching a Maryland game is one of the most frustrating things you can do: there’s clearly a good deal of talent on the roster, but they fold in the second half of every game.  It’s unbelievable.  Only two of Maryland’s losses have come by double digits (against Virginia Tech and Duke), but the Terps don’t have anything resembling a good win (best two are against Penn State and College of Charleston).  Jordan Williams can’t do everything, but I could’ve sworn Gary Williams would have found a way to win close games by now.

Power Rankings

1.  Duke (25-2, 12-1) is in a real battle for a one-seed with Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Texas, Kansas and the winner of BYU and San Diego State.  With only four to go around, two of these teams are going to make very dangerous two seeds.  I think Duke is in control of its own destiny in that if the Blue Devils win out, I think they’re a lock for the top line (wins against Temple, Virginia Tech and at North Carolina plus whoever they face in the conference tournament would dramatically improver its resume).  I think Duke can probably get away with losing at North Carolina, provided that’s the only slip-up.  Any more than that and Duke will need some major help from the other contenders.

2.  North Carolina (20-6, 10-2) showed it’s not quite all the way back to contender status after coughing up a huge first half lead at Duke.  But I think the Tar Heels have a great shot to get revenge when Duke comes to Chapel Hill if they play with the same tenacity.  The UNC that barely beat Clemson and coasted to a home win over Wake can’t show up, though.

3.  Florida State (19-7, 9-3) needs to keep winning.  I think 2-2 is enough in these last four games, but it definitely couldn’t hurt to steal one either at Maryland or home against North Carolina.  Derwin Kitchen is going to be the key player for the Seminoles moving forward without Singleton.

4.  Virginia Tech (18-8, 8-5) needs to learn to win games it’s supposed to.  The Hokies had no business losing to Virginia to start ACC play, and they had no business losing to them last week.  Those are the games that force Seth Greenberg to sit through sweaty and heartbreaking Selection Sundays.  A win against Duke could help make up for the bad losses.

5.  Clemson (18-9, 7-6) took a feather from Virginia Tech’s cap by losing at NC State last week.  Brad Brownell has done a great job in his first year, but the Tigers will be on the wrong side of the bubble with any more losses like that.  I think the final game against Virginia Tech will be as big as any game for the Tigers this season.  Clemson has a similar problem to other ACC bubble teams: no real marquee wins.  No offense to College of Charleston and Florida State, but the Tigers need to find another one before exiting the ACC Tournament.

6.  Boston College (16-10, 6-6) is close to cooked between too many bad losses and just not that many good wins (Texas A&M can only carry you so far).  This roster looks better on paper than in person right now, although Reggie Jackson is one of the best players in the conference.

7.  Maryland (17-10, 6-6) is a team with tons of potential, but very little execution.  If Jordan Williams doesn’t declare for the draft, though, look out for the Terps next year.

8.  Virginia (13-13, 4-8) would’ve been a much scarier team without Mike Scott’s injury.  This team will never be the most fun to watch, but Tony Bennett looks like he’s got the program moving in the right direction.  And they did sweep Virginia Tech.

9.  NC State (14-12, 4-8) is one of my biggest disappointments of the season.  I thought the Wolfpack had the talent to compete for second in the ACC with Florida State, Virginia Tech and North Carolina.  I still do.  But for whatever reason, Sidney Lowe can’t capitalize.  This team shows flashes of brilliance that make you wonder what might have been.  I don’t blame Lowe entirely, but someone has to be held accountable for his thus far underachieving tenure.

10. Miami (16-11, 4-8) have had all of its conference games decided by seven points or less, except for two double-digit losses to Duke (by ten and eleven points).  Miami’s record looks far worse than it should, which is why I think they could be very dangerous come the ACC tournament and next season.  Durand Scott, Malcolm Grant and Reggie Johnson are only getting better.

11. Georgia Tech (11-15, 3-9) has three conference wins including one against North Carolina and one against Virginia Tech?  The Yellow Jackets have talent, but right now it doesn’t fit together.  The biggest problem is a total inability to win away from home (literally zero road wins this season).

12. Wake Forest (8-20, 1-12) is officially the worst major conference team, according to Ken Pomeroy (number 249 as I write this).  The good news is things can only go up from here.  The big problem with the Deacs right now is defense.  When they hold opponents under a point per possession, they generally win (only one loss comes with a defensive efficiency rating of less than 100, and that’s a 99.1 against Gonzaga).  This team is still very young.

A Look Ahead

Wednesday, February 23:

  • Temple at Duke (7:00 PM, ESPN2) – Duke gets a shot at another top 25 opponent when the Owls come to Cameron Wednesday night in Coach K’s annual “strong mid-major we could see in the NCAA’s” game.  Look out for Lavoy Allen and Ramone Moore, who are both outstanding players in the A-10.
  • Florida State at Maryland (9:00 PM, ACC Network) – This game features the country’s fourth and 11th best defenses according to Ken Pomeroy in what is probably Maryland’s last gasp for an at-large (interestingly enough the ACC has defenses ranked 2, 3, 4, 11 and 18 in Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Maryland and Clemson).

Saturday, February 26:

  • Duke at Virginia Tech (9:00 PM, ESPN) – This is a huge chance for the Hokies to pick up a marquee win and close to seal their trip to the Big Dance.  Jeff Allen will be key, as he should be able to have his way with Duke’s often soft interior.  The best match-up will definitely be Nolan Smith and Malcolm Delaney (who is right behind Smith in scoring and assists).

Sunday, February 27:

  • Maryland at North Carolina (7:45 PM, FSN) – In another match-up featuring excellent defense, Maryland takes on North Carolina.  The most interesting part of this game will be to watch Jordan Williams take on Tyler Zeller and John Henson.  North Carolina’s bigs have looked soft, and Williams is liable to put up a monster night.
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Set Your Tivo: 02.23.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 23rd, 2011

 

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

An interesting non-conference matchup and a huge bubble battle in the Big 12 lead the way tonight. Four other bubble teams will also be in search of a marquee win against ranked opponents. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#23 Temple @ #2 Duke – 7 pm on ESPN2 (***)

We Don't Expect Randall To Be In the Lineup for Temple, But Then Again, This Is Duke In Prime Time

The visiting Owls will be short a couple of important bodies tonight when they head to Cameron Indoor Stadium for a late season non-conference tilt with Duke. Starting center Michael Eric is out for the season while fellow starter Scootie Randall likely won’t play after injuring his foot recently. Temple has won eight straight games entering tonight’s contest, however, although most of those have been against the bottom of the Atlantic 10. Duke is also hot, winners of six straight and 10 of 11 dating back to mid-January.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.17.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 17th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

A couple of bubble teams take to the road tonight, looking for a quality win to enhance their resume. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Richmond @ #23 Temple – 7 pm on CBS College Sports (***)

Allen's Status Is Still Uncertain For the Owls

Both teams are 9-2 in the A-10, one game behind Xavier. Richmond is balanced on the bubble, however, and desperately needs a big win to push them over the top.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 16th, 2011

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

A Look Back

Net Efficiencies, end of season honors: Net efficiencies through Monday of this week (2/14/2011) give us a better sense of the conference race than the won-loss standings. Though Duquesne drops to fourth place in the conference standings, the Dukes have dominated enough games to maintain their spot just below Xavier. Temple and Richmond follow, with both maintaining positive net efficiencies.

Xavier took sole ownership of first place Sunday with their win over Duquesne. The Musketeers’ conference SOS (see above) confirms their fans have no need to credit the conference schedule maker with an assist on their ascension. The Musketeers are back!

One of the developing oddities of late is the number of teams with negative net efficiencies — with a full ten teams logging negative nets through last Sunday. A 50/50 split would be unusual, but a 30/70 split is a bit unusual and a development that should rebalance over the next two weeks. The split however, does not bode well for postseason prospects. Consensus bracketology has the conference with three “solid ins” right now (Xavier, Duquesne and Temple), and Richmond “with work to do.”

With POY handouts  and All-Conference Team awards less than a month away, it is time to look at who has been on the conference radar all season. The Player of the Year will most likely come from the list below — I have noted the number of times the player has been cited as Player of the Week and the number of times the player has made the conference Honor Roll.

Someone not named Tu Holloway will have to put on a major push through the end of the month to overtake the Xavier guard for Player of the Year honors. Of the most like candidates (most are shown in the table), the most likely candidate is Justin Harper, Richmond’s talented #4 player, possibly Temple’s Lavoy Allen or Ramone Moore, or if Rhode Island has the kind of February that St. Louis had last season, maybe Delroy James finds his way into the conversation. But let’s be honest, for Rhode Island to have that kind of February, James would have to play like the Player of the Year. I believe the voters tend to look among the conference contenders for the Player of the Year contenders, which eliminates Chris Wright (Dayton), Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure), Chris Gaston (Fordham) and Aaric Murray (La Salle). All four (and James and Harper) are however, along with James, Moore, Allen, Chris Wright and Duquesne’s Bill Clark, well in the mix for All-Conference Teams. Those not named to the first team will no doubt make the second team.

Rookie of the Year honors appear to be a little tighter, with contenders coming from Saint Joseph‘s, Dayton, La Salle and George Washington. Duquesne’s T.J. McConnell (see table above) is the clear favorite right now, but how he fares with the voters may well be tied to how strongly the Dukes finish out the regular season. The voters may be less inclined to pin conference-contender responsibilities on a freshman/transfer, so Langston Galloway (Saint Joseph’s), Tyreek Duren (La Salle), Juwan Staten (Dayton) and Namanja Mikic (George Washington) should not be handicapped when compared to McConnell. There are two more rounds of weekly citations and a strong closing by Saint Joseph’s or George Washington may scramble this race.

Power Rankings

The top team is Xavier. The Muskies settled it on the floor of the Consol Arena Sunday with a comfortable win over Duquesne. Duquesne dropped to #4 in the conference “record rankings”. Oddly the bottom spot was also settled on the court, also on Sunday and also with the host taking the loss. Saint Joseph’s will now battle with Charlotte for the last spot in the first round of the A-10 Conference Tournament. Rhode Island also had a good week, while Dayton did not. And those developments are also reflected in the conference rankings and this week’s power rankings.

1. Xavier (18-6, 9-1)

Last Week: 2/8 @Georgia 65-57, 1/13 @Duquesne 71-63

Next Week: 2/16 @Saint Joseph’s, 2/19 vs. Fordham

After a start to the season that included injuries, academics and unexpected losses, the Musketeers have put them back at the top of the conference and into the NCAAs. Xavier has been gaining national notice over the last half of January, and whispers of Chris Mack for conference coach of the year seemed justified with their comfortable win over Duquesne Sunday. Tu Holloway earned an Honor Roll citation for averaging double digit scoring over the course of the two road games.

The Duquesne game was a classic first half/second half struggle. The home team took a narrow one point lead into the locker room, but Xavier, the larger and more physical team, slowed down the pace (36 possessions was where Duquesne wanted to play) to a more manageable 33 possessions, and took control of the defensive boards. Duquesne had a huge 31-23 FGA advantage in the first half, complements of some terrific offensive board work. The Musketeers shut down the defensive boards, limiting the Dukes to a skimpy 20% rebounding rate of their misses in the second half. Neither team overwhelmed the opponent with an offensive blitz, but by limiting second chance opportunities, Xavier turned the game into a series of one-and-done possessions. And that was a game where their superior conversion abilities could prevail. Coach Mack’s squad has light duty this week — games with Saint Joseph’s and Fordham. No slip-ups, guys.

2. Duquesne (16-7, 8-2)

Last Week: 2/13 vs. Xavier 63-71

Next Week: 2/16 @Massachusetts, 2/19 @Dayton

The Dukes had another 1-1 week, which this time dropped them back to #4 in the conference standings, though they maintain their #2 spot in these power rankings. Ron Everhart‘s charges have two road games this week, coming off a loss to Xavier, this could be a rougher trip than anticipated. Beware of a dangerous Dayton club.

3. Temple (19-5, 9-2)

Last Week: 2/9 vs. Fordham 77-66, 2/12 @Dayton 75-63

Next Week: 2/16 vs. Richmond, 2/19 vs. Saint Joseph’s

It was Lavoy Allen’s turn, as the injury bug took a bite out of the senior forward, forcing him to the bench for Saturday’s game versus Dayton. Ramone Moore stepped up and earned his sixth Honor Roll citation last week as he averaged 24.0 points and 5.0 rebounds over the week. Moore snagged nine rebounds in the Owls’ win over Dayton. Temple has a showdown with Richmond scheduled for Thursday night. The winner should draw at least the #3 seed for the conference tournament in Atlantic City next month.

4. Richmond (20-6, 9-2)

Last Week: 2/9 @George Washington 69-65, 2/12 vs. Saint Louis 64-52

Next Week: 2/16 @Temple, 2/19 vs. St. Bonaventure

The Spiders put some distance between the elites and the middle teams as they posted another 2-0 week complements from two middle-of-the-conference teams. Justin Harper earned his second Player of the Week citation for as he averaged 21.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in Richmond’s two games last week. Coach Chris Mooney and Company take a trip up to Philadelphia for a mini-showdown on Wednesday, then returns home to host the Bonnies on Saturday.

5. Rhode Island (16-9, 7-4)

Last Week: 2/9 vs. Dayton 67-53, 2/12 vs. Charlotte 71-70 OT

Next Week: 2/19 vs. Massachusetts

Rhode Island demolished a struggling Dayton team Wednesday to take over fifth place in the conference standings, and hung on to beat Charlotte on Saturday in overtime. Too little too late? Perhaps for the NCAAs, a number of solid conference wins will not make the Selection Committee forget losses to Quinnipiac and a route at the hands of Florida. Finish solidly and another round in the NITs awaits. Will that be enough for coach Jim Baron? The Runnin’ Rams face regional rival (and conference mate) Massachusetts Saturday in one of their three conference mirror games.

6. Dayton (17-9, 5-6)

Last Week: 2/9 @Rhode Island 53-67, 2/12 vs. Temple 63-75

Next Week: 2/16 @Charlotte, 2/19 vs. Duquesne

Final Judgement Week did not go well for the Flyers, as they went 0-2 against teams they really needed to beat to make any case for the post season. Rhode Island has a two game cushion in the loss column now, and Temple has another important win to stay within striking distance of Xavier. Dayton continues to drift downward in the conference standings. Dayton will play Charlotte in Charlotte Wednesday, then return to host Duquesne on Saturday.

7. George Washington (13-12, 6-5)

Last Week: 2/9 vs. Richmond 65-69, 2/13 @Massachusetts 59-51

Next Week: 2/19 @La Salle

The Colonials logged another 1-1 week, but gained an advantage over Massachusetts by winning their head-to-head. Freshman Namanja Mikic earned his second Honor Roll citation (to go with his Rookie of the Week citation) as he averaged 17.5 points for the week’s games. Karl Hobbs‘ team travels to Philadelphia to play La Salle Saturday in their only game this week.

8. St. Bonaventure (13-10, 5-5)

Last Week: 2/12 vs. La Salle 82-61

Next Week: 2/16 vs. St. Louis, 2/20 @Richmond

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies hammered a struggling La Salle squad by 21 points, earning Andrew Nicholson his ninth Honor Roll citation this season. The Bonnies host St. Louis Wednesday and travel to Richmond for a tilt with the Spiders Sunday.

9. Massachusetts (13-10, 5-5)

Last Week: 2/13 vs. George Washington 51-59

Next Week: 2/16 vs. Duquesne, 2/19 @Rhode Island

The Minutemen ran their losing streak to three last week with a loss to George Washington Sunday. Derek Kellogg‘s squad looks at two more tough opponents this week as the Minutemen host a two game home stand by hosting the Colonials next Sunday, then the Dukes the following Wednesday.

10.  La Salle (12-14, 4-7)

Last Week: 2/9 @Saint Louis 78-77, 2/12 @St. Bonaventure 61-82

Next Week: 2/19 vs. George Washington

The Explorers won their mini-series with St. Louis, pushing the Billikens another game down in the conference standings, but they have a two game gap to jump if they want to finish in the middle of the conference. Dr. John Giannini‘s squad has earned 16 citations for individual performances from the conference this season, one less than conference-leaders Duquesne and Dayton, two teams ensconced in the conference’s upper division. When working through this season, the La Salle staff and administration is going to have to reconcile the paradox of recognizable individual performances and mediocre team outcomes. La Salle has a single weekend game, as they host George Washington on Saturday. If the Explorers plan to mount a closing rush for an upper division finish this season, they have to start with George Washington.

11. Saint Louis (8-16, 3-8)

Last Week: 2/9 vs. La Salle 77-78, 2/12 @Richmond 52-64

Next Week: 2/16 @St. Bonaventure, 2/19 vs. Charlotte

The Billikens posted an 0-2 week, and run their losing streak to three. The Richmond game raised no eyebrows, but giving up a layup to Ruben Guillandeaux with 19 seconds left (and a one point lead) will hurt for awhile. Freshman Dwayne Evans earned his second Honor Roll citation of the season as he averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 rebounds last week. Coach Rick Majerus‘ squad heads out to Olean, New York to play St. Bonaventure Wednesday, then returns to Chaifetz Arena to host Charlotte in a Saturday game.

12.     Charlotte (10-13, 2-7)

Last Week: 2/12 @Rhode Island 70-71 OT

Next Week: 2/16 vs. Dayton, 2/19 @St. Louis

Charlotte logged a 0-1 week and extended their losing streak with Satuday’s result in Rhode Island. Chris Braswell did draw a conference citation for logging his fifth double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) in the loss. Charlotte hosts Dayton Wednesday and travels to St. Louis for a weekend game with the Billikens.

13. Saint Joseph‘s (6-17, 1-8)

Last Week: 2/13 @Fordham 76-70

Next Week: 2/16 vs. Xavier, 2/20 @Temple

The Hawks played a single game last week, but it was a good one as Saint Joseph’s stormed back from a 12 point halftime deficit to notch the program’s 1,500th all-time win, a six point classic, against Fordham last Sunday that also earned Langston Galloway his third Rookie of the Week citation for his career-high 25 point performance against Fordham. Saint Joseph’s’ two-game winning streak has been fun, but the Hawks are back in the meat grinder this week as they host Xavier on Wednesday and then travel across town to play Temple on Sunday.

14. Fordham (6-17, 0-11)

Last Week: 2/9 @Temple 66-77, 2/13 vs. Saint Joseph’s 70-76

Next Week: 2/16 @Xavier

Fordham’s winless string runs to 11 in conference play, with another 0-2 week. The probability they will finish the conference season without a win stand ominously at 44.7% per Ken Pomeroy. The Pythagorean Winning Percentage suggests the Rams will earn a win, but the calculations for individual games shows a “losing” probability for each game. Best chance remains a travel-challenged Massachusetts squad at the end of the season. Fordham travels to Cincinnati to take on Xavier.

A Look Ahead

The week offers a single headliner game, Richmond at Temple on Thursday night. Crucial to settling the question of the #2 and #3 seeds in Atlantic City. A Temple win would assure the Owls of no worse than a #3 seed, with distinct possibilities of a #2 seed should Duquesne falter. A Richmond win will leave the question to be settled on the court in a season-ending clash with Duquesne on March 3. Rebounding has become Richmond’s burden to bear this season. The lack of presence on the glass means their shots have to fall consistently for them to have a chance. So far they have as the Spiders convert at a 54% (eFG%) rate in conference play. They do not however rebound defensively either. And that can be a real problem given Temple’s board domination. This one should go to the Owls, though Temple fans should be warned that Richmond has the strongest road-only efficiency in the conference.

The Rhode Island-Massachusetts game scheduled for Saturday can help the Runnin’ Rams for NIT consideration should Coach Baron’s charges win. With five conference games remaining in the regular season, Rhode Island can solidify a #5 seed in the tournament should they continue to win.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 2nd, 2011

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

A Look Back

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

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

Power Rankings

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

1.        Xavier (15-5, 7-0)

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

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

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

2.        Duquesne (15-5, 7-0)

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

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

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

3.        Richmond (16-6, 5-2)

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

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

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

4.        Temple (15-5, 5-2)

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

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

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

5.        Massachusetts (13-7, 5-2)

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

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

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

6.        Rhode Island (13-8, 4-3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.        Dayton (15-7, 3-4)

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

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

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

9.        St. Bonaventure (11-9, 3-4)

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

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

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

10.      La Salle (11-11, 3-4)

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

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

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

11.      Saint Louis (7-13, 2-5)

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

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

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

12.      Charlotte (9-12, 1-6)

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

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

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

13.      Fordham (6-13, 0-7)

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

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

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

14.      Saint Joseph’s (5-16, 0-7)

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

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

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

A Look Ahead

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

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 26th, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10.

(ed. note: this post was written before Tuesday night’s games.)

A Look Back

Some Early Season Definition to the Conference Race: The teams have played five of their 16 games on their conference slate, and the efficiency differentials are beginning to give definition to the conference standings. While the teams at the top and bottom of the conference produce differentials consistent with expectations — the top teams have the highest differentials, the bottom teams have the largest negative differentials — there are a few interesting anomalies that spice the middle layers.

Eight of the conference members have conference records north of .500, but only six of those teams have positive efficiency differentials. The two who do not (Massachusetts and Rhode Island) were trounced in one or more of their conference losses. Whether their won-loss records will come to reflect their efficiency differentials, or their efficiency differentials will come to reflect their records, may be a trend worth tracking over the next month. While it is too early to draw large conclusions, the separation between La Salle, Charlotte, Saint Joseph‘s and Fordham and the rest of the conference has to be troubling for fans of those programs. A conference SOS (next week perhaps?) might be helpful when deciding the problem to this point has been tough opponents or significant problems with the teams. But morale problems may become an issue which depresses win totals going forward (and contributes to outbound transfers come season’s end) for each of those programs.

Power Rankings

The weekend games, particularly the Xavier-Temple bout, established Xavier and Duquesne at the top of the conference rankings, with Richmond keeping pace. There is a log jam in spots #4 through #8. All five teams have identical 3-2 conference records, and each has suffered at least one loss to someone in the top three. The next group of four teams (Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure, Charlotte and La Salle) has one or two conference wins, but are in danger, should they hit a losing slide, to fall into the lowest reaches of the conference.

1. Xavier (13-5, 5-0)

Last Week: 1/19 @St. Bonaventure 79-65, 1/22 vs. Temple 88-77

This Week: 1/26 vs. George Washington, 1/29 @Richmond

The Musketeers had another 2-0 week as Tu Holloway received his fourth citation as Player of the Week from the conference. Holloway averaged 25.0 points and 7.0 assists in X’s wins over St. Bonaventure and Temple. Coach Chris Mack‘s squad will host George Washington on Wednesday before traveling to Richmond for a showdown with the Spiders on Saturday. Without looking at the weather forecast, I know it will be warm in Richmond on Saturday.

2. Duquesne (13-5, 5-0)

Last Week: 1/19 @La Salle 88-71, 1/22 vs. Charlotte 83-67

This Week: 1/26 @Fordham, 1/29 vs. Dayton

The Dukes ran their winning streak to ten with yet another 2-0 week. Freshman point guard TJ McConnell burnished his Rookie of the Year resume with another Rookie of the Week citation (this one shared with St. Bonaventure’s Michael Wright), his third consecutive citation, and fourth this season. The central Pennsylvania recruit averaged 10.0 points, 5.0 steals, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the Dukes’ two games last week. McConnell had seven assists to a single turnover in 56 minutes of play. Senior wing Damian Saunders earned an Honor Roll mention for his 71.4% shot accuracy in the two games. Saunders averaged 15.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 4.0 steals last week. If those wins came against two of the conference’s lesser lights, they were nevertheless earned in convincing fashion, by margins of 17 and 16 points respectively. Ron Everhart‘s squad takes another quick trip east on Wednesday, this time to New York City to take on the Fordham Rams. They return home to host Dayton on Saturday in another crucial match-up. Dayton, at 15-5 overall and 3-2 in conference, would like to pull this leader back to the pack.

3. Richmond (15-5, 4-1)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. George Washington 68-58, 1/22 @Massachusetts 84-68

Next Week: 1/25 @Dayton, 1/29 vs. Xavier

The Spiders kept pace with the leaders this week, registering two wins against middle-of-the-conference foes George Washington and Massachusetts. Both games were taken by double digits, and collectively earned senior forward Justin Harper another citation (his fourth, to go with a Player of the Week nod) on the conference Honor Roll. Harper averaged 25.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks over the course of the two games. Chris Mooney‘s charges head into one of those decisive weeks, as they travel to Dayton for a Tuesday night game, and back to Richmond for a Saturday tilt with Xavier. A sweep this week, extremely difficult, but certainly possible (Ken Pomeroy favors the Spiders in both games), would hand Richmond an advantage over both schools should a tie-breaker be necessary, but more importantly it would bring Xavier back to the pack and Richmond would be poised to leap-frog Duquesne should the Dukes falter.

4. Temple (13-5, 3-2)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Pennsylvania 73-56, 1/22 @Xavier 77-88

This Week: 1/26 vs. Charlotte, 1/29 @Saint Joseph’s

Temple stumbled to another 1-1 week. Guard Khalif Wyatt scored 46 points in 47 minutes of play off the bench, a set of performances that earned him a place on the conference Honor Roll this week. His 19 point scoring outburst, coupled with sophomore Scootie Randall‘s 28 point, 11-16 overall shot performance was not enough to get the Owls by A-10 rival Xavier on Sunday however. The two combined for 47 of the Owls’ 77 points, Noticeably absent however, were junior point Juan Fernandez and senior Lavoy Allen. Virtually neutralized by Xavier’s defense, the pair combined for six points on a collective 2-12 shooting, too little to affect the outcome. That lack of production from Temple’s twin offensive engine was fatal.

This week should be easier for the Owls, as they host up-and-down Charlotte on Wednesday and hike over to City Line Avenue for a game “at” Saint Joseph’s on Saturday. Those two games, which Pomeroy projects as wins, should, worst case, have the Owls keep pace (albeit two games back) with Xavier and Duquesne, but long term, coach Fran Dunphy will have to address the consistency problems plaguing his team leaders.

5. Rhode Island (12-7, 3-2)

Last Week: 1/19 @Saint Joseph’s 64-59, 1/22 vs. La Salle 75-76

This Week: 1/26 @Saint Louis, 1/30 @Massachusetts

Rhode Island beat a struggling Saint Joseph’s team Wednesday, but then negated their unexpected win versus Richmond with an equally unexpected, one point loss, to La Salle Saturday. The 1-1 week translates into an ever-shrinking post season prospect (even an NIT bid would be a stretch at this point). Senior forward Delroy James earned his seventh Honor Roll citation as he averaged a double-double (15.0 points and 12.5 rebounds) through the two games. 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 (11-7, 3-2)

Last Week: 1/19 @Charlotte 73-54, 1/22 vs. Richmond 68-84

This Week: 1/26 @St. Bonaventure, 1/30 vs. Rhode Island

The Minutemen had a 1-1, “bi-polar” week. After trouncing Charlotte by 19 at Charlotte on Wednesday, the Minutemen returned home to lose by 16 to Richmond on Saturday. Senior guard Anthony Gurley earned his fourth Honor Roll citation this season for his 23.5 point scoring average over the two games. Gurley dropped 30 points on the Spiders in the Richmond loss, a scoring blitz that included a career-high six three pointers. Massachusetts will take to the road for a game against St. Bonaventure Wednesday, and then will return home for an important test against Richmond on Saturday.

7. George Washington (10-9, 3-2)

Last Week: 1/19 @Richmond 58-68, 1/22 vs. St. Bonaventure 49-62

This Week: 1/26 @Xavier, 1/29 vs. Saint Louis

The Colonials logged an 0-2 week, both games in conference play, to extend their losing run to three games. They followed a 10 point loss on the road to Richmond last Wednesday with a 13 point home loss to the Bonnies. Expect the losing to continue at least one more game, as Karl Hobbs‘ troops go to Cincinnati to take on the Musketeers on Wednesday. The telling game will come Saturday as they host the Billikens. George Washington will need a win to stay above 0.500 for the season and in conference play. Saint Louis enters this week on a two game winning streak, and may well have another win on the record before coming into Amherst to play this Saturday.

8. Dayton (15-5, 3-2)

Last Week: 1/22 vs. Fordham 91-57

This Week: 1/25 vs. Richmond, 1/30 @Duquesne

The Flyers finished a 1-0 week, picking up a 24 point win versus Fordham on Saturday. Transfer guard Josh Parker earned his first Honor Roll nod from the conference for his contribution off the bench against Fordham. The junior pont scored 27 points in 24 minutes as a substitute for freshman point guard Juwan Staten.

This is “Statement Week” for Dayton, as the Flyers host Richmond on Tuesday and travel to Pittsburgh for a rendevous with conference Cinderella Duquesne on Sunday. Dayton’s rebounding will probably not be an advantage in their game with Richmond, as they will need perimeter defense to throttle back a red hot three point shooting Spider squad, ranked #7 in Division 1 for three point conversions (41.3%). Making Chris Johnson Justin Harper’s “second skin” and finding a way to throttle Richmond’s guard squad (Kevin Anderson, Darien Brothers and Cedric Lindsay) which collectively has converted three point attempts at a 43.3% clip would go a long way, but the would still have to find an answer for Dan Geriot. Not an easy task.

9. St. Bonaventure (10-8, 2-3)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Xavier 65-79, 1/22 @George Washington 62-49

This Week: 1/26 vs. Massachusetts, 1/29 @Fordham

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies dropped a third consecutive game (a 14 point loss to Xavier) before breaking their fall complements of George Washington (a 13 point win). Freshman guard Matthew Wright shared Rookie of the Week honors (with TJ McConnell) for his two double digit scoring games. The Toronto native came off the bench to score 10 against Xavier, and followed with a career-high 18-point outburst that helped end St. Bonaventure’s 21-year winless run at George Washington. Senior point guard Ogo Adegboye paced the Bonnies with 16 points while two others, wing Michael Davenport (12) and center Andrew Nicholson (13), along with Wright, chipped in double digit points in the losing effort versus Xavier. The Bonnies led or tied in that game for the first 24 minutes. The Bonnies host a Massachusetts squad coming off of a loss on Wednesday, and then have a possible trap game at Fordham on Saturday (they travel to Dayton first thing in February). Two wins at this point would be very good, as the Bonnies have a two game road trip to start February that takes them through Dayton, then Duquesne, before returning home.

10.  Charlotte (9-10, 1-4)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Massachusetts 65-73, 1/22 @Duquesne 67-83

This Week: 1/26 @Temple, 1/29 vs. La Salle

Charlotte broke their losing run in conference play at mid-month, but started a new losing string with back-to-back loses to Massachusetts and Duquesne. Sophomore center Chris Braswell earned an Honor Roll citation from the conference for his 14.5 point, 9.0 rebound average in the 49ers’ two games. Braswell shot 50% from the floor, shooting 9-18 overall (1-4 from three point land, 8-14 from inside the arc) and 10-13 from the line. Braswell’s shot efficiency (eFG%) was 52.8%, while his PPWS was 1.20. Coach Alan Major‘s squad will find the road does not get much easier as they travel to Philadelphia for a game with Temple Wednesday, then return to host a resurgent La Salle team Saturday. So far the 49ers are 1-1 at home in conference play.

11. Saint Louis (7-11, 2-3)

Last Week: 1/19 @Fordham 68-55

This Week: 1/26 vs. Rhode Island, 1/29 @George Washington

The Billikens added another conference win to their total with a trip to the Meadowlands and a win over Fordham on Wednesday night. Kyle Cassity earned a nod from the conference for his team-leading 13 points in the road win. Kwamain Mitchell was “DNP — pending clearance” again. Rumor is he should be re-instated “shortly”.

A two game “Sort Out Week” for the Billikens is in store. Both games pit the Bills against fellow “middle of the conference” opponents. Should the Billikens sweep (a 31.5% chance per Pomeroy, Pythagoreas & log5), they will vault themselves over the 0.500 mark in conference play and into the tier just below the conference leaders. Wednesday will feature a mini-showdown with the Runnin’ Rams who have faltered after upsetting Richmond at home in early January. Saturday’s road game is in Washington DC versus the Colonials, a team like St. Louis stumbled out of the gate this season, but put on a push early in the conference season. The past week has also seen the Colonials “settle” into the middle of the conference.

12. La Salle (9-11, 1-4)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Duquesne 71-88, 1/22 @Rhode Island 76-75

This Week: 1/26 vs. Saint Joseph’s, 1/29 @Charlotte

The Explorers redeemed a 17 point home loss to Duquesne with a one point 76-75 road win in Kingston, RI, versus Rhode Island. Sophomore center Aaric Murray earned an Honor Roll citation for his game-winning shot with 28 seconds left in regulation at Rhode Island, which broke La Salle’s four game conference losing streak. Coach John Giannini‘s squad plays Saint Joseph’s in a Big 5/A-10 match on Wednesday night at the Palestra. The game may well earn La Salle their second conference win and insure they finish no worse than third in Big 5 play this season. The Explorers then hit the road for a Saturday game in Charlotte. The 49ers and Explorers have identical 1-4 conference records to this point, a two game sweep of the week could put La Salle back into the middle of the conference standings going into February.

13. Fordham (6-11, 0-5)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Saint Louis 55-68, 1/22 @Dayton 57-91

This Week: 1/25 vs. Duquesne, 1/29 vs. St. Bonaventure

Another 0-2 week for the Rams, as the percentages that they will finish the conference season without a win grew from 6.5% to an ominous 18% per Ken Pomeroy. More unsettling however, is the offensive/defensive differential (see Conference Differentials Table at top) that is starting to drift seriously behind the rest of the conference. This happened last season, as Fordham finished their conference season with a -0.213, nearly twice the negative differential as the nearest team (-0.08 — Saint Joseph’s…). Coach Tom Pecora needs a win or two to reverse the tide and maintain the morale of his squad, as lack of improvement has been one of the elements that can influence squad members to stay and recruits to come. The best win opportunity of the week may be St. Bonaventure, a team that has lifted itself out of the conference cellar recently. The Bonnies visit on Saturday for a game that will pit front courts which feature junior Andrew Nicholson against sophmore Chris Gaston.

14. Saint Joseph’s (5-14, 0-5)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Rhode Island 59-64, 1/22 @Penn 61-73

This Week: 1/26 vs. La Salle, 1/29 vs. Temple

The Hawks’ slide numbers six consecutive games, as of last week. Five of the six are logged on their conference record, but the latest, a 12 point out of conference “road” loss to Penn in the Palestra, the most devastating so far. Wednesday’s game versus La Salle is a Big 5 “must win” for Saint Joseph’s. Having lost to Penn, the Hawks are in danger of going 0-4 and finishing last in Big 5 play for 2011.

A Look Ahead

This is “Statement Week” for Richmond and Dayton. The two are featured in a Tuesday night match that will have the loser fall another game behind conference leaders Xavier and Duquesne. Richmond will then host Xavier while Dayton will travel to Duquesne. The Flyers have a unique opportunity to single-handedly scramble the rankings and inject themselves right into the thick of the conference race should they win both games. On the other hand, should Richmond sweep the week, the Spiders would drop the X-men into a second place tie, push the Flyers back into the conference pack, and position themselves for season-ending showdown (last game of the regular season) with Duquesne. A winless week for either would be devastating, and most likely limit NCAA scenarios to those which include a conference tournament championship. (ed. note: Richmond won Tuesday, beating Dayton 70-61)

Wednesday will feature games between Rhode Island versus Saint Louis and Massachusetts versus St. Bonaventure that will either mash up the middle of the conference, or create an even greater separation between the upper and lower division.

The featured games this weekend, Xavier at Richmond (Saturday) and Dayton at Duquesne (Sunday) have the same potential to either mash up the top four-five teams or else separate the two top teams from the cluster immediately below them.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 12th, 2011

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

A Look Back

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.

Power Rankings

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 Justin Harper 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, pulled Ruben 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.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 5th, 2011

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

A Look Back

Closing the Book on Invitational Tournaments

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.

Power Rankings

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.
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Set Your Tivo: 12.30.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 30th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

The Big Five takes center stage tonight followed by an under the radar matchup in Missouri. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#25 Temple @ #9 Villanova – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

What is Dunphy Thinking For Tonight's Big 5 Brawl?

Temple won last year’s Big Five meeting between these squads but Villanova holds a slight edge in the series, 43-41. Each team enters on a winning streak and both are rated in the top ten in defensive efficiency. However, Temple has been the more consistent defensive team over the years and Villanova has a tendency to lapse back into a weaker defense against better opponents. Temple is 2-0 against the Big East, having defeated Seton Hall and Georgetown at home earlier this season, and will look to make it three on the road tonight. Interior play and rebounding will be important aspects of this game. Temple gets two thirds of its points from two point range, mostly due to the fact that they can’t shoot the three. The Owls are one of the worst teams from deep (27%) and Villanova plays very good defense on the arc. Don’t expect Temple to get to the line much either, making points inside the arc extremely important for Fran Dunphy’s team. Lavoy Allen has a tendency to disappear on offense and it would be wise if he didn’t pick this game to do it again. The 6’9 forward is talented and a strong defensive player but must provide the Owls with offensive production inside. Getting him the ball is another story and that’s where Juan Fernandez comes in. He’s struggled with his shooting (six for his last 23) as well as turnovers but has averaged seven assists over his last three games, using his strong dribble penetration to get others involved. Fernandez’s shooting has been so bad that his three point shooting is down a stunning 25% from last season. He has to get the ball inside to Allen and fellow guard Ramone Moore (30 points against Georgetown). Moore has the ability to drive and make some crafty shots around the tin. Temple is not a deep team and must defend and rebound well in order to win on the road against a strong Villanova team. The Wildcats have a talented starting five with pretty good balance, at least in terms of their height. However, Villanova’s guards take the majority of shots, sometimes not for the better. Jay Wright should look to utilize his big men more, especially against a Temple team that can be severely limited when their bigs get into foul trouble. Antonio Pena (59% FG) figures to have an advantage, though he’ll have to work hard against a Temple defense ranked #12 inside the arc. Villanova’s offense revolves around its talented trio of guards. While Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns haven’t exactly shot the lights out, Corey Stokes remains a constant threat on the arc for the Wildcats as the senior from New Jersey has connected on 14 of his last 30 triples. 14 makes is more than Fisher and Wayns have made all year. Stokes has taken 30-40 more threes than his back court teammates and the Temple defense must make them shoot to get the ball out of Stokes’ hands. Coach Dunphy may want to try a box-and-one defense on Stokes, forcing Fisher and Wayns to beat him. Temple will look to slow the pace down and get into a half court game, a situation where they excel on both ends of the floor. The rebounding battle will be huge as both teams rank in the top ten in keeping their opponent off the offensive glass. Grabbing offensive rebounds will be crucial, especially for Temple. Villanova has a significant edge at the free throw line and should look to penetrate and pick up some early fouls on the Temple front court players. Big Five games are usually close and this shouldn’t be an exception. Playing on campus at the Pavilion, expect Villanova to take this contest by single digits with Temple hanging close throughout the game.

Old Dominion @ #10 Missouri – 8 pm on ESPN3.com/ESPN FullCourt (***)

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