Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback on January 31st, 2014

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 @vtbnblog.

Teams on the Rise… Teams on the Slide

Just over 38 percent of the conference schedule is in the books and two teams — Saint Louis and Virginia Commonwealth — have emerged as the teams to catch. Three other teams – George Mason, Duquesne and Dayton (!) — are falling out of contact with the rest of the conference.

Shaka Smart and company are once again right in the mix for the A10 crown. (AP)

Shaka Smart and company are once again right in the mix for the A10 crown. (AP)

Rising – Teams that are finding their groove

  • Saint Louis — Skeptics who groused that the Billikens’ early conference success came compliments of an easy draw have to pause for reflection after this week. Wins over Dayton, a rallying St. Bonaventure, and most recently Richmond (by 20 points) confirm that the Billikens are unlikely to slip against the conference’s middling teams and will continue to set the pace in the conference race for at least the next two weeks. A good deal of ink has extolled and analyzed Virginia Commonwealth’s HAVOC, but Jim Crews’ smothering defense — ranked #1 nationally by Ken Pomeroy (and a runaway #1 in conference play, over eight points per 100 possessions better than #2 VCU) — that provides the winning edge for the Bills. A combination of consistent two- and three-point field goal defense and strong defensive rebounding has powered Saint Louis’ defense in sharp contrast to VCU’s gambling, steal-oriented, press-and-trap approach that tolerates fouls as a byproduct. Saint Louis by contrast does not foul. Jordair Jett, the Bills’ thick but quick point guard, combines with undersized forward Dwayne Evans to provide the Billikens with an adequate, but hardly prolific, offense. The defense — for now — is enough. Their February 15 date with Virginia Commonwealth, the first of two games they will play with the Rams in the final three weeks of the regular season, is the opening shot in what may well become a three-game set that will be decided in the conference championship game at the Barclays Center. Read the rest of this entry »
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Narratives Solidify for GW and VCU in Atlantic 10 Race

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on January 15th, 2014

Like most cities on the East Coast, Washington DC is a professional sports town where its NFL team is king. But for two hours on Tuesday night, Foggy Bottom transformed into a full-fledged campus town like one might find in Big Ten country. The reason? A budding intra-regional and intra-conference rivalry between George Washington and VCU. And for the first time in this young feud, the outcome of the contest had significant implications for both teams with respect to league standings and postseason prospects. George Washington made a statement with its 76-66 win over VCU and made clear that it is a serious contender to win its first Atlantic 10 title since 2005-06.  For VCU, it’s another bump in the road for what was supposed to be its most promising season since a run to the 2011 Final Four, and has Shaka Smart’s squad doing a bit of soul-searching. The outcome of this game has certainly changed the perceptions of these two teams from what was expected of them at the beginning of the season.

Sophomore Patricio Garino scored a career-high 25 points to lead the Colonials over VCU.

Sophomore Patricio Garino scored a career-high 25 points to lead the Colonials over VCU.

George Washington has quietly turned in one of the most surprising seasons in the country thus far. Picked to finish 10th out of 11 teams in the Atlantic 10 Preseason Media Poll, the Colonials now find themselves with a 14-3 overall record that includes wins against Creighton, VCU, Maryland and Miami (FL). A major reason for their turnaround has been the dramatic improvement of their offense from last season (jumping from 0.98 to 1.09 points per possession), which has been driven by the addition of Maurice Creek, a transfer from Indiana, and the emergence of players like Kethan Savage and Kevin Larsen. Against VCU on Tuesday, Larsen and reserve Patricio Garino stepped up and led the Colonials to shred the Rams’ stellar defense (it came in at 0.91 points per possession, 9th nationally) — George Washington shot 56.3 percent and scored 1.04 points per possession. This win signals that the Colonials are ready to make the Atlantic 10 a four-team race, joining the likes of VCU, UMass, and Saint Louis vying for a conference crown. They may not get the national attention their turnaround warrants, but what Mike Lonergan has done with his team has been nothing short of remarkable.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 11.04.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 4th, 2013

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  1. As we enter Opening Week of the 2013-14 college basketball season, we want to make everyone aware of all the cross-platform offerings we have available this year at RTC. Longtime readers are already familiar with our eight microsites focused on each of the major basketball conferences (click on the round conference buttons in the top right corner of the page). We also want to make you aware of our TumblRTC page, dedicated as the site’s “eyes and ears,” where we’ll be sharing interesting hoops-related things we find throughout the season. We’re also unveiling Rush the Court TV, our own YouTube channel devoted to capturing the best videos that the sport has to offer. Poke around over there for a while — you’ll find video streams for each major conference, this year’s Midnight Madness events, a bunch of oddball clips among other things, and of course, all the best RTCs. On the social media front, we hope that you’ll continue to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, as we plan on doing some really cool and creative things through those platforms this season, but we’ve also got a new Instagram account and hope you’ll engage with us there too (read: send us pics!). Welcome back.
  2. Over the weekend there were plenty of exhibition games including several that featured highly ranked teams nearly getting beaten by unknown programs, but as we have often said the only thing notable that can happen in these games is somebody getting injured. Unfortunately for Providence it appears that happened to them with starting point guard Kris Dunn injuring his right shoulder in an exhibition win over Rhode Island College. The extent of the injury is not known at this time, but it is particularly concerning for Providence as it is the same shoulder that he tore last year that forced him to miss the first month of the season. The Friars open up at home against Boston College on Friday night, but based on what Ed Cooley is saying it seems unlikely that Dunn will play in that game.
  3. Like Providence, George Washington also suffered a big loss as sophomore forward Patricio Garino fractured his finger during a practice two weeks, but the school did not release the information until late last week. Garino, a selection to the preseason Atlantic 10 All-Conference All-Defensive Team, had surgery on his finger on October 25 and is expected to be out for several weeks although there is no clear timetable on his return. As a freshman last season, Garino averaged 8.8 points, 2.1 assists, and 2.3 steals per game, but had much bigger things expected of him this season. Mike Lonergan will have to figure out a way to move players around until Garino return, but fortunately for the Colonials their schedule during November appears to be manageable.
  4. North Carolina State will be without fifth-year senior center Jordan Vandenberg for 4-6 weeks after he suffered a grade 3 sprain of his left ankle. While Vandenberg’s production during his time in Raleigh has been minimal the lack of experience on this NC State team will make his absence more significant than you might expect from looking at his numbers. We won’t go so far as to say that Vandenberg would have been a major contributor, but his losing 25 pounds summer at least suggests that he was motivated to make the most of his final season in Raleigh.
  5. On Friday night, less than two months after committing to play for UCLA then backing out, Trevon Bluiett to committed to play for Xavier. Blueitt’s recruitment has been particularly interesting because his initial commitment to UCLA was preceded by UCLA hiring his former high school coach, which seemed to suggest that a package deal was in place (something that is certainly not unique, but seemed unusual for a program with UCLA’s pedigree and a player of Blueitt’s caliber–a 4-star prospect). Blueitt eventually decided that Los Angeles would be too far from his home (in Indianapolis) and had narrowed down his choices to Butler, Memphis, Michigan State, and Xavier before eventually committing to Xavier.
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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by CNguon on February 20th, 2013

CIO header

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 @vtbnblog.

*Ed. Note: the statistics in this column were aggregated prior to Tuesday night’s St. Louis-VCU game.

Looking Back

Difference Margins in Conference Games: The offense/defense difference margins are beginning to “behave” as teams with winning records (Charlotte and Temple excepted) have positive difference margins, while teams with losing records (Dayton excepted) have negative difference margins. Temple, with a 5-5 record, has a -0.001, just two one-thousandths under “positive.” Tiers within the winning and losing groups continues to be messy, and occasionally explains why a team is succeeding or failing.

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Looking over the “standings” this week a few things jump out…

  • Fordham and Duquesne are losing contact with the rest of the conference, and that includes 3-8 Rhode Island. For the Dukes, with a new coach and a program in disarray, the trend is not surprising as wins are hard to come by. Fordham, coming into the season with senior all-conference forward Chris Gaston and a promising young backcourt, has to be a disappointment to fans and university administrators. Granted, Gaston has struggled with injuries and extended absences, but the current late season fade continues a pattern established over the last five seasons.
What's that you say? Jim Crews and Saint Louis is running away from the rest of the conference. (AP)

What’s that you say? Jim Crews and Saint Louis are running away from the rest of the conference. (AP)

  • Saint Louis appears to be running away from the rest of the league. If the Bilikens’ numbers hold up over the course of this week (they play Butler next, after eviscerating VCU last night), expect coach Jim Crews’ squad to emerge with the #1 seed going into Brooklyn and up in the NCAA field where they are currently seeded in the #9-#11 range.
  • Temple’s -0.001 efficiency margin reflects the fact that the Owls have had a series of one-point decisions (more in Temple’s team report below) against both stronger teams (Charlotte) and weaker teams (Duquesne).

Going, going… The topic touched on during virtually every Division I basketball game over the last week is “Who is in?” usually accompanied by a discussion of bubble teams – right side/wrong side, S-curves and “What happened to…”. Alhough the field is still under construction and opinions vary as to whether the Atlantic 10 will have six bids (Jerry Palm as of February 17) or four (Joe Lunardi and RTC’s own Daniel Evans), there is an emerging consensus that several preview “contenders” are in the field, somewhere on (or near) the bubble and clearly out of the conversation entirely. Some quick takes on the “bubble… sort of’s” and those who are “out”:

  • Charlotte – Jerry Palm lists the 49ers as a #11 seed and well beyond the “Last Four In” category. Daniels lists them on his bubble watch of February 18 while Lunardi remains silent. Can good conference wins versus Butler and Xavier really negate double-figure losses to Richmond, George Washington and Saint Louis? More than any A-10 team not named Temple, winning their last five games going into the conference tournament will make or break this resume. Read the rest of this entry »
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