Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.
2011 was business as usual it seems as two teams, Temple and Xavier, combined to represent the conference in the AP Poll for 11 of the poll’s 19 weeks. Three teams (Richmond, Temple and Xavier) were invited to the NCAA for the fourth consecutive year with two advancing to the second round and one advancing to the Sweet 16 before bowing out. The steady progress, if not the deeper advancement, into the NCAA Tournament field should give the conference cause for celebration. If the A-10 has not gained ground, it certainly hasn’t lost any ground either. The conference beat its Performance Against Seed Expectation (PASE – the number of wins earned in the NCAA versus the historic record for the assigned seed), 2.57, by winning a total of three games in tournament play. This year also marked the sixth consecutive postseason where the conference received at least one at-large bid. And for the second consecutive postseason, seven conference members in all (50% of the conference membership) played on after the final buzzer sounded in Atlantic City. The conference placed two teams (Dayton and Rhode Island) in the NIT and two others (SaintLouis and GeorgeWashington) in the CBI in 2010, with Dayton winning the NIT and Saint Louis losing in the CBI Finals to VCU. This postseason, only Dayton made the NIT, while Duquesne, Rhode Island and St.Bonaventure were invited to the CBI. Unfortunately none of them advanced beyond the second round.
So why are conference observers edgy? Despite the “all steady” in the NCAA Tournament, teams from two other non-BCS conferences, Virginia Commonwealth of CAA and the Horizon League’s Butler were represented in the Final Four, with Butler advancing to Monday night for the second consecutive year. The Atlantic 10 has not sent a team to the Final Four since the Massachusetts squad of 1996, whose Final Four appearance was later vacated by the NCAA, and has had only one representative (Xavier in 2008) [ed. note: corrected] in the Elite Eight since the 2004 Tournament when Saint Joseph’s lost to Oklahoma by two points, 64-62, in East Rutherford, New Jersey on the same weekend that Xavier was eliminated by Duke, 66-63, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Xavier’s Tu Holloway enjoyed a terrific season for the Musketeers. (credit: AP)
Final Ranking, Team-by-Team
Richmond (28-8, 13-3) #12 seed: Coach Chris Mooney’s Spiders had several outstanding performances out of conference including their 65-54 win over Purdue (#3 seed NCAA), but those were negated by head-scratching losses to Iona aand Bucknell. The same held true in conference play, where wins over Dayton and Duquesnewere undermined by a home loss to Rhode Island early in conference play. The Spidersearned a #3 seed in the conference tournament where they knocked off #2 seed Temple that was dealing withinjuries and earned the conference’s automatic bid witha 67-54 win over Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Tournament finals. The Spiders beat #5 seed Vanderbilt (69-66) and #13 seed Morehead State (65-48) to advance to the Sweet Sixteen and a date with#1 seed Kansas. The ride ended witha 77-57 loss, but Mooney signed a contract extension which should keep him at Richmond for the foreseeable future. Mooney loses four key members of the squad this season, but returns 11 players, including two who started multiple games this season, for 2011-12. GRADE: A
Temple(26-8, 14-2) #7 seed NCAA: The consensus favorite to win the conference regular season, the Owls stumbled in the Old Spice Classic, dropping two of their three games in Orlando. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad dropped a third out of conference game to Villanova on the eve of conference play, but ran off three wins to start conference play. Back-to-back losses to Duquesne and Xavier put the Owls in second place in the conference, which is where they finished the regular season. Injuries sidelined sophomore Michael Eric, reducing an already short frontcourt rotation, for the last two weeks of the season. Scootie Randall also battled injuries as the season wound down, leaving Dunphy with a seven-man rotation for the Atlantic 10 tournament. A semifinal loss to Richmond ended Temple’s bid to earn the conference’s automatic bid for a third consecutive year, but the Owls secured a #7 seed to the NCAA Tournament and an in-state match-up with Penn State in the first round game, which they won 66-64 on a last second shot by Juan Fernandez. In the second round, they pushed #2 seed San Diego State to the limit before falling in double overtime. GRADE: B+ Read the rest of this entry »
With non-conference play in the books, it’s time to name the All-Conference Team, based on first half performance. These are the five players I like best for end of the season conference honor. They are off to great starts.
G – Tu Holloway, Xavier; the guard struggled against Cincinnati, but he continues to be Xavier’s best weapon.
G – Bill Clark, Duquesne; the Dukes are back and Clark is a big reason.
F – Chris Wright, Dayton; he may not assert himself enough in tight games.
F – Justin Harper, Richmond; how Harper goes, so go the Spiders.
C – Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure; junior center has been cited in six of the nine week old season.
Honorable Mention – these seven are very much in the hunt for Player of the Year and All-Conference First Team recognition:
G – Kevin Anderson, Richmond; last season’s POY cannot be left out of a conversation about Player of the Year.
G – Derrio Green, Charlotte; like Nicholson, his chances for conference recognition will depend as much on how his team finishes the season as how well he plays.
G – Ramone Moore, Temple; a big reason Owl fans have not missed Ryan Brooks.
G – Tony Taylor, George Washington; the junior has come on strong in December and January, as have the Colonials.
F – Lavoy Allen, Temple; his team’s ranking will boost his prospects, but he needs a few signature games to go with some game-to-game consistency.
F – Delroy James, Rhode Island; James has been cited by the conference in six of the season’s nine weeks. Like Green and Nicholson, his prospects may hang as much on his team’s finish as his own performance.
F – Chris Gaston, Fordham; strong individual performances have earned him multiple conference citations, but how will Fordham finish?
Rookies I Like: The following seven freshmen are the collective favorites for the All Conference Freshmen Team, with TJ McConnell, given Duquesne’s standing at this point, probably the strongest challenger to Juwan Staten. Staten, the projected Rookie of the Year, has had a good season so far, but the Flyers continue to perform inconsistently. The freshman point guard remains my odds-on favorite for Freshman of the Year, but the race is competitive and contains a few unexpected faces.
G – TJ McConnell, Duquesne; Duke fans were high on this high schooler out of central Pennsylvania, has been cited twice for Freshman Honors.
G – Tyreek Duren, La Salle; one of two crucial freshman at La Salle this season, important building blocks for the Explorer program.
G – Langston Galloway, Saint Joseph’s; one of four freshmen recruited by coach Phil Martelli to revive the Hawk program.
G – Brandon Frazier,Fordham; not a favorite due to Fordham’s continued struggles, but has a solid chance, with a solid season, to make the All-Freshmen Team.
F – Nemanja Mikic, George Washington; with Lasan Kromah’s injury, the Colonials drifted, but have started to so signs of pulling the team together. If GWU makes a serious run at the top half of the conference, Mikic will be a big part of that push.
C – CJ Aiken, Saint Joseph’s; Big men take time, and if Martelli is patient, this one could turn his program around.
Seven teams had perfect weeks, while six others were winless. Several teams around the conference midpoint have moved according to their currrent records, but the conference season for most, is only two games old.
1. Temple (11-3, 2-0) #19 AP
Last Week: 1/5 @Fordham 70-51, 1/9 vs. Saint Louis 57-53
Next Week: 1/12 vs. St. Bonaventure, 1/15 @Duquesne
Temple jumped back into the AP’s Top 25, up to #19 on the January 10 poll on the heels of a 2-0 week. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad traveled to the Izod Arena in Secaucus, NJ, to trounce Fordham by 19 points, then returned home to hold off a late Saint Louis rally and notch a four-point win on the Bills. Ramone Moore drew an Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Owls in those two wins.
The Owls get an early-season test in the form of a road trip to Duquesne. The Dukes, an early season darling for stats geek Ken Pomeroy, have cooled off a little, so if Temple has plans to stay ahead of Richmond (who will host Duquesne at the end of the season) and remain in the Top 25, a win is important. The challenge is even greater with Juan Fernandez’s knee injury. The Owls survived the Billikens over the weekend, but will need a mobile point guard if they are to consistently break a press.
2. Richmond (13-4, 2-0)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. Charlotte 71-59, 1/8 @La Salle 87-68
Next Week: 1/13 vs. Rhode Island
The Spiders keep pace with Temple atop the A-10, having opened, like the Owls, with a 2-0 week. Senior forward JustinHarper continues to have an outstanding season as in addition to being cited for three conference Honorable Mentions, he was named conference Player of the Week for his work in the Charlotte and La Salle games. According to the citation, Harper was 19-29 overall (65.5%) and 7-13 (53.8%) from beyond the arc. Against La Salle, Harper also recorded his second double-double in the last four games as he scored 25 points and 10 rebounds at La Salle on Sunday.
Coach Chris Mooney‘s squad will host Rhode Island Thursday and then take the weekend off.
3. Dayton (13-4, 1-1)
Last Week: 1/5 @St. Louis 60-50, 1/9 @Massachusetts 50-55
Next Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Joseph’s, 1/15 @Xavier
The Flyers finished a puzzling 1-1 week, snapping their winning streak at six. Senior forward Chris Wright was cited with a conference Honorable Mention for his double-double (14 points and 14 rebounds) at St. Louis. His work at Massachusetts, six points and seven rebounds, was just not enough in that very low scoring game — game breakdown in the Massachusetts recap.
Coach Brian Gregory’s squad will host Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday and travel to Cincinnati for a Saturday game with Xavier. With three out of conference losses and now a “what the heck?!” effort against Massachusetts, the 2011 edition of the Flyers will have to be more consistent game-to-game if they want avoid a repeat of the 2010 conference season. That starts this week with two important games. Saint Joseph’s is too young to surprise Dayton, ranked #330 out of 345 by Ken Pomeroy for experience, but it is the type of situation (home game, not well regarded opponent) that could give the Flyers unexpected trouble. Saturday’s game at Xavier carries conference seed implications. If Dayton can take the road game in this annual two game series, the Flyers will have an advantage later when the X-men travel to Dayton, and when the two teams are seeded for the conference tournament. Take both games and the Flyers will have the advantage in a tie-breaker with Xavier and two good (but not Top 25) wins for the Selection Committee.
4. Xavier (8-5, 1-0)
Last Week: 1/6 @Cincinnati 66-46, 1/9 @Rhode Island 72-45
Next Week: 1/12 vs. Massachusetts, 1/15 vs. Dayton
The 20-point trouncing at the hands of crosstown rival Cincinnati has to be a bucket of very cold water to the Musketeers, who have dominated this series of late (7-3 over the last decade, coming into this season). Their bounce-back game, a 27-point beat down of Rhode Island may have been a release (that helped earn senior forward Jamel McLean an Honorable Mention from the conference as he averaged 18.5 points (18 and 19) and 9.0 rebounds (six and 12) against Cincinnati and Rhode Island respectively. .
Chris Mack’s team could use a good run through the conference to revive their hopes for a sixth NCAA post season bid. Hosting two conference opponents gives the X-men a solid opportunity. The Dayton-slaying Minutemen visit on Wednesday and the Flyers follow on Saturday.
5. Massachusetts (9-5, 1-0)
Last Week: 1/9 vs. Dayton 55-50
Next Week: 1/12 @Xavier, 1/15 vs. La Salle
Can you win a basketball game while hitting 12 field goal attempts total and shooting to an overall conversion percentage of 27.3%? Yes, apparently, if the planets align and your opponent is Dayton. Though Dayton actually converted at a higher percentage than UMass (28.6%) and had more field goals, the Minutemen nearly double-upped the Flyers at the free throw line (36 vs. 19 free throw attempts) and scored 16 more points from the line than the Flyers.
With postseason prospects dwindling, Massachusetts and Xavier have an early conference test coming up Wednesday. Massachusetts returns home to host La Salle on Saturday.
6. Duquesne (9-5, 1-0)
Last Week: 1/5 @Saint Joseph’s 75-63, 1/8 vs. Houston Baptist 81-64
Next Week: 1/12 vs. Saint Louis, 1/15 vs. Temple
The Dukes ran their winning streak to four with another 2-0 week. Senior Bill Clark earned his second consecutive Honorable Mention for his work in both games. Clark averaged 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the two games. The Dukes also snapped their nine game losing streak when playing Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia. Duquesne’s road record versus Saint Joseph’s is 2-19.
Coach Ron Everhard‘s troops has an important two game home stand coming up. They host an undermanned, Rick Majerus-less Saint Louis team Wednesday and an Owls squad that may not have junior point guard Juan Fernandez available on Saturday.
7. St. Bonaventure (9-5, 1-0)
Last Week: 1/5 @Arkansas-Little Rock 68-55, 1/8 vs. Charlotte 92-88 3OT
Next Week: 1/12 @Temple, 1/16 @Rhode Island
Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies logged a 2-0 week, raising their 2011 mark to 2-1, and their conference record is an unblemished 2-0. Junior forward/center Andrew Nicholson drew his second consecutive Honorable Mention for his game-high block buster 34 points in the Bonnies’ three overtime win over Charlotte. The junior also logged a stunning 55 minutes of playing time in the Bonnies’ 1-0 start.
Saint Bonaventure faces a week on the road in what should be a good early season reality check for their fans and well-wishers. Nicholson and company travel to Philadelphia (weather willing) to take on the conference-leading Temple Owls, then swing out to Kingston, Rhode Island, to face the Runnin’ Rams.
8. Rhode Island (9-6, 0-1)
Last Week: 1/9 vs. Xavier 45-72
Next Week: 1/13 @Richmond, 1/16 vs. St. Bonaventure
Coach Jim Baron‘s charges got their conference season off on the wrong foot with a 26 point home loss to Xavier. While Delroy James earned his sixth conference Honorable Mention this season (tied for highest number of mentions with Bill Clark of Duquesne and Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure), a 26-point home court loss has a way of messing up a tournament resume. The Runnin’ Rams have picked up six losses so far this season, and post season prospects are dimming quickly.
The road to revival runs through Richmond, and any serious hopes for a postseason beyond Atlantic City has to start next week.
9. George Washington (9-6, 2-0)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. La Salle 72-67, 1/8 @Saint Joseph’s 78-71
Next Week: 1/12 vs. Fordham, 1/15 vs. Harvard
The Colonials kicked off conference play with a 2-0 start, beating La Salle at the Charles E. Smith Center and taking Saint Joseph’s at the Hagan in Philadelphia. Junior guard Tony Taylor earned his fourth Honorable Mention from the conference by averaging 24 points for the Colonials’ 2-0 open of their conference slate. Taylor scored a career-high 28 points against La Salle.
George Washington will host Fordham on Wednesday and Harvard on Saturday.
10. La Salle (7-9, 0-2)
Last Week: 1/5 @George Washington 67-72, 1/8 vs. Richmond 68-87
Next Week: 1/12 vs. Pennsylvania, 1/15 @Massachusetts
La Salle had an 0-2 opening week in conference play. Frustrated with the lackluster and tempermental play against George Washington that included a technical assessed to senior forward Jerrell Williams, Coach/Dr. John Ginniani benched sophomore Aaric Murray for the entire game with Richmond, pulledRuben Guillandeaux out of the starting line and held the senior gurad out of the game for the first five minutes. “I know how [Murray] responds when things hit rock bottom,” Giannini said. “He really steps it up…”
Dr. Giannini’s predicted turnaround should start Wednesday against Big 5 rival the University of Pennsylvania. The Explorers have a road game at Massachusetts on Saturday.
11. Charlotte (6-8, 0-2)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. Richmond 59-71, 1/8 @St. Bonaventure 88-92 3OT,
Next Week: 1/15 vs. Fordham
Charlotte stumbled to an 0-2 record in conference play last week. After a 12 point home loss to Richmond, the 49ers traveled to Olean, NY and dropped a four point game to St. Bonaventure. They did not however, go quietly, taking the Bonnies to three overtime periods before bowing. Junior Javarris Barnett scored his second career double-double, 20 points and 10 rebounds, in Charlotte’s triple overtime loss to St. Bonaventure. Barnett’s achievement earned him his first Honorable Mention and the second citation (his first, last week, was a Player of the Week honor) of the season. Barnett is the fifth member of the 49er squad to draw a nod for strong play from the conference.
Coach Alan Major‘s squad continues their Northeastern sojourn as they take in a game at Fordham on Saturday.
12. Fordham (6-7, 0-1)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. Temple 70-51
Next Week: 1/12 @George Washington, 1/15 @Charlotte
Fordham’s losing streak has run to three with the conference-opening loss to Temple. Things may not get better for coach Tom Pecora‘s Rams next week, as Fordham has a two game Southern road swing starting on Wednesday at George Washington and another stop in Charlotte on Saturday.
13. Saint Louis (5-10, 0-2)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. Dayton 50-60, 1/9 @Temple 53-57
Next Week: 1/12 @Duquesne, 1/15 vs. Saint Joseph’s
The Billikens’ losing streak stands at five after Rick Majerus’ squad dropped two more games last week. Majerus’s absence ran to three games as the coach did not take the trip to Philadelphia when Saint Louis played Temple. Majerus is expected to miss one more game (Duquesne on Wednesday). The other personnel question surrounding the team is the status of Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed. Both re-enrolled at Saint Louis for the spring semesters. Mitchell has practiced with the team and awaiting clearance from the NCAA before he can resume play. Reed’s suspension from the team continues. Mitchell may, pending NCAA clearance, play in the Duquesne or the Saint Joseph’s game.
14. Saint Joseph’s (5-10, 0-2)
Last Week: 1/5 vs. Duquesne 63-75, 1/8 vs. George Washington 71-78
Next Week: 1/12 @Dayton, 1/15 @Saint Louis
The Hawks may console themselves on the relatively close loss to George Washington, but there will be no pause in the schedule next week as they take a two game road swing through the Midwest, taking in Dayton on Wednesday and Saint Louis on Saturday. The Dayton game may be problematic, but Saint Louis game, with an undermanned and possibly distracted squad might be winnable.The result may factor into a tie breaker at the end of the conference season.
A Look Ahead
My season preview predicted between three and four (with a bias towards four) teams would garner bids to the NCAA Tournament. At this point last season the conference had six teams whose out of conference records had bracketologists buzzing. The conference showing in their out of conference was below expectations this year, however, and even ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has only Temple in his field of 68 this week while the Mountain West, Missouri Valley, CUSA, WAC and West Coast conferences get multiple bids. Teams at the bottom of the A-10 may not be as weak as last season, but the teams at the top have not demonstrated yet that they are as strong as teams at the top were last season. The conference has three, possibly four legitimate candidates, Temple aside, but each has flaws and a good deal of work to do.
Temple is the clear favorite to sweep the regular season title and conference championship. Lunardi seeds the Owls #7 this week, but the conference schedule favors the Owls, and with an extremely strong showing at 14-2, 15-1, coupled with a run through the conference tournament, they should be able to improve that seed by three or four spots.
Richmond — Lunardi lists the Spiders among the eight bubble teams on the outside looking in. Not blessed with a schedule as favorable as Temple’s, Coach Mooney’s squad can help it’s chances with favorable results in three games at the end of January. The Spiders travel to Amherst for a game with Massachusetts on January 22, then swing out to Ohio for a second road game with Dayton on 1/25 and finally return home to host Xavier on January 29. 3-0 through that week-plus (and no more fumbles before or after) should put Mooney’s charges in the field of 68; while 2-1 would not be fatal, anything lower might not jeopardize the team’s conference standing but will diminish the Spiders’ chances to make it’s second straight NCAA appearance in 2011.
The Dayton Flyers appear to be plagued with the same inconsistent play this season as last. They rally to win road games at Mississippi State and Seton Hall, only to be run out of the U. S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati and dumped four days later by East Tennessee State. The result of the Massachusetts game last Sunday really hurt their postseason prospects. Dayton has a crucial game this weekend versus Xavier, and after a trip to Fordham, the Flyers return home to host Richmond and then travel to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne. 4-0 through this sequence (counting Fordham in the win column) with solid margins would help settle the “good enough” questions. 3-1 would not be fatal, but it depends on how those four in turn finish there seasons.
A home loss to Florida along with road losses to Gonzaga and Miami (OH) (RPI #91), have damaged the Musketeers’ postseason prospects. Rehabilitation of their prospects has to start this week when the Musketeers host Massachusetts then Dayton. Xavier probably needs both. The Southern Road Trip, a journey that takes the Musketeers through Richmond and then Charlotte, scheduled on the cusp of January and February, may well settle Xavier’s prospects. Should the X-men be undefeated going into those games, a 2-0 result would be very good news, while anything less will be very damaging.
Of the three 9-6 teams — Massachusetts, Duquesne and St. Bonaventure — Duquesne may have the best shot. Of the Dukes’ five losses (to Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Penn State, George Mason and Robert Morris), Robert Morris (RPI #99) is the most damaging. Fans should learn a lot about Duquesne this week when Saint Louis and Temple visit. 2-0 is possible given injuries and absences in those programs. The Dukes’ home-away series with Dayton, home game versus Xavier and season-ending road game versus Richmond are the four game Duquesne will have to record a 4-0/3-1 record. That assumes they sweep the other nine games.
Looking Back in the A-10: Road Warriors & Homebodies
Playing some part of the out of conference schedule away from the comforts of the home arena is increasingly a fact of life for every Division 1 program that has any aspirations for life beyond the conference championship tournament. Travel is a budgetary requirement for some teams in a few conferences, but by and large A-10 teams travel either because of the challenge (Temple’s former Head Coach John Chaney had an “anytime, anywhere” policy for scheduling out of conference games), for the RPI bump or for the national exposure that comes from participation in the early season invitational tournaments. The Road Warriors this season are listed first in the table below:
In addition to counting all away (a game played in the opponent’s arena) or neutral court games as a “not at home” game, I also count games neither neutral nor technically “away”, but out of the program’s home arena, as a “not at home” game. That half of the conference has played at least 50% of their games “not at home” is a little surprising (but not shocking). That ten of the conference’s 14 members (71.4%) play at least 40% of their schedule away from their home arena makes me wonder if this is a strategy to help the boost the conference RPI. For Xavier, the strategy may have backfired. The Musketeers took three neutral court games at the Paradise Jam and scheduled an away game with Miami (OH) as a balance to their west coast trip to Gonzaga (this Wednesday) and their Crosstown Shootout game with rival Cincinnati, but they lost the Miami game in possibly their worst performance of the season. Rhode Island’s Jim Baron scheduled quite a few for the Rams this season, especially in the early part of the season. Duquesne had a terrible travel record last season, and Coach Ron Everhart appears to have taken the bull by the horns and scheduled a greater number of road games early in the season. The Dukes opened a four-game home stand with a game against IUPUI, and will take to the road to open the A-10 conference season (and take one last out of conference road foray, this time to cupcake Houston Baptist in Houston, TX).
Can anyone blame Fordham for being a bit road shy? Going into the season it appeared Coach Tom Pecora would have his hands full just logging wins. The Rams have done that much and more, logging their first road win in two seasons already.
Taking the team on the road is one thing, but how did A-10 team’s fare once out there? The table above suggests that the teams perform about as well as teams from most “above the Red Line” conference can expect. Rhode Island and Saint Joseph’s, the two programs that have taken the largest portion of their schedules out of their own arenas, appear to be underperforming (compare their won-loss records with their efficiency differential in the far right column above), which might be expected from so much time away from the comforts of home. Massachusetts and Fordham might surprise, but remember that Fordham has taken very few games out of Rose Hill, and two of the Minutemen “not on the home court” games came in the Hall of Fame Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts, just a few miles away from the campus and thousands of miles (and a few climate zones) away from the homes of Texas Christian and New Mexico State. Given the last minutes roster changes at St. Louis, the Billikens’ difficulties are hardly surprising. Replacing critical members of the squad is tricky enough, but having to implement the transition in hostile environs can really kill a team’s post season chances. The biggest disappointment on the list (so far) has to be Dayton. The Flyers are supposed to mount a serious challenge for the conference title this season, but though the squad has a good share of upperclassmen, they have struggled at times. The road loss to Cincinnati was devastating, and the efficiency numbers for out of home court games reflects that.
Movement in the rankings comes among the bottom three this week, as Fordham has pushed their record to 5-4, and leapfrogged George Washington and Saint Joseph’s. The conference season will most likely bring the rankings back to “regular order”, but for now, Fordham has the better record won against good competition. They earned the bump this past week.
1. Temple (8-2)
Last Week: 12/18 vs. Northern Illinois 84-74
Next Week: 12/22 @Ohio
Like most teams, Temple faces that between-the-semesters slump in student support. Coach Dunphy penned a thank you note for fan support at the Georgetown win (December 2, 68-65) and an appeal for a big turnout for the Northern Illinois game last Saturday. The response from the Temple fanbase was a bit less than resounding, though probably better than all but one other Division 1 game played in Philadelphia last Saturday. If Ramone Moore was upset he took it out on the (NIU) Huskies, as he earned his third Honorable Mention from the conference for his 21 point, (career-high) six assist and (career-high) two blocked shot effort Saturday night. He scored his 21 efficiently, recording a 62.5% eFG% on 7-12 overall (1-3 on threes, 6-9 on twos) and 6-10 from the stripe. The nucleus of the Temple offense is forming around senior forward Lavoy Allen, junior center/forward Michael Eric (when he is in the game) and a committee of junior guards Juan Fernandez, wing Scootie Randall and Moore. The Northern Illinois game is the latest in the pattern that saw Allen and Eric score efficiently (and often) when they are in the game, with either Moore of Randall lighting it up from the back court/wing spots. Fernandez might join the party as well, or just set the others up offensively. For NIU, Moore was hitting his shots and Randall was not.
2. Richmond (8-3)
Last Week: 12/18 vs. Georgia Tech 54-67
Next Week: 12/22 UNC-Greensboro, 12/26 @Seton Hall
Down by one at the half (25-24), the Spiders managed to take a two point lead (36-34) 25 minutes into their game at Atlantis in the Bahamas on a Kevin Anderson three. Over the last 15 (or so) minutes of the game however, the Spiders collapsed…on both sides of the ball. Over their last 25 possessions Chris Mooney’s squad posted a terrible 0.63 points per possession, considerably less than the 1.0 considered minimally efficient in D1 ball. Georgia Tech by contrast converted their possessions to points at a 1.34 rate, good enough for an additional 33 points and a 13-point winning margin. If fouls and turnovers are an indication of lost composure, Richmond’s 10 fouls and five turnovers over that last 15 minutes suggest the squad unraveled a bit. The Jackets managed a 123.1 FTA/FGA, capitalizing on Richmond’s tendency to foul when Tech went to the basket. Justin Harper and Darien Brothers in particular struggled with their shots, going a collective 2-10 overall (1-5 for threes, 1-5 for two point attempts) from the field.
3. Dayton (9-3)
Last Week: 12/18 vs. Western Carolina 71-60, 12/20 vs. Winthrop 73-58
Next Week: 12/22 @Seton Hall
The Flyers posted a 2-0 week as senior forward Chris Wright drew a conference honorable mention for his career-high 30 points in Dayton’s win over Western Carolina. The senior forward scored another 10 points versus Winthrop to average 20.0 for the week. Freshman point guard Jawan Staten dished 18 assists against 4 turnovers in the Flyers’ two wins. Coach Gregory’s squad returns to the New York City metro area, scene of their NIT triumph last March, as they look for this season’s 10th win at Seton Hall. Rush the Court will host a live blog Wednesday night from Seton Hall’s home court (“The Rock”) in downtown Newark, NJ.
4. Xavier (7-2)
Last Week: 12/18 vs. Wake Forest 83-75
Next Week: 12/22 @Gonzaga
With the win over struggling Wake Forest, Xavier pushed their record to 7-2. Junior guard Tu Holloway shared Player of the Week honors with St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson. Holloway notched a triple-double when he scored 14 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists, the rebounds and assists are career-highs for Holoway. Junior Kenny Frease paced the X-men with a double-double of his own, his third this season. Frease scored 22 points on 11-19 overall shooting and 0-1 from the line and pulled down 14 rebounds.
5. Massachusetts (7-3)
Last Week: None.
Next Week: 12/22 vs. Central Florida
Finals and end of the fall semester sidelined the Minutemen last week.
6. Rhode Island (7-4)
Last Week: 12/18 vs. New Hampshire 64-52
Next Week: 12/22 vs. Lafayette
Coach Jim Baron’s squad downed New Hampshire by 12 points as senior Delroy James again led the Rams in scoring with 22 points on 8-22 overall (4-8 three pointer attempts, 4-14 two point attempts) and 2-2 from the free throw line. Sophomore forward Nikola Malesevic was the second squad member to break into double figure scoring, as he hit 3-6 overall (2-4 three pointers, 1-2 two pointers) and 3-4 from the line to score 11 points. The Rams should have little trouble taking Lafayette out of the Patriot League, and they two more chances for resume wins as they host Boston College on the 29th and travel to Florida for a game on January 2nd. They should have suspended sophomore Orion Outerbridge, benched this fall for academic problems, back shortly. Outerbridge should provide more rebounding and another scoring option to go with James, Malesevic, and guards Akeem Richmond and Marquis Jones.
7. La Salle (6-5)
Last Week: 12/17 vs. Bucknell 77-89
Next Week: 12/22 vs. Rider
Sophomore Aaric Murray earned his fourth conference honorable mention for his career-high 28 points as the Explorers dropped the second straight game in their home stand, 77-89, to Bucknell of the Patriot League. Although two other squad members, guard Ruben Guillandeaux and forward Jerrell Williams chipped in more than 10 points apiece (15 and 13 respectively), La Salle could not avoid their fifth loss on the season.
8. St. Bonaventure (5-3)
Last Week: 12/18 vs. Ohio 112-107 (4OT)
Next Week: 12/23 vs. Virginia Tech, 12/28 vs. Siena
The conference split the Player of the Week honors between Tu Holloway and the Bonnies’ forward/center Andrew Nicholson this week. The junior joined the list of “Most Points Scored in a Single Game” in the Bonaventure program at #8 while posting his fifth consecutive double-double. Three other Bonnies, senior Ogo Adegboye (with 13), sophomore Demitrius Conger (with 23) and junior Michael Davenport (with 19) scored in double digits in the longest game played by a St. Bonaventure team.
9. Duquesne (5-4)
Last Week: 12/18 vs. IUPUI 81-54
Next Week: 12/22 vs. George Mason
The Dukes pushed their record north of 0.500 with a 17 point win over IUPUI. Four Dukes, senior wing Damian Saunders (12 points), freshman forward Joel Wright (11 points) and junior BJ Monteiro (11 points) scored double-digit points as senior forward Bill Clark drew his fourth conference Honorable Mention in six weeks for his double-double which included 17 points and 14 rebounds. Clark also dished five dimes, tied with freshman point TJ McConnell and two less than freshman guard Mike Talley’s seven.
10. Saint Louis (4-5)
Last Week: 12/15 vs. Jacksonville 69-64, 12/18 @Missouri State 61-85
Next Week: 12/22 vs. Northeastern (Cancun Governor’s Cup), 12/23 TBD (Cancun Governor’s Cup), 12/24 TBD (Cancun Governor’s Cup)
The Billikens continue to struggle to get north of the 0.500 mark. Coach Rick Majerus is looking for leaders, and so far the freshmen appear to be the ones stepping forward. The St. Louis scoring leader in both games last week was freshman guard Jordair Jett (16 vs. Jacksonville and 18 versus Missouri State), with junior wing Kyle Cassity next (14 and 11) the third scorer in each game was a different player, but always a freshman (Jacksonville – Dwayne Evans with 11; Missouri State – Mike McCall with 11).
11. Charlotte (5-6)
Last Week: 12/17 vs. Tennessee 49-48
Next Week: 12/22 vs. Wright State
The 49ers recorded the first big win of the Alan Major Era with their one point win before 8,400 fans in the Time Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte. The game was played for 60 possessions, about 12% lower than the Division 1 average, and about 15% below the 70 possessions the Vols normally play for. Darrio Green was the most efficient Charlotte scorer, converting at a 50% eFG% rate with a 1.32 PPWS, though he only took 17% of the shots while he was on the court. Jamar Briscoe, playing about the same amount of time (92.5% of the minutes at pg) took 32% of the shots and hit at a far less efficient 30% eFG%. Briscoe scored a point more than Green (14 vs. 13), but was considerably less efficient doing so.
12. Fordham (5-4)
Last Week: None.
Next Week: 12/22 vs. Kennesaw State, 12/27 @Georgia Tech
The Rams are on hiatus, concentrating on finals. Coach Tom Pecora’s charges will swing back into action against Kennesaw State and then take a post holiday trip to Atlanta, Georgia to face the Yellow Jackets.
13. George Washington (4-5)
Last Week: 12/18 @Oregon State 87-79
Next Week: 12/22 vs. East Carolina, 12/27 @UAB
Freshman forward Namanja Mikic became the latest name in the Rookie of the Year conversation with his 19 point performance against Oregon State last Saturday. Mikic shot 6-11 from the field (6-10 three pointers, 0-1 two pointers) and 1-3 from the line for a striking 81.8% eFG%. The eight point win was the first Colonial road win over an above the Red Line team since 2001. Junior wing Tony Taylor also drew an Honorable Mention for his double-double versus the Beavers. Taylor scored 19 points while dishing 11 assists.
14. Saint Joseph’s (3-7)
Last Week: None.
Next Week: 12/21 @Boston University,
Off for finals and a much needed regrouping, the Hawks take to the road to play Boston University.
Looking Ahead in the A-10
Rush the Court will play close attention to the road games of Dayton and Richmond this week, as both travel to the Rock in Newark to take on the Pirates of Seton Hall University. This correspondent will host a live blog from the Rock in Newark for each game.
Rhode Island should have news about Orion Outerbridge this week. If the sophomore has passed his fall classes he should rejoin the team for the Rams’ Wednesday game versus Lafayette.
St. Louis will head south to participate in the Cancun Governor’s Cup Invitational. The Bills drew Northeastern in the first round, with East Tennessee State or Southern Mississippi in the second round. Third round candidates include Mississippi, Appalachian State, Colorado State, or Texas State. This three game set will be the longest out-of-Chaifetz experience for the Bills this season, with ESPN televising some of the games. The Cancun Governor’s Cup is the second-to-last invitational tournament in which an A-10 team is slated to participate. Fordham will play two games in Santa Clara, CA on December 29 & 30 to close out the A-10’s early season invitational participation.
The start of fall Practice on October 15 shook out the statii on a few linger question marks in Saint Louis and Rhode Island, but the attrition that has followed the opening of practice, whether injury or other causes, seems heavier than usual in 2010. As the table below shows, bumps and bruises and one-game suspensions aside, 18 players (more than one per team) have missed practice and playing time due to injuries or academic issues since Midnight Madness. Five players will sit out the season, with others missing anywhere from several games to several months of the season.
For some teams and players, it is a matter of not having what you did not have before (Xavier and Justin Martin, Rhode Island and Levan Shengelia…unless you believe one minute of playing time had an impact on the team), but for others — Lasan Kromah and George Washington, Brad Redford of Xavier for example — the impact could affect the season. Among the unresolved is Luka Voncina, Charlotte’s freshman point guard from Slovenia, whose eligibility ruling (ineligible) was appealed in late October.
Throw out the preview, a fortnight into the season and the ink of mid-October is already obsolete. The Power Rankings will reshuffle several times over the next month as teams react to player comings and goings, and a gradually tougher schedule.
1. Temple (2-0) AP #21
Season Start: 11/12 vs. Seton Hall 62-56, 11/14 vs Toledo 82-49
Next Week: 11/25 vs. California @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic), 11/26 vs. TBD @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic), 11/28 TBD @ Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic)
Temple beat middle-of-the-conference team SetonHall by six at home to open the season, and will have an opportunity to notch a few resume wins in Orlando as they take on California on Thanksgiving Day, to be followed by either Georgia or NotreDame Friday 11/26. Depending on the results of the first two games, the Owls could face Wisconsin (most likely), Texas A&M or Boston College. Georgia and Wisconsin received votes in the most recent Coaches Poll.
2. Dayton (4-0)
Season Start: 11/13 vs. Mount St. Mary’s 67-52, 11/16 vs. Akron 76-68, 11/20 @ Mississippi 78-71 (OT), 11/22 vs. Savannah State 61-59
Next Week: 11/24 vs. Florida A&M, 11/27 vs. Cincinnati
Devin Searcy was cited on the November 15 conference Honor Roll for his double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) versus Mount St. Mary’s (a 70-52 Flyer win). Dayton travelled to Oxford, Mississippi, Saturday and beat the Rebels of Ole Miss, 78-71, for the second time in eight months. The two teams met in the NIT semi-finals last March, and coach Andy Kennedy’s squad has been projected as a top-two finisher in the SEC West Division this season. The win should look very good on the Flyers’ resume. The conference named Jawan Staten Rookie of the Week (the first of several citations he will receive this season) for his performance against Mississippi in particular. The freshman point guard dished seven dimes, matching his effort from his debut versus Akron. Staten also hit the layup that gave the Flyers their first lead (in the overtime period) of the game.
3. Xavier (4-1)
Season Start: 11/12 vs. Western Michigan 68-65, 11/16 vs. IUPUFW 76-66 (OT), 11/19 vs. Iowa 86-73 @ Virgin Islands (Paradise Jam), 11/21 vs. Seton Hall 57-52 @ Virgin Islands (Paradise Jam), 11/22 vs Old Dominion 58-67 @ Virgin Islands (Paradise Jam)
Next Week: 11/27 vs. Wofford
Jamal McLean, expected to miss a month due to an orbital fracture suffered just before the start of the season, missed in fact only a single game. Is he 100%? Tu Holloway earned Conference Player of the Week honors in each of the first two weeks of the season, scoring 25 points in the Musketeers season opening win, 68-65, over Central Michigan, 28 points in Xaviers win over Iowa in the first round of the Paradise Jam and a scorching 35 points in Xs 57-52 win over Seton Hall, but the well went dry against Old Dominion, as Holloway and wing Dante Jackson went 6-21 from the field (28.6%) and 7-10 from the stripe for 22 points. The Monarchs managed to exploit two Xavier weaknesses that have emerged in the early games – rebounding, where ODU held a 36-25 advantage, and three point shooting. Xavier managed an offensive rebounding rate of just 10.7% while allowing ODU a more normal (for D-I) rate of 33%. Perhaps because they were down eight at the half, Xavier took 20 of 45 field goal attempts from beyond the arc, a whopping 44.4% of their field goal attempts overall, well above their typical 33.7% ratio. They converted only five of those threes, yielding a 25% conversion rate, below their 33.3% conversion rate coming into the game. The X-Men missed injured Brad Redford, a wing with a deep range.
4. Richmond (4-1)
Season Start: 11/12 vs. The Citadel 79-37, 11/15 vs. William & Mary 73-49, 11/18 @ Iona 77-81, 11/21 vs. Charleston Southern 82-71 (Chicago Invitational Challenge), 11/23 vs. Southern 81-40 (Chicago Invitational Challenge),
Next Week: 11/26 vs. Wright State @ Chicago, IL (Chicago Invitational Challenge), 11/27 vs. TBD @ Chicago, IL (Chicago Invitational Challenge)
The Spiders’ first two wins were impressive displays of efficiency, as Richmond held both to less than 0.8 points per possession, outstanding among games in the opening week. The Iona loss was disappointing, but coach Tim Cluess developed a strong reputation as a game coach during his days in Division-II. Yet, it does not explain the sluggish performance in a win against Charleston Southern. The Spiders rounded back into form with an efficient 81-40 midday win over Southern, featuring a 66-possession game with Richmond holding Southern to 0.61 points per possession defensively, while scoring at a rate of 1.23 points per possession. The story of the first two weeks is Richmond’s defense.
Season Start: 11/12 vs. Rider 77-67, 11/17 vs. Sacred Heart 73-65, 11/20 vs. New Mexico State @ Springfield, MA 71-57 (Hall of Fame Tip-Off), 11/22 vs. Texas Christian 67-48 @ Springfield, MA (Hall of Fame Tip-Off)
Next Week: 11/27 vs. Holy Cross
Massachusetts opened their season with a 77-67 win over Rider of the MAAC, during which senior Anthony Gurley logged his 1000th point as a Minute Man on his way to a game and career-high 31 points. The conference cited Gurley on for his scoring in the Minutemen wins over Sacred Heart and New Mexico State. Wins over the Aggies and Mountain West Conference member Texas Christian are a pleasant surprise and a stars on their resume.
6. St. Bonaventure (3-1)
Season Start: 11/12 @ Canisius 70-80, 11/14 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock 77-64, 11/19 @ Cornell 56-54, 11/21 @ Binghamton 69-44
Next Week: 11/27 @ Cleveland State
The Bonnies stumbled out of the gate, dropping a 80-70 decision to Canisius, but coach MarkSchmidt’s squad has followed with three wins, two on the road. Andrew Nicholson was cited in the November 15 conference Honor Roll for his 23 and 25-point efforts in the first two games. Best of all, Demitrius Conger was cited for his double-double versus Cornell. The sophomore wing logged career-highs in points scored (22) and rebounds (16) in the Cornell game. Good news for the Bonaventure faithful, as they will need an alternative on offense if Nicholson is to be effective this season.
7. Rhode Island (3-2)
Season Start: 11/8 @ Pittsburgh 83-75 (Coaches vs. Cancer), 11/16 vs. Brown 92-67, 11/19 vs. College of Charleston 75-66 @ Toledo (Coaches vs. Cancer), 11/20 @ Toledo 75-65 (Coaches vs. Cancer), 11/21 vs. University of Illinois-Chicago 68-74 @ Toledo (Coaches vs. Cancer)
Next Week: 11/24 vs. Drexel, 11/27 vs. Davidson
The conference Honor Roll cited Delroy James two weeks running for his season average (19.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game) and performance at the Toledo Pod of the 2K Sports Classic Benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer. James scored 17 second half points in the Runnin’ Rams’ season-opening loss to Pittsburgh November 8. With both Xavier and Saint Louis struggling to overcome injuries, coach Jim Baron wanted to see URI move up. The loss to UIC could come back to sting the Rams come March.
8. George Washington (2-1)
Season Start: 11/16 vs. Boston University 67-76 (@ Villanova, NIT Tip-Off), 11/17 vs Marist 79-59 (@ Villanova, NIT Tip-Off) 11/22 vs Nevada 58-56 (NIT Tip-Off, DC Pod)
Next Week: 11/23 vs Hampton (NIT Tip-Off, DC Pod), 11/29 vs. NC Wilmington
Even with Lasan Kromah out indefinitely with an left foot sprain, the Colonials went 1-1 (76-67 vs. Boston U; 79-59 vs. Marist) the NIT Tip-Off the North Pod, The Colonial host one of three consolation pods, and needed that home court advantage to knock off the Nevada Wolf Pack on Monday night.
9.La Salle (3-1)
Season Start: 11/12 vs. Columbia 82-71, 11/16 @ Baylor 64-74, 11/18 vs. Prairie View A&M 88-74, 11/20 vs. Morgan State 79-74
Next Week: 11/23 vs. Providence @ Cancun (Cancun Challenge), 11/24 vs. TBD (Missouri or Wyoming) @ Cancun (Cancun Challenge), 11/29 vs. Delaware State
Tyreek Duren took the first week’s Rookie of the Week honors his work in La Salle’s 82-71 season-opening win against Columbia on November 12. The guard dished nine dimes in his collegiate debut, tying an 11-year-old program record set by Julian Blanks in his collegiate debut in 1999. Another performance that had to raise the hopes and warm the hearts of Explorer fans, was fifth-year senior Ruben Guillandeaux’s career-high 29 points. The senior, one of three La Salle seniors who finished the 2010 on the sidelines, was granted a redshirt waiver by the NCAA and will finish his career at La Salle as the mentor for a corps of promising freshmen guards. Aaric Murray is another Explorer performing admirably. When he notched nine blocks and five steals against Morgan State on November 20, he became the first D-I player to do so since Sitapha Savane of Navy back on January 31, 2000.
Season Start: 11/13 vs. Bluefield State (D-II) 110-67, 11/19 @ Robert Morris 63-69, 11/22 vs. Bowling Green 90-54
Next Week: 11/27 vs. UMD Baltimore County
Senior forward/guard Bill Clark drew a conference nod for his near-triple-double (a Duke player has only turned that trick once) with his 15 point, nine assist, eight rebound effort as Duquesne opened their season against D-II Bluefield State (WV) with a 110-67 rout of the Big Blues. The stumble against RobertMorris is a point of pride. The local rivalry goes back to 1981, and the Dukes hold a 15-5 advantage, last losing to Robert Morris in 2006. The school is investigating allegations that coach Ron Everhard had a student manager send 15 pairs of basketball shoes to the coach of Broward Community College as a gift to the Broward basketball program, strictly prohibited under NCAA regulations. Duquesne officials have described the equipment as a donation to a program operated by Broward CC coach Bob Starkman that supplies athletic equipment and accessories to troops stationed in Afghanistan and indicated they notified the NCAA of “the secondary violation” on November 19.
Season Start: 11/12 vs. Gardner-Webb 70-78, 11/13 vs. South Carolina State 90-81, 11/18 vs. George Mason 56-78 @ Charleston (Charleston Classic), 11/19 vs. East Carolina 74-63 @ Charleston (Charleston Classic), 11/21 vs. Coastal Carolina 79-75 (2 OT) @ Charleston (Charleston Classic)
Next Week: 11/24 @ Oregon State, 11/27 vs. Radford
Newcomer Jamar Brisco drew conference kudos for his 30-point debut against Gardner-Webb on 11/12. If the 49er faithful loved Brisco, their feelings about the game itself were far cooler, as Charlotte stumbled to a 2-3 record out of the gate. Losses to Gardiner-Webb, 78-70 (the one-game suspension of forwards Shamari Spears and An’Juan Wilderness did not help the 49er cause), in coach Alan Majors’ debut and the double-overtime loss 79-75, to Coastal Carolina in the Charleston Classic (the 49ers went 1-2 in that invitational) are particularly distressing given both teams are out of the Big South Conference. The 49ers may want to cut back on three point attempts until Darrio Green can find the range. Through their first five games the 49ers have taken 39.9% of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc, but have hit an abysmal 28.2%. When you are in a hole, stop digging. Charlotte limped out of Charleston with a 1-2 record on the event.
12. SaintLouis (1-2)
Season Start: 11/12 vs. Austin Peay 62-64, 11/15 vs. Rockhurst (D2) 72-45, 11/20 vs. Georgia 59-61
Next Week: 11/23 vs. Tennessee State, 11/27 vs. IUPUI
The Billikens dropped a bunny against Austin Peay of the Ohio Valley Conference and fans started a Facebook paged titled: Free Willie & Kwamain Facebook page. That has to make a 2010 list for Most Ironic Website Name or Website Name in Poorest Taste somewhere. After exploring the transfer option for a month, an apologetic and contrite Willie Reed has indicated he would like to re-enroll at Saint Louis and play for the Billikens once the spring semester hits. The good news in those losses is that that the margin of victory was within a single possession. Freshman center Rob Low has started every game and averages 20.3 minutes and 14.0 points per contest.
13. Saint Joseph‘s (1-2)
Season Start: 11/12 vs. Western Kentucky 70-98, 11/16 @ Penn State 57-66, 11/20 vs. Norfolk State 70-65
Next Week: 11/23 @ Fairfield, 11/26 vs. Rutgers
It is tough being young. The freshmen collectively contributed 95 points on 31-98 (31.6%) shooting, to go with 59 rebounds in the Hawks’ three games. Each of them have averaged just under 20 minutes per game, ranging from 27.3 minutes and 10.7 points per game (Langston Galloway) down to 13.0 minutes and 2.7 points per game (Patrick Swilling). If minutes and points vary widely, efficiency sadly does not, as their eFG%s ranges from a relatively inefficient 42.5% (CJ Aiken) down to a very inefficient 33.3% (Ronald Roberts and Swilling). The freshmen, however, are not alone in their shooting woes, as the entire squad suffers from an inability to convert shots (and possessions) into points. Typical of younger teams, they also need to rebound better.
14. Fordham (1-2)
Season Start: 11/12 vs. Brown 65-69, 11/15 vs. Sacred Heart 69-51, 11/19 vs. Hampton 48-58
Next Week: 11/23 vs. Long Island, 11/27 vs. Hartford
Though Chris Gaston was cited on the November 15 conference Honor Roll for his 20th career double-double (21 points, 17 rebounds) in the Rams season opening loss, 63-59, to Brown on 11/12 Fordham continues to struggle. More competitive than the 2010 squad, coach Tom Pecora still needs to solve Fordham’s lack of offensive production. Gaston combines with junior guard Alberto Estwick and freshman guard Branden Frazier to form the nucleus of Fordham’s offense. So far however, only Estwick’s 42.9% field goal conversion rate (52.8% eFG%) is efficient enough to move the offense. When Frazier finds his groove perhaps he and Estwick can draw enough defensive attention to free up Gaston, who at this point, is mostly a volume scorer.
The top half of the conference has separated clearly from the lower half, despite a number of upsets over the last two weeks. Temple, lurking in the ranking just below the top, emerged as the top team according to the offensive-defensive differential. The statistics apparently provide a numeric affirmation to the AP pollsters at last. It is reassuring to find that the eyeball test and the numbers agree, Dayton notwithstanding. George Washington appears to have joined Dayton as an unlucky team; Pythagoras (based on conference games only) projects a .500 record for the Colonials, a development that if true, should come as very bad news for the Owls (and good news for Xavier). Saint Joseph’s and Fordham have separated from the rest of the conference, settling at the bottom with rather large negative differentials. La Salle sports a record similar to Saint Joseph’s, but their differential suggests this may be more a case of bad luck, than bad defense. This is a good illustration of how the won-loss record tend to more accurately reflect the loss of seniors Ruben Guillandeaux and Kimmani Barrett than the differentials. The differentials are slow to reflect significant (and rapid) changes in personnel (among other game-influencing factors), a fact frequently overlooked. In La Salle’s case, Pomeroy, using a calculation which also relies on cumulative statistical data, continues to project the Explorers as winners in one of their two remaining games. To the observer this may seem to be unjustifiably optimistic, but the rumored collapse of morale on Hawk Hill may eventually make Pomeroy’s projection correct. Right record, wrong opponent.
The Last Week
The teams are down to their last one-to-two games before Atlantic City. The Richmond-Xavier game eliminated Richmond from contention for the #1 seed. Temple can take the #1 spot by winning out. Xavier will take the #2 seed (unless the Musketeers lose both of their remaining games), and Richmond should take the #3 seed (though if the Spiders stumble very badly their fall could scramble seeds #3 through #7). George Washington, Duquesne and St. Bonaventure are locked in a three-way tie for eighth place, but the head-to-head game between St. Bonaventure and Duquesne should drop the loser to the bottom of that cluster (unless Massachusetts puts on a closing rush). The winner is not, however, guaranteed the #8 seed. La Salle and Saint Joseph’s are also tied (for twelfth place), but their season-closing game should settle the seed, and other issues.
Standings (as of 03/02/2010)
Temple (12-2, 24-5, #16 AP)
Xavier (12-2, 21-7, #25 AP)
Richmond (11-3, 22-7)
St. Louis (10-4, 19-9)
Charlotte (9-5, 19-9)
Rhode Island (8-6, 20-7)
Dayton (8-6, 19-9)
George Washington (6-8, 16-11)
Duquesne (6-8, 15-13)
St. Bonaventure (6-8, 13-14)
Massachusetts (4-10, 10-18)
La Salle (3-11, 11-17)
Saint Joseph’s (3-11, 9-19)
Fordham (0-14, 2-14)
Charlotte. February was a cruel month for Coach Lutz and the 49ers. They closed the books for the month going 3-4, and 1-4 in their last five games. They opened the month at the top of the conference and very much in the dicussion for an NCAA bid, but they have fallen to #5 in the conference and among Zach Hayes’ “Next Four Out”. Their last two games will not be easy, as both come against conference rivals who compete directly for seeds #3 through #6. First they travel to New England for a game at Rhode Island on Wednesday (3/3). The Rams, ranked #6 in the conference this week, are listed among the “Last Four Out”. The loser will most likely fall off the bubble. Their regular season final versus Richmond (currently #3 in conference standings) provides the 49ers with an opportunity to wreak a little havoc. Should Charlotte sweep both games they will find themselves in a two or three way tie for the #3 seed. Lose both and they will most likely draw the #7 seed.
Dayton. The Flyers started the week with a big (but hardly unexpected) 49-41 loss at Temple. The low score hints at a defensive struggle, which indeed it was. The pace, about 60 for each team, is low for D1 (the average, per Ken Pomeroy, is 67.5), but certainly enough possessions had the teams played to their offensive ratings for a score in the mid-to-high 60s. The Flyers did manage 45 rebounds (against 41 points) and about 0.67 points per possession on offense. The rebounds were overwhelmingly defensive — the Flyers snagged 75% of Temple’s misses, but only 28% of their own. Dayton took their revenge on the Minutemen 96-68, on Saturday (2/27). Tied at sixth in conference with an 8-6 record, the Flyers have opportunities to improve their conference tournament seed and, listed as one of “The Last Four Out” by Zach Hayes (and among the #1 seeds by NIT-ology), to work their way back into the field of 65. Dayton travels to Richmond for a Thursday (3/4) game, then back to Dayton to close the season versus St. Louis. Both teams are higher in the conference pecking order, so a Flyer sweep could scramble the tournament seeds (#3 through #7) going into Atlantic City.
Duquesne. Duquesne lost their only game last week, a 69-59 road loss to St. Louis, on Saturday (2/27). The Dukes are in a three-way tie with St. Bonaventure and George Washington, for the eighth seed in the conference tournament. Should they sweep their last two games, at rival St. Bonaventure on Wednesday (3/3) and a home closer against Fordham on Friday (3/5), Duquesne can square their conference record at eight, and secure the #8 seed in Atlantic City. Lose both, and the Dukes could fall to #10.
Fordham. The Rams dropped their only game last week, and the prospects for a winless conference run loom larger. Ken Pomeroy’s projection moved up to 94%, and with a home game versus Xavier next, the road closer at Duquesne is most likely their last best chance.
George Washington. The Colonials ran off two wins last week, an 81-72 win over a staggering La Salle squad, and 75-70 win that hurt Charlotte’s postseason prospects rather badly. At 6-8, George Washington is playing for seed, specifically #8, at the conference tournament. They have a harder road than Duquesne, but easier than St. Bonaventure, as they play Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday (3/3) and Temple on the road Saturday (3/6).
La Salle. The Explorers ran their losing streak to eight with losses last week to George Washington 81-72, on Wednesday (2/24) and Temple (for the second time) 65-53, on Sunday (2/28). They have two more games left before they head into Atlantic City (as either a #12 or #13 seed) and close the book on this season. They host Massachusetts on Wednesday (3/3), then close out their Big 5 series with a game at Saint Joseph’s on Saturday (3/6) in a game that will most likely decide the fourth place team in the Big 5 series and the #11 through #13 seeds in Atlantic City. Temple wins it outright this year with a 4-0 record. Villanova finishes second with a 3-1 record, while La Salle and Saint Josephs’s both have a 1-2 record going into their last game. Penn finishes last with an 0-4 record. If the Explorers can salvage anything from this season, it may be a win over cross city rival Saint Joseph’s.
Massachusetts. The Minutemen dropped their only game last week 96-68 on the road to Dayton. They finish out the regular season with a last road trip to Philadelphia on Wednesday (3/3) to take on La Salle, then return home to close the regular season against Rhode Island on Saturday (3/6). Lose to La Salle, and Massachusetts drops into an 11th-place tie with La Salle. Unfortunately for Massachusetts, they lose that particular tiebreaker. Though Rhode Island dropped a late season game to St. Bonaventure last week, the chances they drop a second late season upset is probably very small.
Rhode Island. Their loss to St. Bonaventure 81-74 on Saturday (2/27) was unexpected and a case of very inconvenient timing. The Rams have little time and opportunity to “get that one back.” The Rams have two games left — a home game versus Charlotte on Wednesday (3/3) and a road closer in Amherst, MA, on Saturday (3/6). The Charlotte game has both conference tournament seed and postseason implications. Though both teams are considered, by consensus, out of the field of 65, the winner will most likely remain on the bubble, pending conference play and the state of the field at the end of next week.
Richmond. The Spiders took a very tough road loss in Cincinnati on Sunday (2/28). Their game with Xavier went to two overtimes before they lost by two points, 78-76. The loss cost them not only the #1 seed in the conference tournament, but it also dropped them out of the AP’s Top 25 poll, Xavier moving into it in their stead. Coach Mooney’s squad has two more games, nearly as difficult, before Atlantic City. The first is a home game with Dayton on Thursday (3/4); the second is a road game at Halton Arena, with Charlotte, on Saturday (3/6). Should the Spiders sweep they will secure their spot in the conference tournament (and the NCAA’s field of 65), but also burst both Dayton’s and Charlotte’s bubbles.
Saint Joseph’s. Saint Joseph’s losing streak has extended to five games with a road loss to Charlotte last Wednesday (2/24). The Hawks travel to DC to play George Washington on Wednesday (3/3), in a game they are expected (according to Ken Pomeroy) to lose. They close out regular season play by hosting La Salle in a game that will close out both school’s conference play and their Big 5 series play. Tied with La Salle, both in the conference (3-11) and in the City Series (1-2), the Saturday game will determine who gets the #12 (and #13) seed in Atlantic City and who finishes #3 (and #4) in the Philadelphia City Series.
St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies sprung an upset on Rhode Island 81-74, on Saturday (2/27), extending their winning streak to three games, matching the longest winning streak of their 2010 season. Coach Schmidt’s squad reached their 2009 conference win total with two games in hand. Wednesday (3/3) they host Duquesne, probably their best opportunity for win number seven. A win over Duquesne would provide a temporary advantage for the #9 seed in the conference tournament, they close out the regular season with a road game in Cincinnati, versus Xavier, on Saturday (3/6).
St. Louis. Coach Majerus’ team notched their only loss in February when they dropped a 73-71 decision to Xavier, on Wednesday (2/24). They closed February with a 7-1 record as they beat Duquesne 69-59, Saturday (2/27). St. Louis’ current record, 19-9, is a decided improvement over last season, but the Billikens will be hard pressed to notch win number 20 before Atlantic City, as they host Temple Wednesday (3/3), then take to the road to close the regular season at Dayton on Saturday (3/6).
Temple. The Owls had a good week, beating Dayton 49-41, in a defensive tug-of-war, on Wednesday (2/24), then clinching the Big 5 title outright with a 4-0 record, by beating La Salle 65-53, on Sunday (2/28). The Owls moved up to #16 in the AP poll on Monday and, by consensus, is projected as a #4 seed in the NCAA tournament. Coach Dunphy’s squad has two more games in the conference regular season. They travel to St. Louis to play the Billikens on Wednesday (3/3), then return home to close out the season by hosting George Washington on Saturday (3/6). The Billikens will be a good test for Temple. The game will most likely be a defensive struggle, though not on the “rock fight” style of the Temple-Dayton game last week. A second consecutive 2-0 week would put Temple’s winning streak at seven, and give the Owls a 9-1 “Last Ten” record going into Atlantic City.
Xavier. In a make-or-break week, the Musketeers and their rookie head coach came through with two close but necessary wins. They earned a #25 rank in the AP poll after beating a challenging St. Louis team 73-71, on the road Wednesday (2/24), and taking down the conference-leading Richmond Spiders 78-76, in a game that went into two overtimes, on Sunday (2/28). They have largely secured at least a #2 seed for Atlantic City, with the potential to move up should Temple stumble this week. With only a stricken Fordham squad on Wednesday (3/3) and a middle-of-the-pack St. Bonaventure team on Saturday (3/6) left on their schedule, Xavier, 9-1 in their last 10 games, is catching fire at the right time. They could sail into Atlantic City with a seven-game winning streak at their back.
Games to Catch
Charlotte at Rhode Island -Wednesday 3/3 — Each team has inside and outside scorers who drive their offense — Shamari Spears, DiJuan Harris and Derrio Green for Charlotte versus Delroy James, Lamonte Ulmer and Keith Cothran for Rhode Island. The “tie breaker” may well come down to their star freshmen, Akeem Richmond for Rhode Island and Chris Braswell for Charlotte. The 49ers and Rams took turns at the top of the conference back in January. The winner may be contention for the #4 seed and the last bye in the conference tournament and a place on the bubble for the NCAAs. The loser plays Tuesday night and gets the fast track to the NIT.
Temple at St. Louis -Wednesday 3/3 — Temple’s last big road test in the conference this season. The Owls have virtually clinched a #1 or #2 seed in the conference tournament next week, but winning this game would give them a strong leg up for the top spot. St. Louis has been tough in Chaifetz Arena, going 14-2 this season. The Billikens are off the radar for the NCAA Tournament, the product of a young team and inconsistent run through their out of conference schedule, but a win here would turn a few heads, and give them some momentum going into Dayton (on Saturday) and then to Atlantic City.
Dayton at Richmond – Thursday 3/4 — Dayton needs another good win to bolster their NCAA resume. Richmond, after a tough loss at Xavier on Sunday, needs a bounceback game to rebuild their momentum going into Atlantic City. The game will match two of the conference’s more deliberate (and efficient) offenses and best defenses. Dayton’s more athletic frontcourt could present some match-up problems for Richmond. On the other hand, which Flyer will draw Justin Harper as their defensive assignment?
St. Louis at Dayton – Saturday 3/6 — Another weekend, and the conference-makers give Dayton another low possession, highly efficient offense to test the Flyers’ defense. If St. Louis comes in having taken a loss on Wednesday, while Dayton comes in having won on Thursday, a Dayton win would bring in the tie breaker rules to sort out seeds #4 and #5 (and maybe #6).
Maybe it is the weather, one of the more snow-filled winters in the last decade. Maybe it is the point in the season when teams that are good just exhale for a game or two, and teams that were supposed to be good take a hard look in the mirror and realize that something has to happen right now if their season is going to head somewhere other than the waste pile. If the conference is separating the top from the bottom, the top is getting crazy…
Dayton delivered their second consecutive take-down of a conference leader when they hammered the Charlotte 49ers 75-47, on Wednesday (2/10) night. Richmond spared the conference the conundrum of a five-way tie with barely a month left to the conference season when they dispatched Rhode Island (on the Rams’ home court no less), 69-67, earlier in the evening. Thursday dawned with four teams sporting (only) two conference losses, although technically Temple, with only seven wins, was not in a true tie with their three conference mates, Charlotte, Richmond and Xavier. Three more teams, Dayton, Rhode Island and St. Louis are just one loss behind the four leaders. Fully one-half of the conference is within striking distance of the conference title, and St. Louis excepted (maybe…), six appear regularly in postseason bracketology discussions. While it is remote — at best — to think all six will go to the NCAAs, I have begun to believe my projection of three teams was too light. The next two weeks will separate one or two teams from the top of the conference going into the A10’s postseason tournament.
Standings (as of 02/16/10)
Richmond (9-2, 20-6 #25 AP)
Temple (8-2, 2-05, #21 AP)
Xavier (8-2, 17-7)
Charlotte (8-2, 18-6)
St. Louis (7-3, 16-8)
Rhode Island (7-4, 19-5)
Dayton (6-4, 17-7)
Duquesne (4-7, 13-12)
Massachusetts (4-7, 10-15)
George Washington (3-7, 13-10)
La Salle (3-7, 11-13)
St. Bonaventure (3-7, 10-13)
Saint Joseph’s (3-8, 9-16)
Fordham (0-11, 2-21)
The 49ers have had their problems on the road this season, starting with the 101-59 drubbing they took in Cameron Indoor Stadium in their second game. After a nice seven-game winning streak through Christmas, Old Dominion rung their bell with a 30+ point beating. The Tennessee Volunteers booted them out of Knoxville with a 17 point loss and XU showed them the door with a 12-point loss in mid January. The 75-47 drubbing they took at the hands of Dayton on Wednesday (2/10), coming so close to the end of the season, might be the most damaging. The game was played at Dayton’s preferred pace (about 65 possessions), and Charlotte shot an abysmal 27% eFG% as Coach Lutz emptied his bench, running 14 players through the game to find someone who could hit a bucket.
The 49ers have had a week to think about that disaster, and will swing back into action Wednesday (2/17) as they host struggling Duquesne, followed by a Saturday (1/20) visit from Xavier.
Dayton took care of Charlotte in resounding fashion, 75-47, on Wednesday (2/10). Having beaten both Xavier and Charlotte during their home stand, the Flyers seemed to have their season back on track. Against Charlotte, Chris Wright and Marcus Johnson stepped up to provide very efficient scoring, logging eFGs of 80% and 69% respectively while taking at least 30% of the shots when they were on the floor. Chris Johnson also had an efficient (if less prolific) night, logging an eFG% of 79% while taking about 18% of the available shots when he was on the floor. Their offense back on track, the Flyers took to the road and dropped their Saturday (2/13) game to St. Louis, 68-65. Small consolation that it took the Billikens two overtime periods to subdue the Flyers. And it is back into the middle of the pack for Dayton. The Flyers continue to lead the conference in efficiency differential (see table above), but that efficiency is not consistently translating into wins. Coach Gregory’s squad may be the unluckiest in the conference, but that will not win them any awards (or get them a postseason NCAA bid). They need victories, the kind that show up in the win column. They are one of the strongest teams in the country in rebounding, but they turn the ball over too much (ranked according to Ken Pomeroy at #219 in D1) and foul too much (ranked #268). Both of those deficiencies will kill a team in a close game.
The Flyers host La Salle Thursday (2/18) then travel to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne on Sunday (2/21). Both are should-wins for Dayton, as are their two remaining home games after this week. If Dayton is to make a run at the top of the conference (and back into the NCAA conversation), they need to take one (or both) of their road games the following week, at Temple (2/24) and Richmond (3/04). Their four good (RPI) wins will carry weight with the Selection Committee, but finishing #7 in the conference (where they currently stand) will only guarantee them a poor drawing in the A10’s Atlantic City tournament.
The Dukes are down to a run in Atlantic City to pull out their season. More realistically, Coach Everhart might want to look to next season and where he will find a replacement for senior Damian Saunders. Duquesne dropped an overtime game, 84-80, to Massachusetts last Thursday (2/11), then trounced a crippled La Salle team, 103-82, on Sunday (2/14). Duquesne’s defense is (according to Ken Pomeroy) comparable to a number of tournament-bound teams. Duquesne’s offense, however, will keep the Dukes out of postseason play. And the most glaring part of their offense is scoring from beyond the arc, where their accuracy (3FG% 26%…no that’s not a typo) has them ranked #347 (dead last) in Division 1. Three of the Dukes’ four most prolific three-point shooters have accuracies of less than 26%. And the fourth (senior Jason Duty) hits at a 33% rate. It might be time to give sophomore BJ Montiero more playing time and exposure to big game situations.
Duquesne ventures into Halton Arena Wednesday (2/17) for a game with Charlotte, then returns home to host Dayton on Sunday (2/21).
The Rams dropped a road game, 72-61, to St. Bonaventure last Wednesday (2/10) followed by a 25-point home loss to Massachusetts (78-53) on Saturday (2/13). Ken Pomeroy now pegs the probability for a winless conference season at 76%. While there is a very small probability that Fordham will break their run next week — road games with Richmond Wednesday (2/17) and Rhode Island Saturday (2/20) — an upset would definitely, given Fordham’s #299 RPI, damage either Richmond’s or Rhode Island’s postseason prospects. Better opportunities lie ahead, with games against St. Bonaventure on the 24th and Duquesne on March 6.
In a season with more than a few disappointments, getting some recognition for your players, like having Dwayne Smith named Rookie of the Week (cited for scoring a season-high 15 points in 15 minutes of play against Fordham), is one of those pleasures left in the season. They may have a good run in the conference tournament, but short of running the table, a postseason beyond Atlantic City is off the table. Coach Hobbs will lose Damian Hollis, a senior, but should have Lasan Kromah (another freshman who earned Rookie of the Week honors this season) and the next five scorers back next season, and hopefully they will be a year better. The Colonials maintained a better than average defense in conference play. Lack of a consistent offense has been their downfall.
George Washington will host Massachusetts on Wednesday (2/17), and travel to Richmond to close out their mirror series with the Spiders on Saturday (2/20).
Another week, another bite out of the rotation. The 2010 season, projected as the season that would see the Explorers return to postseason play (NCAA or NIT) has become instead a Trail of Tears, as senior Yves Mekongo Mbala broke a finger in his shooting hand during practice on 2/8, and had surgery to repair it on 2/12. While the doctors predict a two-to-four week convalescence, anyone with a calendar handy can see that, at best, Mbala might be back for the A10 Tournament, and at worst has effectively ended his career at La Salle. Mekongo Mbala joins fellow seniors Kimmani Barrett and Ruben Guillandeaux on La Salle’s bench. At 3-7 and 11-13 overall, without a huge and unexpected turnaround, La Salle is going home after Atlantic City. The loss of the seniors has been devastating for the Explorers’ prospects this season, but those injuries have forced a few underclassmen to play more active roles this season. That should pay dividends in the seasons to come.
Next up for the Explorers is a trip to Ohio and a game with Dayton on Thursday (2/18) and home to host St. Bonaventure on Sunday (2/21).
Ricky Harris shared Player of the Week honors for his 29 points in the Minutemen’s 84-80 overtime win over Duquesne. He also had a season-high six assists. UMass took two games last week, the aforementioned overtime win at Duquesne on Wednesday (2/10) and their home win over Saint Joseph’s 70-62, on Sunday (2/14). The Duquesne game broke a three-game losing streak, a recurring pattern for the Minutemen this season — two-to-five losses interrupted by one or two wins. Massachusetts has been able to beat every conference team ranked below them this season. What they do not have is a win against an opponent ranked above them in the conference standings. Their games this week, on Wednesday (2/17) at George Washington and Sunday (2/21) when they host St. Louis should settle the question of whether Coach Kellogg’s squad is turning their season around, or having a Funky February moment.
The Rams had a terrible week. They went into last Wednesday’s (2/10) game with Richmond (a 69-67 loss) as a third of a cluster of teams just out of first place. They finished the week in sixth place, having dropped a 78-56 road game to Temple, one-half game ahead of seventh place Dayton. The Ram woes come on the defensive side of the basketball, the culprits a combination of shot defense (they are an equal opportunity provider, ranked #279th for two point defense and #296th for three point defense (out of 347 D1 teams) and defensive rebounding (ranked per Ken Pomeroy #303).
Their Wednesday (2/17) game at St. Louis should be interesting test of weakness versus weakness. The Billikens are offensive-challenged (ranked at #232 by Pomeroy) and rely on defense to prevail. St. Louis is an “average” shooting team that does not rebound their misses. The Billikens are 7-3 in the conference standings, so this Rhode Island can help itself immediately with a win. Their weekend game is Sunday (2/21) at Massachusetts.
The Spiders leapfrogged Xavier and Charlotte to land in the AP Top 25 in the last slot this past Monday. This marks the first time since 1986 a Spider squad has been recognized by the polls. Coach Mooney’s squad extended their winning streak to six with a tough road win over Rhode Island, 69-67, on Wednesday (2/10) and a 68-49 win over St. Bonaventure on Saturday (2/13). Richmond is clustered with Temple, Xavier and Charlotte with two conference losses, but holds the half-game advantage by virtue of an additional win. Richmond is doing it on both sides of the ball. The Spiders are ranked #4 in conference games for offense, and #3 in confernce games for defense. Bracketologists from Joe Lunardi to RTC’s own Zach Hayes put Richmond in the field of 65 as a #7 seed.
Richmond hits one last breather in their schedule this week, a two-game home stand that includes Fordham on Wednesday (2/17) and George Washington on Saturday (2/20), before they play three fellow contenders (Xavier, Dayton and Charlotte) for an end of the season Trial by Fire.
Coach Martelli’s young squad found no love in Amherst, Massachusetts, on Valentine’s Day. The Hawks dropped a 70-62 decision to the Minutemen. At 3-8 in conference and out of any postseason discussions beyond Atlantic City, the Hawks can still fight for some Big 5 respect. With two City Series games left (versus Temple and La Salle), the Hawks can knot those standings with two wins. After a road trip to Xavier Wednesday (2/17), they play Temple Saturday (2/20).
The Bonnies beat Fordham 72-61, last Wednesday (2/10), but dropped a home game to Richmond 68-49, on Saturday (2/13). The season is not going as many Bonnies fans anticipated. At this point, improving their standings over 2009 (they finished #11) is a practical, if less ambitious goal. They will not get to 8-8 in conference play, but they might find three, possibly four more wins among the six games remaining. The home stretch starts this week as they host Temple Wednesday (2/17), and then travel to Philadelphia to play La Salle squad on Sunday (2/21). Temple is a stretch, but the Explorers are a wounded team right now, lacking three senior leaders.
Coach Majerus’ team personafies Funky February. Their January 30 game with Richmond was a hint of crazy stuff to come. As noted by Ken Pomeroy in his 2/01 blog entry, not only did the Billikens score less than 40 points in the game (no more than 20 in either period), but all of their points came from twos, probably the only D1 game of this type played this season. St. Louis scored no points from either beyond the arc or from the charity stripe. The offensively-challenged Billikens have quietly worked themselves into conference contention with a four-game winning streak that started with the game after their loss to Richmond. February has been perfect so far for St. Louis. They host Rhode Island on Wednesday (2/17) in a game that is significant for both, followed by a Sunday (2/21) road game with Massachusetts. St. Louis is 3-5 in road games this season, their wins coming over Duquesne, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s. They have taken conference road losses against Charlotte, George Washington and Richmond. Where does Massachusetts fit? And more importantly, where does St. Louis fit?
The Owls won their only game last week against Rhode Island, 78-56. Temple has two road games coming. On Wednesday (2/17) they go to Olean, NY, to play St. Bonaventure, and then across town on Saturday (2/20) to play their Big 5 designated game against Saint Joseph’s.
Jason Love shared Player of the Week honors for his 20/10 performance in 22 minutes in Xavier’s 76-64 win over Florida. Florida may not be a tournament team this postseason (Coach Donovan has had a rough three years since winning two consecutive National Championships), but the win, coming on the road, should be, as ESPN’s Bubble Watcher Mark Shlabach noted, “catch the attention of the NCAA selection committee. It also gives them a nice nonconference win to go with four home victories over RPI top-50 opponents.” The Musketeers return to conference play on Wednesday (2/17) by hosting Saint Joseph’s, then travel to Charlotte for an important game with the 49ers on Saturday (2/20).
Games to Catch
Rhode Island at St. Louis Wednesday 2/17 — A matchup between the #5 and #6 ranked teams. Rhode Island is ranked #3 in conference games for offense, while St. Louis is ranked #2 in conference games for defense. St. Louis has three losses, while Rhode Island has four. The standings will either stratify a bit more, or there will be two clusters at the top of the conference — one with two losses, the other with four.
Xavier at Charlotte Saturday 2/20 — Another opportunity to sort out the top of the conference as the Musketeers enter Halton Arena to play the 49ers. Both teams are well stocked with guards — DiJuan Harris and Derrio Green will take the measure of Jordan Crawford and Terrell Holloway, but the game may come down to how well slightly undersized but athletic wing/forwards Shamari Spears and (freshman) Chris Braswell handle Jason Love and Jamel McLean.
If conference play muddied the rankings for the teams at the top (Charlotte moved into #1, pushing the trio of Rhode Island, Temple and Xavier, teams that had topped the standing since New Years, down a notch), the teams in the middle and bottom are sorting out, both by record and efficiency differentials. A threshing floor is a wide and flat surface, located in an open area (always breezy, though sometimes windy), where farmers can spread their wheat, and through a process of beating the stalks and kernels and tossing them straight up in the air, separate the edible grain from their husks and stalks. The grain is heavy and when tossed in the air will fall (more or less) straight to the threshing floor. The wind will carry the lighter husks and stalks to the side, off the floor. The schedule may be unbalanced, but the repetitive process of playing conference games has (as suggested by the table below) separated the upper division teams from the lower division teams. And that separation is obvious, even to the casual observer.
Table reflects conference games played through February 9.
The efficiency differential divides the conference cleanly into an upper and lower division. The separation between the two grows. St. Louis is a full 0.51 points higher than #8 La Salle. Using a Pythagorean Winning Percentage formula to develop a quick projection of each team’s conference record suggests Xavier, Temple and Dayton will end up in a three-way tie with (roughly) 13-3 records. While it would play to many preseason projections, the notion that Dayton will launch a 5-0 run through the remainder of their conference schedule is a bit optimistic. The Pythagorean Winning Percentage also suggests Charlotte will go 3-4 through their last seven conference games, possible perhaps since four of their opponents are upper division teams. They do, however, face two of those opponents (Richmond and Xavier) at home. The 49ers are 9-1 at home this season.
Standings as of 02/10/10
Charlotte (8-1, 18-5)
Xavier (8-2, 16-7)
Temple (7-2, 19-5, #21)
Rhode Island (7-2, 19-3)
Richmond (7-2, 18-6)
St. Louis (6-3, 15-8)
Dayton (5-3, 16-6)
Duquesne (3-6, 12-11)
La Salle (3-6, 11-12)
Saint Joseph’s (3-7, 9-15)
St. Bonaventure (2-6, 9-12)
George Washington (2-7, 12-10)
Massachusetts (2-7, 8-15)
Fordham (0-9, 2-19)
Coach Lutz’s squad took sole possession of the #1 ranking in the conference with wins over George Washington 72-68, on Wednesday (2/3) and Fordham 77-72, on Saturday (2/6), even as Xavier stumbled in Dayton over the weekend. Junior Shamari Spears was named co-Player of the Week by the Conference which noted he scored a career-high 31 points versus George Washington and logged his second double-double of the season (15 points and 13 rebounds) versus Fordham. This is the second time the conference has acknowledged Spears’ contributions to the 49ers. A good run by Spears is only part of the story of the 49ers’ seven game winning streak. Spears, freshmen Chris Braswell and guard Shamarr Bowden, all combine with sophomore Darrio Green to power Charlotte’s offense. Green, whose offensive rating tops 113, is the squad’s most efficient scorer. Bowden, Spears, and Green shoulder most of the shot-making responsibilities. Braswell, whose most recent offensive rating (per Ken Pomeroy) of 102.2 has received multiple nods from the conference for his work this season.
A rendezvous with the Flyers in Dayton Wednesday (2/10) is next up for Charlotte, and then a week off to regroup for Duquesne. This is a game Coach Lutz needs to get to solidify his team’s hold on the top of the A10. The Flyers, coupled with St. Louis in the last group North of the conference’s dividing line, needs to pull Charlotte back to the pack. Using the Pythagorean Winning Percentage (for conference games only) suggests Coach Lutz’s squad will go 3-4 in their last seven games. Taking a road win in Dayton would buck that trend, bolster team confidence, and reassure the selection committee that Charlotte can be competitive away from Halton Arena. An early season blowout at the hands of Duke and OOC road losses to Old Dominion and Tennessee leave that question open.
With a week to prepare, the Flyers waxed the Musketeers 90-65, on Saturday (2/6).
As the table derived from the Xavier box score suggests, Rob Lowery, a senior guard whose injury in February 2009 cut short his run last season. Lowery has been working himself back into shape this season, and the Flyers, whose defensive efficiency (0.914) is second only to Temple’s in conference play, will need all of Lowery’s offensive capabilities in the last four weeks of the regular season. For Dayton, inconsistent offense in the form of mediocre shot efficiency and higher-than-average turnovers, is the principle reason the team trails conference leader Charlotte with two losses. Their efficiency differential is high enough to suggest (using the Pythagorean Winning Percentage for conference games only) Dayton can run the table for their last eight conference games, compiling a record that should put them back into the conversation for a post season bid (without having to run through the field in Atlantic City).
Having pulled the Musketeers out of a first place tie, Dayton hosts Charlotte on Wednesday (2/10) in another chance to muddy the top of the conference. A Dayton win over Charlotte would knot the top of conference again, putting Xavier, Temple and Charlotte into a three-way tie with about three weekends left in the conference season.
The Dukes’ season has fallen well short of expectations so far. Melquan Bolding has returned to the rotation, but the sophomore is coming back very slowly, and the season is running out. To date, Duquesne has beaten only those teams in the bottom half of the conference, not a credential that would impress a selection committee. Against upper division teams the Dukes have come up short time and again. Coach Everhart’s squad is bedeviled by demons on both sides of the ball. Extremely poor shot conversion (an eFG% of 44.7%, ranked at #13 in the conference, ahead of only Fordham) undermines an otherwise average-to-good conference offense. The problems on defense involve more elements of the game; poor defensive rebounding and a propensity to foul combine with extremely bad shot defense to produce a defense that has yielded 1.05 points per possession, ranked ahead of only Massachusetts and Fordham in conference play.
Duquesne has a two game home stand this week, facing Massachusetts on Thursday (2/11), followed by La Salle on Sunday (2/14). Both are good opportunities for wins, which would move the Dukes to the top of the A10’s lower division.
Chris Gaston was named Rookie of the Week for the fourth time this season as he scored 55 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in Fordham’s losses to Xavier (108-60, 1/30) and to Charlotte (77-72, 2/6). A pity that Jio Fontan transferred before Gaston exploded. The two could have formed a dynamic inside/outside combination. Probably not enough to turn the program around, but enough to improve on the Rams’ record from last season — and throw a scare into Coach Martelli’s Hawks. Ken Pomeroy’s “no win” probability remained at 63.14%. With a -0.240 differential, Fordham is nearly as far behind #13 Duquesne as the Dukes are from #7 St. Louis, the last team with a positive efficiency differential in conference games. For Coach Grasso, a commitment from Gaston (and guards Lance Brown and Alberto Eastwick) to return next season would carry more significance than a conference win, though a conference win (or two) would probably help Gaston, Brown and Eastwick decide to stay.
One of Fordham’s better prospects for a win, the George Washington Colonials are coming to town for a Saturday (2/13) game. Before that one, however, the Rams have to travel to New York’s Western Tier to take on St. Bonaventure on Wednesday (2/10).
The January 30 loss to Rhode Island started a losing run that now extends to three games. The Colonials dropped games to Charlotte 72-68 (2/3) and to Duquesne 70-63 (2/6), this past week. That home loss to Duquesne is especially damaging, as the Dukes are also struggling through a season of lowered expectations. Post season prospects, short of running the table in Atlantic City next month, are nil. The team may have started the season well, but ineffective shooting (#11 in conference, ahead of only Saint Joseph’s, Duquesne and Fordham) is the principal culprit for an offense that has generated a paltry 0.97 points per possession in conference play (the conference average is 1.01). The defense is not fatally flawed, but giving up 1.02 points per possession is higher than the conference average (1.01). For Coach Hobbs, a losing season — the third since he led the Colonials to the NCAAs in 2007 with a 23-7 record — could not have come at a worse time. Many believe that Connecticut will begin it’s search for a successor to the Hall of Fame coach among those assistants who left to head programs of their own. At one point Hobbs was generally recognized as the most successful in that group.
The Colonials have perhaps their best opportunity to end their losing run as they take on Fordham on Saturday (2/13). The game will be played in the Bronx, though, and George Washington has dropped four straight road games in conference play.
Coach Giannini’s squad is three games into a losing slide, having dropped a 68-65 home game to St. Louis last Saturday (2/6). Losing seniors Ruben Guillandeaux (last played 11/22/09) and Kimmani Barrett (last played 1/13 — the conference announced he would undergo surgery, thereby ending his college career) has reduced the Explorers from one of the conference’s most experienced squads to one of its least experienced in just under eight weeks. The Explorers are 2-5 in Barrett’s absence. Getting freshman Parrish Grant some court time in preparation for next season may become the higher priority as the current season slips away.
Next up for La Salle is a St. Valentine’s date with Duquesne, in Pittsburgh.
The Minutemen are riding a three game losing streak, and two of the three games were added this past week. Both games were lost by identical eight point margins: Xavier, 87-79 on Wednesday (2/3), and Rhode Island, 93-85 on Saturday (2/6). Like Duquesne, UMass demonstrates yet again why shot efficiency is the most important of Dean Oliver’s four factors. The Minutemen are ranked #11 in the conference for efficiency differential, and #10 in the conference for (offensive) shot efficiency. As a dribble-drive squad that prefers to kick the ball out to the perimeter for a three, the Minutemen do not get to the line much either. For defensive shot efficiency Massachusetts is ranked #13, ahead of only Fordham.
Massachusetts’ schedule going forward (they have seven conference games left) looks fairly favorable compared to the front end of their schedule. With only three games remaining against upper division opponents, the Minutemen could acquire another 3-4 wins over the last month of conference play. The future starts Thursday (2/11) with a trip to Pittsburgh for a game with Duquesne, and continues with a visit from Saint Joseph’s on Sunday (2/14).
The Rams extended their winning run to four games with a win over Massachusetts, 93-85, last Saturday (2/6). Rhode Island has put the second most efficient offense together, despite being ranked #4 in shot efficiency (50.6%), through strong offensive rebounding and a conference-leading low turnover rate (16.9%). According to Ken Pomeroy, every member of the Rams’ regular rotation has an individual offensive rating of 104.5 or higher. Four of Rhode Island’s remaining seven conference games are against upper division teams, but two of those games (versus Richmond and Charlotte) are home games. The Rams ought to prevail in both.
Rhode Island hosts Richmond on Wednesday (2/10), then travels to Philadelphia on Saturday (2/13) for their mirror game against Temple.
Among the six conference teams currently in the NCAA postseason discussion, Richmond, with a solid 7-2 record to date, is often overlooked. The Spiders have assembled a solid conference resume, but out-of-conference road losses to William & Mary, VCU, Wake Forest and South Carolina may give the Selection Committee pause to think. In conference play Richmond has compiled a 3-1 road record, the sole loss coming at the hands of St. Louis, a fellow upper division team in the A10. Richmond’s bread and butter comes from defense, as they are #2 in the conference behind St. Louis for shot defense (eFG% is 43.7%) and #2 in conference play behind Rhode Island in turnover rates (22.6%). Their offense offers solid shooting efficiency (52.0%, #1 in conference play), but conference-worst offensive rebounding (26.0%), combined with a somewhat passive offense (FTA/FGA rate is 32.7%, well below the conference average of 36.1%) suggest the Spiders are a perimeter-oriented team that needs to convert their three point field goal attempts more effectively to prosper.
Richmond takes in two road games this week (terrible week to travel in the Northeast). First stop Wednesday (2/10) will be Rhode Island, followed by a Saturday (2/13) game at St. Bonaventure. If past is prolog, Richmond should beat St. Bonaventure, but their Rhode Island game is more complicated.
The problem with the Hawks’ season is that it has gone largely as planned. Seniors Garrett Williamson and Darrin Govens have shouldered much of the offensive responsibility, but neither had been especially efficient at posting points. Freshmen guards Carl Jones and Justin Crosgile are good players, but neither has developed into the impact player that Coach Martelli’s offense needs. The offense has not produced points efficiently in conference play. 0.96 points per possession is below the conference average of 1.00, and the Hawk defense allows nearly 1.05 points per possession, a deadly combination when trying to fashion a winning record.
The Hawks travel to Massachusetts for a Sunday (2/14) game. The Hawks’ road record this season is an underwhelming 1-8.
The Bonnies are riding a four game losing streak that dates back to the last week in January. They added two of those games last week, dropping a 67-65 road decision to St. Louis on Wednesday (2/3), followed by a 78-71 loss at Saint Joseph’s on Sunday (2/7). The Bonnies convert shots at a conference-average 48.3% (eFG%), but they produce 4% fewer points per possession on average because they lose a conference-high 23.6% of their possessions. Andrew Nicholson may be a top 250 rebounder (per Ken Pomeroy), but as a team St. Bonaventure ranks only #13 in the conference in offensive rebounding. Senior Jon Hall and sophomore Nicholson can convert efficiently if the back court can consistently deliver the ball. Five of the Bonnies’ remaining eight games will come at home, so a move into the middle of the conference is only possible if St. Bonaventure can take advantage of a home court advantage.
The Bonnies open a three game home stand this week by hosting Fordham on Wednesday (2/10), followed by Richmond on Saturday (2/10).
The Billikens have put together a three game winning streak this week. First, they snagged a 67-65 home win versus St. Bonaventure last Wednesday (2/3), followed by a road win versus La Salle, 68-65 last Saturday (2/6), and lastly a win over Saint Joseph’s, 56-52 on Tuesday (2/9). The last two are of particular interest because they were road wins, a rare element in St. Louis’ resumen this season. Identified by Pomeroy as one of the youngest squads in D1 (at 0.56 years they are ranked #346, dead last), Coach Majerus’ squad was 1-6 in away games going into the week. The Billikens are getting it done with defense. They have posted a conference-best 43.0 shot defense (eFG%), combined with the #5 best turnover rate. Sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell earned conference recognition in the form of A10 Player Of The Week for the second time this season with his 42 point/7 assist efforts in St. Louis’ games with St. Bonaventure and Syracuse.
St. Louis hosts Dayton Saturday (2/13). A win over the veteran Flyer squad would be a huge boost to Coach Majerus’ team.
Temple recorded a second consecutive 1-1 week in conference play as they beat Duquesne 76-60 on Wednesday (2/3), but lost their weekend game to Richmond, 71-54 on Saturday (2/6). That second loss dropped the Owls a half-game behind Xavier. Coach Dunphy’s offense and defense share a common set of priorities: that is, take care of the shot and then the rebound. On offense that translates in to a #3 conference rank for eFG% (51.4) and #5 rank for offensive rebounding (35.0%). On defense, the Owls rank #4 for shot defense (46.2% eFG) and #1 for defensive rebounding (26.4%). Ryan Brooks, Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez continue to be productive offensively, as Allen, sophomore Eric Michael, and Scottie Randall control the boards.
Temple will come off of a week-long break to host Rhode Island on Saturday (2/13).
The Musketeers lost their second conference game last week, a 90-65 road game at Dayton on Saturday (2/6). Timing is everything as Temple also lost (to Richmond), keeping those two programs even in the loss column, and one loss behind Charlotte. Their offense, ranked #1 in conference games, earns them 1.11 points per possession. Combined with their #6 ranked defense, which allows 0.98 points per possession, that puts them at the top of the conference for efficiency differentials. On offense, top of the conference ranking in shot efficiency (eFG% of 54.3%) combined with frequent trips to the line (FTR of 45.7%) explain how Xavier earns their points. They have Jordan Crawford to thank, taking over a third of Xavier’s shots when he is on the court. But as defenses concentrate on Crawford, Xavier has two other players — Terrell Holloway and Jason Love — who convert shots very efficiently.
Xavier takes a break from conference action to travel to Florida for a game with the Gators of the SEC.
Games to Catch:
Rhode Island at Temple Saturday 2/13 — An early season matchup gave Temple their first important conference road win, and knocked the Rams, who were flirting with #25 in the national polls, down a peg or two. Both teams, saddled with two losses apiece, need a win to keep pace with Xavier and remain one loss behind Charlotte. Lavoy Allen versus Delroy James should be interesting. Juan Fernandez and Luis Guzman will be tested by the conference’s best team in terms of forcing turnovers.
Xavier at Florida Saturday 2/13 — A top 50 RPI win up for grabs. Jason Love and Kenny Frease will have their hands full with Vernon Macklin and Dan Werner. If it comes down to a shootout between Kenny Boyton and Jordan Crawford, I have to like Crawford.
Dayton at St. Louis Saturday 2/13 — Two of the conference’s better defenses lock up in this game. St. Louis has been very tough at home (11-1 this season), while Dayton is less impressive on the road (4-3). This is the second game in a tough week for Dayton, but the Flyers cannot relax if they want to keep pace with the five teams clustered at the top of the conference.
Updated to reflect games through Tuesday, January 26, the teams are starting to sort out, with a few notable exceptions. Temple is moving away from the rest of the conference, even as St. Louis, Xavier and Rhode Island are forming a tier just below the Owls. Dayton is the outlier, as the Flyers’ 0.75 positive efficiency is contradicted by their 3-3 record. The culprit is a lackluster offense, though inconsistent defense does not help. If the Flyers’ offense produced a conference-average 1.0 point per possession, Dayton would have a 4-2 record. Fordham is struggling to maintain contact with the rest of the conference, as their problems on both offense and defense are reflected in their 0-6 record. Ken Pomeroy speculated in a blog entry on January 6 a 49% probability that Fordham would go winless in A10 competition this season. The Rams’ -0.229 differential is a strong suggestion this will come to pass.
Standings (as of 01/26/10)
Temple (17-3, 5-0, AP #15)
Xavier (13-6, 5-1)
Charlotte (14-5, 4-1)
St. Louis (12-6, 3-1)
Rhode Island (16-3, 4-1)
Richmond (15-6, 4-2)
Dayton (14-6, 3-3)
La Salle (10-9, 2-3)
St. Bonaventure (9-9, 2-3)
Saint Joseph’s (8-11, 2-3)
George Washington (11-7, 1-4)
Duquesne (10-9, 1-4)
Massachusetts (7-12, 1-4)
Fordham (2-16, 0-6)
Coach Lutz’s squad finished a very productive two-game road trip, beating Richmond 71-59 on Wednesday (1/20) and then La Salle 84-82 on Saturday (1/23). Those wins extend their current streak to three. Both La Salle and Richmond were well regarded coming into the A10 regular season, so Charlotte’s road wins should provide the 49ers with an edge over both as the conference standings sort out. Charlotte’s rebounders were able to gather a whopping 38.2% of their misses, yielding a six-point advantage in second chance points. Richmond will travel to Charlotte for a mirror game at the end of the season. Productive enough to take the Rookie of the Week honors, freshman Chris Braswell was cited for his 16 points against St. Louis, his nine points and 10 rebounds against Richmond and his sixth double-double of the season (21 points, 13 boards) in the 49ers’ win over La Salle. This was Braswell’s third designation as Rookie of the Week, the most so far this season.
Next up, the 49ers host Temple on Wednesday (1/27), and then travel to Amherst, MA, for a game with Massachusetts on Saturday (1/30).
The Flyers handled George Washington easily on Wednesday (1/20), 66-51, with Chris Wright’s game-high (shared with GW’s Lasan Kromah) 14 points leading the way. Three other Flyers, the Johnsons Marcus (13) and Chris (10), along with Mickey Perry (11), scored double-digit points. In all, 11 players saw action. On Saturday (1/23) Dayton dropped a head-scratcher to Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia. It was the Chris Wright Show, as the Wooden preseason nominee scored 28 points while taking 36% of the Flyers’ possessions and 41% of their shots when he was on the floor (80% of the minutes). But he had little support from the rest of the squad as the Johnsons (who combined for over 47% of the shots when they played) went a combined 5-20 (1-11, 4-9) from the field. After leading very briefly at the start of the first half, the Flyers and Hawks tied four times, Dayton ceding the lead thereafter to Saint Joseph’s. A 14-6 run in the last 5:30 of the game was not enough to overtake the Hawks. Compounding their woes, Dayton returned home and dropped a second consecutive game to visiting Rhode Island on Tuesday (1/26), 65-64. Down 62-61 with 15 ticks left, the Flyers’ Chris Wright was fouled while taking a three-point attempt. On the line with the game in the balance, Wright hit all three attempts to put Dayton up 64-62. Their defense failed however, as Marquis Jones hit a three-pointer nine seconds later. Mickey Perry’s own heroic attempt at a three missed with 0:00 on the clock. A virtually unanimous preseason favorite to take the A10 regular season title and a berth in the field of 65, the Flyers, with a 14-6 overall record and 3-3 in conference are looking up at the bubble right now.
The Flyers take to the road again this weekend, playing at St. Bonaventure on Saturday (1/30), and then break for a week.
Duquesne’s road trip to Kingston, RI, on Wednesday (1/20) ended badly — a 75-67 beating at the hands of Rhode Island. Damian Saunders paced the Dukes with 21 points on 8-13 (1-4, 7-9) and 4-9 shooting, as the junior grabbed 11 rebounds to log his 15th double-double of the season. Eric Evans (16) and BJ Montiero (11) also scored double-digit points. Their Saturday (1/23) game with St. Bonaventure was more successful, as the Dukes downed the Bonnies 70-69 at home. Evans and Saunders paced Duquesne with 15 points apiece. The best news may be Melquan Bolding’s 14-point outing. The sophomore, coming off of rehabilitation, played 30 minutes in the St. Bonaventure game follwing a 29-minute outing against Rhode Island. Bill Clark’s 10 points made him the fourth Duquesne player to record double-digit points.
The Dukes travel to Cincinnati to play Xavier on Thursday (1/28) and then return home to host the Hawks of Saint Joseph’s on Sunday (1/31).
Coach Grasso’s squad dropped two more games last week to bring their winless run in conference to six and 11 overall. St. Louis beat Fordham 75-48 in Chaifetz Arena on Wednesday (1/20), and then Temple beat them 62-45 in the Bronx on Saturday (1/23). Freshman guard Lance Brown paced the Rams with 15 points in St. Louis, while freshman Chris Gaston logged his 11th double-double of the season Sunday, with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Next up for Fordham, a visit from La Salle on Wednesday (1/27), and then back on the road, this time to Cincinnati for a date with the Musketeers on Sunday (1/31).
January has been a cruel month for the Colonials so far, as Coach Hobbs’ squad has gone 2-4 through the first three weeks. The two losses last week extend their losing streak to four. They lost to Dayton in Ohio 66-51, on Wednesday (1/20), then dropped their weekend game 62-57 to Richmond on Saturday (1/23). Lasan Kromah shared game-high honors with Flyer Chris Wright with 14 points on Wednesday. Unlike Dayton which had three other players score in double digits, George Washington only had Kromah. Sophomore guard Tony Taylor paced the Colonials with 16 points on 4-6 (0-0, 4-6) and 8-8 shooting — a very efficient 66.7% eFG% and 1.63 PPWS. and the two freshmen, guard Bryan Bynes (11 points) and forward David Pellom (four points), were not prolific enough to put George Washington over the top in the Richmond game. The two teams took a combined 49 free throws on 52 fouls.
The Colonials will try to turn it around on Wednesday (1/27) when they host St. Louis. The weekend game, a visit to Rhode Island on Saturday (1/30), may not be a promising place to break their losing run.
La Salle disposed of Big 5 rival Penn 76-57, last Wednesday (1/20) at the Palestra. Freshman Aaric Murray led the Explorers with 21 points on 8-11 (3-4, 5-7) and 2-2 shooting. Three others, guard Rodney Green (15), along with forwards Yves Mbala (14) and Jerrell Williams (13), scored in double figures. Coach Giannini’s squad dropped their weekend game to Charlotte 84-82, at the Gola. The Explorers trailed by two 48-46, at the half, but chased the 49ers through all but 30 seconds of the second half. They took the lead 77-76, at the 5:06 on an Mbala dunk. Charlotte tied 77 all on a Darrio Green free throw, and retook the lead, for good 79-77, on an An’Juan Wilderness layup. Rodney Green’s low post entry pass to Aaric Murray with five seconds left in regulation went out of bounds, turning the ball over to Charlotte for on last possession. An’Juan Wilderness put the game away with a jumper with no time left. The loss however, was eclipsed by news that senior forward Kimmani Barrett, out since the Massachusetts game on 1/10, will have surgery this week to repair a fractured bone in his right foot. Barrett, the Explorers’ second leading scorer, is most likely out for the season. Barrett is the second crucial injury suffered by La Salle, as senior guard Ruben Guillandeaux has missed the last 15 games with a stress fracture.
The Explorers have a busy week ahead. They travel to the Bronx to face Fordham on Wednesday (1/27), then across town to play conference (and Big 5) rival Temple on Saturday (1/30) and lastly back to the Gola to host Rhode Island on Tuesday (2/2).
The Minutemen’s losing streak is up to five. They dropped a 70-69 decision to St. Bonaventure on Wednesday (1/20). Down 10 (57-47) to the Bonnies midway through the second half, Massachusetts’ 22-13 run fell short. Senior guard Ricky Harris paced the Minutemen with 22 points. Their woes continued Saturday (1/23) as they dropped a road game to Baylor, 71-45. Ricky Harris again led Massachusetts, this time with 14 points. Freshman forward Terrill Vinson recorded his second double-double of his career, gathering 12 (7-5-12) rebounds to go with his 14 points.
Massachusetts will travel to Philadelphia to play Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday (1/27), then take on Charlotte at home Saturday (1/30).
After beating the Dukes on Wednesday (1/20) 75-67, the Rams dropped a road game to Xavier 72-61, on Saturday (1/23) — a disappointing 11 point loss. Their road adventure did not end there however, as they stunned Dayton 65-64, on a Marquis Jones three point jumper with 0:04 left. Senior Delroy James paced all scorers with 22 points, while Keith Cothran chipped in 17. Though the head-to-head loss to X was a setback, the Rams, now 4-2 in conference play (16-3 overall), are back within striking distance of Xavier, St. Louis and Charlotte for second place in the conference.
The Rams should be able to keep pace next week as they host George Washington on Saturday (1/30), then travel to Philadelphia for a game with La Salle on Tuesday (2/2).
The Spiders squandered a chance to establish their spot in the conference pecking order (not to mention their chance for their first 10-0 home start) when they dropped a disastrous 71-59 decision to Charlotte on Wednesday (1/20). Of Richmond’s starters, only wing Justin Harper had anything approaching a good offensive outing, scoring 24 points on 8-11 (4-5, 4-6) and 4-6 shooting. Harper notched a gaudy 90.9% eFG% and 1.73 PPWS which would have been better had he hit another free throw (or two). The other four starters combined for 26 points on 8-32 (4-18, 4-14) and 6-9 shooting. Combined they posted a 31.2% eFG5 and 0.72 PPWS. Charlotte managed to score 1.14 points per possesion on a Spider defense that has typically given up 0.95 points per possession in conference play. Richmond, ranked #13 in the conference (only Saint Joseph’s is lower) for offensive rebounding percentage, had an even rougher night than normal, gathering only 22.9% of their misses. The Spiders bounced back on Saturday (1/23) with a road win over George Washington 62-57. Junior Kevin Anderson scored a game-high 21 points on 7-14 (4-4, 3-10) and 3-4 shooting. David Gonzalvez and Justin Harper also recorded double digit points. Harper’s 14 points on an efficient 4-8 (2-5, 2-3) and 4-6 shooting. Gonzalvez’s 11 points came on a high volume shooting night as the junior took 11 field goal attempts and eight trips to the line to record his points.
Next up for Coach Mooney’s squad, the Spiders host St. Louis Saturday (1/30). A win can give Richmond a leg up over St. Louis in the conference standings.
The Hawks downed Dayton on Saturday (1/23) in a 60-59 game whose score is much closer than the game itself. After falling behind very briefly at the start of the first half, the Hawks and Flyers tied four times through the first 11 minutes of the game, but the Hawks maintained control and took a four-point lead into the locker room. Their lead shrank to one twice in the second half, but the Hawks led by seven to nine points through most of the half. Despite a closing rush by the Flyers, the Hawks retained possession with 14 ticks left and left Dayton with a single field goal attempt at four seconds. Saint Jospeh’s second break from conference play resulted in a decisive 85-64 win over the struggling Quakers of Penn at the Palestra on Monday (1/25).
Coach Martelli’s squad will host Massachusetts at the Hagan on Wednesday (1/27), then travel to Pittsburgh for a game with Duquesne on Sunday (1/31).
Seventy and 69 were the numbers for Coach Schmidt’s squad last week. They worked in the Bonnies’ favor in their first game, a 70-69 win over Massachusetts on Wednesday (1/20). But they worked against the Bonnies in their second game, also on the road, a 70-69 loss to Duquesne on Saturday (1/23). Andrew Nicholson earned his second citation as Player of the Week as he scored 27 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked five shots in play against the Minutemen. Nicholson equaled his career high 29 points against Duquesne to lead all scorers and log his fifth 20 point game of the season. This was Nicholson’s second designation as Player of the Week.
The Bonnies will host Dayton on Saturday (1/30), then travel to St. Louis to take on the Billikens on Wednesday (2/3).
St. Louis beat Fordham on Wednesday (1/20) 75-48, in their only game of the week. Sophomore forward Brian Conklin came off the bench to lead the Billikens with 15 points in 20 minutes of play. Three starters, Aussie forward Cody Ellis (14), guard Kwamain Mitchell (13) and senior forward Willie Reed (10) also logged double-digit points.
The Billikens return to action with two road games this week. On Wednesday they stop in Washington, DC, to play the Colonials of GWU, and then down to Richmond to take on the Spiders for a Saturday (1/30) game.
The Owls extended their winning streak (currently at six games) by two more this past week. On Wednesday (1/20) they bested the Musketeers by five points, 77-72, on a 22 point, seven rebound effort by guard Ryan Brooks. Temple was able to exploit 13 Xavier turnovers for 19 points. Lavoy Allen chipped in 16 points. Temple beat Fordham 62-45, at Rose Hill, on Saturday (1/23). On a day when Lavoy Allen and Ryan Brooks combined for a horrific 4-18 shooting performance that yielded nine points, the Owls fell back on Juan Fernandez and their bench to come through with 39 points on a combined 13-20 (8-12, 5-8) and 5-6 shooting.
Temple travels to Charlotte for another conference showdown on Wednesday (1/27), and then back to the Liacouras Center for a game with La Salle on Saturday (1/30).
The Musketeers went 1-1 for the week, a pretty good result considering the slate of opponents. They dropped a five-point decision to Temple , Wednesday (1/20). Jordan Crawford paced the Musketeers with 18 points. Xavier returned to their winning ways and leveled their race with Rhode Island on Saturday (1/23) when they beat the Rams by 11, 72-61, in the Cintas Center on Saturday (1/23). Jordan Crawford bolstered his Player of the Year resume with a game-high double-double, 21 points to go with 12 boards. The game was close for the first 33 minutes, neither team holding a lead greater than six points, when Xavier broke it open with a five minute, 15-7 run. The Rams could not close that double digit deficit as the Musketeers cruised home.
Coach Mack’s squad tacks two more games onto their homestand this week, first hosting the Dukes on Thursday (1/28), followed by the Fordham Rams on Sunday (1/31).
Games to Catch
Temple at Charlotte - Wednesday 1/27 — Another week and the schedule maker gives us another challenge for the conference lead. Charlotte puts a three game winning streak up against Temple’s six game winning streak. Someone’s winning streak will be over at (roughly) 9:00pm Wednesday. Charlotte, along with Xavier and Rhode Island is chasing Temple in the A10 race. Beat the Owls and the race becomes a four-way deadlock.
St. Louis at Richmond - Saturday 1/30 — The Spiders need a win over the Billikens to tighten the A10 conference race. David Gonzalvez has struggled of late, but Richmond will need all of their offensive weapons to counter Kwamain Mitchell, Cody Ellis, Willie Reed and Brian Conklin.
A few BCS schools developed reputations for rarely venturing far from their home arenas during their out of conference seasons and relying on their conference’s RPI to bolster their resumes come Selection Sunday. Coach Jim Calhoun masked the inexperience of his 2007 Huskies by keeping them at home from early November to late December where they ran off 11 straight wins and rose to #12 in the polls. They opened the Big East season with a 10 point loss to West Virginia, and continued to implode with an 6-14 record through January, February and early March. The 1st round of the Big East Tournament was their post-season. Florida State’s Len Hamilton nursed his 2006 Seminole squads to an 9-1 OOC record, leaving home once before ACC conference play (a loss to in state rival Florida). FSU finished with a 9-7 conference record, and despite a signature win over #1-ranked Duke at the end of the conference season, could not tease a dance bid out of the Selection Committee come Selection Sunday.
A10 coaches have no illusions that the conference’s reputation (however good among the non-BCS conferences) will carry a bubble team into the field of 65. While few subscribe to former Temple head coach John Chaney’s “Anyone, Anywhere” philosophy, everyone recognizes the virtue of playing invitational tournaments and having a healthy dose of road games on the resume. Most of their OOC resume-building games may come from traditional rivalries and invitational fields, but the road games, at worst, help their squads prepare for the hostile crowds they will face when playing conference opponents. How did the conference members do this OOC season?
The statistics, drawn from each team’s Game Plan page at Ken Pomeroy’s website, shows the team’s road (away and neutral site) record, the team’s efficiency (points per possession the team scored – offense and allowed – defense), the team’s shot efficiency (on offense and defense) and the estimated average possessions per game.
Temple looks better with each passing week. The road wins in particular are very encouraging and suggest the Owls will be able to score and defend in hostile venues. Seton Hall is a resume win, and the 46-45 loss at Georgetown (provided the Hoyas don’t implode again in 2010…) will be a good loss. The nucleus of Fernandez, Brooks, Allen and Guzman (see Temple Team Capsule below) are putting together a very nice run, which they may well be able to sustain going into conference play. File Rhode Island and Charlotte under “Surprised in a Good Way” also. Though the Rams’ slate is a bit light (they did not participate in any MTE tournaments this season), it does include a double-digit win over Boston College from the ACC and a 2 point loss to a well-regarded 7-2 Virginia Commonwealth team on 12/2. Charlotte was torched early in the season by Duke at the Cameron, but has bounced back nicely with double-digit wins over Hofstra, Louisville of the Big East and Winthrop, each of whom has a record of .500 or better.
Filed under “Surprised in a Bad Way” — try Dayton, Duquesne and Richmond. The Flyers participated in the Puerto Rico Tip Off and started strong, taking out Georgia Tech in their first round. They dropped their next two games to two more BCS teams (Villanova and Kansas State) and have scraped by their two road opponents — Miami, OH and George Mason. Mason having a down year, is teetering at .500 (5-5) at this point and will, should the trend continue, watch the post-season on CBS and ESPN. Duquesne started out well, housing Iowa in their second game of the season, but the two-overtime, neutral court loss to Pittsburgh seems to have thrown the team out of synch. They were hammered by West Virginia and lost to UIPIU last weekend. The Jaguars may be the pick of the litter in the Summit League, but they too have taken three double-digit beatings. Hardly makes for a stirring endorsement of the Dukes. Bolding’s return may spark the Dukes, but heading into conference play (they have 2 more OOC games left), Duquesne’s prospects for A10 road wins seem uncertain at best. Taking South Carolina may have been a stretch for Richmond, but their losses to in-state rivals William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth (both of the CAA) gives me pause to think. Those games most resemble the conference road conditions Richmond will probably encounter in conference play. Both may have been “close” losses, but they were losses nevertheless.
George Washington’s 4-0 road record may look impressive, but know the opponents were UNC – Wilmington, Boston University, Navy and Towson. Not a BCS team to be found in a group whose collective record is 15-24. Their extended, post holiday trek through New England should provide a bit more insight into the state of the program and their prospects in conference road play. The unimpressive road/neutral records posted by Xavier, Massachusetts, Saint Joseph’s and St. Louis (a combined 3-18) maybe due in large measure to the youth of all three squads. Ken Pomeroy ranks them by experience level as #259, #305, #156 and #346 respectively, out of D1’s 347 D1.
Standings as of – 12/21/09:
Rhode Island (9-1)
George Washington (8-2)
La Salle (7-4)
St. Louis (8-4)
St. Bonaventure (6-5)
Saint Joseph’s (4-6)
Taking to the road, the 49ers beat Winthrop by ten, 57-47, on Sunday (12/20). Junior forward Shamari Spears delivered from the field, going 5-11 from the floor for 13 points (his 45.5% shooting percentage well ahead of the team’s overall 39.1%), while senior point guard DiJuan Harris delivered from the line, hitting 7 of 8 free throws to pace Charlotte to the win. Junior center Phil Jones grabbed 11 rebounds as the taller, more physical 49er team dominated with inside play. The A10 team received ten more free throw opportunities than the host, and made the most of the advantage by converting 13 more times, going 18-22, compared to 5-12 for the Eagles. There indeed was the margin of victory. Charlotte has now won five straight, all by double-digits. The Niners traveled to Old Dominion on Wednesday (12/23) for one last game before the Holidays and got thumped, 81-48, after shooting 16% in the first half and appearing generally uninterested. They resume their schedule when they host Mercer on the 29th.
The Flyers beat Presbyterian by 19 (71-52) at the UD Arena on Saturday (12/19), paced by junior forward Chris Wright and senior back-up point guard Mickey Perry, each of whom scored 15 points. Perry, normally in the rotation for about 17 minutes per game saw 25 minutes when off-guard Marcus Johnson went down with an ankle sprain in the 1st half. Redshirt freshman Josh Benson scored 10 points, also in extended action, when starter Chris Johnson left the game after a blow to the head, also sustained in the 1st half. Dayton beat Appalachian State, 65-49, on Monday night. The Blue Hose and Mountaineers should have been double digit wins, and the Dayton team many expected in November appears to be rounding into form as the conference season approaches. Wright and Perry led the team in scoring for both games, grossing 29 and 30 points apiece respectively for the two games. The Flyers return to action after the Holidays with a game versus Boston University on the 29th. They will ring in the New Year in Albuquerque, New Mexico as they take on the Lobos of New Mexico on New Year’s Day.
The Dukes needed two overtimes to put down the Griffins of Canisius 86-77 on Wednesday 12/16. Duquesne used size and speed to force turnovers and alter shots, but they did not control the boards. The game, played for 68 possessions (adjusted for the overtimes), was a bit low for Duquesne home games this season. The Dukes’ offensive efficiency was about 1.00 (points per possession), very slightly above their home court average, the defense, at 0.90, was higher than the Dukes’ 0.81 home average, suggesting the stifling defense, especially on opponent’s shooting, was simply not there. Duquesne dropped a nine point road game, 73-64, to IUPUI in Indianapolis, IN on Saturday 12/19. Continuing a trend for road games, Duquesne’s defensive efficiency again turned in a >1.00 defensive effort, 1.05 this time. The Iowa game in November aside, the Dukes have had problems keeping opponent’s points per possession under 1.00 this season. The culprits appear to be shot defense (the Dukes let the Jaguars hit at a 56.5% eFG% clip) and rebounding. Duquesne hosts St. Francis, PA on Tuesday 12/22, then break for Christmas. They finish their OOC schedule with a trip to Virginia to play the Monarchs of Old Dominion on Wednesday 12/30.
The Rams “hosted” Villanova at the IZOD Center, in the New Jersey Meadowlands last Saturday. Before a Villanova-friendly crowd, Fordham dropped a 96-53 decision to the #9-ranked Wildcats. The good news has to be that forward Chris Gaston had another good day scoring. Another Ram has to step into the vacuum left by Jio Fontan. Fordham faced James Madison in Virginia on Wednesday and dropped a disappointing one, 85-73, after leading by nine at the half. They now break for the Holiday. They resume their pre-conference road trip with games against Kennesaw State (in Georgia, Tuesday 12/29) and Hampton (back to Virginia, Sunday 1/3) in the fortnight before they take on Massachusetts in their A10 opener.
George Washington took a week to finish the fall semester. They squeaked out an 84-80 victory at East Carolina on Tuesday 12/22, led by Damian Hollis’ 21/3 and Tony Taylor’s 20/6/4. They will take a New England road trip the week after Christmas, facing Holy Cross in Worcester, MA on Monday 12/28, then travelling east to Cambridge, MA to face Harvard on Wednesday 12/30. They will return to Washington to face cross-town rival Howard on Saturday 1/2.
The Explorers beat Bucknell, 83-70, at home on Saturday then dropped a road game to Oklahoma State 77-62, on Monday night. The Explorers continue to feel the effects of being an undermanned squad. With senior PG Ruben Guillandeaux out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his right foot, and senior swingman Kimmani Barrett nursing a fractured middle finger on his non-shooting hand, La Salle needs to free Rodney Green to cut and shoot, rather than take over the ball-handling duties. Green continues to lead the Explorers in points scored — he scored 22 in each of last week’s games (Barrett scored the team-high 23 points versus Bucknell), but needs to maintain his stamina through the end of the game. La Salle will host Cornell on 12/29 in what may be their last best chance to score a signature win in the OOC. Cornell beat St. John’s to take the ECAC Holiday Festival on Monday (12/21) night.
Coach Derek Kellogg’s squad scored their best win of the season Saturday night when they downed the Tigers of Memphis 73-72 in Boston. Freshman Terrell Vinson scored a team-high 21 points on 8-13 (0-1, 8-12) and 5-7 shooting. Vinson grabbed nine boards, missing the chance to log his second consecutive double-double. The Minutemen headed out of town to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College on Wednesday night and were stifled from beyond the three-point arc, shooting 3-21 (14.3%) resulting in a 67-79 loss to the Eagles. After the Holiday break they conclude their OOC schedule with a trip into the South to play Davidson on Wednesday 12/30.
The Rams extended their winning streak to five when they beat Fairfield 89-84 on Saturday (12/20). Senior guard Keith Cochran stepped back a bit in this game, letting the forward tandem of Delroy James and Lamonte Ulmer take the offensive lead. The seniors did not disappoint, scoring 21 and 20 points, respectively. James logged his first double-double of the season by grabbing 11 rebounds as well. Marquis Jones and Stevie Mejia handled the point guard duties effectively, dishing ten assists (with only four turnovers) between them. Rhode Island has three more OOC games before they commence conference play, the first coming next Tuesday (12/29) when they travel to Philadelphia to play Drexel.
The Spiders dropped their road game to South Carolina last Wednesday (12/16), 76-58. The result may not have surprised; after all, Devan Downey, Sam Muldrow and Brandis Raley-Ross can be a handful, especially in front of a Gamecock-friendly crowd. The margin was troubling as the Spiders will — should their fortunes during conference play pan out — be looking for an at-large bid from the selection committee come that Sunday in March. Justin Harper, Dan Geriot and Kevin Anderson took large amounts of the possessions when they were on the floor (29.5%, 28.4% and 30.0% respectively — Anderson played the entire game), but of that core only Harper converted efficiently. With an eFG% of 54.2% and a PPWS of 1.16, Harper developed an offensive rating of 111.6; an offensive rating greater than 100 is good, greater than 110 is very good. For Geriot and Anderson however, the numbers were not nearly as impressive. Both converted (eFG%) in the high 30s to mid 40s, but worse, both lost high percentages of their possessions: Geriot lost 30.4% of his possessions, while for Anderson the number was 26.1%. Where was David Gonzalvez? Out of action with four fouls, for starters. The senior guard logged only 65% of the minutes, in large measure because he picked up his second foul at the 12 minute mark of the first half, sat for five minutes, came back in for another five minutes before picking up his third foul for the half. Gonzalvez picked up his fourth foul two minutes into the second half, and found himself watching as the Spiders four point advantage became a five point deficit. The Spiders managed to bring the score to a tie, 52-52, with eight minutes left, but the Gamecocks launched a 24-6 run over the last eight minutes, running away from the Spiders and handing them their third road loss of the season. Richmond bounced back with a 56-53 win over #13 Florida in the Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday. The game, played at Sunrise, FL (and not Florida’s homecourt at Gainesville), found the Spiders paced by the backcourt duo of Gonzalvez (16 points) and Anderson (14 points). The two minute mark of the 1st half found the Spiders down by 13 (32-19), but Gonzalvez and senior center Geriot scored five unanswered points. Still trailing by eight (32-24), Coach Mooney and his squad took to the locker room to regroup. A 22-5 run over the first nine minutes of the 2nd half saw the Spiders blow by the Gators and take a nine point lead. The Gators scored six unanswered points (a jumper by Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin, two converted free throws by sophomore guard Erving Walker and a layup by senior forward Dan Werner) to cut the deficit to three over the next 90 seconds. The two teams were locked in a tug-of-war, never separated by more than four points (and tied twice) for the last 9:30 of the game. The Spiders took the lead for good on a Gonzalvez three-pointer at the 1:34 mark, and the Spiders hit their free throws down the stretch to bring home the win. After beating UNC – Greensboro, 89-63 (David Gonzalves posted a season-high 25 points), the Spiders can now break for the holidays. Richmond will return to action on the 28th against another North Carolina school, the Seahawks of UNC – Wilmington. The Spiders will spend New Year’s Eve on the road with yet a third North Carolina school, the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest.
The Hawks beat Lehigh 77-66 on Sunday (12/20) and are off until after Christmas. Senior guard Darrin Govens paced the team with 15 points, while three others, starting sophomore guard Chris Prescott along with two freshmen, forward Carl Baptiste and guard Carl Jones chipped in 13 apiece. Sophomore forward Bryant Irwin scored a career-high 11 points. Saint Joseph’s will travel to Albany, NY and will face the Siena Saints on Tuesday (12/29).
The Bonnies dropped a 13-point decision to the Orange of Syracuse 85-72, Saturday (12/19). Sophomore forward Andrew Nicholson and senior guard Chris Matthew led the Bonnies with 18 and 17 points, respectively. The Orange answered with 17, 18 and 17 points from junior forward Rick Jackson, transfer wing Wes Johnson and sophomore forward Kris Joseph, respectively. St. Bonaventure traveled to Little Three rival Niagara on Tuesday (12/22) for one last game before Christmas, but couldn’t get the job done, losing 71-77. They return to action on Wednesday the 30th, as they host Canisius.
Coach Majerus’ squad beat Belmont, 75-67, on Wednesday (12/16), then lost to Missouri State, 73-63, on Saturday (12/19). Sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell, poked in the right eye with 2:59 to go in the Belmont game, was held out of the Missouri State game. The Billikens could have used his 14.3 PPG on Saturday. After winning by seven (61-54) at home against Missour-Kansas City on Tuesday 12/22, the Billikens break for Christmas, and return to action against Eastern Illinois on Tuesday 12/29. Let’s hope Mitchell’s recovery is swift and complete.
Looking for a definition for “on a roll?” Check out the Owls!
After knocking off Villanova on the 13th, the Owls headed up the New Jersey Turnpike to Newark and housed the Seton Hall Pirates in their downtown arena, the Rock. Down by 13 twice early in the 2nd half, Temple took a 40-21 run in the last 16 minutes to hand yet another Big East team their first loss of the season. The two game snapshot above suggests that a nucleus of Ryan Brooks, Juan Fernandez and Lavoy Allen has taken the reins on offense and has efficiently converted possessions into points. Fernandez and Brooks took turns having career games, but that each was able to step in is a very good sign going forward. Scootie Randall and Craig Williams should see their minutes grow; Randall because he has provided timely offense in both games, and Williams has taken the injured Michael Eric’s spot in the rotation. Of particular interest is the Owls’ rebounding. They dominated both of their Big East opponents, a bit surprising given the Big East’s reputation for physical inside play. Especially noteworthy is the defensive rebounding coach Fran Dunphy is getting from his backcourt and wing players (Brooks, Guzman, Moore and Di Leo); 15% is a good number for a front court player, the 14%+ the four are registering is terrific. Allen and Williams’ DR% is phenomenal, but simply not sustainable. Guzman’s turnovers are high, but he has brought the ball up against two teams known for their press and ability to harass ball handlers. Like Allen and Williams’ defensive rebounding, the number will probably not hold.
The Musketeers traveled to Indianapolis, IN to take on the Butler Bulldogs, losing a 69-68 nail-biter on an unusual clock malfunction. Xavier trailed through the first half, dropping behind by double digits ranging out to 15. They closed the gap to seven before the break, then came out with an 11-0 run to overtake the Bulldogs. Jason Love and Kenny Frase were beginning to control the paint, as Terrell Hollaway hit several critical threes from the outside. The X-Men were held the lead for over 13 minutes in the second half, but a Butler surge tied the game at the four-minute mark, and the teams traded the lead (and tied) five more times over the last four minutes. Jordan Crawford’s trey with 45 seconds left broke the fourth tie and gave Xavier a three point cushion. Holloway’s fifth foul at the 39 second mark put Butler guard Shelvin Mack on the line. Mack hit both free throws, but Xavier had possession with just over a shot clock’s worth of time left. A steal by Butler guard/forward Gordon Hayward with 36 seconds left gave Butler three tries (two misses and offensive rebounds) before Hayward converted on a layup with an unknown amount of time left on the clock. According to the clock itself there appeared to be 1.8 seconds left, but the time keeper reported an earlier malfunction had prevented the clock from starting properly earlier in the Butler possession. The referees (D.J. Carstensen, Sid Rodeheffer and Bo Borowski) decided there was no time left and called the game. Xavier then hosted in-state rival Miami, OH on Wednesday 12/23. The Muskies almost fell victim once again to a clock-related question at the end of that one. Xavier’s Dante Jackson stole an in-bounds pass with less than seven seconds left which would have sealed the Xavier victory, but the play was blown dead because one of the zebras was checking the clock. On the re-do, Miami’s Kenny Hayes missed a long three at the buzzer that would have tied it and Xavier won, 70-67. After breaking for the Holiday, the Musketeers will conclude the OOC portion of their season with two BCS opponents — LSU (at home) on Tuesday 12/29 and Wake Forest (in Winston-Salem) on Sunday 1/3.
Games to Catch
La Salle vs Cornell, Tuesday 12/29 — The Big Red are heavy favorites to grab the Ivy’s bid to the NCAA. I am interested, given Cornell’s win over St. John’s (a team looking to improve it’s standing in the Big East this season) in the ECAC Holiday Festival, to see how the Explorers match up.
Xavier vs LSU, Tuesday 12/29 — The Musketeers host the Tigers during holiday week. While LSU was not expected to be a force in the SEC West this season, Xavier has a good chance to match up (indirectly) with two BCS teams expected to make some noise in their respective conferences, Connecticut and Arizona State. The Huskies beat the Tigers by 26 at the NIT Season Tip-Off (semifinal game), while the Sun Devils took LSU by 19 a round later.
Richmond at Wake Forest, Thursday 12/31 — The Spiders get another road test, this time against ACC contender Wake. The Spiders’ front court contingent of Dan Geriot, Justin Harper and Ryan Butler will have to match up with the Deacons’ Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland.
Dayton at New Mexico, Friday 1/1 — The Lobos are not a BCS power, nor are they favored to take their conference bid (the Mountain West) this season. But their homecourt, an 18,000 seat hole-in-the-ground in Albuquerque, NM known simply as “The Pit,” is a legend. A notoriously difficult place for visitors to win. The Flyers are expected to win the A10 title this season, and The Pit will be a good place to get ready for hostile crowds, and lots of noise.
Common Opponent Analysis: Providence. Both Rhode Island and George Washington hosted the Providence Friars within a 4 day period. How did the Rams and Colonials match up against a common opponent under similar circumstances? Rhode Island won a 3-point decision (86-83), while George Washington lost by a whopping 27 points (110-83). As the table shows, both teams played about 78 possessions (lower than they usually play — Pomeroy shows about 80 possessions per game), and have work to do on their respective defenses. And both teams are close on offense, garnering over 1.0 points per possession while converting their own field goal attempts in the low-mid 40s (eFG% — 44.0% for the Rams and 43.2% for the Colonials). Providence, a perimeter-oriented team under Coach Keno Davis, allowed both A10 opponents to rebound a high percentage of their own misses (47.1% and 51.1% to URI and GWU respectively), but The Rams’ frontcourt experience showed in their defensive rebounding numbers, holding the Friars to less than 30% of their misses (29.7%), even as GWU yielded 34% of the defensive rebounds, more typical of D1 basketball teams. The Friars took over twice as many 3s against George Washington as they did against Rhode Island, suggesting the Rams did a better job of defending the perimeter than the Colonials. Providence converted their 3s at a 55.2% clip, largely the reason for the Colonials’ disappointing 64.6% eFG% on defense. The Rams forced turnovers, somewhat unexpected against a perimeter-oriented team like PC, while the Colonials put the Friars on the line about once for every two field goal attempts, again unusual for a perimeter-oriented team. Conclusion: Rhode Island looks like they may be close to ready for conference play, while George Washington may need more work.
Looking Back. Wednesday the 9th was not a pleasant one for three of the A10’s teams. George Washington hosted Providence, but dropped a 13-point decision against one of the Big East’s weaker sisters. Saint Joseph’s pushed #3 Villanova to the last 90 seconds of play before bowing by eight, and Duquesne went to Morgantown to face the Mountaineers and came out on the (very) short side of a 68-39 score. Housing the ‘Eers may have been a reach, but a 29-point drubbing?
Big Wins. Sunday the 13th however could not have been better for Temple, Xavier and Rhode Island, all of whom scored big wins over BCS rivals. Temple led off with a 71-61 win over Big 5 rival (and #3 ranked) Villanova. Argentine guard Juan Fernandez scored a career high 33 points on 11-15 (7-9 3FG, 4-6 2FG) and 4-4 FT shooting. Senior guard Ryan Brooks, who scored 20 points, can graduate knowing he beat the Wildcats once during his time on North Broad. Forward Lavoy Allen grabbed 17 rebounds, one short of his career best. Meanwhile down in Cincy, Xavier beat (#19 ranked) Cincinnati 83-79 in the 77th meeting of their Crosstown Shootout. It took the X-men 2 overtime periods to put down the Bearcats, as sophomore guard Terrell Holloway scored a career-high 26 points (and dished 4 assists) in 42 minutes of play. Holloway struggled with his 3 point shot, going 1-5 from beyond the arc, but he more than made up for it, going 6-8 on twos, and a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line. Sophomore transfer Jordan Crawford chipped in 16 points, the team’s 2nd highest total, on 5-16 (1-6 3FG, 4-10 2FG) and 5-6 FT shooting. Red-shirt freshman guard Mark Lyons chipped in 11 points. Senior forward/center Jason Love hauled in a career-high 19 (3 off) rebounds in 41 minutes of play, especially impressive given Cincinnati’s sizable frontline. Love had more than twice as many rebounds as the highest Bearcat rebounder, (guard) Deonta Vaughn, who had 9 rebounds. Rhode Island knocked off regional rival (and ACC member) Boston College 80-69 in the nightcap on a nearly perfect day. The Rams and Eagles sparred for the first five or so minutes, before Stevie Mejia gave Rhode Island the lead for good at the 14-minute mark of the 1st half. The Rams took an 8-point lead into the half, but BC managed to close the gap to four points at the 9:25 mark of the 2nd half until the Rams pushed it back out to ten over the next five possessions, and worked with a 10-point cushion for much of the balance of the half. Senior guard Keith Cothran led the Rams with 19 points, but four others, including seniors Delray Jones (forward), Lamonte Ulmer (forward), along with sophomore Orion Outerbridge (forward) and freshman Akeem Richmond (guard) all chipped in double-digit points. Cothran has led the Rams in scoring in six of their nine games this season. Akeem Richmond has scored double-digit points in six of his nine games as well, as the freshman is averaging 8.8 points this season. Only Fordham, with their 73-56 loss to St. John’s of the Big East, lost on Sunday.
Charlotte. The 49ers munched on cupcakes this past week, hammering Winston-Salem 94-52 on Tuesday (12/8) and then Gardner-Webb 95-66 on Saturday (12/12). Charlotte will meet Winthrop on Sunday (12/20) before getting down to business with Old Dominion on Wednesday (12/23).
Dayton. After taking down George Mason 56-55 on the road last Tuesday (12/8), followed by Old Dominion 58-50 on Friday (12/11), Dayton will reward itself with a few sweets before Christmas, hosting the Blue Hose of Presbyterian on Saturday (12/19) before taking on Appalachian State on Tuesday (12/22).
Duquesne. Hammered by West Virginia 68-39 on the road last Wednesday (12/9), the Dukes returned home to take their revenge against Robert Morris 59-54 on Saturday (12/12). Scoring without the injured Melquan Bolding, set to return at the end of the month, has fallen largely to a triumvirate of two juniors (forwards Bill Clark and Damian Saunders) and a sophomore (BJ Monteiro). These three take between 29% (Saunders) and 23% (Clark) of the shots when they are on the floor. Rotation player Sean Johnson aside, nobody else takes more than 15% (role player-level involvement) of the shots, surprising given that senior guard Jason Duty was an outside force last season, taking 133 three-point attempts last season, and hitting 41.4% of them. Duty’s reduced involvement has made Clark the principal outside threat, the junior taking about 58% of his shots from beyond the arc. Unfortunately Clark, at a 31% rate, is converting at a rate only 6% higher than the entire squad (and Duty). For a team that takes 38.6% of its field goal attempts from the 3-point line, a 26% conversion rate is a killer. If the squad has become a bit shot-challenged, the spate of turnovers, if uncorrected, will severely limit the team’s prospects come conference play. The Dukes lost a devastating 37% of their possessions in the West Virginia game, further crippling their offense. They also lost 25% or more of their possessions in the Robert Morris and Savannah State games, making those scores closer than their shooting might have suggested. The short, guard-oriented squad has trouble with defensive rebounding, allowing opponents to grab nearly 37% of their misses and ranks the Dukes at #284 among D1’s 344 teams. Only junior forward Damian Saunders is ranked in Pomeroy’s top 150 for rebounding. Duquesne will host Canisius on Wednesday (12/16), travel to Indianapolis to take on the IUPUI Jaguars on Saturday (12/19) and return home to play St. Francis, PA, the following Tuesday (12/22) before the holiday break. The Dukes will then return to action on the 30th when they travel to Norfolk, VA, to play Old Dominion.
Fordham. The Rams dropped a 17-point decision to crosstown rival St. John’s. Freshman forward Chris Gaston again paced Fordham, scoring 32 points on a 12-19 (1-2 3FG, 11-17 2FG) and 7-11 FT shooting night. St. John’s was also Gaston’s 7th double-double in Fordham’s 8-game season. Fordham faces #9 Villanova at the Izod Center in the New Jersey Meadowlands on Saturday (12/19), and then travel to James Madison for a game on Wednesday (12/23). After the holiday break the Rams will return to action against Kennesaw State in Georgia on 12/29.
George Washington. The Colonials beat the Tigers of Towson by four, 73-69, last Saturday (12/12), with senior forward Damian Hollis again pacing the team. Hollis posted 13 points and shared rebounding honors with sophomore wing Aaron Ware. Hollis has led the scoring for his team four times this season. GWU will travel to Greenville, NC, to play the Pirates of East Carolina on Tuesday (12/22), then take off for the holidays before heading up to Worcester, MA, to take on the Crusaders of Holy Cross on 12/28.
La Salle. La Salle took to the road Wednesday and beat the Broncs of Rider 69-60, then travelled to Lawrence, Kansas, where they dropped a 90-65 stinker to KU on Saturday. The Explorers will face the Bison of Bucknell on Saturday, then travel to Oklahoma City to face the Oklahoma State on Monday (12/21). After the holidays, the Explorers will host the Big Red of Cornell on the 29th.
Massachusetts. After getting bombed by Seton Hall on Pearl Harbor Day, Coach Derek Kellogg’s Minutemen bounced back with a win over Grambling State at home on Friday. It was a career night for freshman Terrell Vinson, as the forward scored a career high 20 points and logged his first career double-double at Massachusetts. The Minutemen will sojourn in Boston as they face-off with Memphis at the Boston Garden on Saturday night (12/19) and then cross town to take on Boston College at the Conte Center the following Wednesday (12/23). UMass stays on the road after the holidays, going South to Davidson, NC, to take on the struggling Wildcats on the 30th.
Rhode Island. Coach Jimmy Baron’s squad just scraped by Northeastern by three on Thursday (12/10), then housed Boston College by eleven. Senior guard Keith Cothran paced the team twice, posting 19 points in each. Cothran has been the point leader in six of the Rams’ nine games this season. Nineteen seems to be Cothran’s favorite number — he has posted that number four times so far this year. Rhode Island hosts Fairfield on Sunday (12/20), then takes off for the holiday, returning to action versus Drexel on the 29th.
Richmond. The Spiders lost to cross-town rival Virginia Commonwealth 65-57 on Saturday (12/12). Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalvez scored 19 and 18 respectively, but VCU shut down the Spiders over the last 6:38, allowing only three field goals over that span. Two of the three FGs were complements of Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalez. Justin Harper’s layup at 0:45 closed out the Spiders’ scoring and brought them to within three points, but possession fouls, which brought made free throws, pushed the margin back out to eight. The Spiders take to the road this week, first to Columbia, SC, to take on the Gamecocks of South Carolina Wednesday night (12/16), and then to Sunrise, FL. for an Orange Bowl Classic clash with the Florida Gators on Saturday (12/19). Richmond squeezes one more game in before the holidays when they take on UNC – Greensboro. After the holiday break, the Spiders return to action against another North Carolina school, this time North Carolina – Wilmington, on the 28th.
Saint Joseph’s. Coach Phil Martelli’s squad played a great game, taking Villanova to edge Wednesday night (12/09) at the Palestra, as they proved that tradition and rivalry can counter athleticism. The game was played for nearly 80 possessions, fast for Division 1, where the “typical” game is about 68-69 possessions. The Hawks’ freshmen guards, Carl Jones and Justin Crosgile give Saint Joseph’s fans something to cheer about as each logged double-digit points in the loss. Fouled by Scottie Reynolds with two minutes left, Carl Jones stepped to the free throw line and hit all three of his attempts. Ninety seconds later he picked Corey Fisher’s pocket and set up Chris Prescott for a 3 pointer which cut Saint Joseph’s deficit to seven. With 17 seconds left Justin Crosgile hit three free throw attempts to reduce the game to two possessions again, but the Hawks could get no closer. The Hawks flew to Minneapolis, MN, where they lost another game, this time to the Gophers of Minnesota, 97-74. Senior guards Darrin Goven and Garrett Williamson each posted 15 points to pace the team. Junior center Todd O’Brien snagged six rebounds. The Joe’s losing streak stands at six, but a game with Lehigh on Sunday (12/20) should do the trick. After the holidays, Saint Joseph’s will travel to Albany, NY, where they will play Siena on Tuesday the 29th.
St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies finished off their exhibition allotment by doing what Syracuse could not — beating the LeMoyne Dolphins by 11 in Olean, NY. St. Bonaventure then hosted Savannah State and abused them 79-47 on Saturday (12/12). The Bonnies will travel to the Carrier Dome and face #5 Syracuse on Saturday (12/19), then off to Buffalo, NY, to face Niagara on Tuesday (12/22). After the holidays, the Bonnies close out their Little Three round robin when they host Canisius on the 30th.
St. Louis. Coach Rick Majerus’ Billikens closed out their exhibition season with a win over Rockhurst University 66-53. St. Louis will then run through three opponents in the fortnight before Christmas, taking Belmont on Wednesday night (12/16), Missouri State on Saturday (12/19) and University of Missouri – Kansas City on Tuesday (12/22). The Billikens will then break for the holidays, returning to action against Eastern Illinois on the 29th.
Temple. The Owls beat #3 Villanova by a solid 10 points, 75-65, on Sunday (12/13) at the Liacouras Center. Down by 14 with 4:30 left in the 1st half, Temple launched a torrid 20-4 run over the next seven minutes that overtook Villanova. The Owls never looked back, closing out the game with a 36-29 run. Juan Fernandez and Lavoy Allen paced the team with 33 points and 17 rebounds respectively. Temple will take on Seton Hall on Saturday (12/19) and then break for the holidays, going back into action against Bowling Green on the 28th.
Xavier. Two technicals, a Brian Kelly chant and an intentional foul that bounced the #9 national recruit on the hardwood and brought both benches to mid-court for a full-squad confrontation. And that was just the first half. Yes, the 2010 edition of the Crosstown Shootout had it’s highs (three career highs, actually) and lows (47 fouls, 2 “T”s). And after 50 minutes of full-out play, a winner by the slightest — four-point — margin. Bragging rights to the Queen City belong to the X-men this season, as they downed #19 Cincinnati 83-79 before 10,000+ fans at the Cintas Center. Terrell Holloway scored a career-high 26 points on 7-13 (1-5 3FG, 6-8 2FG) and 11-11 FT shooting. Senior Jason Love matched his career-high for rebounds, 19 (3 off), and scored the Musketeers’ last five points to seal the win. This is the 3rd straight Crosstown Shootout win for Xavier, the first for rookie head coach Chris Mack. The Musketeers travel to Indianapolis, IN, to take on #17 Butler on Saturday (12/19), return home for a tilt with Miami (OH) and then break for the holidays. They swing back into action as they host LSU on the 29th.
Games to Catch
Richmond at South Carolina, Wednesday 12/16 — The game features a matchup of guards, as the Spiders’ Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalvez will go up against the Gamecocks’ experienced backcourt duo, Devan Downey and Brandis Raley-Ross. South Carolina will be in the SEC hunt, with a good chance to bring home an NCAA bid come March.
Xavier at #17 Butler, Saturday 12/19 — The Bulldogs have replaced Gonzaga as the mid-major darling of the mainstream media. Terrell Holloway, Mark Lyons and Jordan Crawford will check out another 3-guard offense when they go into action against Shelvin Mack, Willie Veasley and Ronald Nored (with Zach Hahn and Shawn Vanzant off the bench). Jason Love and Kenny Frease will have a good chance to dominate inside.
Richmond vs #13 Florida, Saturday 12/19 — If Anderson and Gonzalvez get a workout with South Carolina, expect the Spider front court of Justin Harper, Dan Geriot and Ryan Butler (and Josh Duinker and Francis-Cedric Martel) to get a workout when they go up against Vernon Macklin, Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons of the Gators. No rest for Anderson and Gonzalvez as they match up against highly recruited freshman Kenny Boyton and sophomore guard Erving Walker. Should be a good test for the Spiders.
La Salle at Oklahoma State, Monday 12/21 — Guards Rodney Green, Kimani Barrett and Ruben Guillandeaux will match up with Coach Travis Ford’s stable of guards — James Anderson, Keiton Page, Obi Muonelo and Ray Penn. Aric Murray and Yves Mbala (and Jerrell Williams) will have their hands full with Matt Pilgrim and Marshall Moses (and Roger Franklin).
What You Need to Know. Over the past two seasons the A10 has earned 6 NCAA bids, sending four different teams to the D1 post-season party of 64 65. That is more teams over the same period than any other non-BCS conference. Those teams garnered a higher winning percentage (6-6 or 50%) than the SEC (5-9 or 35.7%). This season should track with previous seasons as the A10 will look for 2-3 teams with enough talent and success to earn 1-2 at-large bids in addition to the conference’s automatic bid. The A10 has become a showcase for ‘tweeners and front-court players lately. The A10’s last two POYs were a pair of undersized (for the positions they played) frontcourt players. Gary Forbes, a 6-7 PF out of Massachusetts won in 2008, and Ahmad Nivins a 6-10 235 pound C out of St. Joseph’s, won last spring. This season is no different as fans will see Dayton’s Chris Wright (a preseason Wooden nominee), Xavier’s Jason Love, Rhode Island’s Delroy James, Duquesne’s Melquan Bolding and Richmond’s Kevin Smith play a position or two “up” from their size and weight. The conference will showcase a number of very well-regarded incoming freshmen as Charlotte’s Chris Braswell, Massachusetts’ Terrell Vinson and La Salle’s Aaric Murray held offers from high-major programs, but chose A10 schools.
Predicted Champion.Dayton (NCAA Seed: #4) Returning 84.5% of the minutes and 85.6% of the points from a team that finished 2nd in the conference and sent the Big East’s West Virginia home in the 1st round of the NCAAs before bowing out to Kansas, it is no wonder that the Flyers are the strong favorite to take the conference title and return to the NCAAs again in 2010. Dayton took the top spot in the A10 Coaches preseason poll, announced on Media Day (10/22). The squad is deep and experienced as Coach Brian Gregory brings back seven seniors and four juniors including four starters and nine of the top eleven scorers from last year’s team. Led by 6-8, 225 pound forward Chris Wright, a 2009-10 preseason Wooden Award nominee, the Flyers will try to pick up where they left off in March of 2009. Wright led the team in points per game (13.3) and rebounds per game (6.6). Dayton, however, is not a one man show. The Flyers return senior London Warren (the “Jacksonville Jet”), a 6-0 point guard who led the team in assists (154) last season while averaging 21.5 minutes and 4.1 points per game. Gregory can play 3 guards by bringing in two 6-3 senior guards, Marcus Johnson and Rob Lowry. Johnson was the second-leading scorer (behind Wright), averaging 11.8 points per game while playing an average of 28.3 minutes. Rob Lowry, who came to Dayton via Cecil Community College (and Chesapeake Community College), watched the team’s last ten games from the bench, as he tore a tendon in his right knee on February 12th. Lowry was the team’s leading scorer 5 times in 2009 and was second to Warren in assists. If the Flyers play like they did at the end of the 2009 season they should separate themselves from the A10 pack early and pick up a #3 or #4 seed in the NCAAs. Look for their performance in the Puerto Rican Tip-Off, where they will face up to 3 high-major teams, as a gauge for where they stand in the Top 25.
Hollis had a memorable week in what has been a rather forgettable season for the Colonials, averaging 20 points and 14.5 rebounds over two contests. The junior led GW to two wins, as he scored 25 points and pulled down 13 rebounds against Charlotte and then tallied 15 points and hauled in 16 boards against Richmond. The junior showed off his hot hand by shooting 57% over the two games, connecting on 12-for-21 from the floor. Hollis also was efficient from deep, hitting three of his five attempts from behind the arc.
HONORABLE MENTION: Ahmad Nivins (Sr.), Saint Joseph’s; Kahiem Seawright (Sr.), Rhode Island
(Note: College Chalktalk’s week runs from the previous Monday through Sunday, given the release of ‘This Week in the A-10′ each Monday morning.)