Duke Guards Feast on the Attention Placed on Mason Plumlee Inside

Posted by rtmsf on December 10th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s Temple-Duke game in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

“How good can this team become coach?” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski did not want to answer that question. Superstitious perhaps, or having coached nearly 38 seasons in Division I, he knows how quickly a team’s prospects can change. “I have had some pretty good teams… [“one or two” someone whispered)] …we’ve done ok.” Anyone who had watched Duke dismantle Temple to the tune of 90-67 on Saturday afternoon had to know the #2 Blue Devils were better than “ok.” Previews of this match-up dwelled on the role Temple’s guards played in the Owls’ 78-73 win last season, and the Owls’ prospects would rise or fall on guard play again. Both teams play three guards, but the similarity ends there. Duke’s guards look like… guards. Quinn Cook is 6’ 1” and 175 pounds. Seth Curry, who still wears a boot while not on the court to protect his ankle injured in Duke’s win over Ohio State, stands at 6’ 2” and 185 pounds. Rasheed Sulaimon (dubbed “Sulaimon the Great” by a member of the press after the freshman hit his first three of the game standing about four feet behind the three point line) is a 6’ 4”, 185-pound beanstalk. Tyler Thornton is a 6’ 1”, 190-pound “sixth man,” and the only other guard on the roster.

Despite a lingering ankle injury, Duke’s Seth Curry launches a three from well behind the three-point line. He made this second half attempt.

Temple head coach Fran Dunphy favors taller, thicker wings who move seamlessly between point guard and small forward. Will Cummings, a 6’ 2” sophomore who plays the point for Temple this season, is the only one of the seven players listed on the Temple roster as a “guard” or more appropriately “guard/forward” who could pass for a Duke mold guard. Khalif Wyatt, at 6’ 4” and 210 pounds, and Scootie Randall, 6’ 6” and 225 pounds, are “Philly guards,” whose build and style of play reminds fans of the Big 5 of Diante Christmas and Ramone Moore, two of the wings developed by Dunphy since he moved over from Penn four seasons ago. They are all built like safeties and each is as likely to roll off a screen, catch and shoot a three, as he is to put the ball on the deck and drive the lane for a layup. Christmas, Moore, Wyatt and Randall, along with 6’ 5”, 220-pound transfer Dalton Pepper, grew up in Philadelphia or in one of the surrounding Delaware Valley suburbs.

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

Early Season Performances – The Oooh Aaaah Variety (Teams & Individuals)

The A-10 evened the record versus the six power conferences again last week, largely on the strength of performances by Xavier and Richmond. Xavier needed overtime to beat Vanderbilt in Nashville. Down by two with just under four minutes in regulation, Xavier held Vanderbilt scoreless and managed to tie on a Mark Lyons jumper with six seconds remaining in regulation. In overtime the Musketeers took the lead for good 68-66 on two Dezmine Wells free throws and Tu Holloway put a large enough margin between the teams (about eight points) when he hit two threes in successive possessions to absorb a Commodore mini-run. Vanderbilt chipped the Musketeers’ lead down to four, but could get no closer. Forced to foul, Holloway and Travis Taylor went a perfect 6 for 6 from the line to stretch the lead to 10 and suck the life out of the Commodore comeback.

Hosting Purdue five days later, Xavier again went down early, allowing Purdue to take the lead at the 18:49 mark of the first half and hold it for the next 37 minutes of play. The Boilermakers took an 11-point lead into the intermission and stretched it to 15 in the first 6:30 of the second half. Over the next 12:24 Xavier outscored Purdue 29-13 to take the lead for only the second time in the game. Once in control, the Musketeers did not let the Boilermakers back in, pushing their lead out to three in the last minute of the game.

As for Tu Holloway’s (and Xavier’s) week, we can’t say it any better than Rob Dauster over at Ballin’ is a Habit. Ok we could, but cut and paste required fewer key strokes and brain cells:

Those numbers are more interesting, however, when you break up the game. For example, with 3:30 left in overtime against Vanderbilt, Holloway had just 14 points on 4-17 shooting. That stat line looks much more impressive after he hit back-to-back threes on the next two possessions and four straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Likewise, against Purdue, Holloway had just 10 points and six turnovers in the first 38 minutes of the game, but in the final two minutes he hit a three on three consecutive possessions (video of the last two below) and followed that up with two free throws, completing the most impressive comeback of the young season…in the final three minutes against Vanderbilt and the last two minutes against Purdue, Holloway had 21 points, went 5-6 from beyond the arc and knocked down all six of his free throws attempts.

The Richmond squad had to replace 59% of their minutes and 68.6% of their scoring from the squad that won the A-10 conference tournament and ran to the Sweet Sixteen last March. Freshman point guard Kendall Anthony, three times designated Rookie of the Week by the conference, has picked up a load of time and scoring responsibilities for the Spiders so far. Richmond leaned heavily on Anthony along with sophomores Cedrick Lindsay and Derrick Williams for offense. Both chipped in double digit points to complement Anthony’s production. Lindsay was a serviceable back-up to senior point guard Kevin Anderson last season, but Williams, who has started all eight games for the Spiders, saw very little action as a freshman.

Overlooked Temple off guard Aaron Brown turned heads the summer before coming to North Broad, but had few opportunities to show Temple fans and the A-10 what he could do. Brown scored 21 points in 22 minutes in a display during Temple’s 86-74 win over Central Michigan. Ken Pomeroy would find hard to ignore his performance, as he hit 7-11 (4-7 from three point land, 3-4 from inside the arc) shots from the floor while getting to the line for five free throws, of which he hit three. That computes to an 81.8% eFG% with a 1.57 points per weighted shot, an outstanding outing for the sophomore, who was pressed into action due to the injury-depleted squad.

Early Season Performances – The What the !@#!@@!# Variety (Teams & Individuals)

After winning their early season invitational tournaments, beating four power conference opponents (two each) during the tournament, both Dayton and Saint Louis stumbled in post tournament games. The losses are puzzling because for both teams, the games were winnable. Saint Louis took an “and-one” game with Loyola Marymount of the West Coast Conference, losing by seven with a performance that had team observers scratching their heads. Dayton compounded the first post tournament loss (by 29 to Buffalo of the MAC) with a second loss, this one by 17, to Murray State of the Ohio Valley Conference. The opponents were beatable, making the scoring margins downright consternating. Dayton was pegged to finish in the middle of the conference, but the two unexpected losses (albeit the Racers will most likely contend for the OVC title this season) could damage the Flyers chances for a post season NIT bid. Other inexplicable losses go to Saint Bonaventure’s home loss to Arkansas State of the Sun Belt Conference, a 3-4 team no one expects to make noise this season. The Bonnies were not helped by a lackluster six-point, nine-rebound effort from Andrew Nicholson.

Power Rankings

The Power Rankings are shuffled again this week in response to the Ooohs, Aaaahs and What the heck games listed above. For the Atlantic-10 the post season margin for error is exceedingly slim. Three losses going into the first or second week of December can take a school off the RPI short list pretty quickly.

1. Xavier (6-0) #8 AP – Xavier took down two more power conference programs last week in fashion impressive enough to climb three more spots in the AP poll. I listed many of the impressive details in the impressive performances section above, but  in addition to the video link below that shows two of Tu Holloway’s three “last two minute” three point field goals below (h/t to Dana & Victory Blog for the link). I should also mention that in Nashville Mark Lyons (19 points) and Travis Taylor (11 points) chipped in more than 10 apiece to go with Holloway’s 24 point performance, while Antoine Walker collected 14 rebounds in his return to Vanderbilt where he played for three years. Versus Purdue three Musketeers, Lyons (14 points), Walker (10 points) and Kenny Fraese (10 points) chipped in double digit points to complement Holloway’s 21 point outburst.

 

 

Xavier will travel to Indianapolis Wednesday for a game with Butler, then return home to host this season’s Crosstown Shootout versus Cincinnati on Saturday. Win these next two and Chris Mack’s squad deserves something special, like Christmas in Hawaii…wait.

2. Saint Louis (7-1) –Their top 25 ranking proved surprisingly short, the penalty for stumbling against the Lions last Tuesday. St. Louis recovered to beat another WCC team, Portland  by 20, 73-53 at the Chaifetz. The Billikens’ defense limited Portland to 0.90 points per possession, much as they had Boston College and Oklahoma. Scoring centered on Brian Conklin and Cody Ellis, with Kyle Cassidy and Mike McCall providing efficient long-range scoring. They will host Vermont on Wednesday and Division II Illinois-Springfield on Saturday.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by jstevrtc on February 11th, 2010

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

The Threshing Floor

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

  1. Charlotte (8-1, 18-5)
  2. Xavier (8-2, 16-7)
  3. Temple (7-2, 19-5, #21)
  4. Rhode Island (7-2, 19-3)
  5. Richmond (7-2, 18-6)
  6. St. Louis (6-3, 15-8)
  7. Dayton (5-3, 16-6)
  8. Duquesne (3-6, 12-11)
  9. La Salle (3-6, 11-12)
  10. Saint Joseph’s (3-7, 9-15)
  11. St. Bonaventure (2-6, 9-12)
  12. George Washington (2-7, 12-10)
  13. Massachusetts (2-7, 8-15)
  14. Fordham (0-9, 2-19)

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

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.

Dayton

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.

Duquesne

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.

Fordham

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).

George Washington

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.

La Salle

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.

Massachusetts

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).

Rhode Island

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.

Richmond

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.

Saint Joseph’s

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.

St. Bonaventure

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).

St. Louis

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

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).

Xavier

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.

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