Assessing the Atlantic 10′s NCAA Tournament Chances

Posted by Joe Dzuback on March 16th, 2014

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

The chances for six bids, a record high for the Atlantic 10, are strong. The source for the seeds is the Bracket Matrix (a consensus of approximately 100 bloggers/bracketologists).

St. Joe's Made Quite the Run This Weekend (credit: Mid-Majority)

St. Joe’s Made Quite the Run This Weekend (credit: Mid-Majority)

Virginia Commonwealth (#6 seed)  – For the Rams, who have had problems generating offense from the half-court all season, turnovers leading to fast breaks and transition threes are especially important. Virginia Commonwealth’s HAVOC approach to defense is designed to generate turnovers through aggressive pressure and quick traps. HAVOC defense values turnovers and the scoring opportunities they create over shot defense. The key to negating the Rams’ strategy is to grow old and patient. Lineups that feature upperclassmen, especially in the ball-handling positions, can break the press on most possessions and make the Rams pay with easy baskets. A turnover or two should not rattle the backcourt and cause hasty, turnover-inducing decisions like the ones that plagued George Washington in the Atlantic 10 semifinals on Saturday. thrives in a hurry-up offense and defense that values turnovers over shot defense. Break the Rams’ press and avoid the half-court traps, unlike George Washington’s guard Joe McDonald Saturday, and the opponent should have a clean look at the basket. He and freshman point guard Miguel Cartagena threw two passes away with under four minutes to play and the Colonials down nine. “You can see it in their eyes… in their body language… when they are rattled,” a scout observed. Smart’s squad is the A-10′s best bet for a deep run this NCAA Tournament. While they have their flaws, they also have an experienced coach who will get them ready to play.

Saint Louis (#6 seed) – VCU may get most of the “defense” ink, but St. Louis has compiled the most impressive defensive resume in the conference… up until two weeks ago, holding opponents to 0.93 points per possession, good for #8 in Division I, according to Ken Pomeroy. The defense is vintage Rick Majerus — stifling shot defense (especially out to the three-point line) that values defensive rebounds, limited fouls and a hand in the face over turnovers. Their late February/early March slump could be anticipated because the Bills’ had a string of small point margins through much of their 12-0 start to conference play. Their 1-3 close has hurt their projected seeding and possibly their confidence. While Austin McBroom and Mike McCall are decent from beyond the arc, they are specialists. Opposing defenses know if McBroom or McCall (or forward Rob Loe) has the ball, the shot will come from the outside and anyone else will drive the lane or pass into the low post. Jordair Jett, the A-10 Player of the Year, has proven to be able to create his own shot, but everyone else needs a setup or set play to score. The Bills will have to find a third/fourth option on offense to take a deep run.

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Morning Five: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 6th, 2014

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  1. When we saw a story on ESPN.com about Dean Smith we were tempted to overlook it particularly after the John Feinstein story that we linked to on Monday. We are glad that we did because Tommy Tomlinson’s article on Smith, his failing memory, and the people who stand by him is probably the best thing you will read all day. As we mentioned on Monday, we cannot remember anybody saying something negative about Smith on a personal level. If you were not aware of why that is, this article and the anecdotes within it should explain it.
  2. With Wichita State finishing the regular season undefeated, Matt Norlander decided it was time to compare this Wichita State team to the 2004 St. Joseph’s team, which was the last to go undefeated in the regular season. That 2004 team, which was led by Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, ended up losing a game in their conference tournament so Wichita State could make it a step further than them by the start of the NCAA Tournament. While it might be interesting to compare the two teams numerically they are very different teams. The Shockers certainly have their share of well-known players, but are overall a much more balanced team that that St. Joe’s team. In the end, the way that most people will remember this Wichita State team will be scripted in the next month.
  3. We already read Mike DeCourcy’s response to Mark Cuban and now Larry Brown, a man who has plenty of experience at both the college and professional level, has decided to respond to Cuban’s comments that the NBDL would be better for player development than the NCAA is. Brown, who is actually based in Dallas now as the head coach at SMU, strongly disagreed with Cuban and said that the coaching players get at the NCAA level is vastly superior to what they would get in the NBDL. We can certainly agree with that assessment at SMU under someone like Larry Brown although we would not be quite as sure about that at some other colleges.
  4. We are getting to the point in the season where people are starting to seriously look at end of season individual honors. Some awards like National Player of the Year are all, but locked up (the flight attendants on planes going to Omaha might want to start making space in the overhead bins). Most of the others are up in the air. With that in mind, Seth Davis took a look at the races for player/coach/freshman of the year in each of the major conferences. We tend to agree with Davis’ picks here, but we wouldn’t be surprised if there were some differences in the final decisions on some of these awards.
  5. Some of you may remember Russ Pennell from his brief stint as head coach at Arizona when he took them to the Sweet 16 in 2009. Since that time Pennell served as head coach at Grand Canyon State University (yes, the one that caused the uproar recently) and the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA. Now, Pennell is returning to Central Arkansas, where he played in college, to become the team’s new head coach. If you seem surprised that the name of a Southland Conference team seems familiar is because you may have heard of them when Corliss Williamson was briefly the coach there. Or perhaps you may have heard of one of their former players–Scottie Pippen.
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Matchup Zone Continues to Key Richmond’s Run Through A-10

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 25th, 2014

On paper, Richmond, now 4-1 in the Atlantic 10 after a win over St. Joseph’s Saturday, should not be competing with the better teams in the league. The Spiders are a team that is regularly outsized and do not have the same caliber of athletes as many of their opponents, but the reason the Spiders are playing so well is because of their intensity on the defensive end. Chris Mooney’s team boasts one of the best match-up zones in the entire landscape of college basketball, which allows the Spiders to compensate for their athletic and other deficiencies.

Chris Mooney

Chris Mooney presides over one of the best zone defenses in college basketball at Richmond (credit: usatoday.net)

After outclassing nationally-ranked UMass earlier this week, Richmond could have been in for a letdown of sorts on Saturday. Instead, the team came out with an extremely impressive effort defensively. As a team that starts two guards, two wings and just one post player, Richmond is already disadvantaged on the glass before the game even starts. The Spiders aren’t going to match most opponents’ rebounding efforts or their second-chance points, but Mooney expects and seems comfortable with that. Richmond lost the rebounding battle by 10, but still won the game by a 77-62 margin.

The reason for conceding a deficit on the boards is because of what Richmond can do in forcing teams into difficult offensive decisions. For example, a big man may receive the ball in the post to find 5’9” Kendall Anthony guarding him. Instead of a quick and easy two points, an immediate double-team comes from the weak side to force a kickout pass. The zone then resets very quickly, so there aren’t often many wide open looks on the opposite side (a major reason why, despite playing so much zone, Richmond was second in the A-10 in three-point field goal defense at 40 percent coming into Saturday). Perimeter players have trouble driving to the basket, and the amount of time it takes a team to find a decent look bleeds most of the shot clock. Richmond is only allowing 64 points per game (second in the A-10), and can live with the occasional offensive rebound from the other team because it’s so rare that the opponent can come in and dictate exactly what it wants to do.

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Pac-12 M5: 12.02.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on December 2nd, 2013

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  1. Out of all the preseason preview publications out there, the highest praise rained upon an incoming transfer from Moberly Area Community College was “brings scoring potential.” That was via Athlon Sports, and boy has junior guard Mike Anderson showed some scoring potential this season for Washington. He led the Huskies to a 92-89 double overtime win Saturday against Long Beach State, scoring 19 points and grabbing a ridiculous 16 rebounds in the victory. Head coach Lorenzo Romar has not run out of good things to say about the junior college transfer, telling reporters that while he expected him to be a jack-of-all-trades type of player, this goes above and beyond that description. Anderson is playing out of position and is excelling at it, adding a nice complement in the Huskies’ three-guard lineup to C.J. Wilcox and Nigel Williams-Goss. The Huskies will play San Diego State on the road Sunday and need a win to stay above the .500 mark.
  2. Feast Week came to a close yesterday, and Washington State went cold down the stretch in Lake Buena Vista to fall to St. Joseph’s, 72-67. The Cougars led 65-63 with three-plus minutes remaining, but a 9-2 Hawks’ run to cap the game sent Ken Bone’s team home with a 1-2 record in the Old Spice Classic. “We didn’t execute as well as we needed to win the game,” said Bone. Second half execution has been a recurring problem for the Cougs, something he’ll need to figure out if he wants to stick around much longer in Pullman.
  3. While Stanford has faced some solid opponents thus far in the 2013-14 campaign, the Cardinal played their first high-profile, “nationally relevant” games during Feast Week at the Legends Classic. Golden Gate Sports breaks down what we learned about Stanford in its two regional round wins and 1-1 championship round record. As the piece points out, the Pittsburgh game wasn’t a bad loss because of the quality of the opponent, but rather because it turned out to be a blowout and the Cardinal were never really in the game. Stanford will get a chance to prove it can play with quality competition outside of the Pac-12 when it meets Connecticut and Michigan in back-to-back games away from home later this month. Meanwhile in Palo Alto, Johnny Dawkins’ seat gets warmer.
  4. Former USC coach and current head man at UTEP, Tim Floyd, says the verbal feuding between himself and current Trojans’ coach Andy Enfield, is over. The bad-mouthing began in April when Floyd thought Enfield was tampering with the recruitment of guard Isaac Hamilton, who was originally supposed to be a Miner (eventually landing at UCLA). The altercations came to a head earlier this week with both teams playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in Nassau, Bahamas, with the respective coaching staffs exchanging heated words following the publication of this feature two weeks ago.
  5. One of the quietest 7-0 records in the country belongs to Dana Altman and Oregon. Ever since the Ducks topped Georgetown on opening night, they have flown under the radar with a soft schedule and without the play-making abilities of starting sophomore point guard Dominic Artis, who was suspended after it was discovered he had been selling his team-issued shoes. Since that first week, the Ducks have used fast starts in most of their contests to jump ahead of their lesser opponents. They did just that again on Sunday night, taking an early 36-18 advantage against Cal Poly before rolling to a 21-point victory. Things get considerably tougher for Oregon now, though, as it faces Mississippi, Illinois, UC Irvine, and BYU in its next four games, the first two of which will be played away from the friendly confines of Matthew Knight Arena.
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New Memberships in the A-10 and Mountain West: Can These Leagues Sustain Success?

Posted by BHayes on October 10th, 2013

Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveler) is an RTC national columnist.

The tumult of conference realignment has hit few conferences harder than it has the Mountain West and Atlantic 10, but as we prepare to set sail on the 2013-14 season, both leagues again loom as the best college basketball has to offer outside the now “power seven” conferences. We touched on each league a little bit in yesterday’s Morning Five, but storylines abound in two leagues that have generated plenty of national buzz in recent years. Both are expected to maintain holds in the upper echelon of the mid-major hierarchy, but offseason membership changes have left things less certain than usual, especially in the A-10. The constant churn of programs jumping from conference to conference has left leagues in varying states of disarray, and 2013-14 finds both the Mountain West and Atlantic 10 at a crossroads. The challenges are different in each situation, but with the relatively uncertain future of today’s college basketball’s climate, another strong season in comparison with the high-majors would go a long ways towards stabilizing each of these traditionally strong conferences.

Kendall Williams And New Mexico Are Just One Of Many Teams With High Hopes In The Mountain West

Kendall Williams And New Mexico Are Just One Of Many Teams With High Hopes In The Mountain West

This season’s iteration of the Mountain West is bigger, but is it better? The preseason poll released Tuesday offered confirmation of the general consensus surrounding newcomers Utah State and San Jose State: Stew Morrill and the Aggies should be a factor in the top half of the conference, while the Spartans, despite their eye-catching new floor, are likely to be MW doormats. But even if Utah State matches or exceeds expectations in their conference debut, the conference as a whole will struggle to replicate the success of 2012-13 – those good old days when the MW was number one in conference RPI (no typo). The trio at the top of this year’s preseason poll all have a chance at replicating, or even improving upon, their successful campaigns of a year ago.

The return of preseason MW POY Kendall Williams and first teamer Alex Kirk has left New Mexico as the conference’s presumptive favorite: the Lobos earned all but one of 24 first place votes. A talented but overhauled UNLV squad scooped up that final first place vote, while Boise State’s return of nearly every key contributor earned the Broncos enough acclaim to tie for second with the Rebels in the poll. The Morning Five highlighted another talented San Diego State roster that sits behind those three teams in the eyes of the media, and let’s face it — it’s probably time we start giving Steve Fisher the benefit of the doubt – the Aztecs are an annual factor out west. But behind the Aztecs and Aggies (Utah State was picked to finish fifth) lies much of the intrigue in this year’s MW. A season ago, the four non-Tournament teams (Air Force, Wyoming, Fresno State and Nevada) were all extremely competitive, especially on their home floors. Their strength was a big reason for that heady conference RPI. This year’s bottom half again appears feisty, with a couple of teams – Nevada (#9) and Fresno State (#8) appearing especially undervalued in the preseason evaluations. Nobody – inside our outside the league — is expecting the MW to finish atop the conference RPI again this season. But another solid campaign, on the heels of that banner season of a year ago, would be awfully sound validation of a league unprepared to leave the national consciousness anytime soon.

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Night Line: Butler the Latest Casualty of an Unpredictable Atlantic 10

Posted by BHayes on January 24th, 2013

nightline2

Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Last weekend belonged to the Butler Bulldogs. With College Gameday in town and the national spotlight shining brightly on Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Dogs delivered as dramatic a victory as you will ever see when Roosevelt Jones coaxed in a floater at the horn to defeat Gonzaga. It was a transcendent moment that will stand alone well after this season ends, but it also vaulted Butler into the top 10 of both polls – rarefied midseason air, even for Butler. But the intoxicating high was short-lived in Indy, as Butler dove back into A-10 play tonight, coming up short in a 54-53 loss to La Salle. The Bulldogs weren’t the only team to be smacked in the face with the reality of this rough-and-tumble version of the A-10; St. Joseph’s fell at home to St. Bonaventure, while Xavier’s first Atlantic 10 loss came at the hands of surprising Charlotte – all further evidence that nights off aren’t an option in one of the deepest conferences in America.

LaSalle And Ramon Galloway Showed Butler That Life On The Road In The Atlantic-10 Is Rarely Easy

LaSalle And Ramon Galloway Showed Butler That Life On The Road In The Atlantic-10 Is Rarely Easy

A chaotic night in the conference indeed, but don’t mistake the happenings at La Salle as any sort of major upset. The Explorers were actually favorites in Vegas for this one, although an available Rotnei Clarke may have altered that. Either way, this has to be John Giannini’s most significant win at La Salle, and it adds some real legitimacy to his team’s at-large case. Lots of wins still need to come his way, but at 13-5 overall and 3-2 in the conference, this team undoubtedly will have the opportunity to play their way into the field.

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Night Line: Rams Continue To Wreak Havoc in Basketball-Crazy Richmond

Posted by BHayes on January 18th, 2013

nightline2

Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

The word entered the college basketball lexicon long enough ago for it to be a household term nowadays, but there is still something very fresh about the “havoc” being created down in Richmond. Shaka Smart coined the term years ago to describe the manic brand of hoops his VCU teams employ, and Thursday night proved the catchy maxim apt once again, as St. Joseph’s couldn’t stand up to the “wide and general destruction” (the definition of havoc, per Merriam-Webster) caused by the Rams.

Shaka Smart Continues To Build VCU Into A National Power

VCU’s Fan Base Is Only Getting Larger…

If havoc doesn’t do it for you, we can just go with relentless. VCU found a way to come back from four down with 15 seconds to play, tying it with seven ticks left, and then forcing Carl Jones (21 points, five assists) to cough it up on the final St. Joe’s possession. There was no doubt that momentum was on the Rams side entering the extra period, and overtime was a five-minute display of everything Shaka Smart prides himself and his players on. St. Joseph’s had more turnovers than field goals in OT and looked completely out of gas, to the point where Phil Martelli’s bunch simply stood and watched as VCU, up eight with a minute to go, dribbled out the entire shot clock. Standard game theory would have suggested an early foul in an effort to extend the game, but too many hands on knees dictated action here — the Hawks simply couldn’t stand any more of the havoc.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 01.07.12

Posted by bmulvihill on January 7th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are several very meaningful conference games this week, which is great to see so early in the conference season. There’s lots of great games and even more to cover, so let’s not waste any time and get right to the breakdowns.

#18 Notre Dame at #10 Cincinnati – 6:30 PM EST, Monday on ESPN2 (****)

Things Are Looking Good for Mike Brey, Who Just Might Win Another Coach of the Year Awayrd (AP Photo)

Can Mike Brey and the Irish buck history and win their first true road game? (AP Photo)

  • Notre Dame has played 14 games so far and this will be their first true road test of the season. Mike Brey is known for setting his schedule this way and it has not benefited the Irish much over the years. The Irish have lost their first true road game of the season for three straight seasons, and if you examine Notre Dame’s schedule in the Brey era, you will see that losing the first road game of the season is fairly typical. The Irish run up against a Cincinnati team that has lost two of its past three games, including back-to-back home games. The Bearcats can blame most of their recent troubles on poor shooting. They are under 50% eFG for the past five games. They are also struggling to get to the line, which is an indication that they are taking a lot of outside shots. Look to see if Cincy takes the ball to the hoop more to manufacture some points at the free throw line. Also, watch to see if Notre Dame can hit their shots on the road as well as they have at home. It’s doubtful, particularly against tough field goal defense like Cincinnati. The Bearcats should win in a close one.

#23 Pittsburgh at #14 Georgetown – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPNU (***)

  • Many questioned how good the Panthers really were given their weak schedule, but with two consecutive losses, it’s looking more and more like the critics were correct. Pitt heads to Georgetown for a tough Big East road game in which a loss will drop them to 0-3 in the conference. Georgetown is coming off a tough road loss to Marquette where offensive rebounding and free throws killed them, much like it did in the Indiana game earlier this season. If Pittsburgh is to win this game, they need to control the offensive glass. They rank sixth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, but watch to see if the length of the Hoyas makes rebounding more difficult for Pitt. Additionally, the Panthers present relatively zero threat from three-point land. They rely on twos heavily and almost exclusively. With the Hoyas ranking 13th in the nation in two-point field goal defense, you can expect Jamie Dixon’s club to have a tough time scoring. It says here that the Hoyas should prevail at home.

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The Other 26: Cowboy-ing Up

Posted by IRenko on January 5th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

College basketball has just four undefeated teams left. You can likely recite the identity of the first three:  Duke, Michigan, and Arizona, who occupy the top three spots in the AP rankings. But you may be surprised to learn that the fourth team is the Wyoming Cowboys. Larry Shyatt’s squad sits at 13-0 after a successful non-conference season that featured solid wins over Colorado, Illinois State, and Denver.

Leonard Washington Has Led Wyoming to a Surprising Undefeated Start (Troy Babbitt / US PRESSWIRE)

Leonard Washington Has Led Wyoming to a Surprising Undefeated Start (Troy Babbitt / US PRESSWIRE)

Last year, the Cowboys finished sixth in the MW. Then in the offseason, they graduated three of their five starters. So how have they managed to reel off 13 straight victories to start the year? Wyoming is very strong defensively, but they were just as good, if not better, last year. The biggest difference is a major improvement on offense, as their adjusted efficiency has gone from 0.99 points to 1.08 points per possession. That may not sound like a big difference, but when you realize that a single game is composed of dozens of possessions, it adds up to a substantially better offensive performance. This increased efficiency has been driven by the Cowboys’ ability to get to the free throw line and to convert on two-point opportunities. Senior forward Leonard Washington deserves the credit for leading the team in both respects. The 6’7″ tweener is shooting 63.7 percent on two-point field goals and draws 6.2 fouls per 40 minutes — one of the higher rates in the country.

The second significant factor in the Cowboys’ improvement is the offseason development of senior Derrious Gilmore and sophomore Larry Nance, Jr. (yes, the former NBA player’s son). Gilmore has rewarded Larry Shyatt’s decision to hand him the starting point guard spot by improving his per game averages from 3.1 points and 1.1 assists per contest to 11.8 points and 3.2 assists per game. He averages more than 32 minutes per game, second most to Washington. Nance, meanwhile, has gone from averaging 4.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest to 11.2 and 6.8, respectively.  He shoots over 60 percent on two-point attempts and 84.2 percent from the free throw line. Add in the contributions of returning starter and senior guard Luke Martinez (14.5 points, 42.2% 3FG) , and the Cowboys have a feature a surprising amount firepower.

Despite their undefeated mark, it remains an open question as to how good the Cowboys really are. Last year, they got off to 14-2 start during non-conference play but crumpled to a 6-8 record in the Mountain West. This year’s record is even more impressive to be sure and, as noted above, features some solid if unspectacular wins. But the strength of schedule is about to kick into a higher gear, as they enter conference play against a very deep and talented Mountain West. If they can maintain their offensive improvement through the rest of the year and continue to get contributions from a range of players, they may be Dancing for the first time since 2002 and just the second time in 25 years.

Let’s move on to this week’s Top 10, the performances that caught our eye this past week, and the games to watch in the week ahead.

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Who Won the Week? Illinois, DePaul and Fans Everywhere…

Posted by Kenny Ocker on December 14th, 2012

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Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: The Fans

Oregon Pit Crew student fans support Arsalan Kazemi on the night of his debut as a Duck. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

Fans, this horrible week is over. You’ve been freed, just like Arsalan Kazemi. (Also, can we please ignore the fact that a UO student misspelled “anchor”? I got my degree from there, and so did this photographer, and neither of us seemed to have any issues with that word.) (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

Let’s face it – this finals week was about the worst thing on record. Save for an upset win over Wichita State by Tennessee, which magically scored more than 40 points to shockingly hand the Shockers their first loss, the week was bereft of interesting match-ups. But the good news is, it’s over. (I’ve got a little bit of bad news though: Winter break’s not much better in terms of captivating contests.) Let’s celebrate that and move on with our lives.

(Related winners: None. Related losers: Anyone who had to sit through games last week.)

LOSER: Halil Kanacevic

The 6’8” forward for St. Joseph’s thought it would be a good idea to show support for his Hawks by flipping the double bird to Villanova fans during a Big 5 game after making his only field goal of the night, a three-pointer to give St. Joe’s a 50-47 lead in the second half. Instead, Kanacevic got popped with a technical foul for the display of unsportsmanlike conduct. Late in the game, he then proceeded to miss two clutch free throws with a minute to go that would have stretched the Hawks’ one-point lead. Instead, the Wildcats came back for a 65-61 home win that helped right their ship an embarrassing 18-point defeat to Columbia and Big 5 losses to La Salle and Temple. For his trouble, Kanacevic got suspended for two games as well.

(Related winners: Villanova; Temple, the likely Big 5 favorite. Related losers: St. Joseph’s; Langston Gallaway, the Hawks guard whose six three-pointers and 22 points were lost in the shuffle.)

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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2012

CIO header

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

Looking Back

  • And Then There Was One – Charlotte and Temple entered their Saturday games undefeated, and the 49ers beat Central Michigan by 12 to run their string to nine while Temple, facing consensus #2 Duke on a neutral court, could not keep up, losing by 23 to drop to 6-1. Charlotte is one of 14 unbeaten Division I teams remaining, and the 49ers have thrived through senior Chris Braswell’s dominant play. Coming off of a season-beginning suspension, the 6’9” senior forward/center has been on a tear, leading the team by averaging 14.3 points with 7.0 rebounds per game. Two freshmen wings, Willie Clayton and Darion Clark, have stepped up with strong board play while providing solid scoring support. Their biggest test is coming on Saturday, as they travel to Miami to face the Hurricanes of the ACC. Stay tuned.
Temple's One-Two Punch of Khalif Wyatt (above) and Scootie Randall Went Cold Against Duke. (AP)

Temple’s One-Two Punch of Khalif Wyatt (above) and Scootie Randall Went Cold Against Duke. (AP)

  • Fall Semester Finals – The fall semester is winding down as most Division I schools head into final examinations last week and this week. And so it is with the Atlantic-10’s non-conference schedule. With a body of work already in place, a number of teams around the conference are facing their biggest challenges of their non-conference schedules. Temple fell to Duke last Saturday, and while the loss surprised only the delusional, the margin – 23 points on a neutral court – was shocking. Butler traveled to Evanston, Illinois, and beat Northwestern of the Big Ten, but an even bigger test looms ahead as #1 Indiana has a play date with the Bulldogs next Saturday. The Musketeers stubbed their toes in Cintas Center, dropping a two-point decision to the Commodores of the SEC, but they have no time to dwell on the lost opportunity as the Crosstown Classic (the name changed from the historic “Crosstown Shootout” no doubt due to unpleasant memories of last season’s game-ending brawl) is set for Wednesday, December 19. Undefeated Charlotte travels to Miami to face the Hurricanes. Virginia Commonwealth has already seen a ranked team or two, but Alabama comes to town Saturday to give the Rams yet another opportunity to spruce up their resume.
  • The (Really) Big A-10? – ESPN’s Andy Katz and Dana O’Neil reported that the seven Catholic (basketball-only) members of the Big East met with Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco Sunday to express their growing concerns about the current state of the conference and the diminishing status and quality of the conference’s basketball product.As the Big East continues to show signs of stress with conference realignment, sources within the Atlantic 10 have shared with Katz and O’Neil that A-10 conference members are open to the opportunities and challenges a 20- or 21-member conference would create. These sources are looking at the possibility that as many as seven of the Big East’s basketball members may opt to leave the Big East or persuade another two-to-four members to join their bloc and vote to dissolve the conference and split the proceeds; or, in the extreme, decide to leave the conference and investigate membership opportunities elsewhere (like the A-10). The sources believe that the A-10, bolstered by the additions of VCU and Butler, would be an attractive destination for those Catholic schools. A major stumbling block, however, is the revenue gap. Big East basketball schools currently realize between $1 and $1.5 million in basketball-derived TV revenues. The A-10 members anticipate a $350,000 annual payout from the league’s recently concluded TV contract.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

Butler and Temple swap places, as do Saint Joseph’s and Virginia Commonwealth. Fordham, Rhode Island and George Washington continue to struggle while Charlotte and Dayton continue to win and place some good wins on their resumes. The conference always has a few teams that take a long time to find their spot in the pecking order. Who really belongs at this point? A number of squads are putting in their bids.

  1. Butler (6-2) – The resume shows two double-digit losses and a big win over a Division II opponent, but with a win over North Carolina and a road win over Northwestern, boosted the Bulldog over the Owls this week. Two games last week (IUPUI and Northwestern) saw freshman guard Kellen Dunham show again he has the potential to develop into that second reliable outside shooter behind Rotnei Clarke. A consistent outside threat should loosen up the inside for Roosevelt Jones and Khyle Marshall. Freshman center Andrew Smith’s efforts against IUPUI and a double-double versus Northwestern drew a nod from the conference, but he will probably not get those opportunities in every game. Here and there, however, his should be effective.

    Rotnei Clarke and Butler have a huge contest against Indiana on the horizon (AP)

    Rotnei Clarke and Butler have a huge contest against Indiana on the horizon (AP)

  2. Temple (6-1) –The margin of Temple’s loss to Duke Saturday, 23 points, was a surprise. Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly exploited a younger and less polished front court rotation (mainly forward/center Anthony Lee and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson) on defense, causing Lee to sit with two fouls early in the first half, which forced Fran Dunphy to commit more bodies to post defense. And then Duke’s guards exploded. Dunphy needed a well-managed game from his senior guards Scootie Randall and (especially) Khalif Wyatt, but they did not deliver. Wyatt launched 10 field goal attempts in the first half, many shots were hurried and out of the offensive flow. Dunphy brought out the starting five to start the second half, but sat Wyatt just under the 14 minute mark (about six minutes into the half) and did not bring him back as he worked the deeper parts of his bench. The front court will be a problem going forward, but the back court must learn how to mask that weakness or Temple will continue to slide. Read the rest of this entry »
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Atlantic 10′s Slow Start Continues With St. Joe’s Loss

Posted by BHayes on December 12th, 2012

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Before the 2012-13 season kicked off, the Atlantic 10 seemed poised for a banner campaign. The offseason additions of VCU and Butler meant that eight A-10 teams harbored legitimate NCAA Tourney hopes, and even the most level-headed of prognosticators would have admitted that the conference seemed likely to match or improve upon the four NCAA bids it earned last season. All was rosy back then, but unfortunately for A-10 enthusiasts, little has gone to script thus far.  The non-conference slate simply has not included the signature victories necessary for that surplus of NCAA Tournament bids to appear in March, and a number of A-10 powers have experienced unexpected struggles. One of the few marquee victories the conference can lay claim to is a St. Joseph’s victory over Notre Dame at MSG, but the Hawks have gone just 3-3 since, and hardly looked the part of the conference favorite (as they were selected by the media before the year) again tonight, as they fell 65-61 at Villanova.

This Week Presents An Excellent Opportunity To Move Up In The Standings For Phil Martelli And Crew

Phil Martelli’s Group Could Have Used a Win Over Villanova

A loss at the Pavilion (in a rivalry game nonetheless) is hardly a reason to call off the season, but early results have indicated that this is an unusually weak Villanova team, as the Cats had already dropped two games to A-10 opponents (La Salle and Temple), and even more damning, been pasted at home (losing by 18) by the Ivy League’s Columbia. A familiar cliché advises you to “throw out the records” in a rivalry game, but for a St. Joseph’s team with significant preseason buzz and real NCAA Tournament hopes, I don’t think you should be shuttling to the trash can — this was a game they should have won.

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