Atlantic 10 Overview



by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

A couple of weeks ago, we ran through all the major college basketball conferences for the second time in our SPOTLIGHT coverage. We also threw in the West Coast Conference because Gonzaga and St. Mary's were going head-to-head in a big Thursday TV game. It's clear now that, for the purposes of the 2009-10 season, the Atlantic 10 has to be considered a major conference.

ACC: 7
Big East: 7
Big 12: 7
Big Ten: 5
Atlantic 10: 5
SEC: 4
Pac 10: 1

The Atlantic 10 is tied with the powerful Big Ten (likely to send Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Illinois), and ahead of the SEC and Pac 10 based on the current ratings. That could change between now and the Dance. The A10 could drop to four...the SEC could lift up to five...we can't know for sure. But, it's clear that the A10 is going to have a significant presence on the hoops landscape come March.

There's a busy schedule TONIGHT in the league, including a big game between Dayton and Temple, and a tough challenge for Xavier who has to visit Saint Louis. Seems like the PERFECT time to put the Atlantic 10 under the SPOTLIGHT!

Richmond: 11-2
Xavier: 10-2
Temple: 10-2
Saint Louis: 9-3
Charlotte: 8-4
Rhode Island: 8-5
Dayton: 7-5
Duquesne: 6-7
George Washington: 4-8
St. Bonaventure: 4-8
Massachusetts: 4-9
LaSalle: 3-9
St. Joseph's: 3-10
Fordham: 0-13

Yes, that's 14 teams in the Atlantic 10. Had you forgotten? We'll mostly focus on the top seven today. That's where the pool of Dance contenders is going to come from. That's who will be playing in games that matter the rest of the way.

It's interesting that ESPN's 'bracketology' report doesn't line up exactly with the standings. Based on their most recent entry:

Temple is a projected #5 seed
Xavier is a projected #7 seed
Richmond is a projected #7 seed
Rhode Island is a projected 11th seed
Dayton is a projected 12th seed
Charlotte is out (listed as 8th on the bubble waiting list right now)
Saint Louis is way out (not listed)

We saw USA Today project Temple as a #2 seed earlier this week. THAT'S INSANE! Temple has a very nice team, but it's not one of the eight best in the country.

Rhode Island and Dayton are both in danger of falling out of the mix if they close poorly. Remember that seeds 13-16 in the Dance generally go to automatic qualifiers from lesser leagues. The 11-12 rungs are where the last at-large bids go. The Atlantic 10 may be complaining that Charlotte isn't getting enough respect. They better focus on the task at hand or they'll be down to three teams instead of five! You know the powers that be in this sport would much rather give a bid to an extra team from the SEC or Pac 10. Rich guys project each other.

At this point, we agree with the thought that Xavier, Temple, and Richmond should be in that 5-7 range...and that Rhode Island and Dayton haven't earned guaranteed tickets yet. Any A10 team will be a threat as a dog in the Dance. Any is capable of laying an egg as a favorite. It's just that kind of league.

You regulars know we emphasize 2-point defense in our SPOTLIGHT coverage because we think it's the single best indicator stat in college basketball. Let's see if that sheds any light on how the rest of the season might play out...

Richmond: 43%
Temple: 43%
Saint Louis: 43%
Dayton: 44%
Xavier: 46%
Charlotte: 47%
Rhode Island: 51%

Wow, Rhode Island...what's wrong with you guys?! It's great to have a winning record without a defense. It's going to be very difficult to string together big game victories though come tourney time. We'd have to rate Rhode Island a true pretender right now based on that stat. Charlotte is weak in comparison to the rest of the contenders, and also wouldn't grade out very well in the Dance if they make it. Xavier is a disappointment. They have enough talent to do some damage of course. It will be tough to score more than one MAJOR victory in the Dance with that soft a defense.

Otherwise, it's a fairly solid group. The top four rank very well in the national picture with those numbers. Saint Louis isn't getting much consideration for the Dance because their non-conference schedule was so soft. That kind of defense can sure play spoiler though, as Xavier may find out tonight...and others may find out in the A10 tournament.

For the most part, our favorite indicator stat justifies the respect this conference is getting in the 'bracketology' and Power Rating assessments.

Because you'll be trying to handicap the full Atlantic 10 going forward rather than just the contenders, let's crunch the two-point numbers for the also-rans...

George Washington: 44%
Duquesne: 45%
Massachusetts: 47%
LaSalle: 48%
St. Bonaventure: 49%
St. Joseph's: 50%
Fordham: 51%

Those are actually decent numbers for also-rans, which may be a red flag that this conference doesn't have many great shooters! Either a defensive mindset is taking hold of the whole conference (which sometimes happens), or the scoring talent is lower than normal. That's something you'll have to consider in the Dance. There are surprises every year where conferences turn out to be better or worse than expected. At the least, we'll be looking for low scoring games come March as a general rule.

With so many contenders, there HAVE to be some big games coming this week based on the laws of math. There are! Here's the full schedule:

Dayton at Temple (big game!)
LaSalle at George Washington
St. Bonaventure at Fordham
St. Joseph's at Charlotte
Xavier at Saint Louis (big game!)

Rhode Island at St. Bonaventure
Charlotte at George Washington
Duquesne at Saint Louis
Massachusetts at Dayton

Richmond at Xavier (HUGE GAME on ESPN2)
Temple at LaSalle

Well, we can't say this week's slate is packed with big games. But, Dayton/Temple, Xavier/Saint Louis, and Richmond/Xavier will all have a playoff feel to them. That Sunday matchup on TV could have seeding ramifications for the A10 tourney as well as tightly bunched as everyone is. With a 'big three' leading the way in the standings, you definitely want the top seed because of favorable brackets. Let two and three beat each other up in the semifinals!

What's happened this year when the big three played each other?

*Temple beat Xavier 77-72 at home, and that will be the only regular season meeting between the two powers.

*Richmond drilled Temple 71-54 at home, and THAT will be the only regular season meeting between those two contenders.

*Richmond and Xavier don't play until Sunday, and THAT will be their only meeting!

No wonder there's a 'big three,' their records haven't been hurt because they've managed to dodge each other all year! We have to admit, that's another reason to be skeptical about the A10 this postseason. Their best teams really aren't 'big game tested' to the degree you normally get in conference action. What a schedule quirk.

We hope today's report has helped you understand a bit more about the Atlantic 10. They're not on TV much...but they may turn out to be a big TV story during MARCH MADNESS. We're getting ready for what could be the most exciting college postseason EVER! We don't recall ever seeing things this wide-open heading into the final weeks. Several teams have a shot to go all the way. Anyone can be taken out at any time once the brackets are set. You're going to love watching it all unfold. AND YOU'RE GOING TO LOVE MAKING MONEY WITH JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

Call us right now at 1-800-323-4453 to sign up for service. You know TONIGHT is going to be huge because Wednesday's are always huge. It's like having a Saturday on a weeknight!

Among games of interest for us:
Pittsburgh at Notre Dame on ESPN2
Marquette at St. John's
Memphis at Houston
Purdue at Minnesota on the Big 10 Network
Texas A&M at Baylor on ESPNU
Oklahoma State at Texas on ESPN2
Clemson at Maryland
South Florida at Villanova

And, of course, the two A10 games we discussed earlier. WHAT A NIGHT!

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