Skip to content

Conference Catch-ups: Atlantic-10 Battle Royale

Jan 8, 2013, 7:25 PM EST

VCU AP AP

Conference play is right around the corner, so to help you get out of that post-holiday haze, we’ll be catching you up on all the happenings in the country’s top 12 conferences. Here’s our Atlantic-10 Conference Catchup:

Favorite: Virginia Commonwealth
The Ram’s blend of experience, leadership, 3-point firepower and HAVOC defense is what sets them apart from the rest of the A-10.

Both Troy Daniels and Darius Theus were members of the 2010 Rams squad that lost to Butler at the Final-4 and are now the heart and soul of the Ram’s team. Juniors Juvonte Reddic, Rob Brandenburg and D.J. Haley have all been vital contributors during their time in Richmond. It seems like every season Shaka Smart loses 2-3 talented experienced seniors, only to see a new crop of leaders emerge from the underclassmen ranks. It has happened nearly every season since he took over in 2009. Sophomore Treveon Graham leads the team in scoring with 14.8-ppg and sophomore Briante Weber is the nation’s leader in steal percentage (8.67%).

The Ram’s patented “HAVOC” defense continues to give people fits and their offensive firepower goes unrivaled in the A-10. There are a handful of teams that could win the Atlantic-10, but VCU looks like the only team right now that should.
 
 
Contenders: The top of the Atlantic-10 is as deep as any conference in the country, even the Big-Ten. No team has been through as much as the Saint Louis Billikens have this season. They got a new coach, lost their best player to injury, and mourned the passing of Rick Majerus. But after losing three of their first six games, the Billikens have rattled off seven in a row, including a 14-point win over No. 20 New Mexico. Oh, and they’ve got their star player, Kwamain Mitchell, back from injury.

But we shouldn’t forget about Butler or Temple. In fact, the top four teams in the A-10 are all capable of making a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Rotnei Clarke has added the scoring threat the Butler Bulldogs desperately needed, and it showed in high-profile wins over Marquette, North Carolina and Indiana. The Bulldog’s frontcourt of Khyle Marshall and Andrew Smith has been as good as advertised.

Then there is Temple. The Owls are just a Canisius loss away from being talked about among the nation’s elite. Their only other losses were to No. 1 Duke and No.6 Temple. Plus they dominated No. 3 Syracuse at Madison Square Garden. They also have the conference’s best player in Khalif Wyatt.
 
 
Biggest Surprise: Charlotte
This isn’t really a surprise, since Charlotte ranks 292nd in strength of schedule and lost their only two non-conference games against BCS-conference teams. But at 12-2 heading in to A-10 play, the 49ers should be commended for winning all the games they should win and not slipping up against inferior competition. This team has enough experience and youthful talent to cause a scare in the A-10. Freshman forward Willie Clayton has the second best offensive rebounding percentage in the country (19.4%) and sophomore Pierra Henry ranks 9th nationally in steal percentage (5.82%). They deserve the recognition now because in a month they will start one of the most hellacious 6-game stretches of any team in any conference: at Temple, VCU, at Butler, at Saint Louis, Temple, and Dayton.
 
 
Biggest Disappointment: Saint Joseph’s
Considering the Hawks were preseason favorites to win the A-10, sitting at 8-4 with ugly losses to Creighton, Florida State, Villanova and Fairfield is troubling. What’s also troubling is the manner in which they lost. They were outclasses by Creighton on the road, lost their composure against Villanova and came up flat against a bad Florida State team and Fairfield. The Hawks have one of the most talented rosters in the A-10, and aside from an overtime win against Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden, they have not won any signature games.
 
 
Player of the Year: Khalif Wyatt, Temple
The senior guard leads the team in scoring with 16.1-ppg and was the driving force in Temple’s huge win against Syracuse. He scored 33 points on 8-for-17 from the field and a perfect 15-for-15 from the free throw in the Owls’ 83-79 win at Madison Square Garden. Aside from his six point performance against Duke, Wyatt is usually the best player on the court, which should bode well for the Owls as they head in to A-10 play.
 
 
Best Freshman: Semaj Christon, Xavier
The freshman guard has been the lone bright spot for the Musketeers, who have lost four in a row and sit at 7-6 with losses to Wofford and Pacific. Christon is a play-making guard who can score from almost anywhere and have stepped up in big spots, like on the road at Purdue, where he scored 25 points on 8-for-12 from the field. Unfortunately, he is being asked to do too much for a freshman, and is not getting the support from the front court that the team needs.
 
 
Three Predictions:

  • The A-10 Tournament in Brooklyn will be the best Championship Week Tournament. The A-10 is leaving Atlantic City in favor of the fresh digs at the Barclays Center in Brookyln. This conference is going to have multiple NCAA Tournament bids hanging in the balance come Championship Week, and with the Big East Tournament taking place on the other side of the bridge, there is going to be a lot of buzz surrounding Brooklyn.
  • An Atlantic-10 team will make the Final-4. This is one of the deepest conferences in the country. If VCU can escape league play with only minor scrapes and bruises, there is no reason to believe they can’t win six games in-a-row at a neutral site. Temple and St. Joseph’s have the talent to compete with any team in the country and Butler is still Butler, only now they Rotnei Clarke.
  • Xavier will not win the A-10. I know, I know. Not that bold of a prediction. But the Musketeers have dominated the conference for what seems like the last two decades. However with the addition of Butler and VCU, along with the team’s lack of depth and production in the frontcourt, the Musketeers will be on the outside looking in. Semaj Christon has been great, but the X-Men could really used a boost in play from their experienced leaders like Jeff Robinson and Brad Redford, but they aren’t getting it.

Power Rankings (* = tourney team):

1. Virginia Commonwealth*
2. Temple*
3. Butler*
4. Saint Louis*
5. Saint Joseph’s
6. Dayton
7. Xavier
8. UMass
9. Richmond
10. Charlotte
11. LaSalle
12. Duquesne
13. St. Bonaventure
14. Rhode Island
15. George Washington
16. Fordham

You can find Troy on Twitter at @TroyMachir

Latest Posts
  1. UNLV commit Derrick Jones could win the NBA dunk contest (VIDEO)

    Dec 21, 2014, 11:09 PM EST

    Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 11.05.11 PM

    Yeah, you’re going to want to see this.

  2. BYU, Oklahoma among eight teams to participate in 2015 Diamond Head Classic

    Dec 21, 2014, 10:31 PM EST

    Lon Kruger AP

    Four of the eight teams in the field reached the NCAA tournament last season.

  3. Late Night Snacks: No. 6 Virginia, No. 17 Maryland pick up wins

    Dec 21, 2014, 8:22 PM EST

    VMI v Maryland Getty Images

    Virginia limited Harvard to 27 points, Maryland won at Oklahoma State, and Georgia picked up a solid home win.

  4. No. 17 Maryland moves to 11-1 with win at Oklahoma State

    Dec 21, 2014, 7:04 PM EST

    Jake Layman AP

    Could the Terps be the second-best team in the Big Ten? At the very least they’ve earned their place in the conversation.

  5. ACC suspends Louisville junior forward Montrezl Harrell one game

    Dec 21, 2014, 5:31 PM EST

    Ohio State v Louisville Getty Images

    Harrell was assessed a flagrant 2 foul in Saturday’s win over Western Kentucky.

  6. South Carolina coaching staff dons special holiday sweaters (PHOTO)

    Dec 21, 2014, 4:42 PM EST

    Frank Martin (Scott Phillips) Frank Martin (Scott Phillips)

    Coaches donning festive holiday sweaters doesn’t happen all that often in college basketball.

  7. Brad Stevens on Indiana speculation: ‘I’m the head coach of the Boston Celtics. This is the job.’

    Dec 21, 2014, 3:46 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Brad Stevens left Butler in 2013, agreeing to a six-year deal with the Boston Celtics, but that will not stop his name being linked to one specific college job.

  8. New Year’s Resolutions: Ohio State Buckeyes

    Dec 21, 2014, 3:01 PM EST

    AP AP

    The Buckeyes are 9-2, dropping both of their key non-conferences games against ranked opponents.

  9. Harvard’s first half offensive struggles tie unwanted NCAA record

    Dec 21, 2014, 1:43 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Harvard did not set the record for lowest field goal percentage or lowest first-half points, but the Crimson did tie an NCAA record on Sunday afternoon.

  10. Jim Boeheim and Jay Wright want to keep Syracuse-Villanova rivalry going

    Dec 21, 2014, 1:15 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Orange and Wildcats have split a home-and-home series since the old Big East disbanded several years ago.

  11. Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell apologizes for ejection (VIDEO)

    Dec 21, 2014, 11:15 AM EST

    AP AP

    The Louisville forward spoke about the incident that took place at the end of the first half against Western Kentucky following the game.

  12. Ben Simmons throws an alley-oop to himself off the backboard (VIDEO)

    Dec 21, 2014, 10:00 AM EST

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    The nation’s top recruit also dropped 37 points in a win for Montverde Academy (Florida)

  13. No. 16 Washington hangs on to beat No. 15 Oklahoma in Las Vegas

    Dec 21, 2014, 12:10 AM EST

    Lorenzo Romar Lorenzo Romar

    With pieces that fit together better than last season’s 17-15 squad, the Huskies are off to a 10-0 start.

  14. George Mason beats preseason MAAC favorite Iona (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 10:26 PM EST

    George Mason Patriots vs the Old Dominion Monarchs George Mason Patriots vs the Old Dominion Monarchs

    George Mason’s last win over a Division I opponent prior to Saturday came against another MAAC program, Manhattan, on November 29.

  15. POSTERIZED: Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson dunks on Purdue 7-footer (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:00 PM EST

    Demetrius Jackson (AP Photo) Demetrius Jackson (AP Photo)

    Jackson scored 22 points, with two coming on an emphatic dunk on Purdue freshman Isaac Haas.

  16. Late Night Snacks: Villanova survives Syracuse while UNC, SMU get big wins

    Dec 20, 2014, 8:41 PM EST

    Jayvaughn Pinkston (Getty Images) Getty Images

    It’s already been a busy day in college hoops, with two buzzer-beaters and two ranked teams already going down.

  17. Chris Thomas, Malcolm Riley lead Texas Southern past No. 25 Michigan State

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:57 PM EST

    Mike Davis Mike Davis

    While Michigan State’s 4-for-21 night from three didn’t help matters, Texas Southern shot better than 53 percent from the field.

  18. Report: Former Marquette guard/forward transferring to Iowa State

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:18 PM EST

    Deonte Burton, Tim Coleman Deonte Burton, Tim Coleman

    Burton was one of two sophomores to leave the Marquette program earlier this month.

  19. No. 1 Kentucky dismantles UCLA

    Dec 20, 2014, 5:46 PM EST

    kentucky ucla AP

    Kentucky completely embarrassed UCLA on Saturday.