Jan 8, 2013, 7:25 PM EDT
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.
- 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*
4. Saint Louis*
5. Saint Joseph’s
13. St. Bonaventure
14. Rhode Island
15. George Washington
You can find Troy on Twitter at @TroyMachir
Mar 9, 2014, 7:39 PM EDT
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Mar 9, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT
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Mar 9, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT
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Mar 9, 2014, 4:54 PM EDT
Wichita State Shockers will head into the NCAA tournament at 34-0, the first team to be undefeated on Selection Sunday in 23 years.
Mar 9, 2014, 4:49 PM EDT
The CAA Tournament semifinals will take place on Sunday afternoon in Baltimore. Towson and Williams & Mary will tip off at roughly 5:00 p.m. You can watch the game live on NBC Sports Live Extra. The first semi was won by CAA regular season champion Delaware who beat a Northeastern team that can count a win over…
Mar 9, 2014, 4:27 PM EDT
For the first time in what feels like a month, No. 7 Syracuse looked like a team capable of putting together a run to the Final Four. The Orange got 22 points, seven boards and four steals from C.J. Fair as they went into Tallahassee and knocked off Florida State, 74-58. The big news for…
Mar 9, 2014, 4:08 PM EDT
Jordair Jett helped snap a three-game losing streak while also delivering Saint Louis the Atlantic 10 regular season title with a last-second win over UMass.
Mar 9, 2014, 3:33 PM EDT
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attended a fundraiser for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, a senator from Kentucky, at Rupp Arena on Thursday. She found time to pay a visit to the Kentucky locker room and snap a photo with a couple members of the team and visit with John Calipari:
Mar 9, 2014, 3:17 PM EDT
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Mar 9, 2014, 2:47 PM EDT
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Mar 9, 2014, 2:12 PM EDT
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Mar 9, 2014, 2:08 PM EDT
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Mar 9, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
MEAC favorite North Carolina Central looks to avoid the chaos of last season’s tournament, in which the top three seeds all lost in the quarterfinals.
Mar 9, 2014, 1:05 PM EDT
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Mar 9, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
The 7-foot center has missed the last two games for the Kansas. The Jayhawks have won the Big 12 title, but have dropped two of their last three games heading into the conference tournament
Mar 9, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT
After spending almost two full decades at IUPUI, Todd Howard was let go following two straight 6-26 seasons.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT
Three more teams will punch tickets to the Big Dance on Sunday, including Wichita State if the Shockers can get past Indiana State and improve to 34-0
Mar 9, 2014, 3:10 AM EDT
No. 4 Duke and No. 10 San Diego State picked up big home wins, and Eastern Kentucky became the second team into the NCAA tournament field on a busy Saturday.
- Turnovers help Ohio State beat No. 22 Michigan State in regular season finale 0
- Wichita State will head into the NCAA tournament 34-0 as a No. 1 seed 5
- Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood score 54 in No. 4 Duke’s win over No. 14 UNC 0
- Bubble Banter: Oregon, Tennessee headline Saturday’s early winners 0
- Creighton’s Doug McDermott scores his 3,000th point (VIDEO) 0
- Oregon’s big win over No. 3 Arizona caps impressive regular season turnaround 1
- No. 8 Kansas loses, but The Andrew Wiggins Show is what’s important 1
- No. 7 Syracuse falls to Georgia Tech in a shocking home loss (9)
- College Basketball Talk’s latest Top 25 (6)
- Assigned Reading: Dean Smith’s health continues to deteriorate (6)
- For the first time in months, No. 22 Michigan State and Keith Appling look healthy (6)
- Bracketology: Eight teams in play for No. 1 seeds (6)