Twelve teams descend on Brooklyn on Thursday for the 2013 Atlantic-10 Basketball Tournament in the Barclays Center.
Twelve teams descend on Brooklyn on Thursday for the 2013 Atlantic 10 Tournament in the Barclays Center. Fans from all parts of the conference will be in tow, but they should all have drastically different expectations for the weekend. In a season defined by expecting the unexpected, the tournament will undoubtedly hold surprises, but the top five teams are the only real title contenders.
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1. Saint Louis · 24-6 (13-3)
The Bilikens started the season 3-3 and are 21-3 since then. They have won 12 of their last 13 games with the only loss coming to Xavier in overtime in the Cintas Center where the Musketeers have won 53 of their last 56 conference games. They are not only the hottest team in the conference, but they are one of the hottest teams in the nation.
2. VCU · 24-7 (12-4)
The Rams were incredibly consistent this season. They finished 13-1 against the bottom twelve teams in the conference, and their only non conferences losses came against Wichita St., Duke, and Missouri. The Rams will go as far as their HAVOC! defense takes them. They are 24-0 when forcing 15+ turnovers and 0-7 when forcing fewer than 15 turnovers. Three of those losses came against teams getting first round byes in the tourney. The farther VCU gets, the better they match up because of their exhausting full court pressure. The Rams know how to win three games in three days.
Key wins: #19 Memphis, #20 Butler
Worst losses: Richmond, La Salle
3. Temple · 23-8 (11-5)
Winners of seven straight, Temple enters the tournament as the second hottest team in the A-10. After struggling with consistency all season, the Owls finally look like a force capable of winning three games in Brooklyn. Khalif Wyatt is the A-10 POY and Jake O’Brien looked like an all-conference player against VCU. If one or two more seniors can step up, then no one will want to play Temple.
4. La Salle · 21-8 (11-5)
La Salle boasts a serious backcourt: senior guard Ramon Galloway (17.4PPG), junior guard Tyreek Duren (15.0PPG), and junior guard Tyrone Garland (12.7PPG) are scoring machines. Because of their perimeter, they boast a league best 3-point defense at 28.4%, but their 2-point defense ranks 16th at 52.3%. La Salle beat smaller teams like VCU and Richmond, but they struggled against physical teams like Saint Louis, Xavier, and Temple.
5. Butler · 24-7 (11-5)
On January 19th, Butler looked like the scariest team in the A-10. They had just beaten Gonzaga without Rotnei Clarke and they were on a 13-game winning streak that included a win over #1 Indiana. Now Butler is the best team playing on Thursday. They were the unlucky team that had to play Saint Louis twice, but it feels like they left their best basketball in December. In other words, Coach Brad Stevens has us exactly where he wants us: doubting him a week before he starts a third run to the national championship game.
6. Massachusetts · 19-10 (9-7)
First teamer Chaz Williams returns home to Brooklyn leading a freakishly athletic, uptempo team. At 5-foot-9 he is grabbing 4.3 RPG which is a testament to his grit and determination. He is surrounded by an extremely long team with a couple of great shooters. A Temple-UMass battle in the quarterfinals would make for a really good game.
7. Xavier · 17-13 (9-7)
The Musketeers are the only team to beat Saint Louis since January 19th, and they are capable of stealing a game against anyone. A team that has traditionally dominated the conference, this is rock bottom for Xavier–which is saying something. Rookie of the year Semaj Christon can play, but if Xavier reaches the quarterfinals against VCU, he will need to perform better than his 10-turnover outing against the Rams on March 2nd.
8. Richmond · 18-13 (8-8)
Too bad the A-10 Tournament isn’t played in the Robins Center. Richmond is 15-2 at home compared to 3-11 off campus. The Spiders talented backcourt is good enough to beat Charlotte again by double digits, but Richmond does not have the strength on the perimeter or the front court to compete against Saint Louis in the second round.
9. Charlotte · 20-10 (8-8)
Charlotte beat up on cupcakes in the non-conference, but they crumbled in the A-10 losing six of seven games to fall from 5-2 to 6-8. Making things worse, the 49ers drew Richmond, a team that thumped them by 20 points in RVA. KenPom.com gives Charlotte a 0.2% chance of winning the A-10 tournament. That’s a smaller chance than he gave Liberty (15-20) who won the Big South en route to a highly improbable autobid.
10. St. Joseph’s · 17-12 (8-8)
The Atlantic-10 preseason favorite Hawks fell way, way short of expectations. They have the experience and the back court to make the past the past while writing their own future. Xavier is on the rise, but if the Hawks make it to the second round they could give VCU problems. It took an improbable collapse coupled with the absence of Halil Kanacevic for the Rams to win in the Siegel Center on January 17th.
11. George Washington · 13-16 (7-9)
The departures of Temple and Charlotte (and maybe more teams) combined with the maturation of the Colonials four starting freshmen and the return Isaiah Armwood could earn George Washington a bye next season. This season, they are on the wrong side of a matchup they can’t win. The Colonials turn the ball over too much and score too few points to hang with UMass.
12. Dayton · 17-13 (7-9)
Why did VCU go to the A-10? Because the lowest seeded team travelling to Brooklyn this week is almost certainly better than the CAA Champion JMU Dukes. Senior Kevin Dillard & Co. have the offense to give anyone, including Butler, a run for their money, but their defense leaves much to be desired.
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The oh so close
13. St. Bonaventure · 17-13 (7-9)
The reigning champion Bonnies won as many conference games as the three teams below them combined, and they were in a three way tie for 11th place, but they don’t get to make the trip by virtue of tiebreakers. Better luck next year.