The Rams won it last year, but what are their odds this year? No one knows, except the people who do claim to know!
One year ago, 5th-seeded VCU limped to Brooklyn after losing three of their last four games, including a 27-point dismantling at the hands of Davidson. Somehow, VCU won four games in four days to take the A10 Tournament Championship. Like last season, the 2016 Atlantic 10 Tournament feels like a true free-for-all.
Sure, there are favorites, but there are at least six teams that are plausible champions. For starters, three teams finished in 1st place in the A-10 this season.
But the losses make things seem even more wide open. The top four teams had five losses to double-digit seeds this season. Dayton lost to La Salle. VCU lost to UMass and George Mason. Saint Bonaventure lost to La Salle, and Saint Joseph’s lost to Duquesne. Many of the top teams also stumbled down the stretch. Dayton started 11-1 before losing 3 times in February. VCU started 9-0 before finishing 5-4. Saint Joseph’s lost to Duquesne on Saturday to lose a share of the title.
Dayton is the top seed, but VCU is the favorite according to Ken Pomeroy. The Rams have the highest probability of cutting down the nets, but it’s way more likely that they won’t be crowned champions than they will. VCU has the advantage because of its balance between offense and defense.
If everything goes to plan, VCU and Dayton will work their way through the bracket and rematch Saturday’s 68-67 overtime battle on Sunday afternoon. But VCU has work to do. The Rams turn into a stick in mud when they start fouling–and they foul way too often. This is less of a problem when HAVOC! is HAVOC!ing but the Rams have forced fewer turnovers of late.
Finally, the Rams’ offense needs to play to its potential–and it starts with decision-making and connectivity. VCU opened their game against Dayton with three 3-pointers, thanks to impressive ball movement and selfless play. The rest of the game, they shot an eFG%1 of .351 and scored .795 points per possession. It’s pretty simple, every possession in which Mo Alie-Cox touches the ball is a good possession, and the Rams can always make one more pass in their four-guard lineup. If their offense starts flowing like it did in January, then it will be tough for anyone to defeat them.
VCU has been to the finals of the CAA or A-10 Tournament each of the past five seasons. While past performance does not guarantee future results, that’s still impressive. Consider this: their 2011 opponent (ODU) has fired its coach, their 2012 opponent (Drexel) has fired its coach, and their 2013 opponent (SLU) is 21-41 over the last two season. Something is going on at VCU, and it’s generating a startling and consistent amount of March madness.
Last year’s tournament victory was a reminder that anything can happen in Brooklyn, and it certainly benefitted VCU. This year is no different–but it could go the opposite direction. There’s no way to know until the round ball hits the hardwood and everything gets settled in Brooklyn. See you on Friday at 6:30 PM.
- Effective field goal percentage is the same as FG% except it adds an extra 0.5 weight to 3-pointers since they are worth 50% more than 2-pointers. ↩