Thanksgiving tournaments are over. You are back to work looking for something to read other than job-related emails, so I’m back to deliver the goods in the form of the A-10 roundup. It was an absolutely abysmal 11 days for the A10 since we last checked in, so let’s jump straight into it and dissect the carnage.
Let’s start with top of the league, which includes Rhody, VCU, Davidson and UMass.Since our last roll call Rhodey has had the toughest schedule, playing Cincinnati, Duke, Belmont, and a very good Valparaiso team last night. Rhodey played a tight one with UC, coming back from an early deficit and then putting the game out of reach when UC inexplicably left EC Mathews wide open for 3 with under a minute left. He continues to be the guy everyone thought he would be this year after coming back from injury, averaging 15.5 points per contest, second on the team to Hassan Martin’s 16.5 pts/gm. After playing three more contests, Martin is still averaging an absurd 4.5 blocks/gm, good enough for second in the nation behind this dude.
The Duke game was just about exactly what you thought it would be. Rhodey came out of the gate down 6-0, got within a single bucket multiple times, but never took the lead and went into the half down eight. They never made it interesting in the second half and went silently into the good night. From what we’ve seen already this season, the way to attack Rhodey is by getting directly to their bench. After their starters they are extremely thin, and most nights will only roll with 9 guys, 3 of whom don’t contribute much of anything. Valparaiso used this exact formula to hold them off last night, keeping Mathews and Iverson to ten total points. If you’re going to beat Rhodey, limiting the production of EC and one other starter is a good place to start. That loss won’t be too bruising for URI, as Valpo is a runaway favorite to win the Horizon this year, and their only loss on their 7-1 season is to Oregon.
VCU did some good stuff, and some…not so good stuff. They squashed Binghamton by 39, then had a golden opportunity to pick up a huge win for the A10 in the Battle of Atlantis, but after taking an 8-point halftime lead, allowed Baylor to creep back in the game and steal a win in the first round. They followed a similar path to our Flyers, winning their next two games against a crappy St. John’s team, and then LSU. If I’m a betting man I say the LSU win serves them well down the road this season. After defeating Princeton last night, they will be traveling to South Florida for something called the Hoophall Invitational against Illinois next week in Miami.
Here’s the stats for VCU. Right now they are unsurprisingly being paced by JeQuan Lewis, and getting great contributions from (Jr.) Jonathan Williams. He’s seen his playing time spike this year, and is making the most out of it, averaging 10pts/7reb a contest. With Justin Tillman back in the lineup from a foot injury, together with Mo-Allie Cox, they form the toughest front-court in the conference.OK, let’s do the rich white kids in the south next. Yes, that’s Davidson. As I mentioned last time, Davidson bounced back nicely from a loss to Clemson to beat Mizzou in the Advocare Invitational, and then finished the tournament in Orlando by beating Arizona State — heading home 2-1. This past weekend they took on “Ghost of the A10” Charlotte, and gave them a nice, sound, 22 point beat down. As will be the case all season, they rely on Jack Gibbs and Peyton Aldridge. The two average 31 and 35 minutes a game respectively, and now and then (like in the Charlotte game) they will receive a big contribution from guys like Jordan Watkins. However, the shit will hit the fan eventually for Davidson. They won a nice little tune-up against Mercer last night and will now go to Charleston on Sunday, before travelling to Chapel Hill to take on the Tar Heels. Ten days after that they will go to KC for a “neutral” site game against Kansas. Obviously a win in either would be massive (albeit highly unlikely) for the conference.
My favorite “team of interest” UMass had a slow Thanksgiving. They took down Holy Cross by 8, then held off Harvard by 4. This team has a legit chance of going 12-1 entering conference play, with the only real test left coming against Providence. My early candidate for Frosh of the Year, Dejon Jarreau, is still doing his thing. Through five games, he’s averaging 12 points per contest (second on the team to Donte Clark) as well as placing second in the conference with 6 dimes a game. However, bad news out of Amherst has him out for a few weeks with a stress fracture. Twitter people who keep me honest said they expect to see him back for the start of A-10 play, we’ll see. Clark has my interest as a legit POY contender in this conference averaging 17pts a game, including putting up 29 in the win vs. Harvard. Expect him to do some damage come January. Upcoming three games for UMass are Wagner, UCF and Pacific, all at home. You can expect them to be 7-1 on the next round-up.
After the top four we have the Gem City and Richmond at 4-2, Joe’s and Bona at 3-2 and Fordham at 5-2. You read that right, Fordham.I refuse to spend time researching Fordham beyond the fact that they haven’t played anyone of substance yet and their two losses came against ETSU and UT-Arlington. They only play one team in the top 150 RPI the rest of the non-con, that’s Rutgers (yeesh). Losses will be coming for Fordham, moving on….
Richmond still falls under the label of: “we need to see a little bit more.” After splitting their first two contests with VMI (W) and Old Dominion (L), they beat up on Robert Morris and Hampton. The intriguing game here was the OT loss to Maryland last Friday. Shawn’Dre Jones had 23 and, despite TJ Cline’s poor shooting night, the Spiders were able to rally in the second half to force OT. From there, Melo Trimble just put the whole damn thing on his back doe, finished with 31, and the Terrapins avoided the scare. Richmond followed the loss up by beating Boston College, who they outscored 42-21 in the second frame. I still think Richmond is going to shake things up in the A10 this year, I’m just not quite ready to label them as a “contender.” Stay tuned however, they play Bucknell this evening (11/30) before going to Wake Forest for a tantalizing ACC-A10 tilt. All you need to know about Richmond statistically is that Cline and Jones run the show, and they won’t win many games without major contributions from both.
Bonaventure is still an intriguing team to me but instead of dissect them, I will direct you to The Bona Blog, who just posted about the rest of the non-con slate for the Bonnies. Long story short is that they have losses to Florida and Little Rock right now, with a totally winnable non-con slate left. Matt Mobley continues to impress, and through the first few weeks is your A10 leading scorer.
Moving right along, Joe’s played two games since our last check-in and lost both, although the losses came to NC State and Ole Miss, neither of which should hurt them too much in the grand scheme of things should they be considered for the dance in March (unlikely). Joe’s does feature the second leading scorer in the conference, Shavar Newkirk, who continues to eat with the biggest of spoons night in and night out (win or lose). He’s averaging 21.8 pts/gm and together with Lamarr Kimble they are accounting for 50% of the Hawks scoring to this point.
The schedule doesn’t get much easier in the near future for the Hawks with the Philly Big 5 coming up at the Palestra, they’ll have Nova and Temple in the next week. If you ever want the stinky poo on St. Joe’s, you can find their blog here.
The teams remaining at the bottom are Mason, GW, SLU, Duquesne and LaSalle. I’ll start with the odd man out in this group, who resides in Foggy Bottom.As our friends at A10 talk reported yesterday, it looks as though Yuta Watanabe will be out multiple weeks with a calf injury, which couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Colonials. They are absolutely reeling after coming off a stretch which featured 3 straight losses to Georgia (yuck), PSU (more yuck) and UAB (nooooo). With those three losses, and without a win in the RPI Top 250 (!!!), GW is blindly crawling around the basement of the A10 with an RPI of 300. They bounced back last night to beat Harvard by 3, and get South Florida in the Smith Center before going across town and hosting Florida State in a very strange “neutral but not really neutral” game at the Verizon Center. Are more people really going to show up to watch GW play FSU? Jury is out on that one. The main takeaway here is that GW still has 4 games left in the non-con with RPI Top 75 teams. So while there is plenty of room to make up ground, you don’t climb higher in the RPI by just showing up. GW will need to win a few big ones without Yuta, and the season could be in real trouble if they don’t.
George Mason came back from a 1-3 start to earn wins over Kent State, Bradley and James Madison (none of which are impressive to any degree). They will travel to Cedar Falls, IA this evening to take on Northern Iowa, who currently sits 4th in RPI. From there they’ll get Mercer and PSU, we’ll see what happens.
Duquesne had a brutal week, and will have more brutal weeks. They lost to Canisius College, then got smacked in the mouth by Kentucky. From there they lost to UT-Martin (had to Google that one), and then were able to pick up a pity win against Cleveland State. Duquesne has UMBC tonight, and then will play their annual Pittsburgh games against the hometown Panthers and Robert Morris. Many more losses to come for the Dukes. Hide your eyes.
Last, and most certainly least, is SLU. After starting 2-1 with wins over Southern Utah and Eastern Illinois, SLU had trouble with non-compass-directional schools. They lost to BYU (by 30), then played Bama close and lost by 5. After that they took a home loss to Samford. No not Stanford, Samford. They play Kansas St and Wichita this coming week. I’ll just go ahead and chalk those up as L’s right now. SLU is not very good.
In my journey to keep you informed, here is the breakdown of statistical leaders in the conference as it stands today.
Here’s the A10 RPI page as well. Always nice to be #1 in something this time of year right?
Cagers will play host Saturday to a tough Winthrop team. Blackie will be hitting you with the recon of course. Stay LOWD.