It’s Round-Up time again. Another week has gone by in non-conference play, and a whole bunch of shit has gone down since we last checked in. Today was a great day for an update, given that only four games were scheduled between Monday and Friday due to finals week.
To set the stage, because this has already been discussed on the Twitter, and I don’t want to be “well actually”-ed, looking at RPI right now is similar to looking at college football rankings in week 4. It gives us a raw basis for comparison, but in the end means very little until the conference season begins. (For example: in the latest bracketology, Joe Lunardi has 10 teams above the RPI 65 getting a seed from 4-12) It’s just all speculation right now.
There are exactly two weeks left in the non-con schedule for the A10, and quality wins are scarce. The long and short of it is that most of the A10 teams (like Dayton) have picked up the wins they should, and dropped a game or two they probably shouldn’t have. The conference has played 14 games against teams currently in the top 25 RPI, and they’ve won none of them. Repeat: none of them. Whether RPI matters right now or not, that absolutely stinks. The best win the conference has on its resume right now is Rhodey’s W against UC. After that, UMass and GW both beat Temple, Duquesne shocked Pitt and…that’s about it. You could argue George Mason’s win at Northern Iowa should be in there, fine, but when we’re feeling through the dark looking for good wins, you know the situation is borderline depressing. The A10 is simply running out of time to pick up a quality W before beating up on each other for ten weeks.However, with all that information presented, the situation is not completely dire. Currently the A10 is still holding the #7 conference RPI spot, sandwiched between the Pac 12,and the American. That’s pretty much where we all expected to be anyways, and nothing in the non-con has swayed me from the 3 bids I thought the A10 was worth at the beginning of the season. I digress. As far as the standings go right now, your Gem City Cagers sit atop the A10 (nice) as the only team left in the conference with less than 3 losses. Their 7-2 mark (although 6-2 is reflected in the RPI, keep in mind) is followed directly by George Mason (!!) at 9-3, Umass and VCU at 7-3, then Bonaventure at 6-3 to round out the top 5. It is a convenient time in the season for the organizational exercise of putting our A10 teams in three groups: Those leading the way, those chasing, and those that do not matter. Let’s start at the top with the A-10’s most intriguing team on December 14th: The Patriots of George Mason.
In my last round up, George Mason was staring down the schedule at some real tests and we said “let’s see what happens.” Well, what happened was GMU rattled off eight wins in a row after a 1-2 start, and currently sit at 2nd place in the A10. They followed up an upset in Northern Iowa by beating Mercer, crushing Penn State by 29, then Penn by 19, and most recently Longwood (?) by 37. None of these wins on their own (with the exception of No. Iowa) is impressive, but collectively they show us that Dave Paulsen’s group is starting to put it all together just in time for conference play. Marquise Moore has entered the A10 POY conversation, averaging just under 18 ppg, shooting 51.7% from the field, and most impressively, putting up Russell Westbrook-type numbers by hauling in 10.6 boards/gm to go along with it. Moore has seven double-doubles in 12 games this season, and last Saturday against Penn he registered a triple-double with 17pts, 16reb and 10 dimes. For GMU to actually contend this year, they will have to get a similar effort night in and night out from Moore.
The Patriots front-loaded their conference schedule and will only play one more game (Prairie View A&M) before their conference opener against VCU on the 30th. Rothstein says they should be 10-3 when that time comes. Keep an eye on the Patriots, they might actually be for real. If you desperately need more GMU content, Ryan Kish runs a solid blog over at GMU Hoops.
George Mason's winning streak has now reached eight games. Patriots should be 10-3 when they open A 10 play against VCU on December 30th.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) December 13, 2016
VCU had the toughest week of the A10 front runners, dropping back-to-back contests against a crappy Illinois team (who you will get to see on Saturday night in Chicago after the Flyers game if you so choose) and then followed it up by letting the guy who took over for Brian Gregory beat them in their own gym four nights later in OT. Whether you believe Georgia Tech will be good or not (I don’t), that is not a good look for VCU. They will look to get back on track against a tough Middle Tennessee State team on Saturday night, featuring all-name-team nominee Giddy Potts. Giddy Potts will always get a shout out on BBR after I saw him walk into a St. Louis Hooters to hit on waitresses the night they beat Michigan State in March. Honestly, where else would you rather go after a big win in the dance?
Next, sadly, is Bonaventure. I had this conversation with SBU-hoops expert Ian Nolan this past weekend, but with the loss to UNC-Wilmington on Saturday, there is little to no chance the Bonnies will be dancing through any route other than the A10’s auto-bid. They sport losses to Florida (not bad) and Arkansas-Little Rock (worse) on neutral courts, and now UNCW at home (bad). While UNCW does look good so far this year, I don’t recall many A10 teams that strolled to the dance after taking a home loss to a CAA team. Given last year’s disrespect of Bonaventure, I just have a hard time believing any amount of work (short of 16 wins) in conference play will get them in. Lots of work to do in Olean.Frankly, it’s a damn shame, mostly because Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley have just been sensational. In their WORST game of the year so far they accounted for 38 points. On an average night they’re giving the Bonnies well over 40. Together with Denzel Gregg, you aren’t going to find a better threesome in the conference. The problem of course, is that there is no one else around them to help carry the load. Bona (like UD) will have three games before A10 play against Niagara, Army and Canisius. Barring total disaster, they should win all 3 and meet UMass with a 9-3 record on the 30th.
UMass had a prime opportunity to pick up some good wins for the conference, and followed suit by blowing it. They lost to UCF in Amherst on a last second three-pointer, then beat Pacific in a buy-game to get back on track, before traveling to Providence and losing a tough one to the Friars. While UMass has the conference’s best win to date (that was sad to type) against Temple, they fall in line with the Bonnies on season outlook. Their losses to Ole Miss and Providence are not particularly terrible, but the home loss to UCF will continue to stand out. With only four mediocre teams left on their non-con schedule, UMass will have to do some real damage in conference play to even be considered on the bubble. Label it “not likely” until further notice. With that said, UMass is capable of beating any team in the A10 on any given night, and will be an absolute nuisance with Clark and Jarreau firing on all cylinders. I am choosing to ignore the painstaking victory they accomplished this week against a team ranked #349 out of 351 in college hoops. Maybe UMass fans now see why Dayton chose to schedule a cupcake D2 instead of a cupcake that can hurt your RPI because your team decided to take an off night.
We now descend into the middle of the pack, where we see a few teams who can still challenge the status quo. Let’s start with Rhodey, who sits at 6-4. Since Rhodey’s win against UC they have been on an absolute skid and lost 4 of 6 — to Duke, at Valpo, at Providence and, most recently, at Houston. It seems to me that the Rams of Kingston really hate playing away from the friendly confines of their own gym. The loss of Hassan Martin to an Archie Miller-esque “quad injury” has hurt Rhodey worse than expected, and, without their shot blocker, were just absolutely gashed in the paint. This lead to a gaudy 31 free-throw attempts by the Cougars, and despite a career high 31-point effort from EC Matthews, URI just didn’t have enough to pull out the W. In the last recap I mentioned URI’s one glaring weakness was their bench, and it’s actually getting worse. In the three losses to Valpo, PC and UH, Rhodey’s bench contributed point totals of 5, 12 and 9 respectively. That just won’t get it done against good teams, especially when one of the best shot blockers in the country is in street clothes. For Rhodey to kick up a fuss in conference play they must stay healthy, and the combination of Iverson, Matthews and Martin must lead the way. The margin of error for URI is getting slimmer by the day. You can officially take them off the list as the “front-runner” in the conference…for now. George Washington bounced back from their three game skid to rattle off 4 of 5 against a few good teams, and a few bad ones. They won a three-point game against a solid Harvard team, needed a last second 3-pointer to beat USF, then took a nice sound beating at the hands of a surprisingly good Florida State team. Wins against Temple and Howard followed (without Watanabe), and they have returned to a respectable 8-4 on the year. Tyler Cavanuagh is still leading the way at 16.9 (nice) ppg, and is in desperate need of scoring help without the big man in the fold. They will travel to Miami to take on a tough Hurricanes team this weekend. Jury is still out on how relevant GW will be by mid-February, health will have a lot to do with it, as it always does.
Not a lot of good news to report on Davidson since we last checked in. They went down to South Carolina to take on College of Charleston, and despite being up nine at the half, absolutely stunk shooting the ball in the second half, and lost by 15. They followed that up with a strong effort in Chapel Hill against the Tar Heels, but Roy Williams just had too many guns to throw at Gibbs and Co., and they lost by 9. Basically what we’re looking at so far this season is your quintessential Bob McKillop team: they have a bunch of shooters and don’t play great defense. If Davidson is having a bad shooting night, they can be beat by almost anyone. The second half against COC saw them shoot 34%, the main reason for their demise that night. Gibbs and Aldridge are still carrying the load on their own, averaging 44 of Davidson’s 74 points per night. Needless to say, the blueprint to beat Davidson is fairly simple.
They have an intriguing matchup this week against Kansas, one of the A10’s very last opportunities to pick up a huge non-con win. After that they will meet Jacksonville, then Hartford, before opening up against Richmond on New Year’s Eve.SPEAKING OF RICHMOND. I had the jury out on how well the Spiders would do in conference, and right now it’s safe to say they will hover around the middle for the foreseeable future. They have beaten every terrible team on their schedule, and lost to the 4 decent/good ones. Their best win right now is against a crappy Boston College team, while their losses are to Wake, Maryland, Bucknell, and Old Dominion. The game plan in Richmond is simple: let Shawn’Dre Jones have the ball, and if he can’t score, TJ Cline will be happy to do so. Together they are averaging 50% of Richmond’s scoring. That will win you 8-10 games in the A10 these days at the very least.
Richmond hosts Texas Tech on Saturday, then will travel to James Madison and Oral Roberts before meeting Davidson. I would not be surprised if Mooney’s bunch drops one of those.
The only thing worth talking about at St Joe’s is Shavar Newkirk, who’s third in conference scoring at 21.1 ppg. Joe’s has followed the Richmond path of beating the teams they should, and losing to any decent team they play, leaving them at 5-4. Their four game skid included losses to Ole Miss, NC State, Temple and an absolute pounding from the #1 team in the land, Villanova. Joe’s made a cushy ending to their non-con slate. After beating up on Princeton earlier this week, they head to Normal, IL to play Illinois State (site of a court-storming against Dayton), before returning back home to finish up with Lafayette. Both those games are winnable; I would expect to see a 7-4 Joes team by the start of A10 play.
This is where things start to get REALLY ugly: in the basement of the A10. La Salle’s best win is Bucknell, their worst loss was a home defeat at the buzzer against Texas Southern. Just thank the good lord that Dayton will only have to play the Explorers once, and it’s at home. Regardless of how terrible La Salle is, I think we all know better than to show up on January 30th expecting an easy victory.
I’m not spending time picking through the rest of this clown car, so here you go:
Duquesne is awful, Pitt should be ashamed of themselves. (At this time I would like to predict that UD will lose one of the two games to the Dukes this year. It just feels inevitable.)
Fordham is worse, they’ve lost five in a row with the latest coming against goddamn Manhattan College.
(Note: that is the second MAAC team to beat an A10 team this year. No Bueno.)
SLU is a true challenger to Fordham for worst team in the A10 in the last 5 years. Just look at this fucking box score from their latest “victory”. NSFW. That’s barely even basketball, you guys, c’mon. I urge all of you to read every box score from Saint Louis games this year, because I guarantee there will be one mind-boggling stat in there. Example: In their latest 55 point losing effort to SIU, the Bills went 6-14 from the line.
Alright, that’s all I have for you. I’ll be back on the 29th to recap the non-con season that was, and the BBR team will offer up predictions on conference play before La Salle visits the Sweater Centre on the 30th. Stay woke for Blackburn’s recap of Northwestern.
If you’re coming to see us this weekend, bring a couple of coats, it’s cold as shit. And as always, stay LOWD.