You didn’t ask for it, but I did it any way. It’s time to talk some mid-major hoops ahead of the A10 extravaganza in Brooklyn this upcoming weekend. If you wanna know who’s who, and what’s what, you’re in the right place to learn a thing or two about subjects you may only have known a thing or two about to begin with.
Before we begin, here’s the breakdown of who has won conference tournaments from 2008-17, based on seeding. I took the stat from this article by John Gasaway highlighting how rare it to see “bid thieves” in March, but it’s particularly relevant to the A10.
All 14 teams deserve words to some degree, so I thought it wise to revert back to the original format of the conference rundown that I made in December before the A10 season started to breakdown this year’s cast of characters, how they fared, and if they have a shot to win this thing. Please note that none of the four teams playing on Wednesday can make the A10 final. It’s not just because they’re all terrible, I mean, they are, but beyond that it’s just extremely difficult to win 5 games in 5 days regardless of how terrible you are or are not.
Final A-10 Kenpom rankings heading into the Tourney:
131. St. Bonaventure
132. Saint Louis
144. Rhode Island
156. George Mason
187. Saint Joseph’s
216. La Salle
300. George Washington
— A10 Talk (@A10Talk) March 10, 2019
The preview of teams will go in the order they appear in the A10 tournament this coming weekend. (Rules stay the same: if I made a mistake, don’t get all huffy about it. Just post the correction in the comments and I’ll update the post.)
#12 George Washington 8-23 (4-14)
What’s up with them? GW has been just as terrible as everyone predicted this season and will go to Brooklyn as the A10s lowest ranked team statistically speaking. All four of their wins came against teams in the bottom 6 of the conference.
What have they done in the past? GW won the whole thing twice during their golden days (’05 & ’07) however they haven’t been back to the title game since.
Can they win the tournament? If they made it to the quarterfinals on Friday they would be shocking the (A10) world.
#13 UMass 11-20 (4-14)
What’s up with them? [UPDATED] They’re really not good at all. Their leading scorer, Luwane Pipkins has decided to grad transfer and sit out the A10 tournament with “injury”, and as such, they won’t be playing past Friday under any circumstances.
What have they done in the past? UMass will forever hold the untouchable record of winning the conference dance five times in a row from 1992-96, but they haven’t been to the title game since 2001. They were last in the semis in 2013.
Can they win the tournament? Much to the chagrin of their relentlessly optimistic fan base, they can not.
#11 Richmond 12-19 (6-12)
What’s up with them? Chris Mooney’s final days as the Richmond basketball coach will take place in Brooklyn, NY. Their fans have spoken loud and clear that they would like a regime change at the end of this season, and another underachieving finish has their frustrations justified. Chris Mooney will get another job elsewhere, and I’m sure he’s a fine guy to have a drink with (he looks like a wine guy) but he is not long for the UR program. This is the amount of words I’m willing to invest talking about this particular Richmond team.
What have they done in the past? Since 2002, Richmond has been to the title game three times, finally winning it all on their third try in 2011, the last time they went dancing.
Can they win the tournament? Nope! Kevin Anderson is not walking through that door!
#14 Fordham 12-19 (3-15)
What’s up with them? They’re still Fordham as all hell. The Bronx Rams just wrapped up their 9th season in the last 11 where they tallied four wins or less in conference play. They still have never finished better than fourth in the A10 since joining the league in 1995 with Dayton. Jeff Neubauer will eventually be relieved of his coaching duties, whether it be in the near or distance future, but he’s hardly the problem. Neubauer has proved that he can recruit at a high level, unfortunately he can’t blindfold freshman and hold them in captivity to keep them from realizing they play for Fordham. For the sake of the fans they have remaining, I hope Fordham soon realizes there are other leagues in the country (*cough* MAAC *cough*) where they can be competitive in their most visible sport.
What have they done in the past? It took Fordham 10 seasons in the league to win their first tournament game. In 23 seasons of A10 action they’ve won 6 total tourney games and been to the semis once. To put that in perspective, VCU has won more than twice as many games and they’ve been in the conference for 6 years. Downright pitiful.
Can they – hahahaha no! C’mon! It’s FORDHAM!
#8 Rhode Island 16-14 (9-9)
What’s up with them? About 3 weeks ago (in the midst of a 5 game losing skid) I would’ve described URIs season as dead and buried, HOWEVER the Rams of the Ocean State have surprised a lot of people in the last four games of the season (all wins), including the OT victory at UD Arena. Fatts Russell has gone from outwardly killing his team on a nightly basis to playing the best basketball of his life. In the 4 game winning streak, he is averaging a gaudy 26 points per game, including a 41-point explosion in an OT win at Joes. With Fatts playing like this, URI has the veteran core to surprise people in Brooklyn, but they did lose to Fordham at home, people don’t forget that. They are still statistically the worst 3-point shooting team in the country.
What have they done in the past? URI’s two A10 titles in 1999 and 2017 were conveniently executed by their two best A10 teams ever. A model for making the most of your opportunities in the limelight.
Can they win the tournament? Nah, but they’re capable of giving us an upset or two on their way out.
#9 La Salle 10-20 (8-10)
What’s up with them? It’s only half of a joke, but La Salle really is the best 10-20 team in the country. They were a little too bullish on their non-con scheduling, resulting in an 0-10 start, and then benefited (in theory) from the bottom of the A10 being truly deplorable, picking up 6 wins from teams below them in the standings and then sneaking up on Davidson and lulling DUQ to sleep at home. This is a very La Salle team, you’ll forget about them by the time you finish this article, guarantee it.
What have they – I’m beginning to realize what an undertaking it was to do all 14 teams. LaSalle has never been to the title game, an extremely La Salle thing to do.
Can they win the tournament? Nah
#5 George Mason 17-14 (11-7)
What’s up with them? After a dismal start to the season, GMU was on track to resurrect their basketball year, starting A10 play at 7-1 and being the surprise of the conference year. Since then? Things have kind of just regressed back to the norm for the Patriots, as they closed conference play 3-6. With that said, GMU has exactly 0 losses to the bottom of the conference, but is 2-4 against the top four, so while they may get out of Thursday unscathed, the odds they run through both Friday and Saturday are slim. The veteran core of Kier, Livingston and Reuter will be counted on to lead the run for the Patriots, but it will require offensive consistency to make it to Sunday, something GMU is not all that familiar with this year. If they run into VCU, I think they’re probably screwed, the Richmond Rams held them to 36 points AT HOME a week ago and won both meetings.
What have they done in the past? This is only season #6 for GMU and they’re still looking for their first trip to the semis.
Can they win the tournament? Saying it’s highly unlikely would truly be disingenuous and I wouldn’t do that to you. They won’t be cutting down the nets in Brooklyn.
#7 Duquesne 19-12 (10-8)
What’s up with them? In my conference preview I wrote that DUQ was a year away, and it was as true in January as it is in March. DUQ has struggled on and off with injuries, but put together a wholly respectable conference record, even if they were 0-6 against the top four. The Dukes are led by Eric Williams Jr, who is coming off 61 points in his last two losing efforts against UD and SLU. Together with Sincere Carry, the Hughes boys and Tavian Dunn-Martin the narrative will remain the same for DUQ this coming weekend: they have a chance of sneaking up on a few teams but will eventually bow out when it comes time to play the top of the league. The Dukes play the quickest tempo in the league with a below-average defense, so will be as safe a bet as any to cover the over in their games.
What have they done in the past? Duquesne has the rare distinction of winning the very first A10 dance in 1977 against Villanova as an inaugural member and they haven’t won since. They returned to the finals in 1981, and came up just short in 2009 to Temple, after upsetting the heavy favorite Dayton Flyers in the semis.
Can they win the tournament? Maybe next year.
#10 St. Joes 13-18 (6-12)
What’s up with them? St Joes is probably one of the most inconsistent basketball teams I have ever watched and are undoubtedly the conference’s biggest disappointment this season. Considering many people (myself included) thought there was a chance Joes could win the conference, their season has left basketball-knowers scratching their heads as to what happened. Joe’s runs a mistake free offense but struggle shooting, and defensively are effective at crashing the boards but give up far too many open perimeter shots. Their flaws are maddeningly equal to their strengths, hence the 6-12 record. With Charlie Brown and Lamarr Kimble they can certainly play with anyone in Brooklyn, but even if they are able to bottle up the play that led to them beating Davidson, they will bow out before Sunday.
What have they done in the past? Joes has won the whole thing four times, and their last two in ’14 and ’16 came against VCU (even if the 2014 title is still under protest in Dayton, OH). They have been to the title game 7 times, including three trips in four years (all losses) between 2005-2008.
Can they win the tournament? No. There will be no Langston Galloway repeats to the Flyers this year.
If you don’t know what I’m talking to in reference to 2014…below was the deciding play in the final minute of the semis. Forever a stain on A10 officiating and probably the most angry I’ve ever been towards a game of basketball….
#6 Saint Louis 19-12 (10-8)
What’s up with them? I don’t think its hyperbolic to say SLU’s season has been a disappointment, both in results and regarding the departure of key freshman, Carte’Are Gordon. After a solid non-con and a very cushy start to the A10 schedule, SLU jumped out to a 14-4 record and it looked like they would be challenging for the crown…then it all kinda went to shit. The Billikens went 5-8 in their last 13 including 1-4 against the conference’s top four teams, with the only win being at home to UD. Because they can’t shoot for shit, they will again be relying on their rebounding to carry them through the weekend, which also happens to be Dayton’s biggest weakness and the reason why this will not be a great first game matchup for our Flyers if it pans out that way. SLU is still stout defensively, still gets to the line often and is happy to grind out a game in the 60s with you, all things that have historically been important in March. For my money, SLU has the best chance of reaching Sunday while residing outside the top four, simply due to the fact that they match up well in their first two contests. Throw in the fact that there’s four seniors who know this is their last shot to salvage their last season and you have one dangerous team.
What have they done in the past? Since joining in 2005, SLU took home the title in 2013, and has won one game in each of the last 3 seasons.
Can they win the tournament? I think so! But luck will be involved.
WE MADE IT TO THE TOP FOUR!
#1 Virginia Confederate University 25-6 (16-2)
What’s up with them? They have ascended to officially treating this conference like their playground in same way Xavier used to in the early 2000s up until the time they exited. VCUs regular season conference title is one of the more unlikely in recent memory, and anyone who said they saw it coming is simply a relentless homer for the program. Sporting the conferences best defense and deepest roster, VCU will be THE team to beat in Brooklyn. They rank #5 nationally in defensive efficiency and are top ten in the following categories: opponent 2-point FG%, opponent 3-point FG% and opponent turnover %. Their offense is nothing special, and they’re particularly inept at shooting the 3-ball, but it hardly matters when you hold opponents in the 50s and 60s every night. The Richmond Rams have gotten the most out of virtually everyone on their roster in conference play, and the 12 straight victories to get to 16-2 speak for themselves. The job Mike Rhoades has done this year catapulting VCU back to the top of the conference in year #2 is nothing short of incredible, and he should be rewarded with Coach of the Year for doing so.
What have they done in the past? Before last season, VCU had been to the A10 title game every season since joining the league in 2013, with their only win coming against UD in 2015.
Can they win the A10? They probably will because basketball is cruel and hates you.
#4 St. Bonaventure 16-15 (12-6)
What’s up with them? Mark Schmidt has done it again, holy shit this article is long, I’m trying to finish up, guys. After a 5-5 start, Bona rattled off 7 of their last 8 against mostly the bottom of the league, with the only loss being @ Davidson. If it wasn’t for Mike Rhoades above, Schmidt would be the Coach of the Year again. Limping this roster to a top four finish after losing the program’s best guard tandem of all-time is a remarkable feat, especially after starting 4-9. Win or lose, this season has been an undeniable success in Olean. As it was the whole season, Bona’s success will rely on the contributions of Stockard and freshman Kyle Lofton, but like UD, they only run about seven players deep and can be derailed immediately with foul trouble. If they win 3 games in 3 days, you can bet it was because they were able to grind out some defensive battles.
What have they done in the past? The Bonnies have been in the title game three times (’84, ’00, ’12) with their only victory coming in 2012 on the back of Andrew Nicholson.
Can they win the tournament? I hate to be like this but the only way I see Bonaventure winning this weekend is by VCU getting upset on Friday.
#2 Davidson 23-8 (14-4)
What’s up with them? In very “non-Davidson” fashion, they have actually limped to the finish line, being in the discussion for the conference crown until a home loss to UD and an away loss to LaSalle ended those dreams for good. Davidson is led by runaway Player of the Year, Jon Axel Gudmundsson, who inexplicably leads the team in points, rebounds, steals and assists and locked up POY about 3 weeks ago, saving us all the conversation. Skinny, European white boy Luka Brajkovic anchors the middle of the floor, while the guards are rounded out by three-point specialist Luke Frampton and Kellan “don’t call him Steph” Grady. While DAV arguably has the best guard play in the league, they can easily be exploited down low, and this led to UD beating them a few weeks back. Their success in Brooklyn will hinge on their guards ability to hit outside shots. Like UD and Bonaventure, DAV rolls the dice with an extremely thin bench and foul trouble could get the best of them as well.
What have they done in the past? They’re the reigning champs, people.
Can they win the tournament? They did it last year and they could easily do it again, bet that.
Yes, I put UD at the bottom so you would have to either read the whole article or scroll past all of it and feel a second or two of guilt….
#3 The University of Dayton Flyers 21-10 (13-5)
What’s up with them? I gotta be honest, I’m pretty goddamned jazzed about the Flyers chances this weekend in Brooklyn, which is rare for me. The Flyers have the best front court in the conference by a country mile, but all year have struggled to get things going on the perimeter. The way I see it, the Flyers have three keys to winning in Brooklyn: efficient perimeter shooting, staying out of foul trouble, and pounding the ball inside at every possible waking opportunity. They have proved the ability to score on anyone with the conference’s best offense, but have the tendency to disappear for large stretches of gameplay that have led to their five defeats. Freshman Dwayne Cohill has provided a defensive spark on an increased workload, but the onus of the guard play will fall solely to Jalen Crutcher, and Jordan Davis, the latter of whom has been as inconsistent as any starter I can remember in a UD uniform. After the first seven on the roster, there’s nothing else, which is one of the reasons UD matches up so poorly to the 11-man rotation of VCU, and also the main reason to give pause to picking the Flyers to win it all. If Obi and Josh are owning the paint, Ryan Mikesell stays consistent with his output and a few long balls are falling for the guards, UD will find itself in a crapshoot game on Sunday for the auto-bid.
What have they done before? Since joining the A10 in 1995, the Dayton Flyers have won the A10 tournament once*, in 2003. As many know, and some reading this may be learning for the first time, that one tournament victory will forever have an asterisk next to it in reference to it’s legitimacy since it took place at the home barn of UD Arena. This weekend has always conjured nightmares for Flyers fans – Xavier shutting down UD for the final 8 minutes in Dayton to deny them back-to-back titles in ’04, DUQ pulling the upset in ’09, Kevin Anderson ending UDs miracle run in 2011 after beating X, The Great Langston Galloway Push-off of 2014, coming up short vs VCU on Sunday in Brooklyn in 2015, the Jack Gibbs show in Pittsburgh kicking (1 seed) Dayton out on Friday afternoon – the list is literally a mile long. History is not kind to the old U of D on this weekend.
Can they win the tournament? You bet your ass they can.
Wear Red, be #LOWD