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Around the Atlantic 10: Jordan Watkins, T.J. Cline, and how UMass is building an NCAA Tournament resume

The Atlantic 10 had a decent Saturday after a crazy week of hoops. 4 of 6 teams ended up pulling out wins to start the weekend. Massachusetts got its 4th win of the season, beating Harvard 70-66 behind Donte Clark’s 29 points. Davidson, after almost a week off from basketball, returned home and beat Charlotte 79-57. George Mason avoided a really bad upset, defeating James Madison 80-77 in overtime. The Richmond Spiders ended up crawling back from an 8 point halftime deficit to beat Boston College 67-54 in Brooklyn. Other teams in the league weren’t so lucky as George Washington fell 74-68 to Penn State while Fordham fell 67-63 to UT-Arlington.

1. Jordan Watkins really found his stride against Charlotte

Davidson’s junior guard was hot on Saturday, lighting the 49ers up from behind the three point line. Watkins went for 22 points on 6/8 shooting from three. He’s primarily been a long range shooter this season, attempting only 6 2 pointers compared to 26 from behind the arch. Davidson’s barrage of three point shooting is key for a team that generally does not play great defense. Watkins is leading the team in 3 point field goal percentage at 50% through the first 5 games of the season. While others (with the exception of Peyton Aldridge) have struggled a bit from long range, Jordan has been a consistent outside threat for this Wildcats team.

This is a good sign for a Davidson team that gets most of its offense from two players: Jack Gibbs and Peyton Aldridge. If Watkins can become a knock down three point shooter that’s always a threat on the court, Davidson is going to have a high-powered offense with a trio of very capable scorers. If you’re a Davidson fan, it’s great to see someone other than Jack or Peyton break out and show some promise in these first few games.

2. T.J. Cline put on a clinic in the Barclays Center Classic

If you’re a fan of A-10 basketball, you have to love the way T.J. Cline plays with grit and toughness. The senior went for 18 points, 9 assists, and 9 rebounds, a near triple-double, against Maryland in the first round of the Barclays Center Classic. Not to mention, Cline hit a dagger three pointer towards the end of regulation that momentarily put the Spiders back on top over the Terrapins. Though Richmond would lose that game, Cline competed fiercely throughout, and his performance in the third-place game against Boston College was no exception. Cline had 23 points, including 13 in the second half, to help the Spiders overcome a halftime deficit and ultimately beat Boston College by double digits.

Richmond may not be an NCAA Tournament team this year, but the Spiders did look impressive against Maryland and had a great second half against Boston College. Cline has been this team’s rock for quite some time, and if he continues to play at such a high-level, Richmond could become dangerous. I don’t see this team finishing top 5 in the Atlantic 10, but stranger things have happened. Bottom line: the fact that Richmond took Maryland to overtime and actually probably should’ve beat the Terps is a good sign for Chris Mooney’s team.

3. Massachusetts started building an NCAA Tournament resume without doing anything

The Minutemen didn’t need to beat any big names this week to pick up a huge RPI boost. How is this possible? Remember when Massachusetts took down the Temple Owls 70-67 earlier this season? Yeah, well that win just got a lot better. The Owls won the NIT Tip-Off beating two ranked teams in the process. Temple outlasted Florida State and then shocked a very good West Virginia team that’s ranked 19th in the nation. Since Temple is beginning to assert itself as a team that could be in the Big Dance this year, it seems Massachusetts looks like a better team for beating the Owls. If you’re a Minutemen fan, keep rooting for the Owls to find more success.

Massachusetts took down Harvard on Saturday as well, though this game looked better at the beginning of the season than it did now. This was supposed to be a very tough test for UMass, and it wasn’t easy, but now this looks more like the Minutemen avoided a bad loss than got a good win. The Crimson have done close to nothing this season, starting 1-4 with their only win coming against a non-D1 opponent in Fisher College. This is a Harvard team that could still pick it up, but right now, this doesn’t appear to be a resume-building win for UMass.

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Grant Labedz is a college basketball superfan who loves the entire sport but definitely has favorites in the A-10 and the Big Ten. He has written for ...