For most teams, we are at the end of the non-conference season. Some teams may have one more game to go. A few teams have actually started the conference season, and then finished a non-conference season after! Crazy times.
Usually the end of the non-conference season means that is basically the half-way point of the season, even though there are 18 conference games left to go. For a few teams in the A10, the non-conference schedule is very important to their NCAA Tourney at-large hopes. For others, those hopes have all but diminished after a few bad losses to some lesser teams in the non-con.
Let’s look at where everyone stands at this point in the season.
*All rankings in parentheses are from KenPom.
Right on Track
Saint Louis (#38)
Notable Wins: vs. LSU (#28), vs. NC State (#39)
Losses: at Minnesota (#52)
The Billikens have had the best start to the season out of any team in the conference. The loss to Minnesota on the road won’t hurt them in the least. Minnesota will most likely finish in the middle of the pack in a really good Big Ten. SLU also has two of the best wins in the league with their wins over LSU and NC State. It’s looks even better now that NC State upset North Carolina on Tuesday. Saint Louis is in perfect position to get an at-large bid, no doubt about it.
Notable wins: at Kentucky (#50), N – Loyola-Chicago (#54), vs. Northern Iowa (#89)
Losses: at West Virginia (#14), vs. Hofstra (#143)
Up until Tuesday, Richmond was on the right track. Then, a home loss to Hofstra happened. Because of that, I had to downgrade them to looking decent. Basically, their resume looks good with the wins against Kentucky and Loyola. However, Kentucky is reeling right now and does not look like their normal selves, insisting that Richmond’s win looks worse in reality. The Loyola win is decent being on a neutral court, and Northern Iowa isn’t saying much even though they are in the top 100 on KenPom. Right now, Richmond is looking decent, but a few things need to happen: Kentucky hopefully figures it out and starts looking like Kentucky again, and Richmond hopefully doesn’t suffer any more head-scratching losses during the conference season.
Notable wins: vs. Ole Miss (#34), N – Mississippi State (#79)
Losses: vs. SMU (#46)
Dayton is such a weird team to analyze. They could easily be 5-0 or 0-5. They are lucky to be 4-1. The best win obviously is Ole Miss, which is a team that looks a lot better in the SEC than the pre-season projections insisted, which bodes well for the Flyers. The Mississippi State win on a neutral court looks decent, and could look better as the season progresses depending on how they perform in the SEC. The SMU loss stings but does not hurt their resume. The Flyers are only looking decent because the Ole Miss looks really good right now and they have no bad losses on their resume. As long as Dayton keeps avoiding bad losses and knocks out a few good to decent wins in the conference season, they will be in good shape for an at-large bid.
Notable wins: N – Utah State (#82), N – Memphis (#61)
Losses: N – West Virginia (#14), at Penn State (#44)
VCU looks really good, with a couple of decent wins to show for it. The two good wins that I mentions are outside the top 50 of KenPom, so hopefully for the Rams those get better as the season goes along. The only two losses on the schedule are to West Virginia and a better than advertised Penn State team on the road. VCU also has no bad losses. Aside from the one-point, almost blown game against James Madison, they are beating lesser opponents really soundly, which looks good for the “eye-test”. Just like Dayton, VCU needs to keep avoiding the bad losses and rack up a few sound wins on the resume. Good start to the season for a surprising young Rams squad.
Work To Do
St. Bonaventure (#72)
Wins: N – Akron (#128), vs Hofstra (#143)
Unfortunately for the Bonnies, almost their entire non-conference schedule got nixed due to COVID-19 affecting their opponents. They have a good team this year that has potential to finish in the top 4 of the league, but the amount of opportunities for good wins got out of their control. For the Bonnies, they have to win a few key games during the conference season. They play Richmond twice, and they play SLU, Dayton, and VCU only once. They might need to go 3-2 in those games and avoid more than one bad loss to get a chance at a bid.
Not Looking Good
Davidson (#69), Duquesne (#86), George Mason (#126), Rhode Island (#78)
All of these teams have suffered one really bad loss on the schedule already, and either squandered opportunities for good wins or never had a chance to gain any good wins. That’s the problem with the COVID year. Davidson would be the only team to have a chance to climb back in, but the win against Rhode Island (#78) is the only win that is of note. That went away when they lost to Charlotte (#171) at home. Rhode Island would be the other team, but they have a crazy medley of good wins against Seton Hall (#51) and San Francisco (#71) and bad losses to Boston College (#108) and a semi-bad loss to Western Kentucky (#81). When the NET rankings come out in January, all of these teams’ bad losses will look worse than they do now on official tournament resumes.
Out Of It
UMass, George Washington, La Salle, St. Joseph’s, Fordham
Most of these teams we knew about not competing this year, but the one shocker is UMass. They would be in the next category up, but now the Minutemen have suffered two bad losses to Bryant (#199) and Northeastern (#170). And that was right after dominating Northeastern at home a few days earlier! It’s a very depressing year for UMass after having high aspirations coming into the year off an 8th place finish last season and having likely the player of the year in Tre Mitchell.
Due to this season being weird and erratic, the reality is that this hurt the mid-major conferences the most, mainly the conferences like the A-10, Mountain West, and WCC. More than likely, these conferences will not get more than 2 bids. The power 6 conference schedules are all very strong and will get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the last few bids to hand out. With the A10 being a little weaker than expected, the teams in the running will all beat up on each other and take away each other’s chances for a bid. So out of the 4-5 teams listed above that are in the running for a bid, expect 2 to get a bid. Hopefully I’m wrong.
Of course, I will analyze and write another post halfway through the conference season after things start to shake out.
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