Winter storm Jonas did its best to slow down A-10 play this week including a red-hot VCU team.
While the storm may have delayed a number of games, thousands of brave fans forged through snow-covered roads along the East Coast to take in some great Atlantic 10 action this weekend while others will get their chance to root on their squads in a jam-packed week of college basketball.
A LOOK BACK
GW wins key rock fight – Holding serve at home is the name of the game if want to compete for a top spot in the conference. The Colonials did just that on Friday, rallying from down five at the half to pick up a key win over Rhode Island. GW shot just 37.5% from the field, hit just one three-pointer…and won. How, you ask? Free throws, rebounds and depth. Almost half of the Colonials points came from the stripe, hitting 25 of their 30 free throw attempts. Rhody fans might call foul on that, and maybe their right, as the Rams were whistled nine more times (22) than GW (13) on the afternoon. URI was outscored by 19 at the stripe, which combined with a 13-rebound advantage for GW and a 13-point bench scoring advantage, was a recipe for disaster for Dan Hurley and Co. Being the only game between the two this season, GW now has a head-to-head tie-break advantage over the Rams should they need it for A-10 Tournament seeding.
SLU for Two – Break up the Billikens, SLU is going streaking! A game after being routed by George Mason at Chaifetz, the Bills shocked Davidson, 96-87, then took the party to Amherst where they picked up their first A-10 road win since 2014 by knocking off the Minutemen, 86-75. Freshman Jermaine Bishop was a key piece in both wins and has averaged 18.3 points over the last three contests. That’ll either make him Jim Crews’ savior or a hot transfer prospect following this season. SLU fans will hope it’s the former and they’ll need Bishop to be even better with four of the Billikens next five contests coming against kenpom top-100 squads, three of which will be played on the road.
VCU still undefeated – Random stat: VCU has scored 84 or more points in their last four conference games. No Rams team did that under Shaka Smart, no team did it under Anthony Grant and no VCU team did it under Jeff Capel. Chalk it up to a scheduling coincidence or whatever your preferred reasoning, but right now it is undeniable that Will Wade is getting things done at VCU. The Rams currently rank No.1 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency in A-10 conference play, a feet that hasn’t happened at VCU since 2009. They are doing so without Graham, without Weber, without Larrier, without Smart, without their heralded 2015 recruiting class and without starter Jordan Burgess. VCU has flirted with danger against all three of the top-100 teams they’ve played in conference play this season yet remain a perfect 7-0.
Bonnies miss opportunities – On the losing end of that VCU battle was St. Bonaventure, a team that is fighting to prove they belong among the top teams in the conference but a team that just lost two games to the current top-two in the league (not to mention a game before those to the Dukes of Duquesne). Posley, Wright and Adams are as good of an A-10 trio as you’ll find, with Gregg chipping in an underrated season as well. But as good as those guys have been as a scoring foursome, their lack of defense has been an absolute killer, giving up 84 points or more their last three contests, all losses. That D may see one of it’s biggest challenges yet on Sunday when they welcome the Richmond Spiders to Olean (who coincidentally play even less D than the Bonnies). They follow that up with a tough road test at Saint Joseph’s. Win one of those two and the Bonnies could rally late in the A-10 season, as six of their last nine games will be played against sub-100 kenpom teams.
A LOOK AHEAD
Bonnies schedule eases up – See above. Sometimes scheduling has a lot to do with just how good a team looks. St. Bonaventure gets those six sub-100 games but also welcomes two of those top-100 teams to Olean where Posley and Co. are incredibly tough. St. Bonaventure is currently the kenpom favorite in nine of their next 11 contests based off what them and their opponents have done so far this season. Don’t be surprised if Bonna hits .500 in A-10 play before putting together a serious conference rally.
Fordham, Richmond…underrated? – That’s what my gut tells me, at least based off schedule and what I’ve seen from both. Starting with Richmond, the Spiders are in the midst of a brutal four-game stretch (VCU, Davidson, at GW, at Bona), having lost their opening game of those four, picking up at least two of the rest would work wonders for their overall A-10 hopes. I have them beating Davidson tonight and winning big in the process, so that’s halfway there (unless they lose, of course), then they’ll need to steal just one of the two after that. Doing so would put Richmond at 4-4 in conference play heading into a stretch of games against four teams ranked 180 or below by kenpom, followed by a road game at No.129 Davidson. After that the Spiders get two of their final three top-100 games at home, which is clearly no given based off this season’s track record, but it’s still where you want to be in those matchups, as well as VCU on the road. Something tells me the Spiders are a lot more dangerous than they currently appear at 2-3 in conference and they’ll need to prove it these next few weeks if they want to avoid yet another disappointing season under head coach Chris Mooney. As for Fordham, while I don’t think they are the contender that Richmond is, I fully expect Jeff Neubauer’s new squad to play the role of spoiler in this year’s A-10, and with a schedule that includes four games against kenpom top-100 squads over their next five contests, now is the time to do so.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Davidson at Richmond (tonight) – Richmond is a six-point favorite as of this moment but that still looks like easy money to me. Spiders beat Davidson by 26 in the Robins Center this season. I’m of the opinion that this year’s Spider team is better than last season’s while this year’s Cats aren’t quite what they were then with A-10 POY Tyler Kalinoski leading their team.
Richmond at George Washington (Thursday) – Cline and Allen versus Larsen and Savage? Sign me up for that. These two split last season’s series with GW narrowly escaping the Spiders in a double-OT home win last season. Could be a fun one on the U on Thursday night.
VCU at Davidson (Friday) – The Rams will take a 10-game win streak into a Belk Arena that was a house of horrors last season for VCU, 82-55 win for the Cats, Shaka Smart’s worst loss as a head coach. VCU ultimately had the last laugh, routing the Cats just over a week later in the Atlantic 10 tournament. If this were at home I’d take the Rams to the bank but on the road VCU will be on high upset alert while the rest of the A-10 will be rooting on the Cats.
Saint Joseph’s at Rhode Island (Saturday) – The Hawks took game-one in this series, defeating Rhody by five at Hagan. I think SJU heads into this one at 6-2 with URI 4-3. Dan Hurley will need a big home win to keep pace with the conference leaders. Kenpom has this one as basically a coin-flip, so you’ll want to be in front of a TV for this one.
Richmond at St. Bonaventure (Sunday) – Clearly a big week for Richmond, appearing in three of my top-five games of the week. Posley, Adams, Wright, Jones, Cline, Allen…I can’t wait to watch those guys go at each other in front of one of the best home-courts in the A-10.
Safe to say these guards had a nice week for their teams…
Charles Cooke (Dayton) – 23.5 ppg, 6.5 rebs, 2.5 asts, 2.5 stls, 72.7% from the field AND from three. Hey now!
JeQuan Lewis (VCU) – 18.5 ppg, 7.5 asts, 2 stls, 1 total turnover. Makes VCU that much more dangerous.
Marcus Posley (Bona) – 30.5 ppg in two losses. Needs frontcourt help but is doing his part offensively.
Jermaine Bishop (SLU) – Freshman dropped 18.5 ppg on 62% shooting in back-to-back wins for Saint Louis.
Jack Gibbs (Davidson) – 34.5 ppg, 6.5 asts, 2 spg. Guy is dropping Curry numbers this season.
Micah Mason (Duquesne) – 19 points on 56% shooting and 4.5 asts. Reminds me of Belmont’s Ian Clark (now Golden State’s Ian Clark).
Marquise Moore (Mason) – 15 ppg, 11 rpg, 4.5 rpg as a 6’2 soph. Nice line but would probably trade that for two wins.