The first release of this year’s NET Rankings was a pleasant surprise to A-10 fans. The conference currently has 3 teams in the top 25 and 7 teams in the top 75. Most surprising was Duquesne and Richmond now at 21 and 22 respectively, despite having relatively easy non-conference schedules. NET Rankings don’t mean everything though; at the end of the day, you do have to pick up quality wins to get into the field. However, the NET shows that some wins the A-10 has are actually considered quality wins. For example, Duquesne’s win over Indiana St. is actually a Q2 victory right now, and Wisconsin is a Q1 win for Richmond. Not to mention, the improvements the league has made as a whole means there are plenty of Q1 and Q2 opportunities left in conference play. Duquesne hasn’t played a Q1 game yet, but it will have chances against Dayton (x2), VCU, Richmond, Saint Louis, and Rhode Island.
In the Projected Field
If the tournament were to start today, Dayton would absolutely find itself dancing. The Flyers rank #10 in NET with 3 Quadrant 2 victories and a ton of chances for Q1 wins in conference play. Dayton has a shot at Colorado this weekend, and though the Buffaloes just fell out of the Top 25, they’ll still be a reputable opponent worth beating. As long as Dayton doesn’t fold like a lawn chair in league play, the Flyers are playing for seeding at this point. While Dayton may not have done a ton to earn this kind of hype (their best win is on a neutral court over Saint Mary’s), it doesn’t hurt to have a lottery pick player on your roster and have all of college basketball watch you play well out in Maui. I do believe the Flyers are appropriately ranked in the top 15, but they’ll certainly have to continue to prove it throughout conference play.
While the NET hasn’t treated VCU as favorably as Richmond or Duquesne, I still think VCU is on the right side of the bubble, based partially on pre-season expectations and also because of a win over LSU and no bad losses. Beating Charleston on the road will go down as a Q2 win, and beating Wichita St. on the road this weekend would be a Q1 win if the Rams could pull it off. I still think VCU looks like the 2nd best team in the conference and is kind of on a tier of its own in that regard, but the Rams will need to show up in conference play if they don’t want to sweat things out on Selection Sunday. Beating the Shockers would go a long way.
On the Bubble
Based on its NET Ranking and body of work so far, I think Richmond has done enough to be “on the bubble,” but probably not on the right side of it yet. The Spiders will eventually have to beat someone better than Wisconsin or hope that win really improves throughout league play. Road wins never hurt, and UR was able to snag one at Old Dominion last night, even though it took a buzzer beater to get there. The Spiders have no Quadrant 2 wins yet, but the A-10 is shaping up to give them ample opportunities in that regard. The hope for Richmond is that the league doesn’t completely cannibalize itself, as the Spiders fall prey. If 3 or 4 teams near the top end up with an 11-7 record, it could be hard to get 3 or more A-10 teams in the Big Dance. Richmond needs to finish non-conference play strong. Notably, beating Alabama on the road would be a nice win.
I didn’t think Duquesne would be in this position, but based on a very strong NET Ranking and the chances the Dukes will have in conference play, I think Duquesne is 8 or 9 spots off the bubble right now. You can’t blame the Dukes for anything since they haven’t lost a game yet, and their remaining non-conference games are all Q3 and Q4 opportunities. This means that wins won’t help them much, but a loss would absolutely sink them. So roll into conference play undefeated, and all of a sudden Duquesne might have a case for an at-large if it manages a win over Dayton, Richmond, etc. The Dukes will have 6 Quadrant 1 chances and 2 Quadrant 2 chances in conference play, so they will have the opportunity to prove their worth.
Work to Do
The Rams are without a Q1 or Q2 win yet, and though they’re still very capable of making the NCAA Tournament this year, picking up a win over LSU, West Virginia, or Maryland would have really helped. Rhode Island has gotten a bit unlucky this season, because the Rams scheduled some very solid home games (Providence, Western Kentucky, and Alabama), but all of those are listed as Q3 games. If Alabama and Providence were playing better basketball, this resume might look a bit stronger right now. Closing out non-conference play with 3 straight wins will be pivotal. Beat Western Kentucky at home, and then don’t lose to Middle Tennessee or Brown. URI can get up onto the bubble with some key wins in the Atlantic 10.
The Patriots have 1 Quadrant 2 win over New Mexico St., and its only loss is Q1 (to Maryland on the road). A lot like Duquesne, the Patriots have done all they can with their schedule. I think Duquesne is getting the benefit of the doubt over Mason right now due to efficiency metrics (especially on defense), and the fact that Duquesne has been blowing out weaker opponents more so than George Mason. Either way, we’ll have to see how things shake out in league play. TCU on the road is a Q2 opportunity, and there are plenty of chances to make a statement in conference play. However, this George Mason team probably has to finish 3rd or better with some significant wins (VCU, Dayton, etc.) to have a real shot. Sitting at 65 right now in NET is not bad, but they’ll have to creep into the top 40 range if they want to get some serious looks.
The Billikens have a very similar resume as George Mason right now, and the two teams rank closely in NET. SLU is unfortunately without a Q1 or Q2 victory thus far though, which isn’t making a strong case to be an NCAA Tournament team. Obviously it’s early though, and the Billikens are one of a number of teams that could stroll through conference play, pick up a few big wins, and start to see their name on the bubble. There is a lot of work to do, but the opportunities will be there.
Brooklyn or Bust this Year
The Bonnies have actually won 6 in a row, but the nature of their non-conference schedule (and an untimely injury at the start of the season), means this team will likely be fighting for a bid in Brooklyn. 3 Quadrant 3 losses are currently weighing the Bonnies’ NET Ranking down heavily.
While I do expect the Wildcats to be competitive in the A-10 this year, the at-large ship has unfortunately sailed; the Wildcats have yet to pick up a Q1 or Q2 victory and have a Q3 loss against Wake Forest on their record. Loyola Chicago and Vanderbilt on the road will be tough games to close out non-conference play, and even 2 wins probably won’t do much for Davidson’s tournament resume. It’d take a definitive 2nd place finish or better in the A-10 this year for Davidson to start sneaking up onto the bubble.
While I’ve liked the way La Salle has been playing this year, the Explorers haven’t beaten anyone that strong this year, and there are too many strong teams at the top for this group to sneak into the top 3 or 4. I think the future is bright under Ashley Howard, but making the NCAA Tournament is a few seasons away.
The Minutemen lost all of their pivotal non-conference games, but this is a young group of guys, and by no means was this year’s expectation a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Give these freshmen some time.
Pretty self-explanatory at this point, but I’ll give GW credit for that win over Delaware.
Three straight home losses to sub 230 Kenpom teams is not the recipe for success.
Snapping that 8 game losing streak is the main priority right now.