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Atlantic 10 Wednesday Preview: Can St. Joe’s upset #15 Dayton?

Game of the Night

St. Joseph’s Hawks vs. #15 Dayton Flyers – 6 ET (CBS Sports Net)

With just a month left before Selection Sunday, this may be the most important A-10 game to take place until the end of the season. Dayton enters on a nine-game win streak, but St. Joe’s could benefit greatly from an upset in this classic conference showdown; and this one’s on the Hawks’ home court.

St. Joe’s (21-4, 10-2 A-10) is coming off a solid week with wins over George Washington and La Salle. After over a month of remaining on the bubble, the Hawks are finally “in” by the looks of most projections from national experts, and will need to keep winning to stay up there. But can they knock off the consensus best team in the conference?

As noted by CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein, the key battle in this game will be in the post. Steve McElvene, the 6-11 Dayton freshman, is by far the most imposing big man on the floor for either team and will need to be contained by the Hawks’ defense. With no true “5” on the court, SJU coach Phil Martelli will have to devise a strategy to keep the ball out of McElvene’s hands. Yet even so, the Flyers’ attack is more than just one-dimensional.

Charles Cooke looks like a candidate for A-10 POY, Scoochie Smith is a great passer and scorer and Dyshawn Pierre has made a huge impact since his return to the team. Still, St. Joe’s counters with their star, DeAndre’ Bembry, a possible draft pick this coming offseason and leading-scorer Isaiah Miles, who can beat teams from the stretch 3/4 position.

According to KenPom.com, SJU opens as 66% favorites to take this one home. Considering Dayton is looking at a 4/5 seed in the NCAA tournament, that may be a little generous on the Hawks’ end. Regardless, this is not a game that you are going to want to miss.

Elsewhere in A-10 Action

Duquesne Dukes vs. George Washington Colonials – 7 ET

This is a game that GW simply cannot afford to lose. Following losses to St. Joe’s and St. Bona this past week, the Colonials are on a two-game skid and can’t drop any more “layup” games the rest of the season if they want to make the NCAA tournament. Duquesne is a sub-.500 conference team, and with the balanced scoring attack that GW presents, this should be a fairly easy win. The Colonials won the first matchup with the Dukes 91-64 this season, and I’d expect Mike Lonergan’s team to do the same tonight.

La Salle Explorers vs. St. Bonaventure Bonnies – 7 ET

Man, the Bonnies are really back in it. Barring Dayton, there may not be a hotter team in the conference right now as St. Bona has won their last five in a row. The way they have been doing it has been through the production of trio Dion Wright, Jaylen Adams and Marcus Posley, who have been accounting for a disproportionate level of the Bonnies’ offense during this run. Look for the three to have another big night against this lowly Explorers team that is trying to win just their sixth game of the season. I’ve got Bona here.

Fordham Rams vs. Massachusetts Minutemen – 7 ET

UMass is fresh off a surprising upset over VCU this past week, and is hoping to capitalize on their hot hand. Reigning A-10 Player of the Week Jabarie Hinds is red-hot right now, and is coming off a 37-point performance in his team’s OT win over Duquesne. Look for Hinds to get going from the perimeter in this one, he’s 8-9 from downtown is his last two games. KenPom likes Fordham with a 65% chance of victory, but don’t be surprised if the Minutemen put up big numbers too in this one.

George Mason Patriots vs. Saint Louis Billikens – 7 ET

While this may not be the most exciting of A-10 matchups, it should be interesting to see of SLU can actually get a win. The Billikens have dropped five-straight and are not projected a win the rest of the season. Meanwhile, George Mason is coming off a buzzer-beater win over Davidson last week and already beat Saint Louis 92-79 earlier this season. I like the Patriots big in this game.