You can read my half full, half empty takes on the current top half of the A-10 by clicking here. I’ll now shift my focus to the current bottom half of the A-10, a group of teams Micky still loves and wants to see get their asses up off the mat and FIGHT.
7 – GEORGE MASON (12-6, 2-3)
Half full: Great news Mason, it’s the middle of January and you already have one more win than you had all of last season. The Patriots road a nine-game winning streak into conference play that included a dominant win over a Penn State team that is looking better every day. Statistically numbers are up across the board an offensive efficiency ranking that has jumped about 100 spots. George Mason has two very forgivable losses for an up-and-coming team, dropping a home contest to VCU and a roadie at St. Bonaventure (when they had Jaylen Adams) and have two wins over middle-of-the-pack squads they’ll realistically be competing with for tournament seeding this season. Long story short, Dave Paulsen looks legit and as soon as he gets a roster full of his guys in Fairfax, could have EagleBank as loud as it once was during the CAA glory days. Also at 2-3 Mason is technically tied for seventh place with Davidson and two others (see below).
Half empty: HOW DO YOU LOSE TO SAINT LOUIS AT HOME!?! Almost all of the air came out of the balloon this past Saturday thanks to an ugly home loss to a SLU team Pomeroy ranks as one of the 50 worst in the country. It’s the second consecutive season Mason has lost at home to Saint Louis. Three of Mason’s next four games will be on the road including a Sunday contest at Richmond. After that, things get challenging. Five of Mason’s final nine games are against current top-100 squads, three of those will be played away from Fairfax. An 8-10 A-10 finish could be a realistic best-case scenario for the Patriots (although I’m thinking closer to 7-11), which would still be an improvement from last season’s team.
7 – SAINT JOSEPH’S (8-8, 2-3)
Half full: Let’s call this exactly what it is: a rebuilding year. No team lost as much as Saint Joseph’s did this offseason (well, maybe GW). SJU’s youth is getting big minutes and flashing enough potential to give opposing coaches heartburn thinking about how good these guys may once again be down the road. Shavar Newkirk was having a career year before going down to injury while Charlie Brown is having an underrated freshman season under head coach Phil Martelli — I also think the Hawks can/might be better with more minutes for Markell Lodge. That’s all I got.
Half empty: The Newkirk loss was a killer. Not only does Saint Joseph’s lose their best scorer but an efficient one at that. That leaves you with Lamarr Kimble and James Demery taking the majority of your shots, two dudes who have been insanely inefficient this season (both have effective field goal percentage under 45%) — their shot selection against Richmond on Wednesday was horrendous. 34.9% of the Hawks’ shots this season have been two-point jump shots. That’s too high of a number for this team. No team in the top half of the A-10 is shooting two-point jump shots at that rate (statistically the worst shot you can take because it counts as much as a layup with close to the difficulty of a three). Correction, the only team in the top half of the A-10 doing that is St. Bonaventure (35.5% of their shots are two-point jump shots), but they have Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley. Saint Joseph’s does not. Look, the Hawks have the talent and a defense that can cause some problems for some teams. But as long as they keep playing like little league heroes and not like a team, they’ll continue to lose.
7 – DUQUESNE (9-9, 2-3)
Half full: Duquesne finished .500 (17-17) last season with Derrick Colter, Micah Mason, LG GIll and TySean Powell on the roster. I’m honestly a little surprised to see them at .500 (9-9) without those guys and I’m VERY surprised this group managed to upset Pitt. The Dukes have basically beaten the teams they have needed to beat in A-10 play and lost to the ones we all expected them to lose. Expecting upsets from such a young team could be a stretch but as this young roster gains experience, ya never know. They also get both Fordham and SLU again and host UMass, GW and Saint Joseph’s, giving them an actual shot to somehow post even more A-10 wins than last year’s team. Duquesne’s defense is statistically the best it has
Half empty: While their overall win total has grown from season to season under Jim Ferry, their A-10 total seems to have stalled at six. Offensively this is Ferry’s worst team statistically and with such a young group, it’s hard to expect much from these Dukes. Head coach Jim Ferry is in the first of his last two contract years at Duquesne, so don’t be surprised if this ends up being the last three months of this era of Duquesne basketball, because how do you honestly recruit to a bad team with a lame duck coach?
11 – UMASS (11-7, 1-4)
Half full: UMass came into conference play with a 10-3 record with those three loses all coming to top-100 squads. Two were on the road, but all three were within six points, two of which came down to just one made basket. The Minutemen had a couple of decent top-150 wins in that mix as well, defeating Temple and Harvard at home and a decent Georgia State team on the road. With the nation’s 336th “most” experienced team, you have to be pretty happy about that start. Then perhaps predictably, the sledding got a bit tougher with the beginning of A-10 play, losing four of their first five A-10 home games. But here’s the silver lining to that: Two of those losses were on the road at VCU and Rhode Island, places most teams are supposed to lose (and they nearly beat Rhody), the other was on the road against that improved Mason group, at home against a Bona team that got 52 out of Adams and Mobley that evening. What I’m getting at is that’s a hard schedule to start A-10 play for such a young team. Eight of UMass’ remaining conference games are against sub-100 teams including all of their next four, three of which are at home. Of UMass’ remaining top-100 games, four are in Amherst. This year’s Minuteboys have a great shot of turning into Minutemen by the time conference tourney action tips it up in Pittsburgh. No one will want to play them. Also can I say again just how much I love Rashaan Holloway? If I’m drafting a team of current A-10 players to compete in this league, there’s a legit chance I take Holloway at No.1. I’ve seen both Mo Alie-Cox and Hassan Martin call for help against the 6’11 310 big. Once his guards find some consistency, watch out. Oh and they beat Dayton. That’s hard to do.
Half empty: Speaking of guards, UMass’ trio of Donte Clark, Dejon Jarreau and Luwane Pipkins all have effective field goal percentages below 49% and none boast an offensive rating of 100 or better. That’s not good when those are three of your most played and used players. UMass’ offense has struggled so far thanks to one of the worst group of three-point shooters college hoops has seen this season. UMass’ 30% three-point mark ranks 320th nationally, which didn’t stop the Minutemen from taking 41.9% of their shots behind the arc. That’s just insane. But to be fair, that number in A-10 is actually just 33%, meaning it appears they’ve gotten the hint. While it hasn’t resulted in wins so far through A-10 play, it should eventually as the schedule lightens up.
11 – GEORGE WASHINGTON (9-9, 1-4)
Half full: Look, we’re reaching a bit here with the half full talk when we’ve gotten this deep in the A-10, but I’ll say this about GW: they’ve got the talent. We’ve seen what Tyler Cavanaugh can do as a Second Team selection this past season. You’ve got 6’9 Yuta Watanabe having the best individual season he’s had, then add 6’10 freshman Collin Smith who rebounds at a high level and is shooting over 40% from three. Jaren Sina has been a quality shooter for Maurice Joseph’s squad, sophomore Jordan Roland has impressed enough for me to have already written about him once this season, GW rebounds well and technically does have a top-100 offense (No.98 in adjusted offensive efficiency in Pomeroy’s rankings). A-10 play has not been kind so far to the Colonials but GW has also played one of the tougher schedules of any team in the conference, losing three of their four A-10 losses to teams 4-1 or better.
Half empty: GW has one of the tallest teams in the country (30th in average height) but ranks 309th nationally in two-point percentage and are getting just 27% of their shots at the rim versus 40.4% coming from behind the three-point line. What the hell is that about? I’ve seen these dudes up close and I’mma be real with you: for as huge as they are, this is maybe the biggest collection of softies in the Atlantic 10. GW rolls out a large lineup but doesn’t play like one. The pieces are there to do more damage inside the arc than they are getting but at this point I’m not sure Maurice Joseph knows how to make that happen. Defensively they have also been atrocious. The Colonials rank dead last in A-10 play in defensive efficiency and have allowed their A-10 opponents to hit 44.8% of their threes. If you don’t play defense and you rely on threes, well, good luck the rest of the season.
11 – Fordham (7-11, 1-4)
Half full: Hardly anything half full about this team but I’ll say this: these dudes turn teams over. Jeff Neubaur has this year’s Rams ranked second nationally in turnover percentage defense with a 27.3% turnover rate that is the best of any team he’s coached. That number ties Shaka Smart’s second best turnover defense, VCU’s 2012 havoc wreakers and is better than VCU’s 25.6% rate that led the country in 2014. The Rams also pulled off a recent road win at Davidson so have a shot at playing resume-killer for this year’s NCAA tournament hopefuls.
Half empty: The Rams have lost 10 of their last 12 contests including four of their last five home games. Two of those losses came to sub-200 ranked teams including No.312 Sacred Heart. The graduation of Ryan Rhoomes has seen a huge drop in Fordham’s rebounding and basically the Rams’ numbers are down across the board. Five of Fordham’s next eight games are against top-100 teams with the other three all being against top-150 teams on the road. Needless to say, Fordham looks destined for another brutal season.
11 – SAINT LOUIS (5-12, 1-4)
Half full: The good news is these dudes aren’t in 14th place…yet. That of course is thanks to a four-way tie for 11th. Wait a few hours and that likely ends however, as the Billikens take on St. Bonaventure this evening. Reinforcements appear on the way as SLU has some serious ballers on deck in the form of a very talented two-man recruiting class and an on-deck circle full of promising transfers.
Half empty: Saint Louis is the only Atlantic 10 team without a single player with a 100 or better offensive rating. How is that even possible? Last year’s miserable Billikens had three on a team that ranked 310th nationally in offensive efficiency. The Billikens 336th ranked offense is the lowest ranked A-10 offense since kenpom.com has been tracking the stat (15 years). This is as bad of an offense as you will ever get to see in the A-10, so soak it in. Pomeroy predicts just one win the rest of the way for SLU, a rare Feb non-conference home win over North Carolina A&T. That game should be packed.