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Opportunity Knocks One Last Time for the Atlantic 10 Before League Play Begins

As non-conference play winds down, the Atlantic 10 has a few big opportunities on Sunday and Monday. After that, we get down to the meat and potatoes and figure out who’s legit once the A-10 battles commence. The conference has done well as a whole, winning some big games against Power 5 opponents, but this past weekend was a bit of a flop. VCU couldn’t beat Wichita St. on the road, Dayton fell in overtime to Colorado, and Richmond and Duquesne suffered Quadrant 3 losses to Radford and UAB. While Saint Louis redeemed the league with a road win over Kansas St., the conference took a small step back after a really good start to the season.

Sunday and Monday present some good opportunities to get that momentum back. The conference currently ranks 8th according to Kenpom, behind the American and ahead of the West Coast, and that won’t change much in the New Year. 3 Power 5 schools remain on the docket — TCU, Alabama, and Vanderbilt. All would be helpful to beat.

Richmond @ Alabama

Beating the Crimson Tide on the road won’t be easy. Rhode Island took down Alabama at home earlier this season, but this team just demolished Belmont on a neutral court and only has one bad (kind of) loss to Penn at home. Alabama turns the ball over a lot whereas Richmond takes care of it well. That could be the difference in a hostile environment, especially if the Spiders don’t come out shooting lights out from three. The Spiders shot just 29.4% from three against Radford, which wasn’t going to be enough against a team that made 19 free throws. While Richmond took a hit in that loss, its hopes of an at-large certainly aren’t out of the equation. Beating Alabama could go a long way.

George Mason @ TCU

George Mason’s schedule has been pretty easy so far, with the exception of a road game against Maryland, but Monday night is a chance to pick up a big win. The Horned Frogs are 8-3 but have yet to beat a Kenpom top 100 team. TCU is really strong defensively, especially at forcing turnovers, but they don’t defend the three well. Look for Mason’s shooters to capitalize on the road; if Miller and Greene come out cold, it could be a long night. TCU is also a much bigger team, which gives me concern, but AJ Wilson plays a lot bigger than his 6-7 listed height. If George Mason plays to its strengths — defend the three and look for 2nd chance points — it could have a shot at the upset.

Davidson @ Vanderbilt

Another true road game, Davidson goes to Nashville to face Vanderbilt and won’t return home until its 3rd conference game. The Wildcats are coming off a road win over Loyola Chicago where Hyunjung Lee knocked down 5 threes and scored 19 points. Beating Vanderbilt on the road unfortunately wouldn’t mean that much, as Vandy is having a down year, but it’d help Davidson keep some momentum heading into league play, and it’d give the conference another win over a Power 5 team. Vanderbilt, like Davidson, is a pretty good shooting team and has some solid offensive weapons. I like the Wildcats to pick up another close win as things start to look up for Bob McKillop’s bunch.

Bonus

St. Bonaventure has a shot to make it 8 straight wins when it faces Buffalo on the road on Monday. The Bulls own a road win over DePaul — the Blue Demons’ only loss of the season. Massachusetts and George Washington take on Akron and Vermont on the road, respectively. Both are solid Mid Major programs where the A-10 will be underdogs. Rhode Island looks to close out conference play on a high note with road wins over Middle Tennessee and Brown.