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Pressure rises in the race for fourth (yes, fourth)

We are in the midst of one heck of a conference race, a race that could see not one but two new conference leaders in just a matter of hours as Saint Joseph’s hosts a Dayton Flyers team while looking to potentially pull the Hawks and the VCU Rams into a tie for first with the almost bulletproof Flyers who have won their last two contests by a combined four points.

But let’s put the race for the regular season crown aside for a second and look at the must underrated chase of the season: the race for fourth place.

Over the past decade only two teams have come from outside of the top-four to win an Atlantic 10 tournament championship, oddly enough the same amount of teams as those who turned a regular season title into a tournament title.

Regardless, an A-10 regular season title will most likely bring an at-large bid while most teams outside of the top-four will need a thrilling four-games-in-four-days A-10 tournament run to continue their seasons on the grandest stage.

PAST 10 A-10 TOURNAMENT CHAMPION SEEDS 

2015 – No.5 VCU*
2014 – No.4 Saint Joseph’s
2013 – No.1 Saint Louis
2012 – No.4 St. Bonaventure
2011 – No.3 Richmond
2010 – No.1 Temple
2009 – No.4 Temple
2008 – No.2 Temple
2007 – No.3 George Washington
2006 – No.10 Xavier*

*Won four games to win Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship

DESTINY CONTROLLERS

DaytonDAYTON (11-1)
A Flyers win tonight with a GW loss would guarantee a top-four finish due to a head-to-head tie-breaker held by the Colonials in the extreme long-shot case that UD were to lose all of their following games combined with a five-game win streak to end the season. Long story short, Dayton’s tie-breakers over GW and Davidson, combined with a talented team that is 21-3, virtually assures the Flyers won’t be playing on Thursday.

VCUVCU (11-2)
The Rams took a big step in the right direction last night by routing a dangerous Rhode Island team. The biggest threat to a Thursday bye for the Rams are the Colonials of GW who as of this writing are three games behind. The formula for VCU is simple: win at least two more games (VCU has two remaining home games plus a winnable but dangerous contest at Mason) combined with just one GW loss over their next six games and Ram fans are casually watching A-10 basketball on a Brooklyn Thursday.

Saint-JosephsSAINT JOSEPH’S (10-2)
The Atlantic 10 chase group should be rooting hard for the Flyers tonight in hopes UD can pull the Hawks a game closer to the pack with a 10-3 record. The Hawks however have helped themselves with a with a win over GW, giving Martelli’s squad a tie-breaker on the Colonials should they need it. Three wins or just two wins and one GW loss should be enough to keep the Hawks in the top-four. Davidson is a minor threat to the Hawks as well with a home game at Belk coming up but with six losses already the Cats may have dug themselves too much of a hole to surpass Saint Joseph’s. I like the Hawks to finish within the top-four but like VCU, they are about a successful week away from feeling comfortable about that.

St.-BonaventureST. BONAVENTURE (9-3)
Here’s what’s so fun about St. Bonaventure’s situation: they are the closest team currently to the chase pack but own head-to-head tie-breakers over both Davidson and GW, the only two realistic teams still in the hunt. In other words, when you look at their schedules you get to basically add a win for the Bonnies. And here’s the other thing: their remaining schedule is the easiest path among the current top-four. At La Salle, at Dayton, v Duquesne, v UMass, v Saint Joseph’s, at Saint Louis. So going off my highlights there, I like the Bonnies to finish 14-4 at best realistic scenario,13-5 realistic scenario and 12-6 worst-case realistic scenario. That gives both Davidson and GW virtually no room for error.

IN THE HUNT

George-WashingtonGEORGE WASHINGTON (7-5)
Tonight’s game at Duquesne is HUGE for the Colonials and you can be sure all of the above teams will become big Dukes fans tonight. GW has little room for error and with games remaining at Duquesne, at Richmond, at Davidson and against VCU, will need a finish for the ages to crack the top-four of the conference this season. Losses to Bona and Saint Joseph’s complicates their path to a Thursday bye and with VCU three games ahead currently. If I’m betting the mortgage I think Lonergan’s group finish just outside at the No.5 spot but will be prepared for a tough Friday game after a Thursday Barclays warmup.

DavidsonDAVIDSON (7-6)
The Cats pulled of an incredibly impressive short-handed win over Richmond last night but are a major long-shot to crack the top-four after digging themselves perhaps too deep of a hole to claw out of this late in the game. Sure, Davidson started last season just 5-4 in conference play before going on a tear but unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be enough runway for the Wildcats after 7-6 this season with this team to track down the teams currently ahed of them. Four of Davidson’s next five are top-100s, two being top-40 teams (VCU and Saint Joseph’s).

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