Six teams remain in fight for regular season title
Just two weeks remain in this year’s Atlantic 10 regular season. Eight teams have been officially eliminated from this year’s regular season title chase, leaving six contenders, two of which, GW and Davidson, have next to no room for error.
The Rams are the current kenpom favorite, going a game up both Dayton and Saint Joseph’s thanks to a flawless week for the black and gold paired with a couple of conference upsets that moved VCU back into first place. Their finish however is one of the toughest remaining, hitting the road more than any other contender and playing three teams within the top-six of the conference. VCU is the only team in control of their own destiny but face a schedule that could just as easily send them out of the top-four if they aren’t careful.
SAINT JOSEPH’S (11-3)
The Hawks have one of the two most winnable remaining schedules but may need at least two VCU losses to grab the title thanks to a head-to-head tie-breaker owned by the Rams. VCU will be the favorite but no lock in Wednesday’s road contest at Mason and their home game against Davidson, meaning if the Rams were to win both the Hawks would basically have to win all four of their final games, something that is certainly possible but won’t be easy with a challenging road contest in Olean against a St. Bonaventure team competing for a surprise title themselves.
The good news for Dayton is they appear to be in the best shape in terms of at-large chances. The bad news for Dayton is they have one of the tougher A-10 finishing schedules and a banged up Kendall Pollard. Pollard is listed as day-to-day with a knee bruise that has already forced him to miss the last three contests. Combine that injury with those at-large hopes (currently “lock” status according to ESPN after a very strong non-conference schedule) and it’s reasonable to imagine a scenario in which Archie Miller takes a long-term approach with Pollard, which could hamper the Flyer’s regular season title chances considering their schedule. Losing to Saint Joseph’s complicates things due to the Hawks’ tie-breaker advantage, meaning Dayton will have to finish one game better than the Hawks these next four, meaning the Flyers will likely need to win out to secure the regular season title.
ST. BONAVENTURE (10-4)
The Bonnies schedule is as gorgeous of a remaining schedule as a title contender could ask for. Three consecutive home games, two against bottom-half teams, could allow the Bonnies to put the pressure on the three teams ahead of them in VCU, Dayton and Saint Joseph’s. The biggest road block however, even with the easy schedule, is the Rams of VCU who have a two-game lead on the Bonnies and a head-to-head tie-breaker. In other words the Big Brown Machine could run the table the remaining way, have VCU lose two games and STILL not grab the crown. That of course is assuming they can get past a very tough Saint Joseph’s team that will be hungry for revenge from a home upset by St. Bonaventure earlier this season.
GEORGE WASHINGTON (9-5)
The Colonials are still alive but at 9-5 with a TOUGH schedule have their work cutout for them. They’ll start their final push with a road game against a Richmond team that defeated them once already this season, then host a dangerous and perhaps angry VCU team GW handed a home loss to earlier this year. Escape those two and beat Mason as will be expected and Lonergan and Co. will be rewarded with a road contest against a Davidson team that can score in bunches and are even scarier in Davidson, NC at Belk Arena. Due to these factors I think a top-four finish is a more realistic goal for GW.
Technically still in the hunt and with zero room for error, the Wildcats would need to go undefeated to grab the crown and even in doing so would need VCU to lose their next four…and even still, that would come down to a tie-breaker scenario due to by that point what would be a split regular season series. The Bad news in this case would be that VCU owns head-to-head tie-breakers over both Saint Joseph’s AND St. Bonaventure. If either two were to finish above GW (who Davidson has a chance to split with and VCU has a chance to be swept by), that would give VCU the title (if I’m not mistaken). The Cats are a long-shot, but they are also WILD, so you never know…