To the naysayers that want to write off the A-10 already (*cough Jeff Goodman, *cough), it is a long season. And even though it was a turbulent start to the year, Feast Week proved that the conference has some secret weapons who could make a run to the Big Dance this year. Most notably, VCU and Dayton came out of the woods, showing that they should’ve been picked to finish top 4 in the league. All in all, the last 5 days of basketball have some glimpses of optimism, and given some of the strong wins the league has been able to grab, the conference should have nothing to fear… yet.
VCU and Marcus Evans are the real deal
If you thought losing Jonathan Williams and Justin Tillman would sink the Rams down to the bottom of the A-10, Mike Rhoades raises you one Marcus Evans. The game-winning step back three over Temple was a spectacle for VCU fans, and an unfortunate missed foul call took away the chance for Evans to hit some game-winning free throws against St. Johns. Speaking of the game against the Red Storm, Issac Vann had 30 points and 11 rebounds in a nail-biter against a very talented Big East team. The Rams are proving that they’re one of the best in the conference, and if Evans, Vann, and Jenkins all heat up at the same time, this VCU squad can hang with the best in the nation. A road game against Old Dominion will be a great test.
Dayton’s Butler win will go a long way
Dayton went into the Battle 4 Atlantis facing a daunting Butler team in the first round but got off to a hot start and outlasted the Bulldogs thanks to 20 points from Jalen Crutcher. The Flyers put up one heck of a fight against Virginia and then fell apart late against Oklahoma despite holding a 7 point lead in the 2nd half. Had the Flyers walked away with a 2-1 record, that would’ve been 2 quality wins that look great on the Flyers’ NCAA Tournament resume. Either way, Dayton’s win over Butler should look good at the end of the season, and Dayton has a great home game against Mississippi St. coming up this week. UD is sneaking up as one of those teams that can win the league, and Dayton is scrappy as I’ve ever seen it.
Massachusetts did what it could in Vegas
30 threes in 2 games? If you’re going to try your luck in Vegas, you’re gonna want Matt McCall’s bunch with you at all times. The Minutemen absolutely stifled Southern Illinois in their best win of the season and even gave Nevada a run for their money. But to be fair, the Wolf Pack hardly missed and took advantage of the Minutemen down low. Nevertheless, it was a great showing for Pipkins who more than held his own against the Martin brothers, dropping 30 points on Friday night. Massachusetts’ offense is starting to heat up, and I’d watch out for this team in A-10 play.