The Race for a Double-Bye in Brooklyn
The A-10 Tournament is less than 7 weeks away, and the conference season is nearing its halfway point. In a season with this much parity between the top-10 teams, having the luxury of taking Thursday off in Brooklyn could be the difference between dancing and heading home.
What are each team’s chances of securing a double-bye come March?
No team is strong enough this season to warrant a lock. George Mason is 7-1, but would it surprise you if they finished just outside the top-four given the teams they’re competing against? These teams are so closely matched that it would shock me if anyone pulled away from the pack.
George Mason (7-1), Kenpom Projected Record (13-5)
GMU is finally starting to play like the team that everyone expected them to be at the beginning of the season. Their only loss was by four points in a thriller to Davidson. Justin Kier is a legitimate POTY candidate, and the Patriots defense hasn’t allowed 70 points in a game in the conference season. A win at VCU on Saturday would go a long way towards solidifying their place in the top-four.
Davidson (6-1), Kenpom Projected Record (13-5)
This year’s Davidson team might be similar in composition to the high scoring bunch of 2017-2018, but the results have been quite different. This season it’s their defense, ranked second in the conference in efficiency, that has carried them. That style of play might bode well for them this season though, as the scoring is down around the league, and many games finish in the high 50’s and low 60’s. On top of that, Davidson has only ONE GAME against a current top-six opponent remaining, giving them plenty of opportunities to rack up wins.
VCU (5-2), Kenpom Projected Record (13-5)
VCU is a good bet to finish inside of the top-four. They still have two games remaining against both Richmond and George Washington, and play St. Joseph’s at home. Additionally, they should be highly motivated given they are likely the only A-10 team with at-large aspirations. An easy schedule and the bubble breathing down their backs should help propel VCU into a double-bye position.
Duquesne (5-2), Kenpom Projected Record (10-8)
The Dukes have finally arrived. Keith Dambrot delivered on his promise to make Duquesne competitive, and he did so quickly. Kenpom still doesn’t believe in Duquesne, as Pomeroy’s model has them finishing out the season a subpar 5-6), but the rest of the league has taken notice. Their only two losses have come to Davidson and VCU, and they have managed to close out multiple tight games already, something that plagued Duquesne last year. They may not be ready to make the NCAA Tournament, but they are certainly ready to run with the big boys in the A-10.
Dayton (5-2), Kenpom Projected Record (12-6)
The schedule ramps up for the Flyers soon. After a game against St. Joseph’s, Dayton plays only two games against teams in the bottom half of the conference. Dayton’s offense has been stellar, but they still struggle with turnovers and shooting from behind the arc. Given their schedule, it wouldn’t shock me to see Dayton outside of the top-four, but with the young talent that Anthony Grant has, they’ll almost certainly earn a double-bye next season.
Saint Louis (5-2), Kenpom Projected Record (11-7)
The Billikens had finally cracked Joey Brackets Bracketology, and Andy Katz’s Top 36, but back-to-back losses threaten to derail a Saint Louis team that had appeared to figure it out. While both losses were to good teams (Duquesne and Davidson) by small margins (4 and 1, respectively), SLU will have to shoot better if they hope to beat the stronger teams in this conference, especially in the conference tournament.
Rhode Island (4-3), Kenpom Projected Record (10-8)
Rhody missed an opportunity to keep pace with the rest of the pack on Sunday when they lost to a struggling Umass team. The 2019 Rams have been the definition of inconsistent this season, as they haven’t lost two in a row yet, but have only won two or more in a row twice. They’ll need to start stringing extended streaks of quality play together if they hope to finish in the top-four. It’ll be tough though as they face Duquesne, Saint Louis, Davidson, and Dayton in their next four contests.
St. Bonaventure (4-3), Kenpom Projected Record (10-8)
I don’t know if it’s fair or not to put the Bonnies in this category. On the one hand, they’re 8-12 overall and have their four wins against teams with a combined record of 4-24. On the other hand, they’re 1 game out of third place and were one more made shot away against Dayton from being 5-2 in conference. The chances are slim, but for now, the Bonnies are in the mix
Needs a Miracle
None of the teams bellow the Bonnies have a realistic shot at finishing inside the top-four. According to Kenpom, the projected record of the ninth-place team is 6-12. It will likely take at least 11 wins to earn a double-bye, and none of the bottom-tier teams have the firepower to make up that ground.
Better Luck Next Year
George Washington, Umass, Richmond, Fordham, St. Joseph’s , La Salle
Oof. It hasn’t been pretty for any of these programs thus far. To make matters worse, no team finishing in the bottom four has ever advanced to play in the quarterfinals of the A-10 Tournament. For George Washington, Richmond, Fordham (does it ever get better for them?), and La Salle, this was supposed to be a down year. The Minutemen and Hawks expected to see significant progress this season though, as they added an influx of talent and returned players that were injured last season. That, combined with players like Luwane Pipkins and Taylor Funk should have been enough for these squads to compete with the best in the league during a down year. It wasn’t.