A collection of Atlantic 10 thoughts for your lunchtime reading on this Tuesday morning.
47.6% v 33.7%
Would the real Richmond Spiders three-point percentage please stand up? Chris Mooney’s club ranks 223rd nationally on the season with a 33.7% three-point percentage but are shooting a blazing-hot 47.6% in their three A-10 games, good for second in the conference (Rhody leads it with a ridiculous 50.7%). As a VCU art school grad I am qualified to tell you that’s a 13.9% difference. The Spiders’ finished last season at 35.6% and shot a decade-best 39% their Sweet 16 season of 2011. Expect an eventual regression to the mean (Richmond’s A-10 opponent average 3-point D national ranking checks in at 272nd), BUT that might not come this week, as UofR hosts the Bonnies of St. Bonaventure, a team that ranks 320th nationally in three-point percentage D and have given up 41% three-point shooting in A-10 play. They follow that up with an even worse Saint Joseph’s three-point defense that checks in at 296th nationally. Bombs away!
DE’MONTE BUCKINGHAM MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Speaking of the Spiders and three-point shooting, a huge key to their hot streak has been improved play — er, three-point shooting — from freshman De’Monte Buckingham. The hometown kid hast posted double-digit scoring totals in six consecutive games for a 15 ppg average over that stretch. The difference for Buck has been a three-point shot that has begun to fall. The 6’4 guard hit just two threes on 17 attempts in his first nine games but has gone 12-24 since. Again, math expert here, that’s 50%.
Fun fact: Buckingham’s brother Nick is a track athlete at VCU.
UMASS HITS THE WALL
I got my first in-person look at this year’s UMass team and saw some things I loved (Rashaan Holloway) and some things I didn’t (guard play). After cruising into A-10 play with a 10-3 non-conference record, Derek Kellogg’s squad was greeted with a tough opening A-10 slate, hosting St. Bonaventure before traveling to an improved Mason team, then following that up with an icy road game at VCU. All resulted in losses. Things get no easier this week at Dayton and Rhode Island.
Starting with the good: Rashaan Holloway. The 6’11 310 big — and I mean BIG — can be and has at times been one of the A-10’s most dominant players. The Elmer, NJ native has averaged 18 points (67.7% shooting) in the Minutemen’s three A-10 losses in just 23.3 minutes per contest. He’s blocked 7.6% of A-10 opponents’ shots while on the floor, rebounds the hell out of the ball and draws a huge number of fouls (6.6 per 40 minutes). Holloway however has two problems: 1) He needs to stay on the floor. Holloway’s fouls called per 40 (6.3). is about as bad as his fouls drawn is good. That appears to be one of the keys to keeping him on the floor but I’m assuming his fitness level may be the other, as he’s played no more than 26 minutes in any game this season, including his low foul count performances. And 2) UMass’ other issue is inconsistent guard play. That’s to be expected from a young group that is playing freshman Luwane Pipkins and Dejon Jarreau in heavy rotation. Pipkins leads the team in percentage of shots, taking 25.7% of available attempts while on the floor despite an effective field goal percentage of just 42%, second worst on the team to the rarely-played Zach Coleman. Let me repeat that: Pipkins is taking all the shots and is the second worst shooter on the team. That percentage is just barely worse than Dejon Jarreau, who checks in at 44.4%. Of course low shooting percentages can be expected often from freshman. But as long as the Minutemen are expecting that type of offensive productive from such a young group, you can start expecting the losses to pile up as well.
DAYTON SURVIVES RHODY IN POSSIBLE TITLE GAME PREVIEW
Hey, a lot can happen between now and March 12, but at this point in the season Dayton and Rhode Island look like the clear front-runners in this year’s A-10 (with VCU perhaps not too far behind, depending on their ability to cure their turnover issue). Both handled their first two A-10 opponents with ease before meeting in Dayton Friday night, a three-point Flyers win after the Rams led the majority of the contest. What’s most impressive for the Flyers is they were able to pickup the win without the services of POY candidate Charles Cooke. What you have to like about Rhody’s performance is they led pretty much the entire game until Hassan Martin was forced to sit as he returns from injury, doing so in front of 13k Flyer fans no less. The reality with both teams is they are finding consistency on both sides of the ball, something that has escaped almost all of the A-10 outside of VCU. The Flyers are on pace to match last year’s defensive performance but have been improved on offense despite the graduation of Dyshawn Pierre (who led last year’s team in offensive rating). On paper UD looks capable of outplaying both their recent Elite 8 (2014) and round of 32 (2015) teams. Rhody is flirting with both a top-50 offense AND defense, oddly enough their offense (38th nationally) out-pacing the D (53rd) currently. Neither made a huge splash in the non-conference, which could make both 2017 bracket busters in this season’s NCAA tournament. Right now they have to be favorites to matchup in Pittsburgh for a 2017 A-10 tournament title, but again, lookout for VCU who has find themselves in the title game all four seasons since joining the conference.
LA SALLE & BONA CAN PLAY ROLE OF SPOILER
Two of the wildest rides in the A-10 this season may be in Philly and Olean. Both La Salle (8-5, 2-1) and St. Bonaventure (10-5, 2-1) bring two of the league’s most explosive offenses and worst D’s to this year’s A-10 season. St. Bonaventure leads the league in adjusted offensive efficiency on the season, ranking 37th nationally. They are followed by Rhode Island at 38th then La Salle at 39th. The difference between the likes of Rhode Island and the Explorers and Bonnies however is it’s all offense for the later. Both La Salle and St. Bonaventure have defenses ranking in the bottom half of college hoops, meaning they could get hot and beat the best of the A-10 just as easily as they could drop a head-scratcher on a cold shooting night. The Explorers are 2-4 against the kenpom top-100, dropping their only top-100 A-10 contest at Dayton. They’ll travel to Rhode Island for a tough road game on Thursday. The Rams will be a decent favorite in that one but remember, La Salle was within four points of the defending national champ Villanova (currently ranked No.3) with under two minutes to play. While they haven’t picked up the big win yet, they are certainly capable of pulling off a big A-10 upset (regardless of what our guy ShoweyD thinks). The Bonnies are built the same way and travel to both Dayton and Rhode Island later this season.