It may only be November, but it’s always on our minds: the NCAA Tournament, March Madness, the Big Dance… whatever you call it. The reason it’s always on our minds in November is that a conference like the A-10 can’t do a lot to get more teams in the tourney once conference play rolls around — the league as a whole has to move the needle against Power 5s in the fall. A lot of teams have yet to face real tough opponents, but based on expectations, eye tests, and remaining schedules, I’ll give it a shot to chat about which teams have a reasonable shot at going dancing in 2020.
A Very Good Chance
VCU: The Rams are the only A-10 team that I would already classify as having a “very good chance” at making the NCAA Tournament this year. This team already has a resume-building win over LSU at home and ranks 21st in the country. Joe Lunardi had the Rams as a 6 seed in his last bracket, and unlike a lot of the teams in this league, VCU has room for error and is not on the bubble. The Rams also have big games ahead of them in Purdue, Tennessee/Florida St., and Wichita St. Barring a total collapse from this team in league play, I’m pretty sure VCU will go dancing again this season.
On the Bubble
Dayton: We haven’t seen Dayton play anyone legit yet, so we don’t have much of a tournament resume to rely on. However, the Flyers have ample non-conference opportunities with Georgia (and whoever else the Flyers face in Maui), Colorado, and Saint Mary’s. I have to believe Dayton will get 1 or 2 of these games to go its way, and as long as it avoids disaster against cupcakes, the Flyers will be on the right side of the bubble heading into conference play. I like Dayton’s chances this year.
Rhode Island: Here’s another team we need to see more of: exhibit A will be against LSU on Sunday. The Rams have a home win over Alabama which could be a Quadrant 1 or Quadrant 2 win at the end of the season depending on how the Crimson Tide end up doing. LSU would be a great win, but the Rams could also move the needle against Providence, West Virginia, and Western Kentucky. URI has been a tough and physical team that’s relying on senior leadership. I’m 50/50 on the Rams making the tournament at this point in the season, but it’s certainly not out of question.
Unlikely, but It’s a Long Season
Davidson: At this point, I’m not very confident in Davidson getting an at large bid. Losses to Charlotte and Wake Forest by double digits won’t look good on an NCAA Tournament resume. However, the Wildcats have been known to turn it around in league play and go on a tear. Unless the Wildcats start playing much better basketball now though, it’s going to take 15 or 16 conference wins to be considered for the Big Dance. Davidson needs a big win over Marquette next week.
Saint Louis: Here’s another “it’s possible,” but the Billikens are probably a year away. I think this team needs to beat Kansas St. and Auburn to start seeing its name on the bubble. Last night’s win over Belmont was a big step in the right direction and will be a nice win on SLU’s resume this season. The Billikens had a big opportunity against Seton Hall, but it didn’t go their way. Again, it’s a long season, but I would be surprised if this team had a serious chance at an at-large without beating Auburn.
George Mason: Same story here. Just not enough possible quadrant 1 and quadrant 2 opportunities remaining, especially out-of-conference. The only way I could see George Mason getting an at-large bid is if it won 10 non-conference games and finished 2nd in the league. I don’t see that happening.
Duquesne: The Dukes weren’t able to schedule any Power 5 opponents, which makes me skeptical a 1 or 2 loss team heading into the New Year would get any looks from the Selection Committee. Even if Duquesne managed to finish the season with only 4 or 5 losses, I’m not sure it’d make the tournament unless it won some big conference games over VCU, Dayton, etc.
Richmond: The Spiders have a chance, and I want to believe in them, but I think they may be one year away from the NCAA Tournament. A win over Wisconsin would be a big step in the right direction, as the rest of UR’s non-conference schedule doesn’t hold a lot of merit. If the Spiders beat the Badgers, finish 4th in the conference, and get a win or two over VCU/Dayton, I could see it happening. But that seems like a big stretch for a team that finished 11th in the conference last year.
Massachusetts: I decided to throw Massachusetts into this tier because it’s played well above expectations in just about every game this year, and the Minutemen actually played UVA pretty well. We’ll get a clearer picture once this team gets through the next 5 or 6 games. Again, I just don’t see enough potential quality wins to get this team an at-large without a 2nd place A-10 finish.
Need to win the A-10 Tournament
St. Bonaventure: At 1-4 without any good non-conference games remaining, St. Bonaventure’s hopes of an at-large are pretty much squandered. If this Bonnies team turned things around at the flip of a switch and finished the season with 7 or 8 losses, maybe the Selection Committee would give it the benefit of the doubt, seeing Osunniyi has been injured. But at this point, you gotta win in Brooklyn.
Saint Joseph’s: I’m impressed with the Hawks, but this isn’t the year they’re going to go to the NCAA Tournament. The Hawks can play with some good P5 opponents (see a win over Connecticut and a close loss to Florida). But at 2-4 already, I don’t see a reasonable case for an at-large.
La Salle: Pretty self-explanatory here. I hope the Explorers continue to improve this year, but they will not be an at-large team in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Fordham: The Rams scheduled the easiest out-of-conference slate in the country, so even if they went undefeated up to league play, I don’t see a case. Also, they already lost to Nevada.
George Washington: Not gonna happen. Losses to Morgan St. and UMKC will do that.