Bad news for the rest of the Atlantic 10: St. Louis is getting hot, and is doing so without Kwamain Mitchell.
Mitchell is slowly shaking the rust off, posting a 4.5 ppg average in his two games back this season. But the Billikens reeled off five straight before his return and knocked off the 20th-ranked Lobos of New Mexico in his second game back.
If and when Mitchell returns to form, SLU becomes one of the most dangerous teams in what has been an incredibly strong Atlantic 10 this season…and just in time for conference play.
St. Louis – See above. SLU has won their last seven and are 10-3 (with no bad losses) and have done so with a total of 9 points from star Kwamain Mitchell. They also have had to deal with a tragedy that no player hopes to ever deal with having recently lost Hall of Fame coach Rick Majerus. SLU is flying way under the radar but may not be for much longer.
VCU – Also on a seven-game streak, the Rams have played out of their minds since returning from the Bahamas, averaging a margin of victory of 23.7 points per game and forcing a ridiculous amount of turnovers, including two recent 30+ turnover performances. The Rams are known for their havoc style of defense (highest steals percentage in the country), but also lead the A-10 in scoring offense at 77.7 per contest. Riding a 26-game home sellout streak, VCU will be a brutal place to play for Atlantic 10 opponents getting ready to travel to their new conference mate.
Butler – The Bulldogs are also riding a seven-game win streak, but their’s just so happens to include a win over the then No.1 Indiana Hoosiers (think that one meant a lot to Butler fans?). Brad Stevens’ squad currently ranks fourth in the RPI with the fourth best strength of schedule and currently sit at 4-2 against top-100 RPI teams.
Honorable mention: Temple – HUGE win over Syracuse after falling to a surprisingly good Canisius team.
Richmond: The Spiders appear to be one of the easiest teams to read based off their 9-5 start to the season. They have won the games they should have won, but are 0-4 against top-100 RPI teams, 0-5 against teams that fall within Kenpom’s top 150. If UofR wants to do any damage in the newly strengthened A-10, they’ll have to find a way to win the games they aren’t expected to.
St. Joseph’s: Unfortunately for Hawk fans, this year’s team hasn’t taken the step they were expected to take when chosen as the preseason favorite. After an early-season upset of Notre Dame, St. Joseph’s, like Richmond, has fallen flat when challenged by decent teams. The Hawks were blasted by 29 points at Creighton, fell apart late against a very mediocre Villanova squad, then followed that up with a home letdown against Fairfield.
Xavier: X may officially be in a rebuilding period. After a promising 6-1 start that included a blowout of hot A-10 newcomer Butler, the Musketeers have really stumbled, losing four of their last five including a home head-scratcher against Wofford. The good news is — excluding their 15-point hammering by rival Cincinnati — Xavier has four losses by an average of 2.5 points, so they could just as easily be 11-1. But they aren’t, so until Chris Mack’s young squad can learn how to win the close ones, they will continue to struggle.
Dishonorable mention: Charlotte – Niners are 11-2 but have struggled against non-cupcakes, recently losing to a mediocre Florida State team after a 31-point blasting by Miami.
Khalif Wyatte (Temple) – Ok, so he struggled to shoot Monday against Bowling Green (1-7)…but he did add eight assists and that was following a 33-point clinic against then No.3 Syracuse in the Garden. A monster win for the A-10, those are the kinds of performances that get you on ESPN…which means they are also good enough for us.
Rotnei Clarke (Butler) – Like Wyatte, Clarke was huge in a big game the A-10 needed, posting 19 points against the top ranked Hoosiers. Clarke is averaging 20.3 over his last three games and is shooting a scorching 53.8% from deep over that span.
Ramon Galloway (La Salle) – It’s been almost a month sense Galloway posted less than 20 points in a game — Dec. 5th in a blowout of Penn State that saw just 23 minutes from the Explorers star. Over that span Galloway is averaging 22 points, 4.6 assists, 5.6 rebounds and is shooting 52% from the field, 55.8% from deep. There’s probably no player more valuable to his team than Galloway right now.
Troy Daniels (VCU) – Daniels hit a VCU single-game record nine three pointers in the Rams blowout of Fairleigh Dickinson. That 27-point performance followed a 25-point output in VCU’s previous game. Daniels is VCU’s third leading scorer but has posted a 20+ point performance in three of his last five games and hit 6 threes per game over that stretch.