Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bad Night for A10 Bubble Teams

Only one team can get an automatic qualifier by winning it's conference tournament. There can only be one. Thus the Highlander reference above. What does this have to do with college basketball. Well, often the focus for good non Power 6 conference teams that don't win their conference tournaments is whether or not they are worthy of an at large bid. And that leaves them at the mercy of the NCAA, the No Clue At All.

The Atlantic 10 has been the talk of this current NCAA basketball season. The conference is listed as currently the sixth strongest conference in the country, ranked higher than the Mountain West and the god awful Power 6 PAC-10 conference. And that's due to the fact that several A10 teams have played very well this season.

Right now, if you look at Bracketology, Joe Lunardi has six Atlantic 10 teams currently making the NCAA Tournament. I wasn't certain about that coming into this week. And after last night's implosions by two A10 bubble teams, I can say with certainty now that's not happening. Three teams are definitely in - Temple, Richmond and Xavier - who all just so happen to be the top three teams in the A10 right now. The others are in trouble.

While waxing poetically about the Starland Vocal Band, I talked about several teams that had put themselves on the bubble due to losses on Saturday. Dayton was one of the teams I put in that article because a currently seventh place A10 is not going to get love from the NCAA Tournament Committee. Plus with Dayton's remaining schedule, there was a good chance it wasn't going to improve on its placement. Dayton is one of the most frustrating teams to watch because they have such good talent (especially Chris Wright) and they can play very well at times. And then other times it's like watching a Tom Penders squad (there is an old school reference for you)

Speaking of a former Tom Penders team, I was very close to putting Rhode Island in Sunday's article after the Rams got pasted by Temple on Saturday. But I resisted the urge since the Rams had the game last night against St Louis and potentially an 8-4 record would look pretty good. Once again, I learned that I should have gone with my first impression after Rhode Island lost at St Louis last night 62-57.

What's funny is that the Rams loss to the Billikens is eerily similar to the loss by the Flyers to the Billikens on Saturday. The Rams jumped out to a 12 point first half lead (Dayton was up fifteen at the half) and led 37-26 in the second half before St Louis made its comeback. And just like Dayton, Rhode Island had a horrid night from the free throw line shooting only 5 of 13 from the charity stripe (Dayton was 10 of 20 from the line on Saturday). And just like Dayton, the misses from the line were down the stretch. In the last one minute and forty one seconds of the game, the Rams missed five free throws.

With the loss, Rhode Island is now seventh in the conference with a 7-5 record. More importantly the Rams have lost three in a row. The Rams do have an easy remaining A10 schedule, three games are against the bottom of the A10 (Fordham, St Bonaventure and UMass) and a home game vs. fellow bubble member Charlotte. An 11-5 record going into the A10 tournament might be palatable for the NCAA committee as an at large team. Anything less, and the Rams are in serious trouble.

Speaking of Charlotte, if you thought the loss by Rhode Island was bad, well the loss to Duquesne was even worse. The 49ers lost at home to the Dukes last night 83-77. Duquesne scored 48 second half points while shooting 53 percent from the field in the second half (48 percent overall). A devastating 22-4 run in the second half proved to be the difference for the Dukes.

Charlotte also shot itself in the foot by shooting only 33 percent from the field, 22 percent from beyond the arc and committing 15 turnovers which lead to 22 Duquesne points. It was the 49ers first loss this season after leading at the half. The loss put Charlotte in a tie for fourth with Saint Louis.

Before the loss, Charlotte was one of Joe Lunardi's last four teams in the Dance. Now after the loss at home to a team with a 97 RPI, the 49ers are probably on the outside right now looking in. And the remaining regular season A10 schedule for Charlotte is not easy. They still have home games with Xavier and Richmond and a road game at Rhode Island.

As for those Billikens' fans hoping that St Louis' recent run will put them in the thick of the A10 at large discussion, it's a long shot. Saint Louis has an 84 RPI, a SOS of 133 and no signature non conference wins. The remaining schedule for Saint Louis is not easy - home to Xavier and Temple and at Dayton. The Billikens only hope of making the NCAA tournament at large bid would be to sweep all three of those games. It's more likely St Louis needs to win the A10 Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament.

Then again, the Flyers, Rams and 49ers are probably looking at the same fate. Win the A10 Tournament and be the A10 automatic qualifier. Remember, there can only be one.

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