Atlantic 10 conference tournament preview

1 Comment

Early in the year, the Atlantic 10 was all Xavier.

With a lofty preseason ranking, an all-american anchoring a back court that could match up with anyone in the country and a pair of come-from-behind wins over Purdue and at Vanderbilt, it really shouldn’t be any wonder that the Musketeers were the talk of the conference.

But a Dec. 10th brawl with Cincinnati sparked a collapse for Xavier, one that would see them lose five of their next six games and eventually drop to 10-6 in league play, it became evident that this conference wasn’t going to be Xavier’s to lose. We probably never should have felt that way in the first place, because the A-10 has proven that, this season, they are as competitive of a league as you are going to find.

The problem?

There may actually be too much balance.

Temple is the class of the conference and St. Louis isn’t all that far behind them. There’s a noticeable gap between those two teams and the rest of the pack. But with six teams sitting within a game of third place, its quite obvious that the ‘pack’ has eaten itself alive. The A-10 is probably looking at a situation where they are going to get, depending on how the tournament plays out, three or four teams. But if La Salle and UMass, and even Duquesne and Richmond, hadn’t knocked off some of those other middle-of-the-pack teams, five and even six bids wouldn’t have been out of the realm of possibility.

Competitive balance makes for fun conference races. But a stockpile of good teams at the top of the league may actually lead to more of a postseason presence for teams.

The Bracket

Where: Campus sits and Atlantic City, NJ

When: March 6th-March 11th

Final: March 11th, 1 p.m. CBS

Favorite: Temple

Its hard not to love what Temple has done this season. The Owls won a competitive league outright, which is not an easy thing to do, particularly when you are playing a completely different style than you are used to. Fran Dunphy has become synonymous with tough, defensive-minded basketball in his time with the Owls, but this season they like getting up and down the floor. They win thanks to the ability of guys like Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt and Juan Fernandez to score. With Michael Eric back, the Owls now also have the size to battle bigger teams in the paint.

And if they lose?: St. Louis

Rick Majerus has done a great job with the Billikens. They finished second in the Atlantic 10 despite being just one season removed from a rape allegation that resulted in their best player getting kicked off the team for a year. This group defends well, controls the pace and shoots it from the perimeter. And if you believe Kenpom, you might want to pick St. Louis. He’s got them 12th in the country. Overall.

Other contenders?: Its impossible not to put Xavier in on this list. When you have a back court of Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, a glue-guy with the talent of Dez Wells and a front line with high-major size and talent, you expect victories. We’ll see if they can get back into that rhythm.

Sleeper: St. Joseph’s

I really like this group now and I’ve really liked them all season long. They have a terrific back court and an athletic front line that is capable of putting on a show for the folks at Sportscenter. The Hawks won five of six games in February to get themselves back into the bubble discussion, but stumbled down the stretch, losing two of their last three games.

Deeper sleepers: St. Bonaventure is playing well and has the league’s Player of the Year, Andrew Nicholson, anchoring the paint. La Salle and UMass have both won enough games this season to garner a mention here as well.


Carl Jones and Langston Galloway, St. Joe’s: This back court duo averages 32.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg and 5.5 apg.

Chris Gaston, Forhdam: He may be the most productive player on the country, but he also plays for Fordham. Who is going to recognize him from there?

Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt, Fairfield: These two combine to average 34.9 ppg, 6.8 apg and 7.4 rpg.

Kevin Dillard, Dayton: The A-10 is loaded when it comes to back court players, but Dillard has stood out because he has been the catalyst and one of the lone bright spots for a confounding Flyer team.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

No. 11 Syracuse upsets No. 3 Michigan State to advance to Sweet Sixteen

Getty Images
1 Comment

Syracuse continued its string of upsets in the 2018 NCAA tournament on Sunday afternoon as the No. 11 Orange knocked off No. 3 seed Michigan State, 55-53, to advance to the Sweet Sixteen in the Midwest Regional.

Winners of three straight games after knocking off Arizona State in the First Four, and TCU in the first round, Syracuse (23-13) pulled off another impressive victory in front of a very pro-Michigan State crowd in Detroit. Dictating the slow tempo with their 2-3 zone, Syracuse’s defense kept them in the game despite extreme foul trouble, cold perimeter shooting and issues on the defensive glass.

The Orange had to deal with guard Frank Howard (13 points) fouling out with over six minutes left in the game. Center Paschal Chukwu earned three fouls in the first half and had a tough time getting in a rhythm.

Tyus Battle led the Orange with 17 points while Oshae Brissett chipped in 15 points to lead the Syracuse offense. Despite making only one three-pointer and giving up 29 offensive rebounds to Michigan State, the Orange are moving on with another surprising win.

Michigan State (30-5) saw its season end in disappointing fashion as they shot only 25 percent (17-for-67) from the field and 21 percent (8-for-38) from three-point range. Point guard Cassius Winston led Michigan State with 15 points while All-American Miles Bridges struggled to a 4-for-19 shooting day to finish with 11 points.

Syracuse advances to the Sweet 16 in Omaha next week as they will meet No. 2 seed Duke on Friday night. The Orange and Blue Devils played each other in the ACC in February as Duke won a home game by double-digits in Marvin Bagley III’s return from injury.

The Orange will be heavy underdogs once again, but they’re already made an unlikely run to this point in the tournament.

VIDEO: Chennedy Carter caps Texas A&M comeback with filthy game-winner

Screengrab via ESPN
Leave a comment

No. 4-seed Texas A&M erased a 15-point fourth quarter deficit to knock off No. 5-seed DePaul, 80-79.

The game-winning bucket came courtesy of Chennedy Carter, who won the game with this filthy, filthy move:

VIDEO: Michigan State’s Matt McQuaid makes circus buzzer-beater off a blocked shot

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Michigan State is in the midst of a battle with No. 11 seed Syracuse in the second round of the Midwest Region.

The No. 3 seed Spartans are having a tough time adjusting to the Orange’s length in the 2-3 zone as a low-scoring and slow-paced game has made it close.

Thankfully for Michigan State, guard Matt McQuaid nailed a circus buzzer-beating three-pointer after Syracuse’s Matt Moyer blocked his first attempt. The ridiculous bank shot at the end of the first half gave the Spartans a 25-22 lead.

McQuaid’s unlikely buzzer-beater had a lot of things happening in one play. It’s one of the more unique basketball plays we’ll see in the NCAA tournament.

It also provided a great photo of McQuaid about to release the second attempt in mid-air. So many great reactions in that photo.

No Haas, no problem: No. 2 Purdue sneaks past No. 10 Butler, into Sweet 16

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

No Haas, no harm.

Playing without Isaac Haas, their senior 7-footer who fractured his elbow in an opening round win over Cal St.-Fullerton, the Boilermakers shot 11-for-24 from three and got a valiant effort from their other 7-footer, freshman Matt Haarms, in a 76-73 win over No. 10-seed Butler.

The second-seeded Boilermakers advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season. They’ll take on No. 3-seed Texas Tech in the East Region semifinals on Friday evening in Boston.

Purdue was led by 20 points from Vincent Edwards, Purdue’s senior leader, who scored 20 points on 6-for-8 shooting as his partner in crime, sophomore Carsen Edwards, shot just 4-for-17 from the floor and finished with 13 points. The biggest shot of the night came from another senior, Dakota Mathias, who buried a three with 14 seconds left that put Purdue up five.

But the real story here was Haarms.

The freshman will be thrust into a critical role for the Boilermakers throughout the rest of this tournament, and I don’t think that it’s crazy to say that the Boilermakers will go as far as he allows them to go. Haarms is the only big man currently on the Purdue roster that played any kind of meaningful minutes this season. Purdue played roughly 100 possessions during the regular season without Haas or Haarms on the floor, and it’s probably safe to assume that the majority of those possessions were played during garbage time, when the walk-ons were on the floor.

Haarms finished with seven boards, six boards and a pair of blocks in 27 minutes, doing a good enough job in the role that he was asked to play to keep Butler from lighting up the Boilermakers in pick-and-roll actions and in protecting the rim. He is certainly a better defender than Haas, particularly in space, but he is no where near the threat that Haas is on the offensive end of the floor. It limits what Purdue can do offensively, and with a game coming up against one of college basketball’s best defensive teams, a group that prides themselves on their ability to run teams off the three point line, we could be looking at a situation where Purdue really needs that interior presence.

What Haarms can provide will be a difference-maker.

I hope he’s ready for it.

VIDEO: Jordan Poole got a hero’s welcome in Michigan’s locker room

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jordan Poole hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three to send Michigan into the Sweet 16.

And as you might expect, when he made his way back into the Wolverine, he was greeted with a wall of water:

Let’s see that from another angle:

I can never see enough of these videos, but perhaps this is the best part: Two weeks ago, after Michigan won the Big Ten tournament, John Beilein was absolutely drenched in the locker room, having to go to his press conference sopping wet, cold and wearing a towel around his shoulders.

So on Saturday night, he did the smart thing. He wore a poncho and goggles and went on the offensive: