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Rhode Island junior E.C. Matthews will return to school

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Rhode Island junior guard E.C. Matthews will return to school for his redshirt senior season, the school announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-5 Matthews led the Rams in scoring at 14.9 points per game this past season as he returned from a torn ACL and helped Rhode Island reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.

Besides for being a talented scorer, Matthews is a good overall playmaker for the Rams as he also put up 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

With Matthews returning, it gives head coach Dan Hurley a huge weapon for next season as Rhode Island returns everyone besides the senior front court of Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson.

Duquesne fires head coach Jim Ferry

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Duquesne has decided to remove head coach Jim Ferry from the position after five years, the school announced on Monday.

The Dukes finished last in the Atlantic 10 this season with a 3-15 conference mark as they were 10-22 overall. Ferry went 60-97 in his five years with the school and was 21-65 in Atlantic 10 play.

“In consultation with President Ken Gormley, we have decided to make a change in leadership for the men’s basketball program at Duquesne University,” Duquesne Director of Athletics Dave Harper said in the release. “I would like to thank Jim Ferry for his efforts and work the last five years. Jim is a great person and we wish him the best with his future endeavors.”

The 49-year-old Ferry made the CBI with Duquesne last season as the team went 17-17. That was the best season the Dukes had in five years with Ferry in charge as they could never seem to turn things around. Also the head coach at 10 years at Long Island, Ferry made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances with the Blackbirds in 2011 and 2012.

Rhode Island takes down VCU to claim the Atlantic 10 Tournament title

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Rhode Island made sure they were guaranteed entry into the 2017 NCAA tournament on Sunday as the Rams took down VCU, 70-63, to claim the Atlantic 10 Tournament title.

By nailing down the automatic bid, Rhode Island not only assures themselves a bid into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999 but they also won’t have to play in a First Four game in Dayton since they won’t be an at-large team just barely entering the field.

The Rams (24-9) never trailed on Sunday as they claimed their eighth consecutive victory by beating VCU for the second time this season. One of the hotter teams in the country entering the NCAA tournament, Rhode Island was led by 20 points from guard Jared Terrell while guard E.C. Matthews added 19 points, including a huge bucket to make it a two-possession game with under a minute left. Hassan Martin also finished with 11 points for the Rams.

Since they were potentially the last at-large team in the field if they had lost, Rhode Island’s win likely keeps teams like USC and Illinois State out of the NCAA tournament based on the consensus opinion of bracketologists. Now that the Rams don’t have to play in a First Four game as one of the last four at-large teams they’re also a potentially dangerous double-digit seed that not a lot of teams are going to want to play.

Terrell and Matthews are one of the better backcourts in the field (especially for a double-digit seed) and Martin and Kuran Iverson are solid options up front. With a veteran point guard in Jarvis Garrett, this team is going to be a tough out.

While Rhode Island hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament in the 2000s this group did gain some postseason experience by playing in the NIT in 2015.

VCU (26-8) is still safely in the NCAA tournament as the Atlantic 10 will now have three teams in the field. The Rams only shot 32 percent from the field but they were able to stay in the game by pounding the offensive glass (23 offensive rebounds) and forcing some late turnovers using their trademark Havoc defense.

JeQuan Lewis led VCU with 15 points while forward Justin Tillman finished with 10 points and 17 rebounds. As a probably 7-through-10 seed, the Rams are never fun to deal with in a postseason setting since not many teams press like they do.

It’ll be interesting to see who VCU draws in the field and it that press will be an advantage for them.

WATCH LIVE: The Atlantic 10 Tournament Second Round on NBCSN

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The Atlantic 10 Tournament second round is on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app on Thursday with four games that will air throughout the day.

The late session has two more games as Fordham faces George Mason at 6:00 p.m. and ends with Saint Louis against George Washington at 8:30 p.m.

Be sure to check out the NBC Sports preview of the Atlantic 10 Tournament as we reveal our picks for the tournament as well as the league’s regular-season awards.

CLICK HERE to watch the Atlantic 10 on NBCSN

WATCH LIVE: The Atlantic 10 Tournament Second Round on NBCSN

(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
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The Atlantic 10 Tournament second round is on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app on Thursday with four games that will air throughout the day.

It starts with the early session of two games as Davidson faces La Salle at 12:00 p.m. and ends with UMass against St. Bonaventure at 2:30 p.m.

Be sure to check out the NBC Sports preview of the Atlantic 10 Tournament as we reveal our picks for the tournament as well as the league’s regular-season awards.

CLICK HERE to watch the Atlantic 10 on NBCSN

March Madness 2017 Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Preview, Bracket and Conference Postseason Awards

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Atlantic 10 Player of the Year: T.J. Cline, Richmond

The 6-foot-9 senior forward was not only one of the most efficient players in the conference, he was the only player in the Atlantic 10 to rank top-5 in (18.6 PPG), rebounds (8.1 RPG) and assists (5.7 APG). He had a triple-double — 34 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists — against Duquesne and then recorded another one — 19 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists — in his final game at Richmond.

Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year: Archie Miller, Dayton

Last year, Dayton was in a three-way tie for first place. This season, the Flyers won it outright with a 15-3 conference record. Miller had to balance early-season injuries to Kendall Pollard and transfer Josh Cunningham, which shortended his frontline. Following a loss to VCU, which finished in second place, the Flyers went on a nine-game winning streak, capped with a win at home against the Rams.

First-Team All-Atlantic 10

  • T.J. Cline, Richmond
  • Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure: The senior guard was second in the conference in scoring at 20.8 points, and led the A10 in assists and 6.6 dimes per game.
  • Charles Cooke, Dayton: Also an all-defense selection by the A10 coaches, Cooke led the Flyers in scoring at 16.5 points per game to go along with his 5.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists a night.
  • Jack Gibbs, Davidson: The conference’s leading scorer at 22.0 points per game. The repeat selection registered a handful of 30-point games.
  • Marquise Moore, George Mason: At 6-foot-2, the senior guard averaged a double-double — 17.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game — leading the A10 in rebounding at 6-foot-2. He was instrumental in an eight-win turnaround for the Patriots.

Second Team All-Atlantic 10:

  • Peyton Aldridge, Davidson,
  • Tyler Cavanaugh, George Washington
  • JeQuan Lewis, VCU
  • Hassan Martin, Rhode Island
  • Scoochie Smith, Dayton

RELATED: Player of the Year | Coach of the Year | NBC Sports All-Americans

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It’s been three years since the Atlantic 10 set a conference record by sending six teams to the NCAA Tournament. For the third straight year, the league is set to send half that amount, at best.

Rhode Island entered the season in the preseason top-25, but will likely remain on the bubble unless it makes it to Sunday’s tournament title game. Dayton won the league outright after overcoming early season injuries on the frontline. The Flyers are safe, as is VCU, who finished second to Dayton in the A10 standings this season.

The A10 wasn’t as strong as in previous seasons, but it could result in an eventful week in Pittsburgh. Will Dayton and VCU face off in a rubber match? Will Rhode Island secure its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1999? Or is there a bid stealer ready to make a run?

The Bracket

When: March 8-13

Where: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh

Final: Sunday, March 13 12:30 p.m.

Favorite: Dayton

The Flyers topped the league for the second straight season; this time outright. After dealing with injuries early in the season, which played a role in a loss in a marquee home game against Saint Mary’s, followed by an upset loss to Nebraska, putting them on the wrong side of the Wooden Legacy bracket. However, Dayton enters Pittsburgh as winners of nine of its last 10. That span includes a win at Rhode Island and avenging a loss to VCU. Scoochie Smith, Charles Cooke and Kendall Pollard lead an experienced team with the league’s best offense, matched with a solid defense.

And if they lose?: VCU

The Rams finished second in the A10 and owns a win over Dayton. Like the Flyers, VCU has an experienced group led by seniors JeQuan Lewis and Mo-Alie Cox. Both meetings were decided by single digits. In both games, the Rams frontline, anchored by Cox and Justin Tillman, gave Dayton’s front court fits.

Will Wade (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Other Contenders:

  • Rhode Island: The Rams enter this year as the conference favorite. They certainly have the talent, and perhaps a sense of urgency kicks in as the Rams are still one the bubble.
  • Richmond: Led by A10 Player of the Year T.J. Cline, the Spiders head to Pittsburgh as winners of four in a row. However, Richmond is 0-2 against VCU this season, a team it could potential face in the semifinals.

Sleeper: St. Bonaventure

With Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, the Bonnies have two guards who can really light it up. While they finished the regular season 6-4, they did give both VCU and Dayton a tough test during meetings last month.

The Bubble Dwellers: One

  • Rhode Island: The Rams followed up a marquee non-conference win against a ranked Cincinnati team by losing four of their next six. A 21-win season, and a recent win over VCU, could keep URI on the right side of the bubble. However, a one-an-done performance this week could mean a long night on Selection Sunday.

Defining moment of the season: JeQuan Lewis takes a charge on in-bounds pass with 0.4 seconds remaining.

On Feb. 8, George Washington’s Yuta Watanabe hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left in a game against VCU. In lieu of going the length of the court for the next-to-impossible buzzer-beater, JeQuan Lewis drew a charge on Tyler Cavanaugh, sunk two free throws and the Rams left D.C. with the heist of a 54-53 victory. The previous game, a premature court storm by the St. Bonaventure fans, gave VCU a free throw, which helped force overtime.

VCU would have been on the wrong side of the bubble had it not won both those games, especially with Lewis’ quick thinking against the Colonials. Instead, the Rams are all but assured a seventh consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament.

CBT Prediction: Dayton