Conference Catchup: Atlantic 10 has five strong teams entering conference play

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College basketball’s non-conference season is coming to a close, and to help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.

MORE: All of CBT’s Conference Catchups

Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Atlantic 10.

MIDSEASON ATLANTIC 10 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Treveon Graham, VCU

VCU has seen some inconsistent play from Melvin Johnson and Briante Weber in certain situations this season, but Graham has stepped up his play with consistent all-around offense and good play on both ends of the floor. The senior is averaging 16.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game and he’s also shooting the best three-point percentage of his career at 44 percent. Considering Graham never shot above 36 percent from three before this season, that’s a remarkable difference and it makes him that much tougher to defend.

THE ALL-ATLANTIC 10 FIRST TEAM

  • Treveon Graham, VCU
  • E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island – The sophomore received a lot of buzz over the summer and has put up nearly identical numbers to his freshman campaign. Matthews is averaging 17.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game on higher shooting splits (45% FG, 38% 3PT, 73% FT) for a NCAA Tournament contender.
  • Jack Gibbs, Davidson – Just an insane start to the year for the sophomore point guard. Gibbs is sixth in the A-10 in scoring (16.1 ppg), sixth in field goal percentage (57 percent), first in assists per game (4.9), first in free-throw percentage (91 percent), fifth in steals (1.9 per game) and fifth in three-point percentage (46 percent).
  • Tyler Kalinoski, Davidson – With the one-two punch of Kalinoski and Gibbs, Davidson is looking good entering Atlantic 10 play. A senior, Kalinoski is averaging 16.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game while shooting really good splits (45% FG, 44% 3PT, 84% FT).
  • Jordan Price, La Salle – The Auburn transfer leads the Atlantic 10 in scoring at 18.7 points per game and had a big month of December. On an Explorer team that desperately needs perimeter scoring, Price gets a lot of tough baskets and is also averaging 3 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game.

THREE THINGS WE’VE LEARNED

1. The nation whiffed on Davidson. Badly: Did Bob McKillop do something mean to deserve Davidson’s preseason standing within the Atlantic 10? It’s Davidson’s first season in the league after jumping from the Southern Conference but CBT predicted the Wildcats would finish 13th in our preseason A-10 preview. The Athlon preview also put them at 13th while The Sporting News put Davidson last at 14th. It’s not as if this were some media-only phenomenon. The Atlantic 10 coaches picked them to finish 12th. While we still aren’t sure how the Wildcats will adjust to the new league, they certainly look like they deserve to be in the top half after a 9-2 start. Davidson has one of the nation’s best offenses and shooters galore. They’ve only lost to North Carolina and Virginia. They look pretty legitimate now.

2. VCU is not the unanimous choice to win anymore: Besides the oversight of Davidson’s preseason ranking, VCU is certainly no shoe-in to win the Atlantic 10 this season after being the unanimous choice by the coaches of the league in the preseason. The Rams losing to undefeated teams like Villanova and Virginia isn’t a concern. But the way they played against Old Dominion, a very good C-USA team, shows that teams with less talent can get to the Rams on an off-night. With the Atlantic 10 again having a lot of tough teams, VCU running away with the conference doesn’t seem very likely.

3. There are plenty of feisty, NCAA Tournament-caliber teams: The A-10 had five NCAA Tournament teams in 2013 and six more in 2014. Six might seem a bit ambitious going into conference play in 2014-15, but VCU is once again strong, Davidson has looked legitimate and George Washington won the Diamond Head Classic over Wichita State. Rhode Island has been unbeatable at home — with a nice win over Nebraska — and Archie Miller’s Dayton Flyers are again looking solid at 10-2. That’s a stable of five strong teams entering conference play and teams like St. Bonaventure, La Salle and Saint Louis (and plenty of others) have all shown signs of life as well.

THREE STORY LINES TO FOLLOW

1. Will Dayton’s lack of size hurt them in conference play? Dayton is coming off of an Elite Eight appearance in 2014 and the Flyers are once again loaded with talented guards. But size is going to be a huge question mark for Dayton after the team dismissed its two tallest players in Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson in December. That means the Flyers’ tallest active player is now 6-foot-6. So far, it hasn’t hurt the team very much, but this could come back to be an issue during conference play. How will Dayton defend bigger interiors or keep opponents off the glass?

2. Can Davidson take its non-conference momentum into A-10 play? Davidson has been one of the biggest surprises in the conference and the Wildcats now enter into an Atlantic 10 conference schedule for the first time. After dominating the Southern Conference for so many years, how will Bob McKillop’s group adjust to going up a level of play? So far, it looks like Davidson will at least be able to score with any team in the country. The Wildcats are second in the nation in points per game and just scored 72 points on a very good defensive team in Virginia. The key could be getting timely stops and if Davidson can continue its hot perimeter shooting — 41 percent in non-conference play.

3. Where does UMass fit into the scheme of things? UMass is currently sitting at 7-6, but they’ve played a very difficult schedule and they’re still 5-0 at home. The Minutemen tested themselves extensively in non-conference play as their losses came against Notre Dame, Harvard, LSU, Florida Gulf Coast, Providence and BYU. None of those losses look awful at this point in the season (FGCU is the Atlantic Sun favorite) and UMass certainly has talent in Maxie Esho, Cady Lalanne, Derrick Gordon and Trey Davis. Can the Minutemen turn it around during conference play and make a run in the Atlantic 10? It doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility.

THREE PREDICTIONS

1. VCU takes the Atlantic 10 (but it won’t be easy): Much was made of other programs potentially figuring out “Havoc” — and they may be better adjusted to it — but the Rams still have the most talent in the conference and the league’s best player in Treveon Graham. They’re used to having a target on their back by this point and should feel no additional pressure to be a favorite once again.

2. Five NCAA Tournament bids for the Atlantic 10: I’ve already gone over the five teams that are in great standing entering conference play (VCU, Davidson, George Washington, Dayton and Rhode Island) and it feels like the conference will once again see five teams dancing on Selection Sunday. Even if one of those five falters, another team like UMass could emerge and have a great push during conference play to earn a tourney bid. Five sounds about right with this league given the struggles of some of the power conferences like the SEC and AAC.

3. America will meet Davidson sophomore Jack Gibbs: I hate to use hyperbole but Gibbs might be the most underrated player in the country. And he’s getting no attention despite his ridiculous efficiency and only being a sophomore. While the hot shooting numbers — and school — will make some believe Gibbs is the new version of Steph Curry, Gibbs is probably more similar to current Wichita State point guard Fred Van Vleet. Gibbs won’t blow you away with athleticism or quickness, but he’s very savvy and a winning player.

HOW THEY FINISH

NCAA: VCU, George Washington, Rhode Island, Dayton, Davidson

NIT/CBI: UMass, St. Bonaventure, La Salle, Saint Louis, Saint Joseph’s, Richmond

NO POSTSEASON: Duquesne, Fordham, George Mason

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

No. 12 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76

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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes matched his season high with 23 points as No. 12 Iowa State held on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Cyclones (15-4, 6-2 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie atop the conference standings with the Wildcats and Texas.

Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points for Iowa State. Osun Osunniyi finished with 16.

Markquis Nowell led Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) with 23 points.

A 3-pointer from Holmes gave Iowa State a 59-49 advantage with 8:12 remaining. Kansas State responded with a 10-1 run to trim the margin to 60-59.

Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer steadied the Cyclones and pushed the lead back to 63-59 with five minutes left.

Free throws by Osunniyi, Grill and Holmes sealed the victory in the final 24 seconds.

The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with Kansas State up 33-31.

A 3-pointer by Kalscheur ignited an early 9-0 run for the Cyclones and helped them build a 19-14 lead. Iowa State made just one of nine 3-point tries in the first 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State was trying to extend its best start to a season since 1961-62.

Iowa State improved to 11-0 at home. The Cyclones have not lost back-to-back games this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Florida on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Iowa State travels to Missouri on Saturday.

Georgetown snaps 29-game conference losing streak

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WASHINGTON – Primo Spears scored 21 points and Georgetown snapped a 29-game conference losing streak with an 81-76 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.

Georgetown (6-15, 1-9) won its first Big East game since March 13, 2021, ending the longest skid in the history of the conference. The Hoyas also ended a 10-game losing streak this season.

Spears also contributed six assists for the Hoyas. Akok Akok scored 12 points and added six rebounds and four blocks and Brandon Murray recorded 12 points.

Umoja Gibson led the Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7) in scoring, finishing with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Javan Johnson added 13 points.

Spears scored nine points in the first half and Georgetown went into the break trailing 37-36. Georgetown used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a 12-point lead at 75-63 with 1:39 remaining.

Nance scores 21 as North Carolina survives Syracuse, 72-68

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Pete Nance scored 21 points, capped by a dunk with 19 seconds left that put North Carolina in front for good as the Tar Heels pulled out a hard-fought, 72-68 battle with Syracuse on Tuesday night.

Joe Girard hit from beyond the arc to put Syracuse up, 68-66 with 1:28 left, but after Nance hit the first of two free throws to get North Carolina within one, he missed the second free throw and in the scramble to gather in the rebound, the ball caromed toward the end line and Girard dove to save it. Instead, he flicked the ball right to Nance, who dunked for the lead.

Judah Mintz tried to drive the lane for a go-ahead layup but was called for an offensive foul that was upgraded to a flagrant foul. North Carolina took possession and Caleb Love converted three straight free throws to put the game away.

Armando Bacot scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds with four assists for North Carolina (15-6, 7-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Love finished with 15 points and five assists.

Girard hit 4 of 9 from beyond the arc and finished with 18 points to lead Syracuse (13-8, 6-4). Mintz scored 17 points and had three steals and Chris Bell hit 3 of 5 from deep and finished with 15 points.

North Carolina has a week off before playing host to Pitt on Feb. 1. Syracuse plays at Virginia Tech on Saturday.