Catching Up On A-10 News

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I know it’s been a while since my last post. Been swamped at work and couldn’t find time to sneak in a blog post like I have been able to. A lot has happened. NCAA second round, Bobby Hurley leaves URI, and George Mason.

Anyway, on to what I’ve missed:

NCAA Tournament
After starting 5-0 during the first round (if you call the play-ins the first round, you’re a huge asshole), the A-10 goes 1-4 in the next round with only La Salle advancing to the Sweet 16.

Temple certainly played a good game and could very well have beaten Indiana if it weren’t for Oladipo:


Skip to 0:26.

Khalif Wyatt’s first half performance showed why he was the A-10 player of the year. Unfortunately, the 15 minute break for halftime was just enough time for Wyatt’s hot hand to go cold and he had a very pedestrian second half. Temple should hang their heads high. they took the #1 seed (and at certain points during the season – the #1 team in the country) to the very brink of defeat.

Not much to say about VCU. They were just completely overmatched by Michigan. Like I’ve said before, the best way to beat the Havoc defense is to have smart, instinctive guards. That is exactly what Michigan has in Burke (possibly the best guard in all of college basketball) and Hardaway Jr. Just a bad game for VCU. Missed a lot of open jump shots and missed a bunch of easy lay-ups. Too bad. Still a great season overall for the Rams and they will be a top team in the A-10 for a long while (unless Shaka Smart goes to UCLA).

St. Louis, whose foundation was built on tough defense, really didn’t look very competitive against Oregon (who may be the best 12 seed in tournament history – hyperbole, saying they were shafted by the Selection Committee). The usually stout defense of SLU gave up 76 to Oregon and couldn’t really seem to stop them.

Butler now, they looked like they had the game won for a while, but Marquette showed a lot of grit and balls in coming back and taking the lead with about 7 or 8 minutes left. Then it was truly a back and forth game; a lot of fun to watch. Unfortunately, Butler couldn’t pull out the victory in the end.

On to La Salle. Great win over Ole Miss. What makes it a great win? The win means that fucking menace Marshall Henderson is finally out of the tournament. Good riddance. La Salle played great and hit a lot of key shots. not only did their star player (Ramon Galloway) have a good game, but so did VA Tech transfer Tyrone Garland. Garland hit the game winning lay up with only a second left. Southwest Philly Floater for the win (literally)!!!

Next up for La Salle is Arizona. Zona is a very talented team (coached by former Xavier coach Sean Miller) who was one of the last unbeaten teams in the country. I hope La Salle can keep it rolling and become the next VCU (from 2011) in that they go from Play-in to Final Four.

George Mason
So George Mason announced that they are joining the A-10 on July 1 of this year. Good pick up by the A-10 to replace one of the many departing teams. I think the A-10 only needs to add one more school to get back up to 14 teams for this year and 12 the year after that (assuming the rumors about Dayton and St. Louis to the Big East are true). I’m still hoping that the A-10 can pull off a miracle and convince Wichita St. to leave the MVC too (Creighton is leaving for the Big East). I know it is unlikely but who knows, they did convince Butler and VCU to join. It could happen. Anyway, I like George Mason. GM would fit in with the rest of the A-10 with the play of their top 2 guys (both guards): Bryon Allen and Sherrod Wright. The A-10 is well known for their guard play and GM will step right in.

Bobby Hurley
Bobby Hurley to Buffalo

So word has it that Bobby Hurley is leaving URI for Buffalo. This is a curious move to say the least. I mean, Bobby must have had other offers in the past (I think Wagner offered him the job when Dan left for URI) and he turned them down to stay with Dan and spend time with Dan and their families. If he turned down offers in the past, why leave now? Why University of Buffalo? No offense to University of Buffalo fans, but I can’t wrap my head around why Bobby would take that job. Is he finally ready to step out from Dan’s shadow and build his own legacy? Is he thinking that turning around a Buffalo program will allow him to land a head coaching gig with a high-major school (like using Buffalo as a stepping stone)? Baffling; but Dan is doing a great job recruiting and coaching up these players and while it would have been nice to keep Bobby around to help mentor EC Matthews and help transition him into an elite PG, I wish Bobby all the luck in the world and I hope he achieves all the success he needs to get to where he wants to in life.

Great Start To The Tournament For The A-10

A-10 Round of 64

Atlantic 10 Teams start the tournament off 5-0.

Truth be told, I didn’t really get to watch much of the Butler/Bucknell game. They started the tournament off for the A-10 and got it started off on the right foot.

SLU just demolished New Mexico State and their gigantic oaf Sim Bhullar. SLU establishing their defensive will against teams and will definitely be a force in this tournament. Teams who get by with their scoring/high FG% have to hope to sustain a hot streak. Unfortunately teams get hot hands shooting and they get cold hands shooting. While teams can go into slumps shooting, good defense is slump proof. Whether SLU is hot or cold shooting the ball, their defense will keep them in all the games.

I don’t want to read too much into VCU’s win against an Akron team with their star player suspended for trying to run enough drugs to make Pablo Escobar blush and two other starters limited with the flu. A good win and a good way to get their “havoc” defense going for when they face real competition in Michigan on Saturday.

La Salle had one of the gutsiest wins of the A-10 teams. They came in after being a play-in team and taking on a much, MUCH bigger K-State. They did blow an 18-point lead but they made enough plays to pull off the second biggest upset of the tournament so far (Harvard as a 14-seed is the biggest upset so far). I thought Henriquez was going to completely shut down the Explorers in the second half. The 3-point shooting started to get cold and Henriquez towered over the smaller Explorers and seemingly swatted every shot taken inside the paint. Glad La Salle won. See if they can be the next VCU (from Play-in to Final Four).

Temple over NC State was a great win for the Owls. NC State was a preseason pick to win the ACC and are considered to have a very talented team. Temple has what it takes to go far in the tournament a dominant player (Khalif Wyatt) and a few good role players (Scootie Randall and TJ DiLeo). Wyatt won’t have to carry a team all by himself but together they all have the talent to be a Sweet 16 team.

PS: Can we please stop calling the play-in games the “first round”? The “First Four” is not the first round. I refuse to recognize a tournament that has 8 teams play in the first round and 60…SIXTY…teams get a first round bye? Get outta here with that shit.

Round 1 Different than Play-ins

Well said, KFC.

PPS: Stat of the day so far…

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NCAA Tournament Field Set, A-10 Teams In Upsets?

ESPN: (4) No. 13 Boise State Broncos or La Salle Explorers versus No. 4 Kansas State Wildcats

Upset chance: 32.5 percent (La Salle) or 34.8 percent (Boise State)

What you need to know: Either play-in team can shoot well enough to show why Kansas State has been one of the most overrated teams in the country all season.

(6) No. 11 Bucknell Bison versus No. 6 Butler Bulldogs

Upset chance: 29.4 percent

What you need to know: The ultra-conservative Bison are a resistible force; the over-seeded Bulldogs are a movable object.

(7) No. 12 Akron Zips versus No. 5 Virginia Commonwealth Rams

Upset chance: 28.9 percent

What you need to know: VCU is now a trendy pick, but the Rams need to be careful: their high-pressure, outside-shooting game profiles better for Killers than Giants, and Akron’s offensive rebounding can keep them in games.

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So these are the potential upsets that could happen as they relate to A-10 teams. Two teams being “giants” and one team as a “giant killer.”

It would be a great day for A-10 fans if La Salle beats Boise State then goes on to upset K-State and Bucknell upsets Butler. A nice parting shot as Butler (expectedly) goes one-and-done in the A-10 and leaves for the Big East which basically spits in the faces of all A-10 fans. La Salle is also a great story here too as one of the last 2 teams announced as participants in the NCAA tournament. La Salle had a great season, which, in my opinion, came out of nowhere. It gives this tournament berth a bit of that “Cinderella” vibe for the Explorers and I hope they make it last until the Round of 32.

The confusing part of this is the 29% upset chance given to Akron over VCU. Is this adjusted for Akron’s best player being ineligible after getting arrested for being the worst drug dealer in America? If it was adjusted, what would the chances have been given to Akron with Alex Abreu active? Seems like some disrespect towards VCU. VCU is a “killer” and can survive Akron and then give Michigan (and even perhaps Kansas) all that they can handle.

Round 2 Picks: A10 Tournament

So I am a little late with this and missed the Charlotte/SLU game that started at 12…so I won’t pick that game.

Butler (-2.0) vs La Salle (+2.0)
I think La Salle is a good match-up against Butler. La Salle did beat Butler last time these teams played. La Salle is also averaging 76ppg in their last 5 games while giving up 71ppg in the same span. Butler, meanwhile, is averaging 65ppg while giving up 68ppg over their last 5. La Salle wins and they definitely cover the 2.0.

St. Joe’s (+7.0) vs VCU (-7.0)
I have VCU winning outright as they are just way more talented than St. Joe’s plus their defense will shut this Hawks team down. VCU covers but it will be because of fouling at the end of the game so if you bet on this game, expect it kind of close until the end.

UMass (+5.0) vs Temple (-5.0)
I have Temple winning this game. However, I think UMass covers. This will be a great game with Chaz Williams and Khalif Wyatt both trying to out-perform each other. There will also be a lot of 3’s. UMass has been keeping it close for the most part this year (win or lose).

So there we have it. Just know I am batting .500 in sports betting so don’t blame me for my wrong picks….and send a piece of the winnings if I am right.

Temple Beats VCU, Solidifies Tourney Spot

Crying Owl

ESPN: PHILADELPHIA — On the way out of the Atlantic 10, Temple looked ready to take one more trophy as a keepsake.

Khalif Wyatt scored 30 points and Jake O’Brien had 19, and the Owls beat No. 21 VCU 84-76 on Sunday after rallying from a big first-half deficit.

The Owls (23-8, 11-5 A-10) flipped a 16-point hole into a 17-point lead and clinched the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament.

O’Brien rallied the Owls back from the big first-half hole with clutch 3-pointers in transition that propelled them toward their seventh straight win. O’Brien tied the game at 46-46 on a 3, then gave the Owls the lead for good with another 3 to go up 51-48 with less than 15 minutes left.

The Owls took off from there, thrilling a sellout crowd of 10,206 with tough buckets inside, while O’Brien led the surge from outside.

VCU coach Shaka Smart said he’s left trying to figure out why the Rams lost “their fire” after halftime, especially with first place at stake. The Rams were on the brink of sharing a championship in their first season in the A-10 after bolting the Colonial Athletic Association.

“Nobody transitions from a smaller league to a bigger league and wins the league in the first year,” Smart said. “This is why. You’ve got to win games like today. We just didn’t do what it took to win.”

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And there Temple fans have it. I said that they needed to split the La Salle and VCU games while winning their other games remaining. They did even better. They won out. It wasn’t all pretty, though. I was in the stands for the URI/Temple game that really came down to the wire. As I was leaving the arena, I overheard a couple of students say “that was close; that was the tournament right there.” They were 100% correct. I thought that even though they won it would still negatively impact Temple’s chances as they barely squeaked by with a win, at home, against an 8-win team. If VCU came in to Temple and ran them off the court, that would have most likely force them to really do work in the A-10 tournament. Now they can win their first game and be guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament.

It was very much a huge win for Temple. A real demoralizing loss for VCU heading into the A-10 tournament.

Another big-time performance from a big-time player. Khalif Wyatt really should be the A-10 player of the year. In every meaningful statistic category (points, steals, assists, turnovers, etc.), Wyatt is ahead of the other players considered for POY honors (Juvonte Reddic-VCU, Rotnei Clarke-Butler, and Ramon Galloway-La Salle). Looking at those 4 players, I think it is safe to say that without Wyatt, Temple may not even be a .500 team in the conference. I think there are other players around Juvonte Reddic that can more than pick up the slack if he were to go down with an injury and VCU wouldn’t be as worse off by losing Reddic; such as Treveon Graham and Troy Daniels. Same can be said for Rotnei Clarke and Butler who have 4 other players besides Clarke who average 10ppg or more. Roosevelt Jones may not score as many points as Clarke, but he gets more rebounds, has more assists, and fewer turnovers. As for Ramon Galloway, La Salle can make up his rebounding numbers by giving Steve Mack or Jerrell Wright more time. Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland can be just as effective scoring and other than Galloway scoring 2 more points per game, Duren’s stats are almost identical to Galloway (assists, steals, blocks, and turnovers). Wyatt scores 8 more points per game than the second highest scorer on Temple and is the only one on Temple with over 4 assists per game. Temple would have a much tougher time replacing Wyatt than the other teams would have replacing their best player which I think is the definition of the Most VALUABLE Player. Wyatt has the intrinsic value of a POY candidate; he’s got good enough stats to win it but he also has the increased value to his team.

VCU Is ESPN’s Top “Giant Killer” Pick For NCAA Tournament

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ESPN:: 1. Virginia Commonwealth Rams
GK rating: 83.6
Chew on this for a moment. VCU’s 83.6 rating means that 83.6 percent of the time, the Rams will beat a generic Giant (defined by our model as the average of all Giants since 2007).

Think about that. Not only is a VCU win over an average Giant not an upset, it is to be expected this season. Our model computed GK ratings for every team in the country and only Florida (89.2) came out better. In other words, VCU is more suited to be a Giant Killer than if Indiana, Miami, Michigan State or any other top-ranked team ended up with, say, an 11-seed. That’s staggering.

How do we explain it? Well, there is an incredibly strong link between steals and GK success, and no one in the country swipes the ball better than the Rams do. They come up with 7.6 more steals per 100 possessions (weighted for strength of schedule, as all further references will be) than the average Division I team. The Rams, as usual, hoist up a ton of 3-pointers (36.9 percent of their attempts), another GK indicator. And this season they have added offensive rebounding to the mix, a new wrinkle for Shaka Smart that has them grabbing 9.3 more offensive boards than the average team per 100 possessions, 12th in the country.

VCU, in other words, is almost like some fictional Giant Killing machine dreamt up by our model. The only thing stopping the Rams from wreaking more of their signature “Havoc” this March could be their seeding. Joe Lunardi has them as a 7-seed right now, which could make them a formidable Round of 32 threat.
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As I have stated in previous posts, VCU’s general game plan is what makes them the perfect “Giant Killer.” It is almost like Shaka Smart knows what it takes to be a giant killer and built a philosophy and entire program around those two traits (forcing turnovers and jacking 3’s).

I, personally, think that as long as their shooting doesn’t go ice cold (which is a lot more common with teams that seem to live by the 3-pointer), VCU could very well be a Sweet 16 team. I will probably put them in the Sweet 16 in my bracket*. VCU, repping the A-10 well. As a conference we are incredibly lucky to have snagged them.

*Of course this is all subject to change depending on what draw they get in the final bracket. I wouldn’t mind seeing a match-up where VCU plays Florida. Two of the best defenses in the game going at it, should be an exciting game to watch.

VCU’s Defense Is Key To Their Success

VCU Havoc Defense

As the link isn’t working to get to the site with just this post, you can search for the title “VCU’s most telling stat?”.

ESPN: Virginia Commonwealth has had plenty of success in recent years. And it’s no secret that much of that success comes from the Rams’ tenacious defense. But is it the most important component of their game?

As it turns out, it just might be. VCU lost for just the third time since late November last night, falling to Saint Louis by 14 and dropping to 21-6 on the year. They forced the Billikens into just eight turnovers in the contest and fell behind by what proved to be an insurmountable deficit. As Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports points out, that performance is reminiscent of a bit of a trend for Shaka Smart’s club this season. In their nine conference wins, they’re forcing an average of 21 turnovers per game. In their three losses against Atlantic 10 foes, their forcing just 11.

So what’s the takeaway? The Rams are still a team to look out for in March. And giving away the ball against them means playing right into their hands — literally and figuratively. But a team that controls the ball at least has the chance to give them some problems in a one-and-done situation.

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First off, I want to say that the VCU/SLU game was over before it even started. I saw the score scroll along the ESPN Bottomline and saw that at one point it was 30-9. Straight-up embarrassing for a ranked team.

Second of all, it is to be expected that VCU will struggle more in the A-10 than they did in the Colonial Athletic Association. Every team has the ability to do the scouting work on this HAVOC defense that VCU uses but not every team has the talent to overcome or even neutralize the swarming defense. The A-10 has better teams with higher caliber of players than the CAA. VCU lost to St. Louis, La Salle, and Richmond. No offense to the CAA or their fans…actually, if you’re a fan of one of those schools and can’t accept that they are garbage, then you deserve to be offended. Anyway, any of those 3 teams could beat the likes of UDel, Towson, Hofstra, Northeastern, and the like.

I know mentioned in a previous post that a perhaps these teams have created the blueprint to beat VCU and their defense. The truth of the matter is that the “blueprint” has been around for a while but it takes the right personnel. The “right personnel” means having smart players with quick reaction time. There are holes in the defense and they can be found so long as the offensive players don’t panic as the VCU defenders come flying at them.

The strength of VCU is built upon a smothering defense turning into extra possessions and timely 3-point shots.

Here is how I think teams can beat the Havoc defense:

Beating Havoc Defense