In the Flyer News Men’s Basketball Preview, I wrote about how the Atlantic 10 was going to flex its muscle and become a fun watch this season.
It has yet to disappoint. And may be crazier than expected.
Just over half way through conference play, every school now has at least two losses already, with Virginia Commonwealth University leading the way at 6-2. However, only four schools have more than four losses, so it’s a tightly packed group that could go in any direction.
Here’s some of the biggest things I’ve taken away from play in the A-10 thus far.
1. There’s no clear favorite.
Butler was the final team in the league to have fewer than two losses before getting thumped by Saint Louis University on Thursday, Jan. 31. Yes, they were able to beat a top 10 ranked Gonzaga University team at home, but when you look at their record against teams in the top half of the league right now, they’re only 1-2. One loss came without redshirt junior guard Rotnei Clarke, but the record doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in knowing if they will be a dominate team with him. Butler is likely to rack up wins heading towards March, but has a loaded schedule to end the year with another game against SLU, at VCU, at the University of Massachusetts and Xavier University.
VCU took a nose dive with consecutive losses, SLU is just starting to find its footing, Temple University may be the most inconsistent team in the league and La Salle University could not navigate cleanly through a pair of trap games after its big wins over Butler and VCU. It should not be a shock to suggest the regular season champion will end up with at least four losses at this point.
2. Charlotte is a pretender.
I was ready to give the 49ers a chance after defeating Xavier at home on Jan. 23, but they sandwiched that win with 20-plus point losses to the University of Richmond and George Washington University on the road.
I mentioned the end of Butler’s schedule is loaded, but the next month for Charlotte may simply be too much for any team. After escaping with a one-point win over UMass at home on Sunday, Feb. 2, in its next four games in February, Charlotte hosts VCU, while traveling to Temple, Butler and SLU. Those schools are currently a combined 19-10 in league play. Coming out with a winning record will certainly be a way to change my mind about them, but I cannot see that happening.
3. Chaz Williams should be the leader for A-10 Player of the Year.
The UMass junior guard has needed to take on a bigger role after teammate Jesse Morgan went down for the season with a torn right ACL. He’s done the job so far, scoring 15.9 points per game, and has been in the top five in scoring in the league most of the season. To make the feat sound more impressive, Williams is keeping up his scoring while leading the conference in assists at seven per game and is third in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.9. Williams also hasn’t made it all about his offense by being sixth in steals per game at 2.1.
VCU sophomore guard Treveon Graham is his closest competitor at the moment, similarly averaging above 16 points per game while gathering above six rebounds per game as well. Clarke should join the two in the race as the top scorer on Butler, and La Salle senior guard Roman Galloway could enter the mix, if the Explorers can stay in the conference race.
4. The A-10 is looking at another four bids to the NCAA Tournament
Xavier, SLU, Temple and Saint Bonaventure University gave the conference four bids last season for the first time since 2004, and if you were to count VCU who was not yet a member, it would be five. Despite the high level editions to the conference that Butler and VCU have been, the 16 teams are eating themselves from within a little too much to provide anymore than four bids this season. Like the Big East Conference, the A-10 is going to have some good looking numbers in the NCAA’s Rating Percentage Index from teams with high rankings playing each other. Generally though, teams with an RPI below 50 usually have the best chance to get an at-large bid to the tournament, which only three A-10 schools have as of Monday, Jan. 28.