The Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Championship is playing in Brooklyn’s Barclay Center for the first time. Saint Louis, VCU, Temple, and LaSalle all received bye’s into the quarterfinals. Experts have projected four teams (Saint Louis, VCU, Temple, and Butler) to receive bids to the NCAA Tournament. A fifth team, LaSalle, is projected to be on the bubble and would strengthen their resume with a good showing in Brooklyn.
Saint Louis- The Billikens won their first A-10 regular season title outright with a 13-3 conference record. First team all-conference player Dwayne Evans (12.9 ppg) leads a balanced scoring attack with four players averaging double figures. Saint Louis is the best defensive team in the conference, giving up a league least 58.4 ppg. The Billikens are playing their best basketball heading into tournament play winning 12 of their last 13. Saint Louis will play the winner of the Richmond vs. Charlotte game on Friday.
VCU- The Rams style of play is tournament built, and will be an advantage if they progress in the tournament. VCU trademark Havoc defense is creating a league leading 11.9 steals and 19.9 turnovers per game. Defensive POY Briante Weber leads the way with 2.8 steals per game. Forwards Treveon Graham (15.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Juvonte Reddick (14.5, 8.2) lead the way for a team that averages 78.1 ppg. The Rams have several players who played on the final four team in 2011, and know what it takes to win in March. VCU will play the winner of Saint Joe’s vs Xavier on Friday.
Temple – The Owls ride a seven game winning streak heading into tournament play. A-10 POY Khalif Wyatt (19.9 pg, 4.1 apg) is the playmaker and big shot taker for Temple. Senior Jake O’Brien has emerged as a three point threat (43.4%), and has averaged 15.2 points in the last four wins. Temple takes care of the basketball, averaging a league least 11.0 turnovers a game. Temple will face the winner of UMass vs. George Washington game.
Butler– Brad Stevens brings a battle tested group to Brooklyn. The Bulldogs have impressive non-conference wins over Marquette, Gonzaga, and Indiana. Butler relies on all-conference player Rotnei Clarke (16.7 ppg, 2.8 apg) and defensive stopper Roosevelt Jones. They do have a tough road, playing Dayton on Thursday and turning around on Friday to play a rested La Salle team.
The Most at Stake
LaSalle- The Explorers NCAA tournament hopes depend on their performance in Brooklyn. They enter the tournament with a record of 21-8 with quality wins over Villanova, VCU, and Butler. La Salle will need strong play from all-conference guard Ramon Galloway (17.4 ppg, 3.7 apg) and guard Tyreek Durden (15.0 ppg, 3.4 apg). The Explorers will have a chance to build their resume, assuming Butler beats Dayton on Thursday.
Xavier– The Musketeers are a team that can go on a run and make it to the finals on Sunday. Xavier has wins over Saint Louis and Memphis over the last two weeks. ROY Semaj Christon (15.ppg,4.7apg) leads the way and is good as anyone in the league on a given night. Travis Taylor (11.8, 9.0 rpg) won the leagues’ most improved player award and is an interior presence. Xavier does guard defensively, holding opponents to a 40.5 field goal percentage. Head Coach Chris Mack typically has teams who get it done in March. Xavier plays Saint Joe’s on Thursday.
Ryan Klaas is a Scout and Correspondent for NetSouts Basketball and covers the Atlantic 10.