2007 Atlantic 10 Tournament Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 03/06/2007
I know that the Atlantic 10 doesn't scream, "SEXY" or "EXCITING". In fact, the conference's name can best be compared to that of K-Mart - at one time it meant something significant but now it's more of a punch line.
But believe me when I tell you that the A-10 Tournament, which begins Wednesday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City has the potential to be one of the more entertaining and unpredictable conference championships in the country.
No really, I'm serious. With some classic rivalries, plenty of high-scoring-and-no-defense teams, some of the most underrated stars in the nation, a few desperate underachievers and a pair of potential NCAA Tournament sleepers, I think that the A-10 has all the makings of an outstanding tournament.
Here's my psychoanalytical breakdown of the psychosis devolving in the Atlantic 10:
Xavier - The Musketeers have won two of the past three titles and are the top seed by virtue of their tiebreaking win over UMass this year. They have the No. 2 offense and No. 3 defense, along with the league's top scoring margin (+13). Their inside-outside duo of Justin Doellman and Stan Burrell are as good as any in the nation. Xavier has won eight straight and 10-of-11, so it appears they're peaking at the right time.
Massachusetts - If you don't know Stephane Lasme then you don't know about one of the most dominant big men in the country. Lasme is just the fourth college player to register four triple-doubles in the same season, and each time he did so with 10+ blocked shots. The Minutemen dominate teams defensively, allowing just one of their last 10 opponents to score over 70 points. They've won six consecutive games, outscoring opponents by an average of 76.7 to 58.7.
George Washington - Last year's big dogs lost too much talent to compete for another conference title, but they finished a respectable third. They beat Va. Tech on a neutral court and hung 84 in a loss at UMass, so they can play. The trouble is they're streaky as hell. The Colonials are on a five-game winning streak. Before that they lost four straight. Before that they won five straight. Also, none of their losses were by less than six points and five of the eight Ls were by double digits.
Dayton - If the team that beat Louisville on a neutral court and went 15-2 at home shows up then the Flyers could do some damage.
St. Louis - The Bilikens came within a three-point loss at Massachusetts of becoming the only team to beat each of the top four seeds. They are the third-best three-point shooting team in the conference, and when they're making their shots from deep they can be tough. Also, they have a legit seven-footer in the middle in Ian Vouyoukas. One or two bounces and this team could find itself in the semis. Or they could lose the first day.
(Second round games)
Xavier vs. Dayton-Charlotte - I think Charlotte has upset potential in the first round, but only because Dayton is awful on the road. Regardless, whoever wins will likely get freight-trained by the X-Men. Xavier was 3-0 SU and ATS against these two. I think it's dicey to lay more than 11 points, though.
Rhode Island vs. Fordham-Richmond - Beware the Rams. Rhode Islands can score, score and score some more. I wanted to add them to my list of sleepers but I didn't. Mostly because they were beaten by both Richmond and Fordham in their last two games.
Massachusetts vs. St. Louis-Duquesne - If St. Louis can hold off Duquesne (which has been one of the best stories of the year) then they'll have great value against another slow down team in the Minutemen. Duquesne has lost seven straight but are just the type of New Life team that could cause problems.
George Washington vs. St. Joseph's-Temple winner - Any time you bet the Hawks you're betting that they'll have a strong shooting night. That's an iffy wager. Temple doesn't defend the three-pointer well at all, which is bad news for them. But GW is third in the conference in that category, which is bad news for the Hawks.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Of all of the non-BCS conference tournaments I think that this one has the potential for the most upsets and general chaos. Because there are so many fatally flawed and one-dimensional clubs vying for the automatic bid I think it will be a wide-open race. I would say that there will be a lot of value on the underdogs - and I do think there will be - but I also see a lot of blowouts in the first two rounds. As always, just look for a hot team and a couple of favorable matchups. But don't just bet chalk here and expect to walk out unscathed.
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