College Basketball Handicapping: Atlantic 10 Tournament Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 3/9/2010
The Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament will be one of the more closely watched tourneys in the country this week as bubble teams from the major conferences sit around and sweat out how fellow bubblers Charlotte, Dayton and Rhode Island perform in Atlantic City this week. All three of those teams are presently on the outside looking in on the NCAA Tournament, but all three are also capable of making a significant run and potentially swiping a bid.
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This tournament is a bit quirky compared to other major conferences. The opening round is held at the site of the higher seed tonight. Then the quarterfinals begin in Atlantic City on Thursday and a three-day meat grinder begins, churning out one automatic bid. Xavier, Temple and Richmond have each already earned at-large bids. But if this league wants a truly banner March they have to be hoping that one more club can step to the forefront.
With that in mind, here is Doc’s Sports Atlantic 10 Tournament Preview:
The Favorite: Temple (+150)
The Owls have been surgical this year. They have done just about everything right, with only a pair of road losses at Charlotte and Richmond dusting up their resume. However, this team hammered Villanova, handled Siena and Xavier and enters the A-10 tournament the winners of seven straight games. They don’t do anything great on offense. But defensively they are No. 4 in points allowed, No. 6 in field goal percentage and No. 4 in three-point defense. I actually think that Temple is a little ripe for upset because I think their defense will wear down a bit after playing three straight days. But their half of the bracket – Bonnies, Dukes, Rams, Hawks and Billikens – is so absurdly easy that I can’t see them not making the finals.
Xavier (+175) – By losing the tiebreaker with Temple, Xavier will have to slug its way through a brutal portion of the tournament bracket. They will likely face Dayton – which ran them off the court in the last meeting – before a likely tussle with either Richmond or Charlotte. And that’s just to get to the title game. Jordan Crawford may have an edge to his game since he was passed over for Conference Player of the Year. And I think that a key for this team will be to get deadeye shooter Brad Renfro back from a hip injury. Xavier – despite being THE team in the A-10 – has gone 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games and is also on a seven-game winning streak. That’s a lot of momentum for the league’s top team.
Richmond (+500) – This team is no joke and really may be the best equipped for a Cinderella NCAA Tournament run. They have had some success this year in a tournament setting, beating Mississippi State and Missouri in a tournament over Thanksgiving. They have won 10 of 11 games, including wins over desperate Dayton and Charlotte in the final week. This group shoots a ton of threes and if they get hot they’ll run the table. But they are a little short on depth and I think that will catch them. Also, they lost by 12 against Charlotte at home and then beat them in overtime last Saturday. A rematch is likely and it will be interesting to see how they handle yet another team playing for its postseason life.
The Sleeper: Charlotte (+1500)
Charlotte has absolutely seen the wheels come off over the last month. They have dumped six of seven games and were blown out at Dayton (by 28) and at Rhode Island (by 22). They have zero momentum and would likely need to win this tournament to secure an NCAA bid. However, they have beaten Richmond, St. Louis and Temple this year (as well as a non-conference blowout of Louisville) so they have proven that they have top-end conference talent. This team pounds the ball in to Shamari Spears and Chris Braswell, and power teams are always strong in tournament settings. But the whole thing comes down to how their guards shoot. They are not a good three-point shooting club but they’ll have to knock down something if they have any hope.
Dayton (+800) – The Flyers and their senior-laden team has seen its season be put on life support. This is a team that actually won a game in the NCAA Tournament last year and has gone toe-to-toe with Top 10 clubs like Villanova, Kansas State and New Mexico. They have ability. And I really don’t expect the five seniors in their main rotation to go quietly. This team hasn’t lost a game by more than eight points and their average loss is by just four points per. But they have had all kinds of trouble closing games because they can’t make free throws and they only shoot about 33 percent from deep. They can defend like demons. But that’s not enough. If they can knock off Xavier in the second round – a terrible matchup, but that game is their Super Bowl – then I don’t think they will be stopped. That’s a big ‘if,’ though.
St. Louis (+650) – I have said all year that this team sucks, and at the start of the season I was right. But since they added Cody Ellis midseason this has been a completely different team. Rick Majerus is doing incredible work with a team that’s just about entirely made up of freshmen and sophomores. He has them winning on the road (finally) and they played to the wire with Xavier and Temple. I don’t know if the youngsters will understand the enormity of The Moment. But they face Rhode Island in the quarterfinals – a team that they beat by five in St. Louis last month – and if they win that they have another crack at Temple. It’s not beyond the realm that this team could play its way into the conference finals and set itself up not just to steal a bid from a team like Dayton, Rhode Island or Charlotte, but also to steal a bid from a BCS conference team. I don’t think that they will do it. But they certainly are set up for a run.
No. 8 St. Bonaventure (-1.5) vs. No. 9 Duquesne
The winner gets Temple. The Bonnies are a team that had to deal with some nagging injuries this year and have kind of underachieved. But they are healthy now and playing their best ball of the season. They have won four of five games and that includes a 12-point win over the Dukes last week. Duquesne won the first meeting by one point and they are nearly completely reliant on their defense to create opportunities. In what is one of the most bizarre scoring quirks I’ve ever seen, Duquesne is the worst shooting team in the country from three-point land, but they have five guys in double figures in scoring. This is a young team that digs in on defense. But I’m not sure if they can score enough to make a strong showing. The Bonnies are 15-35 ATS as a home favorite and 18-42 ATS in their last 60 games laying the chalk. The dog and the road team are 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings.
No. 5 Rhode Island (-13.5) vs. No. 12 St. Joseph’s
The winner gets St. Louis. St. Joseph’s has been a horror show for most of the year. They have conference losses by 37, 36, 27 and 27 this year, along with a 17-point loss to Siena and a host of blowouts in the nonconference portion of their schedule. This once-proud program is pretty weak at the moment and has to tussle with a Rams team that already beat them by 27 in Rhode Island back in January. Not good. Rhode Island is just 4-13 against the spread at home and just 2-5 ATS as a favorite. The Hawks are 0-7 ATS as a road underdog of 13 points or more and just 2-7 ATS in the last nine meetings.
No. 7 Dayton (-11.5) vs. No. 10 George Washington
The winner faces Xavier. Well, Dayton is once again in a must-win situation. But then again that was pretty much exactly the case last week when they got rolled at home against St. Louis – in a rivalry game on Senior Night. That was a bizarre loss and really one that has me wondering how good this group is. These teams have only met once a year in each of the last four seasons and Dayton has won three of those meetings, including a 15-point rout in January. George Washington is a very athletic, kind of cagey team. They have lost 10 of 15 games, but only two of the losses were by more than 10 points. They aren’t going to roll over for the Flyers tonight.
No. 6 Charlotte (-9) vs. No. 11 Massachusetts
The winner faces Richmond. Massachusetts is another team that’s been a disaster this year, losing 14 of 19 games overall. They are also in a bit of a letdown spot after pulling an emotional upset on Rhode Island at home last Saturday. They lost to Charlotte by 14 points at home in the first meeting and are expected to get run off the court in this game. But if you look a bit closer this team has played an absolutely brutal schedule. The unbalanced A-10 schedule really had its way with the Minutemen. Charlotte is desperate and should win. But they have been awful at the window, going just 8-26 ATS in their last 34 conference games, 15-36-1 ATS in their last 52 games overall and 2-8 ATS in their last 10 home games.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and he has gained nearly +300 Units over the past three college basketball seasons. You can purchase his college basketball picks here.
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