It’s a little over a month into the college basketball season, which means conference play is right around the corner. For the Atlantic 10, conference play starts in three weeks on Jan. 9, but it’s never too early to take an in-depth look at the league.
For this blog, I’ll take a weekly look – from now until the end of the season – at the A-10 and include my own power rankings, player of the week and so forth. Feel free to leave your input and suggestions in the comments section below. Let’s get started.
In 140 characters or less, like on Twitter, I’ll explain my picks.
1. Butler (8-2): Early-seasons wins against Marquette, No. 9 UNC and, as of Saturday, No. 1 Indiana. The Bulldogs are rolling and are rightfully so a Top 25 team.
2. Virginia Commonwealth (7-3): Not the most impressive résumé so far, but neither does any other team at this point. All of the Rams’ losses are good losses.
3. Temple (7-1): The Owls have just one loss so far and it was to Duke. I was high on them before the season started and that hasn’t changed yet.
4. Xavier (7-2): Most expected a down year for the Muskies, but they’re right here. Both losses have been close and they have an impressive W over Butler.
5. Saint Louis (6-3): I definitely expected more out of SLU, but until Kwamain Mitchell comes back, I can’t judge them too harshly. They’ll get much better.
6. Saint Joseph’s (5-3): The preseason conference favorites have had a tough OOC schedule, but a recent loss to Villanova doesn’t help matters.
7. Dayton (8-2): Like other teams, they’ve benefited from a weak OOC, but a road win at Alabama is nothing to ignore and they’re winners of four straight.
8. UMass (5-3): The best is clearly still to come from the Minutemen, but right now they’re a middle of the pack squad with plenty of upside and potential.
9. Charlotte (10-1): The 10-1 record is very deceiving. A blowout loss to Miami (Fla.) confirmed that they aren’t as good as some thought.
10. Richmond (9-2): Despite a 5-game win streak, not sold on the Spiders quite yet, but a win in Lawrence on Tuesday could change things.
11. La Salle (6-2): The Explorers squeaked past Northeastern before losing close to Patriot League leader Bucknell. Hard to judge at the moment.
12. Duquesne (6-5): A blowout road loss to Robert Morris isn’t as catastrophic as some might think, but the Dukes still have plenty of work to do.
13. St. Bonaventure (6-3): SBU responded well from a loss to Arkansas State, but these aren’t your Andrew Nicholson-led Bonnies this year.
14. George Washington (4-6): Someone take the lid off GW’s baskets – the Colonials are ranked 244th in the country in scoring and have lost three straight.
15. Rhode Island (3-7): Dan Hurley’s first year as coach hasn’t been fun yet, but the Rams are a work in progress. They’ll be a cellar dweller all season.
16. Fordham (2-8): The Rams snapped their 5-game losing streak on Saturday, but they get a trip to Storrs this week. Spoiler alert: It won’t end pretty.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Roosevelt Jones, Butler: It wasn’t Jones who had the winning shot that gave the Bulldogs an upset win over No. 1 Indiana in OT. In fact, the sophomore forward actually fouled out before regulation ended, but without Jones’ stellar performance, it may not even got to OT. He finished with 16 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, and nearly got a triple-double as he added seven assists.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
Some more Butler for you. Here’s Alex Barlow’s winning shot to beat the top-ranked Hoosiers.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR WATCH
Rotnei Clarke, Butler: 17.5 points per game, 4.1 3-pointers per game, 45.1 3-point percentage
Ramon Galloway, La Salle: 17.1 points per game, 2.4 steals per game
Tyreek Duren, La Salle: 17.1 points per game, 83.0 free throw percentage, 1.8 steals per game
Chaz Williams, UMass: 16.3 points per game, 7.0 assists per game, 1.5 steals per game
Juvonte Reddic, VCU: 13.4 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, 1.5 steals per game
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Richmond at No. 9 Kansas, Tuesday, 7 p.m.: The Spiders can prove their critics wrong if they can even keep this game close in one of the toughest buildings in the country. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
Xavier vs. Cincinnati, Wednesday, 7 p.m.: The Crosstown Shootout is always one of the most anticipated rivalry games every year. Last year it escalated into a brawl. This year is no exception. The Bearcats are 10-0 and ranked No. 11. This one, as usual, will get chippy. Also on ESPN2.
Murray State at Dayton, Saturday, noon: Both teams are off to strong starts. Dayton can boost its NCAA tournament résumé with a victory.
Syracuse vs. Temple, Saturday, noon: This will be a good one. It’ll be played at Madison Square Garden and the Owls could use a big signature victory over the No. 3 team in the nation. ESPN2.
- ESPN’s Andy Katz has some thoughts on potential Atlantic 10 realignment, including what it could mean for UMass.
- Xavier is on the shortlist of teams that would make sense to join the Big East’s “Catholic 7,” writes USA Today’s Nicole Auerbach.
- ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan has the story on Butler guard Alex Barlow, whose go-ahead bucket with 2 seconds left lifted the Bulldogs to an upset win over No. 1 Indiana.
- Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated’s weekly Fast Break column focuses in a bit on Butler.
Follow Stephen Hewitt on Twitter @steve_hewitt or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.