And here. We. Go.
Non-conference games are officially in the rear view mirror, and the gauntlet of Atlantic 10 play and the road to Brooklyn begins this Wednesday night. Finally, my power rankings can start to make a little more sense as these teams start playing each other. For now, here’s my last pre-conference play roundup, complete with the rankings and the rest.
In 140 characters or less, like on Twitter, I’ll explain my picks.
1. Butler (12-2): It’s still a two-horse race between VCU. As A-10 play looms, we’ll quickly figure out who’s the better of the bunch.
2. Virginia Commonwealth (12-3): Now 9 wins in a row for the Rams since two close losses to Duke and Mizzou. Don’t be surprised if they’re No. 1 here next week.
3. Temple (10-3): Despite losing to Kansas, it was close until the last 3 minutes, so I’m giving the Owls credit. They have all the tools for a deep March run.
4. Saint Louis (11-3): Big, big win for the Billikens against New Mexico. Kwamain Mitchell is making a world of difference. SLU is for real.
5. La Salle (10-3): I went back-and-forth here between La Salle and UMass, but decided a 17-point road loss to Miami isn’t really that bad for the Explorers.
6. UMass (10-3): Minutemen on a 7-game winning streak, which is nice, but we’ll finally see what they’re really made of this Thursday at SLU.
7. Dayton (10-4): Bounced back from losing to USC by beating UAB, but they’ll get a nice test to open A-10 play at VCU. Let’s see what they got.
8. Saint Joseph’s (8-4): Don’t look now, but the Hawks are now winners of three straight. They get Butler at home Wednesday.
9. Charlotte (12-2): 49ers had to go to OT to beat UNC-Asheville at home. That’s all I have to say.
10. Richmond (10-5): Spiders got their first win since Dec. 15 on Wednesday and should keep the good vibes going when they host URI to start A-10 play.
11. Xavier (7-6): That rebuilding season we all thought Xavier would have might actually happen. Losers of five out of last six heading into conference action.
12. St. Bonaventure (7-6): Couple of tough losses for the Bonnies this week after once looking promising. The good news is they play GW to start A-10 play.
13. Duquesne (7-7): The Dukes were off this week, so no change here. They’re at Fordham to begin conference play.
14. George Washington (6-7): The Colonials have mustered 38 and 41 points respectively in their last two games. To Sacred Heart and Georgia. Yeesh.
15. Rhode Island (5-8): The Rams got a nice win over a Brown team that was fresh off beating Providence this week. At least they enter A-10 play on a positive.
16. Fordham (4-11): There are one too many teams nicknamed “Rams” in this conference. That’s all I have to say about Fordham. Sorry.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Troy Daniels, VCU: For the second week in a row, I’m going to have to give this award up to Troy Daniels of VCU. If not because there were no other standout performances in the conference, Daniels delivered another record-breaking performance in the Rams’ 109-58 thrashing of ETSU. Daniels hit 11 3-pointers, a school record, en route to 33 points and 10 rebounds. When was the last time we saw a 3-pointers made, rebounds double-double?
PLAYER OF THE YEAR WATCH
Ramon Galloway, La Salle: 17.8 points per game, 3.7 assists per game, 2.5 steals per game
Rotnei Clarke, Butler: 16.2 points per game, 3.7 3-pointers per game, 43.0 3-point percentage
Chaz Williams, UMass: 15.5 points per game, 7.4 assists per game, 1.9 steals per game
Isaiah Armwood, George Washington: 12.8 points per game, 8.3 rebounds per game, 3.0 blocks per game
Khalif Wyatt, Temple: 16.2 points per game, 4.0 assists per game, 85.1 free throw percentage
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Butler at Saint Joseph’s, Wednesday, 7 p.m.: The Bulldogs begin their first Atlantic 10 schedule when they head to Philadelphia, where the Hawks, the preseason favorites to win the conference, could get a marquee win to push them in the right direction.
UMass at Saint Louis, Thursday, 9 p.m.: This is one of the more underrated games of the week, as two teams expected to finish in the upper echelon of the conference square off at Chaifetz Arena. The Minutemen carry a 7-game winning streak into the game while the Billikens bring an 8-game win streak of their own.
Saint Louis at Temple, Saturday, 6 p.m.: The Billikens get a quick turnaround from Thursday night’s A-10 opener when they have to travel to Temple for a Saturday night tilt. If it weren’t for the additions of Butler and VCU to the fold this year, this would be an A-10 championship preview. Game can be seen on ESPNU.
Follow Stephen Hewitt on Twitter @steve_hewitt or send him an email at email@example.com.