Crunch time. We’ve finally reached the part of the season when the top teams are beginning to separate themselves and we can make pretty accurate guesses as to who we will be seeing next month in Brooklyn for what should be one of the most exciting conference tournaments in the country. Buckle up your seat belts, folks, this is going to be an exciting few weeks of basketball.
Countdown to the A-10 tournament at Barclays Center in Brooklyn: 24 days
In 140 characters or less, like on Twitter, I’ll explain my picks.
1. Virginia Commonwealth (20-5, 9-2 A-10): That’s right, for the first time all year, Butler is out of first here. The Rams were just way too good last week. At their peak.
2. Saint Louis (19-5, 8-2 A-10): SLU has won 7 in a row and playing as well as anyone. Wins against VCU + Butler this week will vault them to No. 1 next week, guaranteed.
3. Butler (21-5, 8-3 A-10): Did the Bulldogs hit their peak too early in the season?
4. La Salle (18-6, 8-3 A-10): The Explorers are quickly becoming a darkhorse to win the A-10 when the conference convenes on Brooklyn next month.
5. Charlotte (18-7, 6-5 A-10): I’m STILL not sold on Charlotte. After a huge win at Butler, the 49ers laid an egg at SLU. But they’ve played a brutal sched in February.
6. Temple (17-8, 6-5 A-10): The Owls saved face after giving Duquesne its first league victory with a clutch win at UMass. But the bubble is close to bursting for them.
7. UMass (16-8, 6-5 A-10): It’s danger zone for the Minutemen to make the Dance after losing to VCU and Temple. They can’t really have any more slip-ups.
8. Xavier (14-10, 7-4 A-10): The Muskies are technically 5th in the A-10 right now, which all things considered, is pretty amazing.
9. George Washington (11-12, 5-5 A-10): It’s honestly a crapshoot from 9-13. I’m not going to punish the Colonials for losing to VCU.
10. Saint Joseph’s (14-10, 5-6 A-10): No idea what happened to this team. They’re a real head-scratcher.
11. Richmond (15-11, 5-6 A-10): Despite this ranking, the Spiders have an RPI of 85. They’re capable, but they haven’t found much consistency this season.
13. St. Bonaventure (11-13, 4-7 A-10)
14. Rhode Island (8-16, 3-8 A-10)
15. Fordham (6-20, 2-9 A-10)
16. Duquesne (8-17, 1-10 A-10)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Khalif Wyatt, Temple: The senior guard gets this for the second straight week. Although the Owls lost to lowly Duquesne, Wyatt still scored 35 points (15-15 FT, plus 6 rebounds, 6 assists) and it wouldn’t have even been close without him. He followed that performance up with 24 points (6 threes), including 17 in the second half to lead Temple past UMass on Saturday night. At 19.8 points per game, Wyatt leads the A-10 in scoring and ranks 16th in the country.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR WATCH
Khalif Wyatt, Temple: 19.8 points per game, 4.0 assists per game
Treveon Graham, VCU: 15.8 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game
Ramon Galloway, La Salle: 17.3 points per game, 3.8 assists per game, 2.3 steals per game
Rotnei Clarke, Butler: 17.2 points per game, 3.7 3-pointers per game, 42.9 3-point percentage
Chaz Williams, UMass: 15.7 points per game, 7.3 assists per game, 2.0 steals per game
IF THE SEASON ENDED TODAY…
Here’s what the Atlantic 10 tournament would look like if it started today.
(9) George Washington
Winner plays 1) VCU
Winner plays 4) Butler
(10) Saint Joseph’s
Winner plays (2) Saint Louis
Winner plays (3) La Salle
GAMES OF THE WEEK
VCU at Saint Louis, Tuesday, 7 p.m.: Preview of the Atlantic 10 championship? No. 1 and No. 2 in the A-10 battle it out at Chaifetz Arena.
Saint Louis at Butler, Friday, 7 p.m.: The Billikens finish out a difficult week against ranked Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse, where the Bulldogs lost their first game of the year at to Charlotte last week. This one’s on ESPNU.
Follow Stephen Hewitt on Twitter @steve_hewitt or send him an email at email@example.com.