A10 Tournament: Preview & Odds

    
March 11th, 2009

This is one in a series of conference tournament previews, in which I run down all the teams involved, give a brief statistical review and present the log5 projections, using in-conference offensive and defensive efficiency. The basic log5 methodology comes from Bill James, and this is an area Ken Pomeroy has looked at in the past as well. I claim nothing new in the application, but obviously with slightly different methodologies, these numbers may differ from others you find.  I don’t claim to be an expert on any particular conference, and I’m sure there are some mis-characterizations on some players I’ve seen sparingly at best, so please add your thoughts in the comments. Anyway, with no further ado, the preview follows below:

 

Atlantic-10 Tournament

Held in Atlantic City, NJ, the A-10 tournament features 12 of the league’s 14 teams, with the top four earning a bye directly to the quarterfinals.

 

#

Team

QF

SF

F

W

1

Xavier

100.00%

88.67%

60.89%

48.87%

2

Rhode Island

100.00%

67.75%

48.71%

16.23%

3

Dayton

100.00%

58.88%

21.08%

3.92%

4

Temple

100.00%

79.29%

32.52%

22.72%

5

Saint Joseph's

71.34%

17.42%

3.51%

1.55%

6

Richmond

68.91%

32.27%

10.66%

1.80%

7

Duquesne

59.98%

21.43%

12.61%

2.82%

8

La Salle

55.47%

6.82%

1.75%

0.67%

9

St. Louis

44.53%

4.51%

0.99%

0.33%

10

Massachusetts

40.02%

10.82%

5.30%

0.87%

11

St. Bonaventure

31.09%

8.84%

1.64%

0.14%

12

Charlotte

28.66%

3.29%

0.33%

0.08%

 

Xavier is the clear favorite, but Temple and Rhode Island have a decent shot of taking the title, and Dayton is probably somewhat better than its odds would suggest. The bottom eight teams are separated by a relatively small amount, with Duquesne and Richmond looking like the best bets for a surprise advancements.

 

#1 – Xavier Musketeers (24-6, 12-4) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.174

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (Sweet Sixteen)

 

Xavier has put together an excellent season, but didn’t have a great finish, going 4-4 over the last month, and struggling to get wins on the road. Still, its been the best team in the conference by a mile, putting up the conference’s top offense and defense. The Musketeers are excellent three-point shooters and rebounders, but have committed a lot of turnovers, which has caused them of trouble at times. They also force few turnovers, and foul often on the defensive end, but spectacular interior defending, holding opponents to just 43% from two, makes up for it.

 

Player to watch:

6-8 JR Derrick Brown, 13.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 57.8 eFG% - Brown is Xavier’s leading scorer, and its most efficient offensive option, a very good inside scorer who can complement his game with a strong showing from behind the arc, and the team’s best rebounder as well.

 

 

#2 – Rhode Island Rams (22-9, 11-5) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.087

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1999 (1st Round)

 

Rhode Island finished atop a three-way tie for second, but in EM, it sits 3rd in the league, and isn’t particularly strong at either end of the floor. The Rams are excellent three-point shooters, but take most of their attempts inside the arc, where they’ve only been average. Their defensive game also depends on inside play, as they have typically struggled to hold opponents’ scoring down from two-point range. Rhode Island’s been a lot stronger defending the perimeter, forcing a lot of turnovers and shutting down the long-distance shot pretty well.

 

Player to watch:

6-3 SR Jimmy Baron, 16.8 PPG, 2.7 RPG,60.3 eFG% - Baron is one of the country’s premier shooters, at 45% from behind the arc and 89% at the free-throw line. He also turns the ball over very rarely, and the Rams do a good job by getting him the ball pretty often. There’s few players in the country who can rack up points behind the arc as quickly and effectively as Baron.

 

 

#3 – Dayton Flyers (25-6, 11-5) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.013

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2004 (1st Round)

 

Dayton is another team that had an excellent start, but fell off towards the end, finishing the season 4-4 after a 21-2 start. The Flyers have been very unimpressive by efficiency margin standards, just barely out-scoring its opponents, and not looking like a top-tier A-10 team. The problem has been their poor offense, struggling with shots from two-point range and from the free throw line, and committing a lot of turnovers. Their defense has been better, but has only been average in stopping shots, and they’ve fouled pretty often.

 

Player to watch:

6-8 SO Chris Wright, 13.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 49.7 eFG% - Wright leads the Flyers in scoring and rebounding, and while he’s an efficient player, his percentages have really fallen off from his spectacular, injury-interrupted first season. His 51% from two is solid, but he needs to cut out his three-point shots, and while his 67% free throw shooting is decent, but doesn’t allow him to take full advantage of his opportunities.

 

 

#4 – Temple Owls (19-11, 11-5) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.124

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (1st Round)

 

The Owls are the second favorite for the conference title, and will likely face a difficult challenge against Xavier in the semifinals. Their strength is defense, especially inside the arc; they dominate the defensive glass and hold opponents to just 43% from two. They are somewhat vulnerable on the outside, as they don’t get opponents to cough the ball up much, and allow a fairly high percentage of threes. On the offensive end, Temple’s three-point shooting has fallen off a little in conference play, but it’s still been pretty solid overall because it rarely turns the ball over.

 

Player to watch:

6-5 SR Dionte Christmas, 19.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 51.5 eFG% - The conference’s joint leading scorer, Christmas is a dangerous player who puts up a lot of shots, and makes percentages that are just good enough to keep him efficient.

 

 

#5 – Saint Joseph’s Hawks (16-14, 9-7) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.026

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (1st Round)

 

St. Joe’s started the conference season 7-1, but hit a five-game losing streak in mid-February that dropped it to 5th in the standings. It’s been above average defensively, holding opponents to fairly low percentages from both two and three, and succeeding despite forcing few turnovers. The Hawks haven’t been as good on the offensive end, as they shoot mostly twos, and not particularly well. They are the conference’s best free throw shooters at 74%, and get a good number of points from the line.

 

Player to watch:

6-9 SR Ahmad Nivins, 19.2 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 62.5 eFG% - Leading the conference in both scoring and rebounding, Nivins is the main player in the A-10 who has a real chance of being in the NBA draft, which isn’t surprising when you see just how dominant he is inside, shooting a great percentage and getting to the free throw line seemingly at will, where he converts 79% of chances.

 

 

#6 – Richmond Spiders (17-14, 9-7) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.002

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2004 (1st Round)

 

The Spiders had an excellent final game, beating Xavier to left themselves into the four-way tie at 9-7. They have been the weakest of the top eight teams, though not by much, mostly due to struggles on the defensive end. They are the conference’s worst rebounders, and commit far too many fouls, which wastes their ability to force turnovers and their decent inside defending. Richmond is a solid offensive team that leads the A-10 in holding onto the ball, and shoots well from two-point range, but takes most of its shots from outside, where it hits under a third of attempts.

 

Player to watch:

6-4 JR David Gonzalvez, 15.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 55.4 eFG% - Gonzalvez has slowed down in the final month of the season, but is the team’s best three point shooter, and is the most efficient in a group of solid scoring options.

 

 

#7 – Duquesne Dukes (17-14, 9-7) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.036

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1977 (1st Round)

 

Duquesne has been one of the conference’s better teams overall, and looks like it has the potential to cause some trouble for the higher seeds, though a potential game with Rhode Island would be a tough hurdle to face. The Dukes are have been excellent offensively, using a fast paced style with a lot of three attempts to open up the inside, where they shoot 53%. They make a decent number of those three attempts, but the inside play is the most important part of their offensive game. Of course, the reason that they are 9-7 with this offense is that their defense hasn’t been very good; they have led the A-10 in forcing turnovers, but are the worst team outside of Fordham at defending shots, allowing well over 50% from two and 38% from three.

 

Player to watch:

6-4 SR Aaron Jackson, 18.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.7 SPG, 58.4 eFG% - Jackson was one of the players involved in the unfortunate shooting incident in 2006, and is the only one of the injured players still on the team. He’s notable for much more than that though, as he’s become the conference’s best guard. He’s an excellent shooter, especially from two, where he’s hit 60% of attempts, and has put up a very good assist rate. Jackson has been especially strong over the last month, averaging more than 20 points over his last nine games.

 

 

#8 – La Salle Explorers (18-12, 9-7) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.004

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1992 (1st Round)

 

La Salle enters tournament play on a four-game winning streak, and is the last team in the tournament to finish with an efficiency margin above zero. The Explorers have been good at maintaining a possession advantage on the defensive end, solid rebounders who have forced a lot of turnovers in A-10 play, which has compensated enough for their poor defense on threes to give them one of the league’s better defenses. La Salle is also strong on the offensive glass, but they’ve needed to be, as their shooting percentages have been weak, and they have had trouble holding onto the ball.

 

Player to watch:

6-6 JR Kimmani Barrett, 11.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 51.9 eFG% - Barrett is second on the team in scoring, and while he doesn’t always end up with a lot of shots, he’s effective when he does shoot, an excellent inside and outside scorer who get to the line well.

 

 

#9 – St. Louis Billikens (17-13, 8-8) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.015

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2000  (1st Round)

 

The Billikens had a strong season going until the final three games, when an ill-timed losing streak dropped them all the way to 9th. They play the slowest system in the league, but it hasn’t really worked offensively, as just average  shooting percentages are dragged down by turnovers and poor rebounding. They have been stronger defensively, but are still only average, despite some of the conference’s best defending on the perimeter. Opponents take few outside shots against St. Louis, and it just hasn’t been able to consistently defend the inside well enough to hold opponents’ scores down. As you might expect from a slow paced team, they are good on the defensive glass, but force few turnovers.

 

Player to watch:

6-2 SR Kevin Lisch, 14.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 46.4 eFG% - Lisch leads the team in scoring, and is the Billikens’ best three-point shooter, but his appalling two-point shooting, just 32%, undoes a lot of his good work.

 

 

#10 – Massachusetts Minutemen (12-17, 7-9) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.001

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1998 (1st Round)

 

UMass is the last of the A-10 teams to sit in this logjam right around the .500 mark, and picked up arguably the conference’s best win when they shocked Kansas in Kansas City. The Minutemen are above average scorers, taking and making a lot of threes, but aren’t great on the offensive glass and rarely get to the free-throw line. Their serious problems, though,  have been at the defensive end, where they have the worst record of any team in the tournament. There’s not much Massachusetts does well when defending, it allows opponents to make a lot of shots and struggles to prevent them from having a big possession advantage, with a poor turnover rate and weak rebounding.

 

Player to watch:

6-8 SR Tony Gaffney, 11.5 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 3.9 BPG, 51.4 eFG% - Gaffney isn’t the primary offensive focus for UMass, but he’s a good shooter who excels in the other aspects of the game, one of only two A-10 players to average a double-double and an strong defender who has great steal and block totals.

 

 

#11 – St. Bonaventure Bonnies (15-14, 6-10) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.066

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2000 (1st Round)

 

There doesn’t look to be much too notable in the season for the Bonnies, but after failing to break the four-win barrier for four seasons, this is a nice improvement and a positive sign for the future. They run the conference’s fastest pace, but are the worst offensive team at the tournament, as they do get a good number of high-percentage chances in transition, but are the conference’s worst at turning the ball over, giving it up once of every four times down the floor. Their inability to hit long-range shots further hampers their chances of putting up points. Unlike a lot of fast-paced teams, they force very few turnovers, but are decent defenders because of good rebounding and an ability to lock down the outside.

 

Player to watch:

6-9 FR Andrew Nicholson, 12.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.7 BPG, 60.7 eFG% - The Canadian freshman started his college career with a big season, shooting more than 60% from the field and putting up one of the best block rates in the country. He’s also a good rebounder, but his free throw shooting could use some work.

 

 

#12 – Charlotte 49ers (11-19, 5-11) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.053

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2005 (1st Round)

 

Charlotte managed to get the last spot in the tournament, despite a 1-4 finish that saw its only win come against Fordham. This is a team that beat Xavier last month, played a close early season game with Clemson, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. The 49ers have put up a lot of threes, but when you make only 28% of attempts, that’s not a very good thing. They’ve been OK in the other offensive categories, but with that many wasted shots, they’ve had one of the conference’s worst offenses. It’s a shame for them that opponents don’t have the same problem from long-distance, as they allow 36% on opposition three-pointers. Charlotte does defend well inside, and forces a good number of turnovers, but it hasn’t been enough to keep them out of the bottom part of the conference.

 

Player to watch:

6-7 SR Lamont Mack, 15.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 45.1 eFG% - Mack puts up a lot of shots when he’s on the floor, a nearly Stephen Curry level of importance to the 49ers. However, despite his high point totals, he’s actually a significant detriment to his team, as his poor shooting, especially 43% from inside the arc, means a lot of those shots are wasted.

 

My statistical all-Atlantic-10 team:

Duquesne SR G Aaron Jackson, 18.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.7 SPG, 58.4 eFG%

Temple SR G Dionte Christmas, 19.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 51.5 eFG%

Saint Joseph’s SR F Ahmad Nivins, 19.2 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 62.5 eFG%

Massachusetts SR F Tony Gaffney, 11.5 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 3.9 BPG, 51.4 eFG%

Xavier JR F Derrick Brown, 13.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 57.8 eFG%

 

 

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