3-point shot: A-10 up for grabs

1. The A-10 race was initially going to be Xavier and everyone else. Now it’s everyone else. Xavier’s free fall is hard to comprehend. The Musketeers lost to La Salle by 10 points in the A-10 opener Wednesday. In a nonconference game Temple took out Duke in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Dayton upset Saint Louis in overtime and Saint Joe’s did the same against Duquesne. The race is officially wide open for the title, let alone second, third, fourth and fifth. La Salle coach John Giannini said at A-10 media day in October that he really thought his team could be one of his best, even though he was starting over. At 11-4, he may be right.

2. Gonzaga coach Mark Few has been pleasantly surprised by the progression of Sam Dower. The 6-9 sophomore can be a difference maker for the Zags if he continues his recent play. Dower scored 20 points in 22 minutes (how about that efficiency) in the road win at Xavier on Dec. 31, and prior to that opened up the WCC with a 15-point outing against Portland. The preseason hype for the Zags was focused more on Elias Harris, Robert Sacre and guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. But Dower could be the difference for the Zags in their quest to be a deep NCAA team.

3. Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin made the smart move by not starting Yancy Gates when he returned from a six-game suspension. Cronin may not have done that if the Bearcats were struggling. But he had leverage to do what he pleased since the Bearcats had won six straight without Gates. The Cincinnati turnaround from the brawl may be one of the most significant in-season turnarounds for a potentially dysfunctional team (see: losing to Presbyterian) in recent memory. The Bearcats are going to be competing for a top-5 finish in the Big East for the next two months.