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Previewing the A-10 semifinals

3/13/2010

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- It’s another dreary, rainy and windswept day here in this gritty seaside city. In other words, a perfect excuse to hang out at Boardwalk Hall this afternoon to watch what should be two great games in the Atlantic-10 semifinals.

Three of the top four seeds advanced to the A-10’s final four, and in fact it’s the first time the top three seeds advanced this far since 2006. Temple, Xavier and Richmond are NCAA tourney locks and No. 5 Rhode Island woke up this morning as the last team in the field of 65 in Joe Lunardi’s Bubble Math.

No. 1 Temple (27-5) vs. No. 5 Rhode Island (23-8), 1 p.m. ET

What’s at stake: Temple is the only team still here in AC with a winning record (15-9) in the semifinal round. But the A-10 regular-season champion (Temple has the honor this season) hasn’t won the conference tourney title since George Washington in 2005. The Owls are the two-time defending champion in this tournament while the Rams won their only conference title way back in 1999.

Who has the edge: Temple is 2-0 against Rhody this year, including a tough four-point overtime win (68-64) in Kingston, R.I., on Jan. 10 and a 78-56 walk in Philly on Feb. 13. URI played its best defensive game of the season in beating Saint Louis on Friday but the Rams will have to come up with an even better effort against the well-rounded and versatile Owls. Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez present a challenging inside-outside attack to defend. And URI better be prepared to pound the glass like it did against SLU.

Statistically speaking: Temple has won seven consecutive A-10 tournament games and the Owls are now 7-1 all-time in conference tourney games played at Boardwalk Hall. The Owls also come in with a current eight-game winning streak.

-- The 63 points scored by Rhode Island on Friday were the fewest for the Rams in a win this season (they also scored 63 when beating Oklahoma St. 63-59 on Jan. 2). And the 47 points allowed by URI were the fewest for a Rams opponent this season (best the 57 allowed vs. Brown in the season-opening 78-57 win).

Quotable: “They are a very good top 20 team. Excellent players, great coach. They have excellent chemistry and its going to be an excellent challenge for us. We are looking forward to it. We have to be ready intense wise as the [Temple] crowd will be here. But, again, that is what you play for. Our guys are looking forward to the challenge.” -- Rhode Island coach Jim Baron

No. 2 Xavier (24-7) vs. No. 3 Richmond (25-7), 3:30 p.m. ET

What’s at stake: The bad news is that Xavier is just 3-6 in this round of A-10 play. The good news is that all three semifinal round wins eventually became conference tournament championships as the Musketeers are a perfect 3-0 in A-10 title games. Richmond has only played in one A-10 final (a 73-60 loss to XU in ’02) and is just 1-1 in the semifinal round.

Who has the edge: Xavier needed double overtime to beat Richmond (78-76) on Feb. 28 in Cincinnati. Here’s hoping the rematch is that good. The Musketeers had the tougher quarterfinal game as they erased a 15-point second-half deficit against Dayton on Friday night. When it counted, guard Terrell Holloway delivered, as he drew the decisive technical foul against Dayton’s Rob Lowery to effectively seal the XU win. Against Richmond last month, Holloway scored seven of his team high 24 points in the second OT.

Statistically speaking: Xavier has advanced to the A-10 semifinals for an eighth consecutive season and the Musketeers have won eight straight and 12 of their last 13 games.

-- Richmond is 4-0 on neutral courts this season and comes into Saturday’s game having won three straight and 11 of its last 12.

Quotable: “I think we are looking forward to the rematch because at the end of the regulation it was a dead heat and they were able to win the game in overtime. We’re looking forward to it. I know they’ll be ready. I know they’ll be prepared. I know they’re a great program. We’re just pleased to be able to advance and try to play Xavier again.” -- Richmond coach Chris Mooney