Friday, December 14, 2012
Conference Power Rankings: Atlantic 10
By Eamonn Brennan
Thanks to finals week, there hasn't been a ton of action in the Atlantic 10, and thus not much movement in the overall rankings. Anyway, you know enjoy while it lasts. It appears we've reached Peak A-10. Where we eventually go is anyone's guess.
1. Virginia Commonwealth: The Rams took over the top spot in these rankings last week, and their only action since was a victory at Old Dominion, which is an uncharacteristically bad team this season. But it does appear -- as it did during VCU's impressive run in the Battle 4 Atlantis -- that this athletic, hassling headache of a team is the best in the conference both with and without the ball.
2. Butler: The nation will have another high-profile chance to check out the Bulldogs this weekend, when they take on No. 1 Indiana in the Crossroads Classic, but it would be unwise to sleep on their tidy victory at Northwestern last Saturday. A road win at a Big Ten foe (even one as inconsistent as the Wildcats) is nothing to sneeze at, which is why I've given them the slight nod over Saint Joseph's and Temple. Let's see what they cook up for IU on Saturday.
3. Temple: Sure, Temple got smoked by Duke on Saturday, 90-67, but are we really supposed to punish a team for losing to the Blue Devils in East Rutherford, aka Durham North? I say no. And while Temple's schedule hasn't given us a great opportunity to evaluate the Owls otherwise, Khalif Wyatt and Scootie Randall did handle Villanova at Villanova, which is more than we can say for the next team in the rankings.
4. Saint Joseph's: Tuesday's loss to Villanova hurt. It hurt not only because it was a loss to Villanova, the Hawks' hated Holy War rival, though that would be enough. It hurt not only because of the now-infamous Halil Kanacevic double-bird (and subsequent two-game suspension). It also hurt because it was an entirely winnable game against a just-OK Villanova team, and all of a sudden that 29-point blowout at Creighton and neutral-court loss to since-exposed Florida State are not painting a very flattering portrait.
5. Charlotte: Nothing new here. I bumped Charlotte a handful of spots not only because its fans had been clamoring for love, but also because the 49ers deserved it -- a 9-0 start with a win at Davidson is good stuff, even if the other eight wins are decidedly blah. But the most significant test of the season comes Friday night at Miami. Ultimately, I'm reserving judgement until we see those 40 minutes (and anything less than a complete blowout won't change my opinion much). You can't knock the work to date.
6. Saint Louis: Nothing new for St. Louis since we last convened. I think the Billikens are better than sixth in this league when all is said and done -- first things first: get Kwamain Mitchell back on the court -- and they're already playing some of the best per-possession defense in the league. They'll be fine.
7. Xavier: The Musketeers' 7-2 record has both high and low points. There was the home drubbing of Butler, followed shortly by a neutral-court loss to Pacific. There was the victory at Purdue, followed immediately by a home loss to Vanderbilt. Xavier bounced back with a win over Kent State on Sunday, and I have long since learned to never, ever, ever count this program out of an A-10 or NCAA-tourney bid race, but Xavier just isn't defending all that well right now -- its defense ranks No. 138 in the country, per KenPom. If that doesn't improve we could see inconsistency all season.
8. Dayton: Did somebody say inconsistency? Hey-oh! That's the recurring theme of Dayton over the past few seasons (and in the first few weeks of these power rankings) -- weirdly enough, both before and after Archie Miller was hired -- and it has played out that way thus far this season. How a team loses to Weber State at home seven days before winning at Alabama, I'll never know. Anyway, the Flyers handled Miami (Ohio) at home last Saturday and should rack up another win over Florida Atlantic this Saturday. But then again, you never know.
9. La Salle: La Salle is a bit difficult to judge at this point. They snuck out of Northeastern with a 66-64 win on Saturday, which was an escape as much as a hard-fought road victory, and they've played some promising offense thus far. Ramon Galloway is still the star, but sophomore D.J. Peterson boasts a 141.6 offensive rating on just 9.1 percent usage -- he needs more touches. This weekend's trip to play Mike Muscala at Bucknell is the big one.
10. Richmond: Three years ago, a home win over Wake Forest would have been totally laudable thing. Alas, it is not three years ago. Now, a win over Wake means just another unimpressive win on your resume. The Spiders are playing some really efficient offense, but until they get a win against an identifiably good opponent, we can't be sure.
11. Duquesne: Against my better instincts, I happen to think West Virginia is a good team -- or, rather, that within a few weeks it is going to be good. There is too much talent to believe otherwise, despite the lack of evidence to date. Which is why Duquesne gets a boost here for knocking off (ha, "knocking off") the Mountaineers at home Tuesday night. Credit where it's due, you know?
12. Massachusetts: UMass hasn't played since last week's rankings, so nothing much new to report here. Saturday's home tilt against Elon won't help us sort much. Next Wednesday, when Ohio comes to town, we'll see if this team can beat solid-to-good opponents, or if it destined for a 17-win-ish sort of season.
13. St. Bonaventure: A three-point loss on the road is always hard to judge harshly -- it is hard to win on the road, almost regardless of the situation. But a three-point loss at Arkansas State is something of an indictment, particularly for a team that looked like it was going to struggle anyway. Cleveland State comes to town Saturday.
14. George Washington: Three consecutive losses for the Colonials since Dec. 4: at Bradley, versus Kansas State, at Rutgers. Not horrible, but not great, considering that 4-6 record also includes losses to Youngstown State and Mount St. Mary's. The Colonials actually defend pretty well -- they're No. 68 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency -- but they can't score. Alas.
15. Rhode Island.
Nothing new on either Rhody or Fordham -- Rhode Island is 2-7, Fordham is 1-8 (with a tough schedule, but still) -- and until either team springs a big win or rips off a couple in a row, we'll keep this last bit brief.