By Matt Ruder
Defending Tourney Champion: Richmond
All Tournament Team:
G Ramone Moore
G Khalif Wyatt (MVP)
G Tu Holloway
F Brian Conklin
F Kevin Dillard
Predicted Champion: Temple
Wire to wire, Temple has dominated the Atlantic 10 this season, including great non-conference wins against Wichita State and Duke. The Owls have played well behind the solid play of Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt. Juan Fernandez is one of the best point guards in the league, averaging 4 assists per game. As leading rebounder Michael Eric becomes healthy again, the Owls look to take Atlantic City by storm to try to improve their NCAA tournament seeding, currently a No. 5 in Joe Lunardi’s projections and a No. 4 in Deuce2Sports' Bracketography. Head Coach Fran Dunphy has a very talented squad that seeks to mirror fellow A-10 teams Xavier and Richmond and play in the second weekend of March Madness.
Possible Darkhorse: Xavier
Prior to a certain brawl with cross-town rival Cincinnati, Xavier was a legitimate Top-10 team that looked poised to get a high seed and make a run at the Final Four this year. After winning the fight, the Musketeers have lost five of six games before rebounding to finish a subpar 9-5 record in the A-10. Xavier endured a challenging non-conference schedule and has a few nice wins, but could erase all doubt about their bubble chances by winning big in Atlantic City. Tu Holloway has All-American talent and can be a force for this team.
Things to Watch for:
- Bubble teams in Atlantic City: There are a number of teams fighting for their tournament lives during the A-10 tournament. Saint Louis, Saint Joseph’s, Xavier, and Dayton all could use a few marquee wins to strengthen their resumes. It’s likely only two will get bids, but a soft bubble and some strong play from many of these teams could certainly help.
- Majerus’ record in Tourney: Since Rick Majerus took over the Saint Louis program in 2007, the Billikens have amassed a dismal 1-4 conference tournament record. This should change this year with strong play from veterans Brian Conklin and Kwamain Mitchell. SLU’s early wins over Washington, Villanova and Oklahoma have turned out to be near worthless to its resume, but despite a bad loss at Rhode Island, the Bills should be securing an at-large bid for the first NCAA appearance in 12 years.
- How do the Young Guns do? There are a couple of young teams in the A-10 this year that look to be a year off from being really good. Massachusetts has played well this season behind the strong play of sophomore Chaz Williams. Saint Joseph’s’ Langston Galloway is another young guard who can get hot quickly. It will be interesting to see how both teams play in the tournament while relying on young starters.