This weekend,Brooklyn will play host to more than hipsters from Nebraska who want to try their hand at making artisanal pickles while wearing ironic t-shirts and skinny jeans. The A10 descends on the Barclays Center and brings with it a fair amount of intrigue, particularly around the bubble. Only Dayton seems to be comfortably in the Big Dance, although this Flyer certainly doesn’t want to see what happens if UD drops its first game. The bubble, on the other hand, is littered with A10 teams. VCU, St. Bonaventure, and the Stupid Flapping Hawk (TM pending) are all in the tournament based on most current projections (including ours) but they are in very precarious positions. If you’re prone to rooting for the conference to do as well as possible in the NCAA Tournament, then you’re rooting hard for chalk to advance at least past Friday. Anyone winning this tournament outside of the top 4 would almost certainly cannibalize one of the conference’s own bids and possibly diminish the conference’s profile. Will the chalk advance? Let’s find out!
The A10’s Version of the First Four
Look, these teams are awful. There’s a reason why I felt perfectly fine not including these bozos in this tournament preview. Tonight SLU knocked off George Mason and La Salle beat Duquesne. Whatever. Let’s move on.
Tomorrow is where the real battle begins. The bracket initially seems to do a lot of favors for Dayton, but I’m not so sure that’s true mainly because the best game of the day figures to be the Fordham/Richmond tilt. Fordham (very) quietly won its last 4 conference games but that might not mean a whole lot since Richmond handled Fordham twice already this year. Still, of the teams outside of the top 4 Richmond seems the most likely to go on a run. You’re looking at a fairly deep Spiders team with some serious offensive talent and great assist to turnover ratio. Yeah, they’re only 15-15, but they hung right with Dayton last week in the best game the Flyers played in at least a month. I think the Spiders make it a trifecta against Fordham.
The other games are somewhat less interesting. George Washington should easily dispose of George Mason. GW is pretty far outside the field looking in but if they make the title game it could be at least more interesting on Sunday. I’m not sure any team in the country had a harder run this season than Rhode Island did in terms of injuries. They had a chance at a great season. Still, I see Rhody having enough to outlast a legitimately terrible UMass team. The Davidson/La Salle game should be…played? Davidson beat La Salle handily in their only meeting this year and I think the Wildcats do it again.
Friday Night Fights
Here come the big boys! Each one of these games deserves its own sub-head now.
#1 Dayton/#9 Richmond
This game terrifies me as a Dayton fan. I got a lot less confident when I saw this:
Yeah, that’s not ideal. I’ve been on record all year that Pollard is the most important player for the Flyers and I’m sticking to my guns here which is why I think that sitting him if he’s still hurting is absolutely the right move. Whether Pollard plays or not, I’m still taking Dayton here for 2 reasons: 1) Scoochie and 2) Richmond doesn’t have two of those games in them. Not only is Scoochie on the hottest hot streak of his life setting a new career high in back-to-back games but he always plays well when he goes to New York (where he’s from). Richmond played out of their minds on senior night against UD and I just don’t see that happening again. All of this being said it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Richmond won this game. It should be fun.
#5 George Washington/#4 Stupid Flapping Hawk
St. Joe’s is not playing well right now after going on a pretty impressive run through the first two months of conference play. They did, however, just hammer GW the only time they played this season and that was at GW. So why am I picking against ST. Joe’s here? Not only did St. Joe’s completely choke away at a conference title by losing their last 2 games but GW really needs this game. I’m going to pick for desperation here (George Washington) which means that St. Joe’s will be doing some serious sweating on Sunday.
#2 VCU/#7 URI
Rhody understandably hasn’t generally played well lately since they’ve seemingly lost half the team to injury. VCU beat the hell out of URI in their one meeting this year and has to be fuming after fumbling at the metaphorical goal line twice against UD in their last game. I’m thinking the Rams take this one fairly easily. URI has to be about out of gas by now.
#6 Davidson/#3 St. Bonaventure
Davidson lost at the Bonnies in their only meeting this year but that was each team’s first conference game so I don’t put a ton of stock in it. Davidson’s been a strange team all season, winning games against some of the better teams in the conference while losing to most of the terrible teams. That would normally indicate that the Bonnies should be nervous heading into this matchup but I don’t think they’ll have a ton to worry about. In their past 10 games, St. Bonaventure is 10-1 in the last 11 games with the only loss being an incredibly weird one at La Salle. They’re easily the hottest team in the tournament and I think that streak continues for at least one more game. Bonnies.
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
Ok, so the games are in the afternoon but nobody writes fun songs about fighting on Saturday afternoon. People use those as a lead-in to AA meetings.
#2 VCU/#3 St. Bonaventure
Of all of the potential matchups in this tournament I had the hardest time picking a winner in this one. I’ll say this, though: I think this is the true championship game. I’d pick either team over the winner of the UD/Richmond/GW/Stupid Flapping Hawk bracket. The Bonnies are hot and VCU is just a quality team that is rounding into form at the right point in the season. In their only matchup this year VCU beat the Bonnies pretty badly and, although I don’t expect the margin to be quite as severe, I do think VCU is the better team here. That just barely gives VCU an edge in this one, but count me in as a fan of both of these teams going into the NCAA Tournament.
#1 Dayton/#5 George Washington
Here’s where it gets tricky. I’m not all that sure that Dayton beats Richmond, but I think they do in probably a 60/40 scenario. I also think that if GW loses to St. Joe’s that St. Joe’s is representing the top of this bracket in the championship. This is a wordy way of saying I’m very unsure of what’s going to happen at the top of this bracket. I might be predicting a game that never happens and we’re talking about a Richmond/St. Joe’s matchup here instead. Still, I picked these teams so I’m going to pick this game. Dayton’s a battle tested group of guys that just aren’t playing very well at the moment but have a ton of talent and a knack for winning close games. GW is a desperate team which counts for a lot (especially if UD is voluntarily sitting a key player) but they still only went 1-4 against the conference’s top 4 teams. I’m already betting on them matching that win total in this tournament. I’m definitely not betting on them exceeding it. UD gets this one in an ugly war of attrition.
#1 Dayton/#2 VCU
Nothing like a chalk final with the added bonus of a rematch after a very hard-fought game just a week earlier for the regular season title right? If you watched the first game you probably came away thinking that VCU was better than UD but for some truly atrocious free throw shooting and pretty remarkable heroics from Scoochie Smith and (to a much lesser degree) Kyle Davis. You would probably be right. Now you’re possibly looking at this game without Dayton having Kendall Pollard? Yeah. VCU. I really hope this one happens because it would probably be the most nationally intriguing final. In case you care, and if you’ve read this far you probably do, I’d rank them Dayton/VCU, Dayton/Bonnies (Dayton’s by far the biggest draw on the top of the bracket), Richmond/VCU (rivalry game, potential bid larceny), St. Joe’s/VCU (Martelli is a big name), St. Joe’s/St. Bonaventure (people would think this is a bubble game but at this point it wouldn’t be), GW/VCU (potential bid larceny).
Here’s the bracket I submitted before the tournament started to David Jablonski’s A10 Tournament pool (yes, this is a thing) just for posterity’s sake.
Happy watching! It should be a fun weekend.