2007 Atlantic 10 Tournament Preview

2007 Atlantic 10 Tournament Preview

2007 Atlantic 10 Tournament Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 03/06/2007

I know that the Atlantic 10 doesn't scream, "SEXY" or "EXCITING". In fact, the conference's name can best be compared to that of K-Mart - at one time it meant something significant but now it's more of a punch line.

But believe me when I tell you that the A-10 Tournament, which begins Wednesday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City has the potential to be one of the more entertaining and unpredictable conference championships in the country.

No really, I'm serious. With some classic rivalries, plenty of high-scoring-and-no-defense teams, some of the most underrated stars in the nation, a few desperate underachievers and a pair of potential NCAA Tournament sleepers, I think that the A-10 has all the makings of an outstanding tournament.

Here's my psychoanalytical breakdown of the psychosis devolving in the Atlantic 10:

THE FAVORITE:
Xavier - The Musketeers have won two of the past three titles and are the top seed by virtue of their tiebreaking win over UMass this year. They have the No. 2 offense and No. 3 defense, along with the league's top scoring margin (+13). Their inside-outside duo of Justin Doellman and Stan Burrell are as good as any in the nation. Xavier has won eight straight and 10-of-11, so it appears they're peaking at the right time.

THE CONTENDERS:
Massachusetts - If you don't know Stephane Lasme then you don't know about one of the most dominant big men in the country. Lasme is just the fourth college player to register four triple-doubles in the same season, and each time he did so with 10+ blocked shots. The Minutemen dominate teams defensively, allowing just one of their last 10 opponents to score over 70 points. They've won six consecutive games, outscoring opponents by an average of 76.7 to 58.7.

George Washington - Last year's big dogs lost too much talent to compete for another conference title, but they finished a respectable third. They beat Va. Tech on a neutral court and hung 84 in a loss at UMass, so they can play. The trouble is they're streaky as hell. The Colonials are on a five-game winning streak. Before that they lost four straight. Before that they won five straight. Also, none of their losses were by less than six points and five of the eight Ls were by double digits.

THE SLEEPER:

Dayton - If the team that beat Louisville on a neutral court and went 15-2 at home shows up then the Flyers could do some damage.

St. Louis - The Bilikens came within a three-point loss at Massachusetts of becoming the only team to beat each of the top four seeds. They are the third-best three-point shooting team in the conference, and when they're making their shots from deep they can be tough. Also, they have a legit seven-footer in the middle in Ian Vouyoukas. One or two bounces and this team could find itself in the semis. Or they could lose the first day.

MATCH-UPS:
(Second round games)
Xavier vs. Dayton-Charlotte - I think Charlotte has upset potential in the first round, but only because Dayton is awful on the road. Regardless, whoever wins will likely get freight-trained by the X-Men. Xavier was 3-0 SU and ATS against these two. I think it's dicey to lay more than 11 points, though.

Rhode Island vs. Fordham-Richmond - Beware the Rams. Rhode Islands can score, score and score some more. I wanted to add them to my list of sleepers but I didn't. Mostly because they were beaten by both Richmond and Fordham in their last two games.

Massachusetts vs. St. Louis-Duquesne - If St. Louis can hold off Duquesne (which has been one of the best stories of the year) then they'll have great value against another slow down team in the Minutemen. Duquesne has lost seven straight but are just the type of New Life team that could cause problems.

George Washington vs. St. Joseph's-Temple winner - Any time you bet the Hawks you're betting that they'll have a strong shooting night. That's an iffy wager. Temple doesn't defend the three-pointer well at all, which is bad news for them. But GW is third in the conference in that category, which is bad news for the Hawks.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:

Of all of the non-BCS conference tournaments I think that this one has the potential for the most upsets and general chaos. Because there are so many fatally flawed and one-dimensional clubs vying for the automatic bid I think it will be a wide-open race. I would say that there will be a lot of value on the underdogs - and I do think there will be - but I also see a lot of blowouts in the first two rounds. As always, just look for a hot team and a couple of favorable matchups. But don't just bet chalk here and expect to walk out unscathed.

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Re: 2007 Atlantic 10 Tournament Preview

Musketeers ready to take A-10 title ?
Wed, Mar 7, 2007
By Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- The stakes are completely different for Xavier this time around.

Heading into the Atlantic 10 tournament last year, the Musketeers were desperate. They knew the only way they could make the NCAA tournament was by winning the A10's automatic berth.

Four wins in four days got them there.

This time around, Xavier (23-7) has a margin for error. The Musketeers won the conference's regular-season title and are likely to make the NCAA tournament no matter what happens in Atlantic City, N.J., this week.

''In recent years, we've been cornered as we've gone into the conference tournament,'' coach Sean Miller said. ''There wasn't a lot of confusion on where we stood.''

The Musketeers are trying to paint themselves into a corner heading into their opening game of the tournament on Thursday. They're telling themselves that an NCAA tournament berth isn't a sure thing, even though their RPI ranking at No. 32 and their unbeaten mark in February suggest otherwise.

They've set a goal to prevent their focus from slipping. Not since Temple won the tournament in 2000 and 2001 has anyone done it back-to-back. Xavier has never won consecutive A10 tournaments.

''That would be a heck of an achievement in and of itself,'' Miller said.

Xavier won the tournament in 1998, 2002, 2004 and 2006. No other team won it more than twice during that nine-year span.

The question is whether the Musketeers can keep the edge they've developed in the last month and avoid an upset. They came together during their eight-game winning streak, led by point guard Drew Lavender.

During the streak, Lavender has averaged a team-high 16.3 points while shooting 51 percent from the field. He's had 41 assists and only seven turnovers during the eight games.

The biggest change has been in their attitude. A team that got pushed around early in the season has developed a lot of confidence in the last month. No one pushes them around anymore.

''It's important right now for our team to be the same,'' Miller said. ''I know this: If we go into that conference tournament and we are the same as we've been playing, it's going to take a great game by the other team to beat us.

''There's a reason why we've won 23 games. There's a reason we've won eight in a row. We're playing good. The thing that we really are trying to do is to be that same team on Thursday, no different.''

The struggles in the first half of the season gave players a resolve to finish strong. In the last five seasons, Xavier went 18-6 in A10 and NCAA tournament appearances, including a run to the Elite Eight in 2003-04.

''We want another run,'' said senior forward Justin Cage, who played on the Elite Eight team.

This week, the Musketeers are working on assuring themselves of a berth and perhaps improving their seed as well.

''We don't know what's going to happen,'' senior forward Brandon Cole said, referring to the NCAA tournament selection. ''With a bid decision like that, we don't want to be in that position (to get left out).

''We want it all.''

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