Breaking Down the Atlantic 10

For weeks now I have been waiting on things to sort themselves out in the Atlantic 10.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t exactly happened, as eight teams have between three and five losses in the league.  Throw in the fact that nine teams are in the RPI Top 100, and you have a deep league with almost no separation.

Here’s a brief look at those nine teams and their remaining schedules.


Temple (18-5, 7-2 A-10, RPI: 19)

The Owls are the only team even close to being comfortably in the field of 68, and they currently have a one-game lead in the loss column.  They rank first in offensive efficiency at 1.13 ppp in league games, thanks in large part to their shooting ability.  Temple is first in two-point shooting at 53.9% and second from long range at 41.8%, both of which help to offset the fact they are last in FTR and 10th in OReb%.  They have scored at least 1.12 ppp in their last six conference games and seven of their last eight.  The defense is improving in the wake of Micheal Eric’s return, as the Owls have allowed just one of their last five foes to score over 0.97 ppp.  They do have a tough remaining schedule with their next six games coming against Top 100 teams, but I still like them to win the regular season title.

Saint Louis (19-5, 7-3 A-10, RPI: 28)

Rick Majerus’ club is just behind Temple in efficiency margin at +0.11 in league games, but they are getting it done a different way.  Their defense ranks first in the league and is surrendering just 0.95 ppp.  They are first in TO% at a gaudy 24.7%, and eight of their 10 league opponents have turned the ball over on at least 24% of their possessions.  The Billikens have held eight A-10 foes to 1.00 ppp or less, including the last seven.  If not for their opponents shooting 78.1% from the stripe, these numbers might look even better.  Saint Louis ranks in the middle of the pack in offensive efficiency and are currently sixth or better in all four factors during conference games.  They take good care of the basketball, but they also take a relatively high percentage of their shots from beyond the arc despite hitting just 33.2% from deep.  Their scoring numbers have been up and down throughout A-10 play with four games of 0.97 ppp or less and four others with at least 1.14 ppp.  The schedule isn’t terrible with three games remaining against the bottom five teams in the league.

Saint Joseph’s (15-10, 5-5 A-10, RPI: 50)

The Hawks rank 11th in offensive efficiency and sixth on defense, and it’s somewhat surprising to see them at .500 in the league given their -0.02 efficiency margin in league games.  On offense, they rank ninth or worse in eFG%, FTR, and TO% and are dead last in three-point shooting at 28.6%.  They have been held to 1.00 ppp or less in six of their 10 conference games, but they also went for at least 1.14 ppp in three others.  Defensively, the Hawks rank first in FTR as well as two-point defense, but they allow opponents to hit 38.9% from beyond the arc and are dead last in TO%.  In the end, it’s been feast or famine for Saint Joe’s on the defensive end with five foes scoring 0.98 ppp or less and all of the others scoring 1.06 ppp or more.  Their two toughest games (Temple and UMass) are both at home, and they have three games left against teams in the league’s bottom five.

Xavier (16-8, 7-3 A-10, RPI: 61)

X’s fall from grace has been well-publicized, so I’ll spare you a recap.  The Musketeers are fifth in offensive efficiency with 1.06 ppp during A-10 play.  They are in the top half of the league in eFG%, TO%, and FTR, but they are just 11th in OReb%.  Xavier has scored at least 1.05 ppp in seven of their 10 conference games, and even when they were winning earlier in the season, they rarely surpassed that mark.  The Musketeers rank third defensively with 0.98 ppp, due in large part to the fact they held four of their first five A-10 opponents to 0.93 ppp or less.  They have done the same in their last two contests, but in most cases, their best defensive performances have come against the more offensively challenged teams in the league.  Statistically they are all over the map.  They rank second in eFG% and DReb%, but they are eighth in FTR and 11th in TO%.  The pre-brawl Musketeers held all eight of their opponents to 0.98 ppp or few, but 10 of the last 16 foes have eclipsed that mark.  The schedule doesn’t do them many favors with road trips to Temple, UMass, and Saint Louis remaining.

Massachusetts (18-6, 7-3 A-10, RPI: 65)

The Minutemen have been one of the more surprising teams in the league, thanks in part to their second-ranked defensive efficiency in conference play.  They are first in eFG% and three-point defense, third in FTR, and fourth in TO%.  UMass has been incredibly consistent on that end of the floor, with seven of their 10 opponents scoring 0.99 ppp or less and no one scoring over 1.03 ppp.  The offensive has been mediocre though and ranks eighth in league play.  They are second in FTR and shoot 52.2% on their twos, but they are just ninth in OReb% and are next to last in TO%.  Those woes have led to some uneven offensive performances with four games of 0.99 ppp or less and four others with at least 1.09 ppp.  They have four Top 100 wins already, and the upcoming schedule provides a number of chances for more with road games against Saint Joe’s, Dayton, and Temple along with home dates versus La Salle and Xavier.  The opportunities to enhance their profile are definitely there, and I expect UMass’ defense to keep them in virtually every game.

Dayton (14-9, 4-5 A-10, RPI: 71)

After dropping four straight, the Flyers are fading fast, but they do have seven Top 100 wins to their credit.  However, a -0.01 efficiency margin in A-10 play doesn’t bode well for their long-term prospects.  Offense isn’t the issue, as Dayton ranks third in offensive efficiency overall and first in OReb%.  They have scored at least 1.05 ppp in seven of their nine league games, including five performances with 1.14 ppp or more.  The defense has been abysmal though, allowing 1.11 ppp in conference play.  They rank 13th in eFG% and TO% and are dead last in FTR.  They have held just three opponents to 1.03 ppp or less, and they have allowed at least 1.18 ppp in five of their last seven contests.  The loss of big man Josh Benson has definitely played a factor, and the wheels have come off defensively.  The Flyers have four games left against the bottom five teams in the league, but they also travel to Xavier and host UMass.  If they can’t figure things out on defense, I’m not sure how much the opponents even matter though.

La Salle (17-8, 6-4 A-10, RPI: 76)

The Explorers are similar to Dayton, just not quite as bad on defense.  They are scoring an impressive 1.10 ppp in league play, which ranks second behind Temple.  They are hitting 44.8% from deep, which has propelled them to a strong eFG%, and they are second in TO%.  However, they are 12th or worse in FTR and OReb%, but they have still managed to score at least 1.03 ppp in eight of their 10 conference games and 1.10 or more in six of them.  Defensively they are surrendering 1.03 ppp and are in the bottom half of the league in a eFG%, FTR, and DReb%.  La Salle held their first two league foes to 0.96 ppp or less, but no one has been that low since.  They will need their offense to carry them in a key three-game stretch where they host Saint Louis, travel to UMass, and play Temple at home.

Duquesne (14-9, 5-4 A-10, RPI: 80)

Since the Dukes are ninth in both offensive and defensive efficiency, there doesn’t seem to be much staying power here.  But the fact remains Duquesne is 5-4 in the league with a decent RPI.  They are fourth in FTR but have the worst FT% in the league, and offense has definitely been an all or nothing proposition.  They have scored 1.00 ppp or less in five games but scored at least 1.11 ppp in the others, which came primarily against the league’s worst defenses.  Defensively, Duquesne has allowed opponents to shoot 52.5% on two-pointers and are 12th in DReb%.  They do a nice job of forcing turnovers, but all but two conference opponents have scored at least 1.01 ppp with four tallying 1.09 ppp or more.  The Dukes play four of their last six on the road, including trips to Saint Bonaventure and Temple along with home games versus Dayton and Saint Louis.  The reality is they need to run the table to make a compelling case for a bid.

Saint Bonaventure (12-9, 5-4 A-10, RPI: 93)

The Bonnies are the ninth and final A-10 squad in the RPI Top 100.  They rank seventh in offensive efficiency with 1.03 ppp.  They are first in FTR at 43.9 and are third in OReb%.  However, they rank dead last in TO% and are making less than 30% of their three-pointers.  They have scored 1.00 ppp or less in five of nine contests, and a couple outliers against poor defensive teams have inflated their overall numbers.  Defensively, they are allowing 0.99 ppp in league play and have decent numbers in DReb%, eFG%, and TO%.  The Bonnies have quite a bit of variance from game to game, having allowed 0.92 ppp or less in four games but surrendering 1.12 ppp or more in three others, including a ridiculous 1.39 ppp against Saint Louis.  Three of their final seven games come against the worst teams in the league, and they have home dates with Duquesne, Temple, and Saint Joe’s before the season finale at La Salle

Follow me on Twitter (@AndyBottoms) for more of my thoughts on college basketball.