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A-10 Tourney: Campus Site Games

The Xavier part of the Atlantic 10 tournament is held at historic (I'm told) Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but the tournament kicks off with campus site games tomorrow night. The 5-8 seeds of the tournament host the 9-12 seeds for the right to go on and play the 1-4 seeds on Friday. You may have noticed that, despite the facts that the conference is called the Atlantic 10 and has 14 teams, there are never 10 or 14 teams starting any round of the tournament. If you continue noticing stuff like that, you're going to find that a lot of life doesn't make sense. Just roll with it and concentrate on the hoops.

St. Bonaventure will be hosting LaSalle in the first game, which tips off on CBS College Sports Network at 5pm. St. Bonaventure follows the lead of forward Andrew Nicholson, who averages 21 and 7 for the Bonnies. The Bonnies offense was second in the conference in getting to the line this year, third in 3P%, and fourth in 2P% and FT%. They struggled to keep hold of the ball, ranking 12th in the A-10 in turnover percentage. Defensively, there's not really a category in which the Bonnies are any better than mediocre. LaSalle is the top offensive rebounding team in the conference and second best from the free throw stripe. The Explorers are worst in the league in avoiding blocked shots and 12th in 2P%. Their defense has looked overmatched all year, surrendering the second-worst 2P% in the league and clocking in at 11th in defending the glass.

Temple took home last year's tourney crown.
When these two teams played February 12th at St. Bonaventure, the Bonnies prevailed 82-61. Nicholson paced the home side with 24-8 that night, and they were also the beneficiaries of 18-9 from reserve forward Marquise Simmons, who averages 3.7 PPG. LaSalle suffered through a 5-20/2-5/8-10 shooting night from 6'10" center Aaric Murray and was dominated 40-28 on the glass. The Explorers have played Temple and Dayton tough this year and lost by a bucket to GW and UMass, but the matchups lean towards the Bonnies on this one. I think SBU will be through to face Temple.

St. Joseph's plays George Washington on CBS College Sports Network at 7pm. The Hawks are down this year and have earned a #12 seed to prove it. Their 3P% is 9th in the conference and 2P% is 10th, and they have the league's worst 3P% defense. They are the worst team in the league at getting offensive rebounds, but they do turn the ball over less than any other A-10 team. Guards Carl Jones (17 PPG) and Langston Galloway (12.8 PPG) lead the way for the Hawks, and both of them shoot over 39% from deep. This probably worries GW, who has the 12th ranked 3P% defense. They make up for it with the fourth best 2P% defense and the 3rd best defense at blocking shots. Their offense is second best in the conference at grabbing offensive boards but only 12th from the stripe. Guard Tony Taylor leads the team with 14.8 PPG, and 6'8" matchup nightmare Nemanja Mikic hits 45% of his threes.

The January 8th game between these two teams is ancient history, but GW won it 78-71 at St. Joseph's. Carl Jones led all scorers with 23, but Taylor posted 20 and the Colonials crushed St. Joseph's 43-28 on the glass. If Jones and Galloway get hot, the upset is possible, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't GW taking on Duquesne when Friday comes around.

He's on the right, with the baby face.
St. Louis will travel to URI for the only non-televised contest of the A-10 campus site games. Fans of beautiful basketball know why: these teams have two of the better defenses in the conference and two of the worse offenses. URI is 12th in the conference in effective FG%, 12th in getting to the line, and 13th in 3P%. Defensively, they're number one in 3P%, third in steals, and second in forcing turnovers. Forward Delroy James leads the team with 18-8 per, and Marquis Jones and Nikola Malesevic both average over 11 per game and shoot .381 and .473 from behind the arc, respectively. Nobody else who shoots much is very good at it. St. Louis' D is third in effective FG%, 2P%, and forcing turnovers and fourth in defending the glass. Their offense is 11th in avoiding turnovers, 12th in grabbing offensive rebounds, 13th in getting to the line, and 14th in 3P%. Freshman guard Mike McCall leads the team with 10 PPG and is the only player from St. Louis I wouldn't mind seeing on Xavier. Also, I'm kind of starting to hate Kyle Cassity and his baby face.

Given the tenor of the article to this point, it shouldn't surprise you to learn that the last game between these two teams was an ugly 59-57 win for URI. Jordair Jett went off for 14 points, but Delroy James' 21 on 10-19 from the floor helped the Rams prevail. Billikens not named Jordair Jett shot 16-50/4-21/7-9, which is not good. Neither team recorded double-digit assists or turnovers, which tells me the game was probably really boring to watch. This time around, I don't see St. Louis being able to stop Rhode Island from advancing.

Winner here gets Tu and Dante.
The final game of the day features Massachusetts hosting Dayton at 9pm on CBS College Sports Network. Aside from being fourth in the conference in offensive rebounding, UMass is a profoundly horrible offensive team. They're 13th in the conference in effective FG% and avoiding turnovers, 12th in 3P% and avoiding steals, and 11th in FT% and 2P%. Their defense - except for being dead-last in forcing turnovers - is the polar opposite: third in 3P%, second in 2P%, first in effective FG%. Guard Anthony Gurley posts 19 PPG; nobody else on the team even gets nine. Dayton is below average offensively, clocking in at 10th in the conference in effective FG%. They're a respectable fifth from behind the arc, but next to last from inside it. Chris Wright's 13-8 were probably not what UD fans had in mind when he posted 13-7 as a sophomore, but they still lead the team. Chris Johnson goes for 12-6, and Juwan Staten is bad at shooting (.384/.620/.182) but good at keeping care of the ball (5.6 APG, 2.12 A/TO).

These two teams played at UMass January 9th, and it was even uglier than the StL/URI game. There were only 16 turnovers, but the teams combined to shoot 28-100 from the floor and 7-38 from three. Josh Benson contrived to foul out in 16 minutes; Devin Searcy responded to the challenge by fouling out in 10. The only reason either team cracked 40 points was the combined 55 free throw the teams attempted. UMass converted 29 of their 36 FTA and snuck away with a 55-50 win and a heaping dose of shame. Though they sport identical 7-9 conference records, I feel like UD has been a little unlucky and UMass has been a little lucky in getting there this year. Combined with the fact that it just doesn't feel like a season without three UD-XU games, I think UD edges the Minutemen in this one.

That's the brief(ish) rundown on the campus-site games of the A-10 tourney. I have boldly picked the top three seeded teams to move on and rolled the dice on an upset in the 8/9 game. These games all stand a chance of being hotly contested, but I'd be surprised if there was a single home team that didn't have a tournament-type atmosphere to feed off of. With the conference tournament season in full swing, it's time for work productivity to dip as basketball immersion becomes total. Let's go X!