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A10 Tournament Breakdown: Part One

As the tournament tips off, we'll be taking a quick look at each team and their chances of sneaking into the big tournament selection pool on Sunday. Joel's breakdown of the campus-site games provided a more in depth look at the games themselves if you need to brush up.

I'll be tackling the top half of the bracket today. The top half is notable for two things. One, it contains five time regular season champs and tournament favorites, Xavier. Two, it gives Duquesne a great chance to rescue their once promising season.

#1 seed- Xavier Musketeers:

You may have heard of this guy.
Who to watch: We have to pick one player for this, so point guard and A10 Player of the Year Tu Holloway is the obvious choice. Holloway averages 20-5-6 on a very respectable .431/.867/.346 line. Xavier tends to go as Tu goes. In the Musketeers one conference loss this year, Holloway was 3-17 from the field and turned the ball over six times.

Worst case scenario: Someone gets hurt. The Musketeers are effectively only seven players deep. If anyone gets hurt, this team is in a world of hurt. A first game loss in the A10 tournament only damages seeding at this point.

Best case scenario: Xavier wins the A10 tournament without having to strain too much and the players are fresh for their 4 v. 13 matchup in the NCAA's. It's possible that X sees UMass, Duquesne, and Richmond on the run in to the championship. That doesn't scare anyone.

NCAA chances: Lock.

#8 Seed- UMass:

Gurley at the edge of his effective range
Who to watch: Anthony Gurley is an unrepentant gunner who leads UMass in scoring at a shade over 19 a game. He can go off (he's been over 30 three times this year) or be appallingly bad (nine points on 3-13 from the field to go with his eight turnovers in a loss to Duquesne). Gurley's A/T ratio is .51 and his points per shot is a woeful 1.23. All that said, he can change a game if he gets going.

Worst case scenario: Gurley doesn't get going. Combo guard Javorn Farrell is UMass' second leading scorer at 8.7 per game, but he isn't that good either. Farrell gets 1.03 points per shot and also turns the ball over in bunches. There is no one else who can score enough to carry this team. If UD stops Gurley, UMass goes home.

Best case scenario: Gurley gets red hot and the Minutemen ride him on an unforgettable one game winning streak in the tournament. 

NCAA chances: About the same as your local high school team.

#9 Seed- Dayton:
Who to watch: If you must watch the Flyers, watch Juwan Staten. He's something of a throwback point who concentrates on initializing the offense at the expense of his own scoring. He is, as Joel mentioned, a truly horrible shooter, but he rarely shoots. Staten's freshman year compares very favorably to Tu Holloway's.

Worst case scenario: As this goes to press, UD is avoiding the worst case scenario by beating UMass all over the floor.

Best case scenario: Third time lucky, and Dayton beats Xavier. If that happens Dayton could see Duquesne, whom it has beaten, and either Richmond or Temple in the final. Three wins in three days would be nearly impossible, but not completely so.

NCAA chances: Automatic bid or bust. Dayton's 87 RPI isn't impressing anyone.

#5 seed- George Washington Colonials:

Who to watch: Tony Taylor. The guard leads the team in scoring (14.8 PPG) and assists (4.6 APG) by a wide margin. None of his teammates average more than 9.3 points or 1.4 assists. Taylor is no friend of the free-throw line, but his .425/.689/.336 line is pretty respectable over all. Considering that his team shoots .626 from the line, Taylor shines by comparison.

Worst case scenario: Some team finds a way to either eliminate Taylor from the equation or force him to completely win the game by himself. If Taylor has an off day, the Colonials could take the least intimidating nickname in the conference home before the tournament even begins to heat up.

Best case scenario: Taylor does it all. As a combo guard with good ball skills, he is capable of carrying the team offensively without anyone else having to do much other than make a layup or the occasional open jumper. GW hasn't beaten many good teams this year, but it's not inconcievable that they could sneak into the final of the A-10 tournament.

NCAA chances: Not this year for the Colonials.

#12 seed- St. Joseph's Hawks:
Who to watch: Langston Galloway. The freshman guard is a little bit of a volume shooter, but he converts everything from the line and has the potential to get hot. On top of that, his 2.8 APG are second on the team, and he only turns the ball over 1.2 times per game. Galloway has gone for 25 or more four times since the beginning of February. If he gets hot - or even gets a dozen or so very efficient points - St. Joseph's could be a tough out.

Worst case scenario: Volume shooting guards Galloway and Carl Jones fall in love with the basketball and the offense stagnates. A team with no play averaging more than 3.3 APG can't afford to just stand there looking at each other, and the Hawks jump-shoot themselves to an early exit.

Best case scenario: With their top three scorers all shooting at or above 75% from the free throw line, St. Joseph's somehow works themselves into a situation in which the other team is forced to foul them. The Hawks repeatedly find a way to get their points from the free throw line rather than having to score them from the field and actually get a couple of wins before bowing out. Not even in their best case scenario do they win the thing.

NCAA chances: No.

# 4 Seed- Duquesne:

So this is actually a rather impressive paper tiger
Who to watch:  Bill Clark leads the Dukes in scoring (16.1) and rebounds (6.2) very well for a combo guard. Clark is averaging a respectable 1.5 points per shot, chips in 2.6 assists and 1.5 steals, and blocks nearly a shot a game. In short, Clark does a little bit of everything and does most things fairly well. His .465/.743/.372 shooting line indicates he takes mostly good shots.

Worst case scenario: Rhode Island gets through and beats the Dukes again. The seeming dream season ends waiting for an NIT bid.

Best case scenario: The Dukes rediscover their groove from back when they were leading the A10 (not that we were impressed) and reach the finals. Anything can happen in one game, and that's what the Dukes should bank on.

NCAA chances: Need the auto bid, but they could be a strong NIT team.

So that's how it looks from here. I expect to see Xavier meet Duquesne in the semi from the top half and again dispatch them without much trouble. Joel will finish the preview tonight with his breakdown of the lower half of the bracket