Five teams in A-10 have chance at Big Dance
One of these things is not like the others.
The Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, Big East, Atlantic 10 and Big Ten are all predicted by ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi to have five or more teams going to the NCAA Tournament.
Out of the five mentioned conferences, the A-10 is the only one that isn’t referred to as a Bowl Championship Series conference. In fact, the A-10 (five teams) has more of its members predicted to make the tournament than two of the six BCS conferences (Pacific-10 and Southeastern Conference) combined.
The A-10 has been the most exciting conference to watch all season. Two teams (Temple and Richmond) are in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and seven of the teams in the conference have surprised the country either by unexpected success with their A-10 schedule (such as Saint Louis) or by rocking its non-conference schedule (such as Rhode Island).
Barring any monumental collapses, Richmond, Temple and Xavier will make the NCAA Tournament. The question is who else from the A-10 will make it. At this point, it looks like it will be five teams or six if the tournament committee decides to be generous towards the A-10, which in all likelihood won’t happen.
Here is a look at the four teams currently on the bubble in order of highest RPI.
Rhode Island (20-6, 8-5 A-10, RPI: 26)
The Rams finished their non-conference schedule 12-1, and at one point of the season were receiving votes to be in the Top 25.
But they have yet to show they can compete with the best of the A-10, with losses to all four of the top teams in the conference. URI’s best win of the season came on Jan. 2 against Oklahoma State.
The Rams helped themselves by blowing out Fordham, but that’s to be expected of a team hoping to make the NCAA Tournament. Their last three games are against St. Bonaventure, Charlotte and Massachusetts.
If URI wins out the rest of the season, it should still find its way into March Madness.
Dayton (18-8, 7-5 A-10, RPI: 42)
For the Flyers, one possession may be the difference between the NCAA Tournament and the National Invitation Tournament.
After losing to Duquesne, 73-71, on ESPN2, Dayton finds itself going from nearly a lock, to a team that is fighting to hang on. It also has the roughest schedule at the end of the season any team can ask for with games against the No. 18 Owls and the No. 24 Spiders on the road.
To make things worse, it has to face the Billikens, who went from a young team on the rise to a serious consideration for the Big Dance.
In fact, the only team the Flyers play the rest of the season with more than three conference losses is the Minutemen.
While wins over Georgia Tech, Old Dominion and Xavier will help Dayton’s chances of getting an at-large bid, it either needs to pull a few upsets at the end of the season or make a strong case during the A-10 Tournament. Probably both.
Charlotte (18-8, 8-4 A-10, RPI: 55)
Speaking of teams the Dukes have hurt, the 49ers are another perfect example.
Despite some impressive wins over Louisville, Temple and Richmond, Charlotte is more hurt by the fact that it’s been blown out by other ranked teams. That wouldn’t have mattered if the 49ers took care of business in the A-10, but after losing three straight games to Dayton, Duquesne and Xavier, Bobby Lutz’s team will either have to beat the Spiders again or do well in the A-10 Tournament.
It’s one thing to get obliterated by Duke (42 points). It’s another when the opponent is a supposedly struggling conference rival, such as Dayton (28).
Saint Louis (18-8, 9-3 A-10, RPI: 82)
The youngest team in the nation is making it very difficult to be excluded from the bubble, especially when they have only three losses in its conference.
SLU is currently on a six-game winning streak, although it will have a rough schedule towards the end of the season. The hardest teams it will face, Xavier and Temple, will at least be home games so the task is a little easier.
But the Billikens have the worst RPI of any A-10 team trying to compete in the Field of 65, so you have to look at that 9-3 conference record critically. Those losses to Iowa State and Bowling Green are certainly going to hurt their chances.
Wins over Xavier and Dayton, however, will make people forget that ever happened.
Adam Miller is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.