The A-10 Tourney Could Get Real Nice

Justin KundratCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2009

This has been a very up-and-down year for the Atlantic 10, a conference that usually produces 2-3 solid NCAA Tournament teams every year. But this year the conference has been lacking in that area and as of right now, only has one guaranteed tournament team—Xavier.

I've written about the Musketeers before and they are the cream of the crop when it comes to mid-major basketball. This is their fourth straight 20-win season and although they lost a significant portion of their scoring after last season, new players have filled their shoes.

However, this team's one major flaw is turnovers, mainly due to the lack of a true point guard after Drew Lavender graduated last year. The Musketeers are averaging nearly two fewer assists per game than last season, while their turnovers have gone up by about 2.2 per game.

Not a great stat right there, but Xavier still leads the way at 12-4 in the A-10 and 25-6 overall. The team is one of just three teams to beat Memphis this season and also knocked off Missouri, which makes a great resume.

As for the rest of the conference, Temple and Rhode Island are fighting for that potential second bid.

Temple had its fair share of success midway through the season, but dropped a few along the way and now has the No. 4 seed in the A-10 tourney. To make matters worse, the Owls face top-seeded Xavier tomorrow in the semifinals—any team's worst nightmare. 

Rhode Island, one of the more interesting teams this season, drew attention after nearly beating Duke back in November. In addition, they really have had no bad losses this season. Wins over Penn State, Dayton, and Temple help, but they will need to win the tournament to have a good shot at getting an invitation.

Senior guard Jimmy Baron (16.8 PPG) is part of the reason the Rams led the conference in three-point percentage (40.0) and points per game (80.1). This high-powered offense gave Duke all sorts of problems earlier and if they can take care of business in these next few games, a Cinderella run is possible.

The Rams will take on No. 7 Duquesne tonight to advance to the semifinals and play the winner of the Dayton-Richmond matchup.

Speaking of Dayton, the Flyers have the best overall record in the conference at 25-6 and therefore certainly aren't lacking in the win department. Aside from Xavier, they have the best chance of securing a tournament bid, but shouldn't take any chances.

A win tonight over Richmond is a must and they would probably need to win their semifinal matchup as well. The Flyers have wins over Marquette, Auburn, George Mason, and Xavier, but are squarely on the bubble right now. The A-10 tourney means everything for them right now.

Things have gone as expected in this tournament so far with Xavier and Temple grabbing places in the semifinals earlier while Rhode Island and Dayton are favored in their quarterfinal games tonight.

If everything plays out right, we could be set for one hell of a final four in the A-10. This will decide the fates of three bubble teams all needing to add key wins before Selection Sunday.

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