The Atlantic 10 has quietly been one of the more entertaining conferences in college basketball this season, and its postseason tournament should be more of the same when it kicks off this Thursday.
Three—the Butler Bulldogs, Saint Louis Billikens and Virginia Commonwealth Rams—of the conference's 16 teams look to be locks for the NCAA tournament. Both Saint Louis and VCU are ranked, coming in at Nos. 16 and 21, respectively, in the AP Top 25.
Behind the A-10's elite, you could realistically see the Temple Owls, Xavier Musketeers or La Salle Explorers possibly manage to sneak into the NCAA tournament with a strong run next week.
Last year's champion, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, will have a hard time replicating the success they had in the conference tournament in 2012. The Bonnies only managed a 7-9 conference record this season, so they'll have an extremely difficult road back to the Big Dance.
In all likelihood, fans will be looking at a new champion. The major conference schools should be watching this tournament closely, since having anybody outside the A-10's top three win the conference tournament could steal a tournament bid from a bubble team.
Here's everything you need to know about the A-10 tournament, including the teams you should be focusing in on.
When: Thursday, March 14, through Sunday, March 17
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn
Watch: NBC Sports Network, CBS Sports Network and CBS
Tournament Schedule and TV Information
*All times ET
Thursday, March 14 (First Round)
Game 1: No. 8 Seed vs. No. 9 Seed, 12 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
Game 2: No. 5 Seed vs. No. 12 Seed, 2:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
Game 3: No. 7 Seed vs. No. 10 Seed, 6:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
Game 4: No. 6 Seed vs. No. 11 Seed, 9 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
Friday, March 15 (Quarterfinal)
Game 5: No. 1 Seed vs. Game 1 Winner, 12 p.m.
Game 6: No. 4 Seed vs. Game 2 Winner, 2:30 p.m.
Game 7: No. 2 Seed vs. Game 3 Winner, 6:30 p.m.
Game 8: No. 3 Seed vs. Game 4 Winner, 9 p.m.
Saturday, March 16 (Semifinal)
Game 9: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Game 10: Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner, 4 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Sunday, March 17 (Final)
Game 11: Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Full bracket information can be seen on College Sports Madness.
Teams to Watch
Saint Louis Billikens (24-6, RPI: 32)
The Billikens' season almost looked doomed from the start. Rick Majerus had to step down because of health reasons and eventually passed away in December. Majerus left a shadow that could have been big enough to swallow up some of the best coaches in the country.
In his absence, Jim Crews has built Saint Louis into a top team. It's even more surprising when you consider that Crews hadn't had a winning season in his last nine years as a head coach.
The team will be the favorite when the tournament starts. Saint Louis finished the season with a 13-3 conference record, that includes two wins over Butler and one over VCU. The Billikens also beat the New Mexico Lobos, who are ranked 12th in the AP Top 25. In addition, nobody in the A-10 is on a bigger roll than Saint Louis. The Billikens have won 12 of their last 13 games.
Saint Louis doesn't have that one player who can take a game over all by himself. Instead, the Billikens have a very balanced attack that features three players who average 10-plus points a game and two more who average at least 9.7 points a game.
Virginia Commonwealth Rams (24-6, RPI: 26)
Under Shaka Smart, Virginia Commonwealth has reached heights previously thought to be untouchable. He's taken the Rams to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, including a run to the Final Four in 2011. Smart has VCU poised to make it three tournament appearances in a row after running the school's record to 24-6, going into the final game against Temple.
Some might be curious as to why Smart would hang around VCU, but as the results on the court have shown, the Rams can become a mainstay in the Top 25. Go back a few years and who could ever have imagined Mark Few would lead the Gonzaga Bulldogs to a No. 1 ranking?
Even an early exit in the A-10 tournament wouldn't keep the Rams out of the Big Dance. They've done enough in the regular season to warrant an at-large bid should they fall short in the conference tourney.
ESPN's Joe Lunardi has VCU penciled in as a No. 6 seed in his most recent bracketology projection. Winning the postseason A-10 crown could mean moving up a seed or two, which would be critical for a school like VCU.
Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic are the top performers for VCU. Graham is the leading scorer (15.7 PPG) and is second on the team in rebounding (5.9 RPG), while Reddic is second in scoring (14.3 PPG) and first in rebounding (8.2 RPG).
Temple Owls (22-8, RPI: 40)
Temple will be looking to atone for what was a disappointing 2012 A-10 tournament. The top-seeded Owls were knocked off by the eighth-seeded Massachusetts Minutemen in the first round and followed that up with a loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
With a 10-5 conference record, Temple is far from a sure thing to make it to the NCAA tournament. Another early exit from the A-10 tournament would be hugely detrimental to the Owls' push for the Big Dance. Wins over Saint Louis and the Syracuse Orange bolster Temple's tournament resume along with a very high RPI.
It's carrying a nice win streak into the tournament, which is huge because the season can simply come down to getting hot at the right time. After losing to the Duquesne Dukes back in February, the Owls have reeled off six consecutive wins. It was a part of a five-game stretch for Temple in which the difference of each score was only one point.
The Owls welcome in the Rams on Sunday in what is a huge conference game in terms of building momentum for the postseason.
If Temple is to advance in the A-10 tournament, it will need senior guard Khalif Wyatt to have a strong showing. He's leading the conference in scoring at 19.5 points a game. His 4.1 assists per game also led the Owls.
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