The 2014 Atlantic 10 tournament has a new look, featuring 13 teams after years of conference realignment. However, the stakes remain high, as the conference could receive as many as six or as few as three bids to the NCAA tournament.
Thus, there will inevitably be some early contests that serve as de facto elimination games, making for high drama in one of the best mid-major conferences in the country. For those looking to catch all the action, check out the full TV and streaming information below:
|Game No.||Teams||Date||Time (ET)||TV Info||Live Stream|
|1||No. 12 George Mason vs. No. 13 Fordham||Wed, March 12||7 p.m.||TBD||N/A|
|2||No. 8 La Salle vs. No. 9 St. Bonaventure||Thu, March 13||Noon||Regional||N/A|
|3||No. 5 Dayton vs. G1 Winner||Thu, March 13||2:30 p.m.||NBCSN||NBC Sports Live Extra|
|4||No. 7 Richmond vs. No. 10 Duquesne||Thu, March 13||6:30 p.m.||NBCSN||NBC Sports Live Extra|
|5||No. 6 UMass vs. No. 11 Rhode Island||Thu, March 13||9 p.m.||Regional||N/A|
|6||No. 1 Saint Louis vs. G2 Winner||Fri, March 14||Noon||NBCSN||NBC Sports Live Extra|
|7||No. 4 Saint Joseph's vs. G3 Winner||Fri, March 14||2:30 p.m.||NBCSN||NBC Sports Live Extra|
|8||No. 2 VCU vs. G4 Winner||Fri, March 14||6:30 p.m.||NBCSN||NBC Sports Live Extra|
|9||No. 3 George Washington vs. G5 Winner||Fri, March 14||9 p.m.||NBCSN||NBC Sports Live Extra|
|10||G6 Winner vs. G7 Winner||Sat, March 15||1:30 p.m.||CBSSN||CBS Sports|
|11||G8 Winner vs. G9 Winner||Sat, March 15||4 p.m.||CBSSN||CBS Sports|
|12||G10 Winner vs. G11 Winner||Sun, March 16||1 p.m.||CBS||CBS Sports|
Here's a visual look at the bracket, courtesy of Atlantic10.com.
So what should fans watch out for at the A-10 tourney? Here are the storylines and players to keep an eye on, as well as a prediction for the conference champion.
The A-10 currently features a trio of bubble teams: George Washington, Saint Joseph's and Dayton.
Of those three, the Colonials are undoubtedly in the best position. It might actually be a stretch to even say they are truly on the bubble. With an RPI of 25, per ESPN's Joe Lundari, and quality wins over Creighton and VCU, a win over sixth-seeded Massachusetts in the quarterfinals would likely punch George Washington's ticket.
Conversely, Dayton has vacillated between the last four in and first four out for the past few weeks. Some, like Yahoo!'s Brad Evans, see the Flyers as currently in the field, though with little margin for error:
As for last four IN ... G'Town, Pitt, Neb, Dayton are currently on firm ground. But Ten, Mizzou, Cal, Minny, Prov and FSU knocking at door.— Brad Evans (@YahooNoise) March 8, 2014
Dayton's first game against Duquesne will not move the needle with the selection committee, so the Flyers might need to beat St. Joe's to feel better about their chances. The Rams handled the Flyers in Ohio, 80-66, back on Jan. 22, though Dayton was in the midst of a four-game losing streak that represented the low point of its season.
St. Joe's is the trickiest case. Despite being the second seed, the Hawks are burdened down by a trio of bad losses to Temple, Richmond and La Salle. Phil Martelli's squad missed a golden opportunity to effectively cinch a berth with a loss to George Washington and might need a win over Saint Louis in the semifinals to avoid sweating out Selection Sunday.
In an oddity, the conference's top five scorers are all from bottom-half teams unlikely to make much noise. Langston Galloway of Saint Joseph's is one of the few players from a contending team capable of taking over offensively. As Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis notes, the senior guard has had one of the best careers in school history:
He has done it rather quietly, but Saint Joseph's senior guard Langston Galloway is about to close out one of the best careers in the history of that storied program. He has already set the school's all-time record for made threes in a career (319 and counting), and he will finish third on the all-time scoring list behind Jameer Nelson and Bernard Blunt.
Galloway is far from the only dynamic guard in the conference, however. The Billikens emerged with a 64-62 win over UMass Sunday after Jordair Jett hit the game-winner, with Minutemen guard Chaz Williams missing at the buzzer. The finish may have been a fitting symbolic preview of how the conference's Player of the Year award race will end:
Jordair Jett makes winning layup with 3.4 to go, Chaz Williams misses game-winner. That probably decided A-10 POY. SLU 64, UMass 62.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) March 9, 2014
The senior Jett has broken out after three relatively anonymous seasons, and his ability to both facilitate the offense and score efficiently has kept Saint Louis' offense afloat. The Billikens win with defense, and while Jett contributes on that end with 1.5 steals per game, he is vital to Saint Louis scoring effectively against tougher tournament defenses.
Meanwhile, Williams has had the green light all year in Amherst, attempting a team-high 12 shots per game, including 4.4 threes per game. Williams is not the most efficient scorer, shooting just 39.9 percent on the season, but with nine 20-point games, he is explosive enough to change a game's complexion.
Saint Louis stands out as the clear-cut favorite, but it will face some stiff challenges during the tournament. The Billikens will likely need to play two of George Washington, VCU, UMass or St. Joe's. Jett's game-winner salvaged a tough recent stretch, as Saint Louis had lost its previous three contests.
Thus, the top seed has shown vulnerability after surging into the Associated Press Top 10 in February. With VCU and UMass standing as likely NCAA tournament locks, the two squads could serve notice as trendy dark horses with an upset over the Billikens.
Who will win the A-10 tournament?
Still, Saint Louis' stifling defense is a weapon few in the conference can crack. None of the aforementioned teams ranks in the top 50 in offensive efficiency, per KenPom.com. Of the five teams to defeat the Billikens, three have fit that criteria.
That's not to say the tournament is a coronation for Saint Louis, as the Billikens have not shown the recent form necessary to make them overwhelming favorites. Still, when evaluating the entire regular-season body of work, Saint Louis is clearly the best team and should win the A-10 tournament.