A-10 Conference Tournament: Atlantic City Awaits the Final Eight

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A-10 Conference Tournament: Atlantic City Awaits the Final Eight
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
A-10 Player-of-the-year Tu Holloway

With the first round complete, the A-10 conference tournament shifts to Atlantic City for the quarterfinal games on Friday.

Three of the four lower seeds in the first round emerged victorious, with the St. Joseph's Hawks posting the biggest upset by dispatching upstart George Washington, 71-59 in overtime.

Dayton, Rhode Island and La Salle (in double overtime) also advance to Friday, when the top four seeds will see their first action.

Here is how the rest of the tournament looks, starting with the quarterfinals.

 

Quarterfinal No. 1: Dayton vs. Xavier

On paper, this looks like a mismatch.

The Musketeers went 15-1 in the A-10 this year, which is quite a mark considering who they had to replace and the injuries they endured. Dayton went 7-9, and were flat-out disappointing throughout most of the season.

However, both times they faced one another, the game came down to the final minute. And both times, Tu Holloway saved the day for Xavier.

One of the most difficult things to do in conference is to beat a team three times in one year, especially a bitter rival. I'm not saying Dayton will win, but the Flyers have played as well as anyone against the Musketeers this year.

Chris Chambers/Getty Images
Dayton's Chris Wright needs to play under control offensively

Keys:

Xavier has to avoid foul trouble, which they usually do. Coach Chris Mack uses seven players (two see very limited minutes) so Jamel McLean, Kenny Frease, Mark Lyons and Dante Jackson need to avoid any prolonged stretches on the bench.

Dayton needs to shoot the ball much better than it usually does. They were awful most of the year just finding good shots. Also, Chris Wright can't turn the ball over five or six times as he seems to do most games. 

Call:

If the Flyers can limit their turnovers to 12 or fewer, they have a shot. If not, Xavier romps. Either way, it will be a difficult game for Dayton to win. Xavier advances.

 

Quarterfinal No. 2: St. Joseph's vs. Duquesne

The Dukes faded down the stretch, going 2-6 in their last eight games after and 8-0 start.

It won't matter tomorrow.

As much as I like Phil Martelli, the Hawks don't have the depth to compete with Duquesne. A nice win over George Washington is a good building block for the Hawks, but their A-10 run will end here.

Keys:

Stats-stuffer Damien Saunders leads the Dukes (google images)

Duquesne has to play with the same kind of urgency it showed earlier in the season. Bill Clark needs to avoid fouls and Damien Saunders has to be, well, Damien Saunders. The lack of a true post presence won't hurt the Dukes because St. Joe's doesn't have one either.

The Hawks have to hope that they continue their hot shooting from inside the arc and limit their turnovers.

Call:

Duquesne will advance to play Xavier in the semifinals.

 

Quarterfinal No. 3: La Salle vs. Temple

The Explorers were able to speed Temple up the last time they played, and though the Owls won, the score indicated more of a La Salle-type pace to the game.

La Salle lost by four to Temple at home, and by eight at Temple. Again, that third win against a team in your own conference is tough, regardless of the teams playing.

Temple is limping a bit heading into the postseason. Center Michael Eric is gone for the season, and Scootie Randall is likely out until at least the NCAA opener. Lavoy Allen has stepped up lately, after a sleepy kind of season, and they'll need him to produce more than his average for the season.

Chris Chambers/Getty Images
Lavoy Allen can dominate down low

Keys:

Aaric Murray is a little foul-prone and La Salle needs him on the floor, if for nothing else than his defense. The Explorers will score, but it remains to be seen if they are capable of stopping anyone.

Ramon Moore, Juan Fernandez and Allen need to carry this team. Fran Dunphy will have a plan but without their injured starters, Temple's depth is questionable. Khalif Wyatt and Rahiir Jefferson have been very good this year but as complementary players.

Call:

Yeah, okay, let me have it. Temple will be in the NCAA tournament, no questions, and likely a six or seven seed. But I'm taking La Salle here in a huge upset. The injuries for Temple worry me, and I like the fact that the Explorers have played them tough twice.

 

Quarterfinal No. 4: Rhode Island vs. Richmond

Dan Geriot is the key to Richmond's success in this tournament and beyond. 

That probably seems like an odd statement to make considering reigning player-of-the-year Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper lead the team in almost every significant statistical category.

But Geriot has played more like the Geriot of three years ago, finally recovered from a knee injury that forced him to miss all of 2008-2009. He contributes 10 points and four rebounds per game, is a good passer from the post and can keep opposing defenses honest by hitting 43.5 percent of his three-point attempts. You know what you will get from Anderson and Harper. Geriot needs to be steady and provide a viable third scoring option.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Dan Geriot has to be a steady contributor for the Spiders

Rhode Island is a well-coached team with Jim Barron at the helm, and have an outstanding forward in Delroy James. They seemingly can beat anyone, but can also lose to anyone.

Keys:

For Richmond, the key is balance. Anderson hasn't been spectacular this year, but he hasn't tried to do too much either. It seems as though he can go off whenever he wants but is more focused on running the offense. When the Spiders get production from their complementary players, they are very tough.

Rhode Island has to work inside. They are not a good three-point shooting team and can't get too comfortable taking outside shots.

Call: 

Spiders win. The game will be close but Anderson will take over when it's needed.

 

Semifinals

Duquesne vs. Xavier

The Musketeers are too strong inside for the Dukes and will be playing in the final on Sunday.

 

La Salle vs. Richmond

Richmond is very good at controlling the tempo of the game and won't try to go up and down with La Salle. The Spiders rarely blow people out, but they are very efficient with what they do. The Spiders will face Xavier in the final.

Who will win the A-10 tournament?

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Final

Richmond vs. Xavier

With what the Musketeers have done this year, it is hard to go against them. Tu Holloway has been outstanding and Mark Lyons, Frease and McLean have stepped up big time this season.

Kevin Anderson is the same kind of explosive player that Holloway is. Justin Harper is more athletic than Frease. But again, Richmond will need players like Geriot and Darien Brothers to contribute offensively.

Despite the short bench, Xavier has more options than Richmond and will claim the A-10 title.

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