Atlantic 10 tournament: Preview, prediction, TV info

Shaka Smart's Rams have tenacious defense yet again. Could they get a No. 5 seed? (USATSI)
Shaka Smart's Rams have tenacious defense yet again. Could they get a No. 5 seed? (USATSI)

Latest in hoops: Top 25 (and one) | Bracketology | Bubble Watch

What: Atlantic 10 championship.

When: March 12-16.

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Bracket: View tournament field here.

TV: Select opening round and quarterfinal games on NBC Sports Network. Semifinals on CBS Sports Network. Championship game on CBS (March 16, 1 p.m. ET).

Last year's champ: Saint Louis (27-6, No. 4 seed).

What matters: Well, what really matters is what the A-10 has accomplished this season in playing its way to discussion toward six NCAA Tournament bids. There's no guarantee the league will get that many, but five seems close to a guarantee. Saint Louis, UMass, VCU and George Washington are locks. Dayton and Saint Joseph's could be that if each get one more win. It's been another really terrific season for this league, which hasn't gotten it's due.

Saint Louis won the regular season for the second straight year, going 26-5 with a 13-3 league record. VCU was second at 12-4, followed by G.W. and Saint Joe's at 11-5. Of all the major-conference brackets, this one probably has the most intrigue because there's the biggest bubble situation combined with the most to gain in seeding. Saint Louis could play its way to a No. 3 if it won the tournament, VCU a four in that situation. George Washington could get a No. 6 in the best-case scenario.

And even teams like Richmond and La Salle could show big and make a semifinals appearance. Brooklyn's set up for an unpredictable party here, methinks.

Who matters: It starts with Chaz Williams at UMass, the one player who is the smallest in the league in stature yet has more say on what his team does than any other in the Atlantic 10. Williams is the senior point guard that's got bravado and flash and toughness in his game that's unmatched anywhere in college hoops.

Saint Louis has the man with the best name in all of college hoops: Jordair Jett. He's who sank the winning layup at UMass Sunday.

VCU's Treveon Graham is lethally underrated to anyone not conducting a scouting report. The quitest star player in the A-10 right here.

George Washington's Mo Creek (senior, former Indiana player) and senior power forward Isaiah Armwood give the Colonials good shooting and rebounding options.

Dayton's Jordan Sibert is a dangerous 3-point shooter who is a good ballhandler and at the same time is willing to keep opponentes honest by drawing fouls on interior attacks. Very fun player to watch.

And Langston Galloway at Saint Joseph's might be one of the most surehanded point guards in the country. You probably haven't seen him on television much, but he's been vital in keeping SJU in the mix this season and has quietly had a tremendous college career. What Bryce Cotton is to Providence, Galloway is to the Hawks.

Fun fact: Flawed stat that it is, the RPI still has six Atlantic 10 teams in the top 38. Dayton's the final one. That is a very nice stat to hold on to as we enter the final few days of the pre-tournament season. If six make it, it will be the A-10's best chance in two decades to match the 1993 season that saw this league earn eight wins in the NCAA Tournament. Last year the A-10, with five teams, won seven games.

Prediction: Gimme VCU. I think the Rams, who own the third-best per-possession defense in the country, will get that league tourney title under Shaka Smart. The team's won one league tourney crown -- in the CAA -- in Smart's four previous years. I love Briante Weber's defense, too. I love VCU as a No. 4 seed in a No. 6 seed's clothing. This whole tourney feels like a random event generator, really, but why not go with the club the metrics -- and my eyes -- like most.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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