What-to-know tourney previews: Atlantic 10
How many bids should this league get?
1. How many bids should this league get?
I'm going to say it gets four -- and maybe that's a minor disappointment (if it happens) for this conference. It's a solid league, but I and many others expected the Atlantic 10 this season to be something a little closer to what the Mountain West is/was. A good league with Final Four hopefuls and a bit more strength, top to bottom. Instead we've seen Saint Louis play out a really impressive year; VCU and Butler stay relevant, earn big wins and win 24 games apiece; and teams like L<strong></strong>a Salle, Temple, UMass and Xavier have lingered just on the fringe. Saint Joseph's, the preseason pick to win the league, went 8-8 and 17-12 overall. I think the A-10 tourney is going to be a lot of fun, but I think it's also fair to say this one-year, 16-team arrangement fell short of expectations.
2. Who's the best team?
I think it's Saint Louis -- my pick back in October to win this league. The Billikens have the best defense, by far, in the conference. Why not VCU and its "Havoc Attack"? I'll get to that in a minute. But Jim Crews' team allows 88.6 points per 100 possessions in adjusted defense margin on KenPom.com. Butler is pretty close, defensively, to what SLU has become, but overall i think SLU has better talent, in total, with its minutes-getters. Butler does have Rotnei Clarke, though, and he's the most dangerous 3-point threat in the league. As for VCU, it's good -- so long as it turns you over. The Rams' record when forcing more than 15 turnovers is 24-0, and when it's less that record is 0-7. A true split. I love watching Shaka Smart's team play (it has the highest turnover and steal percentage in the country), but teams have proven to solve the press at certain points.
3. Why are these teams playing in Brooklyn?
I love this. The Atlantic 10 was able to strike a deal with the Barclays Center during the right moment, just as the building was opening and had time to rent the space. It's the arrangement for the future, too, though with Xavier and Butler likely leaving for the re-branded Big East next season and Temple heading to what will be the other half of the broken Big East, you wonder if this is a long-term deal. Whether it is or not, the A-10 will get a lot of rightful run for its locale (it was in Atlantic City in recent years, a decent but not optimal spot).
Schedule: All games at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, March 14-17.
Title game: Sunday, March 17, at 11 a.m. ET on CBS.
THREE BEST PLAYERS
- Khaliff Wyatt (Temple)
- Ramon Galloway (La Salle)
- Rotnei Clarke (Butler)
Conference RPI: 7
KenPom.com rating: 8
Sagarin rating: 8
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