By Chris DiSano
Week two of Atlantic 10 Chalktalk is here -- with marquee matchups, buzzer-beaters and terrific storylines across the league. At the quarter pole, Rhode Island remains the only undefeated program, while VCU, Duquesne and Davidson are all out of the gates fast at 3-1… and five other squads are 2-2.
Game of the Week: St. Bonaventure (12-4, 2-2) at Rhode Island (12-3, 4-0)
The game of the week this week takes place in Kingston, R.I., high praise considering VCU visits Dayton on Friday evening. But for the Rams and Bonnies, 16th and 46th in the RPI, respectively, this first of two meetings between the programs showcases the conference’s best NCAA Tournament at-large candidates.
In this week’s poll, we asked how many points SBU’s dynamic backcourt duo of Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley will need to score for the Bonnies to upset the first-place Rams. After receiving 200 votes in just 16 hours, 62 percent said more than 40 points between them.
Big game in Kingston on Saturday between @BonniesMBB and @RhodyMBB - to say the least...— Chris DiSano (@CDiSano44) January 11, 2018
This week's A-10 poll, how many points MINIMALLY, do SBU's Adams and Mobley need to combine for to help spring the upset?
There’s plenty of guard firepower on both sides of the ball – from Adams and Mobley to Jared Terrell, E.C. Matthews, Stan Robinson and others – but there’s more to these teams than just the scorers. I enlisted an original College Chalktalk wingman – and now publisher of the BonaBlog – Ian Nolan to help me breakdown four topline areas to keep an eye on:
URI Defense: Rhode Island stifles opponents under Dan Hurley with physical, swarming man-to-man defense; their goal to never allow opponents to become comfortable initiating offense. Expect them, as they have in the past, to also key in Matt Mobley and try to frustrate his ability to find shots attempts, much less points. They’ve limited him to just 1-of-14 combined shooting in the last two meetings, so he’ll be looking for retribution. The Rams can be scored upon if teams can take care of the ball against them, but they rank 13th in the nation in forcing turnovers, and live-ball turnovers fuel their engine.
Bonaventure Offense (Nolan): The Bonnies often do damage from the perimeter, but don’t underestimate the charity stripe. Mark Schmidt’s team ranks sixth in the nation in percentage of points scored at from the line (24 percent) and Adams and Mobley can decide games by their ability to get there (they average 11.3 free throw attempts per game). An X-factor for SBU on Saturday is that two of three out of the group of LaDarien Griffin, Courtney Stockard, and Izaiah Brockington must have productive games in a tough environment.
URI Offense: URI would be well-served to involve Andre Berry (17 points, 10 boards versus Saint Louis) early. He’s a true post-presence possessing a soft touch and will help space the floor for Rhode Island’s guards. If the Rams can show characteristic patience, unselfishness, and ball security as they have throughout the year, their six-pack of guards will see quality shot opportunities.
Bonaventure Defense (Nolan): As formidable as URI is in creating turnovers, SBU isn’t far behind. But here, the Bonnies must keep URI guards out of the paint and “guard the yard,” so to speak. La Salle went under screens against URI which took them out of rhythm and we may see a similar approach from the Bonnies in spots. Protecting the paint will be critical because SBU is foul-prone otherwise and can’t afford to find foul trouble and get deep into its bench.
Quote of the week
“We’ve been hit with more than our fair share of injuries this year. But I’m proud of how the team has handled the adversity and continues to play hard each and every game.”
-- Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer on his team’s competitiveness
So who’s playing this weekend?
VCU at Dayton – 7:00pm (ESPN2 – Atlantic 10 ESPN Friday Night Showcase)
St. Bonaventure at Rhode Island – 11:00am (ESPNU) La Salle at Duquesne – 12:30pm (NBCSN) Saint Louis at George Mason – 2:30pm (NBCSN) George Washington at Richmond – 4:30pm (NBCSN)
Davidson at Fordham – 3:00pm (NBCSN) Saint Joseph’s at UMass – 5:00pm (NBCSN)
Name to know
Luwane Pipkins (yeah, the fella who scored 44 on 15-for-27 shooting this week) is the first name mentioned when UMass comes to mind, but 6-4 freshman Carl Pierre (11.4 points per game, 47.4 percent from 3-point range) has been sensational for Matt McCall’s team. Pierre is second in the country in long distance percentage among freshmen, not bad for a kid who had no scholarship offers at this time last year. A-10 media brethren Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette (read him) sums Pierre’s contributions up nicely:
“If UMass hadn’t lost the transfers it had, the Minutemen might have never found freshman Carl Pierre. But the exodus of players from the program caused McCall and his staff to hunt that much harder for undiscovered players and, in Pierre, they’ve found a gem. The Boston native has been a good shooter from day one. But he’s growing week-to-week and the rest of his game is evolving quickly.”
One to bookmark
VCU is a ripple-effect program with total buy-in: administration, fans, band, alumni, and other layers – you name it. Well, add message board to the mix. If you aren’t familiar with the robust community that is VCURamNation, take a moment and check it out. By the fans, for the fans…
We’ll end it with the anatomy of a buzzer-beater
Otis Livingston II brought the house down with a three-pointer as time expired to lead George Mason to a thrilling victory over Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday. A big-time player with unwavering confidence, Livingston did his job -- to say the least.
But let’s tip the cap to Mason’s Justin Kier. Saint Joseph’s elected to shadow the inbounder, Kier, and from the moment forward he did everything correct. Upon inbounding the ball to teammate Ian Boyd, Kier sprinted up the floor, gaining a step on his man and quickly receiving a return pass from Boyd. His hard push of the ball to the middle forced Hawks’ defender James Demery to instinctively take just one jab-step toward the mid-line. Kier then found Livingston II who had the space he needed plus an extra separation dribble to the left for a clean-look release – albeit basically from Manassas. Huge shot make, but equally great execution and an underrated length of the floor play by Kier. That’s winning basketball.
Until next week...
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 television analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men's Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named an NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44