By Chris DiSano
Another great weekend slate of games await, highlighted by tonight’s ESPN2 contest featuring undefeated Rhode Island and the second place Davidson Wildcats… along with a Saturday showdown between the rising St. Bonaventure Bonnies and Richmond Spiders. Let’s touch upon a few league storylines.
This week’s A-10 fan poll –
The future is bright in the Atlantic 10. That begins with a crop of freshman sharpshooters on par or better than any we’ve seen in recent years. In fact, five freshmen rank in the top 15 in the league in 3-point shooting percentage entering play this weekend. And apologies to Duquesne’s Eric Williams Jr. who – despite shooting 39 percent from deep – couldn’t even be included in the poll as the fifth in percentage (c’mon Twitter, increase your poll choice limits). The four who were included all shoot north of 40 percent from downtown. We asked which freshman long range threat is your favorite in this week’s quick poll – open only about eight hours. Here’s what you said.
Friday Night Lights
Davidson, 8-3 in league play, visits 11-0 Rhode Island in a battle between the league’s best two teams with seven games to play. Here’s one area to spotlight for each team:
Rhode Island – The Rams are one of the better defensive teams in the nation, particularly at defending the 3-point line. They’ll need to in this one as Davidson sports a cupboard full of long range snipers. The Rams have faced prolific 3-point shooting teams in the past and the approach never wavers. Look for Rhode Island and its talented guards to “be there on the catch” and chase Davidson shooters off the line, forcing the Wildcats to make plays off the dribble. If Bob McKillop’s team beats the Rams by “two-ing” them to death, then tip your cap. But Dan Hurley and staff will do everything possible to make sure the Wildcats can’t trade threes for Rhode Island’s twos.
Davidson – Davidson is an excellent team at protecting the ball, leading the league in assists per game and assist-to-turnover ratio. This allows the Wildcats to force opposing defenses to defend for the full shot clock and helps the ‘Cats tamp down pace to a low 60s possession game. Rhode Island thrives off of generating turnovers and going on runs. If Davidson can exercise the caretaking they’ve displayed all season long in this hostile road environment and run their stuff, they’ll be able to mitigate Rhode Island’s effectiveness in transition and this one could go down to the wire.
Quote of the week
“I think our guys were really focused and motivated and understood what we had to do. The first half, I thought our guys were really locked in and did a great job. Offensively, we were not quite in a great rhythm. In the second half, we talked about trying to duplicate or better our defensive performance from the first half and that we could play better offensively. Obviously, you look at our numbers offensively in the second half, and our guys did an outstanding job.”
-- Anthony Grant, as told to the Dayton Daily News, after Wednesday night’s home win over Duquesne.
GW broke a four-game slide on Wednesday night with an 80-69 win over La Salle and senior Yuta Watanabe led the way with a game-high 29 points. Though the young Colonials have struggled overall, their 6-9 senior has turned it on since league play began, scoring in double-digits in every league contest and averaging 17 points a night – two more than his season average. He’s also taken the reins and been more aggressive without sacrificing efficiency. In conference play, he’s bumped his shots per game up to 13 and increased his effectiveness 69-of-143 from the floor, good enough for 48.2 percent which, if translated over a full year, would essentially tie for 10th in the conference.
Checking back in with Daily Dose
The “Tempo Thursday” article from Ray Floriani always contains a host of good nuggets and this week’s version is no exception. Pardon it not including SBU and SLU’s Wednesday night results in the analysis as that’s a tough deadline to crunch numbers. Lots of great stats in here from which to draw insights.
And here are the individual leaders in offensive efficiency in conference play –
Individual Offensive Ratings (courtesy of KenPom)
1) Justin Tillman, VCU (121.8)
2) Jared Terrell, Rhode Island (117.7)
3) Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure (117.5)
4) Peyton Aldridge, Davidson (116.5)
5) Otis Livingston II, George Mason (107.8)
6) Darrell Davis, Dayton (106.2)
7) E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island (106.1)
8) Tarin Smith, Duquesne (106.0)
9) B.J. Johnson, La Salle (105.8)
10) Luwane Pipkins, UMass (104.2)
So who’s playing this weekend?
Friday: Davidson at No. 18 Rhode Island – 7pm (ESPN2) Saturday: Fordham at Duquesne – Noon George Washington at George Mason – 4pm Richmond at St. Bonaventure – 4pm Massachusetts at Saint Joseph’s – 4pm Dayton at VCU – 6pm (CBSSN) La Salle at Saint Louis – 8pm
We’ll wrap with this… Senior Urgency
St. Bonaventure – as many predicted – is rising up the Atlantic 10 table after playing a very difficult early conference schedule with several road games. Fueling the rise are seniors Matt Mobley (reigning A-10 Player of the Week) and Jaylen Adams, the soon-to-be A-10 Player of the Week; at least in my mind. After his second 40+ point performance (including a school record 10 threes) in as many games, Adams chalked it up to, in part, letting the game come to him. I’ll respectfully disagree. He’s taking the game. Very similar to the way Rhode Island’s seniors responded last year in mid-February after a gut-wrenching loss to Fordham by reeling off eight straight, Adams has the look of a senior who fully appreciates it’s now or never. It’s an awesome mindset transformation to witness. We know St. Bonaventure will go as far as their vet guards take them – and these guards are playing with laser focus.
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