February Framing: Play Defense, or Play Thursday
One of the unwavering themes of this space is that we are fans–we get to look ahead and have no impact on the outcomes of games. I've never understood fans who root themselves into the "one game at a time" mentality. I understand where they are coming from, but I think they rob themselves of the enjoyment of playing the "what if" game.
We all immediately click on Bracketology predictions, don't we? That's the same thing. So dare to dream about what the rest of the regular season can be. Trust me, you will thank yourself.
Today we are going to look at the remaining regular season schedules for the A10 teams involved in the battle for one of the top four seeds in the A10 tournament. Each of those top four teams gets a bye into the quarterfinals, meaning they sit on Thursday and won't play until Friday.
Two main assumptions are in play. First, I don't believe that SLU won't lose four straight to make this bizarro world–I'm going out on a limb there, no? And second, that 5-5 Dayton–who finishes the season with LaSalle, St. Joe's, UMass, SLU, and Richmond–faces too steep a climb. Interestingly, though, the talented Flyers have four opportunities to play the role of spoilers. They are good enough to do just that. If Dayton finds its way into the top four, it will have John Housemaned themselves.
That leaves us with five teams battling for three byes.
VCU (8-3): @UMass; @Fordham; SLU, @Richmond; Bonnies
St. Joseph's (7-3): @Rhody; Fordham; Dayton; @Bonnies; @GW; LaSalle
Richmond (7-3): GW; LaSalle; @Mason; @Rhody; VCU; @Dayton
GW (7-4): @Richmond; @SLU; Mason; St. Joe's; @Fordham
UMass (7-4): VCU; Rhody; @Dayton; @Duquesne; SLU
The Colonials clearly have the most difficult path. Mike Lonergan's bunch is still without Kethan Savage and faces roadies to our fair city and then out to SLU. St. Joe's looms. Similarly, UMass will have to earn it from one game back. The Fightin' Kelloggs host the Good Guys and go to Dayton. They end their season in St. Louis, which will be interesting because the Billikens will likely have the regular season wrapped up. Will Jim Crews rest some folks?
St. Joseph's has the paved road. They head to Foggy Bottom the second-to-last night of the regular season but will be favored in every other game.
And that leaves the two city-mates together in the middle with a nice mix of challenges. Keep your eyes peeled to NBCSports Network tonight as the Spiders host GW. That is a surefire fun game to watch, and the winner takes a big step forward. This game and perhaps the VCU/UMass game on Friday are the two most important in terms of figuring out this deal.
After tonight, the Mooneymen host a dangerous LaSalle team and finish with a homer against VCU and a roadie at Dayton. I'd say Richmond has the most interesting path of everyone.
VCU has the advantage of already being at 8-3. As mentioned, Friday's UMass game is gigantic in that it would move the Minutemen behind the Rams in the pecking order for good. After that, VCU has what will be an insane asylum for the SLU rematch and the always-fun bus ride across town. Those are two very interesting games as each of those three teams are battling for some chunk of postseason play.
- Toughest path: GW
- Easiest path: St. Josesph's
- Most interesting path: Richmond
- Destiny controllers: VCU, UMass
- Peek-A-Boo games: GW at Richmond, VCU at UMass, St. Joe's at GW
It's been awhile since I've made predictions so let's do that.
I like St. Joseph's to lock up the #2 seed, if only because the only game they have left that smells like a loss is at GW. Notably, they also own the tiebreaker against VCU. The Rams are my #3 seed. They are essentially one game up and they have opportunities to dispatch both UMass and Richmond, as well as a winnable home game to end the year.
GW falls out for the mirror image of St. Joseph's. The schedule-maker is asking a lot of the Colonials, who also have a one-game disadvantage.
That leaves us with UMass and Richmond fighting for the fourth spot. I'm choosing the Spiders at #4. Both UMass and Richmond host VCU and travel to Dayton. Both play Rhody and let's call @Duquesne and @Mason a wash.
We get to the outlier game: Richmond hosts LaSalle, and UMass hosts SLU. If Richmond wins tonight they have a one-game advantage on UMass plus own the tiebreaker by beating the Minutemen 58-55 earlier this year. In the world of "we never know who will actually win a game in this doggone conference," you have to revert to the hard data, which in this case, today, are the tiebreakers.
Man, it's always the tiebreakers, isn't it?