Rams gain share of first heading into A-10 homestretch
VCU picked up a big road win (huge, 30 points) and got some help from the UMass Minutemen this weekend to find themselves tied with the Davidson Wildcats at 8-2 in Atlantic 10 play heading into the final eight regular season contests of the year. The Rams have positioned themselves on the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble according to most bracketologists, but will need to be nearly flawless to stay there and to have a shot at surpassing the Davidson Wildcats for the A-10’s top seed heading into Brooklyn.
CURRENT STANDINGS WITH KENPOM PROJECTED FINISH
Kenpom.com’s computers have the Rams and Cats finishing at 14-4, which could be a good enough finish to see the black and gold on the right side of this year’s NCAA tournament bubble, but due to VCU losing their only meeting with Davidson this season, a 64-57 road loss to the Wildcats, would relegate VCU to the No.2 seed in this year’s Atlantic 10 tournament.
THE RACE FOR THE TOP-4
VCU’s odds to finish within the top-4 of this year’s Atlantic 10 are looking quite good at this point. While the Rams are more concerned with finishing No.1 than No.4, it’s worth mentioning the race for the top-4 because these teams receive a double-bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament and gain the advantage of just a three-game path to a championship as opposed to a four or even five games in five days rout.
Note: VCU has played in the A-10 tournament title game in five of their six seasons in the conference, but oddly enough, only won it the year they finished fifth in the regular season standings, winning four games in four days to cut the nets in 2015 (fun fact: the final three teams they defeated in that A-10 tournament, Richmond, Davidson and Dayton, were the last three teams to beat VCU during the regular season).
The Rams are on the right side of tie-breakers against Duquesne, St. Bonaventure, La Salle, UMass and Fordham.
Those last two have essentially no shot at a top-4 seed thanks to nine losses each, but the Rams victories over Bona, Duquesne and La Salle are absolutely huge. VCU would have to lose four more games than both Bona and La Salle to finish the regular season (not happening) and three more than Duquesne to get leapfrogged by any of the teams in that group.
Duquesne is the only real threat there. The Dukes however, have four of their final seven games left on the road. Those include contests at La Salle (tricky), at Mason (tough), at St. Bonaventure (tricky/tough) and at preseason No.1 Saint Louis (tough). They finish the season with a home contest against Dayton that could have serious A-10 tourney implications.
VCU on the other hand has five remaining home games left and two of their three road contests are within the state of Virginia, one just down the road at Richmond.
The Rams are favored by kenpom in all but one of their remaining contest, a predicted 1-point L this Saturday at Dayton, but Pomeroy’s computers expect one slip-up somewhere in that batch of games of the predicted 14-4 finish. Even if the black and gold manage to drop one more than the computers predict, a top-4 seed at this point looks very likely.
REGULAR SEASON CHAMPIONSHIP RACE
Staying on the subject of head-to-head tiebreakers, VCU has home wins over both George Mason and Dayton, two teams they are competing for a title with. That means even with potential road losses remaining against those two, the Rams can’t be on the wrong side of head-to-head tiebreakers with that pair.
There are a ton of moving parts that could effect other tiebreaker scenarios in terms of seeding, so many so that it’s pointless to get into. So let’s focus on the race to No.1.
The favorite: Davidson
The Cats are tied with VCU atop the conference at 8-2, own the head-to-head tiebreaker over VCU and have (on paper) the easiest schedule remaining of the top-4.
v Saint Joseph’s
@ Rhode Island
@ La Salle
v St. Bonaventure
Davidson is the favorite to win all of those games. Their statistical greatest chances of upsets are at Rhode Island (47% chance of a loss) and at home against Dayton (41% chance of a loss). The next biggest threat according to the computers right now is a road contest at Richmond to close the season (36% chance of defeat).
That said, Davidson’s two losses this season have come at Saint Joseph’s (4-7 in A-10) and at UMass (1-9), so expecting the unexpected might be wise with them.
VCU’s path to a title
Of the Ram’s remaining eight conference games, four come against teams that have struggled this season, starting this Wednesday against Richmond in the Siegel Center. The Rams have a home-and-home remaining with their Spider (4-7) rivals, host Saint Joseph’s (4-7) and welcome GW (3-7) to the Stu in a rematch of VCU’s 60-50 road win in DC this past week.
VCU is a large computer favorite (84%+ chance of winning) in five of their remaining eight games, being picked by kenpom’s computers to win each of those contests by double-digits. Pomeroy has the Rams as the favorite in two of their road contests, a predicted eight-point winner at Richmond as of the posting of this article, but just a one-point favorite at George Mason.
VCU is a one-point underdog at Dayton.
The Flyers and Patriots are both right in the thick of the regular season championship race at 8-3. Dayton statistically has the better team at No.66 in kenpom’s national rankings, with George Mason quite a ways behind at No.132. The Patriots however, have a much more manageable schedule and own the head-to-head tiebreaker against UD after upsetting the Flyers in UD Arena.
A loss to VCU by either would be a monster blow to their regular season title hopes and would most likely narrow the A-10 title race to just VCU and Davidson.
The Flyers should know soon enough the status of their conference title hopes, taking on VCU this Saturday, then following that up with a trip to Davidson next Tuesday.
Mason hosts UMass on Wednesday before a road trip to Olean for Sunday’s matchup with the Bonnies. Following their contest at the Reilly Center, they’ll host Duquesne and Richmond before traveling to Saint Louis. The Patriots title hopes could quite possibly be extinguished before they even face VCU again, but a 5-1 stretch there (or better) would setup the biggest Patriots Center home game in a long time.