A-10 race getting down to the wire

[caption id="attachment_12079" align="alignright" width="300"]<a href="http://www.vcuramnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Rodney.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-12079" alt="VCU must win a road game at Fordham then take down No.10 Saint Louis at home if they want to feel any bit comfortable in this season's race for a first round A-10 tournament bye." src="http://www.vcuramnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Rodney-300x200.jpg" width="300" height="200" /></a> VCU must win a road game at Fordham then take down No.10 Saint Louis at home if they want to feel any bit comfortable in this season's race for a first round A-10 tournament bye.[/caption]

We're coming down the home stretch in Atlantic 10 play and this week's action will have major conference tournament implications. Just last night Saint Joseph's delivered a virtual tournament bye knockout punch to the Dayton Flyers, sending UD to 7-6 in conference play and all by guaranteeing the Flyers Thursday tournament action.

VCU will look to avoid a Thursday game and this week will be crucial in determining that.

The Rams head to Fordham tomorrow night in hopes of avoiding a slip-up, then take on No.10 Saint Louis in the most anticipated Siegel Center game this season. They'll most likely need both if they want to stay in the race for a first round tournament bye themselves.

That race consists of essentially six teams after the Dayton loss: SLU (12-o), St. Joe's (10-3), UMass (8-4), VCU (8-4), Richmond (8-4) and GW (8-5).

At 12-0 in conference play, you can go ahead and pencil in SLU as not only a lock for a bye, but most likely for the top seed as well. That leaves five teams competing for the final three spots.

Of that group, Saint Joseph's has the obvious advantage of just three losses to 10 wins and only three games remaining. Two of those games are on the road however, one against a GW team they are competing for a top spot against. If the Hawks lose their upcoming road games at St. Bonaventure and GW (both reasonable possibilities), they'll host a struggling La Salle team they already beat by 11 in a road win earlier this season. They are no lock for a first round bye, but perhaps the favorite among the pack at this point.

Just behind them are the three teams tied at 8-4 in conference play in UMass, VCU and Richmond, followed by George Washington at 8-5 with just three games remaining.

Their schedules:

@ Fordham
v Saint Louis
@ Richmond
v St. Bonaventure

v Rhode Island
@ Dayton
@ Duquesne
v Saint Louis

@ George Mason
@ Rhode Island
@ Dayton

v George Mason
v St. Joseph's
@ Fordham

Oddly enough, VCU's best friend the remainder of the season becomes former CAA rival, George Mason, and that starts tonight when the Richmond Spiders travel to the Patriot Center. The Patriots sit at the bottom of the conference at 2-10 in league play including a tie-breaking bottom-feeder loss to Fordham (also at 2-10) but boast an odd road win at UMass, choked away another win against UMass prior to that, and took Saint Louis to overtime twice. They are capable, just not dependable. That said, any road loss by the Spiders this week paired with an undefeated week from the Rams could all but lock VCU ahead of Richmond this season, as a home win over Saint Louis Saturday would give the black and gold a tie-breaking .500 win percentage over the league's top team while Richmond would sit at winless against the Billikens. Of course a win at Richmond would work wonders as well.

The Ram's other best friend the remainder of the season is in Dayton, Ohio. The Flyers were straight up demolished at St. Joseph's but are more than capable of beating good teams (wins against GW, Gonzaga, Cal) and were riding a six-game winning streak prior to last night's train wreck. They take on UMass in an 11AM breakfast battle Saturday then finish the season at home against Richmond. Two Flyer home wins to finish the season could greatly benefit VCU.


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Licensed Virginia Realtor and part-time basketball writer. Co-founder of VCURamNation.com and A10Talk.com.
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Mat Shelton-Eide
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