Rams looking to lock up top-4 seed, remain alive in A-10 title race

We are very much in the home stretch of the Atlantic 10 conference race with the Rams trying to lock in a top-4 finish and the double-bye that comes with it in next month's A-10 tournament. They also have an outside shot at an A-10 regular season championship, a feat they'd need a little help to obtain.

VCU (10-4) currently sits two games behind both Richmond and Loyola, the teams tied atop the conference at 12-2 each. VCU owns wins over the two and with a road win at Richmond on Saturday, would have full head-to-head tie-breaker status over both. The black and gold also own a win over 11-3 Dayton, a team they can pull even with by winning out over their next four games, a task that could certainly prove difficult consider two tough road contests remaining on the schedule at Dayton and at Richmond.


REMAINING SCHEDULES OF CURRENT TOP-4 (kenpom predicted outcome)

Richmond -
at Saint Louis (W), v VCU (W), v Saint Joseph's (W), at George Mason (L)

Loyola Chicago - at St. Bonaventure (L), v Dayton (L), at Davidson (L), v La Salle (W)

Dayton - v Davidson (W), at Loyola (W), at Saint Louis (W), v VCU (W)

VCU - v Rhode Island (W), at Richmond (L), v Duquesne (W), at Dayton (L)

In this year's balanced A-10, none of the current top-4 have cupcake schedules to finish league play (note that 10 A-10 teams this season rank within the top 115 teams on kenpom where just three could boast that this past season). Pomeroy's computers like VCU's crosstown rival, Richmond, to take home the regular season crown, what would be an absolutely satisfying accomplishment for Chris Mooney & Co. after finishing 11th this past year and picked to do the same heading into this season. Pomeroy likes Dayton as the favorite in each of their finishing four contests, but projects one slip up for the Flyers for a 14-4 finish that would put them just out of title contention.

Loyola is having a breakout A-10 season after finishing dead last during their inaugural run. They face an extremely challenging finish in their attempt to win their first regular season A-10 title in just their second season in the conference.

VCU is the furthest back of the group and plays a tough schedule that suggests simply finishing in the top-4 and grabbing the double-bye that comes with it may be more of an achievable goal than lifting the regular season crown.


St. Bonaventure - Mark Schmidt's club owns a head-to-head tie-breaker over the black and gold via a season sweep of the Rams, but sits three games back. One VCU win and one Bona loss would take them out of the running (or two VCU wins...holding serve at home would do it). The Bonnies have a tough home contest coming up on Tuesday against Loyola Chicago, but beyond that have a super manageable schedule, taking on GW (road game) and SLU (home) after that.

UMass - Like the Bonnies, UMass owns a head-to-head tie-breaker over VCU, but sits three games back with three to play. Winning out is a definite possibility with games at GW, at Davidson and versus Fordham, the Wildcats or two VCU wins being the Minutemen's biggest threat to their chances. They also lost a recent home contest to Bona, meaning even if VCU were to slip up, they could still finish behind the Bonnies if Bona was to win out.

George Mason - The one team of the group VCU holds a tie-breaker over, a top-four finish feels like a longshot for Mason at this point with four games remaining including tricky home contests against Duquesne and Richmond. Mason has to be perfect really to earn the double-bye, but even in doing so, would need some help to jump the Rams.


VCU simply holding serve at home would be enough to lock up the top-4 double-bye finish. The Rams will need to do more however, to secure a second consecutive A-10 regular season championship. Far from impossible, but not likely, VCU's realistic best bet is to get a three-day path to an NCAA tourney bid instead of four by protecting home court and locking in in Brooklyn.
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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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