I admit it. With every A10 game--both those on the VCU slate and the rest of the conference as well--I view matchups and scores first through the lens of its impacts on VCUs finishing spot/seed in the Atlantic 10 race. (Motto: Understanding This Race Is Like Walking Naked Through A Sandstorm.)
You see, just as it was in the CAA, the top four seeds receive a bye in the first round of the A-10 tournament. That is obviously important for the same reason as the CAA--one extra day's rest--but also for a very different reason. A top four spot in the A-10 race puts VCU in very good position for an at large berth to the NCAA tournament, should the Rams fall short in the A-10 tourney.
Thankfully, the lunacy of tiebreaker scenarios remains a couple weeks away.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">VCU (7-2):</span> host UMass, host GW. I&#039;m not afraid of the implications of Thursday&#039;s game. Keep in mind a win over UMass would dispatch another team fighting for the bye two games behind VCU in the loss column, plus a third for the tiebreaker.
What&#039;s more, it sets up the momentum of a big home win on Saturday to get to 9-2 in conference. We&#039;d get to take our shoes off on Sunday before walking on the hot coals at St. Louis, at Xavier, and then hosting Butler.
I believe 11 is our number to earn a bye (crazy tiebreakers notwithstanding), and somehow I feel like the Temple game to close out the regular season will carry approximately 459 implications. Just me.
With that said, let&#039;s look at this week&#039;s slate of Atlantic 10 games for everyone else. Follow along with me:
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">Butler (7-2):</span> host Charlotte, at Fordham. Two likely wins for the Bulldogs, who follow that with Duquesne and then St. Louis one week before visiting The Stu. I suggest locating your seat belt (and tickets) now.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">St. Louis (7-2):</span> OFF, host Charlotte. The Billikens have quietly gone 15-2 over their past 17 games and won six in a row. This team would be first in my power poll, if I chose to create one. Only four teams have scored more than 66 points against them this year. They may beat Charlotte 28-24.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">UMass (6-3):</span> at VCU, host Temple. Curious week for the Minutemen. This could establish them as contenders for a bye (and at large bid), or it could doom them to a middle seed and uphill battle. Keep an eye on them once they leave Richmond.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">LaSalle (6-3):</span> at Bona, vs. St. Joseph&#039;s. The Explorers have won four of five, beating VCU and Butler and losing to UMass. I don&#039;t yet have a good feel for everyone, but the Bonnies game smells of a trap. LaSalle wins two if they expect to earn a bye.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">Xavier (6-3):</span> host Fordham, at Dayton. Similar to LaSalle, Xavier needs both to keep pace with the teams above them. Dayton on the road is a toughie but the Flyers are sputtering. Top four teams win that game.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">Temple (5-4):</span> host Duquesne, at UMass. Boy, I like the Owls. They should steamroll Duquesne to set up the conference&#039;s most interesting game of the weekend against UMass. I believe five losses is the max in order to earn a bye, and a loss to UMass uses up their mulligans.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">GW (5-4):</span> OFF, at VCU. They&#039;re already feeling very good about what Mike Lonergan is accomplishing up in Foggy Bottom. A loss at VCU is likely, but you have to keep looking at the big picture and take steps forward as a program. The Colonials are in good hands.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">Charlotte (5-4):</span> at Butler, at St. Louis, at Indiana. Okay I made up that last one, but my goodness. The Niners are in a six-game stretch that sees them play UMass, Temple, VCU, Butler, St. Louis, Temple. Thanks Bernie! Wins will be tough from here on out--pay attention to margins of victory.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">St. Joseph&#039;s (4-5):</span> host Richmond, vs. LaSalle. The Hawks are going to have to run the table, and other than Saturday&#039;s Philly War with LaSalle and a roadie at St. Louis, the schedule is favorable. However this is a perplexing team that could lose five of seven as well. (Re: spoiler.)
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">Richmond (4-5):</span> at St. Joseph&#039;s, host Bonnies. The Spiders have no &quot;bad losses&quot; and knocked off VCU and Xavier. They now have Derrick Williams back to anchor the post. This is the team that makes you grit your teeth.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">St. Bonaventure (4-5):</span> host LaSalle, at Richmond. Pssst: Bona has won four of its past six games and the two losses are St. Louis and Butler. I don&#039;t believe it&#039;s an upset if they knock off either team this week, especially LaSalle up in Olean.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">Dayton (3-6):</span> at Rhody, host Xavier. January 9 seems a faded memory, as is the level of appreciation for Kevin Dillard. I&#039;m not saying Dillard isn&#039;t very good. He is. But we&#039;ve come to learn there is a Kevin Dillard on every A10 team. The Flyers have lost three of four and stand at the precipice.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">Fordham (2-7):</span> at Xavier, host Butler. Tom Pecora may get Chris Gaston back, which would help stem the tide of four straight losses by increasing margins. At this point, though, the Rams are looking for freshmen to start figuring it out. Mandell Thomas looks like a keeper.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">Rhode Island (1-8):</span> host Dayton, at Duquesne. A 2-0 week would not totally shock me, nor an 0-2 week. These Rams have lost six straight, but head coach Danny Hurley is Skerry-esque in his inability to back off the victory gas pedal. I expect them to win at least one game you don&#039;t think they will win.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;">Duquesne (0-9):</span> at Temple, host Rhody. The Dukes are running out of chances to notch their first conference victory. It may happen Saturday when Rhody comes calling. Head coach Jim Ferry inherited an empty closet but won a ton of games at LIU, so it&#039;s a matter of time.