A10 Quarterfinals Preview
On the eve of the games that matter most in the Atlantic 10 tournament, the top 8 teams in the standings square off for a chance at a championship - and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. And while everyone knows Temple and St. Louis will be dancing, most believe teams like Xavier, Dayton, and St. Joe's still have strong chances as one of the last four in.
8 Massachusetts (21-10, 9-7) vs. 1 Temple (24-6, 13-3)
As the Temple Owls' time in the A10 is coming to a grinding halt, they will certainly want to capitalize on their dominance. They have more A10 tournament titles and wins than any other team in the conference. And they'll be looking to add their 8th conference tournament title to go with that regular season title. With their trio of dynamic guards, Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt, and Juan Fernandez, they will have a good shot at winning the tournament, and making a deep NCAA run. Their experience and smothering defense are tough to match in this league, though UMass went toe-to-toe with them just over a week ago, in a 90-88 Temple victory in overtime. If stud sophomore Chaz Williams has a performance like he did against Xavier (29 points, 9 assists), the Minutemen have a good shot at the upset.
5 St. Joseph's (20-12, 9-7) vs. 4 St. Bonaventure (17-11, 10-6)
Phil Martelli's St. Joe's Hawks are on squarely on the edge of the 'bubble' for the NCAA tournament. Their resume isn't especially outstanding or pretty, but a victory over St. Bonnie's and a second win over Temple could squeak them into the tournament. To do so, however, they'll Tay Jones to be at his best. The junior guard has averaged 19.3 points over his last three games, and 16.5 for the season. He and Langston Galloway will have to be lights out to make a deep run. But first, they have to get past the Bonnies and A10 player of the year Andrew Nicholson, who averaged 17.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
7 La Salle (21-11, 9-7) vs. 2 St. Louis (24-6, 12-4)
At the beginning of February, La Salle was a top the A10, and looking like they could make their first NCAA tournament in decades. A 3-5 finish, however, leaves them scrambling for any kind of postseason bid. Trying to take down the (more than likely) NCAA tourny bound St. Louis will be no easy task. The Explorers have already had their shot at the Billikens and committed 8 turnovers in the final 9 minutes en route to a tough 59-51 loss. Now they'll have to find a way to crack Rick Majerus' tough defense, and slow down senior forward Brian Conklin (13.9 points per game), who is playing like a man on a mission. SLU is on their way to their first NCAA tournament since 99-00.
6 Dayton (20-11, 9-7) vs. 3 Xavier (19-11, 10-6)
The Musketeers find themselves in both familiar and unfamiliar territory. This is the third time they're facing the rival Flyers this year, and it's the 5th time in the last 6 years they've met in the A10 tournament. Last year, the Flyers avenged a pair of regular season losses with a 68-67 Quarterfinal victory. Xavier doesn't have the luxury of losing this game this year, however. In what is essentially a 'bubble' elimination game, neither UD or XU can afford a loss. But while Xavier probably only needs to make it to the A10 Finals to earn a bid, the Flyers may have to win out.
The keys to this one are simple, though. Everything revolves around Xavier's big man and their defense. If they smother Dayton's three point shooting like they did at the Cintas Center, the Muskies will advance. They also need senior center Kenny Frease to continue his strong play. The seven footer has scored 18 and 19 in two of his previous three games, while also averaging 10.7 rebounds in his last three contests. They need that kind of production to slow Matt Kavanaugh, who went for 20 and 9 in the first matchup. Stopping the inside production gave Xavier an edge in the second game. Xavier will need that again, along with a little magic from Tu Holloway, if they want to stay alive in March.