With just a month to go in the conference season, the A-10 is somewhat of a logjam. The top 13 teams in the conference are all within three games of each other. The top half of the conference are not separated by more than a game of first place, which is currently occupied by Saint Louis, Butler, and Virginia Commonwealth. To say that this weekend’s games are important would be an understatement.
Temple at Dayton 2/9 – 11:00 A.M. ESPNU:
The Owls are coming off a HUGE win home win against Charlotte on Wednesday to keep themselves alive for not only a potential at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, but also only two games south of first place in the A-10. Temple has been riding the hot hand of Khalif Wyatt all season, as he ranks 31st in the nation in scoring at 18.9 points per game. Dayton is also coming off a win against underwhelming St. Joseph’s. Dayton needs this win to propel themselves back in to the thick of the conference race, while Temple needs this win to re-emerge as an NCAA tournament team. As is the case with every game in this conference, the stakes are high.
Xavier at Duquesne 2/9 – 7:00 p.m.:
The Musketeers sit just one game outside of first place in the conference in a season that was supposed to be a total wash. For the Dukes, the season has in fact been a total wash, but you can bet that they are hungry every game to get their first conference win. An 0-8 conference mark is nothing to laugh about, as the whole country saw in the TCU vs. Kansas game on Wednesday. If Xavier comes out and takes care of business in Pittsburgh, they should pick up a very crucial win.
Virginia Commonwealth at Charlotte 2/9 – 7:00 p.m.:
Charlotte missed out on a big opportunity to beat a solid Temple team on the road. That would have put them in a tie for first place and it would have had people thinking about them as a tournament team. This next week could propel them back into that conversation with games against VCU and Butler. It’s make or break. VCU and its high powered offense need to go right at Charlotte from the start. VCU doesn’t have a win against a conference team with a record above .500.
Fordham at La Salle 2/9 – 2:00 p.m.
Led by the scoring prowess of Ramon Galloway, who has scored at least 15 points in 12 of the Explorers’ last 15 games, La Salle forced themselves into the conversation to be an at-large in the NCAA tournament. There probably could not be a worse way to end that conversation by losing to a Fordham team that has been without arguably the best player in the conference in Chris Gaston. Fordham has not won a road game all season. This game may be the most cut and dry of the day.
St. Bonaventure at Rhode Island 2/9 – 2:00 p.m.
Rhode Island is looking to pick up just its second win in over a month. They’ve shown some signs, losing by just six to VCU and seven to Butler. They regressed in a 28-point loss to UMass on Wednesday. Rhody just has not been scoring enough to win games in this high scoring A-10, averaging just over 61 per game. The Bonnies are 3-5 in the conference and need a win to get back in the pack of the A-10. This is a good opportunity for them. Let’s just hope that the weather cooperates this weekend.
Saint Louis at Richmond 2/9 – 6:00 p.m.
This is the game of the day in my opinion. Richmond is playing good basketball, and Saint Louis has everything in the world to prove. The Billikens have the tiebreaker over VCU and Butler, so they are currently the top team in the conference. Richmond is coming off a huge win vs. Xavier and are not out of the running for a top spot in the A-10. The Spiders are an inconsistent defensive team and a poor performance won’t fly against the Billikens that will keep this game low scoring.
Massachusetts at St. Joesph’s 2/9 – 2:00 p.m. ESPN2:
UMass is in the top 100 in Division I in points, rebounds, and assists. However, they still lack offensive efficiency in terms of field goal percentage, which is just 42.5%. This team has the potential to be an even better offensive team if they take advantage of all of their opportunities. St. Joe’s on the other hand is the definition of mediocrity. Their loss to Dayton on Wednesday snapped their 3-game winning streak. It’s going to be important for them to regain momentum if they don’t want this once hopeful season to become a total failure.
#14 Butler at George Washington 2/9 – 2:00 p.m.:
It’s definitely a tossup between Charlotte and George Washington as to who is the biggest surprise in the conference. After a fairly underwhelming non-conference schedule, the Colonials have pieced together a 5-3 A-10 record and have the chance to solidify their strong play when they host Butler. The Bulldogs have not been playing great basketball, but they do have Rotnei Clark back from injury and have won two in a row against sub-par competition with him in the lineup. This is a must win for Butler if it wants to keep it wants to continue to be the frontrunner for an A-10 regular season championship. Both teams desperately need this win but for completely different reasons.
Sam Blum covers the A-10 for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on twitter @DaBlumSta.