By Paul Gotham
Less than two weeks remain before the Atlantic 10 tournament tips at the Barclays Center. Jockeying for position is of importance. Top four get a bye to the conference quarter-final round.
This weekend’s game in order of priority.
No. 8/10 St. Louis (25-3/12-1) at VCU (21-7/9-4) 6 pm ESPN2
A theme of redemption hangs in the air: St. Louis for their loss to Duquesne Thursday night and VCU for their setback to SLU earlier in the season. Pssst…The Bills only beat Duquesne by four when the two met in January. SLU has been living dangerously needing overtime in both wins over last-place George Mason and going down to the wire in single-possession triumphs over La Salle and VCU. Was the loss to Duquesne a wake-up call? Or a sign of things to come? Should make for great theater at the Siegel Center because, as you know, “You don’t want to go war with the Rams.…. VCU’s Briante Weber, the nation’s leader in steals, needs eight more swipes to set the single-season A-10 mark of 108. He won’t get all of them on Saturday. Weber has more assists (110) than steals (101). SLU teammates Dwayne Evans and Jordair Jett are battling for conference player-of-the-year honors.
VCU keeps the Bills reeling with a four-point win.
UMass (22-5/9-4) at Dayton (19-9/7-6) 11 am ESPNU
Nothing was more telling than UD coach Archie Miller‘s facial expression as he watched his Flyers endure a 26-point road loss to St. Joseph’s Tuesday night. Nothing says Murphy’s Law better than watching the opponent shoot 58.3 percent (28-48) from the floor while your team hits 31.7 percent (20-63). Winners of six straight going in, maybe the Flyers got ahead of themselves. The Minutemen bring a three-game win streak to the contest. UMass plays seven guys 20 or more minutes a game. UD deploys nine players 12 or more minutes. This will be important as the Flyers try to contain Chaz Williams by committee. UD will need to show it learned from its double-digit loss to VCU and its HAVOC defense earlier this season as they look to counter the UMass full-court press. UD will establish Matt Kavanaugh in the paint, and Vee Sanford will come off the bench and take advantage from the perimeter.
UD by four.
St. Joseph’s (20-7/10-3) at St. Bonaventure (16-12/6-8) 3 pm NBC Sports Network
Once upon time St. Bonaventure could hold serve at the Reilly Center. The Bonnies won their first seven at home. Then came setbacks to George Washington, Dayton and Rhode Island, and now SBU is 10-3 on Bob Lanier Court. The senior-laden St. Joseph’s club has won five straight and seven of eight, but one thing the SJU vets have NOT done is win in Olean. The Hawks haven’t claimed victory in Allegany County since Ahmad Nivins was in the lineup -January, 2009. Phil Martelli and his club catch some good fortune as the Bona students are on break. It doesn’t matter. The Bonnies will be focused after a two-game slide.
Bona by four.
Richmond (18-10/8-5) at Rhode Island (12-17/3-11) 2 pm SNY/CSN MA/OSN
Ten days ago Richmond had second-place in their sights. Two losses in three games and the Spiders have tumbled from the top four of the conference. How far will they drop? UR plays VCU on Thursday then turns around and travels to Dayton two days later. “Focus Miyagi.” Kendall Anthony is still scoring points for the Spiders (16 a game), but his shooting percentage has dropped in the past two outings. URI goes as Xavier Munford and E.C. Matthews do. Can the guards penetrate and create against Richmond’s matchup zone? URI is coming off a three-point loss to New England rival UMass. Last time Richmond played two straight on the road they lost both. Of course, that was St. Louis and VCU.
URI by six.
La Salle (13-14/5-8) at Fordham (9-17/2-11) 5 pm. NBC Sports Network