Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament Preview

Click here for a complete index of all the conference tournament previews.

The Atlantic-10 Conference finished out of the Top 10 in the Conference RPI for the second straight season, is getting a decent amount of press this year. That is due to the fact that George Washington is the only one-loss team left in the country and ran the table in the conference. They finished five games ahead of the second place team, Charlotte. Outside of those two, four other teams were above .500 in the conference and another four teams finished at .500. Only four teams were below the .500 mark. Can any of them knock George Washington? We shall see.

Favorite: This one is clear-cut and obvious. George Washington is the best team in this league, and have demonstrated it by going 16-0 and only losing one game all season--at North Carolina State. The Colonials are the highest-scoring team in the conference and are atop the rankings in plenty of statistical categories. GW's success comes as a result of their balance; five players average at least 11 points per game. Danilo "J.R." Pinnock is the most athletic player on a team full of athletes and is a potential NBA prospect. He loves to get out and run and is an excellent scorer and defender. Carl Elliot joins him on the perimeter. He is an outstanding defender and a very good all-around player. Maureece Rice is one of the best sixth men in the country as a pure scorer. Up front, Mike Hall is one of the more underappreciated players in the country. He is a good defender and rebounder, and can also put points on the board. Omar Williams is an athletic forward who can score inside and outside. Regis Koundija is another athletic frontcourt player off the bench. The only thing that could hold them back from playing at their peak is that starting post player Pops Mensah-Bonsu is likely out for the conference tournament.

Contenders: Charlotte has the best chance to knock off the Colonials. They nearly did it last weekend until Leemire Goldwire made a boneheaded play and cost his team a huge upset on the road. The 49ers have seven of their last ten. Curtis Withers averages a double-double on the interior and is one of the top three players in the conference. De'Angelo Alexander provides outside balance as he leads the team in scoring. The aforementioned Goldwire is also a very good scorer in the backcourt. Mitchell Baldwin is a solid distributor and Marcus Bennett is another good point-producer on the perimeter. La Salle has been a pleasant surprise this season, finishing 10-6 in the conference and winning eight of their final ten games. On top of that, they have the best player in the conference and one of the best in all of college basketball in Steven Smith. The forward is averaging almost 24 points per game in his last six contests and can carry the Explorers to a couple of wins. Mike St. John is a solid rebounder on the interior. The backcourt combination of Darnell Harris and Jermaine Thomas is one of the better duos in the conference.

Sleeper: St. Joseph's has the second-best RPI in the conference, and has also won five in a row and 9 of their last 13 overall. They have four guys average in double-figures. Abdulai Jalloh is an athletic guard that is a good scorer and a solid all-around player. Dwayne Lee is a very good point guard who distributes the ball well, while Chet Stachitas is a good shooter. Robert Ferguson is an athletic forward who is the main man in the froncourt. Ahmad Nivins and Dave Mallon contribute solid production up front.

Prediction: Bubble teams are going to be holding their breath throughout this tournament. George Washington is not at full strength and could get knocked off by a Charlotte or a Temple. If that happens, GW will end up taking an available at-large bid from a team on the fence. However, I think the Colonials will win the automatic bid. Even without Mensah-Bonsu, they are more athletic than anyone in the conference. Moreover, they have so many options on the offensive end that it makes them very difficult to defend. GW has had to play in many close games recently, but they have found ways to pull them out and that's what counts. Don't be surprised if Charlotte keeps it tight in the championship game, though.

No comments:

Post a Comment