Atlantic 10 Tournament Predictions
The Atlantic 10 Tournament figures to be one of the most competitive conference tournaments in the country. This event takes place at the Barclays Center, which is the home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. It will run from Wednesday, March 12 through Sunday, March 16. All 13 teams within the conference will be vying for an automatic bid into the big dance.
It was key to get one of the top four seeds in this tournament because Saint Louis (1), VCU (2), George Washington (3) and Saint Joe’s (4) have all earned byes into the quarterfinals. Seeds 5-11 all get a bye into the second round. Only George Mason (12) and Fordham (13) have to play in the opening round with the winner advancing to face fifth-seeded Dayton.
Amazingly, the Atlantic 10 has five locks to get into the NCAA Tournament, and possibly a sixth. Saint Louis, UMass, VCU, and George Washington are in for sure. Dayton and Saint Joseph’s would likely both get in if they each get one more win. The Billikens won the regular season crown for a second consecutive season, but finished poorly down the stretch, which is why they are not the favorite this week. Let’s take a look at the favorite, my value play, and my sleeper pick for the 2014 Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Atlantic 10 Tournament Bracket
The Favorite: VCU (+175)
The Rams (24-7, 12-4) fell short of the regular season conference title for a second consecutive season. They let Saint Louis beat them out by a game. Still, there consensus is that this is the best team in the conference, and that is reflected by the odds. The Rams are +175 to win it, while the Billikens are second at +320. That could have something to do with the betting public being all over VCU dating back to its Final Four run, which could mean that this team is overvalued.
Still, VCU pressures the opposition defensively as well as anyone in the country outside of perhaps Louisville. Its full-court, attacking style leads to turnovers and easy buckets in transition the other way. The Rams lead the A-10 in scoring margin while also leading the country in steals at 11.5 per game. Briante Weber leads the nation in steals (3.6) to spearhead the Havoc defense. Treveaon Graham (15.6 ppg), Juvonte Reddic (12.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Melvin Johnson (10.5 ppg) are three of the better players in the conference as well.
The Value Play: George Washington (+800)
Quietly, the Colonials (23-7, 11-5) put together a tremendous season. They won four of their last five to cap off a turnaround campaign after entering the 2013 Atlantic 10 Tournament as the 11th seed. It is now the No. 3 seed in 2014, which means bye into the quarterfinals. That will be a huge advantage for George Washington as it only has to win three games to be crowned champion, and thus it is my value play at +800.
This is a balanced team with five players scoring in double figures. Maurice Creeks (14.6 ppg) leads the way and is deadly from 3-point range, connecting on 40.9 percent on the season. One huge bonus for the Colonials is that they get back Kethan Savage (13.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg), who was huge for them before suffering a broken foot in January. Isaiah Armwood (12.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.6 bpg) is a force inside.
The Sleeper: Saint Joseph’s (+1000)
Again, I only felt right picking a value play and a sleeper that was within the top four seeds to get that automatic entry into the quarterfinals. It’s simply playing the percentages here. Not to take anything away from Saint Joseph’s (21-9, 11-5), which had a fine season. It’s just that not having to play an extra game is a massive advantage. I have almost no doubt that the winner of this tournament will come from the top four seeds.
The Hawks were only one win away from earning the number two spot in the tournament before back-to-back losses to close out the season. Still, this is a deep team that has proven it can beat anyone in the conference. This is a very efficient offensive team that leads the conference in shooting percentage (47.0%). Langston Galloway (17.0 ppg) is the top scorer, Ronald Roberts Jr. (146 ppg, 7.2 rpg) is a beast down low, and Halil Kanacevic (10.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 4.4 apg) is one of the most versatile players in the A-10.
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