(Photo by Alan Kelly/ masonhoops.com)
What to think of the Richmond Spiders
The Richmond Spiders (4-2) have always been an interesting team in the Atlantic 10. Each year they have the talent on their roster to finish in the top third of the conference and be border-line NCAA tournament worthy, but the team never pulls it all together.
Since the team’s Atlantic 10 championship in 2011, the team has never finished higher than fifth in the regular season nor has made it past the quarter-final round in the conference tournament. This includes a ninth place finish last year.
The team is returning an All-A10 selection T.J. Cline and fellow starter ShawnDre’ Jones. Three other rotation players are returning too and expected to take starting roles.
Early on it appeared that it was going to be another one of those seasons for the Spiders. The team narrowly beat VMI at home and lost to Old Dominion. Then heading to the Barclays Center Classic the Spiders put up an impressive performance against the No. 23 Maryland Terrapins.
Richmond had a 12 point lead at the half over the Terrapins (7-0). The Spiders had held Maryland to 1-13 three point shooting in the first half while Richmond was 6-11 along with nine assists.
The team would eventually fall to Maryland 88-82 in overtime, after Melo Trimble put up 31 points. In a losing effort Cline was two assists and rebound away from a triple-double. Senior Marshall Wood would go 4-4 from long range and Jones lead the team with 23 points.
Richmond followed it up with a win over Boston College 67-54.
Even after their initial struggles, the Spiders are built to have a strong season. The team’s three point shooting (33.4 percent) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.28) can give them the chance to win any game. While the team has had problems rebounding and at the free throw line, both can be solved before conference play.
George Washington Drops Three Straight
The 2016-17 season was going to be a long one for the George Washington Colonials. After dropping three games and finishing last in the CBE Classic, things are not shaping up to be any easier for the Colonials (3-3).
This week the Colonials dropped games to Georgia, Alabama-Birmingham, and Penn State, all games were within their grasp. All losses were by single digits. Against Georgia and Penn State, George Washington was leading at halftime.
Unless you lived under a rock this off-season, there is no need to discuss George Washington firing their coach in September. Mike Lonergan, the team’s coach for the previous five seasons which included an NCAA tournament berth, two NIT berths, and an NIT championship, was removed from his position after numerous reports of verbal abuse from his players.
A month and a half before the season opener, George Washington announced that assistant Maurice Joseph, 31, will be the team’s interim coach for the year.
These three games was a big checkpoint for the Colonials early in the season. Even with the loss of Lonergan, the team was going to be returning two starters, Tyler Cavanaugh (2016 All-A10 2nd Team) and Yuta Watanabe. It was not going to be an NCAA tournament year, but the program could salvage a strong season with their lineup. In this stretch the team would show what to expect from them from here on out.
Against Penn State, the team built a nine point lead at the half time break. With the Colonials missing Watanabe due to a lower leg injury, the Nittany Lions dominating the interior in the second half and closed out a 74-68 victory. It also ended a 27 game non-conference home winning streak for George Washington.
The team started off the year with wins over three small schools, Maryland-Eastern Shore, Siena, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Two of those wins were by a combined six points.
Forthcoming the Colonials have potential tournament teams Harvard, #25 Florida State, and Temple in the next ten days to go along with South Florida.
It may get worse before there is a chance to get any better.
Sub-par Tournament Performance
Similar to last week’s tournament showing, this week was not any better for the Atlantic 10.
The best result for the conference had to come with Dayton (4-2) finishing fifth in the loaded Wooden Legacy Classic. The team however could have finished better had they were able to beat Nebraska, which was a winnable game, in the first round.
Two other teams, George Mason (4-3) and VCU (5-1) finished fifth in the Gulf Coast Showcase and the Battle for Atlantis Tournament respectively. The Rams would finish with wins over St. John’s and LSU, to go with a close loss to Baylor.
St. Bonaventure (3-2) was three points away from winning the Lone Star Showcase against three other mid-major schools and Richmond was a shot away in regulation from being in the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic.
On the losing side, both George Washington and St. Louis (2-3) went winless in their preseason tournaments. Competition was higher than many of their conference opponents but both were in winnable games.
This ends the conference’s preseason tournament showing, although some teams will be playing in seasonal invitationals that do not have a tournament bracket.
Marquise Moore’s Case for A10 1st Team
An unexpected hero has taken charge for George Mason this season, senior Marquise Moore.
After the first season under Dave Paulsen last year, where he started three freshmen regularly, it was expected that this year would be the blossoming of the young players. With little interior depth, senior Jalen Jenkins was also poised for a big season being the only player for the Patriots that would reside in the paint.
While both may be the case for this season, the performance from Moore has been outstanding.
The 6’2” guard, is leading the team in both points (18.0) and rebounds (9.3) on the season. Not only is he leading the team but he is near the top of the conference. He is tenth in scoring and second in rebounds across the Atlantic 10, numbers that are on a path for All-A10 honors.
Besides the rebounds leader Reggie Agbeko (10.3 per game and 14.5 ppg) from St. Louis, Moore is the closest player in the conference to average a double-double.
If Moore can keep up the pace, these numbers would be good enough for a second or third team recognition.
In order to break through to the first team, it will take more than just the senior’s playing abilities. Last year Shevon Thompson was snubbed for conference honors altogether after 9.9 ppg and 10.5 rpg.
The team’s record is a huge factor in determining conference honors. In 2016 all first team honorees were in one of the top four teams in the conference, excluding Jack Gibbs from Davidson (sixth).
Moore could make a push but he will need help from his team. Combine the numbers he is putting up this season with 11 wins and another 12th place conference finish, Mason may get snubbed for the season year in a row
Resume Power Rankings
Looking at each team’s results this season, here are the Atlantic 10 power rankings. These are based off each team’s wins and losses and who they came against. Beside each team is their record and their record against Power 5 conferences.
- Rhode Island 5-1 0-1
- Dayton 4-2 1-1
- Davidson 4-1 2-1
- VCU 5-1 1-1
- Massachusetts 4-1 0-1
- Richmond 4-2 1-1
- Bonaventure 3-2 0-1
- Joseph’s 3-2 0-2
- George Washington 3-3 0-2
- La Salle 2-2 0-0
- Duquesne 3-4 0-2
- George Mason 4-3 0-0
- St. Louis 2-3 0-1
- Fordham 5-2 0-0