For the first time ever, George Mason fans will not have to arrive on Wednesday for the Atlantic 10 tournament. Avoiding the play-in games has been a huge goal for the Green and Gold faithful. The team will be around Pittsburgh for at least the second day of the tournament and be a part of the main portion of the competition. The same cannot be said for at least two of the four teams stuck in the play-in round.
Although this season the bottom four teams in the conference have been separated from the rest of the 10 by a wide margin, there is always the chance for one of the teams emerging in this round to get an upset later on.
Here is a preview of each matchup and what to watch for:
#12 Massachusetts vs. #13 Saint Joseph’s
How to Watch: American Sports Network
Winner will play #5 St. Bonaventure
This is a matchup no one would have expected as the 12/13 game at the beginning of the season. Coming off the 2016 Atlantic 10 championship, a free fall in the standings was not in the prediction for Saint Joseph’s. Season ending injuries to both their leading scorer, Shavar Newkirk and starting guard Lamar Kimble propelled the team into the basement with a 11-19, 4-14 record.
Bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in the NCAA, had the Minutemen poised for a program building season. Inconsistencies though have been their main theme and that is probably how this matchup will play out. Massachusetts (14-17, 4-14) is the favorite coming in going 2-0 against the Hawks this season but could win or loss by twenty, neither should be a surprise.
Both teams play around the arc with a focus on individual penetration. Typically, whether its Markell Lodge for Saint Joseph’s or Rashaan Holloway for UMass, there is only one post player down low. It leads to scoring droughts for both teams, in particular for Massachusetts. The Hawks just simply have not been able to keep playing consistently with the flow of their roster and lost nine games in a row towards the end of the conference season.
#25 James Demery: 6-6, Jr., F (14.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg)
#2 Charlie Brown: 6-6, Fresh., F (12.8 ppg, 21 blocks)
#3 Dejon Jarreau: 6-5, Fresh., G (9.9 ppg, 4.4 apg)
#45 Rashaan Holloway: 6-11, Soph., C (10.6 ppg, 61.5% FG)
Prediction: Massachusetts 76 Saint Joseph’s 68
#11 Saint Louis vs. #14 Duquesne
How to Watch: American Sports Network
Winner will play #6 George Washington
Saint Louis and Duquesne are two young squads that have their fair share of talent but have not been able to put it all together game-to-game.
The Billikins have a deep ball threat from nearly every position on the court. Reggie Agbeko, the 6-7 forward, being the only exception. Although Saint Louis (11-20, 6-12) may not take the long ball approach into trying to score, it forces opponents to respect it. Teams that do not, like George Mason twice, pay the price.
On the season, the Dukes have allowed teams to shoot 35 percent from 3pt range. They have struggled to force turnovers on the year and failed to take advantage of opportunities given to them.
Two freshmen on the Duquesne (10-21, 3-15) roster were named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie team, Mike Lewis II and Isiaha Mike. With two forwards starting, Mike is playing as the stretch four that so many teams have thrived off of in college basketball the past seasons.
If it were not though for senior Mike Crawford taking a majority of the shots for the Billikins, and missing them, Saint Louis would easily be the favorites.
The season series was split with both squads winning on their home court.
#5 Davell Roby: 6-4, Jr., G (12.1 ppg, 3.4 apg)
#35 Reggie Agbeko: 6-7, Sr., F (8.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
#1 Mike Lewis II: 6-1, Fresh., G (13.9 ppg, 60 3pters)
#20 Nakye Sanders: 6-8, Soph., F (5.9 rpg, 33 blocks)
Prediction: Saint Louis 65 Duquesne 61