The A-10's Dense Center

By Steve DiMiceli

Only a single game separates the 7 teams vying for the right to pass "Go" and head directly to Atlantic City. Seeds 3 and 4 are hanging very much in the balance during the final 5 games of the Atlantic 10 season. Here is a break down of what each team will be facing during the stretch run and what is at stake for them:

Xavier 7-4

For the first time in a long time, Xavier's NCAA hopes might rely heavily on the A-10 tournament. With an RPI in the 50's due to a mid season  meltdown and a recent Temple beat down, the Musketeers will probably need to make the finals or win to get in. X does have some opportunities against good RPI schools to make up some ground. They have to go to UMass and St Louis, but they get a couple of very winnable home games.

Tiebreaker Wins - Duquesne, St Joe's, St Bona, --- Tiebreaker Losses - Dayton, Lasalle

Likely Record 10-6
Meltdown Factor 3

UMass 7-4

Fairly surprising season for the Minutemen so far and I think they are the real deal. They are not an NCAA team because of their SOS, and lack of marque road wins. Still, they've played admirably in the A-10 winning the games they were supposed to and even beating St Louis. Of the 6 teams contending for a bye, they probably have the most difficult schedule going on the road to Dayton and Temple while hosting Xavier and Lasalle. I expect them to go 2-3, but this team could meltdown and go 1-4. I don't see that as likely, but it is within the realm of possibility.

Tiebreaker Wins - St Bona --- Tiebreaker Losses - Lasalle, Duquesne

Likely Record 9-7
Meltdown Factor 7

St Joe's 7-5

With the 26th most difficult schedule, an RPI of 50 and 7 top 100 wins, it's surprising that St Joe's aren't getting more talk as a bubble team. Problem is their only good road win came against the Dukes and only one of their wins was against a top 50 team. Still there is room for discussion and at this point the Hawks are solid NIT team with the chance for a special season next year. They have two should win games one on the road at GW and one at home to Richmond. A win against Temple would give their resume a nice kick in the pants as would a win to close the season in Olean. Still with the way this team has played away from Hawk Hill I'm not sure if they can muster better than 2-2. At the same time, I have a hard time believing they do much worse than that.

Tiebreaker Wins - Duquesne, Dayton, Lasalle --- Tiebreaker Losses - Xavier

Likely Record 9-7
Meltdown Factor 2

Lasalle 6-5

To me, Lasalle is still the biggest surprise of the A-10 season and on par with us last year. After a fairly hot start the young Explorers are beginning to swoon. Their final five starts with UMass and Temple before they go on to face Fordham, GW and Bona. All three could be difficult matchups. I expect their slide to continue and I will even be so bold as to predict a loss @ Fordham. Meltdown factor is high for me because frankly, I think they already are melting down.

Tiebreak Wins - Duquesne, Xavier, UMass --- Tiebreak Losses - St Joe's. Dayton

Likely Record 7-9
Meltdown Factor 9

Dayton 6-5

With early wins over Alabama, Xavier, Temple and St Louis, the Flyers are doing that thing the love to do where they shoot themselves in the foot repeatedly until they settle in for another NIT bid. Dayton were in the midst of 4 game losing steak before running into Fordham and Charlotte, two easy wins on paper, but another story in reality. The good news is that Chris Johnson either got a message written in goat's blood from our friends at the Blackburn Review or he looked at his profile at daytonflyers.com where he found out he was in fact a senior. He is playing much better since the Duquesne game. Dayton have another showdown with Xavier at Cintas this Saturday before coming to Pittsburgh. After that, Dayton gets three that they should win including Umass at home. Still, you never know with this team. Meltdowns are always possible, but the schedule should insulate from that. 9-7 in the league would be pretty impressive considering their head to heads. 4-1 the rest of the way and they could get back into the conversation for the NCAA's with a trip to the A-10 finals.

Tiebreak Wins - Xavier, Lasalle --- Tiebreak Losses - Duquesne, St Joe's, St Bona
Likely Record 9-7
Meltdown Factor 8

St Bonaventure 6-5

Fresh off their beat down of the Dukes, St Bona lost to Temple pretty much ending their chance at the NCAA sanctioned post season. The quality wins in general are not there for the Bona's nor are the quality road wins. What looked preseason to be a pretty sexy schedule has turned out to be blah. Their fans have to be disappointed with the results based on preseason expectations for Andrew Nicholson, Michael Davenport and Da'Quan Cook's senior year. Still they would take a top 4 finish as a consolation prize as we did last year. Of the 7 teams, Bona play one of the easier schedules even if they have to go on the road 3 times. I expect Lasalle to be in meltdown mode and St Joe's is a home game. I doubt they sweep all five games, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.

Tiebreak Wins - Dayton --- Tiebreak Losses - Xavier, UMass
Likely Record 10-6
Meltdown Factor 1

Duquesne 6-5

Like St Bona, the pressure of the sanctioned post season is pretty well off at this point for Duquesne. It would probably take a very unlikely win against either Temple or St Louis plus a run to the A-10 finals to even make the NIT a possibility. Duquesne have 5 wins against top 100 teams including 2 away from home, but they've been run out of the building 5 times this year too. The schedule sets up to be quite challenging with 3 on the road. Duquesne are the only team of the 7 who play both of the top teams in their final 5 games. The Dukes tend to wilt this time of year, but they've done a very good job rebounding after losses this season. For that reason, I think it's pretty unlikely that they'll lose more than 3.

Tiebreak Wins - Dayton, UMass --- Tiebreak Losses - Xavier, Lasalle, St Joe's
Likely Record 8-8
Meltdown Factor 5

Predictions of the final seeding

3. Xavier
4. St Bonaventure
5. St Joe's
6. Dayton
7. UMass
8. Duquesne
9. Lasalle