Arachnophilia: A-10 Tournament Preview — The Sleepers

(PHOTO CREDIT: The Atlantic 10 Conference)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Welcome to what we here at 8News are calling March Mayhem. We’ve been keeping it quiet for some time now, but now is the time to let the cat out of the bag — we will be accompanying 8Sports Director Mitch Carr to Brooklyn. N.Y. for the excitement that is the Atlantic 10 Tournament at the Barclays Center.

Since there are 14 teams vying for the championship and a bid to the NCAA Tournament, this blog and Havoc Haven, our blog dedicated to the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams, will preview all teams involved.

In this post, we take a look at a few of the teams we consider to be the sleepers to win this week’s tournament.

Number 9 Seed: The Richmond Spiders

  • Record: 15-15 overall, 7-11 in A-10
  • Coach: Chris Mooney (202-161)
  • Top Scorers: T.J. Cline (18.1 ppg), Terry Allen (17.8 ppg)
  • Top Rebounder: T. Allen (7.8 rpg)
  • Assists Leader: Cline (119, 4.0 apg)
  • Points Per Game: 77.5
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 74.6
  • Scoring Offense Rank: 3
  • Scoring Defense Rank: 11
  • Scoring Margin Rank: 8 at +2.9
  • Free Throw Percentage & Rank: 14 at .657
  • Field Goal Percentage & Rank:  1 at .487
  • 3-Point FG Percentage & Rank: 5 at .362
  • Rebounding Margin & Rank: 13 at -5.0
  • Turnover Margin & Rank: 2 at +2.37

Richmond isn’t a hard team to dissect. The Spiders don’t defend or rebound very well, but when they’re clicking offensively, there isn’t a team in the A-10 they can’t beat. In fact, before conference play started back in December, Richmond garnered national attention after beating then-No. 14 ranked California and Northern Iowa just days apart. Inconsistency has been their Achilles heel, but if they can string together a few solid performances in a row, we see the Spiders as the conference tournament’s most dangerous sleeper.

Richmond’s top two scorers, junior T.J. Cline and forward Terry Allen, are two of the most versatile players in the conference who can hurt you inside and out. Highlighted by a ridiculous 34-point, 13-rebound effort in the Spiders’  win over ranked Cal, Allen was playing like an All-American during the early stages of the season and has continued to put up respectable enough numbers worthy of postseason recognition (he and Cline both were voted to the All-Atlantic 10 third team).  Meanwhile Cline, fresh off a career-high 36-point effort in Richmond’s narrow one-point loss against Dayton last week, has been scorching hot of late. He’s averaging a whisker under 20 ppg during conference play and has reached double figures in 18 of Richmond’s last 19 contests. Shawn’Dre Jones (15 ppg), who leads the team in 3-point shooting, is a steady and reliable point guard who gives the Spiders a third scoring option.

Making the Spiders’ sleeper value all the more appealing is their first round matchup against Fordham, a team they swept 2-0 during the regular season and have beaten 11 times in a row. Fordham likes to press defensively and force turnovers, but the Spiders are one of the A-10’s most disciplined teams with a +2.37 turnover margin, which is second best in the conference. Richmond came from behind to beat the Rams in both of their previous meetings this season, a feat that could be hard to pull off three times in a row. A fast start and taking control early will be key if the Spiders hope to advance into Friday’s quarterfinals.

 

Number 6 Seed: The Davidson Wildcats (Davidson, N.C.)

  • Record: 18-11 overall, 10-8 in A-10
  • Coach: Bob McKillop (514-311)
  • Top Scorers: Jack Gibbs (24.8 ppg), Peyton Aldridge (15.3 ppg)
  • Top Rebounder: Kuran Iverson (7.0 rpg)
  • Three-pointers made: Brian Sullivan (85)
  • Points Per Game: 79.7
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 69.4
  • Scoring Offense Rank: 1
  • Scoring Defense Rank: 14
  • Scoring Margin Rank: 9 at +1.6
  • Free Throw Percentage & Rank: 2 at .763
  • Field Goal Percentage & Rank:  8 at .446
  • 3-Point FG Percentage & Rank: 7 at .357
  • Rebounding Margin & Rank: 11 at -4.1
  • Turnover Margin & Rank: 5 at +1.55

Tournament time is when stars shine, and Davidson has one of best players in the conference – if not the nation – in junior guard Jack Gibbs. The nation’s third leading scorer at 24.8 points per game, Gibbs has scored 40 points in a game three times this season, 35 or more seven times and has hit the 30-point mark 10 times. He’s the caliber of player who can carry his team to victory any given night. Peyton Aldridge (15 ppg, 6 rpg) and Brian Sullivan (14 ppg, 85 made 3-pointers) are nice compliments, too, for a team that leads the A-10 in scoring offense.

Davidson will play the winner of Wednesday’s play-in game between Duquesne and La Salle at 9 p.m. The Wildcats won each of their two matchups versus both teams during the regular season. A win on Thursday will move Davidson into Friday’s quarterfinals against No. 3 seeded St. Bonaventure.

 

Number 7 Seed: The Rhode Island Rams (Kingston, R.I.)

  • Record: 17-14 overall, 9-9 in A-10
  • Coach: Jim Crews (100-86)
  • Top Scorers: Jared Terrell (13.6 ppg) Jarvis Garrett (12.7 ppg)
  • Top Rebounder: Reggie Agbeko, (6.1 rpg)
  • Assists: Jarvis Garrett (4.6 apg)
  • Points Per Game: 69.6
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 64.7
  • Scoring Offense Rank: 11
  • Scoring Defense Rank: 1
  • Scoring Margin Rank: 6 at +4.9
  • Free Throw Percentage & Rank: 11 at .667
  • Field Goal Percentage & Rank:  6 at .447
  • 3-Point FG Percentage & Rank: 2 at .371
  • Rebounding Margin & Rank: 5 at +2.3
  • Turnover Margin & Rank: 7 at +.84

Rhode Island boasts one of the strongest defensive teams in the A-10. They’re allowing under 65 points per game, which is tops in the conference. Thing is, they’ll be without Hassan Martin, who was just named the Conference Defensive Player of the Year and is widely regarded as the best big man since to wear a Rhode Island uniform since Lamar Odom. Jared Terrell and Jarvis Garrett, both All-Conference first team selections, will have to up their play a notch if the Rams hope to make a deep run in the tournament.

The Rams begin tournament play Thursday evening against the University of Massachusettes, a team that beat them 61-56 in overtime last month.

8Sports will have a crew in New York covering VCU and UR as they compete in this week’s conference tournament. Stay with our Havoc Haven and Arachnophilia blogs for complete coverage. 

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