A-10 Roundup Vol. 2.5: Much Needed Wins in Non-Conference Play
Since the publication of Roundup Volume 2, the Atlantic 10 posted a combined record of 6-2. When evaluating the Conference's position in their quest to College Basketball Eliteness, the A-10 is looking pretty solid. Here are some performances that stood out to me this week.
VCU's stock continues to rise
As of now, I can only see the A-10 getting two bids in March Madness this year. The conference hasn't had more than three since 2014, and I expect the number to climb next year, but right now two seems to be the magic number. However, there are a few teams that look like they can make a potential 2021 NIT run, and VCU is one of them.
In their most recent game against North Carolina A&T, sophomore guard Nah'Shon "Bones" Hyland continued to shine for the Rams, scoring a career-high 30 points off of 11-16 shooting, leading his team to a 95-59 win. Hyland was shooting 30-point three pointers in a game that saw every player on the VCU roster get some playing time. Averaging 17.2 points per game in his first six games, Hyland is making a strong case for conference player of the year in a season full of very talented players. The Rams biggest strength continues to be their ability to create offensive plays off of solid defensive possessions. The tandem play of a Hason Ward block turning into a Bones bucket was on full display on Wednesday, as the team finished with a total of 20 assists. If they can clean up their tendency to turn the ball over, they are going to play a major spoiler role in conference play.
Richmond gets off a few shaky wins
In a game that should not have been close, Richmond blew several double-digit runs to beat Wofford 77-72. To give the Spiders the benefit of the doubt, this game was scheduled relatively last minute, giving them little time to prepare. However, the same can be said for Wofford, an objectively weaker program, but they took it to the wire against a nationally ranked team. Richmond's biggest strength was their depth, as their bench decisively outscored their opponent's reserves 13 to 2. Andrew Gustavson was key off the bench for Richmond, scoring 8 points in 23 minutes of play.
We saw similar late game runs in Wednesday's matchup against Northern Iowa. Going into halftime, the Spiders were actually down by two points against a Panthers team that forced 9 turnovers. If Richmond weren't so effective against defending UNI behind the 3-point line, that halftime margin could have been much wider. Despite a solid performance from the entire team, the 78-68 win against UNI could be largely attributed to excellent performances from stars Jacob Gilyard and Grant Golden. Gilyard continues to demonstrate that he is one of the most versatile players in the conference, with 4 steals to back up 12 points and 11 assists. The man is simply all over the ball. Grant Golden recorded another double double off of 17 points and 11 rebounds, proving why he is one of the better bigs in the A-10 this year.
URI stays competitive against Wisconsin
I want to give Rhody a few props before I go into why they dropped this one against the Badgers: to say the circumstances of this season are unprecedent is a severe understatement. For Rhode Island to schedule this game against a nationally ranked Big 10 team and play like they did in the second half bodes a lot better for them than the stat sheets will show.
However, Rhody struggled early on vs wisconsin, getting muscled out of the paint for a large portion of the first half. Their immediate try for a solution was to start shooting from outside to no avail, bricking a lot of shots. In the first half, URI finished shooting 7 for 27, with all 8 of their shots beyond the arc missing. The Badgers had 11 points off of turnovers with six minutes left in the first half. Wisconsin was able to draw a lot of space on the offensive end, allowing several players to take advantage of clear lanes to the hoop, including Brad Davison. The senior guard outscored all of URI in the first half, finishing with 23 points. The Rams scored 16 points in the first half, a season-low for one period of play.
The Rams got very hot late in the second half, turning a 25 point deficit into 8 off of some solid shooting from Jeremy Shepard, who finished with a team-leading 13 points, but it was too little too late. With both teams in the double bonus with plenty of time left in the game, Wisconsin’s inability to miss at the charity stripe was a major difference maker. The Badgers finished 26-36 from the free throw line, with the Rams finishing 15-25.