Image: Bonaventure Athletics
As we enter February, are things looking up for the Atlantic 10? On another fine Tuesday, let's break down what happened this past week, and what to expect this week in A-10 Conference play.
Does Davidson's loss have major conference implications?
When polling opinions around the A-10 community this season, December and January started off a bit tough. With the Bonnies' long pause, Dayton's inconsistent non-conference record, and a lack of too many outstanding teams this year, the bid conversation around the A-10 looked bleak. For anyone who wanted to see a multi-bid A-10 this year, the general consensus has been that Davidson would need to continue their undefeated streak until the conference tournament, where they would get in as an at-large bid along with whoever else could possibly take them down. As things got a bit shaky for Davidson, with several single digit wins towards the end of their streak, a loss finally came against VCU at home on Wednesday.
While I'd usually be quick to consider this game one in which the conference eats itself alive, I think it's a lot more complicated than that. Davidson didn't lose this game because they're a team full of frauds, they lost this game (by two points) to a VCU team that's full of talent, in a conference that's also full of talent. With Davidson still in a prime position to win the conference, VCU emerging as a strong challenger, and Dayton's big wins over the Bonnies, SLU, and URI, there still may be the slimmest chance of a three bid league this season.
Is it time to throw Mason into the Top 4 mix?
Short answer; not yet. Long answer; with their current win streak that includes victories over the Bonnies and the Flyers, Mason sits in double-bye territory with a little over a month left in the season. With their five game losing streak in non-conference play, and their conference opening loss to GW, Mason is nowhere near the bubble. That being said, they've got a whole month of very entertaining basketball in store.
While Josh Oduro is no doubt the star of the team, this past week has been carried largely by D'Shawn Schwartz. With 20 against the Bonnies on Tuesday, and another 15 against UMass on Saturday, a game in which Oduro had his playing time cut short due to foul trouble. Shooting 51% against the minutemen, as well as 45% from three point range, the Patriots performance perfectly encapsulated what makes them such a threat in this year's Atlantic 10; strong guard play, characterized by high volume shooting. Earlier in the week, any time the Bonnies looked to make a run, Mason was ready with a three to shut down any chance at a comeback.
Mason's games against SLU on the 2nd, and Richmond on the 7th and 9th will be the most important test for the Patriots to see if they have any staying power in this year's A-10.
Can GW avoid the pillow fight?
While Mason looks to find their identity in this year's A-10, they'll have to reconcile with the fact that their sole loss comes from the slightly surging George Washington Colonials, who currently sit in eighth place in the conference standings. While not really poised to make a deep run in the conference tournament, GW's recent stretch has put them miles ahead of where we thought this team was going to be, and at the center of it lies the Colonials' top tier scoring tandem in Joe Bamisile and James Bishop. Against Fordham on Saturday, Bamisile and Bishop were pretty much unstoppable in the second half, as Fordham's defense in the first half centered mainly around playing iso ball to stop the two scorers. Unfortunately for Fordham, this was in vain, as Bishop would finish the day with 25 points.
They're about to hit a pretty tough spot on their schedule over the next week or two, but as long as GW can continue to challenge, and maybe even clinch a spot in the second day of the tournament, they'll do wonders for incoming recruits and transfers, and just maybe, could steer a serious upturn in Jamion Christian's tenure.