ANALYSIS: Best and worst of A-10 at halfway point

VCU, Saint Louis, Dayton top conference but trio of surprising teams not far behind

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Parity has brought misery to the Atlantic 10 Conference.

There’s no dominant team. The league is devouring itself, chewing up NCAA tournament hopes and spitting them out.

Dayton fans whispered “18-0″ after four double-digit victories to open A-10 play but then watched their team lose three out of four games. Virginia Commonwealth was on a similar roll until losing 61-58 at home to St. Bonaventure on Saturday. That left Saint Louis as the team to beat until it lost 75-65 at Fordham on Tuesday.

While the expected top contenders — except for Loyola Chicago, which was picked to finish fourth but has sat alone in last place all season — still top the standings, right behind them are three teams predicted to finish in the bottom half: Fordham; St. Bonaventure; and George Washington.

All 15 teams will compete for the A-10′s automatic bid from March 7-12 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It’s unlikely anyone climbs back into the at-large conversation.

With every team now at the halfway point of the 18-game league schedule or one game past it, here’s a look at the best and worst of the A-10 to this point:

Best team: VCU (17-6, 8-2) sits alone in first place entering a game Friday at second-place Saint Louis (15-7, 7-2). VCU has lost to ninth-place Duquesne (14-8, 4-5) in Pittsburgh and to fifth-place St. Bonaventure (12-11, 6-4) in Richmond.

Worst team: A-10 newcomer Loyola (7-14, 1-8) played one of its best games Tuesday but lost 85-81 in overtime to Dayton at UD Arena. The last program the A-10 added, Davidson, did not have as much trouble adapting to the league. The Wildcats won the regular-season championship in 2015, its first season, after leaving the Southern Conference.

Most improved team: Duquesne (14-8, 4-5) finished 1-16 in the A-10 last season but is on pace to win eight games this season.

Most disappointing team: Preseason favorite Dayton (15-8, 7-3) blew a four-point lead in the last 30 seconds to lose 63-62 at home to VCU on Jan. 13. Losses to George Washington (11-11, 5-4) and Rhode Island (8-14, 4-6) soon followed. The Flyers started strong and won at Davidson (10-12, 3-7) and Fordham early in A-10 play but will have to prove again they can win on the road. Two tough tests await: at St. Bonaventure on Saturday and at VCU on Tuesday.

Hottest team: Fordham (18-4, 6-3), in the first season for coach Keith Urgo, has won five games in a row. It owned the A-10′s best non-conference record (12-1) but built that record against the league’s easiest schedule. It then lost three of its first four A-10 games, lending credence to the idea that it wasn’t as good as its record. Now it’s on a roll. The 75-65 victory against Saint Louis was its best A-10 victory since it beat Dayton 55-54 at Rose Hill Gym two years ago.

Coldest team: The defending A-10 tournament champion, Richmond (11-12, 4-6), lost its fourth straight game Wednesday: 66-62 at home to St. Bonaventure.

Biggest drop: Davidson won the regular-season championship last season with a 15-3 mark in the final season for longtime coach Bob McKillop. In the first season for his son Matt as head coach, the Wildcats (10-12, 3-7) are in 14th place

Best player: Despite his recent struggles, Dayton sophomore forward DaRon Holmes II still tops the Ken Pomeroy All-A-10 team. He ranks ahead of Richmond’s Tyler Burton, George Mason’s Josh Oduro, Dayton’s Toumani Camara and Saint Louis point guard Yuri Collins. Holmes has averaged 11.8 points in his last six games after a seven-game run of 20-point games.

Best rookie: Massachusetts freshman guard RJ Luis ranks 14th in the A-10 in scoring (14.8 points per game). He scored 31 points Saturday in an 87-79 victory against Duquesne.

Best performance: George Washington guard James Bishop IV scored 44 points against Loyola on Dec. 31. He leads the A-10 with 21.3 points per game.

Most lopsided game: Saint Joseph’s beat Loyola 86-55 on Jan. 14.

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