ANALYSIS: Atlantic 10 on track to be one-bid league

Fordham, Duquesne among the improved teams, while Dayton and Saint Louis, the preseason favorites, have disappointed

The Atlantic 10 Conference has always taken pride in being a multiple-bid conference when it comes to the NCAA tournament. The A-10 has gotten at least two teams into the tournament — and often three until recent seasons — every year since 2005 when the A-10 tournament champion, George Washington, was the only representative.

Eighteen years later, the A-10 looks like a one-bid league again.

“This is ONLY December, but it’s hard to see a path to an at-large bid for any Atlantic 10 team not named Saint Louis,” wrote Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports on Dec. 8.

Rothstein then wrote Saint Louis needed to beat Boise State and Drake in its next two games. It not only lost to Boise State but then fell in its last non-conference game to Southern Illinois Edwardsville on Dec. 21.

“The Atlantic 10 continues to do whatever it can to be a one bid league,” wrote Jonathon Warriner of after that game.

The A-10 finished non-conference play with an 0-17 record in Quad 1 games. The Dayton Flyers, expected to be the best team in the conference, were 0-3 in those games. Quad 1 games are defined as home games against teams ranked 1-30 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool, neutral site games against teams ranked 1-50 and away games against teams ranked 1-75.

The A-10 finished 10-37 against teams ranked in the top 100 of the Ken Pomeroy ratings.

Those numbers point to only the A-10 tournament champion advancing to the Big Dance. In his latest update, ESPN expert Joe Lunardi projects that champion to be Dayton and that it will receive a No. 13 seed and a date with No. 4 seed Virginia in the first round.

Fans disappointed in the state of the A-10 can at least take solace in the entertainment value of what should be a wide-open regular-season race and tournament. The fun starts Wednesday with three games, including the Dayton Flyers vs. Duquesne at UD Arena.

Best teams: The top two teams in the preseason poll remain the teams to beat even if they haven’t been as strong as expected.

Dayton (8-5) is the highest-ranked A-10 team in the Ken Pomeroy ratings (No. 59) and the NCAA Evaluation Tool (No. 82).

Saint Louis ranks 74th in the Pomeroy ratings and 103rd in the NET but, judging by the numbers, has four victories (Memphis, Providence, Southern Illinois and Drake) better than Dayton’s top victory (Wyoming). The Billikens also have that one bad loss to Edwardsville, while Dayton has not lost to anyone worse than Brigham Young, which is No. 91 in the Pomeroy ratings.

Worst team: La Salle (5-7) ranks 260th in the Pomeroy ratings and 310th in the NET.

Most disappointing teams: Dayton, hampered by injuries to starting guards Malachi Smith and Kobe Elvis, started the season ranked 24th in the Associated Press top-25 poll and lost all five of its games to top-100 opponents. Saint Louis (8-5) also received votes in the preseason top-25 poll but is 3-4 against the top 100 and lost a home game to No. 186 Southern Illinois Edwardsville in its last non-conference game.

Most improved team: Duquesne (10-3) was picked to finish last in the conference and had the second-best record behind Fordham (11-1) in non-conference play.

Best victory: Saint Louis beat Memphis 90-84 on Nov. 15. Memphis (10-3) ranks 26th in the Pomeroy ratings and 45th in the NET.

Worst loss: Saint Joseph’s (6-6) lost 97-80 at home to Farleigh Dickinson (6-8) on Dec. 3. Farleigh Dickinson ranks 332nd in the Pomeroy ratings and 300th in the NET.

Best player: Dayton sophomore forward DaRon Holmes II, the A-10 Rookie of the Year last season, ranks seventh in the league in scoring (17.7), fifth in rebounding (7.7), seventh in field-goal percentage (56.7) and second in blocks (2.2). He leads the nation with 34 dunks.

Holmes has yet to win an A-10 Player of the Week award. The race for the A-10 Player of the Year award is wide open. Seven players have won the weekly award, and no one has won it twice.

Best senior: Richmond guard Tyler Burton ranks second in the league in scoring (18.9) and third in rebounding (7.9)

Best true freshman: Dayton guard Mike Sharavjamts is averaging 6.7 points, 2.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists while handling the starting point guard position in the absence of Smith and Elvis.

Best redshirt freshman: Guard Jalen Nelson is Richmond’s second-leading scorer (10.5) and leads the team in assists (3.0).

Best transfer: Duquesne guard Dae Dae Grant ranks fifth in the A-10 scoring (17.9). He scored 1,171 points in the last three seasons with the Miami RedHawks.

Most improved player: Third-year Davidson forward Sam Mennenga averaged 8.4 points last season and is averaging 15.8 this season.

Best native Ohioan: Wayne graduate Darius Quisenberry is averaging a career-best 18.1 points per game in his second season at Fordham. He played his first three seasons at Youngstown State.

Best stat: Saint Louis guard Yuri Collins is leading the nation in assists (10.3) for the second straight season. No one else averages more than 8.3 He averaged 7.9 last season.

Best performance: George Washington guard James Bishop, who leads the A-10 in scoring (20.5), had 44 points on 17-of-24 shooting in an 85-80 loss to Hofstra on Nov. 14.

Best game: Davidson rallied from a 21-point deficit to win 102-97 in double overtime at Wright State on Nov. 9. Foster Loyer, who averages 18.5 points per game, led the Wildcats with 38 points.

Best performance by a new coach: Frank Martin is 9-3 in his first season at Massachusetts. The Minutemen were never better than 7-5 in non-conference play in five seasons under Matt McCall.

Worst performance by a new coach: Former Dayton coach Archie Miller is 4-8 in his first season at Rhode Island. It’s the worst record through 12 games for the program since the 2012-13 season when it was also 4-8.

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