Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Progress Report on the A-10's Out of Conference Schedule

The Conference Breakdown
Given the conference's footprint stretches from central Carolina north to New England and west to the Mississippi, it comes as no surprise that 29 of Division 1's 31 (not counting the Atlantic-10 itself) are represented in the out of conference (OOC) schedules of the 14 members...

Atlantic Coast Conference11
American East10
Atlantic Sun4
Big Ten4
Big 1231
Big East182
Big South41
Colonial Athletic Association161
Conference USA5
Great West2
Horizon League6
Ivy League92
Mid-Atlantic Athletic92
MidEastern Athletic 81
Missouri Valley2
Mountain West1
Northeast Conference92
Ohio Valley21
Pacific 104
Patriot League7
Sun Belt32
Southeast Conference6
Summit League3
Southern Conference71
SouthWest Athletic Conference2
Western Athletic Conference1
West Coast Conference2

[Note -- the list does not reflect 2nd, 3rd and 4th round opponents in early season invitational tournaments. Expect more above the Red Line conference games as those parts of the schedule become official...]
The mix certainly reflects the different regions from which the conference draws it's membership. As expected, the ACC, American East, Big East, CAA, Ivy and MidAtlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) are well represented in the composite schedule. The Mid American Conference (MAC) seems over represented, though both Dayton and Xavier hail from the upper Midwest and traditionally schedule several MAC teams. Temple however, has a football affiliation with the MAC, and is contractually obligated to schedule a handful of MAC teams (the Owls would no doubt have one or two on the schedule anyway), this season the number is five (of the Owls' 13 OOC games).

The composite record so far (midday 11/16) is 11-7 (0.611), with losing records against the Big 12 (La Salle lost to Baylor), the Big South(!) and the Ohio Valley(!) Conferences.

Pleasant Surprises
While beating The Citadel & William & Mary was expected, the margin of victory caught my interest. According to Ken Pomeroy the efficiency with which the Spiders dispatched those opponents was mid-season form...

The Citadel1.230.58+0.66
William & Mary1.140.77+0.38

Granted neither opponent is a Top 100 RPI team (they will both probably end up in the 200 range when the season goes into the books), but the efficiency differentials are impressive, and the point margins of +42 and +27 respectively suggest Coach Mooney has this team ready to play. If the Spiders handle a few of their more challenging OOC opponents (Arizona State, Georgia Tech, Seton Hall -- on the road) with the same ease, they should find themselves on a few AP and Coaches Poll ballots going into the A-10 regular season.

Consistent with last season, Temple continues to show well against above the Red Line opponents. The Owls opened with a six point win over the Pirates of Seton Hall (Big East). If the Hall recovers their step, this win should look very good on Temple's resume going into Selection Sunday.

Pittsburg is expected to dominate the Big East this season, but the Panthers had all they could handle from Coach Baron's Rhode Island squad. All the more remarkable because the squad that stayed within a possession of Pitt to the last 1:20 of the game was still unsettled as late as the start of classes in early September. Should the coach be able to build on this early season surprise (a trademark of Rhodi teams in the Baron Era), the Runnin' Rams might be able to use an expected early conference regular season return of Orion Outerbridge as the energy boost to power them through that late season wall they hit last season.

True Gardiner-Webb housed Kentuky two seasons ago, but this Big South team is not returning an experienced squad nor expected to compete for a Big South title this season. The 90-81 win over South Carolina State last weekend evened Coach Major's record and will get the 49ers ready for their game against George Mason later this week.

Tom Pecora's debut at Fordham was also disappointing, though the 61-58 loss to Brown (Ivy League) was closer than Coach Major's debut. Like Charlotte, Fordham turned it around in the second game, dispatching Sacred Heart (NEC) by a double digit margin.

Coach Majerus is no doubt re-tooling the Saint Louis offense and defense with the loss of senior Willie Reed and junior Kwamain Mitchell, two of the squad's recognized leaders, on the eve (literally) of fall practice. Neither will be available before late December (if then). The shuffle explains the Billekins' 64-62 opening loss to Austin Peay (Ohio Valley Conference). The Governors are a middling OVC team whose RPI typically ranks somewhere in the mid 100s by season's end. Not the kind of home loss that will help St. Louis' tournament resume (nor the conference's overall standing). The Billikens were expected to challenge for conference elite status this season, but may spend much of the OOC (quickly) integrating newcomers in place of the missing parts and, much like last season, surge at the end of the conference schedule, playing more the spoiler (again) than the next conference "It" team. Too bad given the A-10's potential to take three or four NCAA bids.

No comments: