HERE WE ARE:
The Duquesne Dukes (6-23, 1-16) have lost 16 straight Atlantic 10 Conference games. Rhode Island (14-15, 5-12) has lost 11 of 13. They’re the two worst performing programs in the league over the past six weeks and now meet in one of two first-round Atlantic 10 Tournament matchups in Washington, D.C. David Cox’s 11th seeded Rams and Keith Dambrot’s 14th seeded Dukes tip at 3:30pm Wednesday afternoon. The winner faces 6th seeded Richmond in the second round.
The Rams and Dukes met just two Saturdays ago in Kingston, with URI leading wire-to-wire and emerging victorious by a score of 70-54. It was expected given the Rams clear advantage in talent, depth, and experience. For all the Rams struggles, they’ll be projected to prevail again on Wednesday. That’s because Duquesne is in the most unenviable place. Painfully young and painfully injured.
Stone Freeman and I have your radio call on B101.5 beginning at 3pm. Here’s the full bracket.
Everyone is 0-0. Talk of clean slates, fresh starts, and the turning of the pages fills the air.
Truth is these phrases are typically used when teams aren’t playing well. For teams who are playing well nobody discusses a fresh start. Instead, it’s about parlaying momentum. Spin it how you will.
Anybody believe Jalen Carey is starting fresh? Surely not. He’s producing and playing well. He’s hungry. Other Rams may be reeling.
And March intel is a far cry from November.
Opponents have the book on you, through granular scouting, reams of data, and head-to-head competition. They know your strengths and kryptonite.
Rhode Island needs to somehow quickly marshal possession by possession awareness and clean up the poor offense undoing them in A-10 play: too many turnovers, charity stripe concentration woes, and a lack of execution, particularly in close-and-late situations.
That’s a mountain of reality.
And as uncomfortable as it may be, leaning into this messy backdrop and learning from it is Rhode Island’s key to extending its trip. Not a cliché fresh start.
THREE A-10 PLAYERS I’M EXCITED TO SEE AGAIN LIVE:
- Hyunjung Lee (Davidson); smooth game.
- Jalen Adaway (St. Bonaventure); unrelenting scorer.
- Vince Williams (VCU); Mr. Versatility.
A-10 CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHUP PREDICTION:
(4) St. Bonaventure versus (2) Dayton.
PICK TO CUT DOWN THE NETS IN D.C.:
St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies are now resembling the team everyone thought they’d be in October, winning seven of eight entering the tournament. They take care of the ball, their defense has improved in conference play, and they’re gelling when it matters. Make just enough from the perimeter and they’ll ride their experience to an NCAA Tournament berth.
And Bonas fans show out. In Mark Schmidt we trust.
THE ATLANTIC 10 WILL EARN __ NCAA TOURNAMENT BIDS:
Assuming my prediction unfolds, let’s go with 3.
St. Bonaventure will be the auto-bid as conference tournament champion.
Then give me two of Davidson (47 NET entering week’s play; 5-4 versus Q1 & Q2), Dayton (52 NET, 8-5 versus Q1 & Q2), and VCU (51 NET, 6-7 versus Q1 & Q2).
It’s a longshot but I can dream. Hoop springs eternal.
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men’s Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow on Twitter for five straight years, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44