Atlantic 10 Tournament, automatic bid up for grabs

Here’s a look at the top eight teams in the A10 Tournament.

The Atlantic 10 may not have the strong national presense of some of the other major conferences, but its men’s basketball tournament looks poised to be an adventure.

None of the A10 schools were ranked in the latest AP poll ahead of Wednesday’s opening night of the tournament, but five schools achieved 20 victories this season. Four of those teams won either 13 or 14 games in conference play. Eight of the 14 teams finished with a winning record overall, including Fordham for the first time since 2006-07.

Here’s a look at the top eight teams in the A10 Tournament, who will compete through Sunday at Barclays Center.

No. 1 Dayton (24-6, 14-4 A10)

The Flyers, led by junior guard Charles Cooke (15.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg), are looking at a potential top-four NCAA Tournament seed with a championship run in Brooklyn. But they haven’t always made it easy on themselves, with losses to dismal La Salle and non-conference Chattanooga.

No. 2 VCU (22-9, 14-4)

The defending tournament champions were a fifth seed last year. Melvin Johnson, a junior guard from the Bronx, led the team with 18 points per game for the Rams. Normally a 40.6% shooter from downtown, Johnson must snap out of a recent funk (2-for-15 over his last two games).

No. 3 St. Bonaventure (22-7, 14-4)

The Bonnies can beat anyone when Marcus Posley (19.3 ppg) is on his game. The 6-0 senior exploded for 47 points in a win over Saint Joseph’s last week. Heck, they can beat anyone even when Posley struggles, as he did when St. Bonaventure topped Dayton on Feb. 20. Don’t be surprised if the Bonnies wind up as champs.

No. 4 Saint Joseph’s (24-7, 13-5)

Saint Joe’s also has a win over the Flyers, but the Hawks enter the A10 tourney on a two-game slide and with losses in three of their last five. The latest loss, at home against a mediocre Duquesne squad, is troublesome.

No. 5 George Washington (22-9, 11-7)

A win at VCU was the highlight of conference play for the Colonials, but an early season win over ACC power Virginia indicates a team that can hang with the best in the country. However, GWU has lost two of its last three, so the Colonials aren’t at their best of late.

No. 6 Davidson (18-11, 10-8)

The Wildcats are led by one of the top scoring guards in the country. That statement applied eight years ago to NBA MVP Stephen Curry, and accurately describes A10 leading scorer Jack Gibbs (24.8 ppg). The junior guard top 40 points on three occasions this season, and scored 30 or more 10 times. That level of production makes Davidson a tournament sleeper.

No. 7 Rhode Island (17-14, 9-9)

The Rams are tournament longshots, but a win at Dayton is an interesting outlier on their record. Mostly, Rhode Island beat the teams it was supposed to and lost to the ones it was expected to, but perhaps Rhode Island has one more upset in them this season.

No. 8 Fordham (17-12, 8-10)

The third group of Rams in the bracket, Fordham boosted its profile with four wins over its last five. Senior Mandell Thomas and freshman Joseph Chartouny are one and two on the A10 steals leaderboard. That’s a fun fact, but neither guard is likely to lift this team past the quarterfinals.

The rest: No. 9 Richmond (15-15, 7-11), No. 10 Massachusetts (13-17, 6-12), No. 11 Duquesne (16-15, 6-12), No. 12 George Mason (11-20, 5-13), No. 13 Saint Louis (10-20, 5-13), No. 14 La Salle (8-21, 4-14)

It’s been a crazy year of college hoops, but the idea of any of these six schools running the table is almost inconceivable. But if one did, that would make for a pretty awesome Cinderella story.

Atlantic 10 Tournament schedule

All games at Barclays Center

Wednesday

Game 1: No. 12 George Mason vs. No. 13 Saint Louis, 6:30 p.m. on ASN

Game 2: No. 11 Duquesne vs. No. 14 La Salle, 9 p.m. on ASN

Thursday

Game 3: No. 8 Fordham vs. No. 9 Richmond, noon on NBCSN

Game 4: No. 5 George Washington vs. Game 1 winner, 2:30 p.m. on NBCSN

Game 5: No. 7 Rhode Island vs. No. 10 Massachusetts, 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN

Game 6: No. 6 Davidson vs. Game 2 winner, 9 p.m. on NBCSN

Friday

Game 7: No. 1 Dayton vs. Game 3 winner, noon on NBCSN

Game 8: No. 4 Saint Joseph’s vs. Game 4 winner, 2:30 p.m. on NBCSN

Game 9: No. 2 VCU vs. Game 5 winner, 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN

Game 10: No. 3 St. Bonaventure vs. Game 6 winner, 9 p.m. on NBCSN

Saturday

Game 11: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 1:30 p.m. on CBSSN

Game 12: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 4 p.m. on CBSSN

Sunday

Game 13: Game 11 winner vs. Game 12 winner, 1 p.m. on CBS/2

Scott Fontana