The Atlantic 10 Tournament tips off tomorrow at Barclays Center, with No. 18 Saint Louis (26-5, 13-3 A-10) as the favorite. Although the Billikens, who earned a first-round bye and won’t play until Friday, won the A-10 Tournament last season, they will have a tough time breezing through it again this year.
Here’s a look at which teams can challenge senior forward Dwayne Evans and SLU for the conference’s automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. And Fordam (2-14, 9-20) isn’t one of them.
VCU (24-7, 12-4)
The No. 23 Rams enter the tournament on a four-game winning streak, including a 67-56 victory over Saint Louis on March 1. When the teams first met on Feb. 15, the Billikens edged the Rams by just two points. Given the closeness of their first two games, VCU has the best chance of defeating favorite Saint Louis. Led by senior Juvonte Reddic, they are considered a lock for the NCAA Tournament regardless.
George Washington (23-7, 11-5)
The Colonials only beat one ranked team in the regular season, but it was an impressive 60-53 victory over current No. 14 Creighton. George Washington lost their only meeting to Saint Louis on Feb. 22, 66-59, despite 21 points from sophomore Joe McDonald. Still, GWU and their balanced offensive attack ranks 93rd in the nation in scoring while Saint Louis sits at 205th, so there is still a distinct chance that they give the Billikens a run. They are widely regarded as a probable NCAA Tournament team and should make it barring disaster in this tournament.
Saint Joseph’s (21-9, 11-5)
Losers of their last two games, the Hawks have only a slim chance of winning this tournament. They lost their only matchup against Saint Louis by 16 on Feb. 5 and lost three of their four matchups against ranked opponents this season, with their lone victory coming against Massachusetts on Feb. 1. Still, seniors Langston Galloway and Ronald Roberts Jr. could explode and lead the Hawks to a stunning upset. ESPN currently projects them as a No. 11 for the NCAA Tournament, but a poor A-10 tourney could drop them out completely.
Dayton (22-9, 10-6)
The Flyers have gotten hot at the right time and have won nine of their last 10 games dating back to Feb. 1. They beat SLU, 72-67, last Wednesday and have played tough against ranked opponents all season, defeating then No. 11 Gonzaga before falling to Baylor — No. 18 at the time — by one point. It is because of this that they can be a dark-horse candidate in the A-10 tournament and are considered a bubble team who needs a strong showing in this tournament to make it to the Big Dance.
Massachusetts (23-7, 10-6)
After an incredible 16-1 start to the season, the Minutemen faded, dropping from the rankings on Feb. 3 and slipping to sixth in the A-10. That said, UMass only lost to Saint Louis by two points on Sunday and beat VCU on Feb. 25, so they can’t be counted out. Led in scoring by Brooklyn native senior Chaz Williams, UMass still is widely considered a lock for the NCAA Tournament.
Richmond (18-13, 8-8)
Losers of four straight, the mediocre Spiders do not have much of a chance to run the table in the tournament this time around. They have lost twice to VCU and were stomped by Saint Louis, 77-57, on Jan. 29. They should win their first tournament matchup on Thursday against Duquesne, whom they trampled by 17 points in their only meeting on Feb. 12, but are not expected to make the NCAA tourney this year unless they miraculously win this tournament.