Sunday set up to be a big day for the Atlantic 10 with Dayton (Old Spice Classic) and Saint Louis (76 Classic) playing in the title game of their respective in-season tournaments. And even better for the conference is that both picked up wins, displaying the depth of a league thought by many to be Xavier, Temple and 12 other teams before the season began.
While people didn't necessarily give up on Santa Clara when it came to discussing who could win the West Coast Conference, there weren't a lot of outside believers in Kerry Keating's team once forward Marc Trasolini was lost for the season in the summer due to a knee injury. And there were even fewer folks left in the aftermath of their 89-56 loss at UCSB just over a week ago. But if their 79-76 overtime win over New Mexico in a 76 Classic quarterfinal showed anything it's that Santa Clara remains capable of being a factor in the WCC race.
In-season tournaments can be tricky to analyze when the dust settles. Sometimes the winning team can build on the experience and move on to bigger and better things, with last year's Connecticut team (Maui Invitational champs) being a prime example. Others, like Minnesota (last year's Puerto Rico Tip-Off champs) can temporarily hide flaws that get exposed later in the season. Essentially these early season results should be taken with a grain of salt, because while we see flashes of teams in reality it's a small sample size.
Much has been made of Long Beach State playing five non-conference opponents who were ranked in the Top 15 of the major preseason polls. Many wondered how Dan Monson's team would navigate such a slate in spite of the fact that this experienced group went through a similar schedule last season. If Wednesday night showed anything about the 49ers it's that they're ready for the challenge, as they handed Pittsburgh its' first loss in November or December at the Petersen Events Center in the history of the arena.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs have some impressive offensive performers that Washington State likely made themselves very aware of in preparation for their game at midnight. Elias Harris and Robert Sacre are formidable frontcourt players while Marquise Carter is a jet-quick point guard who is more than willing to attack defenses. But if the Cougars had a plan for how to slow down freshman guard Kevin Pangos it sure didn't look like it.
Xavier star Tu Holloway headlines CollegeHoops.net's Preseason Mid-Major All-America teams. He's joined by fellow seniors Andrew Nicholson of St Bonaventure and Drew Gordon of New Mexico. With the likes of Xavier, Temple, New Mexico, Gonzaga, and Memphis all capable of making runs in March, this could be a banner year for the Non-BCS conference schools.
Non-BCS Top 25: November 9th