College Hoops Sunday Recap: Atlantic 10 Earns Two Titles

    
November 28th, 2011

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.

Saint Louis used an 18-2 run halfway through the second half to pull away from Oklahoma, winning 83-63 in Anaheim. Tournament MVP Brian Conklin made nine of his eleven shots from the field and scored 25 points, and as a team the Billikens shot 60.4% from the field and 52.9% from beyond the arc. Rick Majerus' team scored 1.32 points/possession, and their offensive efficiency of 131.7 was their best performance of the season, surpassing the 125.0 posted in their win over Villanova on Friday (numbers courtesy of statsheet.com). 

"I thought the guys played with good poise and composure," said Majerus. "We were good with shot selection. A big goal of ours was to restrict the three. I thought [Conklin] deserved the tournament MVP, if nothing else for his defense and rebounding, and he was a beneficiary of his hard work in the summer." 

The key for Saint Louis (as is the case with UNLV, who beat top-ranked North Carolina on Saturday night) will be how they deal with prosperity. A lot is made of how teams deal with adversity, but some things about Conklin and his teammates will be learned in their game at Loyola Marymount on Tuesday night. As for Dayton, their three wins in Orlando were a big deal in the first season of the Archie Miller era. Kevin Dillard was outstanding for the Flyers, posting a line of 19 points, 10 assists, seven steals and three blocks in winning the tournament MVP award.

Chris Johnson (18 points), Josh Benson (16), Josh Parker (12) and Luke Fabrizius (11) also reached double figures in Dayton's best offensive performance of the season since their opening win over Western Illinois. In Dayton's three best offensive games of the season they've assisted on at least 63% of their baskets, providing a blueprint for what the Flyers will need to do in order to continue on this path. And just like Saint Louis, Dayton will need to show that they can deal with prosperity. Following a home game against Buffalo the Flyers visit Great Alaska Shootout champ Murray State and host Alabama, meaning that a lot more will be learned about this team's potential. 

While there were disappointments for the Atlantic 10 on Sunday (more on those below), the tournament wins for Dayton and Saint Louis show that the conference has something that it hasn't always had in recent seasons: depth. St. Bonaventure (who lost at Virginia Tech on Sunday), Duquesne and George Washington are three other teams that could be a factor in the A-10 race come January, and the race is setting up to be a very entertaining one at that.  

Other Notable Happenings

1. A foul-counting mishap aids in Villanova's late collapse against Santa Clara.
With just over seven seconds remaining Villanova asked for their team foul count during a timeout while leading Santa Clara 64-61. Jay Wright and his staff were told that they only had five team fouls, and that was also displayed in Anaheim Arena. But when Darrun Hilliard gave the foul the Wildcats were found to have actually committed their seventh team foul, sending Evan Roquemore to the line for a 1-and-1. Roquemore made both, and after JayVaughn Pinkston missed the front end of his 1-and-1 he fouled Roquemore in his pursuit of the loose ball. The Bronco guard came through once again, making both free throws to give Santa Clara the stunning 65-64 win.

While the administrative error didn't help Villanova at all, they really have no one to blame but themselves for ending up in that situation. Leading 64-57 with 2:56 left in the game, Villanova failed to score again and turned the ball over four times in the final 2:56. Raymond Cowels III led Santa Clara with 20 points, and he combined with Roquemore to score 24 second-half points on a night that saw Kevin Foster (5-17 FG, 13 points) struggle. As for Villanova, Mouphtaou Yarou led the way with 19 points, and for them to be successful as the season wears on they'll need more than a combined 4-for-15 outing from Dominic Cheek (10 points) and James Bell (seven). Can this group that's adjusting to life without Corey Stokes, Corey Fisher and Antonio Pena produce enough offensively to account for those losses? We shall see. 

2. Indiana has an impressive second half in pulling away from Butler. 
While some have pointed out the improved play of Tom Crean's Hoosiers to start the season, skeptics pointed at their schedule and wanted to see more evidence against credible competition. Indiana got their chance on Sunday night with two-time defending national runners-up Butler visiting Assembly Hall, and after a 30-minute slugfest the Hoosiers separated with an 11-2 run. Indiana went on to win 75-59 with Will Sheehey (Hoosier Invitational MVP) scoring a career-high 21 points and Cody Zeller leading three other Hoosiers in double figures with 16, but the bigger story was their defense.

Butler finished the game with seven assists and 21 turnovers, which means an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.33. Crean praised his team for their defensive effort, pointing out that Indiana had 74 deflections on the night. Indiana shot 50% in the second half as they outscored Butler 44-31, and outside of Chrishawn Hopkins (19 points) and Khyle Marshall (16) the Bulldogs couldn't establish much of anything offensively. With NC State and Kentucky in two of their next three games, Indiana will definitely be challenged. But for the first time in Crean's tenure at IU, it can be said that the Hoosiers look capable of attacking those challenges head-on. 

3. Syracuse makes the move to fire associate head coach Bernie Fine after new information "surfaces". 
Unfortunately there was more off-court news involving the sexual assault accusations levied against now-former Syracuse associate head coach Bernie Fine. Not only did a third accuser surface but a recorded phone call between Fine accuser Bobby Davis and Fine's wife Laurie from 2002 was released by ESPN's Outside the Lines. Both chancellor Nancy Cantor and head coach Jim Boeheim released statements on Sunday night in support of the action taken against Fine by the school, with this being a sharp departure from the defiant stance taken by Boeheim in support of his long-time assistant and friend when these allegations were first made. The question now is just how far this investigation goes, and what effect it may have on the Orange on the floor. Given the way they dealt with the distractions on their way to the NIT Season Tip-Off crown last week and the team's experience, Syracuse will likely be fine on the floor. But given both the sensitive nature of the charges and the statement issued by Boeheim in the beginning, this situation likely won't be solved for a while.   

Quick Hitters

1. With Trevor Mbakwe scheduled for an MRI on his right knee, injured in their loss to Dayton, Minnesota has a lot on the line with regards to their season. Hopefully he checks out OK, but that would be a major loss for the Golden Gophers if he were to be ruled out for a significant amount of time. 

2. The most disappointing in-season performance of the weekend: Washington State, who capped an 0-3 weekend in Anaheim with a 64-63 loss to UC Riverside. Yes the Cougars lost Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto, but there's talent back in Pullman. Not a good weekend for the Cougars or the Pac-12. 

3. Team that should feel good about their weekend: DePaul. The Blue Demons made things tougher on themselves than they should have late but they did enough to hold off Arizona State 68-64 in the fifth place game at the Old Spice Classic (2-1 for the weekend). Cleveland Melvin led the way with 18 points and seven rebounds. 

4. Cleveland State whipped Rhode Island 67-45 in Kingston in the final day of that particular three-game Legends Classic round-robin. Jim Baron's team turned the ball over an astonishing 17 times in the first half and as a result trailed 40-23 at the break. Rhody finished the game with 21 turnovers (27-23 CSU in the second half). 

5. Bowling Green scored a nice win for both themselves and the MAC with a 67-64 win over Temple. BGSU shot 58% from the field in the second half and 56% for the game, and A'uston Calhoun led the way with 16 points and seven rebounds. 

6. What's going on with UAB? Mike Davis' Blazers dropped to 1-4 on the season with a 59-54 loss to UT-Martin despite 15 points apiece from Cameron Moore and Jordan Swing. Mike Liabo scored 22 points off the bench to lead the Skyhawks, who entered the game having lost five of their first six games. 

7. Indiana State hung on to beat Fairfield 72-66 in the third place game of the Old Spice Classic. Jake Odum posted ISU's first triple-double in 32 years and Dwayne Lathan and Myles Walker scored 16 apiece, with the Sycamores controlling the play in the paint throughout (34-20 points in the paint advantage). 

Three Notable Performances 

1. F Kyle O'Quinn (Norfolk State)
23 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in the Spartans' 70-63 win over Eastern Kentucky.

2. G Jake Odum (Indiana State)
10 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in the Sycamores' 72-66 win over Fairfield. The triple-double is the first in ISU history since the great Larry Bird posted one in 1979.

3. G Kevin Dillard (Dayton)
19 points, 10 assists, seven steals and three blocks in the Flyers' 86-70 win over Minnesota.