The state of the Atlantic 10 Conference is in a worse position than it was just two weeks ago.
The conference has been hit by COVID-19 and saw four of the five games slated to be played on Saturday postponed. Six teams in the conference were forced to pause play over these past two weeks.
According to Joe Lunardi’s tournament projections from last week, the Atlantic 10 has both St. Bonaventure and VCU making the tournament, while St. Louis and Richmond are projected to be in the first four out.
With the lack of a strong non-conference schedule and multiple cancellations, it has been tough for some of these teams to gain the resume needed for an at-large bid.
Previously, I wrote about Richmond (+175), St. Bonaventure (+600), and Rhode Island (+4500), but the odds are much different now as shown in the image below.
Here, I will provide a look ahead for VCU, St. Louis, and Davidson, along with how I would approach each situation.
VCU Rams (15-4, 8-2)
VCU lost its entire starting lineup coming into this season, and many had this one pegged as a rebuilding season. That proved not to be the case, as the Rams sit atop the A-10 with just five games remaining.
Virginia Commonwealth plays with a run-and-gun style. It maintains one of the fastest tempos in the conference and holds the shortest average possession length.
It runs a full-court press and wants to get into a track meet every game, forcing opponents to play at its pace. The Rams’ defense is the backbone of this playing style, and they have the havoc press to thank for it. They rank first in the A-10 in forced turnover percentage, block percentage, and steal percentage.
VCU is led by four-star recruit Nah’Shon Hyland, who is averaging 19.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. He’s a 6-foot-3 guard who is a dangerous shooter from outside and has made quite the case for A-10 Player of the Year.
The Rams’ two conference losses were to Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure. Since the loss to the Bonnies on Jan. 20, the Rams have ripped off five conference wins in a row. They are the hottest team in the conference and will need to continue this trend over the next five games.
I see value on the Rams at this point at +300.
They have a tough final five games remaining, including three games on the road versus Richmond, Davidson, and Dayton. If they can win four of the next five games, they should be able to hold onto first place heading into the A-10 Tournament.
I make the game against Saint Louis close to a pick’em, and if they meet in the finals, they could present value with the +300 price.
The next two weeks will speak volumes about this team, but the conference tournament being held at VCU’s home court helps with the value.
Photo: Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.
Saint Louis Billikens (10-3, 3-2)
Saint Louis was the clear-cut favorite to win the Atlantic 10 to begin the season, and although it’s been a bumpy road, it still find itself as the favorite at +185 odds.
The Billikens opened the season 7-1 before conference play when they had a COVID-19 outbreak and were forced to shut down for 34 days.
Saint Louis was rusty upon returning to play, dropping games to both Dayton and La Salle. Since then, it has rounded back into form, winning handily against St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island, and Fordham.
Saint Louis is led by a pair of senior guards Javonte Perkins and Jordan Goodwin. Perkins is averaging 17.8 points per game, while Goodwin puts up 15.1 points and an astounding 10.2 rebounds per game. The Billikens own the best backcourt in the A-10, a conference that is filled with great guard play.
Time is the biggest opponent of the Billikens’ season.
Sitting on the cut line for an at-large bid, the Billikens have only five games remaining and need to be near perfect in those affairs. The margin for error is thin with this team, and it will need to play its ability to end the season strong.
I find it tough to lay such a short price on the Billikens at this point in the season.
They undoubtedly have the talent to win this conference but with the month-long pause in the season, they will need to get their act together quickly. My suggestion would be to stay away from the Billikens at this short price for the time being.
I did play Saint Louis at 80/1 to win the NCAA Tournament, as I think it should end the season strong enough to earn an at-large bid regardless of their performance in the A-10 Tournament.
Photo: Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.
Davidson Wildcats (10-5, 6-2)
Davidson was on the bubble a few weeks ago when it was 10-5 on the year.
Fast forward to now, and the Wildcats are still just 10-5 and have not played a game since Jan. 24.
The Wildcats have had five games postponed against some of the top teams in the conference. With a remaining schedule of three of the bottom teams in the A-10, Davidson will most likely need to win the conference tournament for any chance to make it into March Madness.
The Cats are a well-rounded team that contains four players who average double figures. Kellan Grady is the senior leader who averages 17.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.
Davidson has benefited from an easy schedule (in the games that weren’t postponed). It’s a perfect 10-0 when facing teams ranked outside of the top 100 in the KenPom rankings.
In the games it’s faced quality opponents inside the top 100, it’s a winless 0-5.
Although the Wildcats are 0-5 against solid opponents, those losses have all been tight games. They lost to Texas by just two points, Providence by one, Richmond by six, and suffered an overtime defeat to Dayton.
I think you can make a case for Davidson at +1000, but I’m not playing it.
Although it’s shown it can compete with top-tier opponents, it has been unable to close out those tight games.
Having not played in three weeks with only tune-up games against the bottom of the conference coming up, Davidson will need to put things together quickly in order to make a run in the conference tournament, a feat that will be tough to accomplish.