ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Welcome to year four on the Jersey Shore as the Atlantic-10 tournament begins quarterfinal play today at historic Boardwalk Hall. The previous three years haven’t been kind to the top seed as Xavier failed to advance to the championship game each time. That’s not good news for this year’s No. 1 seed Temple. But there’s a lot of basketball to be played before Sunday’s final. Here is what’s on tap in today’s four games:
No. 1 Temple (26-5) vs. No. 8 St. Bonaventure (15-15), Noon ET
What’s at stake: In the grand scheme of things, not a lot. The Owls are one of three A-10 teams that are a lock for an NCAA bid come Sunday, and it’s unrealistic to think the Bonnies can win three more games to reach the national tournament. Then again, stranger things have happened in this tournament.
Who has the edge: Temple is 50-6 all-time against St. Bonaventure and the Owls have won the last 12 meetings in the series. These two have met twice in A-10 tourney play with Temple winning both games. The last win for the Bonnies came way back on Jan. 16, 2002 (93-74) in Olean, N.Y.
Statistically speaking: Temple’s Lavoy Allen, who averages a double-double with 11.7 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, earned first-team all-conference honors and also made the A-10’s all-defensive team. The Owls have won more games (49) and championships (8) than any other A-10 school.
No. 4 Saint Louis (20-10) vs. No. 5 Rhode Island (22-8), 2:30 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: On paper it should be the game of the day at Boardwalk Hall. Both teams have 20-plus wins but both appear to be on the outside looking in for an NCAA bid. The Billikens really need to win this game and then some to work their way into the conversation while the Rams are among the first four teams out in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology projection.
Who has the edge: Rick Majerus’ club has won eight of its last 10 games -- including a 62-57 victory over Rhody back on Feb. 17. The Rams are just 5-5 in their last 10 games and the only win in that stretch against a winning team came against floundering Charlotte (1-7 in the last month) on March 3.
Statistically speaking: The Billikens’ roster of scholarship players is made up of 11 underclassmen and one junior, which is not exactly confidence-inducing now that the pressure of the postseason is upon them. On a positive note, SLU leads the nation in 3-point field goal defense at 27.1 percent. The Billikens have allowed the fewest 3-pointers (104) nationally this season.
No. 2 Xavier (23-7) vs. No. 7 Dayton (20-11), 6:30 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: The Musketeers tied Temple for first place in A-10 play at 14-2, but Xavier is the No. 2 seed because it lost the head-to-head matchup (77-72) to the Owls on Jan. 20. The good news is that Chris Mack’s club doesn’t need to bolster its résumé. The same can’t be said for the Flyers, who are 3-5 in their last eight games.
Who has the edge: Clearly it’s Xavier, who comes in having won a season-high seven straight games. But the Musketeers last loss came against … wait for it … Dayton. The Flyers dominated from start to finish in a 90-65 win on Feb. 6 in Dayton. Xavier won the other meeting (78-74) in Cincinnati back on Jan. 16.
Statistically speaking: Xavier leads the A-10 in scoring (79.9 ppg), scoring margin (+11.7), field goal percentage (.470) and 3-point field goal percentage (.377). The Musketeers also have the league’s leading scorer in Jordan Crawford (19.7 ppg).
No. 3 Richmond (24-7) vs. No. 11 UMass (12-19), 9 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: Nothing for the Spiders, who are the A-10’s third NCAA lock. And you would have to say the same for the Minutemen, who roll into AC as the only team with a losing record. UMass won its regular-season finale over Rhode Island just to qualify for the A-10 tourney, and then went on the road Tuesday and won at Charlotte in order to advance to Boardwalk Hall.
Who has the edge: Richmond needed overtime to beat UMass (70-63) at home on Jan. 13. But the Spiders are 10-1 in their last 11 games, with the only loss being in double overtime at Xavier (78-76) on Feb. 28. Prior to this current two-game winning streak, UMass was just 3-12 in its last 15 games. Enough said.
Statistically speaking: The Spiders are led by A-10 player of the year Kevin Anderson. The junior guard comes in averaging 17.8 points. The Minutemen are led by senior guard Ricky Harris at 19.7 points per game. The two teams are evenly matched the offensive end, but at the other end of the court Richmond is decidedly more stingy as it gives up just 61.4 points a game on .390 shooting.