With VCU suffering a debilitating injury to its leader, which team will step up to take the reigns of the Atlantic 10? Or will a resilient VCU team hold on to its lead and make a fifth-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance?
#20 Virginia Commonwealth
VCU, led by coach Shaka Smart, has found itself once again ranked in the top 25 this year. Smart’s “havoc” defense, which had created the 3rd most steals as a team in the country this year, took a huge hit when the team lost Briante Weber for the year to a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus. Weber was averaging about 4 steals per game and was 12 away from the Division I all-time record. The Rams are 1-1 since the injury to their court general. The team must rally and pick up the slack if it wants to make a run in the postseason this year and reach a fifth-consecutive NCAA Tournament. The team will need to find a groove before they visit George Washington on Feb. 14. If it doesn’t, it could be a tough stretch to end the season, but I wouldn’t count out any team that is coached by Shaka Smart.
- Key Wins: at Cincinnati, Davidson, Tennessee
- Key Losses: Richmond, Old Dominion, St. Bonaventure
- Player to Watch: Treveon Graham (16.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG)
- Schedule: La Salle (Feb. 11), at George Washington (Feb. 14)
After winning 15 of their first 17, the Flyers are in a spot to make a run and win the A-10. With VCU losing its leader in Weber, the door is open for Dayton to take the reigns. Dayton has dropped a close game to UMass and was blown out by Davidson. Feb. 28 will be a big one for Dayton as it is its only game of the year against VCU. The Flyers will earn an at-large bid unless they self-implode, but winning the conference tournament saves the coach a few gray hairs. The offense is led by leading scorer Jordan Sibert, but watch out for the sharpshooting freshman Darnell Davis who is shooting .529 from deep.
- Key Wins: Ole Miss, Texas A&M
- Key Losses: at Davidson, UConn, at UMass
- Player to Watch: Dyshawn Pierre (12.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG)
- Schedule: at St. Louis (Feb. 10), St. Bonaventure (Feb. 14)
Four of the Rams losses this season have come by 8 points or fewer. The Rams are playing tight defense, allowing just 57.1 points per game and averaging 7.1 blocks, qualifying for 7th best in the country. Because it has already lost its only game against VCU, the Rams will need to beat Dayton on March 3 and hope VCU can falter a time or two down the final stretch. Rhode Island will most likely have to win the conference tourney in Brooklyn to punch a ticket to the big dance.
- Key Wins: Nebraska, George Washington
- Key Losses: Georgia Tech, UMass
- Player to Watch: Hassan Martin (11.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG)
- Schedule: at St. Joe’s (Feb. 11), St. Louis (Feb. 14)
After a stretch of winning 13 of 15 games, the Colonials dropped back-to-back games against conference foes Rhode Island and VCU, a 24-point drumming. Still, the Colonials have been set up in a good spot to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. George Washington will try to spread out the attack with four of its players scoring at least 10 points per game. The Colonials are an impressive 11-0 at home this season. It may have captured momentum heading into the last weeks of A-10 play when Joe McDonald hit a put back layup to beat Dayton 65-64 in overtime last Friday night. It is very unlikely G.W. can win the regular season title, but it will all come down to who is playing on March 15 in Brooklyn in the championship game. Don’t sleep on these guys.
- Key Wins: Wichita St., Dayton
- Key Losses: La Salle, Penn St., Rhode Island
- Player to Watch: Patricio Garino (13.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG)
- Schedule: Duquesne (Feb. 11), VCU (Feb. 14)