Photo courtesy Rich Gagnon/Hockey East

MARK MADNESS | Mark Adams previews the Atlantic 10 Tournament

It's tournament time!

With all eyes on the conference tournaments this week, here's a look at the top contenders for the Atlantic 10's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Favorites

DAYTON

  • Key question: Will the experience of this most successful Flyers senior class lead Dayton to their fourth NCAA in a row?
  • Key players: Charles Cooke (16.5), Kendall Pollard (14.2) and Scoochie Smith (13.5) lead Dayton's double-digit scorers. When Ryan Mikesell shoots well the Flyers are nearly unbeatable!
  • Record: 24-6, 15-3 A-10 (No. 1 seed).
  • Wins vs. Power 5 & Big East: Beat Alabama, 77-72, and Vanderbilt, 68-63.
  • A-10 Tournament opener: Friday vs. Thursday's La Salle-Davidson winner.
  • A-10 ranks: No. 1 in scoring margin (10.5), field-goal shooting (47.2%) and 3-point shooting (38.5%); No. 2 in scoring offense (78.6), field-goal defense (41.2%), steals (8.0), turnover margin (2.93) and assist/turnover ratio (1.3).

VCU

  • Key question: Will JeQuan Lewis, Mo Alie-Cox and Justin Tillman carry the Rams to an A-10 championship and their seventh consecutive NCAA appearance?
  • Key players: Lewis (14.7) and Tillman (12.8) are the Rams' scoring leaders, and Tillman is second in A-10 rebounding (7.5). Cox shoots 56.9% from the field and is second in A-10 shot blocks (2.2).
  • Record: 24-7, 14-4 A-10 (No. 2 seed).
  • Wins vs. Power 5 & Big East: Beat St John's, 75-69, and LSU, 85-74.
  • A-10 Tournament opener: Friday vs. Thursday's George Mason-Fordham winner.
  • A-10 ranks: No. 2 in scoring margin (8.6) and scoring defense (66.2).

Contenders

RHODE ISLAND

  • Key question: Can a healthy duo of E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin plus an ever-improving supporting cast lead head coach Don Hurley's Rams off the bubble and earn the automatic bid? Rhode Island is where opponents' shots go to die.
  • Key players: Matthews (14.4) is Rhody's leading scorer, Martin (2.6) leads the A-10 and blocked shots (2.6, also 11th in the nation) and Kuran Iverson is seventh in A-10 rebounding (7.6) and fifth in blocked shots (1.2).
  • Record: 21-9, 13-5 A-10 (No. 4 seed).
  • A-10 Tournament opener: Friday vs. Thursday's winner of St. Bonaventure-UMass/Saint Joseph's winner.
  • NCAA leaders: Rhode Island No. 3 in blocked shot (6.2) and No. 4 field-goal defense (29.4%.
  • A-10 ranks: No. 1 in scoring defense 65.2), field-goal shooting (40.9%), 3-point defense (29.4%) and blocked shots (6.2).

RICHMOND

  • Key questions: Can T.J. Cline continue to dominate the stat sheet and get enough help from freshman De’Monte Buckingham and Co. to deliver Richmond to the NCAAs? The Spiders can dish and defend, but can they score enough?
  • Key player: Cline, a top candidate for A-10 Player of the Year, is fifth in A-10 scoring (18.6) and rebounding (8.1).
  • Record: 19-11, 13-5 A-10 (No. 3 seed).
  • Wins vs. Power 5 & Big East: Beat Boston College, 67-54.
  • A-10 Tournament opener: Friday vs. Thursday's George Washington-Duquesne/Saint Louis winner.
  • NCAA ranks: T14 in assists (17.0).
  • A-10 ranks: No. 1 in assists (17.0); No. 2 in field-goal shooting (46.8%) and 3-point shooting (31.2%).

ST. BONAVENTURE

  • Key question: Will the high-scoring duo of Jaylen Adams (20.8) and and Matt Mobley (18.9) be enough?
  • Key players: Adams and Mobley are third in in the nation in combined scoring (39.7).
  • Record: 19-11, 11-7 A-10 (No. 5 seed).
  • A-10 Tournament opener: Thursday vs. Wednesday's UMass-Saint Joseph's winner.
  • NCAA ranks: Matt Mobley No. 1 in minutes (38.2); Jaylen Adams No. 5 in minutes (37.2) and No. 7 in assists (6.6).
  • A-10 ranks: No. 1 in scoring offense (77.4); No. 2 in 3-point shooting (76.3%).

Darkhorses

LA SALLE

  • Key question: Can the Explorers get hot again as they were in a 5-1 start to the A-10 season?
  • Key players: B.J. Johnson (17.5), Jordan Price (15.1) and Pookie Powell (13.1) lead the A-10's No. 3 scoring offense (75.6). The problem is the Explorers allow more than they score — 76.4 points per game, worst in the A-10. But if that changes, watch out!
  • Record: 15-14, 9-9 (No. 8 seed).
  • A-10 Tournament opener: Thursday vs. No. 9 seed Davidson.
  • NCAA ranks: No. 10 in free-throw shooting (77.3%).
  • A-10 ranks: No. 1 in free-throw shooting (77.3%); No. 2 in 3-pointers made (8.4).

GEORGE MASON

  • Key question: Can double-double machine Marquise Moore lead the Patriots to their first NCAA appearance in six years?
  • Key player: Moore averages 17.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. But he's not alone. Otis Livingston (14.3 points) and Jalen Jenkins (12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds) can play!
  • Record: 19-12, 9-9 A-10 (No. 7 seed).
  • Wins vs. Power 5 & Big East: Beat Penn State, 85-66.
  • A-10 tournament opener: Thursday vs. No. 10 seed Fordham.
  • NCAA ranks: Otis Livingston No. 9 in free-throw shooting (90.9%); Marquise Moore T10 in double-doubles (18) and No. 13 in rebounds (10.5); George Mason No. 14 in rebound margin (7.3).
  • A-10 ranks: No. 1 in rebounding margin (7.3).

Other wins vs. Power 5 & Big East

  • Davidson: Beat Arizona State, 68-60, and Missouri, 70-55.
  • Duquesne: Beat Pittsburgh, 64-55.

Other NCAA leaders

  • Individual: Joseph Chartouney, Fordham — No. 2 in steals (3.36); Lamarr Kimble, Saint Joseph’s — No. 4 in minutes (37.2); Jack Gibbs, Davidson — No. 11 in scoring (22).
  • Team: Fordham — No. 2 in forced turnovers (17.6) and T2 in steals (2.99) and T7 in turnover margin (4.3).

Tournament schedule

WEDNESDAY

THURSDAY

  • No. 8 La Salle vs. No. 9 Davidson, noon ET
  • No. 5 St. Bonaventure vs. UMass-Saint Joseph's winner, 2:30 p.m. ET
  • No. 7 George Mason vs. No. 10 Fordham, 6 p.m. ET
  • No. 6 George Washington vs. Saint Louis-Duquesne winner, 8:30 p.m. ET

FRIDAY

  • No. 1 Dayton vs. La Salle-Davidson winner, noon ET
  • No. 4 Rhode Island vs. St. Bonaventure-UMass/Saint Joseph's winner, 2:30 p.m. ET
  • No. 2 VCU vs. George Mason-Fordham winner, 6 p.m. ET
  • No. 3 Richmond vs. George Washington vs. Saint Louis/Duquesne winner, 8:30 p.m. ET

SATURDAY

Semifinals: 1 and 3:30 p.m. ET

SUNDAY

Championship: 12:30 p.m. ET

Projected automatic bid

DAYTON

Projected at-large bid

VCU


Mark Adams is ASN's lead basketball analyst. Follow him on Twitter at @EnthusiAdams.

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