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Your Quick and Dirty Day 2, A-10 Tourney Primer

Mar 15, 2013, 9:29 AM EDT

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Before we address the impending events in Brooklyn, we’ll make a stop
off in Manhattan where the Villanova Wildcats were bounced Thursday
evening from the Big East tournament in a 74-55 loss to No. 4
Louisville. The ‘Cats, who have struggled all year with turnovers, gave
the ball away a staggering 18 times in the first half and a total 24
times by game’s end.

The defeat comes one night after Villanova likely wrapped an NCAA
tournament berth with a win the quarterfinals over St. John’s, although a
First Four matchup remains in play.

Will the Big 5 get two more in the field of 68? As always, the number
of at-large selections depends on the number of surprise conference
winners who earn automatic tournament bids. Nonetheless, the Big 5′s
three A-10 teams control their own fates and could avoid a lot of stress and disappointment come Sunday night with their play this weekend.

Here’s how Day 2 at Barclays shapes up after Saint Louis and Charlotte meet at noon:


2:30 p.m. — 4 La Salle (21-8, 11-5) vs. 5 Butler (23-7, 11-5)


The Explorers haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1992 — that’s 21 years. Their outlook is pretty simple:

A win over Butler (RPI: 22) likely punches La Salle’s ticket, but a loss
would make the wait until Sunday night highly uncomfortable on 20th
& Olney.

The Explorers already own a victory over the Bulldogs this season. A
second win, La Salle fans, and you’re probably in. Otherwise, the malt
liquor consumed between 5 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Sunday will be of a
less celebratory variety.

The winner of La Salle and Butler gets the victor of Saint Louis and Charlotte at 1:30 Saturday.


6:30 p.m. — 2 VCU (24-7, 12-4) vs. 10 Saint Joseph’s (18-12, 8-8)


The Hawks’ only hope of making the NCAA tournament is to win the A-10
tournament. I have on speed dial a group of guys sitting around a bank
of phones in a basement at an undisclosed residence, and SJU at +2100 was still a tough
sell on Wednesday afternoon. That’s saying something, considering it’s
generally tougher to talk yourself out of conference tournament
underdogs than it is to talk yourself into them. See specifically:
+16000 Charlotte.

But Phil Martelli’s Hawks will in all likelihood meet their end against
No. 25 VCU. St. Joe’s played VCU tough back in January, but couldn’t
close in regulation and fell in overtime. It was a loss, along with a
similar one to Butler two games prior, from which the Hawks never
recovered.

If they win, they’re two more away from the Dance. If they lose, their record will have them in line for another NIT invite.

The winner of St. Joe’s and VCU gets the victor of Temple and UMass at 4:30 Saturday.


9 p.m. — 3 Temple (23-8, 11-5) vs. 6 UMass (20-10, 9-7)


Neither UMass nor George Washington looked particularly impressive for
the bulk of their matchup Thursday night, but Temple certainly would
have preferred GW.

Instead, the Owls have the Minutemen, who knocked them out of last year’s quarterfinals.

Temple has had considerable issues — as most do — defending UMass guard
Chaz Williams. Fran Dunphy’s team has taken two of the last three
meetings, but the average margin of victory in those three contests is
just three points.

The win over VCU last weekend should have been enough to lock up a
tourney bid, but one more win removes most lingering doubt and
eliminates an A-10 underdog from advancing any further and potentially
stealing a bid. A loss wouldn’t remove the Owls from the bracket by
itself
— that would take a variety of toppled dominoes. Still …

The winner of Temple and UMass gets the victor of VCU and St. Joe’s at 4:30 Saturday.


How many NCAA spots are actually up for grabs for the A-10?


A good question. Glad I asked it. Four or five.

The A-10 has only sent four teams to the tournament twice in the last
decade. It hasn’t sent more than four since 1998. This is the deepest
the league has been in years (possibly ever), and a fifth bid will
depend on what goes down around the rest of the country over the next
few days.

Saint Louis, VCU and Butler are all locks. That leaves Temple and La
Salle fighting to shore up their resumes and get the conference five
berths for the first time in 15 years. If neither comes up with the
automatic bid, both will be rooting for one of three aforementioned
teams to win it on Sunday. Otherwise, a less-deserving conference rival —
Charlotte, St. Joe’s or UMass — will have stolen away an at-large spot.