A- Unlike previous years, the 2001 Atlantic 10 Tournament has no clear-cut favorite. No. 18 St. Joseph’s has the inside track, but equally dangerous teams like 24th ranked Xavier, Temple and Massachusetts will be chomping at the bit.
B- The Tournament bubble has been the catch phrase in college basketball for the last month, and Temple is your typical bubble team. Along with their tough non-conference schedule, the Owls can make a strong case by reaching the conference championship game. Xavier and St. Joe’s have both worked themselves off the bubble with big wins in the month of February.
C- Legendary head coach John Chaney is in the midst of one of one of his worst seasons in years, but no one has counted out the university’s all-time winningest coach. After St. Joe’s recent victory over Temple, Hawk’s coach Phil Martelli said that the defending champions are still the team to beat until they are knocked out the conference tourney.
D- Dayton is another 2000 tournament team that has had an up-and-down year. The season began on a high note with huge wins over Top 25 teams Connecticut and Maryland. The two victories put Dayton into the AP Top 25 that week, but things have fallen apart since then. The Flyers’ recent loss against Temple has forced Dayton to shoot for the automatic bid, but it looks like the NIT for the 2000 NCAA team.
E- The La Salle Explorers have had another tough season in A-10 play, going only 4-10 in league play. The lone bright spot for La Salle has been the exceptional play of senior guard Rasual Butler. Butler is coming into the tournament having averaged 23.7 ppg over the last nine games.
F- Fordham has also had another rough season under the tutelage of former Orlando Magic head coach Bob Hill. Like Dayton, the Rams had a promising 6-1 start that included non-conference wins over St. John’s, Pennsylvania, and South Florida. From there, the free fall began. Fordham stumbles into the tournament having lost eight of their last nine games.
G- Perennial A-10 contender George Washington has been an enigma this season. Coming into the season with SirValiant Brown, the nation’s second leading scorer last season and A-10 Rookie of the Year, the Colonials were supposed to challenge the upper-echelon teams in the A-10. But GW never materialized as a contender.
H- The Hawks of St. Joe’s are enjoying their best season since their Sweet 16 year in 1997. Led by head coach Phil Martelli, the Hawks have accumulated a 24-4 record while dominating the A-10 this season, going 14-1. With their recent climb to 18th in the AP Top 25 poll the Hawks have put themselves in position to get their first at-large bid in the school’s history if they fall in the A-10 tournament.
I- Injuries have plagued the Owls all season while other conference teams stayed relatively healthy. Senior guard Quincy Wadley missed a crucial stretch earlier in the season, contributing to a Temple seven-game losing streak. The big question now is how will Temple play down the stretch without injured center Ron Rollerson? Right now the Owls stand at 2-0 without “Big Ron,” but the starting five have been forced to play about 35 minutes per game in the process.
J- SJU’s Jameer Nelson is, by far, the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year. The Chester High product and former Temple recruit has been the catalyst behind the A-10’s best team all season. A pure point guard in every sense of the word, Nelson leads the conference in assists.
K- On the other end of the spectrum, Temple’s big man Kevin Lyde has proven to be one of the top big men in the conference. With the departure of Lamont Barnes and Mark Karcher, Lyde has been asked to score more this season and has responded. He has nearly doubled his career scoring average (12.4 ppg), while doing his usual monstrous job on the boards (8.9 rpg).
L- Temple’s Lynn Greer probably had the biggest shoes to fill this year with Pepe Sanchez’ departure, but has done an admirable job nonetheless. Greer leads the nation in minutes played, while leading the team in points (17.4 ppg) and assists (5.4 apg).
M- The Minutemen of Massachusetts had roller coaster of a season. Head coach Bruiser Flint has been battling for his job ever since a 2-9 start. Then, like day and night, the conference schedule proved to be the remedy for the Minutemen as they won 11 of their last 15 games. But which team will show up in conference tourney?
N- The Richmond Spiders will be a new A-10 entry next season, which will bring the conference to an even 12 teams. Both Massachusetts and George Washington received an unwanted preview of what the Richmond (21-6, 12-4) is capable of, as the Spiders defeated both teams on their home court. They recently clinched the regular season title in the Colonial Athletic Association, but will not be invited to the conference tournament because the CAA does not want to risk having a defending champion playing in another league next season. As a result, the Spiders have finished their regular season with 21 wins and will wait until Selection Sunday to see if they’ve done enough.
O- St. Joe’s Marvin O’Connor, the A-10’s second leading scorer at 21.1 ppg, has teamed with Jameer Nelson to form the best backcourt in the conference. The Villanova transfer recently became just the 25th Hawk to tally 500 points in a season.
P- The polls have been unkind to the A-10 this year. Four teams in the conference (Temple, Dayton, St. Joe’s, and Xavier) have been in the AP Top 25 for a total of only six weeks. Temple and Dayton both had fast starts to their seasons, but only lasted a week in the polls. St. Joe’s and Xavier have both made strong cases all season, but have just recently cracked the Top 25.
Q- Quincy Wadley has been the glue that has held Temple together all season. If you are not a believer, refer back to Wadley’s injury, when Temple spiraled to a seven game losing streak. Although Wadley is the team’s second leading scorer at 14.3 per game, his floor savvy and pressure experience will be key if the Owls want to soar into the postseason.
R- The lowly Rhode Island Rams (5-22, 1-13) have suffered through another season of hardship. As a result, head coach Jerry DeGregorio announced his resignation at the end of the season on February 12th, and now the university is scrambling around to find a successor.
S- St. Bonaventure (16-10, 7-7) advanced all the way to final last year, only to be demolished by talented Temple squad. The selection committee was still impressed and granted the Bonnies an at-large bid. Entering their first NCAA Tournament game since 1978, the Bonnies fell in double overtime to perennial power Kentucky in the one of the most exciting first round games last year. Although the Bonnies aren’t nearly as good as they were last year, they could still surprise a few teams at from the fifth or sixth seed.
T- Twenty is usually the magic number in March. Xavier and St. Joe’s have both won at least 20 games and are in. But Temple (16-12) and Dayton (16-11) still have an outside shot at attaining the magic number with strong showings in the conference tournament.
U- The First Union Spectrum will once again play host the conference championships this year from March 7-10. Both Temple and St. Joe’s will look for the extra edge of home-court advantage next week in South Philly.
V- Vindication is what the Owls will be looking for via the tournament. The Owls are 0-3 against the two top teams (Xavier and St.Joe’s) in the conference, and will need to extract revenge against at least one of the two teams if they want to open the eyes of the selection committee.
W- David West has come up big for Xavier all season. Widely considered the top big man in the conference, the sophomore center leads Xavier in five statistical categories, including points, steals and blocks. If you’re still not convinced the 6-8, 232-pound West has a complete game, check out his 74-percent free throw percentage. This kid has pro-tential written all over him.
X- Similarly, 24th ranked Xavier (21-5, 12-3) is looking more and more like a solid tournament team. Head coach Skip Prosser has reversed Xavier’s recent history of fizzling down the stretch. Instead, the Musketeers have currently won 10 of their last 12 games heading into their final regular season game against Dayton on March 4th.
Y- In remembering yesteryear, on Feb. 24 Temple paid tribute to the greatest ever to wear an Owls uniform, Guy Rodgers. Rodgers died last week in a Los Angeles hospital after complaining of chest pains.
Z- The match-up zone has been Chaney’s bread and butter for a long time, and the Owls need it to be a factor again if Temple wants to be successful in this year’s tourney. The Owls have historically suffocated opponents with the zone, especially late in the season. But in Temple’s two losses against St. Joe’s this season, Chaney opted to abandon the match-up zone for a man-to-man defense after the Hawks continued to drain shot after shot to gain a big lead.