Atlantic 10 Fit To Be Untied By Temple-Xavier Showdown
By Mel Greenberg
PHILADELPHIA - Though the Guru thinks he has it all figured out, but maybe not, the Atlantic 10 is all tied up in knots with two games left Sunday to determine the final standings of the regular season.
One of those will determine first and second place for next weekend’s conference tournament at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass. – the second straight season in which the Atlantic 10 will use a neutral site after hosting last year’s playoffs at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., the site of this year’s Colonial Athletic Association tourney in two weeks.
That’s where Xavier edged Temple in overtime and went on to the NCAA Elite Eight, losing to eventual national runner up Stanford in the final seconds after missing two straight easy baskets.
Sunday will be the first time No. 6 Xavier (24-2, 13-0) and Temple (22-6, 13-0) will meet since then and the battle of unbeaten heavyweights in the conference showdown (4 p.m., ESPNU) at Temple’s Liacouras Center will determine the top two seeds.
The venue is also the site for the NCAA Sweet 16 finals in the Philadelphia Regional.
Both schools have been rolling – Temple is on a five-year high 15-game win streak while Xavier’s losses were a narrow 46-45 loss at then-No. 3 Duke and then an 89-52 wipeout at then-No. 8 Stanford, which has since climbed up to No. 2 for the first time this season.
The Musketeers have won 14 straight and feature senior post players Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips, both likely to go very high in the WNBA draft.
No matter what happens Sunday both could meet again just over a week later in a repeat pairing in the championship for the NCAA automatic bid, though both Xavier and the Owls seem assured of berths no matter what the outcome is.
After that the conference remains a mess with a five-way tie for third as a result of Saturday’s games in which the key outcome was St. Bonaventure’s 80-65 win over visiting Charlotte in Olean, N.Y.
That left Charlotte, (21-8 overall), Duquesne (21-7), Dayton, (18-10), Richmond (18-10) and St. Bonaventure (19-10) all tied at 9-5 overall.
The unfortunate thing is at one time or another in the past several months, Charlotte, Duquesne, and Dayton were all being tabbed as NCAA teams and it seemed likely that maybe two of them would get picked as at-large teams.
But unless one of them makes a run in the conference tourney, none of them may get chosen.
Beyond the logjam, the rest of the conference is determined, though St. Joseph’s (17-10, 7-6) is the other Sunday game when the Hawks visit George Washington (8-19, 3-10).
Coach Cindy Griffin’s squad is locked into eighth in the 14-team conference no matter the outcome Sunday and is heading for a pseudo Big-Five game in the first round against No. 9 La Salle (10-19, 6-8), which finished its season on a high note Saturday with a 67-63 victory at Massachusetts (7-22, 3-11).
La Salle was picked last in the preseason conference coaches poll and finished four games better than a year ago in the A-10 when it was eliminated from the tournament by a coin flip with Fordham.
This season’s two elimination teams in the 13th and 14th slots are Rhode Island (7-21, 1-13) and St. Louis (7-22, 1-13).
This will be the first time in four seasons the Explorers participate in the conference tourney. This is also the first season at La Salle for coach Jeff Williams, the former associate head coach at Pittsburgh.
In Saturday’s win, La Salle broke away from a 60-60 tie and freshman Michea Bryant scored five of the Explorers’ last seven points.
Ashley Gale clinched the win with a pair of foul shots and she and Bryant each finished with 12 points. Alexis Scott had a team-high 15 points for the Explorers.
Gale also had three steals to break the season record at La Salle with 91 – one more than Jennifer McGowan’s 90 thefts in 1992-93.
Jasmine Watson had 22 points and 14 rebounds for Massachusetts.
Going down the rest of the known finishes; Fordham (12-18, 4-10) will be 10th after a 69-51 loss at Dayton.
The winning Flyers got 18 points and 10 rebounds from Justine Raterman, who recently returned from a concussion injury. Kristin Daughtery scored 12 points.
If George Washington beats St. Joseph’s, the Colonials tie Fordham for 10th but become the 11th seed because of a first-ever loss to Fordham during the season.
If the Hawks win, GW is still the 11th seed because of a win over Massachusetts.
Duquesne gained an 88-49 win over Rhode Island at home in Pittsburgh as Wumbi Agunbiade scored 16 points to top five Dukes scoring in double figures. Megan Shoniker had 22 points for the Rams.
The Dukes are the first team to break out of the five-way tie and will be the third seed because of common records among each other in the quintet give coach Suzie McConnell-Serio’s team a 3-2 record helped by a split with St. Bonaventure, which Duquesne meets twice.
The Bonnies likewise suffer with a 2-3 mark for the same reason and fall to the seventh seed.
In the Saturday win over Charlotte, Jessica Jenkins set a team record with nine three-pointers for the Bonnies and Chelsea Bowker tied a career high with five to aid an overall total of 16.
Jenkins set a career high with 33 points and Bowker finished with a 21, which ties as a career high as the Bonnies won their fourth straight.
Epiphany Woodson scored 19 for Charlotte.
Now, as for the fourth, fifth and sixth seeds among Charlotte, Dayton, and Richmond, stay tuned and the Guru will be back because he is holding two different interpretations from unofficial sources. In one scenario, it is Charlotte, Dayton and Richmond, per common records among the remaining trio after the first tie was broken, but in another it is Richmond, Charlotte and Dayton because of Richmond’s win against Duquesne.