The Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament starts on Tuesday with four games. View updated college basketball odds.
Not many conference tournaments have as many as three teams that are so evenly matched and capable of winning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Hopefully for the Atlantic-10, all of those teams will still get into the Big Dance regardless of what happens in the conference tournament this week.
Top seed Xavier (24-6, 15-1 A-10) might be the only team from the conference ranked in the Top 25, but #2 Temple (24-6, 14-2) and #3 Richmond (24-7, 13-3) are not far behind and should get invited to the NCAA tournament barring a major upset in Friday’s quarterfinals. The Owls were the top seed in the tournament a year ago and beat the third-seeded Spiders 56-52 for the title.
Richmond is projected as one of the last teams in right now and will need to at least beat the winner of Tuesday’s first-round matchup between #6 Rhode Island (18-12, 9-7) and #11 St. Louis (12-18, 6-10) to state its case for an at-large bid. Meanwhile, Temple will meet the winner of #7 St. Bonaventure (16-13, 8-8) and #10 La Salle (14-17, 6-10) and the regular-season champion Musketeers get the survivor of #8 Massachusetts (15-14, 7-9) and #9 Dayton (19-12, 7-9). The Owls suffered only one loss in their last 12 games of the regular season, falling 78-61 at defending national champion Duke on February 23.
Xavier lost to the Spiders 89-85 in overtime of last year’s semifinals as the second seed and won its last nine games of the regular season. The only blemish on an otherwise perfect conference record for the Musketeers came at Charlotte (66-62) on February 2. They avenged that loss by routing the 49ers 68-48 on March 2 in a win that clinched the conference’s regular-season title and will not need to worry about them again since they did not qualify for the tournament.
The other first-round matchup on Tuesday pits #12 St. Joseph’s (12-18, 6-10) against #5 George Washington (17-13, 10-6) with the winner meeting #4 Duquesne (18-11, 10-6) in the quarterfinals on Friday. The Dukes are lucky to have earned a bye after dropping six of their last eight games down the stretch following an 11-game winning streak that saw them get off to a school-record 8-0 start in Atlantic-10 play.
Looking ahead to the potential semifinals on Saturday, Duquesne lost at home to Xavier 71-63 in their only regular-season meeting on February 13 and Temple routed Richmond 73-53 at home on February 17 in the lone game between those teams. The Musketeers beat both the Owls (88-77 at home January 22) and the Spiders (85-62 on the road January 29) in their only matchups.