Through Saturday, Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, N.J.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Ahmad Nivins, F, Saint Joseph‘s
The Hawks forward won A-10 player of the year honors after averaging nearly 20 points and 12 rebounds. Throughout the season, Saint Joseph’s opponents learned that a ball fed to Nivins almost always led to two points. He also played the second-most minutes in Division I.
Despite enduring a few questionable losses in the last month, the Musketeers won the regular-season title and are truly the best team in the conference, as evidenced by their wins over Memphis, Missouri and Virginia Tech. This is a team without a real star but with a balanced, deep offensive attack led by forward Derrick Brown. Their path to the automatic bid is rife with potential land mines, but no one else in the A-10 has a better resume.
There are probably eight teams in the A-10 capable of making a title run, but the Explorers (18-12, 9-7 in A-10) are playing some of their best basketball of the year, getting scoring contributions from as many as nine players on a given night. Point guard Rodney Green is a first-team all-conference player, averaging more than 17 points. This is a team that beat Temple and Saint Joseph’s and lost close games to Rhode Island, Dayton and Connecticut. La Salle ended the season with a tough road win at Saint Louis. A repeat win over the Billikens would mean a second-round showdown against Xavier.
MOST TO GAIN
The Rams probably killed their at-large chances with a one-point loss to UMass at the end of the regular season. But they might put themselves back into the conversation with a run to the final, particularly if they beat Dayton along the way. It’s a long shot, but they are the only team other than locks Dayton and Xavier with any chance of an at-large bid.
The Explorers have won four in a row, including road wins at Temple and Saint Louis. Along the way, they have scored seven more points a game than their season average, including 14 points a game from little-used guard Darryl Partin.
Dayton was 23-2 at one point this season but stumbled down the stretch, losing three of its last five games and dropping to third place in the conference. While they are still pretty much a lock for an NCAA at-large bid, it would behoove the Flyers to avoid a first-round loss.
— Tim Lemke
First round, today
(8) La Salle (18-12, 9-7) vs. (9) Saint Louis (17-13, 8-8), noon
(5) Saint Joseph’s (16-14, 9-7) vs. (12) Charlotte (11-19, 5-11), 2:30 p.m.
(7) Duquesne (18-11, 9-7) vs. (10) Massachusetts (12-17, 7-9), 6:30 p.m.
(6) Richmond (17-14, 9-7) vs. (11) St. Bonaventure (15-14, 6-10) , 9 p.m.
(1) Xavier (24-6, 12-4) vs. La Salle/Saint Louis, noon.
(4) Temple (19-11, 11-5) vs. Saint Joseph’s/Charlotte, 2:30 p.m.
(2) Rhode Island (22-9 11-5) vs. Duquesne/UMass 6:30 p.m.
(3) Dayton (25-6, 11-5) vs. Richmond/St. Bonaventure 9 p.m.
First two quarterfinal winners, 6:30 p.m.
Last two quarterfinal winners, 9 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 6 p.m.