The Dagger will be previewing eight of this week's conference tournaments. Here's our look at the Atlantic 10 Tournament:
Atlantic 10 Tournament
Dates: March 6-11
Site: Boardwalk Hall (Atlantic City, N.J.)
Draw: Click here
Favorite: Well, not only do you have to go with Temple because the Owls are the tournament's top seed, but they also own a 3-0 record this season against the teams seeded Nos. 2-4, including wins at Saint Louis and at Saint Bonaventure. Also, it's worth factoring in that the two most dangerous threats behind Temple — Xavier and Saint Louis — are on the other side of the bracket. If the Owls don't find their way to at least Sunday's title game after earning the bye until Friday's quarterfinals, it will be quite shocking.
Three others who can win it: As mentioned above, Saint Louis and Xavier are definitely worth watching. The Billikens are the league's most battle-tested team, and after losing two of their first three league games, they won 11 of their last 13. They're a lock for the NCAA field of 68, but have quite a bit to play for in terms of seeding. As for Xavier, the Musketeers' fall from grace following an ugly mid-season brawl at the end of a blowout of rival Cincinnati never really came to an end. They've lost their last four games away from home, including blowing a 10-point halftime lead before falling to Saint Louis on the road by 11 last week. But their talent is hard to count out. If you're hunting for a sleeper, there are a couple of nice options with 4-seed St. Bonaventure and 6-seed Dayton. Beyond that, St. Joseph's also could potentially sneak into the semifinals due to a somewhat manageable draw.
Three players to watch:
• Ramone Moore, G, Temple — You could really take your pick of 'players to watch' from a three-headed, veteran Owls backcourt.
• Andrew Nicholson, F, St. Bonaventure — 6-foot-9 senior is the league's best big man, and averaged 25.3 points and 11.5 rebounds over the team's last eight games.
• Tu Holloway, G, Xavier — The ultimate wildcard, Holloway is fully capable of putting the Musketeers on his back and carrying them to the title. You can never count him out.
Bubble implications: Temple and Saint Louis appear to be locks for the NCAA tournament. The two borderline teams with the most to play for this week. Not much equity from a strong start to the season remains for the Musketeers, who haven't won consecutive games in more than a month. To boot, their numbers (RPI: 57, SOS: 47) now look pretty pedestrian. The same goes for Dayton (RPI: 72, SOS: 63). Both enter the tournament at 19-11, and anything short of winning the tourney title will leave either of them sweating and likely disappointed come Sunday night.
Projected champ: The deciding factor between Temple and Saint Louis is the Owls' draw. They likely have the easiest path to the title game, and have played the best ball of any team in this league from start to finish. At 24-6, they've been overlooked for much of the 2011-12 season. That might not be the case for much longer, especially if they win three more before next week.