The Atlantic 10 teams have been the stars of the NCAA Tournament heading into the weekend, notching a perfect 6-0 record. The common denominator for the Atlantic 10 is coaching and guard play. Virginia Commonwealth and Butler, the two new additions to the league, came in with NCAA big game success in recent years with head coaches Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens.
VCU’s pressing style is difficult to prepare for, and they just put up the largest margin of victory by a 5 seed in the opening game, when they destroyed Akron 88-42. Butler has been a tournament monster, with Stevens’ amazing attention to detail and game management, and has now won 11 of their last 13 NCAA Tournament games.
St. Louis is playing to the legacy of Rick Majerus, and under his replacement, Jim Crews, they have won 16 of the last 17 games. The Billikens are a hard nosed, well-coached defensive team that is balanced and dangerous.
Then there are the two Philadelphia schools, Temple and La Salle, the two underdogs to get to the weekend. Temple is led by all-everything guard Khalif Wyatt, and since a rough patch in the middle of the year put them in the middle of bubble talks, they won 8 of 9. They jumped all over a lackluster NC State team in the 8 vs. 9 matchup, and will now get Indiana. La Salle has been the revelation of the tournament. Ramon Galloway and Tyrone Garland have been my favorite duo to watch, and at times yesterday, the Explorers were operating in a five guard lineup.
So far, the conference has racked up wins against the Big XII (Kansas State), ACC (NC State), and Mountain West (Boise State). Temple is the only major underdog in the next game, drawing #1 seed Indiana. It is not out of the question that the league could add wins over the remaining big conferences, with VCU going against Michigan, St. Louis getting Oregon of the Pac-12, Butler getting Marquette of the Big East, and La Salle facing off against Mississippi from the SEC.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images]
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