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Atlantic 10 quarterfinals: Rhode Island pops someone’s bubble and we have some coaching news

Rhody will face St. Bonaventure in the semis.

Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

BROOKLYN — Rhode Island has knocked a bubble team out of the NCAA Tournament.

The Rams’ 75-70 win over VCU on Friday afternoon in the first game of the Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals assured that the A-10 would be a two-bid league this year, with VCU destined for the at-large field.

Jeff Dowtin scored 22 points to lead Rhode Island to the 8 vs. 1 upset. The Rams trailed by eight midway through the first half, but momentum changed for good when VCU leader Marcus Evans went down with an injury to his left leg. Evans stayed on the floor for several minutes, slapping the floor in pain. He was eventually helped to the locker room, putting no weight on that leg, and returned to the bench on crutches in the second half.

Rhode Island trailed by three at the break, but hung around, eventually taking the lead on a layup from Dana Tate with 16:20 to go. The game stayed close from there, but Dowtin provided the dagger on a circus three with the shot clock running down. That put URI up 73-67 with 2:13 left.

VCU is still safely in the NCAA Tournament, but the loss and Evans’ injury could be costly.

Injury implications

VCU head coach Mike Rhoades told reporters after the game that team doctors believed Evans had a severe bone bruise and he would be further evaluated later on Friday. So for that, the team seems to have dodged a bullet.

Losing to the eighth-best team in a bad A-10 was already going to cost VCU on the Selection Sunday seed line. Positive news about Evans could keep the Rams from falling further. The NCAA Selection Committee would not factor his injury into the equation when it comes to determining VCU’s inclusion in the field, but it would be a factor in seeding; the committee seeds based on the team you are right now. We will need to wait for more news about Evans, but for now, VCU shouldn’t fall too far.

St. Bonaventure stays hot

The Bonnies have now won eight out of nine games, and they did it on the backs of their defense and their freshmen. True to form, St. Bonaventure held George Mason to 35 percent shooting en route to a 68-57 victory. On the other end, freshmen Dominick Welch and Kyle Lofton each scored 20 points. For Welch, that was a career high and he did it on six made threes.

St. Bonaventure will play Rhode Island in the first semifinal game on Saturday, which will tip at 1 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network. URI won by 12 in their lone meeting this season.

Coaching news

Conference tournament time also means the coaching carousel is starting to turn, and news broke on Friday about two Atlantic 10 coaches before the morning session ended.

This wasn’t a good season for George Washington, no way around that. But Joseph only had three years at Foggy Bottom after inheriting an impossible situation. He won 20 games in his first season, but just 14 last year and went 9-24 this season with just four conference wins.

Speaking of teams that have already been eliminated:

Some Fordham fans have been getting frustrated with Neubauer’s lack of progress, but the decision to keep him around makes sense. With a team comprised mostly of freshmen and juniors (including A-10 all-rookie team member Nick Honor), Fordham has a solid core in place for next season. Composite three-star Joel Soriano will also join the fold next year. A coaching change could have led to a rash of transfers and de-commits, forcing the program to begin yet another rebuild.