And so now we have chaos. The Atlantic 10 has fallen into a four-way tie for the top spot with three games to go, and those games feature plenty of intersections to make sure this won't end in the giant knot that now exists.
If you haven't booked your trip to the Atlantic 10 tournament in Brooklyn, perhaps you should be looking online for tickets right now. Between VCU, Rhode Island, Dayton and Davidson, you have four teams that could take the title. That doesn't even count Richmond, or St. Bonaventure, or Massachusetts, or La Salle. Any of those four could get hot for a stretch and turn the conference into a real mess.
No one made a bigger statement Wednesday night than Richmond, who needed two overtimes to take out VCU at home (and if you haven't seen the shot they missed that would have given the win in regulation, you have to click through). Sure, the Spiders blew a lead that should have been safe in the second half (which speaks great things about Treveon Graham and the rest of the Rams), but they didn't deflate when they reached overtime, or even double overtime.
There will be the tricky thing known as free throws in the conference tournament though. Richmond can't continue to shoot just 50 percent at the line and hope to get much further than their opening game. They got a little luck tonight that VCU shot just 3-for-19 from 3-point range. That won't happen consistently enough to consider this anything more than a nice win, with some momentum attached to it.
We all know VCU will be safely into the NCAA Tournament. The Rams can't be losing games like this though if they want to avoid some tricky 5-12 games. They know all too well what happens in those.
No game was bigger for bubble teams than Davidson's win over Rhode Island. The Rams needed to basically win out the regular season if they wanted to have a shot at the at-large conversation. They instead dropped a game that could be considered a good win.
Worse, this game essentially becomes a tie-breaker between Rhode Island and the Wildcats. If the two teams don't meet up again, and you have to decide between the two, you have to go with the Wildcats as the better team.
It is hard to say for sure though that either team will really get the look they want. Both teams had soft nonconference schedules, and neither team had the top win that they could want to pad their schedule. All of the good wins have come in the conference, and with the way that the league has beat itself up, it is a difficult sell.
Consider that even Duquesne, Fordham and St. Joe's have good wins in the conference.
Even worse, this loss knocks Rhode Island into that dreaded tie for the conference lead, and out of control of their own destiny for perhaps a lock NIT bid.
Davidson (20-6, 11-4, RPI: 57, SOS: 132) did a lot to help itself with the win tonight, and set us up for an amazing finish.
Dayton did exactly what it needed to to stay in that at-large conversation Wednesday night. The Flyers easily took out George Mason 76-63, to earn that 11th conference win and move into the four-way tie for the conference lead.
Dayton still has the toughest road left, with Rhode Island and VCU on the schedule, especially since they can't consider themselves safe just yet. VCU has Dayton and Davidson, which is maybe tougher overall, but the Rams shouldn't be worried about their status.
So what is the key for the Flyers? Perhaps it will be continuing the hot streak behind the 3-point line. Dayton went 9-for-17 Wednesday including five from Jordan Sibert. The Flyers are second in the league in 3-point percentage, not to mention that they have the best shooters overall in the conference -- a good thing because they struggle on the offensive boards.
UMass has now lost three games in a row after that stunning win streak. This 82-71 loss to St. Joe's probably kills any remaining hope that the Minutemen had for a chance in the NCAA Tournament.
All focus must be on the conference tournament now.
- Christian Sengfelder had 14 points and 14 rebounds as the Fordham Rams pick up their best win of the season with a 63-48 victory over La Salle. Jordan Price had 16 points for La Salle.
- Micah Mason went 4-for-7 from 3-point range, and scored 20 points to go with five assists as Duquesne topped Saint Louis, 79-66. Milik Yarbrough had 20 points for the Billikins.
- George Washington finally broke its four-game skid with a 69-46 win over St. Bonaventure. The Colonials got 17 points from Joe McDonald in the win. Marcus Posley shot just 4-for-13 from the floor for the Bonnies but scored 12 points in the loss.