What to expect from the A-10 title game between VCU and Saint Joe’s

NEW YORK — The 2016 Atlantic 10 Tournament will be decided on Sunday by the two teams who’ve won it the past two seasons.

On Saturday, Saint Joe’s held off top-seeded Dayton (82-79), then No. 2 VCU blew past Davidson 76-54 to advance to Sunday’s finale on CBS.

What’s it mean? Let’s run it down real quick.

Davidson is out with no chance to make the NCAAs. The Wildcats are 20-12 and could be NIT-bound.

For 25-7 Dayton, the Flyers are clearly in the tournament and should expect anything from a No. 6 to a No. 9 seed. There is so much inconsistency in the middle of the bracket that it’s tough tor project exactly where the Flyers will land. Falling to Saint Joe’s wasn’t a bad loss by any means, but UD did lose twice to SJU this season, so we’ll see where the Flyers wind up. They’re a really good defensive team that will get an extra day’s worth of rest for Kendall Pollard, who won’t be practicing due to a bone bruise under his left knee.

Saint Joseph’s’ not only safely in the field, it might wind up with a stronger seed than people expect. This after the Hawks moved to 26-7 on Saturday. If you’ve not yet gotten a chance to see the Hawks, they’ve got the league’s Player of the Year in DeAndre’ Bembry … and a guy in Isaiah Miles who might wind up being a better prospect.

Here’s Dayton’s Archie Miller on why Saint Joe’s is so dangerous.

“They have DeAndre’ Bembry, who is the player of the year in the league, and then they have Isaiah Miles who may be the most improved player nationally and could have been the player of the league if you ask a couple coaches in our conference. I mean, when you have a front court player that can shoot and rebound the way he does, he’s hard to deal with. He really is.”

For VCU? The Rams locked up a bid with the win over Davidson. They’re now 24-9 and have the only win between them and Saint Joe’s this season — at Saint Joe’s. If the Hawks even the score on Sunday on a neutral floor, it’s not gonna do much to the Rams’ standing in the bracket. Chances are the selection committee will keep VCU where it is on the 1-68 ranking when it determines such a list by the end of Saturday night.

“We’ll have to be better with the ball tomorrow, and that’s the beauty with this team, in that tomorrow we have a chance to play better, and we will need to play better tomorrow,” SJU coach Phil Martelli said. “But for Pop and Isaiah and DeAndre’ to have a chance to win a second Atlantic 10 championship is really special, but we have work to do tonight.”

VCU is again an outstanding defensive team. The Rams rank top 15 in the country in points per possession allowed. If the Hawks can hit double-digit 3-pointers on Sunday, the way they did on Saturday against the Flyers, it will be a boon. Martelli will need his guys to play more like they did in beating George Washington on Friday.

“I’m a little bit miffed because we didn’t finish,” Martelli said. “Yesterday we finished. Today we kind of like skipped along to the finish line. We’re going to have to be tougher tomorrow.”

VCU’s best player, Melvin Johnson, gave it a go and played well on a bum ankle in the win over Davidson. Keep an eye on his spurtability against the size of Saint Joe’s. VCU needed to buy special shoes on Saturday morning to give him more stability around the ankle.

The A-10 could secure at least three bids. The fourth is going to come from either St. Bonaventure or George Washington, with Bona ahead in the pecking order in the eyes of most. The Rams and Hawks will play for seeding and bragging rights of the conference’s best over the past three seasons.

Can Melvin Johnson lead VCU to a second straight A-10 tourney title? (USATSI)


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