March 14th, 2013

2013 Big Ten Tournament Picks and College Basketball Odds

By Robert Ferringo

A lot of eyes will be on Brooklyn this week when the Atlantic 10 Tournament tips off. One of the deepest, strongest mid-major leagues in the country, the A-10 is just ripe for some bid-stealing school to come swooping in and shorten the guest list for the NCAA Tournament by one.

The Atlantic 10 Tournament starts Thursday, March 14 and will crown a champion on Sunday. Here is Doc’s Sports Atlantic 10 Conference Preview:

The Favorite: St. Louis (+175)

The Bilikens have won 12 of 13 games and they are one of the hottest teams in the country. This is a veteran team, galvanized by the death of former coach Rick Majerus, and this is a team on a mission. St. Louis started the year 3-3 overall, but has gone 21-3 since then – with two of the losses coming in overtime. St. Louis has an upperclassman-dominated roster and they all know the system like the back of their hand. But depth cold be a problem, as this team really only goes about seven-deep. Keep an eye on seniors Kwamain Mitchell and Cody Ellis. Both have had star-crossed careers and would love to go out champions.

The Contender: VCU (+185)

A lot of the big computer rankings systems actually have VCU rated ahead of St. Louis, even though the Rams lost by 14 in their last meeting. The Rams are deep and athletic and they have closed the year winning eight of their last 10 games. This team wants to press, trap, and rely on their wing players to dictate the tempo. This is VCU’s first trip through the A-10 tournament. And unlike the CAA, their former conference, there are no gimme games in this weekend. They will face a capable, veteran team in the quarters against either Xavier or St. Joseph’s. And I don’t know if this team shoots well enough to win three games in three nights.

The Sleeper: Butler (+500)

The Bulldogs have found the sledding a lot tougher in the A-10 as opposed to the Horizon League. But Butler is no stranger to success in March. And at one point this season they were 16-2, coming off a win over Gonzaga, and in the Top 10 in the country. Rotnei Clarke is one of the best shooters in the nation and is capable of getting hot and carrying this team for a weekend. But if he is shut down the Bulldogs don’t have a second perimeter option. They will have a dangerous matchup with LaSalle in the quarters and Butler’s superior interior play could make the difference. After that would be a rematch with St. Louis.

The Spoiler: Massachusetts (+1000)

This is one of the teams that no one wants to play. Massachusetts has as much natural ability as any team in the conference. They also have one of the league’s best players in Chazz Williams, and the program has had a load of success in this tournament. But the Minutemen are shaky, flaky and completely unpredictable. They could lose to GW in the first round. But if they win that game they will lock horns with rival Temple. And if Massachusetts gets rolling at all this weekend they could be tough to stop.

Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Predictions: I am actually going to call for a bit of an upset in that I don’t think that any of the top three seeds – St. Louis, VCU or Temple – will win the league title. This tournament has had a lot of upsets over the last several years and last season’s surprise winner was St. Bonaventure. I think that we will see some of the top teams go down in the quarters and this is a league that could steal an at-large bid from one of the major conferences.

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