A-10 enjoying strong season, waiting for next move


A-10 enjoying strong season, waiting for next move

CINCINNATI (AP) One recent Saturday, Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade sat courtside and watched Xavier - one of the league's mainstays - hold off upstart La Salle. Then she drove 90 miles to Indianapolis and watched Butler steal one away from Gonzaga.

A great day for the A-10 all-around.

``Fabulous,'' McGlade said, in a phone interview. ``It reminded me what this is about. For a fleeting 10 hours, I didn't think about realignment.''

Even in good times, it's never far from any conference commissioner's minds these days.

The Atlantic 10 is enjoying a strong season, buoyed by the additions of Butler and Virginia Commonwealth. Butler was ranked No. 9 in the latest AP poll on Monday, and VCU and La Salle received votes.

The league is on pace to get at least three teams into the NCAA tournament for the sixth straight season, which would equal the best streak in A-10 history. Ten of its 16 teams are ranked in the top 90 of the RPI. The league ranks seventh in combined RPI, sandwiched between the Big 12 and the SEC.

It's been a good transition season so far. Charlotte (No. 51 RPI) and Temple (No. 55) are planning to leave after this season - the 49ers are starting a football program and moving to Conference USA, while the Owls are headed to the Big East.

Butler and VCU (No. 38 in the RPI) will allow the league to hold its own and continue raising its national profile - provided the A-10 doesn't get raided.

Seven of the Big East's schools - the so-called Catholic 7 - have decided to form their own basketball-based league. Presidents of DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova met in New York earlier this month to lay the groundwork.

Xavier, a Jesuit school, and religiously-unaffiliated Butler would be attractive to the new league. The Catholic 7 have to decide how many schools they want in the new conference, 10 or 12. Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said in Connecticut on Monday that the separation has been amicable.

McGlade and the A-10 schools are waiting to see how that plays out.

``All of the swirling speculation about conference realignment is in some respects a little exhausting,'' McGlade said. ``And it takes away from the present, which happens to be so positive and so successful.''

The A-10 has started benefiting from its push to have the conference's also-rans make a bigger commitment to scheduling tough nonconference opponents. Last season, the league's nonconference strength of schedule ranked seventh, ahead of the SEC.

Teams at the top have longed for the day when an in-conference loss was seen as a sign of the A-10's balance rather than a black eye for March. The conference is getting there.

Last week, La Salle bounced back from that close loss at Xavier and extended its best start since 1990-91. The Explorers beat Butler and then-No. 19 VCU in back-to-back games, getting consecutive wins over ranked teams for the first time since the 1952 National Invitation Tournament.

And no one considered it a fluke.

``If you think we're surprised, you're nuts!'' coach John Giannini said.

Although Xavier is having a down season by its standards - the Musketeers lost all five starters from the team that reached the NCAA tournament's round of 16 last season - it beat Butler by 15 points early in the season. The Bulldogs have only three losses, two to A-10 teams.

McGlade has been talking to A-10 school presidents about the conference's future, trying to be proactive as the Big East's realignment continues. She points out that the A-10 is in a solid position with its scheduling, eight-year television deal and a conference tournament moving from Atlantic City to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

``I have to believe the current membership will look at those points of strength that we've been able to establish, and also our distribution model, which is extremely favorable to successful teams,'' McGlade said. ``I know my presidents. They're smart people. They're going to evaluate any opportunity that may arise very carefully, along with the strong opportunity they have right now in the A-10.

``If we're ever in a position of strength, I believe we are now.''


AP Sports Writer Pat Eaton-Robb in Cromwell, Conn., and Hank Kurz Jr. in Richmond, Va., contributed to this report.


Follow Joe Kay on Twitter:http://twitter.com/apjoekay

Quick Links

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Quick Links

Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 18, 39 days before the NFL draft.  

Looking at next year’s free agents

There is still work that the Redskins can do in free agency and they still have some of their own players they want to retain. But with a lot of the player movement already in the books, we can take a look forward some of the key Redskin who currently are set to be free agents when the 2019 league year opens.

Note: I’m not including Brandon Scherff here because the team has a fifth-year option on him that they surely will activate before the May 2 deadline.

QB Colt McCoy (Week 1 age 32)—Lots of questions here. Will the Redskins want to keep him around for another year as Alex Smith’s backup? Or will they want a younger and cheaper backup? Will McCoy want to move on rather than back up another QB who doesn’t miss many games?

OL Ty Nsekhe (32)—The Redskins gave him a second-round restricted free agent tender this year so it’s possible that he could be gone or on a long-term contract in Washington. If he is a free agent, his value and the difficulty of retaining him could depend on if he ends the season as a reserve tackle (easy) or as a starting guard (hard).

OLB Preston Smith (25)—As we saw with Trent Murphy (three years, $21 million with up to $30 million), pass rushers get paid. Smith also makes big plays. Since Smith came into the NFL, he is the only player with at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. If the Redskins can’t reach a deal on an extension with him this year the franchise tag is a distinct possibility.

WR Jamison Crowder (25)—This year the supply of quality receivers both as free agents and in the draft sent contract prices skyrocketing. To guard against that happening next year, the Redskin should start talking to Crowder about an extension soon.

ILB Zach Vigil (27)—As I noted here, Vigil went from being cut in September to a very valuable reserve in November. Both Zach Brown and Mason Foster will still be under contract, but the Redskin still should make an effort to retain Vigil for special teams and as a capable backup.

Other Redskins who are slated to be UFA’s next year are DL Ziggy Hood and ILB Martrell Spaight.

It’s also worth noting that WR Maurice Harris and DE Anthony Lanier will both be restricted free agents next year. Both positions were pricey in free agency this year, so both could require at least second-round tenders, which likely will increase to about $3 million in 2019.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Tandler on Twitter

Regarding the reported visit of defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins with the Redskins:


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 29
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 131
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 175

In case you missed it