NCAA

A-10 enjoying strong season, waiting for next move

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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.''

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

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

Georgetown stayed close with No. 15 Butler, but forgot to cover Sean McDermott

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Georgetown stayed close with No. 15 Butler, but forgot to cover Sean McDermott

WASHINGTON -- By no stretch of the imagination did Georgetown have a good game against the Butler Bulldogs on Tuesday evening. But in the final minute of regulation, the Hoyas found themselves in a closely contested ballgame with the chance to steal a home victory over a ranked opponent. 

The only issue is they forgot to cover sharpshooter Sean McDermott. They forgot about him quite often in a 69-64 loss to No. 15 Butler

Throughout an 18-1 run stretching from the end of the first half and into the second, the Hoyas somehow could not find No. 22 in black on the court. Slipping screens, rotating into corners and simply finding the open hole on the perimeter, McDermott continuously found ways to get open against the Hoyas defense. 

Entering the game, he was a 40% 3-point shooter. Georgetown knew he was going to be a threat. Yet, possession after possession he was left on an island in the corner of the court. He rarely missed. 

“He’s not the focal point of their team but tonight he played a great game,” Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing said. “We knew that he was a very good shooter. Our goal was to keep him off the 3-point line and we didn’t do a good job of getting that.”

He scored 12 of Butler’s points during that run. Every basket during that stretch was from behind the arc. It erased a 14-point deficit for the Bulldogs and gave them control of the game.

As deadly as those threes were, though, it was McDermott’s last three that was the biggest. 

Somehow, after trailing by seven late in the second half, Georgetown had climbed back into the game. Entering the final minute, it was tied at 64 and the Hoyas appeared to have the momentum. The home crowd of 5,329 was on their feet and fully invested. 

Then McDermott did what he had done all game to that point: Slip away from a helping defender and knock down an open three. He faked to set up a pick-and-roll and read the Hoyas defense to perfection. Once again, he was left alone from behind the arc.

That was the final of McDermott’s 25 points on the night to lead all scorers. From the field, he was 9-for-12, and 7-for-10 from behind the arc. It was the second time this season he reached 25 points and the third time in his career he nailed seven 3-pointers. 

There’s no easier way to say it other than he torched Georgetown. 

The failure to close out on one of the best 3-point shooters in the Big East will haunt the Hoyas. Despite Mac McClung and Omer Yurtseven’s 8-for-30 combined shooting effort, the Hoyas were in the game. They’ve never been in a game this season when neither of them were able to get going. 

Add in 12 forced turnovers in the first half and a nine-point lead, it was a missed opportunity. A missed opportunity that the 12-9 (2-6) Hoyas cannot afford to have anymore this season.

Baldwin heats up again as Butler beats Georgetown

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Baldwin heats up again as Butler beats Georgetown

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Kamar Baldwin heated up after halftime for the second consecutive game, helping No. 16 Butler overcome another deficit to beat Georgetown 69-64 Tuesday night.

Baldwin scored 12 of his 13 points in the second half, and now Butler has won two consecutive games after dropping three in a row in Big East play.

Baldwin didn't quite go off like Friday against Marquette, but Butler's leading scorer took over the game after being held to one point in the first half. Baldwin scored 12 in the second half and set up Sean McDermott for the go-ahead 3-pointer with 49.9 seconds left.

McDermott scored 11 of his 25 points during an 18-3 run early in the second half. Butler (17-4, 5-3 Big East) was down by as many as 14 before halftime but never trailed again after taking the lead.

Baldwin was the catalyst for the turnaround, four days after he followed up a two-point first half by scoring 29 the rest of the way in an overtime win. He had four of his six assists in the second half and finished with 13 points.

Georgetown (12-9, 2-6) built its big lead by making 13 of 14 free throw attempts and capitalizing on Butler's 12 first-half turnovers. Center Omer Yurtseven led the Hoyas with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Butler: Comeback or not, the Bulldogs miss point guard Aaron Thompson. He has now missed two consecutive games with a wrist injury, and Butler had to rally each time. Baldwin can clearly flip a switch, but Butler's offense works better with Thompson setting the table.

Georgetown: A team that struggles on defense can't afford to go cold. Especially with just a seven-player rotation, the Hoyas can get worn down easily by talented opponents, and their upcoming schedule doesn't get any easier.

UP NEXT

Butler: Hosts Providence on Saturday afternoon before a showdown next week against Villanova. The Friars have lost three in a row and four of five.

Georgetown: Coach Patrick Ewing returns to Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon when the Hoyas visit St. John's. Fans chanted the former New York Knicks star's name in November when Georgetown upset Texas in Ewing's old home arena.

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