Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Atlantic 10 update: Richmond rolls, VCU facing must-win scenarios

Richmond continued its late-season surge Wednesday as the Spiders cruised past Rhode Island 60-50 for their season-high fourth straight victory.

Kristina King scored a team-high 14 points and Rachael Bilney added 13 for the Spiders, who shot out to a 16-4 lead and overcame going scoreless for the final six minutes of the first half to lead by as many as 23 points after the break.

A couple of weeks ago, the Spiders were in danger of not qualifying for the 12-team Atlantic 10 Tournament. Now they're in the field with room to spare - with a 6-7 conference record, the Spiders are currently in a three-way tie for seventh place with Xavier and George Washington. Richmond closes its season at home Sunday against Charlotte (22-4, 11-1), which has won 11 in a row and is 8-0 lifetime against the Spiders. Still, win or lose, the Spiders know they will be seeded somewhere between 7 and 11 at the A-10 tourney.

The situation is more dicey - but not impossible - for VCU (10-17, 3-9), which as of Wednesday night is in 13th place out of 16 teams - one spot out of the tournament. The Rams have two games left. If they lose both, their season's over. If they win both, although it's not totally clear at this point, we'd like their chances. Problem is, one of the two games is Thursday night at Charlotte (22-4, 11-1), one of the hottest teams in the country. If VCU can pull off the upset, then prevail as expected in their season final Sunday at home against Rhode Island (6-21, 1-12), the Rams could qualify for the tournament outright, or at the very least tie for a tourney slot with as many as three other teams. Not sure how that would all sort out.

Now if the Rams lose at Charlotte and win against Rhode Island, they would then need La Salle to lose its final game at St. Bonaventure. The Rams and Explorers would wind up tied for 12th place with identical 4-10 records. The first tiebreaker for a two-team deadlock is head-to-head record, and since VCU beat La Salle 69-50 on Feb. 17, the way we read it the Rams would nab the 12th seed in this scenario and head to the tournament.

St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island and UMass have all be eliminated from A-10 tournament contention.

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