Your Friday Morning Atlantic 10 Tournament Primer

Your Friday Morning Atlantic 10 Tournament Primer

Three of the City Six -- Drexel, Penn and Villanova -- are done (at least for this week). But three more -- Temple, Saint Joseph's and La Salle -- remain.

All of those still alive find themselves in Atlantic City, NJ, preparing to tip-off in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament.

We'll be making our way to AC later this afternoon to check out the action, blog for your enjoyment and hopefully score a picture with the Dayton Flyer.

In the meantime, we provide this list of each game, its time, where you can watch it,  and a brief overview of the matchup. Join us for the last A-10 tournament to be held at Boardwalk Hall after the jump…

#1 Temple (24-6, 13-3) vs. #8 UMass (21-10, 9-7) / 12 p.m. / CSN / 610 AM
This game is a rematch of Temple's final home game of the year when it blew a 9-point lead with less than three minutes to play and needed overtime to squeak past UMass, 90-88. 

UMass is the only team in the Atlantic 10, besides Temple, to have defeated all four of the #2-#5 seeds this season. Their high-energy attack is spearheaded by 5-9 guard Chaz Williams, who leads the team in scoring with 16.4 points per game. 

They're fast, insanely talented leapers and play a style of basketball predicated on a full-court press and never-ending barrage of fast breaks. Temple can ill-afford to compete in the kind of track meet that was played in the first meeting. Owl senior guard Ramone Moore said after that contest that his Temple team prided itself on being able to play any style. While that may be the case, Temple will benefit from playing the game at its preferred, half-court, deliberate pace rather than trying to beat UMass at its own game.

The Massachusetts Minutemen may be the lowest seed remaining in the tournament, but they're also the most dangerous sleeper to win the title. Temple will do the other six schools in Atlantic City a big favor by bouncing them in the quarterfinals. Otherwise, keep your eyes on UMass.

Moving down the top half of the bracket, the winner of Temple and UMass will take on the winner of…

#4 St. Bonaventure (17-11, 10-6) vs. #5 Saint Joseph's (20-12, 9-7) / 2:30 p.m. / CSN / 610 AM
Like Temple and UMass, these two teams last met last Wednesday evening and needed overtime to declare a winner. Unlike Temple and UMass, St. Bonaventure and Saint Joseph's went so far as to require double-overtime.

As the game was contested in Olean, NY, it was of little surprise that the Bonnies found a way win, ultimately taking the game 98-93. They went 11-2 at home this season and lost only to Temple and North Carolina State at the Reilly Center.

Unfortunately for the Bonnies, this game will be played on a neutral court, and one that isn't seven-hour bus ride through upstate New York from the Hawks' campus.

Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson will likely get his; really, he has all season, thus taking home the A10's Player of the Year Award. Under the basket, SJU's C.J. Aiken, Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic will need to work together to steal rebounds from Nicholson and to help keep each other out of foul trouble. While those three are occupied underneath -- or, Nicholson occupied by them, depending on how you choose to view it -- Carl Jones and Langston Galloway will overmatch the Bonaventure backcourt.

Frankly, we wouldn't be surprised to see either team moving on to the semifinals on Saturday. Saint Joseph's should pull the (by seed only) upset, but the young team has shown time and again a capacity for erratic play this season. That said, they appear to be peaking at the right time, and a run to Sunday, title or no title, might just earn them a bid to next week's NCAAs. Hawks fans will have to balance expecting the world this weekend with the realization that this group may still be just one more year away. We'll find out soon enough.

#2 St. Louis (24-6, 12-4) vs. #7 La Salle (21-11, 9-7) / 6:30 p.m. / TCN / 990 AM
Dr. John Giannini has a team that legitimately could make a run -- they just happened to draw St. Louis in round two.

The Explorers own the best three-point field goal percentage in the conference at 40.3%. Temple trails just behind at 40.2%. No one else is technically close, but the Billikens are No. 3 on the list at 36.3%.

Here's the point, La Salle has become a good enough jump shooting team that they can put a run together through a tournament -- a tournament like the NIT, CIT or CBI. As you might have guessed, we believe, with good reason, that the Explorers are in over their heads in this particular matchup. No, they won't turn the ball over 20 times, like they did the last time these two teams played, when the Billikens won in St. Louis, 59-51, but that isn't exactly saying much either.

Should they pull the shocker -- and, hey, we're all for it -- they do benefit from drawing (what we consider) the easier of the two roads to the finals when they take on the winner of…

#3 Xavier (19-11, 10-6) vs. #6 Dayton (20-11, 9-7) / 9 p.m. / TCN
It's an Ohio showdown in the late game at Boardwalk Hall. If you're a basketball junkie, you'll likely be tuning into this matchup regardless of the non-Philadelphia involvement. As for those of you who may need some convincing -- no, Dayton-Xavier isn't Cincinnati-Xavier, but it is a great rivalry made all the better at tournament time. Plus, Tu Holloway!

*

"And here…we…go." 

It's the Atlantic 10 tournament's last year in AC before moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and damn it's good to be back. From our family to yours, the 24-Hour Happy Hour Bar inside the Wild Wild West Casino at Bally's. You're welcome, in advance. We'll see you on the Boardwalk.

Boardwalk Hall photo credit: The Associated Press

Eagles-Bengals predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-Bengals predictions by our (cough) experts

With their playoff hopes waning, the Eagles (5-6) travel to Cincinnati for a matchup against the struggling Bengals (3-7-1).

The Birds have lost six of their last 8, including two straight. Cincinnati hasn't fared much better, going winless in its last four.

It's time for our (cough) expert predictions for the Week 13 matchup.

Reuben Frank (5-5)
Now that the Eagles' playoff hopes have dwindled down to about a 1-in-12 shot, we'll find out if Doug Pederson can keep this team motivated and sharp for the remaining third of the season. That's a lot of football left to go, and for a team that's lost six of its last eight and five straight on the road, it's not going to be easy. But I do believe the Eagles won't stop playing hard. The effort has been there all along. The Green Bay game got away from them at the end, but for the most part, the losses have been competitive, and the team hasn't shown any signs of quitting. 

Now when you look at the schedule, it's filled with winning teams, division leaders, Hall of Fame quarterbacks and teams coming off byes. Of their last nine opponents, only the Packers currently have a losing record at 5-6. But they have Aaron Rodgers. Which brings us to the Bengals. They're 3-7-1, they're missing their Pro Bowl wide receiver and their starting running back and they've won just two of their last 10 games -- one of them against the Browns. 

Final conclusion: This is a team the Eagles can beat. I see a big game for Wendell Smallwood against the NFL's fifth-worst rush defense and also a big performance from Kenjon Barner with his one weekly carry. The Eagles are 0-3-1 all-time in Cincinnati. But Bobby Hoying beat the Bengals in 1997, and if Bobby Hoying can beat 'em Carson Wentz can. I'm going Eagles 17, Bengals 16 and back to .500 with four games to go.

Eagles 17, Bengals 16

Dave Zangaro (3-8)
The Eagles managed to put up just 13 points against the Packers' swiss cheese defense, so it's hard to imagine they'll suddenly catch fire against a better defense on the road.  

The best chance the Eagles have on offense, is to run the ball early and often, but they're without their top running back Ryan Mathews. That means rookie Wendell Smallwood will become the lead back. 

Oh yeah, did we mention that the Eagles' best receiver, Jordan Matthews, is dealing with an ankle injury that kept him out of practice most of the week? Even if Matthews plays, he might be severely hampered by the ankle. 

No, the Bengals don't pack the same punch as the Packers, but they'll be at home and Andy Dalton is at least a decent quarterback, Jeremy Hill runs hard and Tyler Eifert is a very good tight end. 

The Eagles catch a break with A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard out, but I don't think that's going to be enough. 

Bengals 17, Eagles 15  

Derrick Gunn (4-7)
After their latest two game losing streak where do the Eagles go from here? In their last two outings the Birds have given up 26.5 point per game while scoring just 14 points per game. The offense has lacked big play capability, and the defense hasn't stopped opponents from making key plays (Green Bay was 10 of 14 on 3rd down). Now they take to the road to face a Cincinnati team that is worse off than they are. The Bengals were projected to be serious playoff contenders but have been pretenders with a 3-7-1 record.

To add insult to injury, the Bengals are playing without 40 percent of their offensive production. Their top wideout, A.J. Green, is out with a hamstring injury and RB Giovani Bernard, who's lost for the year with an ACL tear. The Bengals can't score but their defense has been improving over the last three games giving up an average of 18.6 points.

Jordan Matthews' ankle injury could handcuff the Birds' passing attack. Hopefully the defense can get to Dalton who's been sacked 32 times. I can't believe I'm saying this but just call it a hunch: I don't like the Birds in this situation. 

Bengals 16, Eagles 13

Ray Didinger (5-6)
The Cincinnati Bengals have won one game since Sept. 29 and it was against the Cleveland Browns which almost doesn't count. They are currently on an 0-3-1 slide and will miss the playoffs for the first time in six years. Their best receiver, A.J. Green, is hurt and running back Giovani Bernard is lost for the season. Quarterback Andy Dalton fumbled four times in last week's loss to Baltimore. In short, these are not fun times in Cincinnati.

That would seem to bode well for the Eagles but there is that pesky matter of playing on the road (where they have lost five in a row) and the fact they are coming off their worst performance of the season, Monday's home loss to the Packers. The Eagles have scored just 28 points in their last two games while the Bengals have scored 26 so don't look for a lot of offense on Sunday. This could come down to the kickers and if so Caleb Sturgis is a lot better than Mike Nugent who has missed four of his last eight extra-point attempts.
 
Eagles 19, Bengals 13

Andrew Kulp (6-5)
Records aside, these are similar teams right now. The offenses lack weapons, the defenses are OK but flawed and the only way either team can win is ugly.

And ugly this game will likely be. The game comes down to kicks, a battle Caleb Sturgis can win against a struggling Mike Nugent. Bonus prediction: Eagles fans get plenty of chores and projects done around the house during this snoozer.

Eagles 13, Bengals 9

Corey Seidman (5-6)
The over/under is just 42 and I'm not expecting a whole lot of points. 

The Eagles are reeling, the Bengals are reeling, but when it comes down to it the Eagles enter this game healthier and should be able to keep Cincy's offense in check. 

Eifert is the Bengals' most dangerous weapon at the moment and the Eagles have been pretty good defending the seam with Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham and the safeties.

Eagles 20, Bengals 16

Andy Schwartz (5-6)
Just when I thought I had this team figured out, just when I’d evened my record at .500, the Eagles laid an egg.

They did so against a Packers team that had lost four straight. I should have seen it coming. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t going to let the Packers lose five in a row. The Eagles’ defense, despite having played well at home, was at his mercy. 

Now the Birds face another reeling team. Cincy hasn’t won in more than a month. The Bengals have lost three straight after tying the Redskins. 

But the Bengals don’t have Aaron Rodgers. They don’t have A.J. Green or Giovani Bernard either. And they’re not the Packers. They’re the Bengals.

After last week, it’s easy to pick the Eagles to lose. After last week, you wonder if the Eagles will win again this season. 

But the Eagles haven’t lost three straight all year. The pass rush wakes up, the special teams makes a big play, and that helps the offense score three touchdowns.

Eagles 24, Bengals 18

Temple holds off late Penn charge for fifth straight win

usa-temple-penn-cbb.jpg
USA Today Images

Temple holds off late Penn charge for fifth straight win

BOX SCORE

For the last decade, Temple has never lost to Penn in men’s basketball.

That streak nearly came to an end Saturday at the Liacouras Center.

After trailing by as many 17 and by 11 midway through the second half, the Quakers pulled within two before the Owls scored the final six points of the game to survive Penn's upset bid with an exciting 70-62 victory.

Shizz Alston Jr. led the way with 14 points while Obi Enechionyia and Alani Moore II had 12 point apiece for the Owls (6-2), who have now won five straight. 

Ernest Aflakpui added 11 points and 11 rebounds for Temple, which improved to 3-0 in the Big 5 with a date against soon-to-be-No. 1 Villanova looming in 10 days for the city series title. The Owls have won 10 straight against the Quakers.

Senior Matt Howard scored 19 points and freshman AJ Brodeur had 17 for the Quakers (2-4), who dropped their third straight and fell to 0-2 in the Big 5. 

Trailing 46-37 midway through the second half, Penn reeled of a 10-3 run to pull within 50-46. The Quakers got within four twice more but Enechionyia followed with a jumper and an alley-oop slam to push Temple back ahead 58-50 with five minutes left.

After Brodeur blocked an Enechionyia shot and hit a layup to slice Temple’s lead to 64-62 with 1:12 left, the Owls didn’t let the Quakers score again to continue their mastery of their city rival.

Enechionyia, who came into the contest averaging 21 points per game, missed all nine of his shot attempts in the first half but the Owls still controlled things early, jumping out to a 14-2 advantage and taking a 31-22 lead into halftime.

The Quakers shot just 29.2 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from 3-point range in the first half while committing eight turnovers. 

The game was played in front of a relatively small crowd with much of Temple’s attention focused on Annapolis, where the Owls beat Navy for the AAC football championship. 

More to come …