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

Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds defends hit on Andrei Markov

Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds defends hit on Andrei Markov

MONTREAL — Wayne Simmonds didn’t feel as though he did anything wrong. Or that he even touched Andrei Markov.
Thing is, however, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety may have a different view of it come Tuesday morning.
Early during first-period play Monday night, the Flyers' winger came out of the penalty box after serving a minor for holding and cross-checked Markov from behind.
The Canadiens' defenseman went face-first into the boards and fell to the ice, where he appeared to try and sell a penalty. Nothing came of it, but the hit will likely be reviewed anyway.
“I barely touched him,” Simmonds. “When you got a bunch of guys diving all over the place, what are you going to do? Stand on your feet.”

There were a number of tough hits from both sides in the Flyers' 3-1 loss to the Canadiens (see game recap). It was evenly played and the Flyers deserved a point.
“We played a solid game,” Simmonds said. “Obviously, we lost and it’s not what we wanted but we have four more games this week.
“We go home and we've got to be focused on the positive things that we did and carry it over the rest of the week.”
Gudas eligible
Radko Gudas has yet to play a real game this season.
The Flyers' bruising defenseman has been serving a six-game suspension for a careless hit in Boston that closed out exhibition play earlier this month.
Tuesday night, the Flyers will play the back end of a back-to-back against Buffalo at the Wells Fargo Center and Gudas likely will return to the lineup now that his suspension has ended.
“It seems like forever,” Gudas said. “I could use more games behind me. I think I’m ready with my conditioning and skill level, so I can’t wait to get back in there.”
The decision as to who comes out will be difficult. A good guess right now would be Nick Schultz.
“We've got the information at this point,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “It will be a tough decision, no question, if we are healthy.”
At some point — Nov. 5 — Michael Del Zotto will be eligible to come off LTIR. That means another veteran blueliner would become available and an even bigger problem will arise because Del Zotto carries a $3.875 million cap hit.
Barring injury or trade, when Del Zotto returns, the Flyers will have to move two players off their roster entirely just to be cap compliant.
For now, following Monday’s loss, Hakstol has to decide whether to stick with his current defense or put Gudas back in. Given the Flyers have missed Gudas’ physical presence — teams have taken liberties on smallish rookie Travis Konecny — it makes sense to reinsert Gudas.
“Obviously, teams are going to take advantage of smaller guys,” Gudas said. “I would love to be out there if anything happened. All the guys here are responsible and I think they did a pretty good job defending that. It’s not happening a lot.”
No, but it’s happened enough that the Flyers should take note of it.
Hakstol said his decision does not have to come until Tuesday.
“That’s not to say we haven’t looked at things and thought about the [issue], but that decision comes after tonight,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gudas finally has come to the conclusion that the NHL is watching his every hit.
“They’re looking at me since Day 1 I got here,” he said. “The guys made up their minds. I have to make sure I don’t give them an opportunity to call again.”
Maybe he should change his ringtone to say, “Player Safety calling.”

Loose pucks
Simmonds and Matt Read saw their four-game goal-scoring streaks come to an end. ... The Flyers were credited with 39 hits, the most they’ve had since 41 in a home game against Montreal on Jan. 5, 2016. Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Schultz were credited with five apiece. ... Ice-time leaders: Ivan Provorov (21:31), Shayne Gostisbehere (21:27) and Brandon Manning (20:36). … Boyd Gordon was 10 for 12 (83 percent) on faceoffs. ... Jakub Voracek had five shots, giving him 21 overall, which ties him for 10th in the league. His goal gave him eight points and ties him with five other players for fourth in the NHL.

RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai 'calms the storm,' rebounds in 2nd start

RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai 'calms the storm,' rebounds in 2nd start

Halapoulivaati Vaitai wasn’t Lane Johnson on Sunday against the Vikings.

But he didn’t look like Halapoulivaati Vaitai either ... at least the version that was a revolving door last week in Washington.

In his NFL debut last week, Big V gave up two sacks, a quarterback hit and a hurry. Against the Vikings, he gave up just one QB hurry.

What led to the change?

“I just think learning from the week before, quite honestly,” head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. “He really, again, detailed his work during the week. He practiced extremely well. He used his hands better.

“He was able to calm the storm, so to speak, and played a fine football game. He played the type that we saw [in] him and he’s capable of doing. Now it’s something that he can continue to build on.”

While it seemed like Pederson curtailed his offense some to counteract what could be a shaky offensive line, he said it was more about utilizing his team’s strengths. Still, Carson Wentz attempted just four passes that traveled over 20 yards on Sunday and didn’t complete a pass that went more than nine yards in the air.

Despite Vaitai’s scary performance in his debut, Pederson decided to stick to his plan and leave him at right tackle instead of shuffling the offensive line by moving Allen Barbre to tackle and replacing him with Stefen Wisniewski.

The jury is still out on the decision, but the Eagles probably have more confidence in their offensive line for the next eight games of Johnson’s suspension than they did before playing the Vikings.

The Eagles' O-line didn’t give up a sack to the Vikings after giving up five the previous week.

“I thought our guys [Sunday] did a great job of no sacks against a team that had 19 coming in,” Pederson said. “Protected [Wentz], kept him clean and it just gives him confidence now and gives our whole unit confidence moving forward and coming away.”