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

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Michael Raffl had just finished playing alongside Travis Konecny, the 19-year-old kid that has Flyers fans abuzz about the now and future.

Yet for Raffl, he wasn’t thinking forward. Instead, he was looking back.

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t do that when I was 19, that’s for sure,” the 27-year-old said smiling, eyes wide open. “No, it’s impressive, he’s a really, really good hockey player.”

Konecny had that resounding affect Wednesday night at the PPL Center, recording a goal and an assist while leading the Flyers to a 2-0 preseason win over the Devils (see 10 observations).

He dazzled with speed and shiftiness.

He showed off vision and smarts.

When he touched the puck, he had everyone’s attention.

Paired with Raffl and Brayden Schenn in a game featuring mostly prospects, the 2015 first-round pick made the molding of Ron Hextall’s roster that much more difficult. With the general manager looking on, the highly touted winger started fast before making his imprint in a span of just four minutes and 34 seconds.

First, he redirected a blast by Andrew MacDonald to hand the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Not long after, the 2015 first-round pick deceived the defense to find Raffl right in front on a backdoor pass for a 2-0 advantage.

“We had a cycle play going and he had a nice fake up top there and I was just going to the net,” Raffl said. “Somehow I was all by myself and he saw me, put a perfect pass on my tape and I just went around the goalie and put it in.”

Following his first goal, Konecny nearly tacked on another less than a minute later when he appeared to hit the crossbar on a shot. He also flirted with a few more assists.

“I think I just played relaxed,” Konecny said. “I came into the game tonight trying not to do too much and just keep things simple. The main thing for me was getting pucks out of the zone, so I think I did that well tonight and hopefully I can keep building on it.”

Relieving pucks from the zone isn’t a problem when you possess the speed and skill of Konecny, who racked up 101 points last season at the junior level.

At just 19, that’s where he’ll have to return if he doesn’t crack the Flyers’ roster.

With cuts already made and more coming, that sometimes is on Konecny’s mind.

“It weighs on you a little bit. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it and it’s definitely the time I need to step up and make sure I’m playing good hockey,” Konecny said. “And just earning another day — that’s just the way I’m looking at it. Every day I wake up and just work hard and move forward from there.

“I think everyone comes into camp and tries to give them (management) a reason not to send you back and make it hard on them.”

Wednesday night didn’t hurt his chances.

“He played a good hockey game,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Had an impact offensively. He did a pretty good job. There’s some youthful mistakes in there, but overall, he had a real good night tonight playing with Raf and Schenner.”

Placing Konecny with two capable NHL forwards offered the Canadian an opportunity to prove what he could do if he was in fact on the big club.

“We played well together,” Konecny said. “I think from the start we just had a lot of communication, we talked in the room, in warmups, we all knew what we were going to do throughout the game and in certain scenarios.”

If anything, Konecny left an impression on Raffl.

“He’s a very smart player,” Raffl said. “Once he has the puck, he makes smart decisions with it. It was very easy to play with him out there. He plays a mature game and I really enjoyed it.”

Time will tell if more is in store come Oct. 14.

Loose pucks
Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon combined for the shutout. Stolarz started and made 11 saves over 29:23, while Lyon played 30:37 and stopped seven shots. “I like both of our guys tonight,” Hakstol said. “Stolie did a good job, he made a difference in this game in the first 10 minutes, those two or three really good saves there. Then Alex came in halfway through, which isn’t an easy thing to do and was ready to go and did his job.” … Schenn, MacDonald and defensive prospect Robert Hagg finished with an assist apiece. … With the roster currently standing at 49, the Flyers expect to make 15 cuts on Thursday. … Defenseman Nick Schultz is out four to seven days with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday night’s preseason game. ... The Flyers are off Thursday before likely practicing Friday ahead of Saturday's preseason game at 7 p.m. against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.

The stench of recent losses prompts a Phillies team meeting

The stench of recent losses prompts a Phillies team meeting

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA – After every Phillies road game, it’s customary for reporters to enter the clubhouse and stop into the manager’s office to collect a few observations from the ol' skipper.
 
On Wednesday night, Pete Mackanin, still in his uniform pants and red undershirt, took the unusual step of leaving the visiting clubhouse at Turner Field and approaching a group of reporters as they waited in the hallway outside the room.
 
What gives?
 
Did the toilets overflow or something?
 
Well, in a sense, yes.
 
The stink of a 12-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves led some of the team’s elder statesmen to call a players-only team meeting (see Instant Replay). That meant Mackanin had to do his postmortems outside in the hallway.
 
“I don't know who called it, but it’s nice to see,” Mackanin said. “Somebody cares.”
 
Catcher Cameron Rupp revealed that the meeting was called by veterans Ryan Howard and A.J. Ellis. The Phillies have lost five of their last six games and given up a ridiculous 63 runs over that span. They lost, 17-0, Sunday in New York and blew a 6-0 lead in losing, 7-6, Tuesday night in Atlanta. Losing by a 10-spot on Wednesday night added to the embarrassment and dropped the Phillies to 70-88 with four games remaining in the season.
 
“We have some older guys, Howie and A.J. that have been around and they don’t want to see guys stumble to the finish line,” Rupp said. “Finish hard, finish strong. We’ve had a good year in a lot of guys’ eyes. We’ve improved on last year. There has been a lot of good things we can build off and that’s what the message was – continue to work and get better.
 
“There are four games left – don’t quit,” Rupp said. “Come to the ballpark expecting to win and see where it takes you. We got pushed around the last couple of nights and in New York. Stuff happens. It’s part of the game. But with four games left, there’s a lot that each player can prove.
 
“A lot can happen in four days. We can ruin somebody else’s season.”
 
The Phillies play their final game at Turner Field on Thursday night – the Braves will open a new stadium next year – then return home Friday night to play the Mets, who are locked in a tight race for the National League wild card.
 
The weekend series against the Mets will mark Howard’s last three days in a Phillies uniform.
 
He has swung the bat lately like a man who still has pride. His part in the team meeting reflected that pride.
 
“A.J. and I felt like having a quick meeting and that we did,” Howard said. “We need to refocus on these last four games. We got beat up tonight. We have to put a halt to that momentum and refocus on the last four games.
 
“It’s important to finish strong. It would be easy to cash it in, but we want to go out on a high note and we have four games to try to do that.”

Mackanin admitted the series in New York – three losses in four games to the Mets – “took the life out of everybody” and the malaise followed the Phillies to Atlanta.
 
“It's all about pitching,” Mackanin said. “Pitching keeps you in games. That's why we won 70 games. Now we're not getting the pitching.”
 
The Phillies have struggled to score runs all season. In fact, they are the only team in the majors not to reach 600 runs. (They have 599.) But recently, the pitching has gone downhill, especially in the bullpen.
 
Mackanin tried to give the bullpen a break on Wednesday night. That’s why he had Adam Morgan suck up five innings on a night when he didn’t have it. The lefty allowed 10 hits and nine runs in his final start of the season.
 
“It’s pretty bad,” Morgan said. “It’s not the way that I wanted to go out.”
 
Morgan made strides recently as he picked up a two-seam fastball and used his changeup more. But he is 2-11 with a 6.04 ERA.
 
“Below average,” said Mackanin, assessing Morgan’s season. “It wasn't a successful season for him. He has ability, but the numbers matter. If you want to go by the numbers, they're not good. It doesn't mean I don't like him. It doesn't mean he doesn't have a future. At some point, you have to put up numbers.”
 
Speaking of numbers, the Phillies have put up some awful numbers against the NL East. They are 16-35 against the NL East in their last 51 divisional games.
 
“I look at the team statistics,” Mackanin said. “When you're 13th, 14th and 15th in 10 of those categories, that tells you all you need to know.
 
“We're down at the bottom in hitting. We're sinking fast in pitching.
 
“As far as a yardstick to measure, I look at those stats. Numbers matter. They tell you the story.”
 
In four days, the story of the 2016 Phillies will be over. Maybe Wednesday night’s players-only meeting will inspire a couple of final wins.

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