The Butler University Bulldogs just beat the number one Indiana Hoosiers and North Carolina and the Temple Owls beat a very good Syracuse University team. Butler added University of Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke to their lineup this year: they have a much better outside shooting potential than last year. Clarke is taking almost nine threes/game and is hitting 45.6% of them. As a team Butler is shooting 34.6% from three-point distance. Butler has stolen the ball 77 times in eleven games this year which is the lowest number of the three teams who I think will challenge for the A-10 title. Butler gives 154 minutes to its top five minute-eaters which is many more than either VCU or Temple.
VCU has played the top teams very tough in the 2012-13 season, coming out with three single-digit losses to ranked teams and a win over a physical University of Memphis team. The Virginia Commonwealth University Rams are an athletic team: by that I mean they’re fast…they managed to beat a University of Alabama team who of course play in the always-talented SEC. VCU is a terror against unaware opposing teams: they’ve had great defensive efforts this year….the Rams have 152 steals in 12 games this year. Virginia Commonwealth shoots threes at 37.2% which is best of all three A-10 title contenders: Butler, Temple and VCU.
Temple has strengths as well collecting 9 steals/game this year. Khalif Wyatt averages 16.2 points/game, but his three-point shooting is inefficient: he’s connecting on just 25.8% of his threes. One of Temple’s big guys, Jake O’ Brien, is getting diminished minutes this year: but he’s still shooting threes at 42.5%. As a team Temple shoots threes at 30.0%. Temple doesn’t distribute its playing minutes like VCU who really gives chances to bench players: the top five minute-gatherers get over 141 minutes/game for the Owls…VCU’s top five time-earners get 126 minutes/game.
The A-10 has sixteen teams this year–it will be fourteen next year–and they have done well in the pre-conference schedule with only three teams showing losing records (through games played on December 24, 2012.) The top records by victories so far in the 2012-13 season are UNC- Charlotte (11 wins), Butler (9 wins), Temple (9 wins), La Salle (8 wins), Dayton (8 wins), VCU (9 wins), St Louis (8 wins), U Mass (7 wins) and the University of Richmond (9 wins.)
Butler and Virginia Commonwealth are newcomers to the A-10 and they are viewed as among the most talented in the conference before they’ve even played a conference game for the 2012-13 season. Temple University and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte will be gone from the A-10 next year so this is their last year to shine. Both Temple and UNCC have had good early-season performances so they will be teams to watch in conference play.
The Atlantic 10 schedule has an end-of-season tournament in March 2013 to sort out the question of who’s actually the best on the court.