BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
There is a silver lining to Xavier's cloudy 5-4 start: The rest of the Atlantic 10 Conference is struggling, too.
The A-10 had a conference-record four teams ranked in the Associated Press preseason top 25 poll, including then-No. 13 XU. All have since dropped out and have at least four losses: Xavier (5-4), Rhode Island (5-4), Temple (5-4) and Massachusetts (2-5).
The Atlantic 10 didn't have a team in the Top 25 this week for the first time since Feb. 1, 1993. The league's 12 teams have a combined 43-45 record, and the only team with fewer than three losses is Fordham (4-2).
I told the players, in a couple weeks everybody's going to be 0-0, including us, XU coach Skip Prosser said.
Records of Atlantic 10 Conference teams (listed in order of predicted finish in preseason):|
G.Washington 4-3 (.571)
The Musketeers, predicted in the preseason to win the A-10 West, have three games (Canisius, Loyola Marymount, St. Mary's) before they begin league play Jan. 3 at home against Rhode Island.
I think people underestimated the fact that a lot of teams in our league lost some key players, Prosser said. Rhode Island was picked really high and they lost two NBA draft picks (Cuttino Mobley and Tyson Wheeler).
The other thing is generally our league has a tradition of going out and playing (good) teams.
The A-10 is 1-11 against teams in this week's top 25 (Temple beat No. 14 Michigan State 60-59), and have played at least four other games against teams ranked at some point.
Temple, picked to win the A-10 East, lost four straight before beating Florida State on Monday night. Rhode Island has dropped four of its past seven. Massachusetts, perhaps the most disappointing, has lost five of six, including Tuesday night at Villanova.
In the West, every team has lost two of its past three games. George Washington has dropped three of five. Dayton three of four. Xavier five of seven.
Despite its shooting and scoring problems, the Musketeers are still fourth in the Atlantic 10 in field goal percentage and second in scoring offense, and they have more victories than any team in the West Division.
I think if we were not playing well and four or five teams in the league were eons above us, then you'd be saying, "Well geez, it's going to be tough to get into that upper echelon' and it is going to be, Prosser said.
But I think it goes to prove that everybody's got problems. We're not the only ones who have been inconsistent. Having said all of this, I'm not as concerned about the other teams in the league as I am with Xavier.
Prosser watches for results of all Xavier opponents. He knows come March the strength of the conference could play a role in whether Xavier gets an NCAA Tournament bid and if so, how it is seeded.
Whoever gets consistent quickest, I think, will have a leg up on the rest of the league, Prosser said.
The frustrating thing is I don't think we've played as well as we can play by any stretch. There are a lot of reasons for that. That concerns me now more than the league or who we've played.
TICKETS: There are about 1,000 tickets left for Saturday night's game against Canisius ($13, $9). Silly Slammer toys will be given to kids 14-and-under at the game, as well as Saturday's women's game.
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