By Paul Gotham
Surveying the weekend’s top games involving the Atlantic 10 conference.
Harvard (10-1) at Fordham (7-4) 4 p.m.
Two of the top three-point defensive teams collide when Harvard visits Rose Hill Gym. Fordham has won three of four. Harvard has taken six straight including a pair on the road. Harvard’s RPI ranks top 25. Harvard’s attack is as balanced as any in the country. Branden Frazier (17.8) and Jon Severe (20.1) are the leading scoring backcourt tandem in the A-10.
Playing the numbers: Harvard’s defense creates 9.9 steals per game (16th in the nation). The Crimson grab 57.6 percent of the available rebounds (T26th) while limiting opponents to 28.8 percent behind the arc (29th).
28.5 – percent of shots Fordham’s opponents hit behind the arc (24th in the country).
Players to watch: Siyani Chambers paces Harvard with 4.7 assists and an assist to turnover rate of 1.7:1 while scoring 11.6 per game.
Ryan Rhoomes leads Fordham with 7.2 rebounds and 8.7 points a game.
Providence (10-2) at UMass (10-1) 6 p.m.
It will be a battle of tempo when the Friars visit Amherst. The Minutemen push pace. The Friars like to play in the half court. UMass is coming off its first setback of the season. Providence has won three straight. Providence is dealing with life after sophomore point guard Kris Dunn who had season-ending shoulder surgery. Chaz Williams is having a sensational season running the Minutemen offense. Can Providence slow the Minutemen? Or will the Friars run in circles and out of gas?
Providence averages 68.1 possessions (238th). The Friars connect 82.7 percent of the time from the free throw line (2nd).
Players to watch: Cady Lalanne averages a double-double for the Minutemen (14ppg/10.1rpg)
Bryce Cotton boasts an assist to turnover rate of 2.6:1 while pacing Providence with 19.1 point a game.
VCU (10-3) vs. Boston College (4-8/0-1) (Barclays Center) 7:30 p.m.
VCU looks to make two in a row versus the ACC. BC has lost four of five. VCU leads the nation in turnovers forced. Last time out the Rams created a school-record 22 turnovers against Virginia Tech. BC turns the ball over almost a dozen times per game. The combination could leave BC impersonating Stewie. VCU playing in Brooklyn? A Spike Lee sighting is likely.
Playing the numbers: BC leads the nation in team FT% at 84.3, and the Eagles hit 56.1 percent of the time inside the three-point arc (10th in the country).
27 percent – how often VCU’s opponent commit turnovers.
Players to watch: Olivier Hanlan paces BC with 20.1 points a game.
Juvonte Reddic grabs 7.5 rebounds for VCU while tallying 11.5 points and blocking one shot a game.
Murray State (5-6) at Dayton (9-3) 2 p.m.
For the second year in a row, Murray State visits UD Arena. The Flyers took last year’s meeting, 77-68. Since peeking into the top 25, UD’s Flyers have dropped two of four. UD will look to recover from an overtime setback at home to USC. Murray State wants to avoid back-to-back road losses.
Playing the numbers: 42.7 the rate which the Flyers knock down 3-pointers (20th).
Murray State opponents hit 32.4 percent of the time from long range (118th).
Players to watch: Dyshawn Pierre has registered consecutive double-doubles for UD.
T.J. Sapp leads five Racers in double figures with 20 points a game.
Boston University (7-5) at St. Joseph’s (6-4) 4 p.m.
The Terriers of BU ended a three-game slide with an 83-77 triumph over the Maryland Terrapins last weekend. The Hawks seek their first three-game win streak of the season.
Playing the numbers: 40.4 percent – how often SJU connects behind the arc.
Boston’s 3-point defense is 245th in the country allowing opponents to hit more than 36 percent of the time.
Players to watch: D. J. Irving – the Patriot League pre-season Player of the Year scores 12.9 a game.
Langston Galloway hits 41.7 percent behind the arc and leads the Hawks 30 triples and 17 points a game.