(The Atlantic 10 Conference will hold its men's basketball tournament quarterfinals, semifinals and final at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City from March 9-11. The Press' A-10 report will appear every Tuesday leading up to the tournament.)
The Atlantic 10 Conference men's basketball standings are still in a state of flux in the final week of the regular season.
Only Temple has clinched a bye in the first round of the A-10 tournament and the seedings for several teams could change by as many as four places.
But one team will be happy at the end of the week, no matter where it ends up - St. Bonaventure.
The Bonnies have a chance to get a first-round bye in the tournament, which would put them in Atlantic City for the quarterfinal round on March 9.
"It would be great," St. Bonaventure fifth-year coach Mark Schmidt said Monday of getting a first-round bye. First-round games will be played on the campus of the higher seed.
"From where we were five years ago to where we are now, it would be great to get a top-four finish," Schmidt said. "It was one of our goals this season. It would be a great accomplishment."
Five years ago, Schmidt took over a program still reeling from NCAA sanctions. In 2003, an academic scandal rocked the program and decimated a thriving basketball team.
Schmidt started in 2007 and that season, St. Bonaventure finished 8-22 (2-14), missing out on the league tournament. But every year since then, the Bonnies have improved their conference win total.
They're having their best year yet under Schmidt. They're 16-10 (9-5).
"When we first started we always said our job was to get back to respectability again," Schmidt said. "We've worked extremely hard and it hasn't been an easy road. Guys have done a great job. You always want to improve every year and we have become competitive. That's a credit to the players in our program."
Wednesday's game against Saint Joseph's is a big one for the Bonnies because it could be the deciding factor for a first-round bye. Schmidt says he's not looking at the game any differently than any other league games, but that's not how Hawks coach Phil Martelli said he feels about it.
Martelli said he regards this next game, the final one of the regular season for Saint Joe's, as the start of the playoff season.
"We are going to have a chance at a playoff atmosphere and not the result of the end-of-the-year blues that you get," Martelli said Monday. "Someone is going to go to Atlantic City no matter if they play Tuesday and win (a first-round game) or get a bye and play on Friday. I think the tournament is going to be extraordinary because of the level of competition in the league."
Flyers on a roll
On Feb. 4, Dayton lost its fourth straight game and dropped to 4-5 in the A-10. The Flyers scored a season-low 50 points against Saint Louis that day and just couldn't get going in the right direction.
Dayton coach Archie Miller had to do something different to get his team back on the right track.
"I will say we have been consumed with defense probably (since) when we hit rock bottom," Miller said Monday. "The guys are playing extremely hard and a lot of guys bought in. We now have to play extremely hard to have a chance."
Since then, Dayton has won four of its last five games, losing only to Xavier. The Flyers' recent success pushed them all the way to seventh place with an 8-6 conference record. However, a win in their final two games coupled with losses from teams ahead of them could catapult Dayton to a better seed for the A-10 tournament.
Players of the Week
St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson was named A-10 Player of the Week for the third straight week. Nicholson had 30 points and nine rebounds in an 89-63 win over Fordham. He also had 25 points and 11 rebounds in a 72-56 win over Charlotte.
"We expected this," Schmidt said. "He's a terrific player. For us to have success this season, we needed him to play as well as he has."
Xavier's Dezmine Wells was named Rookie of the Week after a 19-point performance in an 80-73 loss to Massachusetts.
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