A-10 League Play is Not For the Faint of Heart

By Lenn Robbins
January 31, 2014

 

Memo to A-10 Coaches: Now that league play has begun please visit your local pharmacy and stock up on the following items:

1. Antacid
2. Grecian formula
3. Tylenol
4. Over the counter sleep aid
5. Blood pressure cuff

Two weeks into league play and you’d be hard-pressed to find a coach that hasn’t had:

1. Stomach problems
2. Increase in gray hair
3. Headaches - lots of headaches
4. Sleepless nights
5. High blood pressure
 
We joke, but there is nothing funny about what has taken place thus far in league play.
The league has been even more competitive than anticipated and the anticipation for an unpredictable, competitive season was significant.

About two weeks into conference play and we’ve seen nine games decided by 5 points or less, 3 points decided three of those, and two were 1-point games.

Before the season St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli told us the difference in league play from 10 years ago to today is that every game is like an NCAA Tournament contest.

The coaching is so good, the talent is so equal, and the pregame scouting and prep is so intense that by the time the ball goes up it’s like the start of the Hunger Games.

Last week was a perfect example. Richmond edged Fordham by 3 in the Bronx. George Mason edged St. Joseph’s by 4 in Fairfax, Va. UMass edged George Mason by 1 in Fairfax, Va. And St. Louis held off St. Bonaventure by 6 at home.

“I know it sounds cliché, but any win in the league is a good win,’’ said Richmond coach Chris Mooney. “The margin for error each night can be one possession.’’
 
Mooney has won his share of league games. In his ninth season at Richmond he’s taken the Spiders to two NCAA Tournaments and five postseason tournaments.

Physically and mentally, Mooney’s teams rarely beat themselves, which is a reflection of how he played under former legendary Princeton coach Pete Carril.
 
“I think a big part of college coaching is educating players,’’ said Mooney. “You can point out mistakes and correct them, that’s part of teaching. But educating them about how to play the right way so they don’t make mistakes, they’re not selfish, they get better shots, I think they feel better about themselves than if you keep telling them what they did wrong.’’

The Spiders (11-6) are one of three teams that is 1-1 in league play. St. Louis and UMass look like the class of the conference, although Dayton, LaSalle and VCU would challenge that.
 
So would Richmond, which hosts Dayton on Saturday. It’s the Spiders first league home game of the season. Don’t be surprised if they’re selling Tylenol and earplugs at the concession stands.

And that’s just for the fans.
 

Coach's Card

Name: Chris Mooney
Age: 41
Record: 158-124 in his ninth season. 176-136 overall
Alma Mater: Princeton
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.
Mentor: Pete Carril, former Princeton coach.
 
“I would hope most college coaches would say that their college coach was a mentor. Mine certainly was. Coach Carril is known for his style of basketball but that’s just what you saw on the court.

“He held us all to a really high standard as players and people. There isn’t one guy I played with who isn’t a better person because of Coach Carril.”

Highlight: “I will never forget this as long as I live. I was an assistant coach at Air Force in 2004 and we had turned things around there, won the Mountain West and went to the NCAA Tournament in Denver.

“It was about two hours before our game. I was sitting next to our coach, Joe Scott, scouting the game before us. We were going to play North Carolina.
 
“All of sudden everyone started clapping and cheering and the next thing you know there’s a standing ovation in the Pepsi Center. I thought Carolina had come in.
 
“And then I saw that it was the Air Force players that had entered the arena. For a solid 15 seconds they got a standing ovation.

“For those guys to get recognized for what they achieved and the commitment they had made, that was really special. Really special.”
 
PHILOSOPHY: “I would hope people would look at our teams and say that they played hard and they shared the ball so unselfishly that they were really a team. The same on defense; they helped each other so much they were a team on defense.”

Game of the Week: Jan. 22 (7:00pm; CBS Sports Network.), VCU (13-4, 1-1) at Dayton (13-4, 1-1). It’s a big early-season league game for both. VCU opened league play with a solid win over George Mason. But the Rams got hit by a buzz saw in a loss at George Washington. The Colonials debuted their new D.C.-themed uniforms and were primed. VCU didn’t match GW’s intensity. The Flyers opened the conference schedule with a tough home loss to St. Louis before bouncing back with a strong win at Fordham. VCU is the favorite to win the league. Dayton believes it can be a sleeper. No team wants to fall in an early hole.

 

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