March 21, 2024 

What to watch for from Atlantic 10 teams in the postseason

A-10 teams are heading to the NCAA Tournament, WBIT and WNIT

After one of the most competitive Atlantic 10 seasons in recent memory, six of the conference’s 15 teams will continue playing in the second half of March. Richmond will play in its first NCAA Tournament since 2005, while VCU, Saint Joseph’s and George Mason will play in the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitational Tournament (WBIT). In addition, Duquesne and Saint Louis accepted bids to the WNIT. 

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Here are six things to watch for as A-10 teams take on the postseason.

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Richmond looks to avenge its season-opening loss 

On Nov. 6, 2023, the Spiders opened their season with an 83-53 loss to Duke. Just 132 days later on Selection Sunday, the NCAA announced that No. 10 seed Richmond would take on No. 7 seed Duke in Columbus, Ohio on March 22 at 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPNNews. The Spiders are looking for their first NCAA Tournament win, having gone 0-3 in the team’s first three appearances.

“[The game at] Duke was like, Hey, we felt confident. And [we] went in there and it didn’t go very well,” Richmond head coach Aaron Roussell said after his team’s March 10 A-10 championship game win. “So I think that was a little bit for me as a coach that was like, every time I felt confident it was like yeah but that Duke game you thought good things too, including tonight.”

The Spiders’ 53 points against the Blue Devils were the team’s fewest this season and one of just four games in which Richmond was held under 60 points. The 83 points Richmond allowed was tied for the most by the team this season.

Richmond’s 73.4 points per game is first in the A-10 while its 60.7 points allowed per game is 7th in the conference. Duke scores an average of 68.6 points per game, 11th in the ACC while allowing 57.7 points per game, the fewest in the conference.  

On Feb. 24, the Spiders fell 82-76 in overtime to George Mason, a game that Roussell later referenced as a turning point for the team’s defense. Richmond gave up fewer than 55 points three times in its last five games and won all five games by at least 14 points. 

Of the top six players in the Spiders’ rotation (based on minutes per game), four are upperclassmen and two are sophomores. Richmond’s experience could prove helpful against a Duke team that has four underclassmen in its top six minute-getters

Senior forward Addie Budnik will be key to Richmond’s success. Though she averaged a career-low points per game in the regular season (11.2) she was still a critical part of the team on both ends of the floor. The 2024 A-10 Defensive Player of the Year and 2024 A-10 Tournament Most Outstanding Player exploded for 13 3-pointers in three games at the A-10 Tournament. Budnik is averaging 11.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 blocks per game and is a career-high 41.5% from behind the arc on the season as a whole. 

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VCU looks to continue its defense-powered success 

The Rams enter the WBIT with a program-record 26 wins and just five losses. This is VCU’s 13th postseason berth and fifth berth in the last six seasons, including the 2020 WNIT that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team will travel to take on Villanova on March 21 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+. The Rams are led by senior guard Sarah Te-Biasu who averages 15.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.0 steals per game.  

After the team’s quarterfinal loss in the A-10 Tournament, VCU head coach Beth O’Boyle talked about the growth of her team’s confidence being one of her favorite parts of the season. “When you talk about where does your confidence come from, lots of times teams can get caught up in it only being results,” she said. “So if you win, you feel great. If you lose, you’re down really low and our team and the maturity that they came [with] is, hey, our confidence comes from the way that we prepare, the way that we practice, how we get into the gym [when] it’s 11 o’clock at night. It’s the way that we focus on our scouts.”

VCU’s defense has powered the team all season, allowing just 52.5 points per game (fourth in Division I) and allowing more than 70 points just twice and zero times since early January. The Rams’ defense could be the deciding factor as the Wildcats are 3-8 when scoring 60 points or fewer. It will be critical for VCU to stop Villanova’s leading scorer, junior guard Lucy Olsen who averages 23.2 points per game. The Wildcats’ second leading scorer is junior forward Christina Dalce who averages 8.5 points per game

Saint Joseph’s looks for its first postseason win since 2018

The Hawks enter the postseason with a 26-4 record, tied for most wins in program history. The team is looking to avenge its 69-61 loss to Seton Hall in South Orange in the first round of the WNIT last season. This year the tables have turned, with the Hawks scheduled to host the Pirates in the first round of the WBIT on March 21 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+. Saint Joseph’s is seeking its first postseason win since defeating Seton Hall 75-57 in the first round of the WNIT in 2018

Saint Joseph’s is led by junior forward Talya Brugler and sophomore forward Laura Ziegler, who combine for 30.4 points, 13.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. Seton Hall’s versatile guard-forward Azana Baines will be a matchup to watch against the Hawks’ dynamic duo. Baines averages 15.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game this season. 

The starters’ scoring and the team’s overall 3-point efficiency will be key for the Hawks. Saint Joseph’s is 343rd in Division I (out of 349 teams) in bench points per game. Their starters contribute 85.9% of the team’s 66.0 points per game. The team is fourth in the A-10 this season in 3-point percentage (34.0%) and while the team makes just six 3-pointers per game, all five of the team’s losses have come when it shot less than 28% from behind the arc. 

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Five Mason players huddle up tightly with their arms around each other near the team's bench.
George Mason huddles up during its game against Davidson at EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia, on Jan. 10, 2024. (Photo credit: Rafael Suanes | George Mason University)

George Mason looks to continue its historic season 

For the first time since the 2017-2018 season, the Patriots will keep playing in mid-March. Mason will travel to Penn State for the first round of the WBIT which will air on ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET. This is just the Patriots’ fourth postseason appearance after making the WNIT in 2001, 2004 and 2018. The team is also just one win away from tying the program record of 24 wins set by the 2017-18 team.

Mason enters the matchup on a two-game losing streak having lost the regular season finale against VCU and losing in a controversial fashion in the A-10 Tournament quarterfinals to Duquesne. 

The Patriots last faced off against the Lady Lions on Nov. 24, 2019, where Mason pulled off the 78-68 victory in part due to 41 points from Nicole Cardaño-Hillary. The Mason team that takes the floor this season will be very different, with just one player remaining, graduate student center Jazmyn Doster who was just a freshman at the time. Doster recorded 4 points and 7 rebounds in 14 minutes of play before fouling out. 

Controlling the pace of the game will be key for Mason as Penn State is seventh in Division I in points per game, averaging 83.6. The team has scored 70 or fewer points just eight times this season, going 1-7 in those games. However, the Lady Lions allow 71.6 points per game, 316th in Division I. The 70.8 points the Patriots are averaging is the most in the team’s Division I era and its 57.9 points allowed per game is also the team’s best since at least the 2002-03 season. 

Related reading: ‘Believing Big’ has taken George Mason to new heights

Duquesne aims to continue its 2024 success in the WNIT

In November and December 2023, the Dukes went 5-6 in nonconference games, but 2-0 in A-10 play. The team continued its success in 2024, going 11-5 between the new year and the first weekend in March, earning the No. 5 seed in the A-10 Tournament. As March rolled on, Duquesne continued making its mark, recording its first 20-win season since 2019-20 and making the A-10 Tournament semifinals for the first time since the 2018-19 season. 

Its 2024 WNIT berth is Duquesne’s sixth postseason appearance under head coach Dan Burt and its first since the 2017-18 season when the team advanced to the third round of the WNIT. This season, Duquesne received an at-large bid to the WNIT and earned a first-round bye. The team will play the winner of Buffalo and Monmouth in the second round between March 23-26. 

The Dukes are led by guard Megan McConnell, who is second in Division I in minutes per game (38.3). She averages 13.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.9 steals per game. McConnell, who is listed at 5’7, leads the team that averaged 37.4 rebounds per game (sixth in the A-10) in rebounding. Controlling the boards will be key for Duquesne as it is 2-10 when grabbing 32 or fewer rebounds. 

Duquesne will bring a wealth of experience to the court regardless of the matchup as six players on the team have scored at least 1,000 points in college: McConnell, Naëlle Bernard, Amaya Hamilton, Tess Myers, Ayanna Townsend and Precious Johnson. Those six players are also the top six scorers for the Dukes this season and have helped the team average 69.6 points per game, the most since the 2017-18 season.

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Saint Louis enters the WNIT with postseason experience in tow

For the second season in a row, the Billikens are heading to the postseason, earning an at-large bid to the WNIT. The team is scheduled to play Central Arkansas on March 21 at 7:30 E.T. on ESPN+. Saint Louis is looking for its first postseason win since 2021 when the team advanced to the WNIT quarterfinals

Saint Louis returned every key piece from last year’s NCAA Tournament team except for forward-center Brooke Flowers, who spent the season as the team’s graduate student manager. The returned experience has helped Saint Louis remain one of the top offensive teams in the A-10, averaging 72.8 points per game this season. 

Though Saint Louis gives up an average of 71.6 points per game, its defense can be deceptively difficult to play against. “They’re very disruptive defensively,” Rhode Island head coach Tammi Reiss told reporters on March 8. “They may not seem like a good defensive team, but they gamble. You never know who’s double teaming — where the double’s coming from. They’ll just run off and go for steals. So they’re disruptive, they take you out of your flow offensively.” 

Central Arkansas scorers an average of 65.8 points per game while giving up 58.8 points per game. Pushing the tempo will be crucial for the Billikens who have lost just one game when scoring at least 74 points.

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been a contributor to The Next since February 2019 and currently writes about the Atlantic 10 conference, the WNBA and the WBL.

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