March 16, 2023
What to watch for from Atlantic 10 teams in the postseason
A-10 teams are heading to the NCAA Tournament and the WNIT
Six Atlantic 10 teams are continuing their season into the second half of March. While Saint Louis plays in their first NCAA Tournament, UMass, Rhode Island, Fordham, Saint Joseph’s and Richmond all accepted bids to the WNIT.
“I’m really proud of the A-10 and how many teams we’ve put in the postseason,” Rhode Island head coach Tammi Reiss said in a team-provided video. “Now granted, I thought maybe we’d get two in the NCAA [Tournament] but to have this many teams in the WNIT just lends strength to our conference and I’m really proud of that.”
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Here are six things to watch for as Atlantic 10 teams take on the postseason:
Saint Louis looks to continue making history
In their first NCAA Tournament, the Billikens are looking for their first postseason win since 2021, when they advanced to the WNIT quarterfinals. The team has four players and five members of the coaching staff who competed in the NCAA Tournament last year at Longwood, including winning a play-in game against Mount St. Mary’s (Md.).
Though even players believed Saint Louis would be seeded as either a 14- or 15-seed, on Selection Sunday it was announced the team would be traveling just under 500 miles to Knoxville, TN to take on 4-seed Tennessee, who is playing in its 41st NCAA Tournament.
Head coach Rebecca Tillett is excited to return to Tennessee where she hasn’t been since 2016 when she was an assistant coach at Navy. She’s also looking forward to taking the team to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
Tennessee’s height will be a challenge for Saint Louis, who consistently play just two players listed above 6’, freshman Mia Nicastro who is listed at 6’2 and graduate student Brooke Flowers who is listed at 6’5.
The Billikens enter the game having won six straight games and 11 of their last 12. The Volunteers also enter the game with momentum, having won six of their last eight games, with its only losses during that span coming to No. 1 South Carolina.
While Tillett was answering questions in a video sent out to members of the media after the selection show, director of scouting and program development Jessica Olmstead was already watching film. Tillett planned to join her shortly after her media obligations were finished.
Though defense wasn’t a strength for Saint Louis early in the season and the team entered the Atlantic 10 Tournament last in points allowed in the conference, the team’s disruptive defense was critical in its semifinal and championship wins against Rhode Island and UMass. While the team averages 69.6 points per game, defensive success by Billikens’ will be needed to slow down a Tennessee team that averages 76.4 points per game.
Saint Louis takes on the Volunteers at 1 p.m. ET on March 18 on ABC.
UMass aims to continue their regular-season success
The Minutewomen are headed to the postseason for the third consecutive year and sixth time in program history. The third team out in the NCAA Tournament field will take on the University of Albany at 7 p.m. ET on March 17 on ESPN3 in its third WNIT appearance (including the National Women’s Invitational Tournament in 1995).
“We’re in the WNIT, and I’m excited about it,” head coach Tory Verdi told reporters on March 13. “…This is the sixth time that we have [had] the opportunity to play in postseason play in the history of the program. And like, that’s a big deal. And I know that it may not be the tournament that we want it to be in, of course, we want to be the NCAA Tournament, but that didn’t happen. … It’s just gonna be a crazy couple of days here, if not weeks.”
UMass isn’t dwelling on the past or the near miss at an at-large berth but are instead focusing on continuing to play “UMass basketball.” The Minutewomen are both one of the top scoring and rebounding teams in the A-10, which made them difficult to keep up with in the regular season, finishing with two regular season Atlantic 10 losses to co-conference champion Rhode Island and eventual tournament champion Saint Louis.
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The Minutewomen run a short, but experienced rotation with four players averaging at least 34 minutes per game and its top seven players representing the “Savage 7” that brought the Minutewomen back to the postseason for the first time in more than 20 years in 2021.
In its last WNIT appearance in 2021, UMass fell to Villanova before defeating Charlotte and Ohio (2021 was a weird NIT year). The team is looking for its first first-round postseason win since it defeated VCU in 1995.
Rhode Island is still searching for its first postseason win
After winning the team’s first A-10 Tournament game in seven years, head coach Tammi Reiss again looks to win the team’s first postseason game in program history after falling to Quinnipiac in the first round of the WNIT last year.
This marks the team’s third postseason appearance and second in a row. The Rams will host Boston University at 6 p.m. ET on March 17 on ESPN3.
Reiss came to Rhode Island in 2019 and focused on the process of getting better every day and improving the program every year. From the team’s first postseason birth since 1996 last season to regular-season Atlantic 10 co-champions this season, she is now focused on getting her team to win a postseason game and continue building.
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“Can we build on that momentum? Can we keep climbing the ladder to eventually winning an A-10 Championship and getting to the NCAAs,” Reiss said. “So, [the] postseason is [the] postseason. We’re really excited to be in this tournament. And to go back-to-back years in postseason play. That’s a tribute to our players, and where our program’s going. And so I’m really proud of that back-to-back postseason berths.”
Post play will be key for Rhode Island in the matchup against BU. In Mayé Touré’s breakout season, she led the team in points (13.7) and rebounds (8.7) despite recording at least four fouls in 12 of the team’s 30 games this season. In addition, Tenin Magassa is continuing to work her way back after missing the first 2.5 months with an injury. Though she has been limited at times during her return and has battled foul trouble, Magassa went 5-for-7 from the floor in Rhode Island’s quarterfinal win over George Washington.
Though Rhode Island averages more made 3-pointers per game (7.9 to Boston University’s 6.7), the Rams’ 35.1% accuracy is 35th in the country while the Terriers’ 39.3% is third in the country.
Despite their overall success shooting behind the arc, the Rams have only shot above their season average once since their Feb. 12 win over VCU.
“They [BU] got great size and great paint scoring that’s number one and then number two they surround it with excellent guard play. Really great 3-point shooting… it’s a great opponent for us,” Reiss said.
Continuing its 3-point shooting success and success in the paint, without fouling, will be critical for Rhode Island against the Terriers.
Fordham continues its postseason streak
The Rams are playing in mid-March once again, after being knocked out of the Atlantic 10 Tournament in the quarterfinals by Richmond, the Rams are scheduled to host Drexel at 7 p.m. ET on March 17 on ESPN3 in the first round of the WNIT. The team is looking for its first postseason win since 2018 after falling to Bucknell in the opening round of the WNIT last season.
Fordham is no stranger to the postseason, making it there 10 of the last 11 seasons, though this is the team’s first trip to the postseason under interim head coach Candice Green. The team returned most of its core from last year, but lost Megan Jonassen to a knee injury in January.
This team is one that has already made its mark on the program record books, wrapping up the regular season third in scoring average (72.6 points), fourth in made 3-pointers (226), fifth in points (2,104), fifth in field goals (816) and fifth in steals (264).
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The Rams are also led by Anna DeWolfe (18.2 points per game) and Kaitlyn Downey (10.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game). The trio also each shoot above 33% from behind the arc and have made at least 40 3-pointers. Overall, Fordham is 8-1 when shooting at least 40% from three and perimeter shooting will be key for the team against Drexel.
Saint Joseph’s returns to the postseason for the first time since 2017-18
The Hawks earned their 12th WNIT bid, 11th under head coach Cindy Griffin, her 13th overall postseason appearance at 22 years at the helm and will take on Seton Hall at 7 p.m. on March 16 on FloHoops. The Pirates were last season’s WNIT runner-up and bring postseason experience the Hawks lack (graduate student Katie Jekot sat out the 2017-18 season due to injury).
Saint Joseph’s started the season 9-0 and enter the WNIT with a record of 20-10. The team’s seven regular-season Atlantic 10 losses all came by six or fewer points. The Hawks fell to Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals by 15 points, the team’s second-largest loss of the season after going 0-13 from behind the arc.
Though the team averages six made 3-pointers per game, Saint Joseph’s is 8-50 from behind the arc in its last four games and knocking down threes will be critical to keeping up with a Seton Hall offense that averages 71.8 points per game.
Overall shooting efficiency for Saint Joseph’s will also be critical, as it is 1-4 when shooting 37% from the floor or lower.
Talya Brugler and Laura Ziegler have been a dynamic duo for the Hawks all season, averaging a combined 28.3 points, 13.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.9 blocks per game. Their continued success in the paint and outside the arc will be key against the Pirates’ Sidney Cooks who averages 15.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
Richmond earns first postseason berth under Aaron Roussell
The Spiders are scheduled to host Penn on March 16 at 6 p.m. on ESPN3 in the team’s first postseason appearance since 2014-15 and first under head coach Aaron Roussell.
Perimeter shooting will be key for the Spiders who as a team knock down 35.0% of its 3-pointers each game (third in the Atlantic 10 and 38th in the country) and 8.1 per game (second in the A-10). Junior Siobhan Ryan leads the Spiders in made threes this season with 60 and she makes 39.7% of her attempts.
After struggling to rebound the ball last season, Richmond has four players averaging at least 5 rebounds per game (Grace Townsend, Katie Hill, Addie Budnik and Maggie Doogan), which helps them limit their opponent’s possessions and extend their own.
Richmond has a plethora of scoring threats and have three players averaging in double-figures and five players averaging at least eight points per game. The variety of scoring options makes the team dangerous as opponents never know who will carry the load. Penn however, relies on Kayla Padilla and Jordan Obi who combine for 30.5 points per game, 47.8% of the Quakers’ scoring. Containing Padilla or Obi will be key for Richmond’s defense that allowed the third-fewest points in the A-10 this season (61.5 points per game).