March 6, 2024 

What to watch for in the 2024 Atlantic 10 Tournament

Five storylines to keep an eye on as the A-10 heads to Henrico for the first time

The start of the Atlantic 10 Tournament is just around the corner — beginning March 6 — capping off the first 18-game conference season in the A-10. 

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“I’ve never been prouder of the A-10, of how competitive it is from top to bottom, but really there’s like eight teams in the A-10 that could vie for a conference championship down in Richmond,” Rhode Island head coach Tammi Reiss said on the Nothing But Net with Debbie Antonelli podcast. “So, from a building the A-10 up to great women’s basketball [perspective], never been prouder.”

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The bracket looks very different from last season, as the No. 1-4 seeds were outside of the top-4 in last year’s tournament. In addition, the conference will play a 14-team tournament after Davidson canceled the rest of its season on March 1, using the format most recently used in 2021 and 2022. This is the first of two A-10 Tournaments that are currently scheduled to be held inside the new Henrico Sports & Event Center

The first three rounds will be televised on ESPN+, the semifinals will be on CBS Sports Network and the championship game will be broadcast on ESPN2. The full bracket and schedule can be found below:

Here are five storylines to watch.

No. 1 seed Richmond is in search of its first A-10 Tournament championship 

After losing to UMass in the semifinals last year, head coach Aaron Roussell said: “I think we can take some solace in the fact that obviously we’ve come a long way as a program and we can look back at this season and say it’s a great building block for the future for this program. I think the potential and future of this program is very, very bright.” The Spiders were third in the A-10 this season in minutes and points returned and continued to build on the team’s success from last season. Richmond secured its first A-10 regular season championship and first regular season conference championship since 1990-91, when it finished first in the CAA. 

The Spiders sit at 26-5 (16-2 in the A-10) with losses to Mason and Duquesne, who both finished top-5 in the conference. The team enters the tournament on a two-game win streak (losing just once in February) and have to travel less than 14 miles to the Henrico Sports & Event Center. 

Four members of the team average in double figures: sophomore forward Maggie Doogan (15.5 points per game), senior guard Grace Townsend (13.3 points per game), sophomore guard Rachel Ullstrom (11.9 points per game) and senior foward Addie Budnik (11.2 points per game). The Spiders also lead the A-10 in points per game (73.6). 

Doogan talked about the unselfish nature of the team on the December 13 episode of Locked On Women’s Basketball. “We move the ball, and we don’t really care whose name is in articles the next day or like in the newspaper because we just want to win,” she said. “So I think that definitely plays a big part in our success. And we take a lot of pride in just defense and not letting the other team get what they want, and take them out of their rotations.”

The Spiders are scheduled to play the winner of Loyola Chicago and Fordham on March 8 at 11 a.m. ET on ESPN+.

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No. 2 seed VCU rebounded from last season and is back in title contention

The Rams will make the short trip to the Henrico Sports & Events Center, about 11 miles, with a program-record 26 wins in tow. Just one year removed from a 7-22 season, the team also set a program record for conference winning percentage, going 15-3 in A-10 play. VCU also has the second-best scoring defense in Division I, allowing just 52.0 points per game. 

Senior guard Sarah Te-Biasu leads the team in points, assists and steals per game, averaging 15.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.0 steals per game. She was one of three players to play in all 30 games so far. 

Sophomore guards Mary-Anna Asare and Timaya Lewis-Eutsey are two other key pieces for the Rams. Asare has started 28 of her 29 games played and averages 10.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game this season. Lewis-Eutsey started 27 of her 28 games played and averages 13.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game this season. 

After VCU’s 61-56 win over Mason on March 2, O’Boyle talked about her team’s approach heading into the conference tournament in the post-game press conference.

“It’s about the next practice. It’s about the next walkthrough. It’s the maturity that this team takes with every game, whether we win, whether we lose, okay what did we learn?” she said. “And as we get ready you want to be playing your best basketball in March. And I think we’re well on our way. There’ll be things that we’ll want to take from this game for sure. But I think the confidence that comes from 26 wins, it’s really coming from the way that you practice, the way that you prep. And I’m excited about it being right down the road in Henrico.”

The Rams are scheduled to play the winner of Saint Louis and George Washington on March 8 at 5 p.m. ET. 

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Saint Joseph’s Mackenzie Smith (21) chest bumps teammate Chloe Welch during the team’s game against Yale at Payne Whitney Gymnasium on Nov. 11, 2023. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

No. 3 seed Saint Joseph’s looks for first title since 2013

With a win over Duquesne on March 2, Saint Joseph’s improved to 26-4 (15-3 in the A-10), tying the 1996-97 team for the most wins in program history. Earning the No. 3 seed also matches the team’s best finish in the A-10 since the 2016-17 season. 

Four Hawks average at least 10 points per game: junior forward Talya Brugler (16.0 points per game), junior guard Mackenzie Smith (13.1 points per game), graduate student guard Chloe Welch (10.5 points per game) and sophomore forward Laura Ziegler (14.7 points per game).

Saint Joseph’s last made it to the semifinals in 2022 as a No. 7 seed where it was defeated by the eventual champion UMass. Last season, the team fell in the quarterfinals to Saint Louis, the eventual champion. Prior to the start of the season, Griffin noted that the team wants to go further than it did last year and be competing in the championship game this season. 

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Griffin also talked about her team being the thing that excited her about the upcoming season, including how much she loves coaching them and their competitiveness. “They’re great basketball players. But more importantly, they love being around each other. I love being around them and they’re just a joy to work with,” she told The Next in October. “So that’s what excites me because I really want them to fulfill their goals which is to win an Atlantic 10 championship.”

The Hawks are scheduled to play the winner of Rhode Island and Dayton/St. Bonaventure on March 8 at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

No. 4 seed Mason aims to continue making history 

The Patriots are looking to continue the team’s best offensive season in its NCAA era and one of the best defensive seasons, allowing the fewest points since at least the 2002-03 season. Mason enters the tournament with a 23-6 (14-4 in the A-10) record.

The team is just three years removed from a winless conference season and two seasons removed from a second last-place finish in a row. Earning the No. 4 seed matches the team’s best finish in the A-10 recorded in the 2017-18 season, when the team was led by future WNBA third-round draft pick Natalie Butler and freshman Nicole Cardaño-Hillary. The latter became the program’s all-time leading scorer as a junior. The team is just one win shy of the program-record 24 set during the 2017-18 season and would need to make the championship game to set the record in the tournament. Mason has not advanced past the quarterfinals since joining the A-10 in 2013.  

Mason is fourth in Division I in bench points per game, led by sophomore forward Zahirah Walton — who redshirted her freshman year due to injury — (11.0 points per game), senior guard Taylor Jameson (9.5 points per game) and freshman guard Kennedy Harris (9.4 points per game). Harris may not be available for the conference tournament as she was taken off the court on a backboard during the team’s March 2 game against VCU. 

Depth was important to head coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis heading into this season and it will continue to be important as the postseason begins. “We needed to have a lot of bodies to play the style we wanted to play,” she told The Next. Thirteen of the 16 players on the roster have played in a game this season, with 11 playing in at least 10 games. 

Mason is scheduled to play the winner of Duquesne and La Salle/UMass on March 8 at 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

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No. 7 seed Saint Louis has a difficult road to repeating

The Billikens made history last season, winning their first A-10 Tournament and advancing to the program’s first NCAA Tournament. Two No. 7 seeds have made the championship game since 2017 (UMass in 2021 and Duquesne in 2017), but both walked away as the runner-up. 

Though the team entered conference play 5-8, it went 9-9 in A-10 play to finish the regular season with a record of 15-17. This includes the win in the standings earned after Davidson forfeited the scheduled March 2 game before canceling the rest of its season on March 1. Saint Louis enters the tournament on a three-game winning streak, having defeated St. Bonaventure and La Salle in the last week of February. Instead of hosting the Wildcats on March 2, the Billikens hosted Division III Knox College and defeated the Prairie Fire, 119-42. 

The Billikens enter the postseason with a lot of experience. Of the six players that have started at least half of the games they’ve played in this season, three are seniors or graduate students. The trio — senior forward Peyton Kennedy (15.8 points per game), graduate student guard Julia Martinez (8.2 points per game) and graduate student guard Kyla McMakin (17.2 points per game) — are three of the team’s top four scorers as well. In addition, all but three players on the team this season were a part of last year’s championship team that played in the NCAA Tournament. 

Saint Louis is scheduled to play George Washington on March 7 at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

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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