The Atlantic 10 Conference tournament begins on Thursday, with most of the first-round matchups featuring a host of teams currently on the outside of the NCAA tournament bubble looking in.
Chris Dobbertean's latest bracket for SB Nation has five teams from the A-10 making the cut, but four of those five have a first-round bye in the A-10 tournament. Of the teams, only fifth-seeded Butler will play on Thursday. However, certain teams like Temple and La Salle could use a win to help solidify their bubble position, leaving room for plenty of drama in the A-10 tournament.
The eighth-seeded Richmond Spiders take on the ninth-seeded Charlotte 49ers in the first game of the afternoon at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Spiders met up with the 49ers once this season, thumping them by 20 points back on Jan. 19. Senior guard Darien Brothers exploded for a career-high 39 points on incredibly efficient shooting, going 10-of-14 from the floor, 8-of-11 from three point range and 11-of-12 from the free throw line. The winner of second go-around will face the St. Louis Billikens in the second round.
The fifth-seeded Butler Bulldogs take on the 12th-seeded Dayton Flyers in the second game of the afternoon. The Bulldogs have had a wacky year: At times, they've looked like one of the best teams in the nation, with wins over the Indiana Hoosiers and the Gonzaga Bulldogs. At other times, they're a team that can drop a game to Charlotte at home. After embarking on a 13-game winning streak from Nov. 27 to Jan. 19, the Bulldogs finished their final 13 games 8-5. Butler is still a clear lock for the NCAA tournament, and more wins will only help its case for a higher seed. If they win this game, they will face the fourth-seeded La Salle Explorers.
The sixth-seeded UMass Minutemen need a deep run in the A-10 tournament if they hope to make the final cut on Selection Sunday. They will match up against an 11th-seeded George Washington team that beat them at home, 79-76, on Jan. 19. The Colonials led by as many as 16 points during the game but the Minutemen weren't able to climb out of the deficit. The winner of this game will go on to face the third-seeded Temple Owls.
The 10th-seeded St. Joseph's Hawks will likely have their hands full against the seventh-seeded Xavier Musketeers. Although the Hawks beat the Musketeers in their only meeting of the year, Xavier is a tough out, as seen by St. Louis and Memphis, who both lost to Xavier in tight contests towards the end of the season. Xavier has struggled on the road, however, losing five of eight conference games, so it will be interesting to see how they respond to playing in the confines of the Barclay Center.
A link to the full A-10 bracket can be found here.
Game 1: No. 8 Richmond vs. No. 9 Charlotte, noon ET
Game 2: No. 5 Butler vs. No. 12 Dayton, 2:30 p.m. ET
Game 3: No. 7 Xavier vs. No. 10 St. Joseph's, 6:30 p.m. ET
Game 4: No. 6 UMass vs. No. 11 George Washington, 9 p.m. ET