The Sports Report

A Statistical Take on Sports and Politics

Atlantic-10 Conference Preview

Note: Charlotte lost to Duquesne and Fordham lost to St. Bonaventure in the first night of Atlantic-10 conference play on Wednesday, January 7. Please forgive me for getting this analysis in a day late, but all of my statistics are as of games on Tuesday, January 6. This means that games such as the Dayton .vs. Miami-OH non-conference match-up are included, but not those from Wednesday night.

The Atlantic-10 is one of the top tier Mid-Major conferences in college basketball. The conference has had exactly two teams in the NCAA Tournament in each of the last three years, and in the 24-year history of the 64-team style tournament, the Atlantic-10 has had 60 teams included.

Looking to the 2008-2009 season, the entire conversation must start with Sean Miller’s Xavier University basketball team. Xavier is clearly one of the top teams in college basketball today, as they finished last season ranked #8 in the Coaches Poll, and were as high as #7 in both the Coaches Poll and Associated Press Poll earlier this season. Dayton has been in the top 30 in the Coaches Poll for each of the last six weeks, and at one point last season were #14 according to the Associated Press. The Atlantic-10 has had a lot of historical success as a conference, and these two teams from Ohio are surely the cream of the crop again this season.

Before I get into any more details, I want to break out my Atlantic-10 conference projections for the upcoming season. The given records are those for the teams as of their games on Tuesday, January 6, and they are right next to my expected conference records for every team. Some teams, such as Duquesne, still have some non-conference games remaining, and thus I did not tabulate the end-of-season records:

Atlantic-10 Conference Preview

Atlantic-10 Conference Preview

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For those of you who have been receiving my Sports Report for the last two years or so may recall how I analyze the NCAA Tournament in March. Every year, I set up a formula involving a team’s record and their ranking on several different Web sites, such as those belonging to Warren Nolan, Jeff Sagarin and Ken Pomeroy, and assign every single team an aggregate winning percentage. Using every teams winning percentage, I then use a formula similar to the Pythagorean Formula of trigonometry in order to calculate expected wins and losses.

I did this exact same formula for the Atlantic-10 teams thus far this season. These are very rough estimates and projections, because the short non-conference schedule does not allow for significant statistical evidence and thus I am not that confident in these projections. However, I am very intrigued by the predictions, and the numbers my formula crunched out for the conference season. In a fourteen-team conference, playing a sixteen-game schedule, there are bound to be some gaps in consistent scheduling, and that exact point slightly damages the Dayton Flyers chances of winning the Atlantic-10 this season.

As many Dayton Flyers fans know, the Flyers take on the Xavier Musketeers twice annually, with lightning atmospheres seen in both Dayton and Cincinnati for the two games late in the conference season. Dayton lost to Xavier three times last season, and Xavier should easily be the conference favorite again this season, making this rivalry a tough one to swallow when you consider Dayton is desperate to make the NCAA Tournament this year after a disappointing end to last season. In addition, Dayton also plays Duquesne and Saint Louis twice in conference play, making their inter-conference strength of schedule the most surprisingly difficult among all Atlantic-10 teams. What I mean by this, is that the change in the actual sixteen-game schedule makes Dayton’s conference slate much more difficult than would be expected under a thirteen-game schedule.

This single fact of playing Xaiver twice, along with Duquesne and Saint Louis hurts the Dayton Flyers by approximately 0.3 wins in conference play this season. In comparison to Richmond, for example, who plays Charlotte, George Washington and Saint Louis twice in conference play this is a significant change. My formula estimates the additional gain of easy scheduling to be worth about 0.3 wins in the positive direction for the Richmond Spiders.

According to these projections, I would expect both Xavier and Dayton to be essential locks for the NCAA Tournament by the end of the Atlantic-10 regular season. Of course, Dayton would need to make at least the Atlantic-10 semifinals or so to guarantee a definite spot, but that should be relatively easy if they clinch the #2 or #3 seed in the tournament. A 26-6 record with solid non-conference wins over Akron, Marquette, Auburn, George Mason and Miami-OH should get the Flyers into the NCAA tournament. Rhode Island should also be an essential lock for the NIT Tournament at least, as long as they mimic their 11-4 non-conference performance within conference play. Until March rolls around however, I would strongly advise everyone to get their appropriate dosage of March Madness from Joe Lunardi on ESPN and the Bracket Guy on his independent blog.

One more note, this time about home-court advantage… My formula estimates the home-court advantage to be worth about an additional 7% chance of winning. For example, when Xavier takes on Fordham in Cincinnati, the home-court advantage will not mean much since Xavier would easily beat Fordham anywhere, or anytime. On the other hand, however, home-court advantage will mean a ton in the game between La Salle and Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts. This is true because the two teams are quite similar according to my winning percentages, and home-court could mean an additional 10% chance of winning in favor of UMass. This was never a factor in the NCAA Tournament, and thus I wanted to make sure I added this final note into my analysis.

January 8, 2009 - Posted by | College Basketball, Dayton Flyers | , ,


  1. Wow that’s cool stuff. I’ve never seen sports analyzed that way and I’m incredibly intrigued. I’m glad you chose the A-10, as I’m a Temple fan (and recent graduate). I’d say we’re rivals but I don’t feel like there are any rivalries even worth mentioning besides Xavier/Dayton… Maybe Temple and the PA schools but who knows.

    Do you have any way to calculate the probability of teams making the NCAA tournament? I wouldn’t mind seeing something like that regarding Temple (and my second love, Michigan).

    I think your blog would go over well at, the largest college sports site on the net. Our blogs are free and simple, and they come with a built-in audience: the fanbase. The content we’re looking for is also intelligent, thoughtful and comprehensive. In-depth statistical analysis, especially the way you explain it, would be very popular on our network.

    Take a look around the site and let me know what you think at I hope to hear from you soon, as I think this is one of the more fascinating and original sports blogs out there.


    Comment by Mike Gleeson | January 8, 2009 | Reply

  2. It would be hard to really calculate anything related to simply making the NCAA Tournament… The Selection Committee is tricky business, and although I love the idea and think a similar concept would work wonders for College Football, it is just hard to really analyze statistically.

    Temple should be decent this season once again with Dionte Christmas, but I think there are certainly behind Dayton and Xavier. I even think it would be a minor miracle if the A-10 got anything more than three teams in post-season play this season..

    Thanks for the comment! I really appreciate it!

    Comment by Jacob Rosen | January 8, 2009 | Reply

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