Atlantic 10 power rankings: Billikens rise to the top

Jordair Jett and the Billikens' 12-game winning streak is tied for the sixth longest active streak in the country.

Jeff Roberson/AP

Moving the Saint Louis Billikens from second to first in these Atlantic 10 rankings was a no-brainer after Massachusetts lost at Richmond last week, with that game ending mere minutes after SLU had pulled out victory at Duquesne.

Saint Louis enters this week as the only unbeaten team in A-10 play. The Billikens have won 12 straight and improved to a nation-best 7-0 in road games. Pretty impressive stuff.

Not good enough, however, to move up on the national scene. The Billikens held at No. 19 in the AP Top 25 and they actually slipped a spot, to 21st, in USA Today’s coaches’ poll. Not that the Billikens are concerned about their place in the national rankings. With the conference season not even at the halfway point, their focus remains on one thing: Their next game.

"I don’t know how all (the rankings) work but I do know we need to win to remain relevant," senior guard Jake Barnett said before Monday’s practice. "If we lose a game, we’re going to drop out of the rankings. So for us, it’s important to worry about what we can control, which is winning the next game."

With their next game against Richmond, it won’t be easy. Just ask UMass.

The Atlantic 10 rankings after Week 3:

1. Saint Louis (18-2, 5-0)

This week: Richmond on Wednesday, George Mason on Saturday.

Last week: Beat Duquesne 76-72.

With only one game last week, you’d think the Billikens would have gotten much more rest than in a typical week. Not really. While they had one fewer game than a typical week in conference play, they also had one more practice than usual. Instead of games Wednesday and Saturday, they had a game Wednesday and a practice Saturday. They also practiced Thursday after returning from Pittsburgh, where they beat Duquesne, and Friday. As usual, the Billikens took off Sunday. The extra practice gave SLU an extra day to prepare to face the Spiders and their Princeton offense.

2. Massachusetts (17-2, 4-1)

This week: St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, St. Joseph’s on Saturday.

Last week: Lost at Richmond 58-55, beat Fordham 92-50.

Based on their blowout of Fordham, losing to Richmond might have served as a wakeup call for the Minutemen. They had been overly relying on second-half rallies in recent weeks and were within one of the Spiders with 26.7 seconds to go. But for once, Massachusetts was unable to complete its comeback.

3. George Washington (16-3, 4-1)

This week: La Salle on Wednesday, at Dayton on Saturday.

Last week: Beat George Mason 75-69.

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The Colonials, the only Atlantic 10 team besides SLU and UMass to be mentioned in the national polls this week, have a chance to avenge their lone conference loss when they play host to La Salle.

4. VCU (16-4, 4-1)

This week: Fordham on Wednesday, Richmond on Saturday.

Last week: Beat Dayton 80-66, beat La Salle 97-89.

If you thought something was ailing the Rams, who began the season ranked 14th in the AP Top 25, it’s time to re-think. They are coming off probably their best week of the season with two tough road victories last week. And with city rival Richmond visiting this weekend, VCU couldn’t have rolled into top form at a more opportune time.

5. Richmond (14-6, 4-1)

This week: At Saint Louis on Wednesday, at VCU on Saturday.

Last week: Beat Massachusetts 58-55, beat St. Joseph’s 77-62.

Judging by Richmond’s victory over UMass, Saint Louis isn’t the only Atlantic 10 team to make defense its calling card. The Spiders are ranked second in the conference behind SLU in scoring defense (64.7), opponents’ field-goal percentage (40.2) and opponents’ 3-point shooting (28.0). Prepare to see a lot of contested shots when the Spiders visit SLU on Wednesday.

6. St. Joseph’s (13-6, 3-2)

This week: At Dayton on Wednesday, Massachusetts on Saturday.

Last week: Beat Rhode Island 61-57, lost at Richmond 77-62.

Senior guard Langston Galloway shot only 8 for 27 last week but he still set the school record for career 3-pointers (296) against Richmond. A four-year starter, Galloway is averaging a career-best 17.5 points per game and is shooting 46.2 percent on 3’s.

7. La Salle (11-8, 3-2)

This week: At George Washington on Wednesday, Duquesne on Saturday.

Last week: Lost at St. Bonaventure 66-51, lost to VCU 97-89.

The Explorers won’t have many weeks tougher than last. They had travel problems because of weather going to St. Bonaventure and their offense never did show up. La Salle shot a season-low 30 percent in its first conference loss. Against VCU, the Explorers led by nine with less than five minutes to go but could not hang on and ended up losing in double overtime. La Salle then lost one of the greatest players in its history, Tom Gola, on Sunday. A four-time All-American in the 1950s, Gola died at the age of 81.

8. St. Bonaventure (12-8, 2-4)

This week: Massachusetts on Wednesday.

Last week: Beat LaSalle 66-51, lost at Duquesne 83-81.

After playing what coach Mark Schmidt called the Bonnies’ best game of the year in holding La Salle to 30 percent shooting, they couldn’t maintain the momentum and lost on a 3-pointer at the buzzer at Duquesne.

9. Rhode Island (11-10, 2-4)

This week: At Fordham on Saturday.

Last week: Lost at St. Joseph’s 61-57, beat Dayton 88-76.

You won’t see this very often. In their victory at Dayton, the Rams shot better from the field (30 for 48, 62.5 percent) than they did from the free-throw line (23 for 40, 57.5 percent). The performance from the field was the fourth best in the school’s history.

10. Duquesne (9-9, 2-4)

This week: At New Jersey Institute Tech on Wednesday, at La Salle on Saturday.

Last week: Lost to Saint Louis 76-72, beat St. Bonaventure 83-81.

Give it up for the Dukes, who have doubled their wins in conference play from last season with 10 games to spare.

11. Dayton (13-7, 1-4)

This week: St. Joseph’s on Wednesday, George Washington on Saturday.

Last week: Lost to VCU 80-66, lost to Rhode Island 88-76.

If you’re looking for a season why the Flyers have emerged as the most disappointing team in the conference, try their defense. Opponents are averaging 80.1 points on 49.1 percent shooting during Dayton’s three-game losing streak.

12. Fordham (8-11, 1-5).

This week: At VCU on Wednesday, Rhode Island on Saturday.

Last week: Beat George Mason 76-70, lost at Massachusetts 90-52.

Here’s a positive with the Rams: At least they don’t have to play UMass or SLU anymore. But they still have two games left against VCU.

13. George Mason (7-13, 0-6)

This week: George Mason on Saturday.

Last week: Lost at Fordham 76-70, lost to George Washington 75-69.

In their first game as an Atlantic 10 member against nearby George Washington, the Patriots held the lead at halftime but, as so often has happened, couldn’t keep up in the second half. George Mason’s losing streak now is at seven games, its longest in 15 years.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.