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Matt Vautour: Atlantic 10 hits its stretch run

With the Atlantic 10 pretty bunched up from No. 1-16, who a team plays down the stretch can be almost as important as how that team plays as far as determining what seeds teams will get in next month’s conference tournament.

Saint Louis has the toughest schedule left with six games against teams with a combined 42-23 record, while Charlotte has the easiest schedule with five games (three at home) against teams that are a combined 16-35.

Here’s a look at each team’s remaining schedule. Teams are listed in order of conference standing.

VCU(9-2)

Remaining opponents record: 34-20 — at Saint Louis, at Xavier, vs. Butler, vs. Richmond, at Temple

The Rams might be leading, but they have four games against top teams and one against Richmond, which already beat them once.

Saint Louis (8-2)

Remaining opponents record: 42-23 — vs VCU, at Butler, vs. Saint Joseph’s, at George Washington, at Xavier, vs. La Salle

The Billikens have as tough a schedule as any team in the country this week and no easy wins left.

Butler (8-3)

Remaining opponents record: 31-21 — vs. Duquesne, vs. SLU, at VCU, at UMass, vs. Xavier

Other than playing the Dukes Tuesday, the Bulldogs figure to be challenged down the stretch.

La Salle (8-3)

Remaining opponents record: 23-30 — at Temple, at Rhode Island, vs. Duquesne, vs. GW, at SLU

The Explorers have a much easier schedule than most of the top contenders putting them in good shape to secure a top-four finish and a first-round bye in the A-10 tournament.

Xavier (7-4)

Remaining opponents record: 34-20 — at Rhode Island, vs. VCU, vs. UMass, vs. SLU, at Butler

The Musketeers play the league’s top three teams which could put a dent in their strong record.

Charlotte (6-5)

Remaining opponents record: 16-35 — vs. Temple, vs. Dayton, at St. Bonaventure, at Duquesne, vs. St. Joe’s

With the easiest schedule of anybody, the 49ers could go on a run.

Temple (6-5)

Remaining opponents record: (28-27) — vs. La Salle, at Charlotte, vs. Rhode Island, at Fordham, vs. VCU

The Owls have favorites and bottom-feeders on the schedule.

Massachusetts (6-5)

Remaining opponents record: 26-29 — at St. Bonaventure, vs. Dayton, at Xavier, vs. Butler, at URI

The Minutemen need to take care of business against the sub-.500 teams to have a chance at a bye.

George Washington (5-5)

Remaining opponents record: 32-33 — vs. Fordham, at St. Joe’s, at Richmond, vs. SLU, at La Salle, vs. Dayton

The Colonials face a steady diet of middle-of-the-pack teams

Saint Joseph’s (5-6)

Remaining opponents record: 24-29 — vs. GW, at SLU, vs. Fordham, vs. URI, at Charlotte

The Hawks have a manageable schedule to make a move if they can get any momentum going.

Richmond (5-6)

Remaining opponents record: 16-33 — at Fordham, vs. GW, at Dayton, at VCU, vs. Duquesne

Other than their rematch with VCU, the Spiders have a very manageable slate.

Dayton (4-7)

Remaining opponents record: 26-28 — at UMass, at Charlotte, vs. Richmond, vs. St. Bonaventure, at GW

The Flyers play mostly teams in the middle of the conference as they try to avoid missing the A-10 tournament.

St. Bonaventure (4-7)

Remaining opponents record: 19-36e_SEmDvs. UMass, at Duquesne, vs. Charlotte, at Dayton, vs. Fordham

The Bonnies are trying to avoid going from tournament champs in 2012 to missing the event in 2013. They’ve got some winnable games on the schedule.

Rhode Island (3-8)

Remaining opponents record: 32-23 — vs. Xavier, vs. La Salle, at Temple, at. St. Joe’s, vs. UMass

The Rams play mostly above .500 teams as they try to make the A-10 tournament.

Fordham (2-9)

Remaining opponents record: 25-29 —at GW, vs. Richmond, at St. Joe’s, vs. Temple, at St. Bonaventure

The Rams play some games that would be winnable for most teams, but they’d have to raise their play to have a shot.

Duquesne (1-10)

Remaining opponents record: 31-24 — at Butler, vs. SBU, at La Salle, vs. Charlotte, at Richmond

If the Dukes get another win, it would be pretty stunning.

MY TOP 10 — 1. Miami, 2. Indiana, 3. Gonzaga, 4. Florida, 5. Michigan State, 6. Duke, 7. Michigan, 8. Arizona, 9. Syracuse, 10. Louisville.

For the rest of my Top 25 visit the College Hoop Week Guide at GazetteNET.com/Blogs/UMassSports/.

GAME OF THE WEEK: Indiana at Michigan State, Tuesday, 7 p.m. ESPN — The No. 1 Hoosiers could be considered an underdog here. That doesn’t happen often.

ATLANTIC 10 GAMES OF THE WEEK — Saint Louis has a rare Tuesday game and a rare Friday game this week and both could have a huge impact on how the league standings finish:

VCU at Saint Louis, Tuesday, 9 p.m. CBS Sports — The ultimate contrast in styles. The winner leaves in first place.

Saint Louis at Butler, Friday, 7 p.m. ESPNU — SLU won the first game. Rematch should be a battle.

NEW NICKNAME PLEASE: Rhode Island, Fordham, VCU — There are four Rams in Division I. Colorado State make sense given that there are actually Rams in Colorado. The fact that the other three are all in the Atlantic 10 draws attention to how poor a nickname it is.

The Ocean State university needs an ocean related nickname so I’m going with URI Humpbacks, named after the whales that are abundant off the state’s coast, or URI Schooners, for the vessels that are common in Rhode Island waters.

Richmond is the home of Virginia Commonwealth and Edgar Allen Poe. I give you the VCU Ravens.

The Bronx, Fordham’s home, is best known for its zoo and the Yankees. I’d suggest the Fordham Sultans, in reference to Babe Ruth. If you prefer zoo-affiliated mascots, it’s worth noting there are no Rams in the Bronx Zoo.

When in doubt go with alliteration. Animals that start with “F” in the Zoo are the Flamingo, which doesn’t strike fear into anyone, and the Fossa, a nasty predator from Madagascar described by Bronxzoo.com as having power and agility, two qualities Fordham basketball could use a little more of.

ON THE ROAD TO — The first ACC team not named Duke or North Carolina winning the ACC since 1993.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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