The Atlantic Ten is a three-bid league that can make history as this year’s best mid-major conference. The Atlantic Ten is off to a flying start in 2021-22. This high-powered midmajor conference has two teams that are still undefeated and four teams with just one loss. Recently, the NCAA decided to expand the Women’s tournament to 68; this move is excellent for the Atlantic Ten. As a result, this piece will expound on three teams that have a shot at an at-large bid come March, thanks to excellent starts. The Atlantic Ten is a three-bid league that will cause a variety of issues in March.
The Atlantic Ten is a Three-Bid League in Women’s Basketball
Team One: Fordham Rams
Fordham is off to a 3-1 start on the young season. They had three different leading scorers in their wins, affording them with a multitude of options. They have wins over Quinnipiac, Seton Hall, Michigan State, and a lone loss to Notre Dame. The Quinnipiac win emphasized their resilience because in an overtime game, where Asiah Dingle would not let her team lose. This Kent State transfer scored 34 points against a Bobcat team that pushed 4th ranked Indiana to the limit. In the next game, a new leader emerged from New Zealand, Kendell Heremaia; she scored 29 points for the Rams against Seton Hall. The Pirates have a good team this season with the return of Andra Espinoza-Hunter, Sidney Cooks, and Lauren Park-Lane, a formidable big three that the Rams beat to win that game.
Two Most Significant Games
First, they went to South Bend to face the Fighting IriThThe Rams might have pulled off a massive upset against the I if it were not for poor first-quarter performances if it were not for poor first-quarter performance. They were held to just nine points in the quarter and could not get back into the game. Their weaknesses in this game were fouls and three-point shooting. The Irish have a great team this season, thanks to the return of Dara Mabrey and Maddy Westbeld. In addition, they added transfer Maya Dodson which affords them with another weapon down low. There is no shame in losing in this game for the Rams. On the contrary, they should be proud of how they fought to ensure they stayed close.
Next was Michigan State, and The Spartans came in on a four-game winning streak beating opponents by double digits in every game. Yet, the Rams were not denied in this game thanks to a new leader Kaitlyn Downey. Downey scored 24 points for the Rams, who escaped with a win despite a late fourth-quarter run. Fordham survived this game and pulled off an unexpected upset. These wins will go a long way to helping their tournament resume. Fordham still has games against Baylor, Arizona State, Princeton, and FGCU. These four opponents are potential tournament teams and give them more opportunities to prove their worth. If they are underestimated, the Rams could take three of the four.
The flying 3-1 start is impressive with wins over Purdue, Toledo, and Alabama A & M; their lone loss was to Duke. Dayton’s next two games are against Mississippi State and Illinois, affording them more opportunities to strengthen their resume. In addition, their December schedule includes Florida and Clemson; winning three of these four games would go a long way to achieving an at-large bid. These games provide Dayton with multiple opportunities to impress the committee.
Two Most Significant Games
Dayton’s best win is against Purdue. Despite only having a 2 point halftime lead, the Flyers used an excellent third-quarter performance to pull away for a 78-62 victory. Senior Erin Whalen leads the Flyers, scoring 26 points in their 16 point win at Purdue. Beating a good Purdue team convincingly on the road demonstrates just how dangerous they are. Additionally, the Flyers outrebounded Purdue by eleven and forced 15 turnovers in the win. Their stifling defense kept Purdue at bey throughout the game, never allowing more than twenty points in a quarter and outscoring them in each one.
Their other significant game was a loss to Duke 70-56. Despite this point differential, the Flyers outscored the Blue Devils in the second and third quarters. If they had a better first-quarter performance where the Flyers were outscored by ten, then they would have been right in the game. Dayton needed to hit more than two threes to stay in this game, a factor that must change the rest of the season. This game will help the Flyers prepare for their challenging schedule and a potential tournament bid.
Rhode Island Rams
Furthermore, Rhode Island is the most surprising story in the Atlantic Ten. Seton Hall transfer Dez Elmore leads them; she affords them with necessary big-game experience. They have started the season 5-0 and look like a force to be reckoned with. They have wins over Dartmouth, Coppin State, Merrimack, Providence, and Princeton. The Rams won their first three games of the season convincingly, never allowing more than 45 points by their opponents. Against Merrimack, they scored 106 points, and they never scored under 70 in that three-game stretch. The Rams have a robust remaining schedule that includes Virginia, Buffalo, and Harvard.
Two Most significant games
The wins over rival Providence and Princeton are massive portions of their resume so far. The Rams dispatched Rival Providence 66-53 behind a 21-point performance from Dolly Cairns. In addition, three other Rhode Island players were in double figures; this multitude of threats makes opponents quiver in fear. The Rams defense forced the Friars into 21 turnovers and outrebounded them by eight. These advantages allowed Rhode Island to expand its lead, pulling away at the end.
In addition, The Rams used a complete team effort in the Princeton game, where four were in double figures to take down the Tigers. Princeton is a team that already beat Villanova earlier in the season. Despite having 18 turnovers and getting outrebounded, the Rams won this game because of their superior free-throw shooting. This skill is extra essential if they want to compete in the high-powered Atlantic Ten.
The Atlantic Ten was a good conference in recent years, but this year looks like a significant improvement. I believe that the Atlantic Ten is a three-bid league and will surprise power conference teams. I look forward to watching their progress as the year continues.
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