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January 13, 2013Q&A E-mail Exchange with Yahoo! Sports Expert Pat Forde
Yahoo! Sports Expert Pat Forde was gracious enough to do an e-mail exchange with NinerReport to talk about the Atlantic 10 and the 49ers.
NinerReport: When looking at the Atlantic 10 so far this year, which teams have stood out to you?
Pat Forde: I was at Indiana-Butler, so the Bulldogs definitely got my attention that day. This looks like a classic Brad Stevens team: very tough, very physical, smart on offense and blessed with some clutch shooters. They look like the team to beat.
That said, there is plenty of quality competition. VCU, Temple and Saint Louis have scored some impressive non-conference victories. Charlotte has no bad losses weighing down its resume. Xavier has some good wins -- but also some head-scratching defeats. UMass looks like an improving team, especially defensively. And St. Joseph's showed its potential by upsetting Notre Dame.
NR: How many NCAA at large berths can you see the league getting?
Forde: I'd say two or three. It seems the A-10 annually cannibalizes itself, with lots of league losses diminishing the at-large chances of several teams. This year I'd say Butler and VCU have the best resumes to date (which means the league did very well in the expansion derby). Temple beating Syracuse will be an eye-catcher, but if they have more losses like the one at Xavier that may not be sustainable by Selection Sunday. Saint Louis will have a chance if it continues its recent play. After that I think it will depend on who can get hot and pile up a lot of conference wins and present a strong resume.
NR: What are your thoughts on the job Alan Major is doing in year number three?
Forde: It's been a steady build. From 10-20 to 13-17 to what should be a winning record this year, he's got the program going in the right direction. Winning some early road/neutral games was a big step for this team. Getting into postseason play would be a validation of his work and a momentum boost going into next season, when I think Charlotte should have the ability to challenge for the league title and/or an NCAA berth.
NR: On the surface, the 49ers seven game February schedule (UMass, @Temple, VCU, @Butler, @SLU, Temple, Dayton) looks daunting. Can you explain how difficult that stretch is?
Forde: That's pretty brutal. I just looked at Ken Pomeroy's site and he projects four straight losses in the middle of that run. I'd say you just hope to come out of February without losing confidence. If the 49ers get 3-4 wins that month, it would be solid work.
NR: Where do you think the 49ers will finish?
Forde: I definitely expect them to be in the top half of the league heading into the tournament. Possibly in the top five. From there, anything can happen. Ask St. Bonaventure (one of my rare intelligent picks while predicting conference tourneys last season). Should be a fun ride.
Note: This article was originally published on Saturday, Jan. 12 as part of our Rhode Island Ultimate Preview Package