College Basketball

Davidson Wildcats in control of Atlantic 10 basketball race

With one week remaining in the regular season, the race for the Atlantic 10 championship is tight and could get complicated. That’s how it is when four teams are tied for first place.

Davidson, however, has a way to simplify matters as it hits the home stretch of its first season in the league.

The Wildcats (20-6, 11-4), who are in that four-way tie, can win the championship outright with victories in its final three games – at home Saturday against George Washington and Thursday against No. 22 Virginia Commonwealth, and on the road next Saturday against Duquesne.

Going 3-0 in those games would clinch the title for the Wildcats because they already own tiebreakers against Dayton and Rhode Island and a victory against VCU would move them ahead of the Rams. VCU, it should be noted, can also win the title if it sweeps its final three games.

Davidson is closing in on something else important. A top-four finish would give the Wildcats a double-bye into the quarterfinals of the A-10 tournament that begins March 11 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Here’s a look at the top four teams and what they must do to get that top seed in Brooklyn:

Davidson (20-6, 11-4)

What’s left: George Washington (Saturday), Virginia Commonwealth (March 5), at Duquesne (March 7).

What’s needed: Davidson can win the regular-season championship by sweeping its final three games.

Trending: Wildcats have won six in a row.

Key player: Guard Jack Gibbs has returned after missing seven games with a knee injury. His presence is key for Davidson, as evidenced by his game-winning 3-pointer Wednesday at Rhode Island.

NCAA tournament situation: A solid “bubble” team. Some experts have Wildcats in for now.

Dayton (21-6, 11-4)

What’s left: At VCU (Saturday), Rhode Island (March 3), at La Salle (March 7).

What’s needed: The Flyers can help themselves while at the same time do damage to the hopes of VCU and Rhode Island (while hoping Davidson slips).

Trending: Dayton has won five of six, but the loss was at 12th-place Duquesne.

Key player: Guard Jordan Sibert scored 24 points (including 5 of 6 3-pointers) in a victory against George Mason on Wednesday.

NCAA tournament situation: Best bet in league behind VCU for an at-large berth.

Rhode Island (19-7, 11-4)

What’s left: At La Salle (Saturday), at Dayton (March 3), Saint Joseph’s (March 7).

What’s needed: Winning at Dayton would be huge, because Rams already have losses against Davidson and VCU (both of whom Rhode Island needs to lose).

Trending: The Rams had won three in a row and eight of nine before losing to Davidson.

Key player: Sophomore forward Hassan Martin is a future star in the A-10.

NCAA tournament situation: Fading.

VCU (21-7, 11-4)

What’s left: Dayton (Saturday), at Davidson (March 5), George Mason (March 7).

What’s needed: Like Davidson, the Rams claim the title if they win out.

Trending: Rams are 4-4 since losing star point guard Briante Weber for the season with a knee injury Jan. 31.

Key player: Weber’s absence has put more of a load on wing Treveon Graham, who averages 16.6 points and 6.6 rebounds. He’s been battling an ankle injury, too.

NCAA tournament situation: All but assured.

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Twitter: @davidscott14