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Bona shooting for top four A-10 finish

There's just one week left in the Atlantic 10 season and anybody who thinks they have it all figured out is lying.

Assumption gets us nowhere in trying to determine what the league will look like when it hits the finish line this weekend. Consider Saturday's results. Six games were played and in five of them the team lower in the standings won. Fordham over La Salle? Like we knew that was coming. Rhode Island over Saint Louis? Saint Joseph's over No. 22 Temple? Unforeseen. The Hawks had lost 10 straight to their Philly rival.

To St. Bonaventure's delight it was the only higher-ranked team that held serve on Saturday. And that victory at Charlotte coupled with everything else that transpired means Bona will finish no worse than eighth, which guarantees they'll be at home if they have to play a first-round Atlantic 10 Tournament game.

That's the worst case scenario. Wednesday's regular-season home finale against Saint Joseph's is now chock full of significance. A Bona win combined with a Masasachusetts loss at first-place Temple would guarantee the Bonnies a top-four finish and a bye straight into the Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals in Atlantic City, N.J.

To sum it up, with just two games left Bona could finish as high as second and as low as eighth. But they won't have to play a first-round tournament game out of town at a campus site.

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Tic-Tac-Toe

If it's how you finish that matters most then Bona's Andrew Nicholson has shot into the lead in the A-10 Player of the Year race. Nicholson was named the conference's Player of the Week for the third straight time after averaging 27.5 points and 10 rebounds in road wins over Charlotte and Fordham. He's only the third player in A-10 history to earn the honor three straight weeks. Neither of the other two (Xavier's Brian Thornton and David West) did it this late in the schedule.

Nicholson is averaging 25.2 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks the last six games while shooting 65.9 percent from the field. Taking just A-10 games into consideration, he ranks first in scoring (19.9), third in rebounding (.9.1), third in field goal percentage (63.7) and fourth in blocked shots (28). He'll get a big test Wednesday night against Saint Joseph's formidable duo of 6-foot-8 Halil Kanacevic, the conference's leading rebounder, and 6-9 C.J. Aiken, the firm leader in blocks with 50.

Nicholson's top competition for POY? It helps his cause that the conference's No. 2 and No. 3 scorers, Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt, play in the same backcourt at Temple. The other top contender is Fordham forward Chris Gaston (fourth in scoring and rebounding), but when does the POY come from the last-place team? A leading preseason candidate, Xavier guard Tu Holloway, is seventh in scoring and third in assists but the Muskies have fallen shy of expectations. The award should be Nicholson's for the taking if he puts up decent numbers the final two games.

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MAC Madness

First-place Akron's resounding loss at Ohio U. Sunday night ensures the Zips will be on high alert when UB visits on Wednesday night. If the Bulls score the upset -- they won the first meeting here -- Akron might have to win its regular-season finale at Kent State to secure a top-two finish and an automatic seeding in the Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals. The possibility of Akron squandering a top-two seed seemed absurd when the Zips entered last week with a three-game lead in the conference race.

If UB can complete a sweep of the two-game series with Akron and beat Bowling Green at home Saturday (no sure thing) there's a chance the Bulls could tie for the regular-season title and make off with the tournament's No. 1 seed.

UB's best-case scenario: The Bulls win out while Kent State closes with home wins over Ohio U. and Akron. If that happens UB and Akron finish 12-4 and the Bulls are seeded No. 1 based on their season sweep. If UB wins two, Akron loses two and Ohio U. beats Kent and Miami, there'd be a three-way for first with Akron the odd team out.

UB's worst-case scenario: Lose the final two and finish in a three- or four-way tie for third involving Ohio. The only sweep in that mix would be Ohio over UB, putting the Bulls in trouble in the tie-breaking criteria.

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Abridged Version

"The Battle of the Bridge" moves to Springfield, Mass., as Canisius and Niagara meet up for the third time this season, on this occasion in the first round of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament. The two will be meeting in the postseason for the first time since 2002 when they play at 9:30 Friday night with the winner advancing to face a Loyola (Md.) team that limped to the finish.

In conference play alone, Niagara freshman guard Juan'ya Green finished third in scoring at 17.2 points while redshirt freshman Antoine Mason was seventh at 15.8. The two are 1-2 on Niagara's all-time freshman scoring list (543 for Green, 476 for Mason). For Canisius, guards Harold Washington (16.0) and Alshwan Hymes (14.4) were sixth and 10th in conference scoring. But the two teams finished next-to-last (Niagara) and last (Canisius) in field goal percentage.

email: bdicesare@buffnews.com