The Atlantic 10 is easily one of my favorite College Basketball conferences to cover. It’s a deeper conference that most know and some of these programs like VCU, Davidson, Rhode Island & others have had some great success in the NCAA tournament over the years. This year I expect the Atlantic 10 to be even deeper than last year and I expect they’ll be sending perhaps 3 or 4 teams to the NCAA Tournament.
Mike Rhoades is back for another year as head coach of the Rams. Last year Rhoades and the Rams were 25-8 and lost to a very good UCF team in the NCAA tournament. The good news for Rams fans is last year this team was young and this year they should be even better.
All of the key players on this team return led by guard Marcus Evans and forward Marcus Santos-Silver. Last year this team ran deep having 9 players play quality minutes and the Rams only lost one of those nine players from a year ago. This is a veteran team which means they will be a tough out for anyone on the schedule.
Former Dayton Flyer player turned head coach Anthony Grant returned to his alma mater and it didn’t take long for him to have an impact. Sure, the Flyers missed out on the NCAA tournament last year but this team still won 21 games and made the NIT. This year the NIT would be a disappointment because all signs are pointing to the Flyers flying pretty high this season. It first started with their star player Obi Toppin announcing his return to Dayton.
That was huge news for any Dayton fan. Grant also brings in some big talent via the transfer rout with Nebraska transfer Jordan Tshimanga, Chattanooga transfer Rodney Chatman & Florida transfer Chase Johnson. Mix those talents in with Jalen Crutcher, Ibi Watson, Trey Landers & Ryan Mikesell and you have a Atlantic 10 contender as well as Dayton’s deepest team in some time.
31 years. I was a small child when head coach Bob McKillop first started coaching at Davidson. McKillop is one of the best coaches in America and once again Davidson should be a team that no one wants to see on their schedule come March. In fact this Davidson team despite me ranking them third could easily take home the Atlantic 10 crown. The Wildcats return big time players Kellan Grundy, Jon Axel Gudmundsson, & KiShawn Pritchett. Mix those players in with Carter Collins, Luke Frampton & Luka Brajkovic and you have a serious A10 contender. In fact this Wildcats team only lost one player off last years team and they welcome Hyunjung Lee a South Korean by way of Australia to this years roster. Lee should have an immediate impact on this team.
Sure, their star guard Eric Williams decided to transfer to Oregon and that would hurt any team but don’t look now but Keith Dambrot is building something in Pittsburgh. I loved betting on this team last year because I felt Vegas really didn’t know just how good this team was. Sure, they blew some big leads in games but overall this team was pretty young.
The Dukes bring back a slew of talent led by guard Sincere Carry, Frankie Hughes in the backcourt. Duquesne returns 4 starters and 9 key contributors from a season ago and they also bring in Utah Valley grad transfer Baylee Steele who should be a force in the A-10 this year.
5. Rhode Island
The Rams were just 18-15 last season but they caught on late winning 6 of 7 and almost making the NCAA tournament and now they enter year two of the David Cox era. Cox is a good coach and should have the Rams contending for a A-10 title if they can just keep the consistency they had to end the season a year ago.
The Rams welcome back Fatts Russell, Cyril Langevine and Jeff Dowtin. Those three experienced players alone should be able to make any opposing coach cringe at the thought of facing the Rams. They also welcome back Jermaine Harris & Tyrese Martin who should contribute more this season.
6. St. Bonaventure
The Bonnies are led by their head coach Mark Schmidt who’s doing quite a great job in Allegany. This year the Bonnies might have exactly what it takes to be a sleeper in the A10.
They are led by guard Kyle Lofton who should upgrade his stats since Courtney Stockard and LaDarian Griffin have moved on. Big man Osun Osunniyi is back and his numbers should improve and look out for the emergence of guard Dominick Welch who averaged 7.5 points per game coming off the bench last year.
The Spiders could be a sleeper in the A10 this year. If you examine the roster and see the return of guard Jacob Gilyard and forward Grant Golden. Both those guys are potential all Atlantic 10 players and when you mix that with forward Nathan Cayo and guards Nick Sherod & Jake Wojcik you have a starting lineup that can compete with any in this league. Plus Chris Mooney is a really underrated coach in my eyes.
8. Saint Louis
It wasn’t pretty but somehow someway Saint Louis head coach and former Kentucky player Travis Ford got Saint Louis to the NCAA tournament.
This year, I expect the Billikens to take a step back as it should be hard to replace Javon Bess & Tramaine Isabell. Guards Jordan Goodwin & Dujuanta Weaver mixed with forwards Hasahn French and Javonte Perkins should pickup the scoring but one must wonder about the depth and experience.
Dave Paulsen enters year 4 in Fairfax and despite him being much better with each year one must wonder the future of Paulsen at George Mason. Remember not too long ago George Mason wasn’t just making the final four they were kind of a staple in the NCAA tournament for a stretch there. The Patriots return some key players like guard Justin Kiel, Otis Livingston II, & Javon Greene but the real problem with this team is the lack of height. Forward Jared Reuter needs a big year for the Patriots as they continue to play small ball in the A10.
Much like Dave Paulsen and George Mason here comes Jeff Neubauer in year 4 at Fordham and he could sure use a solid outing. Leading scorer Nick Honor is gone, but they do return the top two other scorers in guards Anthony Portley and Jalen Cobb. Mix those scorers with forward Chuba Ohams and perhaps the front court could be better than last years team.
Oh where are the days of Doug Overton and Lionel Simmons when you need them? The Explores of LaSalle are in year two of head coach Ashley Howards era. Howard is born and raised in Philadelphia and played his called ball at Drexel before assistant coaching at Villanova where he won some national championships. Year one with the Explorers was tough though going just 10-21. Plus leading scorer Pookie Powell is gone. It’ll be up to senior Isiah Deas and guard Saul Phiri to fill Powell’s shoes. Jack Clark is another guard capable of averaging double digit points this season. The real question will be if they can get some big men contributing.
12. George Washington
GW is breaking in a new head coach in veteran head coach Jamion Christian. I personally liked the decision to hire Christian. Christian is from the area and had a nice run at Mount St. Mary’s not too long ago. Maceo Jack is the Colonials top returning scorer and he’ll be joined with forward Arnaldo Toro to be looked upon as the top offensive options.
One thing to note, Jameer Nelson Jr. comes in as a freshman and son of former NBA guard Jameer Nelson Sr. Overall I like the coaching hire and I could see the Colonials being a much more difficult out then many have planned.
13. Saint Joseph’s
I’m not sure what happened here but somehow someway Saint Joes decided to fire longtime coach Phil Martelli who had been with Saint Joes since 1985. Martelli once had Saint Joes in the Elite 8 and Saint Joes thought it was best to get rid of him. Martelli quickly landed on his feet as Michigan head coach quickly snatched up Martelli to be an assistant of the Wolverines.
So, the new head coach is Billy Lange coming over from the Philadelphia 76ers. All I’ll say here is beware what you wish for. Gone is the top four scorers from a year ago and the top returning scorer is forward Taylor Funk who averaged just 8 points per game a season ago.
Matt McCall enters year 3 at UMass and well he sure could use some help. Perhaps that help is coming just in time with the highly touted freshman big man Tre Mitchell coming to town. Mitchell will be one of their top players for sure alongside guards Carl Pierre and Keon Clergeot.
Depth might be an issue here if any of those three go down because there isn’t much experience on this roster.