Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
OUTLOOK: The Atlantic 10 Conference is firmly entrenched as one of the top
mid-majors in college basketball. Last season, the teams that were expected to
contend for the league title did just that, with Xavier and Temple leading the
way. Both of those squads finished with a 14-2 conference mark, tying for the
A-10 regular season crown.
Temple advanced to the NCAA Tournament for a third consecutive season, but the
program has not won a game in the Big Dance in a decade, so the goal is
clearly defined entering this 2010-11 campaign. As for Xavier, it was
extremely successful in Chris Mack's first season as head coach, as the squad
captured at least a share of its fourth straight A-10 regular season title and
even reached the Sweet 16 of the "Big Dance" for the third consecutive year.
There is enough talent present for Temple and Xavier to believe that both will
make another run at the title.
Expect the Richmond Spiders to be in the mix as well, as they finished 13-3 a
year ago and welcome back the A-10 Player of the Year, Kevin Anderson. Dayton
is an interesting team to watch, as the squad underachieved against league
competition a year ago, splitting its 16 conference games despite winning 25
games overall. A pair of double-digit scorers are back in the fold for Brian
Gregory, leading the fans of the Flyers to feel cautiously optimistic.
Rhode Island and Saint Louis appear to be a step down from the elite of the
A-10, but don't tell that to head coaches Jim Baron (URI) and Rick Majerus
(SLU). The Rams will attempt to push the tempo in all likelihood, while the
Billikens will rely on their defense as usual.
If there is a darkhorse team to watch, it very well could be Duquesne. An
experience core returns, and after falling short of expectations a year ago,
the Dukes may be able to take advantage of teams underestimating them in
The bottom half of the conference features teams such as La Salle, Charlotte
and George Washington, clubs with enough talent to beat the big boys on any
given night, but not enough to string together the necessary amount of wins to
challenge for the A-10 title. Saint Joseph's will be well coached as usual by
Phil Martelli, but he simply lacks the horses necessary to stay in the race
for very long. Rounding out the A-10 are UMass, St. Bonaventure and Fordham,
all three of which figure to endure double-digit conference losses.
CONFERENCE CHAMPION: TEMPLE
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Temple, 2. Xavier, 3. Richmond, 4. Dayton, 5.
Rhode Island, 6. Saint Louis, 7. Duquesne, 8. La Salle, 9. Charlotte, 10.
George Washington, 11. Saint Joseph's, 12. Massachusetts, 13. St. Bonaventure,
TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS:
TEMPLE: The Owls have a standout performer in both the frontcourt and the
backcourt, and with the stingy defense that coach Fran Dunphy demands, Temple
is in strong position to win the A-10 title in 2010-11. The man to watch up
front is Lavoy Allen, a power forward who posted 11.5 ppg and 10.7 rpg a year
ago while shooting 53.6 percent from the field. In the backcourt, Juan
Fernandez is sharpshooter from Argentina who knocked down 45.3 percent of his
three-point attempts a year ago. The hope is that Ramone Moore, who scored 7.6
ppg a year ago a sophomore, is ready to take the next step. If he can become a
consistent scoring threat, Fernandez will have no trouble getting open looks
from the perimeter, and it will become increasingly more costly to double
Allen on the low block. Temple led the A-10 in scoring defense last season
(56.8 ppg) but finished last in scoring offense (64.9 ppg). Still, the scoring
differential of over eight points per game was obviously impressive, and coach
Dunphy wouldn't mind a repeat performance.
XAVIER: Just one double-digit scorer returns for the Musketeers, as 6-0 guard
Terrell Holloway is back for what is expected to be a highly productive junior
season. Holloway scored 12.1 ppg a year ago while dishing out 3.9 apg, and the
point guard will need a few teammates to step up and prove to be consistent
scoring threats. Seniors Jamel McLean and Dante' Jackson, who scored 8.5 ppg
and 6.5 ppg last season, are two likely candidates. McClean ripped down 7.5
rpg last season and is the top returning rebounder for the club. There is no
doubt that Xavier will miss Jordan Crawford, a star guard who took his 20.5
ppg to the NBA. Still, coach Mack has brought in one of the top recruiting
classes in the A-10, and if 7-0 returnee Kenny Frease finally becomes
comfortable in his frame, there will be another title run for the Musketeers.
RICHMOND: Any talk of the Richmond team begins with Kevin Anderson, the
reigning A-10 Player of the Year. Although rather small at 6-0 and 175 pounds,
the senior is smart, quick and extremely talented. He averaged 17.8 ppg last
season, but the fact that his rebounding output (3.4 rpg) was greater than his
assist numbers (2.7 apg) shows that there is still some room for the standout
guard to improve. Anderson shot just 33.9 percent from three-point range a
year ago, a figure that simply must improve if the Spiders are to win a title.
Justin Harper will be counted on to take some pressure off Anderson after
scoring 10.6 ppg for the team a year ago. The wild card for the Spiders is
center Dan Geriot, a 6-9 senior who led Richmond in scoring with 14.3 ppg back
in 2007-08. He missed the 2008-09 season with a knee injury and struggled to
get back in the groove last season. If he is healthy, and all accounts state
that he is, Geriot is a difference-maker.
DAYTON: Two years ago, the Flyers won 27 games and reached the second round of
the NCAA Tournament. Expectations were sky high heading into last season, and
Dayton simply didn't play well enough to compete with the better teams in the
A-10. Chris Wright and Chris Johnson are determined to make amends for the
lackluster finish in 2009-10, and they certainly possess the talent to do just
that. Wright, a 6-8 senior, scored 13.7 ppg and ripped down 7.3 rpg a season
ago, while Johnson posted 11.9 ppg and 6.9 rpg. No other returnee averaged 5.6
ppg last year, so Johnson and Wright may very well have to carry the load
early on until other legitimate options emerge. Dayton won the NIT title last
season, an obvious source of confidence, and coach Brian Gregory has enough
talent in place, including the new recruits, to make a serious run at the A-10
RHODE ISLAND: There is only one returning double-digit scorer in place for the
Rams, and that is Delroy James. Now a senior, the 6-8 forward posted 13.2 ppg
and 5.3 rpg a year ago, and he faces the challenge of improving that already
solid output. In the NIT last season, James averaged 19.3 ppg against strong
competition over a four-game stretch, including a 34-point showing against
Nevada. The hope is that senior center Will Martell, a seven-footer, is
finally ready to become a dominant force instead of just a role player. Akeem
Richmond scored 8.7 ppg as a freshman last season despite only playing 18
minutes per contest. With increased playing time, the three-point specialist
figures to be a consistent double-digit contributor. Coach Jim Baron led his
Rams to 26 victories last season, but duplicating that accomplishment seems a
SAINT LOUIS: Last season, the Billikens participated in the CBI postseason
tournament and reached the championship round. Although Saint Louis did fall
short against VCU, it is certainly comforting to know that every key
contributor from that team is back in place. Of the three returning double-
digit scorers on the roster for Rick Majerus, the man to watch is Kwamain
Mitchell. One of the most gifted offensive performers in the A-10, Mitchell
racked up 15.9 ppg and 3.0 apg last season, playing much larger than his 5-10
frame would suggest. Willie Reed, a 6-9 forward, brings back 12.4 ppg and 7.9
rpg, while Cody Ellis hopes to build on a freshman season that saw him net
10.5 ppg. Kyle Cassity led the team in assists last season, and if he can play
with maximum effort at all times, something he didn't do last season, Saint
Louis could easily emerge as one of the top teams in the conference.
DUQUESNE: Based on talent alone, Duquesne can stand toe to toe with any team
in the A-10. The reason that the Dukes are being picked to finish higher is
that they simply do not know how to win consistently. Damian Saunders may very
well be the most gifted player in the A-10 because of his rare versatility.
Last season, Saunders scored 15.0 ppg and ripped down 11.3 rpg. He also led
the A-10 in blocks (94) and set a school record with 89 steals. Saunders
doesn't have to carry the load alone, as fellow senior Bill Clark is a solid
scorer who can stretch the defense with his three-point shooting ability. B.J.
Monteiro posted 11.1 ppg last season, and he figures to at least maintain that
average. T.J. McConnell is one of the new recruits to watch, as he has been
committed to the Dukes and coach Ron Everhart since he was 14 years old.
LA SALLE: Injuries crippled the season of the La Salle Explorers in 2009-10,
turning what was expected to be an exciting season of basketball into a
dreadful 4-12 A-10 finish. Head coach John Giannini is happy to have a healthy
roster to work with, but significant talent is now gone, including Rodney
Green. Fortunately, the team possesses an elite big man in Aaric Murray, a
big-time NBA prospect who scored 12.2 ppg while grabbing 6.6 rpg as a
freshman. Now a sophomore, Murray will be counted on to be dominant, as he
will need to net at least 15.0 ppg to keep this team competitive. Ruben
Guillandeaux played in only four games a year ago because of a foot injury but
did receive a medical redshirt. His return certainly helps, as does that of
Jerrell Williams (10.2 ppg), a senior.
CHARLOTTE: Bobby Lutz was fired as the head coach of the 49ers after last
season despite the fact that they improved by eight wins over the previous
campaign. Taking over the program is Alan Major, a former Ohio State
assistant, and he has some significant talent to work with. One of the top
frontcourt players in the A-10 is Shamari Spears, who netted 16.0 ppg a year
ago. As for Chris Braswell, he managed 9.5 ppg and 8.6 rpg as a freshman and
is expected to take a significant step forward as a sophomore. Derrio Green is
a junior college transfer who is expected to provide immediate scoring in the
49er backcourt. A transfer student, Jamar Briscoe, may very well run the show
from the point guard position. Expectations are certainly tempered for Major's
team, as Charlotte hasn't been an A-10 power in recent years, but don't expect
the new coach to exhibit great patience, as he is used to winning.
GEORGE WASHINGTON: It is hard for many fans to believe that a 6-10 finish in
league play represents a significant step forward, but that is indeed the case
for George Washington. The Colonials have emerged from the A-10 cellar and are
ready to make some noise under the guidance of Karl Hobbs, who uses many
players and favors a run-and-gun style. Lasan Kromah, at 6-5 is a stellar
athlete who flies up and down the court and gets the job done both on offense
and defense. Tony Taylor, who dished out 4.2 apg a year ago, is back as well.
Joseph Katuka is a 6-11 player who seemed to get better with every game a year
ago. He runs the floor extremely well for a man his size and figures to be a
consistent contributor in 2010-11. Last season, 12 players averaged 10 minutes
per game or more for Hobbs, and more of the same is expected this season.
SAINT JOSEPH'S: It is hard to believe that Saint Joseph's lost 20 games last
season, including a 5-11 finish in A-10 play. It was obvious that the Hawks
simply lacked talent, and while Phil Martelli did bring in some promising
freshmen, including guard Langston Galloway, don't expect a major turnaround
this season. In the backcourt, Justin Crosgile and Carl Jones did enough as
freshmen to convince fans that they can be significant performers this year.
Idris Hilliard is a forward who averaged 10.2 ppg and 5.4 rpg last season, but
many believe that production was all that can be expected of him. Todd O'Brien
is a solid rebounder, but he hasn't done much scoring and needs to prove that
he can contribute a bit offensively. Martelli will get all that he can from
this group, but it won't be enough to avoid a losing season in A-10 play.
MASSACHUSETTS: The bad news for UMass is that it finished 5-11 in A-10 play a
year ago and lost leading scorer Ricky Harris, who poured in just a shade
under 20 points per contest. The good news is that the four other starters are
back, including Anthony Gurley. A beast in the front court, Gurley averaged
13.6 ppg a year ago and may be dominant with Harris gone. The offense figures
to go through Gurley, who considered making the leap to the NBA after last
season. Keep an eye on Terrell Vinson, who was impressive as a freshman and
will be tough to contain if he improves his shooting range. Sean Carter is a
force in the paint, as he ripped down 7.1 rpg last season and led the team in
blocks. UMass may improve on its A-10 mark of a year ago, but the best that
can be expected is an 8-8 league finish.
ST. BONAVENTURE: The Bonnies actually exceeded expectations in 2009-10,
posting a 7-9 record against conference opponents and finishing just a game
below .500 overall. The losses of Chris Simmons and Jonathan Hall will
certainly hurt, but the best player from last season's squad remains in place.
Andrew Nicholson enters his junior season as one of the top performers in the
A-10. Despite constant attention from defenders last season, Nicholson used
his 6-9 frame to score 16.4 ppg on 56.4 percent shooting from the field. He
also ripped down 7.1 rpg and may challenge for A-10 Player of the Year honors
if his team can win enough games. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem likely. Ogo
Adegboye and Michael Davenport are solid contributors, but certainly not
FORDHAM: The great news for Fordham is that there is absolutely nowhere to go
but up after a dismal 2009-10 campaign that saw the team finish 2-26 overall
and 0-16 in league play. The Rams have a new coach in Tom Pecora, who led
Hofstra's program for nearly a decade, and he certainly has some work to do to
return Fordham to respectability. Forward Chris Gaston is back after earning
A-10 Rookie of the Year honors. He scored 18.0 ppg and ripped down 11.4 rpg
last season, finishing as the leading rebounder in the league. Those numbers
are all the more impressive when considering the fact that there was no other
legitimate threat on the roster to draw defensive attention away from Gaston.
Jacob Green, Fahro Alihodzic, Lance Brown and Alberto Estwick are all
returnees expected to pitch in this season, and while Pecora is known as an
accomplished recruiter of standout guards, it may be tough to convince blue-
chip prospects to come to Fordham.
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