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Shaka Smart has been incredibly consistent at VCU. He has won at least 27 games in each of his four seasons as the team's head coach.
The Atlantic-10 isn't exactly VCU and everyone else. It's VCU, St. Louis and then everyone else. That becomes the case when Butler, Xavier and Temple booked it for other leagues.
The Billikens actually beat the Rams a year ago by a game for the conference title, and both teams return a good core. VCU is the pick because Smart returns a slightly better roster and St. Louis graduated more valuable pieces.
Those two teams are close, but there's enough of a drop off after No. 2 for VCU and the A-10 to be included in this list. The only other A-10 teams to finish with a better than .500 league record a year ago were La Salle, Massachusetts and George Mason. (George Mason was in the Colonial.) None of those three are at VCU's level.
St. Louis graduated Kwamain Mitchell and Cody Ellis. Ellis, a stretch-4, led the Billikens in threes made, and Mitchell was the team's best guard on both ends. He had his ups and downs offensively as a senior but finished with five 17-plus point games in St. Louis' final eight.
The Rams will be a preseason top 15 team, and Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham are near locks for all-league. They also have the best home-court advantage in the league and the best coach.
Once St. Louis graduates the core that Rick Majerus brought on to turn the program around, the league could be VCU's to dominate for the foreseeable future.