Atlantic 10 Has Another Wild Ride Ahead in 2010-2011
After flirting with five or six potential bids last season, the Atlantic 10 eventually landed three entries into March Madness.
Xavier, Temple, and Richmond earned bids, but only Xavier distinguished themselves by advancing to the Sweet 16 before losing in overtime to Kansas State in what may have been the best game of the tournament.
Preseason favourite Dayton struggled late in conference, costing them a bid to the dance. They did, however, continue to battle, beating North Carolina for the NIT crown.
This season's version of the A-10 could take on a different complexion. Some surprises could be in store as the top teams are attempting to reload.
Though Dayton and Xavier have great recruiting classes coming in, each has to replace key players. Richmond has to replace David Gonzalvez and Ryan Butler, while Temple loses top scorer Ryan Brooks and top defender Luis Guzman.
Overall, it will be another very competitive year in the conference.
The Flyers might have the best recruit in the league in Juwan Staten, a small, quick guard who immediately fills the void left by Chris Lowery and London Warren. He is the type of guard that coach Brian Gregory loves and fits this team's style of play very well. Also in is Brandon Spearman, a guard who's known more for his defence but is big (6'3") and physical.
Chris Wright returns for his senior season and needs to improve on his offensive numbers—not because he had a bad season (13.7 ppg), but because he can, and the Flyers will need his offence. Chris Johnson emerged last season as a dependable scorer and rebounder (12 ppg/seven rpg) and will be a major contributor again.
This team will be at the top if they can play consistently throughout the conference schedule.
No big recruiting splashes for Fran Dunphy and the Owls, but two of the top three scorers return in Juan Fernandez and Lavoy Allen. Though replacing your top scorer is always difficult, it seems there are ready successors to replace Ryan Brooks. Besides, Temple's staple is defense.
Big man Michael Eric developed steadily last year and will need to step up both defensively and as a possible third scoring option. Ramone Moore and Rahir Jefferson both earned substantial minutes last season and will be asked for more this time around.
Temple will be solid once again, with the potential for another A-10 title.
A great recruiting class (including Justin Martin, Jay Canty, and Jordan Latham) arrives for the Musketeers this fall, and all three could be asked to contribute this season.
The loss of Jordan Crawford forces others such as Terrell Holloway, Dante Jackson, and Jamel McLean to step up. As good as Crawford was, Jason Love was the unquestioned leader on the team, and replacing him will not be easy. Kenny Frease's role was not expanded in his sophomore season but will be this year, and he needs to provide a consistent inside presence.
This will be a good team again. Chris Mack did an excellent job last season and with recruiting again this season, so the Musketeers will continue to ride.
Losing Gonzalvez and Butler hurts, simply because there may not be anyone to step in. Top scorer Kevin Anderson withdrew his name from the NBA draft and will return. Justin Harper, a steady performer who started every game last season, returns as well.
Beyond that, there are some offensive gaps to address. Dan Geriot returned from a yearlong layoff but wasn't the same player as he was as a sophomore. If he can regain some of the form from that season, the Spiders could be competing near the top of the league. A mid-pack finish seems more likely.
With every key player returning from a team that went 11-5 in conference last season, the Billikens have reason for optimism. A fourth-place finish was much higher than most expected, but now there will be no surprises from this team. Much like Dayton, Billikens' coach Rick Majerus uses his bench frequently, as 10 players averaged more than 10 minutes per game.
Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed form a solid inside/outside combination, while Cody Ellis provides an outside threat (he is much better than his 30 percent from three-point range suggests).
The Achilles heel for the Billikens is shooting—their field goal percentage needs to improve, and their free throw shooting was awful. This team has had a nasty habit of not scoring (literally) for entire games.
Last year's experience could help Saint Louis stay at or near the top of the conference.
Love Ron Everhart. He too returns most of his squad from last season but will not have Melquan Bolding (transfer). Legitimate double-double man Damian Saunders returns, as do Bill Clark, B.J. Monteiro, and Eric Evans, all of whom averaged over 10 points per game last season. Last year's team was horrible from beyond the arc, something that may have been aided by the return of Bolding.
This is the sleeper team in the conference. After a 7-9 conference record last year, 10 wins is a reasonable goal for this year. A top-four finish is possible.
Transitioning with a new coach (Alan Major takes over from Bobby Lutz), the 49ers still have some talent, particularly with Shamari Spears and big man Chris Braswell returning.
Guard play will be the key for this team. Derrio Green was the team's second-leading scorer last season and needs to continue to improve. Recruit Luka Voncina is a big guard (6'4") that has some European senior experience and could help right away. An intriguing team.
Jim Barron's team was one point away from making the NIT final an all A-10 affair. Gone are Keith Cothran and Lamonte Ulmer, two of the team's top three scorers. Delroy James will lead the offence, while Akeem Richmond will likely step into a starter's role after averaging almost nine points per game off the bench last season.
A step down is likely this season, as the Rams don't seem to have upgraded as much as some others.
UMass, St. Joseph's, St. Bonaventure, George Washington, La Salle, and Fordham likely fill out the bottom of the conference again. UMass will be improved and should win more than five conference games but may not be able to jump into the top half of the league.
Aaric Murray was the top freshman in the conference last season, but the La Salle Explorers were disappointing and lost several seniors from last year's team. If Murray can dominate, the Explorers could exceed their paltry four wins in conference, but La Salle needs some secondary scoring as well.
It will be another competitive year in the A-10, one in which several teams have legitimate title aspirations. Personally, I like Dayton to win it. Though the guards who will see significant minutes are untested, the Flyers will build off their NIT success from last March.
Predicted Order of Finish
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