Dayton Is Class of Atlantic 10, But Richmond and Charlotte Could Surprise

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IJuly 20, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - MARCH 22:  Marcus Johnson #32 of the Dayton Flyers grabs a defensive rebound in the first half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the second round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on March 22, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Atlantic 10 saw a drain of talent in the offseason as 10 of the 15 players that made up the top three postseason teams in the league have left for the NBA or graduated. Traditional powers Xavier, St. Joesph's, Rhode Island, and Temple all took serious hits as each lost an all-league performer.

The one league contender from 2009 that returned the majority of its core roster will be a legitimate candidate to reach the Elite Eight in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Dayton lost just one starter and fourth most productive player on the team, Charles Little.

The Flyers won't be challenged at the top of the league by the usual suspects—Xavier, St. Joe's, Rhode Island, and Temple—but rather by three up-and-coming programs, each will a different story.

Charlotte didn't live up to lofty preseason expectations in 2009 but returns a roster full of solid A-10 talent. They also bring in a much-hyped recruiting class as well as an impact transfer.

Richmond also disappointed a bit last season, but played the year without potential all-conference center Dan Geriot. The Spiders return the majority of their roster to support Geriot in the team's quest for an Atlantic-10 Championship.

La Salle has only had two winning seasons in Atlantic 10 history, but they've both come in the past four seasons. With only two role players gone, star slasher Rodney Green returning, and stud freshman center Aaric Murray suiting up for the Explorers, La Salle will be a legitimate contender.

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Team by team capsules, projections, and all-league teams after the jump.

The Best of the Best

1. Dayton Stands Alone at the Top

Coach Brian Gregory has given the Flyers the look of a major conference team with the recruitment of stud center Matt Kavanaugh who helps make Dayton one of the longest and most talented teams in the Atlantic 10.

The Flyers won't have any trouble pushing teams around in the paint with a half a dozen players 6'8'' or taller likely to see time in the rotation.

Stud forward Chris Wright will provide the majority of the post scoring with returning starting center Kurt Huelsman and freshman Matt Kavanaugh always providing a reliable wingman to clean up Wright's misses on the glass.

Coach Gregory's backcourt won't provide a lot of offensive pop, but the team's top trio of guards Rob Lowery, Marcus Johnson, and London Warren are the reason the Flyers are by far the league's best defensive team.

Dayton routinely flustered superior offensive teams into abysmal performances. Ranked teams like Marquette, West Virginia, and Xavier all fell victim to the Flyers' scrappy, tough defense.

Few teams in the Atlantic 10 have as much talent or as much size as the Flyers and none have both nor do any play as solid defense as Dayton. And that's why Dayton will fly atop the standings in 2010.

2. The League Might Catch a Case of Arachnophobia with the Rise of the Spiders

Richmond is going to be sneaky good. The Spiders have shooters, they've got size, and they certainly have depth. Guards David Gonzalvez and Kevin Anderson will certainly challenge Dayton's defensive minded backcourt as Anderson made the league's second team and Gonzalvez was an honorable mention.

Richmond's backcourt duo didn't have a dominant low post presence to help keep the focus off them in 2009, but they still produced. This year, if Dan Geriot can return to his 2008 form after a knee injury, Richmond could have three players named to some level of an all-league team.

The Spiders also have the 6'10'' Justin Harper and 6'11'' Josh Duinker (pronounced dunker) to fill out its frontcourt.

The only question mark for coach Chris Mooney is defense. The Spiders were a below-average defensive team in 2009 despite their size and talent.

But in 2008 when Dan Geriot anchored the center of the floor, Richmond was one of the best defensive teams in the league. Now that Geriot is back, Mooney's club might be a solid team on both ends of the floor.

3. La Salle Will Use NBA Talent in Quest for A-10 Championship

One potential NBA prospect will be a senior, the other will be a freshman. The rest of the team in between will provide their support. With the graduation of Temple's Dionte Christmas, La Salle now has the league's best slasher in Rodney Green who will be one of the top candidates for player of the year.

Arguably the league's best overall recruit and without a doubt best incoming center, Aaric Murray will create a dominant one-two punch with Green. Murray somehow slipped out of the grasps of Big East teams Villanova and West Virginia where he could have potentially started.

La Salle returns a tremendous amount of size and played above average defense in 2009 for an Atlantic 10 team. The Explorers lack depth so one injury, suspension, or under-performing player could severely inhibit what could be La Salle's best season ever in the Atlantic 10.

4. Xavier Must Rely on Freshmen to Challenge for A-10 Title

If a traditional power is going to rely on freshmen to try to win a league title, this is the year to do it with 12 of the league's top 20 players gone. Unfortunately for Xavier, three of those 12 players belonged to the Musketeers in 2009.

B.J. Raymond and C.J. Anderson are out of eligibility and junior forward Derrick Brown bolted for the NBA.

Headed to the Queen City to fill their shoes are guards Brian Walsh and Mark Lyons as well as stud forward Jeff Robinson. Walsh and Lyons are both red-shirt freshmen who have gotten the chance to learn Xavier's system for a year. They'll team up several budding stars to create a roster chalk full of potential and youth.

Guard Terrell Halloway is on the fast track to stardom and sophomore Kenny Frease  had a decent freshman campaign after being one of the most decorated recruits in Xavier history.

The Musketeers also welcome in transfer Jordan Crawford who if you haven't heard dunked on LeBron James so hard that James won't let the world see the slam.

5. 2010 is a Chance for Redemption for Charlotte

The 49ers were a trendy sleeper pick for the league title last season, but coach Bobby Lutz's team fell flat on its face. This season, Charlotte simply has too much talent to find itself in the bottom half of the league again.

Charlotte only returns three starters and loses its top player LaMont Mack, but the 49ers gained much more than they lost. Coach Lutz brings in a former Boston College starter Shamari Spears. The bigger haul of players comes with recruits as three of the top 10 incoming freshmen belong to Lutz.

They are all listed as power forwards, but Chris Braswell—the 58th rated player by Scout Hoops, KJ Sherrill, and Gohkan Sirin will give the 49ers one of the deepest frontcourts in a mid-major league full of major-conference size.

The incoming quartet will compliment the 49ers' returning backcourt to give Charlotte one of the most complete rosters in the league.

Coach Lutz will need to make sure his newcomers commit to defense as the 49ers struggled at times defending their basket in 2009. The pop on offense should always be there, but without at least an average defense, Charlotte won't stand a chance to win the title.

6. Duquesne Loses Star, but Returns the Rest

All-League Guard Aaron Jackson is gone, but the rest of the roster returns. The Dukes have several players that showed they can provide a scoring punch, but the star power that so many of the top teams in the league have won't exist in Pittsburgh in 2010.

Bill Clark and Damian Saunders will provide a nice outside scoring threat from the three and four positions on the floor. Jason Duty had a limited role in the offensive last season, but was incredibly productive when he called upon.

Duquense will lack size in a league filled with trees. The Dukes are the conference's smallest teams and one of the shortest teams in the entire country.

7. Temple

Dionte Christmas dominated the scoring column during his tenure in Philadelphia, but he's gone and with his departure goes the Owls' chance to compete in the A-10 in 2010.

Lavoy Allen gives Temple some star power, but overall this roster lacks an abundance of talent. Ryan Brooks will prove to be a solid second option and point guard Juan Fernandez has a chance to be a star down the road.

Coach Fran Dunphy brings in one of the weakest recruiting classes in the league so Temple won't be getting any reinforcements.

8. Rhode Island

The Rams are much like the Owls in the sense they've lost a franchise player. Jimmy Baron Sr. will coach the 2010 Rams without his son Jimmy Baron Jr. torching the nets for three-pointer after three-pointer. Rhode Island also lost power forward Kahiem Seawright who actually played a larger role in the offense than Baron Jr.

There is some solid returning talent. Keith Cothran and Delroy James are nice players, but should not have to be the top options for an Atlantic-10 team. Incoming point guard Akeem Richmond could help fill the shoes of Baron Jr., but overall the offensive outlook for the Rams is bleak.

9. UMass

Coach Derek Kellogg is beginning to bring in the players needed for his dribble-drive motion offense he helped John Calipari develop in Memphis. But entering his second season at UMass, there has already been a lot of roster overturn making it difficult for Kellogg to establish a rhythm in Amhearst.

Point guard David Gibbs was one of the league's best recruits in 2009, but disappointed during the season. He's back and could be primed for a breakout season in Kellogg's offense. Also in the backcourt will be one of the league's most prolific scorers, Ricky Harris.

The wild card will be freshman wing Terrell Vinson. He'll likely be fighting La Salle's Aaric Murray for Freshman of the Year honors. If he produces to his potential, Vinson can carry the Minutemen much higher than a ninth place finish.

10. St. Joesph's

Coach Phil Martelli won't have the reigning Conference Player of the Year Ahmad Nivins or stud point guard Tasheed Carr who have both graduated. Left on the roster is one of the league's best defensive players Garrett Williamson as well as two-guard Darrin Govens who will provide the scoring punch.

Govens isn't a very efficient offensive player and the team's only returning player that is an above average in offensive efficiency is swing man Idris Hilliard, the third and final returning starter.

St. Joe's has two decent point guard prospects coming in, but they won't be enough to fill the major holes in Martelli's squad.

11. Saint Bonaventure

The Bonnies return four key components a 15-15 club, but those players were terribly inefficient on the offensive end of the floor. One more year together means the quartet led by Jonathan Hall and Chris Matthews should be better, but still not good enough to crack the top 10 in the Atlantic 10.

12. Fordham

Editor's note: Fordham was originally ranked 14th, but Jio Fontan, an all-league freshman will return to the Rams after originally stating he planned to transfer. 

Fordham returns three key players including one of the league's best sophomores, Jio Fontan. He's likely one year away from being the league's best point guard, but if this program is going to turn around it will be on the shoulders on Fontan.

Fontan will have a strong supporting guard in incoming freshman Lance Brown who will have a strong chance to give the Rams all-league freshman for two consecutive seasons.

13. George Washington

A few years ago, GWU was the team to beat in the A-10. But now the program has fallen on hard times and things won't get much better for Colonials. Damian Hollis could be one of the league's breakout players, but after Hollis the Colonials don't have much talent.

14. Saint Louis

Rick Majerus could find himself on the hot-seat quite soon. The Billikens have one returning player that could make a real impact on any other A-10 squad (except Fordham). Kwamain Mitchell made the league's all-freshman team last season and could emerge as a star as a sophomore, but he'll be relying on freshmen to provide support.

Majerus's deep freshmen class must perform or else his job could be in jeopardy.

All-League Team

UMass Guard Ricky Harris

Richmond Guard Kevin Anderson

La Salle Forward Rodney Green

Dayton Forward Chris Wright

Richmond Center Dan Geriot

All-Freshman Team

Fordham Guard Lance Brown

UMass Forward Terrell Vinson

Charlotte Forward Chris Braswell

Dayton Center Matt Kavanaugh

La Salle Center Aaric Murray

Player of the Year

La Salle's Rodney Green

Freshman of the Year

La Salle's Aaric Murray

Coach of the Year

Richmond's Chris Mooney

Breakout Player of the Year

Xavier's Kenny Frease

For more updates on college basketball, follow Jameson on Twitter.

Any corrections, updates, or additional comments, email Jameson at jamesonfleming@gmail.com.

This preview was last updated on July 21st.


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