A-10 Preview
Temple continued their reign as one of the top two teams in the A-10, but their normal running mate, Xavier had one of the more dramatic falls from grace, beginning the season 8-0, then losing five of six, before finally plodding their way to a third-place finish in the conference.

While the A-10 has had one or two teams that compete nationally for the past several years, last season the talent pool was deeper and it's going to be much better top-to-bottom this year. The conference realignment shake-up brings in recent-BracketBusters VCU and Butler adding to the depth. St. Joe's and UMass are young, promising squads. Saint Louis returns plenty of talent. Temple is always tough regardless. Xavier pulled in another stellar recruiting class. That's a legitimate seven teams that can make the Tournament this year.

3 Burning Questions

Which A-10 team will take the next step?

The two contenders here are UMass and St. Joe's. The Hawks return all five starters, led by shot-blocking phenom CJ Aiken (3.5 per game) and a pair of wings who can really put points on the board as Langston Galloway and Carl Jones combined for 32.5 points a game last year.

But UMass is primed for a better year, after making a run in the postseason NIT. Diminutive point guard, Chaz Williams, is the best guard in the conference at just 5'9" and he's only a junior this season. Last year, he led the Minutemen in scoring (17 points), 3-point shooting (41.9 percent), free-throw percentage (78.8), assists (6.2), steals (2.2) and managed to grab 4+ rebounds a night. There's surprising athleticism at every position alongside Williams that make this team quite dangerous.

What impact will VCU and Butler make?

As previously mentioned, the A-10 was going to be deep and talented with or without these newcomers, but is plenty more deep adding 2010 and 2011 national runner-up, Butler, and 2011 Final Four contender, VCU. While both teams lost their senior leader (VCU: Bradford Burgess, Butler: Ronald Nored), each returns four starters and will immediately challenge for a conference title in their first season.

What is the fallout for Xavier, if any?

The brawl, fiasco, fight, whatever you want to call it between Cincinnati-Xavier that was a dark cloud over college basketball and national news had an immediate impact on both teams; the Bearcats strung together wins, while Xavier failed to overcome their various suspensions. The two teams will have another go at it this season, albeit at a neutral site.

But per the Musketeers, there really hasn't been much fallout. The team got back on the same page after the brawl, losing in the A-10 championship game, but won two NCAA Tournament games. Xavier has one of the top recruiting classes in the nation (again), not just out of the mid-majors. With Tu Holloway graduating and Mark Lyons moving on to Arizona, freshmen Semaj Christon and Myles Davis will bring immediate impact to this lineup. Things are again looking up for the Musketeers.
Conference Rankings
1. Butler

2010 and 2011 national runner-up. Four starters return. Add-in former Arkansas swingman Rotnei Clarke. Allow for some development from rising center Andrew Smith and Khyle Marshall and what do you have? A-10 champions in their first season in the league. Losing the heart-and-soul of Ronald Nored and his defensive abilities will certainly be missed, but this Bulldogs team has more offensive firepower to help compensate for his graduation. Freshman Kellen Dunham will only add to the depth in an already-solid backcourt.

Player to watch: Rotnei Clarke, Guard
  2. UMass

We could be overrating the Minutemen's late season success, but UMass wins by making other teams play ugly. Now if they can just do that over the course of an entire season. Their defensive pressure is outstanding, led by the A-10's premier guard, Chaz Williams, all 5'9" of him. But UMass had athletes and length at every position, like 6'9" small forward Raphiael Putney, who sports a 7-foot wingspan. The Minutemen will contend for the league title if former-top-100 recruit Terrell Vinson, a versatile power forward continues to develop and he can finally live up to his lofty expectations. 6'5" wing Jesse Morgan was impressive as a sophomore, knocking down perimeter jumpers and attacking the rim off the bounce.

Player to watch: Chaz Williams, Guard
  3. VCU

We counted out Shaka Smart's magic once. Even with just one returning starter in 2011-12 from the previous year's Final Four team, he brought the Rams back to the NCAA Tournament. This year, he'll have four starters back, led by post-player Juvonte Reddic, VCU's leading returning scorer and rebounder, but the Rams' will pressure teams again with high-quality defense and transition buckets on offense, sparked by a multi-prong guard attack featuring 6'4" Troy Daniels, 6'2" Rob Brandenberg and 6'3" Darius Theus. Daniels is the true perimeter threat of the group, making 94 3s last season, but Brandenberg chipped in 41 of his own, while getting to the foul line plenty. The trio's aggressiveness will be difficult to match in the A-10.

Player to watch: Juvonte Reddic, Forward
  4. Temple

We know the Owls lost a lot to graduation, but this is their swan song in the A-10 before moving up to the Big East. Even without Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez and Michael Eric, this team could prove to be better, but only if Khalif Wyatt stays out of trouble and Anthony Lee continues to bulk up. Wyatt should start at point and while he isn't the quickest guard, he has the size and craftiness to initiate the offense and get his own shot. Moore's aggressiveness will be missed, but West Virginia-transfer Dalton Pepper will ease the transition for Temple fans. Freshmen wings Daniel Dingle and Quenton DeCosey are Big East-caliber recruits and will certainly benefit from playing a year in the A-10 first. The big question is how Fran Dunphy will handle the lack of bulk and depth in his frontcourt where Lee and Rahlir Jefferson will again play out of position.

Player to watch: Khalif Wyatt, Guard
  5. Saint Louis

Rick Majerus surprised even himself when everything came together for the Billikens in 2011-12. With four starters returning, all except top scorer, Brian Conklin, who connected on 156 of his 195 free-throw attempts, SLU will have a chance to build on their success. Conklin's aggressive play opened up the outside for shooters like Kwamain Mitchell, Cody Ellis and reserve Kyle Cassity, who is also gone. Mike "Jet" McCall has another year of running the point under his belt, and New Zealand big man, Rob Loe, brings the inside-outside versatility that makes him such a difficult matchup for opposing centers.

Player to watch: Kwamain Mitchell, Guard
  6. St. Joe's

It's been more than few years since SJU was relevant and in contention atop the A-10, but this year is different. Coach Phil Martelli has two of the top scoring guards in the conference at his disposal as Carl Jones and his 17 points and Langston Galloway's 15.5 points will again spark the Hawks. C.J. Aiken anchors the defense with his shot-blocking that placed him second nationally last season, which allows his guards to take more risks playing the passing lane, knowing that Aiken is in the backline. If he can develop some sort of offensive game, adding bulk to his frame and finishing that mid-range jumper he loves, he is a legitimate NBA prospect. Alongside of him in the frontcourt, Halil Kanacevic provides some much-needed bulk and toughness, while 6'8" Ronald Roberts and his 11 points per game were a great spark off the bench.

Player to watch: C.J. Aiken, Forward
  7. Xavier

Realistically, Xavier would have been a notch higher had Mark Lyons returned to the program. But without him, Chris Mack must replace four starters in former conference player of the year, Tu Holloway, center Kenny Frease and Andre Walker. However, Xavier remains a contender with an influx of freshman talent and building off young current talent on the roster. Wing Dezmine Wells will lead this team in scoring and potentially the conference with his ability to attack the rim. After a year of eligibility concerns, Justin Martin, was finally eligible last season, but found himself in a crowded rotation; that won't be the case this year, as playing time should be aplenty to go along with first-year guard Semanj Christon and sharp-shooter Myles Davis.

Player to watch: Dezmine Wells, Guard
  8. LaSalle

Even down their top scorer from a year ago (Earl Pettis, 15.4 points per game), LaSalle's backcourt is loaded with scoring options and athletes. Ramon Galloway will lead the way in his second-season with the team after transferring from South Carolina and should be a first-team all-league talent with Pettis on the ball. Point guard Tyreek Duren greatly improved as a sophomore last year when he increase his shooting across the board and cut down on his turnovers. Playing alongside Galloway and Duren is another wing, the best long-range shooter on the team (41.7 percent last season, 43.5 as a freshman), Sam Mills; while Mills was great connecting from behind the arc, he shot roughly 40 percent inside of it. And lastly, Jerrell Wright, at 6'8", 240 pounds, brings that Philadelphia muscle and toughness that will be counted on to clean the glass. He averaged 10 points on 57.3 percent shooting with about 5.5 rebounds per game to lead the Explorers.

Player to watch: Ramon Galloway, Guard
  9. Dayton

The Flyers got off to a great start last season (12-4), including wins over Minnesota, Alabama, Saint Louis and Temple, but a fall in five of their next six ended Dayton's hopes at an A-10 title and Tournament bid. Losing three of their top six rotation players hurts big-time, especially an athlete and all-around contributor such as Chris Johnson. Kevin Dillard and Matt Kavanaugh return to the starting lineup, while Josh Benson is hoping to recover from a season-ending knee injury that cost him half the season. Keep an eye out for freshman, Dyshawn Pierre, who should earn the starting nod with Dayton this season. He put up some big scoring and rebounding numbers in international play for the Canadians.

Player to watch: Dyshawn Pierre, Forward
  10. Richmond

Richmond returns most of their young core for an underachieving squad, but key departures include the starting front line of Darrius Garrett and Francis-Cedric Martel; however, the two only combined for less than 10 points a night, so all is well in Virginia. Shooting guard Darien Brothers (14.5 points) and undersized point Kendall Anthony (13 points) will again lead the charge with their perimeter shooting (68 made 3s a piece) and attacking style (190 free-throws made combined). Cedrick Lindsay should also take on a bigger role with his similar-offensive style. But if the Spiders want to move up in the standings, they'll need some sort of frontcourt presence to develop.

Player to watch: Darien Brothers, Guard
  11. St. Bonaventure

Last season's 20 wins and NCAA berth won't be repeated without reigning player of the year, Andrew Nicholson, a first-round pick of the Orlando Magic. However, the Bonnies will not sink into oblivion without him. Demetrius Conger is some versatile muscle from 15-feet and in and should pair with the first big off last year's bench, 7-footer Youssou Ndoye, a player still learning the game, but has good mobility, coordination and length. In the backcourt, Charlon Kloof, was a spark down the stretch, hitting double-figures three times in four games and has the most potential to breakout. Eric Mosley and Matthew Wright disappeared late in the season and need a solid bounceback to help replace the lost frontcourt production.

Player to watch: Demetrius Conger, Guard
  12. Duquesne

Like Dayton, the Dukes were a team that started out promising, but crumbled down the stretch in conference play. Without leading scorer B.J. Monteiro's 15 points, Eric Evans 9.5 points, both lost to graduation or T.J. McConnell, who transferred to Arizona, Duquesne is a depleted squad. Shooting guard Sean Johnson has never been afraid to shoot the ball and will certainly find himself even more trigger-happy with all the more shots to go around.

Player to watch: Sean Johnson, Guard
  13. Fordham

The Rams have just five conference wins in the past four seasons, but we are projecting a few at least this year. It's a bold statement, probably too bold, but Fordham has four returning starters combined with several other A-10 teams losing a bulk of their production; Fordham should take a step forward under Tom Pecora with forward Chris Gaston putting up another expected double-double season as a senior (17 points, 9.9 rebounds last year). He gets very little credit because of his team's record, but Gaston has a high-motor for an undersized power forward going against true 4s and 5s night-in and night-out. If Bryan Smith can come out firing this season from 3-point range, things will be looking up.

Player to watch: Chris Gaston, Forward
  14. Charlotte

Like Temple, this is the 49ers final season in the A-10 before moving onto C-USA, but with just 13 wins last season, how much will Charlotte be missed. Power forward Chris Braswell has vastly underachieved in his three seasons to date, quietly accumulating 16 points per game last season with 7.5 rebounds; he needs more production and more playing time this year (29 minutes per game in 2011-12). It's not great news that the starting backcourt of DeMario Mayfield and Jamar Briscoe are back- both are poor-shooting guards who shoot too often- not a great combination. Surely, Braswell would be more threatening if he had some sort of perimeter attack to help keep defenses honest.

Player to watch: Chris Braswell, Forward
  15. George Washington

GW started ten different players last season and wound up with 10 wins on the season. The Colonials certainly need more consistency and will find it difficult without leading scorer Tony Taylor in the lineup. The two players that will help GW improve this season will be the frontcourt duo of Lasan Kromah and David Pellom- the two combined for 21.5 points and 11 rebounds and will surely be counted on for even more this year.

Player to watch: Lasan Kromah, Guard
  15. Rhode Island

Replacing coach Jim Baron also means replacing a leading scorer in Billy Baron who left the program to transfer out- not what the Rams needed to get their program back on track. Coach Baron suspended talented senior Jamal Wilson for the year in 2011-12 (averaged 16.5 points through 12 games) and Orion Outerbridge and his 12.6 points are also gone due to graduation. Rhode Island is building from the frontcourt out it seems- 6'7" Nikola Malesevic, 6'9' Jonathan Holton are the two double-digit scorers remaining. While Malesevic only averaged 3 rebounds a game, Holton averaged better than that on the offensive end alone where he had 3.5 offensive boards a game, 8.1 total. However, his impact was limited due to the 8 times he fouled out as a freshman.

Player to watch: Jonathan Holton, Forward