Teams: Charlotte, Dayton, Duquesne, Fordham, George Washington, La Salle, UMass, Rhode Island, Richmond, St. Joe's, Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure, Temple, Xavier
Conference Contenders: Xavier, Temple
2010-11 Postseason Players:
NCAA: Xavier (6 seed, lost in second round to Marquette); Temple (7 seed, lost in third round to San Diego State); Richmond (12 seed, lost to Kansas in the Sweet 16)
NIT: Dayton (3 seed, lost in the first round to College of Charleston)
CBI: Rhode Island (lost in the quarterfinals to UCF); St. Bonaventure (lost in the first round to UCF); Duquesne (lost in the quarterfinals to Oregon)
1. As the league favorite, Xavier looks to extend their NCAA tournament streak to seven consecutive years and 11th in 12 seasons. They nearly marched through the A-10 regular season unscathed, but when it came to the A-10 postseason and ensuing NCAA Tournament, the Musketeers went 0-2, losing in their first game each time. Chris Mack returns the 2010-11 player of the year, do-it-all point guard Tu Holloway for a repeat and will count on key role players and impact first-year players to take another regular-season league title.
2. Their biggest competitor will be Fran Dunphy's Temple Owls. Even without the program's all-time leading rebounder Lavoy Allen, the Owls return guards Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore and get big man Michael Eric back at center. The key to this year's team is health; they were just seconds away from a trip to the Sweet 16, but fell short on time and depth as Eric missed 10 games and part of the offseason to a fractured knee and breakout wing Scootie Randall to a broken foot.
3. It's been years since George Washington was relevant in the A-10, winning 72 games from 2005-2007 and only 52 games in the four years since. However, the Colonials had their first winning season last year and return all five starters to build on the success, including 15 point and 4.5 assists per game performer Tony Taylor at the point. Taylor, along with forward Dwayne Smith, should be amongst the better players in the conference, and GW could be the surprise team in the conference this seasonů
4. The Dukes 16-5, including 8-0 start to the A-10 was offset by eight losses in their final 11 games, including in the first round of the A-10 tournament and in the second round of the College Basketball Invitational. Three teams helps improved a cake-walk of a non-conference schedule and kept Duquesne from truly preparing for the A-10 regular-season slate. Now, Damian Saunders, the two-time A-10 defensive player of the year and second-team all-conference wing Bill Clark have graduated, handing the team to A-10 rookie of the year, point guard TJ McConnell.
5. After leading Dayton to a respectable force in the A-10, Brian Gregory left the program for Georgia Tech, but the Flyers hope new head coach, Archie Miller, has some of his brother's coaching and recruiting genes, Sean, the head coach at Arizona. Miller will not coach athletically-gifted forward Chris Wright who has graduated or point guard Juwan Staten who has transferred out. A bulk of the scoring and play-making will be pushed upon senior guard Chris Johnson, but Dayton will find it difficult to get to a fifth straight 22+ win season.
6. For the second consecutive season, Saint Louis is on breakthrough watch; last season, they were taken off at the last minute due to the losses of Willie Reed (12.4 points, 7.9 rebounds in 2009-10) and Kwamain Mitchell (15.9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists). Reed is still gone from the program, but guard Kwamain Mitchell is back to join a solid core of sophomore guards Mike McCall and Jordair Jett; the concern here is that all three are undersized. Expect big things from Rob Loe, the New Zealand-native sophomore center who was a standout on the international circuit before averaging 7 points and 3.5 rebounds in his first year in the programů
7. St. Bonaventure's rise back to prominence relies upon the best NBA-talent in the A-10, power forward Andrew Nicholson. Nicholson is a long, rangy athlete who can rebound and knock down shots from the perimeter. He led the conference in scoring last season with 20.8 points per game and is the second leading-returning rebounder as well at 7.3 boards. Junior guard Michael Davenport is the team's other scoring threat, playing mostly off of the double-teams and pressure facing Nicholson, but nonetheless, can score inside and out. Coach Mark Schmidt needs to replace point guard Ogo Adegboye, who played the eighth highest percentage of his teams' minutes in the NCAA last season.
8. The woes continued last season for St. Joe's for a second consecutive 11-win season behind a poor offense and an even more dismal defense; they rarely forced turnovers on D and were outrebounded nearly every game. But Phil Martelli does have some future building blocks with his current roster- starting guards Carl Jones and Langston Galloway are back after combining for 30 points and 6.5 assists per game a year ago. And center CJ Aiken, a skinny, but intimating shot blocker (3.5 per game) is back in the middle.
8. To some, it was a surprising run to the Sweet 16 for the Spiders, but Richmond had upset potential from the start with their ability to take care of the ball (11th in the country), knock down shots from the perimeter (16th) as well as defend the arc (17th). Chris Mooney will have a rebuilding project on his hands as he graduated four starters, including 2,000 point career scoring Kevin Anderson and 1,400 point forward Justin Harper.
9. Charlotte took a major step backwards last season, led by the dismissal of leading scorer Shamari Spears just five games into the season and a step back by forward Chris Braswell. The 49ers guards are capable of filling the stat-sheet, but unreliable shooting the ball as Derrio Green shot just 33.4 percent from the field and Jamar Briscoe was not much better at 39.5 percent from the field; the combination of the two accounting for a majority of the offense was a huge reason why Charlotte ended up 10-20 and shot an effective field-goal mark of 47.6
10. Rhode Island has quietly put together four straight 20-win seasons, but will face a huge drop-off this year with four starters to replace, including second-team All-A-10 Delroy James, the clear go-to scorer on this Rams team, but also Marquis Jones, an all-defensive team selection.
11. UMass will struggle to stay afloat this season- one of the worst offensive teams in all of college basketball and the Minute Men lose the conference's second-highest scorer in Anthony Gurley. It's time for Terrell Vinson, a former Top-100 recruit to step up; Vinson has been nothing short of a disappointment, averaging 8 points and 5 rebounds a game.
12. LaSalle seemed to have a bright future in the A-10 this season with versatile big man Aaric Murray and sophomore Tyreek Duren, but the growth has been stunted with the transfer of Murray to West Virginia and now Dr. John Giannini is faced with replacing its top three scorers from last season 15-18 team. With the losses of Murray, Jerrell Williams and Ruben Guillandeaux, Giannini must find an entirely new frontcourt and with two two-star recruits, he cannot expect immediate dividends in this area.
13. Is this the year Fordham pulls out of the A-10 cellar? Not likely, but Tom Pecora is wishfully thinking. The Rams were one of the worst shooting teams in the nation from inside the arc, behind it and from the foul line and defensively, they were one of the worst teams in the nation in forcing turnovers. Forward Chris Gaston has relatively little help as he averaged a double-double for the second consecutive season, but Gaston could still improve from the foul line (51.7 percent) and from the perimeter (2-for-24 career).
Top 5 NBA Prospects:
Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure: Late 1st - early 2nd round
The top scorer in the conference a year ago, Nicholson has NBA potential if he can refine his inside/outside game and add some muscle to his frame. If the Bonnies want to rise up the A-10 ranks, they need continue to pound the ball into Nicholson in the low and high post and give him room to operate. Defenders struggled to contain Nicholson last season where he drew nearly 7 fouls per 40 minutes, getting to the foul line 230+ times and connecting on 71 percent of those attempts.
Tu Holloway, Xavier: 2nd round
One of the smaller players in the country, generously listed at 6-foot, Holloway packs a lot of game in his frame. Playing nearly 95 percent of Xavier's minutes last season, the senior guard finished last season ranked second in the conference in scoring (19.7 points) and assists (5.4) and was third amongst all guards in rebounding in the A-10 (5.0). Holloway excelled at the foul line where he connected on 87 percent of his 270 free-throw attempts, getting and connecting from the line at one of the highest rates in the country.
Ramone Moore, Temple: 2nd round - undrafted
The Owls return four starters, including wing Ramone Moore, Temple's leading scorer at 15.2 point per game in 2010-11. But Moore also contributes on the glass, where he will be asked to take on a larger role with an undersized frontcourt that lacks depth, but also point guard in support of starter Juan Fernandez. Moore has a slender frame, but the smooth athleticism and skills of a future-NBA guard.
Chris Johnson, Dayton: Late 2nd round - undrafted
As one of the most athletically-gifted players not just in the conference, but in the country, Johnson will be the go-to scorer for a Dayton team that lost its leading scorer and rebounder, but its starting point guard as well. Johnson will be forced to create more for himself, but as a result, his offensive scoring opportunities will increase as he is given the "green light" once he crosses halfcourt.?
Chris Gaston, Fordham: Undrafted
Gaston is one of the A-10's best kept secrets due to the fact that he plays on the league's worst team. He was the only player in the A-10 last season to average a double-double (15.9 points, 11.3 rebounds) and has done so two years running now. Due to the lack of talent surrounding him, Gaston will get plenty of opportunities to score the ball down low and on the wing, and he will continue to be a force on the glass.
New Places (key losses to teams by way of, transfer or early-entry to the NBA):
Aaric Murray, La Salle: Transferred to West Virginia
Akeem Richmond, Rhode Island: Transferred to ECU
Juwan Staten, Dayton: Transferred to Penn State
New Faces (key additions to teams by way of transfer or incoming freshman):
Will Cummings, Temple: The Florida point guard joins a crowded Owls' backcourt, but he should get some time in Fran Dunphy's rotation due to his athleticism and ability to play at different speeds. He will serve as a nice change-of-pace point guard to get out in transition and push the tempo a bit more than starter Juan Fernandez.
Ramon Galloway, La Salle: The South Carolina transfer was granted immediate eligibility for the Explorers who could really use his scoring (10.7 points as a sophomore). He shot just 35.8 percent last season, including 33.1 percent from behind the arc, but is a dangerous threat in the A-10.
Jalen Reynolds, Xavier: Reynolds is a young, wiry power forward on the rise and the Musketeers might have a gotten a real steal here. He is athletic and versatile enough to score from the mid-range, and does not shy away from contact hitting the glass. He should be in Chris Mack's rotation with the graduation of Jamel McLean at the 4.
Travis Taylor, Xavier: Xavier's depth in the frontcourt is helped with the addition of this Monmouth standout. The 6'8" forward averaged 18 points and 7.5 rebounds as a sophomore, including 19 and 8 against Seton Hall.
Dezmine Wells, Xavier: The top recruit in the conference by almost every major high school scouting service, at 6'5", 220 pounds, Wells is a well-built wing, ready to make an immediate impact for a Xavier team with some spots to fill in the starting lineup. He is an aggressive scorer with the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, but is more of a threat driving the lane and getting to the foul line.
Chris Wilson, St. Joe's: Wilson will back up the likes of Carl Jones and Langston Galloway, the Hawks starting guards, but he is more of a floor general than both of those returnees. He has a high-motor, but still quite raw offensively.
Ten Non-Conference Games To Watch:
George Washington at Cal (CBE Classic) - November 13