Atlantic 10 Basketball: A Conference Rebuilding

Atlantic 10 basketball has lost a couple of key programs, with Butler gone to the Big East and Temple to the American Athletic. Each team made the 2013 NCAA Tournament, part of a group of five from the Atlantic 10. How does the league look this year, as conference play gets set to begin on Tuesday. Let’s take a look at the 13 remaining A-10 members and what they’ve done in non-conference play…

UMass (ranked #19): The Minutemen are the only Atlantic 10 team ranked in the Top 25, with wins over New Mexico and BYU to their credit. UMass point guard Chaz Williams is arguably the best player in this league. He averages 16 points, 7 assists and hits over 40 percent from behind the arc. Williams gets inside support from Cady Lalanne, averaging 14 points/10 rebounds, and UMass has good size across, with Sampson Carter, Raphiael Putney and Maxie Esho all going 6’8” or 6’9” and helping out on the boards.

St. Louis (receiving Top 25 votes): St. Louis’ only two losses are to Wisconsin and Wichita State. The Billikens have a balanced lineup, with Jordair Jett and Mike McCall in the backcourt, Rob Loe manning the low post and Dwayne Evans the small forward who leads the way with 16 ppg. Austin McBroom is a three-point specialist giving this team an added offensive dimension.

George Washington (receiving Top 25 votes): It’s been an up-and-down run for the Colonials thus far. They have wins over Creighton, Miami and Maryland, while losing to Marquette and Kansas State. The common theme though is, that GW is testing itself in non-league play. Maurice Creek is a scorer who can also hit the three-ball and Kethan Savage chips in 14 ppg in the backcourt. Isaiah Armwood can score and rebound down low, and there’s good depth on the interior.

Virginia Commonwealth (12-3): The Rams were an NCAA Tournament team a year ago, and could get back to that level, but that seem off a bit early on. There’s a loss to Northern Iowa, and the best win is fairly pedestrian over Virginia. Juvonte Reddic needs help rebounding down low, and Treveon Graham needs help offensively. I can see it coming together for VCU, but they need to kick it up a notch now that league play is starting.

The four teams above look a cut above the rest of the Atlantic 10. These next four have a reasonable hope of breaking into that group…

St. Bonaventure (10-4): This is a big team that goes to the boards well. The scoring comes from the backcourt, with Matthew Wright and Charloon Kloof. The key weakness is a lack of three-point shooting. The talent looks to be there, but when you lose games to Siena, Louisiana Tech and Buffalo, it’s hard to get too confident.

Dayton (12-3): The Flyers have the early resume, having knocked off Gonzaga and Cal, and losses to Baylor and USC not looking all that bad. Jordan Sibert is lights-out from trey range and he leads a balanced scoring lineup. Dayton’s not very big though, and the grind of conference play could take its toll.

St. Joseph (9-4): Langston Galloway is one of the Atlantic 10’s really dynamic players, and the 6’2” senior averages 17 points/5 rebounds and knocks down 44 percent from behind the arc. Ronald Roberts gives him a foil underneath, averaging 15/8, and Halil Kanacevic is a good all-around scorer, rebounder and passer. Two of the losses are quality, to Creighton and Villanova, and even the losses to LSU and Temple aren’t horrific. But eventually the conversation around St. Joe’s needs to change to who they’ve beaten.

Richmond (10-5): Cedrick Langston is an exciting point guard that scores 19 ppg and dishes five assists a game. Richmond is similar to Dayton in that they have some nice scoring balance, while lacking size. The Spiders aren’t quite as successful in translating this to wins though, with losses to Minnesota and Wake Forest, and also dumping a game to Ohio.

And we conclude our review of Atlantic 10 basketball with five teams who look to be in serious trouble…

Duquesne (7-5): The Dukes have lost to all the nearby teams, from Pitt and West Virginia to Penn State to Robert Morris. Ovie Soko averages 18 points/9 rebounds, but he needs some help in the form of three-point shooting if Duquesne is going to compete.

LaSalle (7-6): Tyrone Garland and Jerrell Wright are a credible inside-out combo for this NCAA Tournament team of a year ago, and Tyreek Duren runs the show well. But the magic from last season isn’t there.

Fordham (7-6): There might be some promise in this long-suffering program. Jon Severe, a 6’3” freshman guard is averaging 21 ppg, and this is a pretty decent rebounding team. Senior leader Branden Frazier does everything, with a 19/6/5 per-game average. I’m not sure why the Rams aren’t winning more, but I’d be surprised if they don’t pick up the pace and at least play a little spoiler in league play.

Rhode Island (9-6): There’s just no three-point shooting here, and while Xavier Munford (16 ppg) is a good guard, an undersized team isn’t going to win without a lot of bombing away from the perimeter.

George Mason (7-7): An interesting backcourt with Bryan Allen and Sherrod Wright being pretty decent senior guards and Patrick Holloway a good three-point specialist. The lack of size is a big problem though, and the won-loss record speaks for itself.