Dayton, Xavier, Temple
These three teams are yet again expected to be at the top of the A10. Yes, Dayton finished 8-8 in conference last year. However, their per possession numbers were excellent. Yes, Dayton didn’t make the NCAA Tournament last year. However, they won the NIT in rather convincing fashion beating Illinois St., Cincinnati, Illinois, Mississippi, and UNC.
Xavier loses the most out of the trio. Star players Jordan Crawford and Jason Love are both gone. Dayton also has some graduation to recover from, but not players as important as Crawford and Love. Temple is losing Ryan Brooks and Luis Guzman, but retain Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez.
A couple top recruits will be making the rich richer. Xavier reeled in a top 50 recruit in Justin Martin. For Dayton, top 100 recruit Juwan Staten should make an impact. Aaron Brown may be Temple’s top recruit and will be a nice role player.
The A10 title will most likely come down to the wire this year. All three of the teams will be hard to knock off at home. Temple has some difficulties on offense, Xavier has the tough task of replacing their two best players, and Dayton may lack some depth with the graduation of five seniors. However, with Chris Wright, Chris Johnson, and a solid defense I would have to give a very slight edge to the Flyers.
The Next Best Things
Richmond, Rhode Island, St. Louis, Charlotte
Richmond overachieved to a 13-3 conference record last season. They were solid on defense, but only 67th in offensive efficiency. Kevin Anderson is obviously the man for the Spiders, but David Gonzalez and Ryan Butler are both big losses. I expect Richmond to stay pretty steady in efficiency from last year, but get worse results in conference play.
Rhode Island could light it up on offense, but was just 110th in defensive efficiency. URI faces a tough task in replacing their three highest usage players. However, every single significant player on their roster had an ORtg over 100. If a few of their extremely efficient role players can keep their efficiency and step up their involvement, Rhode Island will remain in the upper half of the A10.
Charlotte and St. Louis are in fairly similar situations this season. Both were so-so last year, but have a lot coming back. One difference between the two is balance between offense and defense. Charlotte is fairly balanced on both sides of the ball. St. Louis, however, was great on defense and brutal on offense. Defense alone will keep St. Louis in a lot of games. The offensive development of players outside of Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed will be crucial for the Billikens.
The Potentially Decent
George Washington, St. Bonaventure, Duquesne, UMass, St. Joe’s
St. Bonaventure’s is an intriguing team due to Andrew Nicholson. Nicholson was used on the most possessions for his team and had the best ORtg. He will certainly need help this season. Jonathan Hall and Chris Matthews are both unfortunate losses. Nicholson’s supporting cast is questionable, but if a couple guys can step up the Bonnies will be interesting this season.
Duquesne returns just about everyone from last season, but likely doesn’t have the talent to be anything but decent. 6’7″ Damian Saunders is an interesting player. Saunders was used on nearly a quarter of Duquesne’s possesions with an ORtg of 98.9. Saunders was great inside the arc, but brutal from outside. The rising senior shot just 19% from three, but still attempted 95 of them.
George Washington and UMass both have something in common: they lost their most important players (Damian Hollis and Ricky Harris) but have just about everyone else back. Both teams have a bunch of question marks, but could put together nice seasons. UMass also adds talented recruits Jesse Morgan and Maxie Esho.
Taking a look at St. Joe’s season and players returning, they probably don’t belong in this tier. However, Phil Martelli is bringing in a nice recruiting class this season. Incoming freshman are tough to get a feel for, but expect C.J. Aiken, Daryus Quarles and Langston Galloway to at least be given the opportunities to make impacts right away.
The Probably Bad
La Salle and Fordham
La Salle is a 4-12 conference team losing their go-to guy and an extremely efficient role player. It will be tough for the Explorers to improve offensively. Worse yet, La Salle struggled most on defense last year.
It’s hard to expect much from a team who didn’t win a conference game last season. There most likely won’t be much noise made from Fordham again this season.
Player of the Year: Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure
Let’s be serious, Nicholson isn’t going to get the attention going into the season that will be given to Lavoy Allen, Kevin Anderson, Terrell Holloway, and Chris Wright. We picked Nicholson for two reasons. First, we like to stray from the mainstream pass when possible. Second, Nicholson is really, really good. The big man shot 56.4% from the floor, blocked shots, took care of the ball, and drew fouls extremely well in his sophomore season. The result was an ORtg 112.5 on 24.2 %Poss. Nicholson will be a force in the paint for the Bonnies.
Best of the Rest:
1) Terrell Holloway, Xavier
2) Lavoy Allen, Temple
3) Shamari Spears, Charlotte
4) Kevin Anderson, Richmond
5) Chris Wright/Johnson, Dayton
Breakout Player: Ramone Moore, Temple
Moore had a successful rookie campaign last year in somewhat limited minutes. Moore shot a scorching 56% from two. He took care of the ball, drew fouls, and rebounded fairly well for his size. The one area with plenty of room for improvement in Moore’s game is shooting from deep. Moore was just 5-40 last year from three. Moore was actually used on a team best 25.6% of possessions when in the game for the Owls. Moore will be ready to slide into a starting job this year. Expect big things from him.
Best of the Rest:
1) Akeem Richmond, Rhode Island (44.8 %Min, 117.5 ORtg, 19.7 %Poss)
2) Jamel McLean, Xavier (59.2 %Min, 113.1 ORtg, 18.9 %Poss)
3) Will Martell, Rhode Island (57.4 %Min, 109.4 ORtg, 16.2 %Poss)
4) Gokhan Sirin, Charlotte (10.6 %Min, 103.3 ORtg, 22.4%Poss)