St. Joseph’s Hawks
Last season: 23-7, 12-4 A-10
No. 18 (ESPN/USA Today) St. Joseph’s looks like the strongest team in the Atlantic 10. The Hawks return almost every player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team; most notably, preseason All-American senior Jameer Nelson, who entered and then withdrew from the NBA Draft this past June. The point guard averaged 19.7 points per game last year and was also selected for the A-10’s All-Defensive Team. Add senior Tyrl Barley and sharpshooters Delonte West and Pat Carroll and this Hawks team is very dangerous, both behind the arc and slashing to the hoop.
Last season: 18-16, 10-6 A-10
Hall of Fame coach John Chaney returns for his 22nd season to lead the Owls, who should finish just above the middle of the pack in the East. With the departure of Alex Wesby, the scoring and leadership burden for the Owls now falls on senior guard David Hawkins, who averaged a conference-leading 2.5 steals per game last season. The Owls return four starters, and with guard Maurice Collins running the offense, there is no reason why the Owls can’t lead the nation again in fewest turnovers per game.
Rhode Island Rams
Last season: 20-11, 10-6 A-10
Last year’s A-10 Coach of the Year Jim Baron received several job offers during the offseason but opted to stay with the Rams. Now, Baron will look to guard Brian Woodward to help continue last year’s turnaround after losing two contributing starters in Lazare Adingono and Howard Smith. URI’s backcourt is talented – juniors Dustin Hellenga and Dawan Robinson will be a force to reckon with. But with Jon Clark and Marcel Momplaisir manning the paint, no one will be scared to penetrate against the Rams.
Last season: 12-18, 6-10 A-10
The Minutemen are coming off their worst season since former head coach John Calipari’s first year in 1988-89 and will have to deal with two senior losses in forward Jackie Rogers and center Micah Brand. But head coach Steve Lappas retains point guard Anthony Anderson, who was second on the team in points (11.8) and rebounds (4.3) as a junior last year. He will have to be a leader this season for the team to be successful.
Last season: 7-22, 1-15 A-10
New head coach Derek Whittenberg brings hope to the A-10’s perennial doormat. A year removed from taking Wagner College to its first-ever NCAA Tournament, Whittenberg must try to turn around a team that had four victories last year and lost two starters, including 6-foot-11-inch, 350-pound Glenn Batemon, who departed with eligibility remaining. This team is in trouble in the frontcourt with Batemon gone but has a few bright spots on the roster, including senior forward Michael Haynes, who led the team with 15.1 points and eight rebounds per game last year.
St. Bonaventure Bonnies
Last season: 7-22, 1-15 A-10
Talk about a mess. The Bonnies are coming off the year from hell off the court and could be just as much of an embarrassment on the court this year. The Bonnies have an inexperienced new coach and only nine scholarship players. The lone bright spot is senior Marques Green, arguably one of the most explosive and entertaining players in the league. He led the A-10 in scoring (21.3 ppg), assists (8.0), free throw shooting (.879)
Last season: 26-6, 15-1 A-10
Even after losing David West to the Charlotte Hornets, Xavier should still be a solid team this year. West was one of the nation’s best players, but the Musketeers still have preseason All-American Romain Sato to run the team. Senior Anthony Myles will try to become the inside presence to complement Sato. But Xavier’s strength will definitely be in the backcourt, where sophomore Dedrick Finn must continue his improvement and senior Lionel Chalmers should be recovered from a foot injury that kept him out of the beginning of last season.
Last season: 25-6, 14-2 A-10
A year removed from one of Dayton’s finest seasons in program history, the Flyers look frighteningly similar to last year, minus one ingredient – head coach Oliver Purnell. Purnell is now at Clemson, and rookie coach Brian Gregory takes over after learning at Michigan State under Tom Izzo. The Flyers have their top seven players returning. Seven-foot senior center Sean Finn has become one of the premier big men in the A-10, blocking 90 shots in the past two years. Senior forward Keith Waleskowski is one of the most prolific rebounders in Dayton history and has a legitimate chance to lead the league in that category. Junior Mark Jones and senior Ramod Marshall are solid, experienced guards. If Gregory can lead this team like Purnell did, Dayton should still be a 20-game winner and make the NCAA Tournament.
Last season: 16-3, 10-6 A-10
Richmond lost eight out of its final 11 games last year, but the Spiders’ defensive intensity makes them likely to bounce back. Senior guard Reggie Brown is healthy and ready to start hoisting up threes, which is a plus for the offensively-challenged Spiders. Richmond will focus primarily on keeping its stifling defense intact, which means A-10 Defensive Player of the Year Tony Dobbins must lead this team. Senior forward Mike Skrocki also has to improve his offensive numbers (11.2 points per game on 31.9 percent shooting) for the Spiders to succeed.
George Washington Colonials
Last season: 12-17, 5-11 A-10
Last season: 13-16, 6-10 A-10
The rivalrybetween La Salle and GW will continue this year. GW Head Coach Karl Hobbs and Explorers head coach Billy Hahn are both in their third year and both bring a ton of young talent to the table. But this could be the year one of the teams separates itself from the other. Last year’s A-10 Rookie of the Year Gary Neal will lead a La Salle team that also features sophomore forward Steven Smith and sophomore point guard Jermaine Thomas, who ran the offense with a team-high 4.3 assists per game last year. Around these three anchors, La Salle should improve.
Last season: 10-20, 4-12 A-10
While the Dukes do have four starters returning this upcoming season, they will have to cope with the loss of A-10 Sixth Man of the Year Kevin Forney. Also missing from this squad is six-foot-10-inch center Simplice Njoya (7.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg), who transferred to the University of Memphis. The Dukes will rely heavily on seniors Ron Dokes, Jimmy Trico and Elijah Palmer but might have trouble improving on last year’s 10 wins, which was their highest total since 1995.