A-10 Preview: Men’s basketball begins conference play as league looks to get rolling

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

With the starting five healthy, the men's basketball team enters the season with high expectations. The team will look for continued success after making the NCAA tournament last year for the first time since 2007.

For a league coming off a six-bid year, the Atlantic 10 saw some setbacks during the non-conference season.

Some of those setbacks have come in the form of GW losses, but the Colonials entered league play after some of their strongest performances of the season at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii and got their first conference win against Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.

For the Colonials and for the A-10 as a whole, there are still unanswered questions as the league begins its expanded 18-game schedule, up from 16 games in the regular season conference schedule last year, when the Colonials went 11-5. Here’s what to expect from each team GW will face in conference play:

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor
Then-sophomore Kethan Savage goes up for a dunk in GW’s upset win over VCU last season.

VCU

Non-conference record: 10-3

The Rams were ranked as high as No. 14 in November but fell out of the AP Top 25 the first week of December following losses to Villanova and Old Dominion. But since then, VCU has been playing some of its best basketball, knocking off No. 23 Northern Iowa in double overtime to spark a five-game winning streak leading up to league play.

Shaka Smart’s squad is, as always, predicated on the “havoc” defense and is tops in the league in steals (10.1 per game) and turnover margin (+6.92 per game). Treveon Graham is tallying 16.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game alongside Briante Weber’s 4.8 assists and 3.9 steals. Despite some struggles, this team is still the cream of the crop in the A-10.

Schedule: GW @ VCU 1/27/15, VCU @ GW 2/14/15

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor
Forward Kevin Larsen scored 22 points against VCU last season.

Davidson

Non-conference record: 9-2

The surprise of the conference, the Wildcats have one of the league’s best non-conference records in their first year in the A-10. Still, the scheduling was a bit cushy for 26th-year head coach Bob McKillop. The Wildcats have a pair of double-digit losses to ranked teams in UNC and Virginia. The team’s best win was over Charlotte.

But the group shoots lights out. Davidson will try to maintain its winning ways with the league’s best offense (86.3 points per game), but the conference season could be a rude awakening for the team led by Tyler Kalinoski’s 16.5 points (including more than three 3-pointers) per game and Jack Gibbs’ 16.1.

Schedule: Davidson @ GW 2/18/15, GW @ Davidson 2/28/15

Dayton

Non-conference record: 10-2

Last year’s elite eight sweethearts have fallen on harder times, losing starting center Devon Scott and backup Jalen Robinson, the only Flyers above 6-foot-6. The pair was dismissed from the program in December after an alleged dorm room theft.

Still, the Flyers closed the non-conference season showing their typical pluck by winning every game – topping Boston University, Georgia Tech and Ole Miss – since the two bigs were dismissed. Leading scorer Jordan Sibert is averaging 15.7 points per game for the Flyers, who are giving up less than 60 points per game.

Schedule: Dayton @ GW 2/06/15

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor
Then-sophomore Kethan Savage drives past a Rhode Island defender last season.

Rhode Island

Non-conference record: 8-3

Danny Hurley’s Rams made headlines early in the season with an upset over then-No. 21 Nebraska, but losses to Georgia Tech and Providence quelled some of the hype.

The seasoned roster boasts the league’s top scoring defense, holding opponents to 56.9 points per game – making Rhode Island the only team in the league that bests GW in the category. Sophomore E.C. Matthews is following up a stellar freshman campaign by averaging 17.2 points per game.

Schedule: GW @ Rhode Island 1/31/15

St. Bonaventure

Non-conference record: 7-4

The Bonnies enter conference play on a two-game losing streak, after dropping games to UMD-Eastern Shore and Delaware. Seven-footer Youssou Ndoye is leading the A-10 with 11.4 rebounds per game, helping the team rank second off the glass in the league with 39.3 rebounds per game and score 71.5 points per game through the non-conference season, while Marcus Posley adds scoring with 17.7 points per game.

Schedule: St. Bonaventure @ GW 2/25/15

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor
Then-sophomore Joe McDonald drives past a La Salle defender last season.

La Salle

Non-conference record: 8-5

The good news for the Explorers is they have the A-10’s leading scorer in Jordan Price, who is averaging 18.7 points per game so far. The bad news is Price accounts for nearly 30 percent of their scoring, and La Salle’s struggles shooting the ball have the team near the bottom of the league in scoring at 65.5 points per game.

La Salle has been streaky, winning its first four games and then losing the following four, but has stabilized heading into conference play. The Explorers have won four of five, with the only loss since Dec. 6 coming in overtime against American.

Schedule: GW @ La Salle 1/10/15

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor
Then-sophomore Joe McDonald executes a reverse layup against Richmond last season.

Richmond

Non-conference record: 7-6

The Spiders shoot the ball well, making more than 45 percent of their shots from the field, but thanks to the worst rebounding numbers in the league at just 28.5 rebounds per game, they have struggled to find any consistency and are scoring only 61.4 points per game.

Richmond is a promising team on paper and was picked fifth in the conference in the preseason coaches poll, and league play could be a chance for the Spiders to show that potential more clearly than during the non-conference season. The team nearly kept up with No. 23 Northern Iowa earlier in the season, losing by just five points.

Schedule: Richmond @ GW 1/15/15, GW @ Richmond 2/21/15

Saint Louis

Non-conference record: 8-5

The A-10’s youngest squad is a far cry from last season’s regular season champs. The toddler-esque lineup the Billikens field struggles offensively, managing an anemic 61.2 points and 30.1 rebounds per game.

Villanova transfer Achraf Yacoubou adds some experience and 9.8 points per game to complement 11.2 from Austin McBroom, but the team isn’t what it was after losing five senior starters at the end of last season. And the Billikens are missing any notable wins heading into league play.

Schedule: Saint Louis @ GW 1/06/15

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Desiree Halpern | Contributing Photo Editor.
Junior Kethan Savage drives between defenders in GW’s 64-60 win over Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.

Saint Joseph’s

Non-conference record: 6-5

GW’s A-10 opener opponents have some strength inside but have limited depth after losing three starters from the squad that won the A-10 Championship and put up a fight against UConn in the NCAA Tournament last March.

The team will have to get the fast break going to have any more success against A-10 opponents as the Hawks have the worst shooting percentage in the league, making just 40.4 percent of their shots. Sophomore forward DeAndre’ Bembry is scoring 15.4 points and and adding 6.8 rebounds per game to go with Isaiah Miles’ 11.5 points.

Schedule: GW @ Saint Joseph’s 1/03/15

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Members of the men’s water polo team look on during GW’s game at the Smith Center against UMass last season.

Massachusetts

Non-conference record: 7-6

The Minutemen have the third-best offense in the A-10, scoring 74.7 points per game, but allow opponents the most points of any team in the league at 74.2 per game. Though UMass got out to a 5-1 start, they enter the conference season after dropping five of the last seven.

UMass has made 259 free throws so far, the most in the league by a margin of 40. Maxie Esho and Cady Lalanne are a powerful punch in the frontcourt, but this team has underachieved so far.

Schedule: Massachusetts @ GW 3/07/15

Duquesne

Non-conference record: 5-6

Last season’s defensive struggles have continued for the Dukes, who follow only Davidson and UMass within the A-10 in points allowed, giving up 70.4 points per game. Duquesne shares the ball well, averaging a league second-best 15.6 assists per game and a 1.2 assist-to-turnover ratio, led by Jordan Stevens’ 3.2 assists per game.

Schedule: Duquesne @ GW 1/24/15, GW @ Duquesne 2/11/15

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor
Patricio Garino goes up for a layup against George Mason last season.

George Mason

Non-conference record: 5-7

Revolutionary Rivalry points shouldn’t be hard to come by this season, as the Patriots still haven’t gotten their sea legs after joining the A-10 in 2013.

While the record isn’t pretty, the Patriots may not be the same kind of bottom feeders they were doomed to be last season. Three of the team’s losses were by six points or less, including one to Northern Iowa in overtime, and Shevon Thompson is second in the league in rebounding with 11.3 boards to go along with 12.4 points per game.

Schedule: George Mason @ GW 1/17/15, GW @ George Mason 3/04/15

Fordham

Non-conference record: 5-6

The Rams were predicted to finish last in the conference in the preseason coaches poll, and even the return of dynamic sophomore Jon Severe from a seven-game leave of absence doesn’t give this team much to exceed expectations. The Rams do have the league’s best rebounding margin (+7.5) and block the most shots (4.7 per game), but – even with Severe – this is essentially the same team as last year.

Schedule: GW @ Fordham 1/22/15

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