Coaches and media members around the league made their picks for where they think the 14 men’s basketball teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference will finish, but these are ours. Top to bottom, it looks like a strong year for the league that only sent three teams to the NCAA tournament last season. Teams at the top should still take some losses, and some teams near the bottom could make noise too.
1. Rhode Island
There’s talent everywhere on this team. Dan Hurley’s men were phenomenal defensively last season, yet the backcourt of E.C. Matthews and Jared Terrell gives the Rams more than enough scoring power to do damage. Hassan Martin is probably the league’s best defender around the rim which makes everyone else on this team better. Depth is an issue for several of the league’s top teams, but not for this one.
After Bob McKillop’s team was vastly underrated by everyone (myself included) at the beginning of last season, Davidson should be considered good until they prove otherwise. The loss of Tyler Kalinoski hurts, but the high-scoring platoon system and McKillop’s experience will keep them at the top. Jack Gibbs will spell Kalinoski’s point production gap and Peyton Aldridge should help Jordan Barham in a bigger way up front this season.
The Will Wade era begins, but don’t expect huge changes for the Rams in the former assistant and Chatanooga head coach’s first season. Losing Briante Weber, Treveon Graham and Tarry Larrier (who transferred to UConn) does hurt: The Rams will no longer be the prohibitive favorite in the league, but they won’t spiral out of the top five. Mo Alie-Cox will take over more games even if it’s Melvin Johnson and JeQuan Lewis putting up the biggest numbers.
The Colonials lack depth but have balance, experience and talent in the starting five. Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh is now eligible and should be a huge step forward up front and will take some pressure off Kevin Larsen. Yuta Watanabe made a splash as a rookie, but he’ll be a true difference maker in his second year now that he’s stronger off the dribble.
Maybe it’s hypocritical to trust Davidson’s respected head coach and track record of success against the odds and not do the same for Dayton, but the Dyshawn Pierre suspension could hang over this team whether he plays or not. If he doesn’t, the Flyers are without last year’s leading scorer and rebounder in addition to size and depth. That seems like too much for Scoochie Smith, Kendall Pollard and Archie Miller to make up for at the same level Dayton has played at the past couple of years. Most rankings have the Flyers higher, but we felt like spicing it up a bit, and we just don’t trust this team. We’ll remind you in March if we’re right, and pretend this never happened if Dayton makes the tournament yet again.
This might be too low for the Spiders. T.J. Cline is good and losing Kendall Anthony doesn’t hurt as much when ShawnDre’ Jones is there to pick up right where he left off. Jones has frustrated GW for the last two years and should be ready to do so to the rest of the league. Cline’s ability to ball with less space around the basket and more attention from defenses will determine how far they go, but last year’s NIT experience should help.
7. Saint Joseph’s
DeAndre Bembry does everything for the Hawks, but he’ll need a little help to turn stats into wins. He was one of the best players in the conference last year, but Saint Joe’s still only won 13 games. Rookie Lamarr Kimble has upside at point guard.
Micah Mason and Derrick Coulter will have the Dukes scoring lots of points, as usual, in their senior year. But the defense probably won’t be much better than in years past. Butler transfer and former Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year Rene Castro will be eligible, though, and the squad will likely continue to play well at home.
9. St. Bonaventure
The Bonnies were quietly good in A-10 play last season and are well-coached by Mark Schmidt. Marcus Posley will score and spread the floor for Dion Wright. The X-factor is the number of games St. Bonaventure wins by forfeit when opponents buses get trapped in snowbanks.
10. La Salle
Jordan Price is fantastic, but also pretty much the only player on this team who scores with ease. The Explorers are good defensively, though, and 6-foot-10-inch Tony Washington eats up space in the paint.
The personnel is underwhelming for the Minutemen, who are recovering from the loss of Cady Lalanne, Maxie Esho and Derrick Gordon. Ouch. Derek Kellogg should keep the rebuild on track and the up-tempo style will be fun to watch, but UMass is at least a year away from making actual waves.
12. Saint Louis
The Billikens scored fewer than 60 points per game last season. That should improve, but not enough to give Saint Louis a huge boost. A very young team is a little older, but the league is deeper with few easy outs this year.
13. George Mason
The bottom two teams in the league have new coaches in charge. Dave Paulsen comes in by way of Bucknell and has his work cut out for him. He does have the luxury of a true center to work with in Shevon Thompson.
Jeff Neubauer, who last coached at Eastern Kentucky, comes in to try to fix the perennially last-place Rams at a tough time given the strength at the bottom of the league this year. He’ll need more time to get Fordham back on track.`