2009-10 Conference Primers: #9 – Atlantic 10Posted by nvr1983 on October 29th, 2009
Joseph Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10.
Predicted Order of Finish:
- Dayton (14-2)
- Richmond (12-4)
- Xavier (11-5)
- La Salle (11-5)
- Duquesne (10-6)
- Charlotte (9-7)
- Temple (9-7)
- Massachusetts (8-8)
- Rhode Island (7-9)
- George Washington (6-10)
- St. Bonaventure (5-11)
- St. Louis (4-12)
- St. Joseph’s (4-12)
- Fordham (2-14)
- Kevin Anderson (G), Richmond (36.8 MPG, 16.6 PPG, 2.8 APG)
- Rodney Green (G), La Salle (35.3 MPG, 17.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.4 APG)
- Levoy Allen (F), Temple (31.3 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.5 BPG)
- Chris Wright (F), Dayton (26.1 MPG, 13.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG)
- Damian Saunders (F), Duquesne (34.6 MPG, 13.1 PPG, 7.6 rpg, 2.4 BPG)
- 6th Man: Kenny Frease, Xavier (14.6 MPG, 5.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG)
Impact Newcomer/All-Conference Rookie Team:
- Carl Jones (G), St. Joseph’s
- Christian Salecich (G), St. Louis
- Terrell Vinson (F), Massachusetts
- Chris Braswell (F), Charlotte
- Aaric Murray (C), La Salle – Rookie of the Year
What You Need to Know. Over the past two seasons the A10 has earned 6 NCAA bids, sending four different teams to the D1 post-season party of 64 65. That is more teams over the same period than any other non-BCS conference. Those teams garnered a higher winning percentage (6-6 or 50%) than the SEC (5-9 or 35.7%). This season should track with previous seasons as the A10 will look for 2-3 teams with enough talent and success to earn 1-2 at-large bids in addition to the conference’s automatic bid. The A10 has become a showcase for ‘tweeners and front-court players lately. The A10’s last two POYs were a pair of undersized (for the positions they played) frontcourt players. Gary Forbes, a 6-7 PF out of Massachusetts won in 2008, and Ahmad Nivins a 6-10 235 pound C out of St. Joseph’s, won last spring. This season is no different as fans will see Dayton’s Chris Wright (a preseason Wooden nominee), Xavier’s Jason Love, Rhode Island’s Delroy James, Duquesne’s Melquan Bolding and Richmond’s Kevin Smith play a position or two “up” from their size and weight. The conference will showcase a number of very well-regarded incoming freshmen as Charlotte’s Chris Braswell, Massachusetts’ Terrell Vinson and La Salle’s Aaric Murray held offers from high-major programs, but chose A10 schools.
Predicted Champion. Dayton (NCAA Seed: #4) Returning 84.5% of the minutes and 85.6% of the points from a team that finished 2nd in the conference and sent the Big East’s West Virginia home in the 1st round of the NCAAs before bowing out to Kansas, it is no wonder that the Flyers are the strong favorite to take the conference title and return to the NCAAs again in 2010. Dayton took the top spot in the A10 Coaches preseason poll, announced on Media Day (10/22). The squad is deep and experienced as Coach Brian Gregory brings back seven seniors and four juniors including four starters and nine of the top eleven scorers from last year’s team. Led by 6-8, 225 pound forward Chris Wright, a 2009-10 preseason Wooden Award nominee, the Flyers will try to pick up where they left off in March of 2009. Wright led the team in points per game (13.3) and rebounds per game (6.6). Dayton, however, is not a one man show. The Flyers return senior London Warren (the “Jacksonville Jet”), a 6-0 point guard who led the team in assists (154) last season while averaging 21.5 minutes and 4.1 points per game. Gregory can play 3 guards by bringing in two 6-3 senior guards, Marcus Johnson and Rob Lowry. Johnson was the second-leading scorer (behind Wright), averaging 11.8 points per game while playing an average of 28.3 minutes. Rob Lowry, who came to Dayton via Cecil Community College (and Chesapeake Community College), watched the team’s last ten games from the bench, as he tore a tendon in his right knee on February 12th. Lowry was the team’s leading scorer 5 times in 2009 and was second to Warren in assists. If the Flyers play like they did at the end of the 2009 season they should separate themselves from the A10 pack early and pick up a #3 or #4 seed in the NCAAs. Look for their performance in the Puerto Rican Tip-Off, where they will face up to 3 high-major teams, as a gauge for where they stand in the Top 25.
- Richmond (NCAA Seed: #10) Coach Chris Moody brings back 89.9% of the squad that finished 20-16 (9-7) and played 3 rounds into the post-season CBI Tournament (after a 2 game run at Atlantic City). The Spiders return four of five starters off of that 2009 team, but replace graduated center Jarhon Giddings with 6-9 redshirt junior Dan Geriot, a 3rd Team All-A10 player in 2008. Geriot led Richmond in scoring that season and his points were replaced last season by 6-0 point guard Kevin Anderson (A10 Rookie of the Year in 2008, 2nd Team All-A10 in 2009) and 6-4 guard David Gonzalez (A10 Honorable Mention in 2009). The three scorers reunite for the 2010 season, and expectations around Richmond are very high. Junior forwards Justin Harper (a 6-10 wing who took 131 3-point attempts last season) and Kevin Smith (a 6-5 wing who started 35 of 36 games in 2009) will most likely start while sophomore forwards Francis Martel (a 6-6, 205 pounder from Montreal, Canada) and F/C Josh Duinker (a 6-10, 230 pound Australian), having proven their value in their freshman campaign, will be well-established in the Spider rotation. All four forwards can shoot from beyond the arc, though none quite as prolific (nor as accurate) as Harper. Coach Moody played college ball at Princeton under legend Pete Carril, and he has incorporated features of the Princeton Offense into his offenses at his two D1 stops. Like many perimeter-oriented offenses, Richmond sacrifices rebounds (at both ends of the floor) for perimeter scoring opportunities. Efficiently converting possessions into points is the key for success using Princeton principles, but the advantage is lost if the opponent can match score-for-score (or better as they did in 2008). Richmond needs better shot defense, or on the ball defense that can force turnovers without fouling. Fouling without forcing turnovers combined with poor shot defense has undermined Richmond’s progress in both 2008 and 2009.
- Xavier (NCAA Seed: #10) The Musketeers lost their top 3 scorers from the 2009 squad, but the biggest off-season blow may have been the loss of 5th year head coach Sean Miller, who departed for the Pac-10 Conference and the Arizona Wildcats. True to Xavier traditions, AD Mike Bobinski promoted Assistant Coach Chris Mack to the top spot. Losing a head coach was not the only fallout from Miller’s move, as well-regarded ‘tweener Keven Parrom was granted a release from his LOI to follow Miller to Arizona. Coach Mack, a former Xavier ball player himself, is hardly without weapons. For starters Jason Love and Kenny Frease, two low post players will return for the 2009-10 season. Love is a 6-9 and 265 pound senior who averaged 21.7 minutes and 6.7 points as he appeared in all 35 of Xavier’s games last season. Frease is a 7-0 sophomore who averaged 5.4 points in just under 15 minutes of play. Add into the mix 6-5 guard Dante Jackson, who was 2nd on the 2009 squad in assists and who came on strong in the NCAAs, averaging 10.0 per game during Xavier’s run. Sophomore Terrell Holloway, a 6-0 hometown guard who started 13 games as a freshman, and highly regarded Jordan Crawford, a 6-4 transfer from Indiana University who sat out last season, will most likely split the point and round out the Musketeer backcourt. Coach Mack can go small by playing Crawford and Holloway together (with Jackson), or even bring in 6-0 sophomore Brad Redford, a 3-point specialist whose 46.5% 3-point percentage (53/114) led the A10 last season to spread the defense. Junior forward Jamel McLean will provide valuable minutes in the frontcourt, while freshman Jeff Robinson will have a opportunity to work himself into the rotation. The squad is talented, but the loss of senior leadership, coupled with a new head coach with new routines and habits, may require a period of adjustment.
- La Salle (NIT) As the fall practice period starts, Dr. John Giannini will greet what might be the deepest, most talented team he has assembled in his 5 seasons at West Olney Avenue. The Explorers return 87.8% of the minutes from last season’s 18-13 team. Led by senior guard, 6-5 Rodney Green, the Explorers expect to do even better this season. Picked to finish 4th by the A10 coaches and media, La Salle lost a just one senior starter, center Vernon Goodridge, along with four rotation players. Freshman Aric Murray, a consensus Top 50 recruit and preseason A10 Newcomer of the Year, will step right into Gooodridge’s spot, whether Murray can fill Goodridge’s shoes immediately is another question. Joining Green in the backcourt will be consensus All-A10 1st team pick 6-6 Ruben Guillandeaux. Guillandeaux was the third-leading scorer last season and was second in assists (96) behind Green (105). Junior Greg Danish along with freshmen T.T. Carey (6-4 out of Colonial Beach, VA) and Parrish Grant (6-2 native Philadelphia graduate of Imhotep Charter) will provide support off the bench in the backcourt. Seniors Kimmani Barrett (6-6 out of Paterson Catholic in New Jersey) and Yves Mekongo Mbala (6-7 from St. Patrick’s in New Jersey) will stand in beside Murray to fill out the Explorer frontcourt. Barrett averaged 11.8 points per game while averaging 31.8 minutes per game. Mbala contributed 10.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game while playing just under 30 minutes per game. The Williams twins, Jerrell (19.3 MPG, 6.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG) and Terrell (11.4 MPG, 2.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG) will contribute as rotation players. Redshirt freshman Devon White is also expected to contribute. The squad is mature, but lacks a consistent scorer after Green. Murray may change that, but it will take time.
- Duquesne (NIT) 2009 saw the Dukes notched their first 21-win season in 28 years. Coach Ron Everhart returns 81% of the minutes, 75.3% of the points and four starters this season. The missing piece is a big one — 6-4 guard Aaron Jackson, the A10’s Most Improved Player and an All-A10 1st Team who averaged 36.7 minutes per game in 2009. Coach Everhart will most likely look to junior 6-7 forward Damian Saunders (34.6 MPG, 13.1 PPG, 7.6 RPG), senior 6-1 point guard Jason Duty (24.8 MPG, 7.4 PPG, 1.3 APG), 6-5 junior guard/forward Bill Clark (29.5 MPG, 12.9 PPG, 2.7 APG) and 6-4 sophomore guard/forward Melquan Bolding (25.7 MPG, 9.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.1 APG), to fill the void left by Jackson. The fifth starter may come from the bench in the form of 5-11 sophomore point guard Eric Evans (23.8 MPG, 9.8 PPG, 2.2 APG) — the current favorite to start, 6-5 sophomore guard/forward BJ Montiero (9.9 MPG, 3.3 PPG, 1.3 RPG) or possibly one of the freshmen (6-2 guard Sean Johnson or 6-6 forward Andre Marhold, both of whom were double-digit scorers in high school). 7-0 sophomore center Morakinyo Williams, a Kentucky transfer who should be eligible this season and 6-9 sophomore center Oliver Lewinson may hold the key to Duquesne’s season. Williams averaged 0.8 points per game and 1.0 rebounds per game in five games at Kentucky. Williams transfered after playing 5 games for former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie, while Lewinson averaged 8.3 minutes and 0.7 points in the 25 games in which he appeared. Lewinson logged more time during the conference regular season, appearing in 13 of 16 conference games. The reason these two may be so important is because althought the Dukes have (according to Ken Pomeroy) one of the most efficient offenses in all of D1, they also have one of its poorest defenses (more on that later). The team’s problem areas include shot defense (where the Dukes are ranked #296 out of 344) especially 2-point defense (where the Dukes are ranked #313/344) and defensive rebounding (ranked #281/344). The Dukes run an up-tempo, VMI-style offense, an approach adopted by Everhart in his first season with Duquesne in response to the team’s (lack of) size. Pomeroy ranked last season’s squad #304/344, suggesting the problem continues. Coach Everhart may have to sacrifice a few possessions for some defense in the lane and presence on the offensive and defensive boards.
Top 10 RPI Boosters:
- Nov. 17, 2009 – Temple at Geogetown at 4 PM
- Nov. 19, 2009 – Dayton vs Georgia Tech
- Nov. 28, 2009 – La Salle at Villanova at 3:30PM on ESPN2
- Nov. 28, 2009 – George Washington vs Oregon State
- Dec. 5, 2009 – Temple vs Penn State at 4PM
- Dec. 9, 2009 – Duquesne at West Virginia at 7PM
- Dec. 12, 2009 – La Salle vs Kansas at 2PM on ESPN
- Dec. 19, 2009 – Richmond vs Florida at 6:30PM on Sun Sport
- Jan. 2, 2009 – Rhode Island vs Oklahoma State at 2PM on ESPNU
- Jan. 2, 2009 – Kansas vs Temple at 5:30PM on ESPN2
- Jan. 6, 2009 – Charlotte at Tennessee at 7PM on CSS
Key Conference Games:
- Jan. 6, 2010 – Richmond at Duquesne at 7PM
- Jan. 7, 2010 – Xavier at La Salle at 7PM on CBS College Sports
- Jan. 16, 2010 – Dayton at Xavier at 11AM on ESPN2
- Jan. 16, 2010 – La Salle at Richmond at 4PM on CBS Regional
- Feb. 11, 2010 – Massachusetts at Duquesne at 7PM on CBS Regional
- Feb. 18, 2010 – La Salle at Dayton at 7PM
- Feb. 21, 2010 – Dayton at Duquesne at 1PM on ESPN2
- Feb. 20, 2010 – Xavier at Charlotte at 2PM on CBS Regional
- With 8 teams located within 250 miles of New York City and three teams in Philadelphia alone, the conference name, the Atlantic 10 (even though there are 14 members, the western most member located in St. Louis) seems appropriate enough. New A10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade’s decision to relocate the conference headquarters, out of the Philadelphia metropolitan area, to Newport News, Virginia, raised more than a few eyebrows among conference observer. Rent was cited as the primary motive for the move, but the conference will continue to holds its post season tournament in Atlantic City. And the location for the 2010 Media Day? Philadelphia. The commute must be a killer.
- Ten of the conference’s members have played men’s basketball (and have the records to prove it) for at least 90 years, while 12 of 14 have played for at least 80 years. The A10 is is one of only two conferences that can boast that every conference member’s program has an overall winning record. The Pac-10 is other conference.
Fun with KenPom.
As you would expect from a conference that is ranked 9th nationally coming into the season, the A10 had 6 teams last year. However, they also had one of the worst teams in D1 in Fordham (#317 last year).
While we don’t always expect teams that are good offensively to play great defense, Duquesne’s adjusted rankings from last year have us flabbergasted. Last year they ranked #23 offensively and #237 defensively. And that’s adjusted for the pace that they play at. . .
We have to tip our hats to Xavier and Temple for the non-conference schedule’s last year. Last season, two of the conference’s traditional heavyweights ranked 12th and 17th, respectively, for their non-conference schedules.
NCAA Tournament History. The A10 has a respectable 75-79 (.487) record overall despite the fact that they have only had one Final 4 team (Marcus Camby‘s 1996 Minutemen). The A10 tends to get multiple teams into the NCAA tournament. In fact, there have only been three NCAA tournaments that didn’t feature more than one A10 team since the tournament expanded to include 64 teams. Even though it has only gotten one team in the Final 4 it would be a mistake to think of the A10 as a 1-and-done league as its teams frequently are knocking on the Final 4’s door with a heartbreaking nine teams that have lost in the Elite 8 since 1988 with the legendary John Chaney coaching five of those teams.
Final Thoughts. While it is doubtful that any of the “contenders” (Duquesne, La Salle, Richmond and Xavier) can overtake Dayton, should the Flyers stumble out of the gate any one of those four can turn the conference regular season into a race to the last weekend. And over a short series like the postseason conference tournament, any of those four (or Charlotte or Massachusetts or Temple) can put together a solid four-game run. Duquesne did it last season, putting on a run that took the Dukes to the tournament final (where they fell to upstart Temple) and got themselves into the NIT field in the process. With Duquesne’s up-tempo offense, Aaric Murray‘s continued growth, Richmond’s guards, and Fran Dunphy look for surprises in Atlantic City again next March. Should Dayton survive the conference play and tournament with a relatively high seed (#3? #4? #5?) intact, look for the Flyers to go to the Sweet Sixteen or better.