RTC Conference Primers: #7 – Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 30th, 2010

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Temple (14-2)
  2. Richmond (13-3)
  3. Xavier (13-3)
  4. Dayton (11-5)
  5. Rhode Island (9-7)
  6. Charlotte (9-7)
  7. St. Louis (9-7)
  8. Duquesne (7-9)
  9. George Washington (7-9)
  10. St. Bonaventure (6-10)
  11. Massachusetts (5-11)
  12. Saint Joseph’s (4-12)
  13. La Salle (3-13)
  14. Fordham (2-14)

All-Conference Team (key stats from 2009-10 in parentheses)

  • G Tu Holloway, Xavier (31.9 MPG, 12.1 PPG, 3.9APG)
  • G Kevin Anderson, Richmond (37.8 MPG, 13.1 PPG, 2.7 APG)
  • F Damian Saunders, Duquesne (36.7 MPG, 15.0 PPG, 11.3 RPG)
  • F Chris Wright, Dayton (28.6 MPG, 13.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG)
  • F Lavoy Allen, Temple (34.5 MPG, 11.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1.4 BPG)

6th Man

Aaric Murray, La Salle (12.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.3 BPG)

Impact Newcomer

SG Daniel West, Rhode Island (transfer from Pensacola State College)

A-10 Conference All-Rookie Team

  • G Juwain Staten, Dayton
  • G/F Jay Canty, Xavier
  • F Maxie Esho, Massachusetts
  • F C.J. Aiken, Saint Joseph’s
  • F/C Rob Loe, St. Louis

What You Need to Know

The conference, identified by Kyle Whelliston of the Mid-Majority blog as neither above nor below “The Red Line,” sent half of its conference members to post season tournaments last March. Three (Richmond, Temple and Xavier – one more than the Pac-10 Conference) went to the NCAA Tournament, while two each went to the NIT (Dayton and Rhode Island) and the CBI (St. Louis and George Washington). Xavier, seeded #6 in the West Region, advanced to at least the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in three postseasons, losing to Kansas State in a two-overtime game, 101-96. Rhode Island was eliminated in the NIT semifinals, while Dayton beat North Carolina 79-68, to win the NIT. St. Louis lost the CBI finals series 2-0 to Virginia Commonwealth.

Reigning A-10 POY Kevin Anderson returns for Richmond, but will he get the Spiders over Temple?

The Predicted Champion

Temple (NCAA Seed: #4). Coach Fran Dunphy brings back 66% of the Owls’ 2009-10 minutes and 70.3% of the scoring of the team that tied Xavier for the regular season title and won the A-10 Conference Tournament outright. The 2009-10 season ended on a down note, but the casual fan could not tell from the raft of 2010-11 season previews that place the Owls in the Top 25 – 30, usually at the head of the A-10 contingent.

Dunphy returns three starters and a solid rotation. Juan Fernandez (31.6 mpg, 12.6 ppg, 3.6 apg), a 6’4 180 pound point guard, who started his freshman season late but made huge strides last season, earned an All A-10 Honorable Mention and Conference Tournament MVP award last March. He dished a team-high 122 assists and yielded a 24.4% assist rate, ranking #254 in Ken Pomeroy’s Top 500 assist leaders. Junior Ramone Moore (18.0 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 1.5 apg), sophomore T.J. DiLeo (6.4 mpg, 1.1 ppg), freshman Aaron Brown, a 6’4, 185 pound gunner out of St. Benedict’s in New Jersey, along with sophomore Rahlir Jefferson (16.6 mpg, 3.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and junior Scootie Randall (7.0 mpg, 1.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg) will compete for starts at #2 and #3 spots vacated by glue guy Ryan Brooks and 2009-10 starter Luis Guzman.

Returning starter senior power forward Lavoy Allen (34.5 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and 6’11, 225 pound junior center Michael Eric (15.7 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg), will anchor the frontcourt. Eric is a raw talent who will need to cut down on his fouls if he wants to log significant minutes this season. Allen was voted to the 2009-10 All A-10 First Team and subsequently invited to play on Team USA’s Select squad last summer that prepped the USA Men’s Team. Graduate transfer (Monmouth University) Dutch Gaitley, Craig William sand freshman Anthony Lee round out the front court rotation, though Williams is rehabbing from a right foot injury.

The conference schedule maker was kind to Dunphy, matching the Owls with three mirror opponents (Fordham, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s) who sported a collective conference record of 9-39 last season, the poorest for any set of mirror opponents. All three recruited good talent over the spring and summer months, but if the Owls focus, they shouldn’t have much trouble in disposing of those three teams. The Owls may have road rendezvous with Dayton and Xavier (Saturday 2/12 and Saturday 1/22 – mark the dates), but will host their biggest rival, Richmond (Thursday 2/17).

Top Contenders

  • Richmond (NCAA #5 Seed) Mooney returns 68.9% of the minutes and 66.3% of the points scored from that 2009-10 squad. If this 2010-11 Richmond edition can stay hungry, they will be the first repeat champ since the 1989-1991 teams. Wing fixtures David Gonzalvez and Ryan Butler, Richmond’s outside offense in 2010-11, are gone. Those two accounted for 51% of Richmond’s three-point attempts and 53.6% of their makes. Hardly perimeter lurkers, they tallied 122 steals for the Richmond defense, 42.2% of the team’s total.  Richmond toppled #13 Florida with a 56-53 win last conference, turning heads in the national landscape.  A-10 Player of the Year Kevin Anderson (37.1 mpg, 17.8 ppg, 2.7 apg) returns after testing the NBA Draft last April. Sophomore Darian Brothers (4.7 mpg, 1.6 ppg), and senior Kevin Smith (15.7 mpg, 2.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg), will compete for the start next to Anderson. Both will see minutes at the off guard and small forward, no matter who gets the starting assignment. Junior Cedric Martel (13.9 mpg, 2.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg) will start at small forward. The Canadian import hit at a 0.433 (13-30) from beyond the arc. His 127.7 offensive rating per Ken Pomeroy is impressive, but was derived from a limited role in the offense. Odds are he will not have a breakout season — that will come in 2011-12 – he will however, grow into Ryan Butler’s role. Freshman Cedrick Lindsay, point-guard-in-waiting Greg Robbins, senior walk-on Kevin Hovde and freshman Wayne Sparrow will fill out the back court/wing rotation. Starters Justin Harper (25.0 mpg, 10.6 ppg ,5.4 rpg), a 6’10 225 pound senior power forward who likes to face the basket as he scores and senior Dan Geriot (23.3 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg), a 6’9 235 pound center who will strive to return to sophomore season form before he leaves Richmond will head up a steady frontcourt rotation. Harper has an outside dimension – he shot 42-122 (0.344) from beyond the arc in 2009-10 – that does not impair his rebounding. Juniors 6’9 210 pound Darrius Garrett (14.2 mpg, 2.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and 6’11, 230 pound Josh Duinker (6.7 mpg, 1.9 ppg, 1.0 rpg) should spell Geriot, while 6’9, junior Connor Smith and freshman Derrick Williams (struggling with turf toe right now), will draw minutes as backups to Harper.
  • Xavier (NCAA #5 seed) Jordan Crawford, (the best going away gift Sean Miller could have left second year coach Chris Mack) may be gone (along with low post presence Jason Love), but Xavier returns 69.3% of the minutes and three starters from the deepest running member of the A-10 contingent in the NCAA Tournament. Those minutes provided only 58.9% of the points and 62.2% of the rebounds last season, Mack has some contributors who can fast-track this rebuilding project. Returning senior Tu Holloway (31.9 mpg, 12.1 ppg, 3.9 apg) will man the point where his leadership and passing abilities will sharpen scoring instincts for sophomore Mark Lyons (22.0 mpg, 7.8 ppg, 2.1 apg), who can also back up Holloway at the point, and senior Dante Jackson (25.7 mpg, 6.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.2 apg) much as they did Crawford’s. Jackson hit a respectable 57-142 (0.401) from beyond the arc in 2009-10 and could shift to the wing if needed. Junior Brad Redford (13.4 mpg, 5.3 ppg, 0.4 apg), should join the regular backcourt rotation. Jackson will be pushed hard by a pair of well regarded freshmen, 6’6 G/F Jay Canty, and 6’6 Justin Martin, a Top 100 ranked F/G. Considered the wings of the future, they will contribute now. Canty was named to the All Conference rookie team for his handle, instinct for scoring and rebounding.  Fifth-year senior Jamel McLean (24.5 mpg, 8.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) will start at power forward alongside 7’0 junior Kenny Frease. Love’s departure makes Frease the man in the middle. Senior Andrew Taylor (10.0 mpg, 2.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg) and sophomore Jeff Robinson (4.4 mpg, 1.9 ppg, 1.3 rpg) complete the regular frontcourt rotation, the more efficient rebounder probably being favored with more minutes.
  • Dayton (NCAA #11 seed or NIT) The Flyers finished the 2009-10 season on a high note, taking the NIT Championship. The season started, however, with coach Brian Gregory and his team aiming higher. The Dayton program and their fans expect 2010-11 will return the Flyers to the NCAA and back into the hunt for a conference title.  Losing three starters (London Warren, Marcus Johnson and Kurt Huelsman) along with All-Conference Defensive Team (Rob Lowry) and a solid rotation player (Mickey Perry), is a blow, but Gregory, whose penchant for deep rotations, has three players who had 2009-10 starts and a rotation deep enough to account for 50.3% of last seasons minutes and 57.8% of those points, for replacements. Returning senior Chris Wright (28.6 mpg, 13.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.2 apg), an All-Conference First Team wing. was nominated to the Wooden Award Preseason Watch List for the second consecutive season, as was junior wing Chris Johnson (24.1 mpg, 11.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg), who earned the conference’s Most Improved Player Award in 2009-10. Senior Devin Searcy (14.1 mpg, 3.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg) rounds out the wing/front court starters. The Flyer bench will provide a contingent of subs: junior Luke Fabrizius (9.3 mpg, 4.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg), a Euro-style big who shot 37-91 (0.407) from beyond the arc, freshmen Devin Oliver, Ralph Hill along with sophomores Josh Benson and Matt Kavenaugh. The backcourt gets a makeover, as junior transfer (Drake) Josh Parker goes head-to-head with freshman Juwan Staten, a rocket out of Oak Hill Academy to start at the point. Parker appeared in 33 games (started nine) his sophomore season at Drake (Missouri Valley Conference), shooting  57-132  (0.432) from three-point range. Dayton fans may favor Staten, but Parker has practiced with the squad for over a season, and is familiar with Gregory’s system and expectations. Staten (my pick for freshman of the year) should start by the end of the season, but Parker will get the nod early and provide a solid second hand. Junior Paul Williams and freshman Brandon Spearman will split time at off guard.
  • Rhode Island (NIT/CBI) The Rams return 60.7% of the minutes and points from the squad that came within a point of making the 2011 NIT an all A-10 affair. Assembling a roster that had to replace two starters (Keith Cothran and Lamonte Ulmer) and a regular member of the backcourt rotation (Stevie Mejia) proved a challenge for coach Jim Baron.  Complicated initially by a few recruiting trail do-overs and lately by veteran problems (Orion Outerbridge, academics; Jamal Wilson, broken foot), Baron has ten returning players and three prospects going into the season. Senior Marquis Jones (22.8 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 4.1 apg) will get the start at the point,  backed up by much-traveled Michigan native, 6’2 juco guard Daniel West. All-Conference Rookie Team guard Akeem Richmond (18.1 mpg, 8.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg) will most likely start at the off guard, with West and Wilson (when he is cleared to play) available for relief. Richmond was the Rams long range option in 2009-10, shooting 81-209 (0.388), team-highs for three pointers attempted and made. All A-10 Third Teamer, senior 6’8, 220 pound Delroy James (27.1 mpg, 13.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.4 spg) will be joined by senior Ben Eaves (9.1 rpg, 3.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg), who will log his second season with the Rams. Senior starter Will Martel (23.2 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg) returns to the low post. Outerbridge will press for a starting assignment should he return. Sophomores Ryan Brooks and Nikola Malesevic, freshman Levan Shengelia along with late July pickup Blake Vedder, a 7’3 project, fill out the front court rotation.
  • Charlotte (NIT) The 49ers return a conference-high 80.6% of their 2009-10 minutes and 84.3% of their 2009-10 points for the season. Returning starters include junior off guard Darrio Green (28.6 mpg, 13.1 ppg, 2.3 apg), senior small forward An’Juan Wilderness (17.3 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg), senior power forward Shamari Spears (28.7 mpg, 16.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and sophomore power forward/center Chris Braswell (22.6 mpg, 9.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg), an All A-10 Rookie Teamer last season. Replacements for departed point guard Dijuan Harris, include sophomore Jamar Briscoe, a 5’10, 165 pound rocket transfer from North Carolina Central and freshman Luka Vonica, a 6’4 195 pound import from Ljubljana, Slovenia. As a freshman, Briscoe started all 30 games, scoring 535 points. He will have three years of eligibility at Charlotte. If Briscoe and Vonica need more time, Coach Alan Major (who replaced fired Coach Bobby Lutz last May) could move Green over to man the point, an option that would hurt Greens scoring effectiveness. Major may look to a rotation player like fifth year senior Charlie Dewhurst (who started 10 games in 2009-10). Front court rotation players should include sophomores Gokhan Sirin and KJ Sherrill on the wing and in power forward positions respectively and senior Phil Jones in the low post. If the assertion that new coaches often improve defenses first holds for Major, expect the 49ers to do better than predicted. As Ray Floriani noted in his College Chalktalk article, defense was the problem child for Charlotte last season.

Out of Conference Games to Watch

  • 11/27 – Richmond vs. Purdue in Chicago, 5:30 pm. The Spiders can make a good showing and earn a few AP votes. Or beat the Boilermakers and earn a lot of AP votes.
  • 12/9 – Butler at Xavier, ESPN/ESPN2. Shelvin Mack versus Tu Holloway will tell fans whether Holloway is ready for prime time. Xavier is a candidate to follow Butler as a Tournament Cinderella.
  • 12/9 – Georgetown at Temple, ESPN/ESPN2. A chess match between two masters. Juan Fernandez versus Chris Wright will get the ink, but if the Hoyas don’t have an answer for Lavoy Allen, the Owls will take this by more than the point difference they lost by in DC last season.
  • 12/11 – Saint Louis at Duke, 12:00 pm, CBS. Considerably less competitive without Mitchell and Reed, the Billikens will raise an eyebrow or two if the margin is close.
  • 12/7 – Tennessee at Charlotte, 8:00 pm, CBS College. A depleted Volunteer squad will run into the 49er frontcourt.
  • 12/22 – Xavier at Gonzaga, 11:00 pm, ESPN2. The wings and frontcourt are a push, so the difference here will be the backcourt (and home court). Holloway versus Goodson should be a treat to watch.
  • 12/30 – Temple at Villanova, 7:00 pm, ESPN2. If these Big 5 rivals are both undefeated going in, this will be a Top 10 game and a bullet point on the winners NCAA resume.
  • 12/31 – Florida at Xavier, 4:00 pm, ESPN2. Xavier took this game last season by 12 points in Gainesville. Love (20 pts, 10 rebs) and Crawford (18 ppg, 4 apg) are gone, but the X-men still stand a chance to beat the preseason favorite to win the SEC Eastern Division last season.
  • 2/23 – Temple at Duke, 7:00 pm, ESPN2. The Owls don’t have an answer for Kyle Singler and Ryan Kelly, but Dunphy’s defense and pace should keep Temple close to their host.

Key Conference Games

  • 1/5 – Dayton at Saint Louis, 6:00 pm ET, CBS College. The first big test for both teams. If Gregory allows Majerus pace to dictate the game, the Billikens will gain advantage in the conference pecking order.
  • 1/22 – Temple at Xavier, 3:00 pm, ESPN2. Too early to decide the conference race, but it will influence the two teams going into February.
  • 2/12 – Temple at Dayton, 1:00 pm. Juan Fernandez versus Juwan Staten is an attractive matchup. If both teams are winning and in the hunt for an NCAA seed, one of the networks will pick up this feed.
  • 2/12 – Richmond at Saint Louis, 12:00 pm, ESPN/ESPN2. Home court advantage for the Billikens could spell trouble for the Spiders. Richmond will probably need this one to keep pace with Temple (or Dayton).
  • 2/17 – Richmond at Temple, 7:00 pm, CBS College. A replay of the 2009-10 A-10 Conference Tournament final, this late-season showdown will probably establish the seeds for the 2010-11 A-10 Conference Tournament.
  • 2/26 – Richmond at Charlotte, 7:00 pm. If the conference race runs to script, this game will either put Charlotte into the NCAA’s, or allow Richmond to keep pace with Temple, Xavier (and Dayton?).
  • 2/27 – Xavier at Dayton, 1:00 pm, ESPN/ESPN2. Swept by Xavier last season, Dayton will look for revenge. Holloway versus Staten will give fans another great guard face-off, but this one will be decided by the wings.
  • 3/5 – Xavier at Saint Louis, 2:00 pm, CBS College. The Billikens will need this one if they are on the NCAA bubble, but both teams will be playing for seeding in the A-10 Tournament. Mitchell (if he is reinstated) versus Holloway could make for an intriguing head-to-head matchup.

Digging Deeper

  • If money talks in Division-I men’s basketball, the A-10’s voice is among the loudest. In 2009, the 14 teams spent an average of around $2.5 million on their basketball programs (numbers compliments of Basketball State), ranging from Xavier’s $3,938,466 (ranked #68 among the 347 D1 teams) to $1,963,185 allocated by Saint Bonaventure (ranked #128).
  • In the last two seasons (2008-09 and 2009-10) the conference sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament, as many as the Mountain West Conference and more than Conference USA in that time.
  • For a conference which routinely welcomes two or three Top 50-100 recruits, the flood of incoming freshmen talent for 2011 is especially notable. Everyone named to my All-Conference Rookie Team, landed on the national radar and was courted by above “The Red Line” teams. Saint Joseph’s, the strongest class of recruits, caught the eye (and raves) from Maxpreps.com. The Hawks welcome forward Langston Galloway, Ronald Roberts (originally committed to St. John’s of the Big East), Darius Quarles and Patrick Swilling along with Aiken. La Salle may have lost seniors Rodney Green, Kimmani Barrett, Yves Mekongo and transfers Gary Parrish and T.T. Carey, but Dr. Giannini brings in freshmen guards Tyreek Duren, Cole Stefan and Sam Mills, along with Rutgers transfer Earl Pettis to restart the momentum on Olney. St. Bonaventure brings in Sam de Hass and Matthew Wright. Massachusetts brings in Esho and Daryl Traynham. The players named are talented and needed additions at their positions.

NCAA Tournament History

Since the conference’s first Tournament appearance in 1977, the A-10 has compiled a 77-82 (.484) record, just five wins within the .500 record that separates the big-time March conferences from the mid-majors. The conference has had a tough time getting into the Final Four, but it’s not due to the number of chances; it sports a 1-10 record in Elite Eight games. Among several upsets in the A-10’s March Madness history is Rhode Island‘s stunning 1998 victory over a #1-seeded Kansas team led by two lottery picks in Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz.

Final Thoughts

The Atlantic 10 Conference earned 11 bids to the NCAA in the past four postseasons, sending six different teams in all to the Big Dance. ESPN kicked off the preseason seed speculation in their Summer Shootaround report, and hopes for a four-bid haul are bolstered by the number of returning players and percentage of returning minutes among the conferences leading teams. Their conference final was televised as the run-up to Selection Sunday and 13 of the early season invitational tournaments have a conference member in their fields, a number exceeded only by the six above “The Red Line” conferences, a sure sign the A-10 is drawing national recognition. Identifying who in the conference will garner invitations to the 2011 NCAA Tournament should keep bracketologists busy from week #1 to week #16, but this preview says at least three and most likely four. Look for about half of the conference members, possibly one-half-plus-one, to see postseason action somewhere after Atlantic City.

Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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