RTC Summer Updates: Atlantic 10 ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on August 3rd, 2011
With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Atlantic 10 correspondent, Joe Dzuback. You can read more of his in-depth writing and analysis at Villanova By The Numbers.
Reader’s Take I
- Bobinski to Chair NCAA Selection Committee: While the conference again sent seven teams, half of its membership, to the postseason — three to the NCAA, one to the NIT and three to the CBI, the Final Four runs by Butler (Horizon League) and Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial Athletic Association) overshadowed a showing, Xavier’s loss to Marquette excepted, that exceeded 2010’s NCAA results. The NCAA announced that Xavier Athletic Director Mike Bobinski will succeed Connecticut’s Jeff Hathaway as Chairman of the 2012 NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Bobinski just completed his third year of a five-year term on the Selection Committee. While the Atlantic 10 has been the most successful non-BCS conference in placing teams in the tournament field (with 20 NCAA bids allotted to six teams since 2004), its representatives have tended to draw the short straw when it comes to seeding, and Bobinski will likely lobby hard for that cause.
- The Coaching Carousel: The conference had two coaching vacancies during the early phase of the coaching carousel. If the 2010 offseason saw coaching turnovers due to firings, the 2011 offseason saw suitors come to call on the Atlantic 10 coaching fraternity. Tennessee, having fired Bruce Pearl on March 21, made its first call to Xavier to talk with Chris Mack. Mack reportedly turned aside an offer of $2 million per year to coach the Volunteers in favor of staying in Cincinnati with the Musketeers. Richmond’s Chris Mooney signed a 10-year contract extension, his second extension in two years, ending Georgia Tech’s courtship. Mooney’s decision triggered a spate of articles (see “Old coaching assumptions are fading” by Dana O’Neil for example) about non-BCS coaches who pass on BCS offers to stay with their programs. The Yellow Jackets turned their attention to Dayton’s Brian Gregory, who succumbed to the lure of the BCS and packed his bags for Atlanta on March 28. Dayton conducted a six-day search and hired Archie Miller, brother of former Xavier head man Sean Miller, away from Arizona to succeed Gregory. In late April, George Washington’s Athletic Director, Patrick Nero, fired 10-year veteran Karl Hobbs. Nero, who succeeded retiring AD Jack Kvancz on June 30, was hired on April 20, and wasted no time in turning over the men’s basketball staff. Nero reached into his old stomping grounds, the American East Conference, and hired the league’s premier head basketball coach, Mike Lonergan of Vermont, on May 6 to replace Hobbs. The resignation of Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis on May 24 (DeChellis took over the Navy program) triggered a few tense days among the Duquesne faithful as coach Ron Everhart landed an interview for the Happy Valley position. The Dukes exhaled on June 1 when Everhart withdrew his name from consideration in favor of staying with the Pittsburgh school next season.
- Media Coverage: The Atlantic 10 and ESPN renewed their deal to have eight games (selected by ESPN) televised on either ESPN or ESPN2 in each of the next two seasons. The ESPN networks are committed to broadcasting the Women’s Championship and up to 32 appearances in each of the next two seasons.
Next season should boil down to another head-to-head between Xavier and Temple. Both are solid programs with top tier coaches and most of their scoring and minutes coming back for another round in 2011-12. The bottom four teams — La Salle, Massachusetts, Charlotte and Fordham — will scramble to earn the last two seeds to the conference postseason tournament. Fordham and Charlotte will most likely lose, but do not underestimate La Salle and UMass. The middle eight spots will untangle itself based on whose sophomores take the leap, which new coach gets his system working faster and which teams found the right balance of team chemistry and scheduling.
- Xavier: Dante Jackson and Jamel McLean graduated, while two members of the Musketeers’ heralded 2011 freshmen class, Jay Canty and Jordan Latham, transferred. Tu Holloway, the 2011 A-10 Player of the Year, opted out of the NBA Draft and declined a tryout with the World University Games tryout to work on his game at Xavier. Fellow senior Kenny Frease, juniors Mark Lyons and Jeff Robinson and sophomore Griffin McKenzie together provided 73% of the team’s scoring in 2011, and all are slated to return. Add junior Brad Redford and freshman Justin Martin, both redshirts last season, and transfers Travis Taylor, a power forward from Monmouth University and fifth-year senior Andre Walker, a forward from Vanderbilt University, and the Musketeers should be ready to repeat as conference champions. Filling out the roster are freshmen guard Dee Davis and Dezmine Wells, a tweener from Hargrave Academy. The last roster spot, vacated when forward Jalen Reynolds opted to prep a year at Brewster Academy, may go to 7’4″ center Sim Bhullar, a member of the U19 Canadian team that finished #11 in Latvia in early July. Bhullar, a conditioning project who caught Luke Winn’s eye — for the second time — in Riga is academically qualified and could enroll for 2011. He has not decided whether to head back to Huntington Prep for one last year, or move on to Xavier. A decision is expected this month.
- Temple: The Owls lost All-A-10 Lavoy Allen and bench player Dutch Gaitley to graduation/eligibility, along with Craig Williams (transfer), but bring back everyone else, over 83% of their 2011 minutes and 84% of their scoring. Injuries in 2011 accelerated the development of sophomore Aaron Brown, juniors TJ DiLeo, Rahlir Jefferson and Khalif Wyatt who, along with seniors Michael Eric, Juan Fernandez, Ramone Moore and Scootie Randall (and walk-on Jake Godino), form an experienced nucleus for 2012. Joining them are redshirt freshmen Anthony Lee and Jimmy McDonnell, along with incoming freshman point guard Will Cummings. The non-conference slate will test the squad early and often. They are featured in a Puerto Rico Tip-Off field that includes Alabama, Maryland and Purdue from BCS conferences. Temple will host Duke and Maryland (a possible second meeting) in Philadelphia and travel to Austin for a game with the Longhorns.
- Saint Louis: Drained by transfers and two devastating suspensions on the eve of fall practice last season, the staff turned again to freshmen to fill the gaps in the lane and boards for the Billikens in 2011. Disappointing results in 2011 should translate into more positive results in 2012. Losses are minimal, Paul Eckerle graduated and Christian Salecich transferred. Though both of the suspended players, Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed, returned to school for the spring 2011 semester, coach Rick Majerus reinstated only Mitchell (who took a redshirt) to the team. With seniors Kyle Cassity and Brian Conklin, juniors Cody Ellis and Cory Remekun and sophomores Rob Loe, Mike McCall, Jordair Jett and A-10 All Rookie Dwayne Evans on board, the Bills return nearly 93% of their 2011 minutes and over 96% of their scoring. Mitchell and Toledo transfer Jake Barnett provide even more collegiate experience to the squad as both had at least a year in Majerus’ system. The incoming freshmen, the best of whom is Grandy Glaze, originally a verbal to UNLV, 6’11 John Manning, along with a late verbal from forward Emmanuel Tselentakis fill out the squad. The Billikens will take a five-day, five-game tour of Canada August 22-27, with NCAA-sanctioned practices in early August to prepare (Majerus, recuperating from a heart procedure, missed the first practice). The Bills will play the University of Windsor and the University of Western Ontario before heading over to Ottawa to play a three game set with Carleton University.
- Duquesne: The surprise team of the 2011 conference race, Duquesne loses two big reasons for their revival — Damian Saunders and Bill Clark (along with rotation player David Theis) — to graduation (and Rodrigo Peggau to transfer). Dukes fans should not despair however, as 2011 A-10 Rookie of the Year TJ McConnell, along with seniors Eric Evans and BJ Monteiro, juniors Andre Marhold and Sean Johnson and sophomores Mike Talley, Jerry Jones and Joel Wright, a group that provided nearly 66% of the minutes and just under 62% of the scoring from 2011, return for this season. Despite the distractions of job openings at Maryland and Penn State, fifth-year coach Ron Everhart managed to bring in four players, three of whom are 6’6 or taller to go with Derrick Martin, a 6’9 power forward who sat out last season. Wing Daniel Herrara is 6’6. Mamadou Datt, a 6’8 power forward out of Stoneridge Prep, had arthroscopic surgery on July 25 for a torn meniscus in his left knee, but should be ready for fall practice. Another power forward, Kadeem Pantophlet from Canarias Basketball Academy in the Canary Islands, and off-guard PJ Torres from New Rochelle, New York, round out the incoming class. A late transfer from Radford, the 7’1 Martins Abele, will most likely sit for a season per NCAA transfer rules. A scheduled exhibition tour to Toronto from August 12-15 will allow ten or 11 members of the squad will get a jump-start on fall practice when they begin preparations for the trip on August 1.
- St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies faithful have every reason to savor the summer. All Atlantic 10 First Team player Andrew Nicholson will return for his senior season. Coach Mark Schmidt expects to return over 77% of the minutes and 82% of the scoring from the 2011 squad. The only significant loss is graduated point guard Ogo Adegboye. And Schmidt has improved the Bonnies’ A-10 standings in each of his four seasons with the Olean, New York school. The Bonnies broke into the conference’s upper division in 2011, and the staff and players have set their sights on a bye bid to the conference tournament in 2012. With a thought to postseason considerations, St. Bonaventure upgraded their out of conference schedule to include Illinois, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech. The aforementioned Nicholson headlines a long list of returnees that also includes fifth-year senior Da’Quan Cook and Michael Davenport. Schmidt has added depth with transfers Eric Mosley and Chris Johnson to go with two entering freshmen, Jordan Gathers out of Chicago and Youssou Ndoye, who comes to Olean from Senegal via Lee Academy.
- George Washington: New coach Mike Lonergan did not garner a large recruiting class this off season. In fact he lost an excellent prospect in Erick Copes, who requested a release when Karl Hobbs was fired (and joins Paul Hewitt over at George Mason). Hobbs left a well-stocked cupboard however, and Lonergan will have 93% of the minutes and 94% of the scoring back from the 2011 squad. Having lost Chris Fitzgerald and Tim Johnson via transfer, the Colonials can expect to regain sophomore off guard Lasan Kromah a 2011 redshirt, who garnered a good deal of attention his freshman season (2010). A seasoned squad led by Tony Taylor will look to improve on GW’s 10-6 conference finish. The Colonials have two incoming freshmen forwards this fall, 6’8 John Kopriva from Wisconsin and 6’7 Jonathan Davis of Simi Valley, California to go with redshirt freshman guard Roy Ghantous.
- Richmond: With the departure of All Conference players Justin Harper (a second round pick in the NBA draft) and Kevin Anderson (not to overlook Dan Geriot, Kevin Smith or Kevin Hovde), Chris Mooney has some rebuilding to do, but most of the building blocks are already on hand. The Spiders return 41% of their 2011 minutes (second lowest to Rhode Island) and 42% of their scoring for 2012. They have, however, a deep pool of bench talent ready to step in. In addition to seniors Josh Duinker, Darrius Garrett, Zak Estes, (occasional starter) Francis Martel and Conor Smith, juniors (starter) Darien Brothers, Jonathan Benjamin, Greg Robbins and Liam Billings and sophomores Cedrick Lindsay and Derrick Williams, Mooney has a redshirt freshman, Wayne Sparrow, and four entering freshmen waiting in the wings. Of the freshmen, the two power forwards, the 6’11 Luke Piotrowski out of Atlantic Christian School and 6’7 Alonzo Nelson-Ododa from Norcross, Georgia, have garnered the most attention. The Cancun Challenge should provide a good test for the young squad.
- Saint Joseph’s: The Hawks return four starters (losing only starting forward Idris Hilliard and back up point guard Charoy Bentley to graduation), but only 69% of the 2011 minutes (not great) and 76% of the scoring (very positive). The difference is a bug-a-boo that has plagued the program since their 2004 run to the Regional Finals — transfers. Patrick Swilling was dismissed during the season, and sophomores Carl Baptiste and Justin Crosgile, though showing flashes in their freshman season (2010), transferred out after the season. The nucleus, four starters (CJ Aiken, Langston Galloway, Darius Quarles and junior Carl Jones) return with forward Ron Roberts most likely stepping into the last starting spot in 2012. Though the squad has only ten scholarship players, senior Todd O’Brien has been with the program since freshmen year. Sophomore Halil Kanacevic, a transfer from Hofstra, and junior Taylor Trevisan, a walk-on in 2011, have had a year of practice with the squad. Redshirt freshman 6’8 forward Papa Ndao enrolled last January and practiced with the Hawks for the second semester, and he will be joined by true freshman Chris Wilson, a guard out of Fayatteville, North Carolina. Coach Martelli had to manage a disappointed and frustrated fan-base in 2011, but he may find managing an elevated set of expectations from the Hawk fan-base almost as difficult. The Charleston Classic, sporting a solid, but not elite, field should be a good barometer for the young Saint Joseph’s squad.
- Dayton: Rookie head coach Archie Miller has a solid set of out-of-conference opponents to play before the start of conference play. In addition to hosting Alabama, Mississippi and Seton Hall, the Flyers will take on Miami in Miami, then at least one, possibly two BCS opponents in the Old Spice Classic (November 24, 25 and 27). As if losing Brian Gregory wasn’t bad enough, Dayton saw All-Conference starting forward Chris Wright and four-year contributor Devin Searcy graduate. Two promising freshmen guards, Brandon Spearman and starting point guard Juwan Staten transferred out even as Gregory negotiated with Georgia Tech. Miller will have 58% of the Flyers’ 2011 minutes and 59% of the scoring available to begin building his program. To the mix he can add Kevin Dillard, a backcourt transfer from Southern Illinois and true freshman Alex Gavrilovic, a power forward who signed with Providence in 2010, but opted to play an additional year of prep ball at the IMG Academy in Florida. Those two, plus the eight returning players which include three starters and five rotation members bring the squad to ten scholarship players. Add the two returning walk-ons (Mitch Asmus and Brian Vonderhaar), and the Flyers will have 12 players available in 2012.
- Rhode Island: The Runnin’ Rams will play Texas in Austin in a preliminary round game of the Legends Classic, and be a host site for one of the finals’ rounds. Add Nebraska, games with traditional regional foes Providence and Boston College, along with a rumored game with Virginia Tech, all point to an non-con set, an element that may have sabotaged aspirations for a higher post season tournament than the CBI in 2011. The state of the squad however, will be an early-season issue as Rhode Island returns just 25% of the squad’s 2011 minutes and scoring. Gone are graduates Ben Eaves, Marquis Jones, Delroy James and Will Martel, a group that included three starters, but the attrition didn’t end there. Sophomore Akeem Richmond opted to transfer and senior Anthony Baskerville chose to concentrate on football. Seniors Anthony Malhoit, Jamal Wilson and Orion Outerbridge will form a core complemented by juniors Ryan Brooks and Nikola Milesovic, sophomores Blake Vedder and Levan Shengelia will form the nucleus of the 2012 squad. The four entering freshmen (Mike Powell, Dominique McKoy, TJ Buchanan and Jonathan Holton (a 6’9 forward out of Miami, Florida and the highest ranked in the lot) should also get chances. Coach Jim Baron will also have two well regarded transfers available after the fall semester, wing Andre Malone from Auburn and son Billy Baron, a point guard who decided to return home from Virginia.
- La Salle: Second to Rhode Island when tallying the departed minutes and points, the Explorers lost seniors Steve Weingarten (All A-10 Academic), Ruben Guillandeaux, starting forward Jerrell Williams, and role players Greg Danish and Matt Sheehan. Starting forward/center Aaric Murray transferred to West Virginia after the season. The Explorers will bring back senior Earl Pettis, junior Devon White and best of all, sophomore guards Cole Stefan, Sam Mills and Tyreek Dureen (an All A-10 Rookie Teamer in 2011). Dr. Giannini has restocked with a mix of transfers and other new blood such as redshirt freshman Matt Lopez, 7’0 Winthrop transfer Taylor Dunn, freshmen DJ Peterson, an off guard, Jerrell Wright (forward) and Steve Zack (center). Dr. Giannini will try to jump-start the development of his team with a three day, four game junket to Canada August 6-9. The players should benefit from the NCAA-sanctioned team practices the staff will conduct before the team departs. The Explorers are slated to play CIS Champion Carleton University Ravens twice (first and last games). Sandwiched between the Ravens, the Explorers will play the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees and a Carleton alumni team.
- Massachusetts: With the announcement that the Minutemen, members of the FCS football division (CAA Conference) would move up to the FBS division and join fellow A-10 conference mate Temple in the MAC, everyone seemed to forget that the basketball team struggled through a 2-8 nightmare to finish the 2011 season with a 15-15 record. Coach Derek Kellogg will return about 64% of the minutes and 61% of the scoring for the 2012 season. Gone are volume scorer Anthony Gurley, Gary Correia, and Hasim Bailey (to graduation) along with Daryl Traynham (dismissed at mid season). Though guard Jordan Laguerre is the only incoming freshman, the Minutemen will have four new players, one transfer (Chaz Williams, a 5’9 guard from Hofstra) and three redshirt freshmen (Maxie Esho, Cady Lalanne and Andrew McCarthy), to work into the rotation. Trey Davis, a Texas guard who signed with George Washington, but received his release when Karl Hobbs was fired in April, became the center of a flap when he opted for Massachusetts. Conference rules, upheld by a vote of the conference Athletic Directors, mandated that should Davis enroll at the Amherst school, he would have to sit for two seasons before he could play. Davis opted for prep school instead. Last word had him remained committed to Massachusetts and able to enroll for the 2012 season. Massachusetts and Connecticut, New England rivals whose series goes back to 1904 (but was put on hiatus after the 2005 season) may renew in the unlikeliest of places — Atlantis Casino and Hotel in the Bahamas. Both schools have accepted invitations to play in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament November 23-27.
- Charlotte: Although Charlotte returns 74% of their 2011 scoring and 67% of their minutes, Major will have a whopping eight new faces (six freshmen and transfers and two redshirts from 2011) at fall practice. Though starter An’Juan Wilderness departed (graduation), along with Charles Dewhurst (fifth year senior), Phil Jones (eligibility) and Sirin Gokhan (transfer), four starters (seniors Javarris Barnett and Derrio Green and juniors Chris Braswell and Jamar Briscoe) return along with rotation players Colby Lewis and KJ Sherrill. Of the eight newcomers, redshirt guard Luka Voncina and transfer (from Georgia) DeMario Mayfield have fans excited. Among the six newcomers, Victor Nickerson, a 6’6 wing out of Norcross, Georgia has garnered the better scouting reviews while 6’3 off-guard Pierria Henry is a two-time All-West Virginia State player. Given the low post need however, 6’10 JUCO Ilija Ivankovic out of Santa Fe CC in Florida and 6’10 Mike Thorne, who played for the Trinity Christian School in North Carolina last year, will be pushed to fill the void created by the departure of Shamari Spears (dismissed in December 2010) and Jones.
- Fordham: Gone from the most successful Ram squad since 2008 are Brenton Butler and Jacob Green (graduation/eligibility), along with Fahro Alihodzic and Brian Freeman (transfer). Not listed on the current (mid-summer) roster, Bernard Gifford, Matt Grayhack and Rayner Moquete will apparently not play for Fordham next season either. Coach Tom Pecora does have a serviceable nucleus that includes seniors Kevin Bristol, Alberto Estwick and role player Ryan Hage, junior Chris Gaston and sophomores Marvin Dominique, Branden Frazier, Khalid Robinson and Lamount Samuell. Collectively that group accounted for nearly 74% of the squad’s 2011 minutes and 76% of their scoring. Pecora, however, needs more scoring and rebounding, and will look to an entering class of seven freshmen, of whom 6’9 center Ryan Canty and 6’4 off-guard Jeffrey Short may be the best for immediate help.
While Xavier and Temple have always pursued a rigorous non-con schedules, more of the other members, with the highest average of returning minutes and scoring in the past four years have moved to capitalize, by upgrading their out of conference slates as well. Nine of the conference’s 14 members will participate in early season invitational tournaments, which should add one or more BCS opponents to their records. With “TBD’s” still listed in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, the CBE Classic and the Las Vegas Classic (not to mention a handful of the exempted “Round Robin Events“), do not be surprised if another A-10 member or two signs up in the next month. Individual schools have moved to upgrade their schedule as well. Charlotte will play Oregon State, host Miami and play Memphis (away) on New Year’s Eve. Dayton may reap the benefits of two road games versus BCS opponents in 2011 (Mississippi and Seton Hall), and have also added Alabama to their schedule. The Flyers are rumored to have negotiated a home-away series with Georgia Tech as part of the price of releasing Gregory from his contract. Duquesne has added games with Penn State and George Mason (from the dreaded CAA) to their 2011-12 slate. Fordham added Georgia Tech to their schedule. George Washington will add games with Syracuse, Kansas State and Georgia. La Salle will play Pittsburgh as part of the Philly Hoops Classic, in addition to their annual Big 5 clash with Villanova (also an annual opponent for Temple and Saint Joseph’s). Richmond is slated to face UCLA in addition to their Cancun Challenge slate. Saint Louis will host Washington on November 20.
Reader’s Take II
The Temple squad was plagued by a thousand (mostly) minor injuries last season even as Juan Fernandez and Lavoy Allen fell a bit short of preseason expectations, yet the Owls finished with a 14-2 conference record, identical to their championship record in 2010. Logging their best postseason (NCAA) run in the Fran Dunphy Era had observers pointing to Ramone Moore, Scootie Randall and especially Khalif Wyatt as crucial elements to Temple’s success. Wyatt took the A-10 Sixth Man honors — an award that has often foreshadowed an impact player in-the-making. Though he played only 51% of the minutes at his position (the wing), Wyatt took 23% of the possessions and shots when he was on the floor, posting a very impressive (top 500 per Pomeroy) offensive rating of 114.1 (about 1.14 points per possession).
Mark Your Calendar
- November 20: Washington at Saint Louis — This should be a good barometer for the Billikens’ 2011-12 prospects. Washington will be in the mix for the Pac-12 title, and should pull down an NCAA bid. A win should catch some national attention.
- November 28: Xavier at Vanderbilt — Vanderbilt comes off of an NCAA year and should be in the thick of the SEC race later in 2011-12. Do not be surprised if both teams are ranked going into this game, and if the timing is right, maybe it will land on national TV.
- December 10: George Washington at Syracuse — Not the most hospitable place for a visitor, but for those wondering where GW will rank this season, this game, against a team expected to win the Big East, should give the fans a sense of where the Colonials are headed this season.
- December 10: Villanova at Temple — An annual match up that has become the title game for the Philadelphia City Series (Big 5). Both teams have drawn NCAA bids over the past three post seasons. Villanova has a young team and the home team has had a definite advantage for the past few years.
- December 10: Cincinnati at Xavier — 12/10 might be Rivalry Day between A-10 and Big East foes. The ball is back in Xavier’s court this season and the Musketeers have a great opportunity to avenge their 20 point loss to Cincinnati last season. The Bearcats are expected to have a hand in the Big East race this season, so both teams may well be ranked going into the game. This should be a good preview for both teams as they finish their out of conference schedules and head into conference play.
- December 17: Temple at Texas — The Owls travel to Austin, Texas to take on the Longhorns, a perennial power in the Big 12. A road win here would definitely boost the national profile for Temple.