RTC Conference Primers: #8 – Atlantic 10Posted by Brian Goodman on October 30th, 2011
Reader’s Take I
The A-10 has earned three invitations to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons. Xavier and Temple, as they have for the past two seasons, will claim two bids.
- Xavier’s Honors/Recognition: The Musketeers were eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last March, but have garnered quite a bit of recognition and more than a few awards since last March. Tu Holloway won the 2010-11 Conference Player of the Year award, earned a place on the Wooden Award Preseason Watch List and drew a nod as a member of the preseason A-10 All-Conference First Team. Four of Holloway’s teammates, Mark Lyon, Kenny Frease, Dezmine Wells and Justin Martin, all earned places on several preseason All-Conference teams. Xavier Athletic Director Michael Bobinski will chair the NCAA Mens Tournament Selection Committee for the 2012-13 tournament. Bobinski will succeed Jeff Hathaway, Consultant to Big East Commissioner John Marinatto for Men’s Basketball (yes, that really is his title).
- A-10 to Barclays in 2013: Barclays Center, under construction in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is in the market for multi-day sporting events while the Atlantic 10 is looking for a bigger stage for their post season tournament — a perfect match perhaps? The two announced a deal late last month that will move the 2012-13 A-10 Conference Tournament to the 675,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue that will feature an 18,000 seat arena for basketball. The Atlantic 10 has vacillated between rotating campus sites and a “permanent neutral” site since the first conference tournament in 1976-77. The current location since the 2006-07 tournament, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, is a 10,500 seat amphitheater. While technically neutral, the attendance is up when one or more of the Philadelphia contingent (La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and/or Temple) advances to the quarterfinal round and beyond, and down when they do not. The conference will return to Boardwalk Hall for their 2011-12 tournament, then move over to Barclays Center the following season.
- Coaching Carousal – Coaches in Motion — Or Not: After coach Chris Mooney chose to stay and continue to build the program at Richmond, Georgia Tech moved on to Dayton coach Brian Gregory. The two reached terms and Gregory left Dayton for Atlanta in late March. Dayton moved quickly and hired Archie Miller, brother of former Xavier coach Sean Miller, six days later. A point guard at North Carolina State, Miller graduated in 2002 and landed his first assistant coaching job with Western Kentucky for the 2003-04 season. Over the next eight seasons he made stops at North Carolina State, Arizona State, Ohio State and Arizona before Dayton tabbed him at age 32 as the Flyers 19th head coach. Just over three weeks after Miller was hired George Washington fired head coach Karl Hobbs,conducted an 11-day candidate search and then hired Vermont head coach Mike Lonergan. Lonergan brings 18 years of head coaching experience with stops at Catholic University and Vermont to the Colonial program. In an offseason that saw several quirky coaching shuffles, Saint Louis lost associate head coach Porter Moser when he was hired as head coach by Loyola of Chicago. After a 49-day search, Majerus replaced Moser with Jim Whitesell, the Loyola of Chicago head coach who was fired 69 days earlier.
Predicted Order of Finish
- Xavier (14-2)
- Temple (13-3)
- Saint Louis (12-4)
- Saint Bonaventure (11-5)
- George Washington (10-6)
- Duquesne (10-6)
- Richmond (8-8)
- Dayton (8-8)
- Saint Joseph’s (7-9)
- Rhode Island (7-9)
- La Salle (5-11)
- Massachusetts (3-13)
- Charlotte (2-14)
- Fordham (2-14)
All-Conference Picks (key stats from last season in parentheses)
- PG – Tu Holloway (Xavier, 38.4 MPG, 19.7 PPG, 5.4 APG) Can there be anyone else? The 2010-11 Conference Player of the Year returns to complete his eligibility and hopefully move the Musketeers a round or two (or three or four?) deeper into the NCAA Tournament. A just announced one game suspension (to be served in the Xavier opener versus Morgan State) for a secondary violation will only be a minor distraction.
- SG – Ramone Moore (Temple, 33.9 MPG, 15.2 PPG, 3.9 APG) The all-purpose guard had a breakout season in 2010-11 and earned all-conference honors at the end of last season. Look for the trend to continue in 2011-12.
- SF – Chris Johnson (Dayton, 26.7 MPG, 11.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.5:1.0 ATO) He has played the sidekick to All-Conference player Chris Wright his entire career, but 2011-12 is the 6’6″ forwards time. This is his team and his season. If the Flyers are going to improve their standing in the conference, Johnson will have to lead them there.
- PF – Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure, 33.8 MPG, 20.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.5 BPG) The 6’10” senior will be crucial to the Bonnies’ hopes of taking that next step in 2011-12 — a return to the NIT (with a deeper run) or NCAA tournament. Nicholson has become a regular in NBA Draft conversations, and drew a Wooden Preseason Watch List note from the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Another season of solid progress should translate into another A-10 player whose name is called on draft night in June of 2012.
- C – Kenny Frease (Xavier, 28.5 MPG, 11.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG) Will the 7’0″ senior’s mid-October suspension, described as “indefinite,” but lifted within a fortnight, be the motivator that Coach Chris Mack is hoping for? Look out.
Sixth Man - Chris Gaston (Fordham, 33.9 MPG, 15.9 PPG, 11.3 RPG) Every team in the conference has a legitimate candidate, but Gaston is Division I’s leading returning rebounder, and lead scorer for a program that has not been very good over the course of his career. If Tom Pecora can move the Rams out of the conference cellar, Gaston should reap plenty of recognition around the conference and in the New York City media.
Impact Newcomers: As a transfer, Kevin Dillard, the Southern Illinois émigré has already made a mark in Dayton, leading the Flyers to a solid showing (4-0) in their European tour last summer. If the point guard can deliver consistently all season, the Flyers should be back in the postseason conversation… and Coach Archie Miller’s rookie season will look easier than it really was. True Freshman Dezmine Wells has garnered a few notices around the conference. The wing-in-waiting will draw many conference preseason Rookie of the Year nods. Should he log serious minutes as part of a backcourt/wing rotation that includes Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Brad Redford (and Justin Martin), Musketeers opponents will have their hands full.
Xavier (NCAA Seed: #4): Coach Chris Mack returns 64% of XU’s 2010-11 minutes and 73% of its points, along with three starters headlined by 2011 Atlantic-10 Player of the Year Tu Holloway (38.4 MPG, 19.7 PPG, 5.4 APG), junior off guard Mark Lyons (35.1 MPG, 13.6 PPG, and a terrible 97.6 offensive rating per Ken Pomeroy) and senior center Kenny Frease — fresh from his recent suspension — to the starting lineup. Juniors Jeff Robinson (16.8 MPG, 4.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG) and Travis Taylor (a 6’7″ Monmouth University transfer eligible this season), along with redshirt freshman Justin Martin (6’7″, 202 pounds), sophomore Griffin McKenzie and fifth-year senior Andre Walker, will contend for the two open forward spots vacated by Dante Jackson and Jamel McLean. Each of the five forwards-in-waiting brings something to the game. Then there is freshman Dezmine Wells, a 6’5″ ‘tweener from Raleigh, who is too athletic to leave on the bench for long. Redshirt junior Brad Redford will join Holloway and Lyons in the backcourt rotation, offering Mack a shooter who converted 42% of his three point attempts in 2009-10.
The Musketeers play their usual national OOC schedule, which if successful, should put them in early postseason brackets. They host Georgia of the SEC, then travel to Nashville to face Vanderbilt in November. Ambitious? Buckle your seat belts, because Xavier then hosts Big Ten power Purdue, travels to Indianapolis to battle mid-major hottie Butler after which the team returns to the Queen City for their Crosstown Shootout with Cincinnati. Christmas in Hawaii will be no holiday for the X-Men. One of the higher seeds in the Diamond Head Classic Invitational field, the X-men could earn a final versus Kansas State. Running that table might be unrealistic, but less than two out of conference losses should have most bracketologists tabbing the Musketeers as a #3 or #4 seed going into conference play. The conference schedule maker gave Xavier Dayton and Saint Louis (and Charlotte) as home-away opponents, along with a conference showdown versus Temple, in Philadelphia, on February 11. Mark your calendars for that one, as both teams will be ranked going in.
Other Postseason Teams
- Temple (NCAA Seed #6): The Owls return four senior starters, point guard Juan Fernandez (31.8 MPG, 11.2 PPG, 3.9 APG), off guard Ramone Moore (33.9 MPG, 15.2 PPG, 3.1 APG), forward Scootie Randall (30.3 MPG, 10.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG) and forward/center Michael Eric (20.0 MPG, 7.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG), along with nearly 85% of the minutes and points from a squad so injury plagued in 2010-11 that by late February the rotation appeared to be held together with duct tape and sheer determination. Expect another spirited run through the conference for Temple, with the Owls hosting the showdown game, on Saturday February 11 at 4:00 pm (ESPN2 if you cannot get to the Liacouras Center). With the home court advantage in hand and a conference schedule that breaks nicely (but not perfectly) for the Owls, why was Temple picked here for #2? Coach Fran Dunphy may be used to working with small rotations, but this squad will have even fewer hands, but as many questions as usual, this season. Will Randall, who continues to rehabilitate from knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, be 100% when he is (expected to be) cleared to play in December? Can Eric, an often injured low post presence, deliver all season for the Owls? The forward/center has missed games and played injured in each of his preceding three seasons. Will Fernandez, who showed the cumulative effects of a three year “endless basketball season” be rested and conditioned well enough for this season? Can well regarded freshman Anthony Lee, a 6’9″ 200 pound forward out of Orlando, Florida, and junior forward Rahir Jefferson be able to collectively fill the scoring and rebounding void left by forward Lavoy Allen? T.J. Dileo and Aaron Brown will provide solid bench support. Despite a favorable conference schedule, the Owls’ individual parts will need to fulfill expectations (and stay healthy) if they are to break on top of the Musketeers. It could happen, Dunphy has done more with less.
- Saint Louis (NCAA Seed #10): Year five of the Majerus Era opens with the highest expectations since the 25-year veteran coach was hired in April of 2007. The Billikens return 92.8% of their 2010-11 minutes and 96.3% of their scoring. A senior/sophomore tandem, Brian Conklin (21.4 MPG, 8.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG) and Dwayne Evans (23.3 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG) return to hold down the forwards spots. Low post starts were split between sophomore Rob Loe (17.5 MPG, 6.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG) and junior Cory Remekun (16.1 MPG, 3.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG) — both are back and should again split the playing time and starts. 2010-11 starting guards sophomore Mike McCall (29.3 MPG, 10.4 PPG, APG) and senior Kyle Cassity (31.5 MPG, 8.4 PPG, 3.4 APG) will compete with redshirt point guard Kwamain Mitchell for back court time and starts. Much of the bench/rotation is also back (11 letter winners total) and should be a year better. The Billikens posted an underwhelming 0.94 points per possession (PPP) in 2010-11 conference play. Had they produced to the conference average (1.03 PPP) the difference could have translated into five or six additional conference wins. Mitchell, whose efficiency was about three points (per 100 possessions) higher than the 2009-10 squad, should help immediately. Majerus faces a rare but not unpleasant challenge of working the six returning starters plus Mitchell into a five man starting lineup. If the Billikens are to break up the annual Temple and Xavier duet, a strong start — Washington in Chaifetz Arena and the 76 Classic over Thanksgiving should garner some national attention – and minimum in-season distractions (like Majerus’ ongoing health issues) are prerequisites.
- Saint Bonaventure (NIT): The Bonnies bring back senior forward Andrew Nicholson (33.8 MPG, 20.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.5 BPG) and three other starters — senior guard Michael Davenport (31,7 MPG, 11.1 PPG, 2.2 APG), junior wing Demetrius Conger (35.1 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG) and senior forward Da’Quan Cook (25.5 MPG, 6.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG). The four starters plus Matthew Wright, Marquis Simmons, Brett Roseboro and Sam DeHaas logged 77.4% of the minutes and 82.0% of the points in 2010-11. Five newcomers, including three JUCOs — 5’11” guard Eric Mosley (Austin Peay and Cincinnati State), 6’5″ forward Chris Johnson (Kilgore College, TX) and 6’3″ point guard Charlon Kloof (Guilford Technical College, NC and Canarias BA) — and two true freshmen — 6’11” center Youssou Ndoye (Senegal) and 6’3″ Jordan Gaithers (Los Angeles, CA) — should provide depth for the squad. With Ogo Adegboye graduated, look for Mosley, a prolific scorer, and Kloof, an August signee, to draw long looks at the #1. Three power conference opponents (North Carolina State, Virginia Tech and Illinois), road games all, could give the Bonnies some national buzz going into conference play. St. Bonaventure must capitalize on a favorable draw of conference mirror opponents (Rhode Island, Fordham and Duquesne) and an important 5-2 (home to road games) advantage against the seven teams that will challenge for conference standing, to have hope for an NCAA berth.
- George Washington (NIT/CBI): Coach Mike Lonergan inherited a nearly intact rotation (81.9% of the 2010-11 minutes and 82.3% of the Colonials points). The nucleus includes senior point guard Tony Taylor (33.4 MPG, 15.0 PPG, 4.6 APG) and three returning starting forwards, sophomore Nemanja Mickic (24.1 MPG, 8.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG), senior wing Aaron Ware (19.5 MPG, 5.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG) and junior Dwayne Smith (22.8 MPG, 9.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG). Having redshirt sophomore off guard Lasan Kromah back is a plus, but Lonergan faces a Morton’s Fork of experience versus length in the Colonial frontcourt. Senior rotation player David Pellom and Mikic are 6’8″. Ware and Smith are shorter. Forwards John Kopriva and Jabari Hinds are taller than Pellom and Mikic, but are freshmen. The freshmen have to get up to speed quickly if the Colonials are to have a chance at a bye seed in Atlantic City.
- Duquesne (NIT/CBI): The gap left by departed starters Damian Saunders and Bill Clark will fall to the freshmen-heavy frontcourt contingent of Kadeem Pantophlet (6’6”), Danny Herrara (6’5″), Derrick Martin (a 6’9″ redshirt freshman) and Mamadou Datt (6’11”) to fill. The Dukes, who flew under the radar in 2010-11 will step back this season. But with the return of sophomore backcourt mates Mike Talley (22.9 MPG, 6.9 PPG, 2.4 APG) and T.J. McConnell (30.6 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 4.4 APG), along with junior wing B.J. Montiero (27.1 MPG, 11.4 PPG, 1.2 BPG) who headline the returning contingent that provided 61.5% of the scoring, do not expect the fall to be too far. Returning wing/forwards Jerry Jones, Andre Marhold and guard Sean Johnson will, along with freshman guard P.J. Torres, a 6’4″ wing in the mold of Clark, provide depth. A tough conference slate that includes mirror games with Saint Louis, Saint Bonaventure and Dayton, coupled with road games at Xavier, Temple and George Washington should provide a lot of experience — but not necessarily wins — this season.
- Richmond (CBI): 40.6% of the minutes and 30.1% of the scoring returns for Richmond, but coach Chris Mooney can call on eight players who logged playing time last season. Three players, senior forward Francis Martel (4.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG), senior forward/center Darrius Garrett (1.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG) and sophomore guard Cedric Lindsay (4.4 PPG, 1.6 APG), logged double figure minutes last season. Two forwards, senior Josh Duinker and sophomore Derrick Williams appeared in at least 73% of Richmond’s games. Reserves Liam Billings, Zak Estes, Jonathan Benjamin, Gregg Robbins and Connor Smith will provide depth. Mooney’s Princeton Offense posted 1.12 points per possession (PPP) last season but the key to Richmond’s run was a matchup zone defense that held opponents to a paltry 0.95 points per possession. Expect the Spiders to lead with defense this season, as Williams and others maintain defensive pressure. A five-man entering class that features three frontcourt players, Luke Piotrowski, Trey Davis and Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, will push the regulars for time, while two 5’8″ point guards, Kendall Anthony and Zachary Chu will learn behind Lindsay. Redshirt freshman wing Wayne Sparrow rounds out the squad. The Spiders were 6-0 versus their home-away mirror opponents (Charlotte, George Washington and Saint Joseph’s) last season. They drew the same mirrors for 2011-12, but a 6-0 repeat is optimistic. Hosting Temple is small consolation for facing Duquesne, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Louis and Xavier on the road.
- Dayton: Like the power conferences, the A-10 can (Chris Mack excepted) be rough on rookie head coaches. Though the Flyers return a meager 58% of their 2010-11 minutes and scoring, coach Archie Miller, successor to Brian Gregory, will put a fresh pair of eyes on the squad that, while winning 20 for the fourth consecutive year in 2010-11, seemed to underachieve the past two seasons. Joining returning starters, junior forward Chris Johnson, senior off guard Paul Williams and senior forward/center Josh Benson will be junior guard Kevin Dillard, a former Mr. Illinois basketball who logged two years at Southern Illinois before coming to Dayton. Gregory employed a rotation that often used more than 10 players, some of the reserves Miller has inherited — guard Josh Parker along with forwards Matt Kavanaugh, Luke Fabrizius and Devin Oliver for example — averaged nearly ten or more minutes per game last season. If the Flyers European tour last August is a predictor, Dillard and Johnson, both efficient scorers, will insure Miller does not suffer through a rookie campaign like Charlottes Alan Major did in 2010-11.
- Saint Joseph’s: A 7-4 run over their last 11 games took the sting out of a overall 11-22 record, the first time in the Hawks’ 101-year history that the program logged back-to-back 20-game losing seasons. The fans eagerly anticipate that 7-4 squad this season. The sophomore-centric squad should improve this season. Though junior guard Carl Jones and sophomore forward C.J. Aiken may draw a lot of attention, the Hawks’ fate will rest with the progress made by sophomore guard Langston Galloway and sophomore forward Ronald Roberts who, as two off-the-radar freshmen, charged hard at the end of last season. If they start strong — games at the Charleston Classic and with Villanova at the Hagan this season will be indicators — the Hawks could move into the conference upper division.
- Rhode Island: Though Jim Barron has to replace nearly 75% of his 2011 minutes and points this season, there is hope. Seven veterans, led by guard Jamil Wilson and joined by starting forward Nikola Malesevic and junior forward Orion Outerbridge who averaged 17.7 points in the 21 games he played after a fall semester suspension played in 2010-11. A large class of five true freshmen headlined by 6’7″ guard/forward Dominique McKoy and 6’9″ forward Jon Holton should see action early and often. The Runnin’ Rams have a challenging out of conference slate that should get the squad ready for the A-10 regular season. Two well regarded transfers, Andre Malone, a 6’6″ guard from Auburn and 6’2″ point guard Billy Baron (yes, Coach Baron’s youngest son) should be eligible by the end of December. Rhode Island is one of the teams that conference opponents in late February will wish they had met in early January.
- La Salle: Dr. John Giannini may have alluded to addition by subtraction in his last 2010-11 post game press conference, but he has a lot of subtraction to overcome. The Explorers return only 53% of their minutes and 41.2% of their points from their 2010-11 roster. Guard Cole Stefan left the program in early August negating the late addition-by-waiver granted South Carolina transfer Ramon Galloway, a 6’2″ guard and Philadelphia native. The squad is thin in the frontcourt. Short bodies, junior Devon White, alone among the two centers and two forwards available, has logged minutes as a collegian. Senior guard, 6’5″ Earl Pettis will be the de facto swing man as La Salle will rely on their back court sophomore contingent, Tyreek Duren and Sam Mills, to jump start their offense.
- Massachusetts: Coach Derek Kellogg brings back the second through sixth leading scorers (juniors Javorn Ferrell, Freddie Riley, Sampson Carter and Terrell Vinson) from the 2010-11 roster, but combined they accounted for about 30 points per game. Using transfer Chaz Williams, a jet-quick pass first guard at the point, may change the dynamic of Kellogg’s Dribble Drive Motion offense. Look for redshirt freshmen fowards Cady Lalanne and Max Esho to help Williams push UMass’ pace, about 68.1 possessions per game last season, even higher. Sophomores Jesse Morgan and Raphael Putney, along with senior Sean Carter should see regular minutes.
- Charlotte: The 49ers survived a 10-20 (2-14 in conference play) season in Alan Major’s first year. Seven new faces, four true freshmen, a JUCO, a transfer and a redshirt freshman, will join six returnees for fall practice. Just under 75% of the scoring from 2010-11 will return, but given the anemic 0.96 points per possession offensive production in conference play, the 49ers need more scorers. Major will sift through the newcomers to find them. The best candidates are DeMarco Mayfield, a 6’5″ guard who transferred from Georgia and freshman redshirt Luka Voncina, a 6’4″ guard and native of Slovenia to complement returning guards seniors Darrio Green, Javarris Barnett and junior Jamar Briscoe. Juniors Chris Braswell and K.J. Sherrill need help in the front court, look for JUCO Ilija Ivankovic to draw minutes in the low post.
- Fordham: Coach Tom Pecora returns approximately 75% of the Rams’ 2011 minutes and scoring for his second season on Rose Hill. Four returning starters, Chris Gaston, Brandon Frazier, Kervin Bristol and Alberto Estwick, are the squad’s nucleus. The 2010-11 team scored 0.91 points per possession in conference play — Pecora needs a scoring infusion and will have to find it among the six new faces, all freshmen. Luka Zivkovic, a 6’10” Euro-style forward from Serbia via Traders Point Christian School in Indiana might be a start. Expect him to draw minutes at the #4, with freshmen center Ryan Canty getting some minutes as well. Progress for the Rams will be measured in more wins this season. A move up the rankings will have to wait another year.
Reader’s Take #2
If conference realignment does reshape the conferences in the Northeast, upper Midwest and beyond (the A-10, Big East, MAC, CUSA/MWC), and one or more A-10 members depart, which school would you most like to see invited to join the A-10?
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?
- Is It Getting Hot in Here?: For La Salle coach Dr. John Giannini (opening his eighth season at 30th and Olney) and Massachusetts coach Derek Kellogg, entering his fourth season with the Minutemen, the clock ticks even louder this season. Giannini was handed a La Salle program on life support. Racked by scandal and plagued by years of poor recruiting, Giannini had by his fifth season turned the program from one that lost 19 games in 2004-05 to one that won 18 in 2008-09. The team backpedaled from 2009-11, losing 36 games overall and logging a 10-32 record in conference play. Giannini, by all accounts a good person, needs a second turnaround soon. With all of the activity surrounding the decision to upgrade their football program to the FBS Division, it is possible that Massachusetts AD John McCutcheon simply overlooked the February implosion of his basketball team. A 5-2 conference start ended with a 2-7 tumble punctuated by a 77-73 loss to winless (in conference play) Fordham. Kellogg has logged a 39-53 overall record in Amherst, 12 short of Steve Lappas’ four-year (2001-05) total of 65, that includes a 19-29 conference record. Though Phil Martelli is the dean of the A-10 coaching fraternity, should Saint Joseph’s stumble badly out of the gate this season, his seniority will not save him.
- Will The Big East Pluck From The A-10?: The conference realignment focus has been largely on the power conferences, with the Big East, sharing a Northeasten and upper Midwestern footprint with the Atlantic-10, sitting at ground zero. Down three football members, the Big East has developed an almost endless number of invitation lists for football-only and all-sports candidates. Most lists, all-sports and football-only, have included Temple. The tensions of a hybrid conference may well tear the Big East apart. That prospect has many of the basketball schools putting together lists as well, a basketball-focused conference that could continue to play its conference tournament in Madison Square Garden. A-10 names that have appeared on those lists include Dayton, Saint Louis and Xavier. No matter what form the Big East takes going forward, expect a number of A-10 schools to be somewhere in the mix.
Spotlight on…Fran Dunphy’s Upper Lip
The question that nipped at Fran Dunphy’s heels as the Penn coached moved north across the city to take up the first chair at Temple back in 2006 was whether the veteran of 17 years in the Ivy League could make the transition from a program that did not offer athletic scholarships and did not pursue high-profile hardwood athletes to one that did and had to as a necessity to compete against opponents, nearly all of whom recruited and played scholarship athletes. Dunphy rebuilt the Penn program and enjoyed tremendous success in his last eight years at the Ivy, but could he recruit, guide and motivate the players necessary for Temple’s continued success, as had his iconic predecessor John Chaney? Coule he get them to regard their academic work as a legitimate and necessary preparation for life after basketball? Players at Temple often had career goals that included professional play and though Chaney championed life goals that included careers based on college education (and college degrees), Owl players sometimes completed their eligibility before they completed their degree work. When Dionte Christmas exhausted his eligibility in 2009 without earning his degree, his mentor made a standing offer to shave his moustache, a face ornament grown after his graduation from La Salle in 1971 that had become his visual signature over the years, when his star guard completed his degree work. On October 6 at the Liacouras Center before an assembled group that that included the media and his former Owl forward, Dunphy, with the words “I know that everybody’s here because I’m shaving my mustache, but the bigger story is that this young man (Christmas) has graduated from Temple University”, lathered up and shaved the ‘stache. For the purpose of identification for those A-10 fans who will this season wonder about that guy kneeling in front of the Temple bench, we offer this…
Seven conference teams return at least two-thirds of their 2010-11 minutes and points, with five teams returning 75% or better in either or both of those categories. Conference-wide averages of 65.7% and 65.8% for minutes and points are in line with previous seasons. But those numbers understate the experience level of several conference teams going into the 2011-12 season. Factor in crucial returning redshirts (Kwamain Mitchell and Brad Redford among others), JUCO players (Ilija Ivankovic and Eric Mosley for example) and eligible transfers (Kevin Dillard and Andre Malone to name just two) and fans should be treated to some of the most experienced squads in the past five seasons go head-to-head virtually every week. Conference observers will be treated to a tremendous mix of individual talents and experienced teams that should create intriguing matchups throughout the conference regular season. A wide distribution of minutes and points, from 98.2% (returning minutes) for Saint Louis down to 25.2% for Rhode Island, suggests that, while Xavier and Temple will headline the conference again this season, the standings for teams ranked #3 through #10 will be scrambled and probably more competitive than previous years. A good preview on the conference’s depth and quality will come in the early season invitational tournaments, one of the few venues where teams from power conferences will play their A-10 counterparts on neutral courts. Solid results in those early season matchups should promote the conferences chances for snagging a fourth NCAA bid.