Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on December 23rd, 2014

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Freshmen Who Caught Our Attention

This preseason Rookie of the Year, Fordham’s Eric Paschall, has some competition. The postseason award may still be his to lose, but if these five freshmen keep the pace they set in this out of conference through the conference schedule, Paschall may be looking over his shoulder come March. In any event, the conference’s future is in very good hands.

  • Payton Aldridge (Davidson) — It appears just about everything about Davidson was underestimated in the season previews, including this 6’7″ 205 pound forward out of Leavittsburg, Ohio. Aldridge has earned two Rookie of the Week nods plus a pair of Honorable Mentions. Aldridge has earned starts in all of Davidson’s games, averages 25.5 minutes, 12.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game for the Wildcats. Combined with senior wing Tyler Kalinoski (offensive rating 125.8) and sophomore point guard Jack Gibbs (offensive rating 132.5), Aldridge gives Coach Bob McKillop a very efficient (offensive rating 124.4) third option. Aldridge has converted 46% of his three point attempts, giving Davidson the kind of offense that stretches defenses.

    Eric Paschall is still the favorite, but other freshmen have really impressed as well. (AP)

    Eric Paschall is still the favorite, but other freshmen have really impressed as well. (AP)

  • Oskar Michelsen (Davidson) — Another overlooked gem in Davidson’s entering class, Michelsen, at 6’9″ 210 pounds, has started with Aldridge and Kalinoski to give Davidson three scoring forwards. Michelsen averages 20.2 minutes in a front court rotation that includes junior Jake Belford and fellow freshman Nathan Ekwu. Michelsen’s specialty is three pointers. 75% of the freshman’s field goal attempts have been three pointers, a point he made with authority with an 18 point outburst on 6-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc in his debut against Division 3 Catholic University. He has cooled off to a 51% three point conversion rate. Michelsen has earned two conference Honorable Mentions.

  • Darrell Davis (Dayton) — With the dismissal of the Flyers two junior forwards, several of Dayton’s freshmen and rotation players have been thrust into larger roles. Davis, a 6’4″ 168 pound guard stepped up by scoring 18 points in 25 minutes versus Boston University. Davis converted 6-of-7 attempts, including 5-of-5 on three-point attempts. There will be more of these as the season goes on.
  • Jaylen Adams (St. Bonaventure) — The 6’1″ 170 pound freshman from Baltimore has stepped into the point guard spot, earning the start in every Bonnies’ game so far. Coach Mark Schmidt has to be pleased with his impact. Adams averages 31.3 minutes and 12.2 points per game. He has managed a 1.2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Adams’ scoring outbursts include a 19-point outing versus Jackson State and a 26-point, three steal outing versus Ohio University that featured a 12-15 night at the free throw line.
  • Malik Yarbrough (St. Louis) — The 6’6″ 230 pound forward has emerged, along with junior transfer Ashraf Yacoubou, as the focal point of the Billiken offense. Yarbrough has scored double digit points in five of the St. Louis’ 12 games and recorded his first double-double (11 points and 13 rebounds) in the Bills’ 58-55 win over Vermont.
  • Eric Paschall (Fordham) — The preseason pick for Rookie of the Year found the scoring load on him when Jon Severe took a leave of absence from the team. The 6’6″ freshman wing takes nearly 1 in 3 of the Rams’ field goal attempts when he is on the court, surprisingly, he has converted 60% (27-45) of his two point attempts. His three point conversion rate (31% on 13-42) could improve. Paschall has earned a Rookie of the Week nod and two Honorable Mentions through six weeks of play.

Three Games to Catch This Week

  1. Massachusetts at BYU (Tuesday 12/23 4:00 PM ET) — This is a good series, but the timing is terrible. Coach Derek Kellogg’s Minutemen are barely above 0.500 (6-5) with Florida State their best win this season. Short of running the table, they cannot expect the conference schedule to bolster their credentials. Brigham Young, expected to contend with Gonzaga and St. Mary’s in the West Coast Conference this season has a 9-3 record. Cady Lalanne’s scoring is fine, but the senior needs to value the ball better. Kellogg may have thought having three guards with point guard instincts would give the offense options. A plethora of options can sometimes create confusion. Jabari Hinds, Trey Davis and Derrick Gordon need to improve their shot selection (Davis especially seems to be in an offense-killing funk and Hinds takes too many bad three pointers). Pomeroy rates the Cougers a nine point favorite, but UMass could make this closer if they limit the Cougars’ second chance opportunities.
  2. Dayton vs Georgia Tech (Tuesday 12/23 8:00 PM ET) — The Flyers welcome former coach Brian Gregory back to the UD Arena. The Yellow Jackets are 8-2, matching Gregory’s best start since moving to the Atlanta school. They are riding a two game winning streak into this match-up. Like the teams he built at Dayton, Gregory built this Tech team around his forwards and center. The Flyers will have to control a pair of wide bodies, 6’8″ 260 pound forward/center Charles Mitchell and 6’9″ 275 pound senior Demarco Cox, along with 6’5″ wing Marcus Georges-Hunt. Those three will take a combined 67% of the shots when they are on the court together. Mitchell and Cox will score if they get position (though Mitchell is almost as likely to turn it over). Controlling the boards and paint will be more difficult without juniors Devon Scott and Jalen Reynolds, both of whom were dismissed by Dayton earlier this month. Kendall Pollard and undersized (for what he is asked to do) Dyshawn Pierre will have to play their best defensive game. Projected as a #2/#3 finisher in conference play, this game should be a good predictor for what everyone can expect from Coach Archie Miller’s squad over the first month of conference play.
  3. Richmond vs Wake Forest (Saturday 12/28 4:00 PM ET NBCSN) — Coach Chris Mooney’s squad is 6-4 and even though they have had their chances (North Carolina State, Northern Iowa, Old Dominion), their best win to date is Pepperdine out of the West Coast Conference. Wake Forest, in Danny Manning’s first season as head coach has struggled as well, sporting a 6-6 record coming into Richmond. The Demon Deacons have problems turning the ball over and are especially vulnerable to steals — Kendall Anthony should be able to exploit this. Mooney’s teams are not built to rebound, but an extra effort in this game might pay dividends as Wake does not convert efficiently and relies heavily on second chance opportunities to compensate.
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