Atlantic 10 basketball preview

Dayton's Scoochie Smith (Photo Credit: Dayton Flyers Basketball)

Dayton’s Scoochie Smith
(Photo Credit: Dayton Flyers Basketball)

Last season the Atlantic 10 had three teams in the NCAA Tournament. In 2014, six teams qualified. This year the Atlantic 10 could make some noise like they did in 2014 with the group of returning athletes. VCU won the conference championship last year and went to the NCAA Tournament with Dayton and Davidson. Richmond, Rhode Island and George Washington went to the NIT. All six of those programs have the potential to do big things, even though VCU lost Shaka Smart to Texas.

Dayton Flyers (27-9; 15-5, A-10):

The Flyers return four starters from last year’s team that fell to Oklahoma in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Dayton overcame a seven-man rotation, which included a player who started the season as a walk-on. The Flyers were a relatively small team with no one taller than 6-foot-6, but Dayton overcame these hurdles and found success. The Flyers will be without the leadership and scoring of guard Jordan Sibert, who averaged 16.1 points per game. Other than the loss of Sibert, the Flyers return everyone from last season’s team. They also have a couple players that redshirted last year and are expected to contribute. Head coach Archie Miller went out and recruited a highly regarded freshman class. Under Miller, Dayton has 53 wins spanning the past two seasons, which is the second-best two-year total in program history. Things don’t look to change much this year. The Flyers are dealing with the loss of Sibert in the backcourt, but they have others who can step in. Scoochie Smith started all 36 games at the point last season. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound junior averaged 9.2 points and 12.3 in six career NCAA Tournament games. Smith is an excellent passer and a tough defender. Kyle Davis was second on the team in steals and blocked shots last season. The 6-foot, 175-pound junior guard is a talented defender and he can finish around the rim. Davis averaged 7.1 points as a sophomore. The addition of freshman John Crosby will allow Darrell Davis to return to the two-spot, where he is more comfortable. Davis led the conference in 3-point shooting last season. He made 47 of 104 from beyond-the-arc. The 6-foot-4 junior set a Dayton record when he nailed 10 in a row, spanning over three games early last season. Davis hit seven 3s against the Sooners in the NCAA Tournament. Crosby is a 6-foot-2, 192-pound guard. He averaged 13.3 points and 3.6 assists at New Hampton School last season. Charles Cooke is a transfer who could replace Sibert. The 6-foot-5 James Madison transfer was Third-team All-CCA before sitting out last year. He has a year of practice with the Flyers under his belt. Dyshawn Pierre and Kendall Pollard beef up the Dayton frontcourt. The 6-foot-6 Pierre can drop a 3 and he can score inside. He is a great defender and an excellent post-to-post passer. Pollard is fast and can cover a lot of ground. The 6-foot-6 forward can score and he is good on the boards. He led Dayton in blocked shots last year. Four additions to the Flyers’ frontcourt are expected to instantly make contributions. Steve McElvene is a 6-foot-11, 268-pound freshman that gives Dayton the size they lacked last season. In high school, he averaged four boards per game. He can also score. Ryan Mikesell is a 6-foot-7 forward who can score. He shot 54 percent as a high school senior and averaged 22.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 3.4 blocks. Sam Miller and Xeyrius Williams both add size to Dayton’s frontcourt. Miller is 6-foot-9 and averaged 13.9 points and 8.0 rebounds in high school. Williams is 6-foot-8 and an athletic forward. He shot 35.3 percent from 3-point land in high school as a senior. Dayton overcame many hurdles last season and still found success. With most of that team returning and a talented group of newcomers, this could be Miller’s best team yet.

Rhode Island Rams (23-10; 13-5, A-10):

Rhode Island’s basketball program has been on the up since Dan Hurley took the reins three years ago. Four starters return from last year’s team. The addition of some key transfers may give the Rams its best shot at an A-10 championship yet. They were one of the top defenses in the nation last season. Rhode Island will have a strong inside presence and a core group of quality guards this year. E.C. Matthews is one of the country’s top guards. He averaged 16.9 points and led the Rams in scoring despite battling injuries throughout the season. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound guard finished third in the A-10 in scoring and knocked down 68 3-pointers. He is also a strong defender. Jared Terrell made a splash as a freshman. Rhode Island was 13-1 when the guard scored in double figures. He averaged 9.2 points and is a defensive threat. The 6-foot-3 sophomore had 46 steals. Jarvis Garrett cracked the starting lineup in January and was a key player. The 6-foot sophomore is a confident shooter and a playmaker. Garrett is a solid scorer. Hassan Martin finished second on the Rams in scoring and led them in rebounding and blocked shots. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound junior is a solid shooter and had a 59.8 percent field goal percentage. He averaged 11.4 points and 7.7 rebounds last season. Senior Earl Watson showed flashes of potential last year. He loves to play above the rim and is a solid rebounder. Junior Kuran Iverson is a huge pickup for the Rams. He transferred from Memphis last year and is cleared to play after the first semester. He was a former Top-50 recruit. The 6-foot-9 versatile forward is looking for a fresh start in Rhode Island. Newcomers Nicola Akele and Andre Berry will add depth in the post. The 6-foot-7 Berry averaged 11 points and five rebounds last season for the New Mexico Military Institute. The Rams will depend on its defense for success. They make it hard for team’s to score in the paint. Rhode Island wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.

Davidson Wildcats (24-8; 14-4, A-10):

Davidson won the A-10 last season and punched a ticket to the NCAA Tournament, making the transition from the Southern Conference to the A-10 look easy. Last season the Wildcats were seventh in the NCAA and first in the A-10 in scoring, averaging 79 ppg. The Wildcats could repeat, considering they only lost one player. Davidson will be without its leading scorer Tyler Kalinoski, but nine other players who averaged double figures in minutes return. Guards Brian Sullivan and Jack Gibbs are the leaders in the backcourt. Sullivan combined with Kalinoski as one of the top 3-point duos in the country last season. Sullivan shot 35.5 percent from beyond-the-arc. He averaged 12.7 points. Gibbs is a confident guard that can hit a 3-pointer. He averaged 10.1 made 3s a game. The 6-foot Gibbs can get to the basket. He is physical and has excellent footwork on both ends of the floor. Jordan Watkins adds depth at guard. He is athletic and plays with confidence. Not to mention, he is a 3-point threat. Jordan Barham is the face of the Wildcats this season. He was the leading rebounder last year, averaging 6.1 rebounds. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound forward brings a physical presence and goes hard to the hoop. As Davidson hits 3s, Barham steps in with quick moves and leaves opponents’ big men flatfooted. He averaged 11.8 points last season. Davidson has two reliable scoring forwards in Peyton Aldridge an Oskar Michelsen. The 6-foot-8 Aldridge and the 6-foot-9 Michelsen are both versatile and can cause matchup problems in transition. Plus both can hit 3s. Nathan Ekwu adds athleticism at the forward position. The 6-foot-9 Jake Belford played in six games and averaged 7.5 points and 4.0 rebounds last year before suffering a foot injury in December. Andrew McAuliffe adds additional strength down low. Davidson has the talent to repeat as A-10 champs. The team chemistry exists and 3-point shooting helps them pull away from opponents.

George Washington Colonials (22-13; 10-8, A-10):

The Colonials went to the NCAA Tournament in 2014 and the NIT last year. The Colonials return four starters from last season’s team. George Washington’s second leading scorer, Kethan Savage, transferred to Butler. Even without Savage, the Colonials still have a lot of talent. Joe McDonald averaged 9.9 points and 5.8 rebounds last season. The 6-foot-1 guard is a team player and rebounds well. Patricio Garino is a talented wing. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound senior is a well-rounded player. He is smart and is a reliable 3-point shot. He averaged 12.4 points and 5.3 rebounds. Big man Kevin Larsen is a physical presence in the paint. He has offensive potential but needs to become consistent. The 6-foot-6 forward is a double-double threat every time he steps on the court. Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh is a big man who can shoot the 3. He started 22 games at Wake Forest, averaging 8.8 points and 3.9 rebounds. While sitting out a year, the 6-foot-9 forward got in better shape. He beefed up and slimmed down his body fat percentage. Sophomore guard Paul Jorgens and Dartmouth transfer Alex Mitola will add depth in the backcourt. Both can shoot 3-points and are skilled ballhandlers.

Richmond Spiders (21-14; 12-6, A-10):

Richmond went to the Sweet 16 in 2011, followed by three mediocre seasons. Last season the Spiders got back on track, winning 21 games and advancing the quarterfinals of the NIT. Richmond is an experienced team and ready to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Four starters and six of the top eight players return this season. The Spiders are solid inside. Senior Terry Allen averaged 13.0 ppg and 6.7 rebounds last year. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward is quick and thrives in the lane. The versatile Allen can also handle the ball and hit an occasional 3-pointer. T.J. Cline is a transfer from Niagra and son of Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman. The 6-foot-9 junior elevated his game last season and became a star. He is quick inside and can shoot from beyond-the-arc. Last season he shot 38.8 percent from 3-point range. He has deep range on his jumper, making him lethal in pick-and-pop situations. He is a skilled passer, too. Deion Taylor is a defensive specialist. The 6-foot-7 senior does the team’s dirty work and gets the job done. Taylor and Virginia Tech transfer Marshall Wood are expected to play killer defense. Trey Davis is a 6-foot-5 wing that will helps defensively. The area of concern for Richmond is the backcourt. Kendall Anthony is gone, leaving a huge hole to fill. ShawnDre Jones was the A-10’s sixth man of the year last season and will move into the starting five. He averaged 10.3 points and 2.6 rebounds as a sophomore. Jones is the only established contributor in the backcourt. He will get help on the perimeter from 6-foot-4 junior Josh Jones. The Spiders will need redshirt freshman Khwan Fore or true freshman Julius Johnson and Jesse Pistokache to mature quickly.

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Rams (26-10; 12-6, A-10):

VCU's Melvin Johnson (Photo Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports)

VCU’s Melvin Johnson
(Photo Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports)

VCU lost Shaka Smart to Texas, and new head coach Will Wade will takeover. Smart led the Rams to five NCAA Tournaments before moving on. Wade plans on using Smart’s “Havoc” defense. VCU returns several players from last season. Sharpshooter Melvin Johnson returns. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior was the Rams top 3-point shooter. He averaged 12.4 points. JeQuan Lewis is a confident guard that VCU will look to for leadership. He averaged 8.5 points and 2.7 assists last season. Big man Mo Alie-Cox shot 59.4 percent from the floor last year. The 6-foot-7, 250-pound junior plays well on defense. Wade will look to him to produce in the paint.Jordan Burgess and Doug Brooks are two of VCU’s 3-point threats. Wade added graduate transfer Korey Billbury to solidify the Rams’ roster. The 6-foot-4 Billbury scored 1,121 points in three seasons at Oral Roberts. Juco transfer Ahmad Hamdy was a top rebounder at the junior college level. The 6-foot-9 junior can also score inside. Justin Tillman is a solid rebounder, and he should see more minutes at the post.

Saint Joseph’s Hawks (13-18; 7-11, A-10):

Saint Joseph’s offense was in the bottom of the A-10 last season, and the NCAA. They finished No.302 in scoring, No. 299 in field-goal percentage and No.326 in 3-point shooting. The Hawks will go to a faster pace and a pressure defense to try and boost scoring this season. DeAndre’ Bembry returns for his junior season and will be the centerpiece for the Hawks. The 6-foot-6 wing is one of the best players in the A-10. He averaged 17.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.0 steals last season. Plus he can shoot from 3-point range. Over the summer, Bembry was invited to the Nike Basketball Academy as one of the top 20 players invited to the camp. Saint Joseph’s will need other players to step up and help Bembry if they want to compete. Isaiah Miles is expected to help Bembry in the scoring department. He can score and rebound. Last season Miles averaged 10.7 points and 5.1 rebounds. Redshirt junior Javon Baumann is aggressive on the boards. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks last season. Sophomore James Demery is a great player in the open court. He can explode to the basket. Aaron Brown was the Hawks’ top reserve last season. He always brought energy to the court. He can score off the dribble and is solid on defense. Freshman guards Lamarr Kimble and Chris Clover will be given a chance to help right away.

Saint Bonaventure Bonnies (18-13; 10-8, A-10):

The Bonnies have been accustomed to five winning seasons in head coach Mark Schmidt’s seven seasons. With the majority of last season’s team returning, Saint Bonaventure should be poised to compete. The Bonnies return one of the conference’s best and most clutch perimeter players, Marcus Posley. The 6-foot-1 senior nailed buzzer-beating, game winners against Davidson and VCU last season. Over the offseason, Posley hit the gym and built up his frame. Last season the go-to guard averaged 16.7 points. The loss of Youssou Ndoyce is a big one for the Bonnies, and it is a huge loss down low. Jaylen Adams averaged 10 points and 4.5 assists as a freshman. He broke his finger in February and missed the end of last season. The 6-foot-1 guard is good at running the offense. He knows when to distribute and when to take a shot. Freshman Nelson Kaputo is an excellent passer and can help Posley and Adams in the rotation. Juco transfer Courtney Stockard averaged 23.2 points and 9.0 rebounds last season. He is a player who can score both inside and outside. Senior Dion Wright averaged 13.5 points and 7.0 rebounds last year. The 6-foot-7 forward brings energy to the lineup. Denzel Gregg, redshirt freshman Jordan Tyson and true freshman LaDarien Griffin and Derrick Woods will need to help.

Duquesne Dukes (12-19; 6-12, A-10):

The Dukes have gone through three seasons of rebuilding. Duquesne has some much needed experience and leadership in the programs 100th season. The Dukes are capable of stirring up trouble for opponents, especially on their home court. It is the road where Duquesne struggled last season. They were outscored by nearly 11 points per game and lost 10 in a row from December till February. The Dukes proved they could put points on the board, averaging 71.4 points per game. However, they struggled on the defensive end. Senior Derrick Colter and Micah Mason are one of the A-10’s top guard tandems. Colter averaged 13.2 points an has started every game in his career at Duquesne. Mason averaged 12.8 points last season and was seventh in the nation in 3-point shooting. The two combined to shoot 43.8 percent from beyond-the-arc. Sophomore Rene Castro is a Butler transfer expected to help in the backcourt. Mar’Qywell Jackson is a 6-foot-5 UTEP transfer that averaged 26.4 points in high school. The frontcourt is an area of concern for the Dukes. Jeremiah Jones averaged 7.3 points last season. He finished strong, scoring in double figures in eight of Duquesne’s final 11 games. He dished the ball to teammates 101 times last season. Darius Lewis is a 6-foot-11 junior who excels on defense. He had 31 blocks in 31 games last season. L.G. Gill, TySean Powell, Jordan Robinson and Eric James all add size and depth to the frontcourt. The 6-foot-8 Robinson provides strength up front. Gill can knock down shots from 3-point land. Powell is good at attacking off the dribble.

Massachusetts Minutemen (17-15; 10-8, A-10):

The Minutemen put together their fourth consecutive winning season last year. They also produced the A-10’s only drafted player in the 2015 NBA Draft, a second round pick of the San Antonio Spurs, Cady Lalanne. Massachusetts hopes to challenge this season. The loss of Lalanne and Maxie Esho leaves questions inside for the Minutemen. Antwan Space is a good post player with experience. The 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward played at Florida State as a freshman and then at Texas A&M. Space is best known for his defense. Trey Davis averaged 10.8 points and 3.8 assists. He was the top 3-point shooter on the team last season. Jabarie Hinds played his first season with the Minutemen last year after transferring from West Virginia. He averaged 8.1 points. He provides strong on-the-ball defense pressure. Donte Clark averaged 9.6 points and 2.5 rebounds. Seth Berger started the first eight games, but was sidelined the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his foot. Zach Coleman averaged 10.3 minutes last year and made 11 3-pointers. Tyler Bergantino will provide good defense. Newcomers Malik Hines and Rashaan Holloway will be given a chance to contribute right away.

LaSalle Explorers (17-16; 8-10, A-10):

Two years ago LaSalle made a Sweet 16 appearance but has struggled since. Jordan Price is expected to lead the way for the Explorers. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound guard averaged 17.2 points last season. He can drive to the hoop or drop a 3. The biggest thing Price needs to improve is turning the ball over. Cleon Roberts is a long-armed wing with potential to become a star. He averaged 8.8 points. Price and Roberts showed that they can take advantage of shorter defenders last season. Amar Stukes adds depth to LaSalle’s backcourt. He averaged 5.3 points. Sophomore Johnnie Shuler and freshman Karl Harris will be key contributors from the bench. Jerrell Wright and Steve Zack are two powerful interior forces that are gone. Transfers B.J. Johnson (Syracuse), Pookie Powell (Memphis) and Demetrius Henry (South Carolina) must all sit out this season. Tony Washington will play a lot more this season. The 6-foot-10 sophomore worked to get in shape and on his game over the offseason. Rohan Brown is LaSalle’s defensive stopper. He is expected to do the dirty work this season. Yevgen Sakhniuk and Rokas Ulvydas will be frontcourt factors this season.

Fordham Rams (10-21; 4-14, A-10):

Fordham has won a total of 14 conference games over the last seven seasons. The last time the Rams were in the NCAA Tournament was in 1992. Head coach Jeff Neubauer comes to Fordham after 10 years with Eastern Kentucky. The Rams’ best player from last season, Eric Paschall, transferred to Villanova. With Paschall gone, Neubauer will have to build a foundation around senior guard Mandell Thomas. The 6-foot-2 Thomas already has 1,064 points at Fordham. He led the Rams in steals and assists last season. Thomas averaged 13.3 points. Christian Sengfelder was a 2015 A-10 All-Rookie Selection last season, but he was often overshadowed by Paschall. Jon Severe broke the school’s scoring record two years ago with 536 point. His production dropped drastically last season, and the Rams will need him to step up. Fordham has a pair of physical big men down low. The 6-foot-8 Ryan Rhoomes and 6-foot-9 Ryan Canty are an interior force. Rhoomes finished among the leaders in the A-10 in boards and blocks last season. He averaged 6.4 points and 8.6 rebounds. Canty was granted another year of eligibility after suffering a back injury last season.

George Mason Patriots (9-22; 4-14, A-10):

George Mason has not had an easy transition to the A-10. The Patriots lost 20-plus games in back-to-back seasons. New head coach Dave Paulsen will try and make the program relevant again. Paulsen won a Division III National Championship in 2003 and had found success at Bucknell before coming to the Patriots. George Mason average four 3-pointers per game last season. They were also last in assist-to-turnover ratio. Shevon Thompson didn’t start playing basketball until the age of 16, but he is the face of George Mason basketball. Last season the 6-foot-11, 232-pound senior shot 55 percent from the field. Thompson averaged 12.5 points and 11.3 rebounds. Senior guard Patrick Holloway is the only dangerous perimeter shooter the Patriots have. He averaged 10.9 points last season. Junior point guard Marquise Moore also returns. The 6-foot-2 junior started every game last season and led George Mason in assists. Jalen Jenkins, Julian Royal and Marko Gujanicic are expected to excel on the boards, making rebounding a strength of this team. Perimeter shooting and ball security are two areas the Patriots need to improve in order to find success in the A-10.

Saint Louis Billikens (11-21; 3-15, A-10):

The Billikens were a young team and took a step backwards last season. They played six true freshman and no one had any starting experience. Saint Louis is a year older and more experienced. Sophomore Milik Yarbrough will lead the way for the Billikens. Last season he averaged 10 points and 4.8 rebounds. The 6-foot-6 forward was named to the A-10 All-Rookie Team. Yarbrough is a dominant post player and showed potential on defense. Ash Yacoubou caused havoc on the boards last season. He led the team in rebounding 13 times and was second in scoring. He also had a pair of double-doubles and was a defensive force. Davell Roby and Marcus Bartley will help out on offense. Roby is a steady scorer and one of the team’s best defensive players. Bartley developed into a 3-point threat last season. He will likely be the Billikens’ primary outside shooter. Saint Louis will need Reggie Agbeko, Brett Jolly and Austin Gillmann will all be expected to contribute this season. Freshman Matt Neufeld is a versatile center that can play both inside and outside. The Billikens will look to have a steadier lineup this season.

 

 

20150417_160703Shanna Rose is a West Virginia University grad with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a minor in Sport Communication.  Writing for Global Basketball was her first writing assignment . Shanna has a passion for college basketball, along with hockey, baseball, and football.  Follow Shanna on Twitter @SMR1837.

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