2017-2018 Atlantic 10 Conference Preview

The Atlantic 10 hasn’t failed to send multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament since 2005, but that run will be put to the test this season. The league, who most don’t consider a true mid-major anymore, has one team that most agree will be an at-large caliber team. That is Rhode Island, as they return most of last season’s squad that won the Atlantic 10 Tournament. They’re the favorite to win the league. After that, there are a lot of question marks. VCU has a new coach and a new looking roster. Dayton also has a new coach and has to replace the winningest senior class in school history. St. Bonaventure has an elite duo, but is there enough support around them? Can Saint Joe’s stay healthy and exorcise the demons of last year’s 11 win season? Will the talented Saint Louis newcomers be able to mesh and contend right away? All those question marks make the A10 one of the toughest leagues to predict from top to bottom. Will someone emerge besides Rhode Island and make the league a multi-bid conference once again? We’ll see.

Projected Conference Standings (2016-2017 Record in Parenthesis)

1. Rhode Island (25-10 (13-5)): The Rams won the A10 Tournament last season to make their first NCAA Tournament since 1999. Now, they return all but two players from that team, though they were the team’s two best frontcourt players in Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson. The returners tasked with replacing them will be Cyril Langevine (3.2 PPG), Nikola Akele (2.9 PPG) and Andre Berry (14 games). They also bring in a JUCO tranfer in Ryan Preston and will have 2016 three star big man Michael Tertsea available to bolster the frontcourt. The backccourt is the strength of this team, as they return E.C. Matthews (14.9 PPG), Jared Terrell (12.6 PPG), Stanford Robinson (6.4 PPG), Jarvis Garrett (6.0 PPG), and Jeff Dowtin (5.5 PPG).
2. VCU (26-9 (14-4)): VCU has a new head coach in Mike Rhoades and a very new looking roster, as they lost six of their top eight scorers from last season. The Rams will still be tough, though, thanks in part to a couple talented transfers in forwards Issac Vann (16.4 PPG in 2015-2016 at Maine) and Khris Lane (17.1/7.3 at Longwood last season). The other notable newcomers are four three star recruits in Sean Mobley, Tyler Maye, Lewis Djonkam and Marcus Santos-Silva, as well as a couple JUCO transfers in Xavier Jackson and Mike’l Simms. The returners are forward Justin Tillman (12.2/8.7) and guards Jonathan Williams (8.3 PPG), De’Riante Jenkins (4.3 PPG) and Malik Crowfield (2.1 PPG).
3. Saint Joseph’s (11-20 (4-14)): It was a nightmare season last year for head coach Phil Martelli, as the Hawks went from 28 wins in 2015-2016 to just 11. A large factor in that was injuries, as guards Shavar Newkirk (20.3 PPG in 12 games) and Lamarr Kimble (15.5 PPG in 24 games) and forwards James Demery (14.5 PPG in 20 games) and Pierfrancesco Oliva (4.0 PPG in 2015-2016) all missed part or all of last season. Those four guys are all back, along with forwards Charlie Brown (12.8 PPG), Markell Lodge (4.6 PPG), and Jai Williams (2.7 PPG), in addition to guards Chris Clover (7.8 PPG) and Nick Robinson (5.2 PPG). If the Hawks stay healthy this season, they could be dangerous.
4. St. Bonaventure (20-12 (11-7)): The Bonnies return one of the most dynamic backcourt duos in the country in Jaylen Adams (20.6 PPG, 6.5 APG) and Matt Mobley (18.5 PPG). Joining them in the backcourt is Idris Taqqee (6.8 PPG). The frontcourt does lose their top two players in Denzel Gregg and David Andoh. The returners who will need to replace them are Josh Ayeni (6.7 PPG), LaDarien Griffin (2.7 PPG), and Amdi Ikpeze (2.2 PPG). The #63 JUCO recruit in big man Ndene Gueye and the #100 JUCO recruit in 2015 in guard Courtney Stockard, should join the mix.
5. Dayton (24-8 (15-3)): Archie Miller left for Indiana, so Anthony Grant was hired to take over a Dayton team that lost its winningest senior class in school history. There are still some promising pieces, led by forwards Xeyrius Williams (8.2 PPG) and Josh Cunningham (6.3 PPG in 11 games) and guards Darrell Davis (5.5 PPG), Trey Landers (9 games) and John Crosby (13.3 MPG). Grant also has an intriguing group of newcomers, which includes three star guards Jordan Davis and Jalen Crutcher, Czech Republic wing Matej Svoboda and 2016 four star forward in Kostas Antetokounmpo, the brother of Giannis. It will definitely be a transition season for the Flyers, but they will still be a tough out.
6. Saint Louis (12-21 (6-12)): Travis Ford’s Billikens are headlined by its group of newcomers this season. That group includes transfers Javon Bess (wing from Michigan State), Adonys Henriquez (guard from UCF), D.J. Foreman (forward from Rutgers), Ty Graves (guard from Boston College) and Rashad Anthony (forward from Seton Hall). Ford also brings in four star guard Jordan Goodwin and three star forward Hasahn French. As for returners, guards Davell Roby (11.7 PPG), Aaron Hines (6.4 PPG), and Jermaine Bishop (11.6 PPG in 9 games) and forwards Elliott Welmer (7.9 PPG) and Jalen Johnson (7.5 PPG). The Billikens certainly have a ton of talent, but its still to be determined if it all comes together this season.
7. Davidson (17-15 (8-10)): The good news for Davidson? They return eight of their top nine scorers from last season. The bad news? The lone guy who doesn’t return from that group is Jack Gibbs, who averaged 22.1/4.0/4.1 and was a First Team All-A10 selection. Replacing him will be extremely tough, but luckily head coach Bob McKillop has another 20+ point scorer in forward Peyton Aldrdge (20.5/8.2). Joining Aldridge in the frontcourt is Will Magarity (8.4 PPG), Nathan Ekwu (3.2 PPG), Dusan Kovacevic (8.6 MPG) and Oskar Michelsen (6.4 MPG). The backcourt brings back Jon Axel Gudmundsson (8.2 PPG), Rusty Reigel (4.7 PPG), KiShawn Pritchett (3.9 PPG) and Jordan Watkins (2.7 PPG).
8. Richmond (22-13 (13-5)): The Spiders have the tough task of replacing the A10 Player of the Year in T.J. Cline, as well as their second leading scorer in ShawnDre’ Jones. The returners in the backcourt are Khwan Fore (11.2 PPG), De’Monte Buckingham (10.5 PPG), Nick Sherod (7.6 PPG), Julius Johnson (4.9 PPG) and Joe Kirby (25 games). The frontcourt is pretty bare when it comes to returners, as Grant Golden, who took a medical redshirt after 9 games, and Paul Friendshuh (9 games) are the top returners. Redshirt junior forward Solly Stansbury, Chicago State graduate transfer forward Jordan Madrid-Andrews, three star wing Thomas Verbinskis and three star guard Jacob Gilyard are some of the notable newcomers.
9. La Salle (15-15 (9-9)): Three of the Explorers’ top four scorers from last season are back in wing BJ Johnson (17.6 PPG) and guards Pookie Powell (13.7 PPG) and Amar Stukes (8.1 PPG). Other returners are big man Tony Washington (5.0 PPG) and guards Isaiah Deas (17 games), Johnnie Shuler (12.9 MPG) and Saul Phiri (24 games). A couple three star recruits in guard Jamir Moultrie and forward Miles Brookins should battle for playing time.
10. George Mason (20-14 (9-9)): The Patriots have to replace two of their top three scorers, but do have two double figure scorers returning in guards Otis Livingston II (14.3 PPG) and Jaire Grayer (11.4 PPG). Other backcourt returners are Ian Boyd (5.9 PPG) and Justin Kier (5.8 PPG). Not much is back in the frontcourt, as Daniel Relvao (6.9 MPG) is the lone returner. Three star forward Goanar Mar and two star forward Greg Calixte, as well as redshirt freshman A.J. Wilson, will need to produce immediately down low.
11. George Washington (20-15 (10-8)): After coaching last season under the interim tag, Maurice Joseph is now the official head coach at George Washington. He has to replace four of his top six scorers from last season, including leading scorer Tyler Cavanaugh. Guard Yuta Watanabe (12.2 PPG) returns in the backcourt, along with Jair Bolden (4.8 PPG). The frontcourt returners are Patrick Steeves (6.6 PPG) and Arnaldo Toro (4.6 PPG). A couple transfers in forwards Bo Zeigler (South Florida) and Luke Sasser (Charlotte) enter the mix, as well as three star guard Justin Mazzulla.
12. UMass (15-18 (4-14)): Matt McCall was hired away from Chattanooga in the off-season in hope that he can rejuvenate a struggling UMass program. The Minutemen will likely still take their lumps this season, as four of last season’s top seven scorers are gone. Big man Rashaan Holloway (10.4 PPG), guard Luwane Pipkins (10.2 PPG), guard C.J. Anderson (4.9 PPG), forward Malik Hines (3.5 PPG) and forward Chris Baldwin (2.2 PPG) are the key returners. Three star big man Khalea Turner-Morris is a notable newcomer.
13. Fordham (13-19 (7-11)): Three of the four leading scorers for the Rams last season departed, making guard Joseph Chartouny (12.1 PPG) the top returner. He is joined by Will Tavares (5.6 PPG), Cavit Havsa (14.1 MPG), and Nemanja Zarkovic (20.0 MPG in 11 games) in the backcourt. Prokop Slanina (5.9 PPG), David Pekarek (15.9 MPG in 15 games), Jesse Bunting (10.2 MPG) and Chuba Ohams (13.7 MPG) are back in the frontcourt. JUCO transfers Perris Hicks and Tre Evans should bolster the backcourt.
14. Duquesne (10-22 (3-15)): Keith Dambrot, who was the coach at Akron, took over at Duquesne during the off-season. He certainly has a large rebuild ahead of him. The returners in the backcourt are Mike Lewis II (14.1 PPG), Tarin Smith (8.6 PPG), and Rene Castro (7.1 PPG). In the frontcourt, Jordan Robinson (9.3 MPG in 18 games) and Eric James (9.3 MPG in 27 games) are the lone returners. Newcomers that will compete for time are JUCO transfer forward Marko Krivacevic and a trio of freshman in Eric Williams Jr., Tydus Verhoeven and Nicholas Kratholm.

Player of the Year

A First Team All-A10 selection last season, St. Bonaventure’s Jaylen Adams is the pick for preseason POY. A 6’1 senior, Adams put up 20.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game last season. He knocked in 77 threes, shot 82.1% from the free throw line and played 37.4 minutes per game for the Bonnies.

First Team All-A10

Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure: See above
E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island: Matthews, a 6’5 senior guard, was a Third Team All-A10 pick last year. He averaged 14.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while hitting 64 threes.
Peyton Aldridge, Davidson: A 6’7 senior, Aldridge earned Second Team All-A10 honors last season. He recorded 20.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game, in addition to making 70 threes at a 40.9% rate and shooting 49.5% overall.
Shavar Newkirk, Saint Jospeh’s: Newkirk, a 6’0 senior, played just 12 games last season before going down with a torn ACL. In those 12 games, Newkirk put up 20.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 39.6% from three.
Justin Tillman, VCU: A Third Team All-A10 performer last season, the 6’7 senior posted 12.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last year. He shot 59.2% from the floor.

Second Team All-A10

Matt Mobley, St. Bonaventure: Mobley is a 6’3 senior that was a Third Team All-A10 pick last year. He averaged 18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He also hit 86 threes at a 37.9% clip.
Yuta Watanabe, George Washington: A 6’8 senior, Watanabe was on the league’s All-Defensive Team last year. He recorded 12.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.
B.J. Johnson, La Salle: The 6’7 senior posted 17.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season. Johnson also made 64 threes for the Explorers.
Jared Terrell, Rhode Island: Terrel, a 6’3 senior, put up 12.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game last year. He drilled 46 threes as well.
De’Monte Buckingham, Richmond: The league’s Rookie of the Year last season, the 6’4 guard averaged 10.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He knocked down 46 threes.

NCAA Tournament Bids (2): Rhode Island and VCU

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