2009-2010 Atlantic 10 conference Basketball Preview
Of the 14 teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference, six are worthy of note and one or two will most likely get an invite to the Big Dance while two others will probably get seeded into the NIT. Here’s a look at the conference and the primary contenders.
The Dayton Flyers (27- 8 overall, 11- 5 A10) finished second in the league last season and then made it to round two of the NCAA Tournament where they were drubbed by Kansas 60- 43. Head coach Brian Gregory has a talented and skilled team with which to work. Ten of the club’s top 11 scorers are back and there is plenty of experience. Senior guard Marcus Johnson averaged 11.8 PPG last season and forward Chris Wright, a junior, was good for 13.3 PPG and 6.6 RPG. The Flyers play tenacious “D” and are expert at stopping opponent offenses. Improvement in overall scoring and especially foul shooting will be a big help. Look for them to go two deep in March Madness.
Last season, the Xavier Musketeers (27- 8 overall, 12- 4 A10) won the conference and went to the regional semifinals at the Big Dance. They were defeated by Pittsburgh 60- 55 after beating Portland and Wisconsin. This season, the Musketeers welcome their former assistant coach, Chris Mack, to the head coaching spot. Mack has to deal with the fact that the top three scorers from last season are gone. That means that some juniors and seniors will have to step up. There’s a solid frontcourt to control the boards, including senior forward/center Jason Love (6.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG). Sophomore center Kenny Frease, who played just 14.6 MPG last season, averaged 5.4 PPG and 3.7 RPG. In the backcourt, it looks like the smart and quick Terrell Holloway will get the start at the point. Right now Holloway, a sophomore, is more of an individual playmaker. He needs to become adept at running the offense.
The Duquesne Dukes (21- 13 overall, 9- 7 A10) ended last season in fifth and were eliminated in the initial round of the NIT by Virginia Tech. Junior swing Bill Clark averaged 12.9 PPG and 5.0 RPG last year. He’s a versatile, two-way player. Frontcourt leader Damian Saunders (13.1 PPG, 7.6 APG) is a tough, powerful force. Coach Ron Everhart has done fine work in building a winning team. It was two years ago that he got them to their first winning season in 14 years, going 17- 13. Last season, they did something they had not done in 28 years: won 20 games. The Dukes have not been to the Big Dance in 33 seasons. This is a very good team but probably not quite good enough to earn a NCAA invitation. They could come close, however. One more year and they should be participating in March Madness.
For the Temple Owls (22- 12 overall, 11-5 A10) it was fourth-place and a trip to March Madness where they lost to Arizona State 66- 57. This season, the Owls will be without top player Dionte Christmas (19.5 PPG, 5.8 APG, 1.5 SPG). With Christmas playing the swing spot for two seasons, they managed to earn a trip to the Big Dance each time. This year, Temple will still be good but not as good as they have been. Senior guard Ryan Brooks (10.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG) and junior forward Lavoy Allen (10.9 PPG, 9.0 RPG) are both fine shooters and rebounders. Coach Fran Dunphy has some decent depth but perhaps not enough to make it back to the NCAA Tournament.
The La Salle Explorers (18- 13 overall, 9- 7 A10) have improved in the half-decade that Dr. John Giannini has been coaching them. They’ve been in the top half of the league for three of the last four seasons. That’s an accomplishment for a club that has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1992. Last year, they posted their first winning mark in 16 years. There’s a lot of good news this season. Four double-digit scorers are back and freshman recruit Aaric Murray, a center who could have gone to several top Big East clubs, opted to play for La Salle. The key player on this team is senior guard Rodney Green. Not only does he return as the team’s leading point maker (17.8 PPG), but he’s also one of the best rebound men (5.0 RPG) and the top playmaker (3.4 APG). Green is the go-go guy on this team. La Salle has a shot at the NIT. But they’ll have to come through and beat the other top clubs in the league.
The Spiders of Richmond (20- 16 overall, 9- 7 A10) look to move up from their seventh-place finish last year. They’ve got two high scoring guards in junior Kevin Anderson (16.6 PPG) and senior David Gonzalvez (16.0 PPG). Those two may be the best tandem in the league. Anderson returns as the leading assist man (2.8 APG) and Gonzalvez as the top rebounder (4.8 RPG). This team will probably not garner a post-season invite. If they do, it will be to the NIT.
The Massachusetts Minutemen (12- 18 overall, 7- 9 A10) offer depth and have one of the top guards in the conference in senior Ricky Harris. Coach Jim Baron has done solid work with the Rhode Island Rams (23- 11 overall, 11- 5 A10). There’s fine talent in the backcourt and at wing but the frontcourt needs help. Last season, the Charlotte 49ers (11- 20 overall, 5- 11 A10) had talent and depth and definitely underachieved by placing 12th in the A10. For the Bonnies of St. Bonaventure (15- 15 overall, 6- 10 A10) it was a different case. Picked to finish last, they were a surprising 10th. This season, they look to be about 10th again.
The last four teams include the Saint Joseph’s Hawks (17- 15 overall, 9- 7 A10). The Hawks, who were eighth last season, will do without big-time center Ahmad Nivins, who’s now a Dallas Maverick. They drop down a few notches. The Saint Louis Billikens (18- 14 overall, 8- 8 A10) have also lost some major contributors and need a season to rebuild. Remember when the George Washington Colonials (10- 18 overall, 4- 12 A10) were a top A10 team? Over the past two seasons, they’ve lost too many major contributors to contend. They finish this season as they did last year, near the bottom. The Fordham Rams (3- 25 overall, 1- 15 A10) face another tough season as they continue to see their best players transfer to other schools.
The Atlantic 10 will feature Dayton, Xavier, Temple, Duquesne and La Salle contending for post-season berths. Look for four of these clubs to get to the NCAA or NIT.
2009-2010 Atlantic Ten Conference Basketball Predictions
1. Dayton Flyers
2. Xavier Musketeers
3. Duquesne Dukes
4. Temple Owls
5. La Salle Explorers
6. Richmond Spiders
7. Massachusetts Minute Men
8. Rhode Island Rams
9. Charlotte 49ers
10. St. Bonaventure
11. St. Joseph’s Hawks
12. St. Louis Billikens
13. George Washington Colonials
14. Fordham Rams