Atlantic-10 Conference College Hoops 2014-15 Season Preview

The Atlantic-10 conference features VCU, a school that has made five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.  George Washington returned to the NCAA tournament last season, as well, after getting an at-large bid.  Dayton reached the Elite 8. It’s a small conference, but those three teams can’t just be written off.  All futures betting odds come courtesy of Bovada.

VCU (26-9; 12-4)
Odds to win NCAA Title: 40/1

VCU is going to be back in the NCAA tournament this year, because winning its conference seems like a near given with the dominance of Trevon Graham pulling this team along. He’s 6’6” 220 pounds of power and with his court-stretch abilities he’s a very difficult matchup for any single defender. Graham obliterates small defenders and goes around large ones, and his 33.7 percent from three-point range demands coverage. He had double-digit scoring in 32 of VCU’s 35 games last year, and VCU has won 26 or more games in each of the last five seasons.

Briante Weber will thrive this season with his full-court trapping defensive skills which helped VCU lead the nation in steals last year with 11.2 per game. Weber led the NCAA with 3.5 per game and he also scored 9.4 points per contest. Mo Alie-Cox will look to usurp the void left by Juvante Reddic’s graduation. Alie-Cox is a big 250 pound beast who only needs to further refine his skills on the offensive end to be a big time player.

George Washington (24-9; 11-5)
Odds to win NCAA Title: 300/1

Last season Mike Lonergan told his team simply that he didn’t want them to be a one-hit wonder. The team had just fallen 71-66 in the second round of the tournament to Memphis and the Colonels return too much talent to write off. The at-large bid given to GW was worth noting since the school hadn’t made the NCAA tournament in seven years.

The best features of this team are its balance and defense and last season the Colonels held teams to 41.6 percent shooting using a 1-3-1 zone that averaged 7.1 steals per game last season. Five players averaged double-figure scoring, but the team will miss Maurice Creek, who transferred to Indiana. Losing Isaiah Armwood will hurt too, as he averaged about 12 points, eight rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last year.

The impressive junior class the Colonels have will keep them competitive. Kethan Savage, Patricio Garino, Kevin Larson and Joe McDonald will all benefit from having played with one another extensively and two seasons ago the team was one of only two to start four freshman. Those four now represent a serious threat to the NCAA, and VCU’s status as conference champion.

Dayton (26-11; 10-6)
Odds to win NCAA Title: 200/1

Dayton’s depth helped the Flyers knock off Stanford n the Sweet 16 of last year’s NCAA Tournament, as the Flyers went 11-deep and outscored Stanford’s reserves 34-2. The Flyers were the first A-10 team to get to the Elite Eight since Xavier in 2008. Coach Archie Miller said, “I think the blueprint is now set that we know how to do it, and we can do it.”

Jordan Sibert averaged 12.2 points per game in his first season since coming from Ohio State, and the Flyers took out OSU and Syracuse in the tournament. Dyshawn Pierre will be back, as well, and he posted 11.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last year. The minutes fluctuated in the rotation a lot last year due to matchups, and Miller was pleased with the self-sacrificing attitude of his team.

Soochie Smith will step in at point guard after Khari Price transferred. Smith will be the primary ball handler within the offense and the 6’2” guard got valuable experience late last season. He’s a good ball pusher and will keep this team going on the momentum of last year’s great run.

Richmond (19-14; 8-8)
Odds to win NCAA Title: 500/1

The Richmond Spiders seldom make much of a wave in recruiting, but have remained a steady team over Chris Mooney’s 10-year stint as head coach. Despite that, many players thrive for Spiders and senior guard Kendall Richard is one of those players. The 5’8” guard averaged 15.9 points a game and shot 35.3 percent from three-point range last season, and he’s possibly the quickest in the A-10. He’s a great distributor and is excellent at breaking down a defense.

T.J. Cline will need to continue to be tough inside since the Spiders averaged a (-) six rebound differential last season. Cline is also able to step out and knock down the triple. He was just 5’11” as a high school freshman but was 6’7” by his senior season and has grown another inch to 6’8”. A lot of his ball skills remain from the rapid growth.

UMass (24-9; 10-6)
Odds to win NCAA Title: 300/1

UMass led the conference in spring last season, and head coach Derek Kellogg is in his seventh season as head coach. Chaz Williams helped set the pace for a team that returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. Williams was a three-time first-team all league player and averaged 15.6 points and an A-10 leading 6.8 assists per game last year. He’s gone now, but the Minutemen are going to look to do a lot of pressing and going deep into its rotation this season to offset that.

5’11” Jabarie Hinds comes as a transfer from West Virginia and he started 59 games there. 6’10” 250 pound senior Cody Lalanne returns after averaging 11.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. Trey Davis is likely up for a bigger role after averaging 9.2 points and 2.5 assists while hitting 37 percent from three point range. Maxie Esho is a rangy wing player who’s done a solid job of using his athleticism in transition.

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