Rhode Island and Everyone Else
The Rhode Island Rams were selected to finish first in the Atlantic 10 conference. This is after the Rams won the Atlantic 10 Tournament back in March. Dan Hurley’s team returns four senior guards, Jarvis Garrett, Stanford Robinson, Jared Terrell and A-10 Tournament MVP, E.C. Matthews. Jeff Dowtin, who started Rhody’s final 19 games last year at the point, will have a year of experience under his belt while having those senior guards to lean on. Rhody lost A-10 Defensive Player of the Year Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson down low, but Cyril Langevine, Andre Berry and Nicola Akele are capable of filling the void in the paint. It took awhile for this team to gel last year, but they were scary when they got their chemistry down. Rhody won 13 of their final 16 games last season that included a nine-game winning streak and a victory in the NCAA tournament win over Creighton. If they are able to hit the ground running, this team should not have many difficulties getting back to the NCAA tournament whether they win the A-10 or not.
Saint Joseph’s Ranked High, But Realistic
It is surprising to see the Hawks ranked so high after having a dismal 2017 campaign. They have four players returning that averaged at least 12 points per game (Shavar Newkirk 20.3 ppg, Lamarr Kimble 15.5, James Demery 14.5, Charlie Brown 12.8). Unfortunately, only Brown played all 31 games. Newkirk only played in 12 games, Kimble played 24 and Demery played 20. Their role players were thrown into the fire and it showed. Phil Martelli’s team finished 13th in the A-10, his lowest finish in his 22 years at the school. If those four players can stay healthy combined with their role players having some experience, this team could very well finish toward the top of the Atlantic 10. Since 2011, the Hawks have come back after a down year to win at least 20 games (20 in 2012, 24 in 2014, 28 in 2016). Phil Martelli is one of the most respected coaches in the game, so do not be surprised if the Hawks are soaring heading into March.
Do Not Expect Love From the Selection Committee
The Atlantic 10 has shown that they can hang with the big boys of college basketball while occasionally pulling off an upset against a top team. On the other hand, the Atlantic 10 went 9-31 against the power conferences (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12) in 2016-17. Other than Rhode Island, there is not another team in the conference that can be labeled as a really good team. There are some good teams in the conference and some solid teams but there is a significant dropoff after following those solid teams. Every team in the A-10 is capable of being upset on any given night, just ask VCU after they played Fordham last year. Losses like that can be resume-killers for some teams depending on their other victories. With that said, the A-10 could get three bids into the NCAA tournament, but definitely two. Rhode Island will likely be one of those teams but who else?
Lot of Room for Second Place
Rhode Island will likely be the head of the class of the Atlantic 10 conference, but who will present a challenge to their throne? St. Bonaventure definitely has the guards in Matt Mobley and Jaylen Adams to matchup with Rhode Island but how will they fare in down low? The same thing can be said about Saint Joseph’s? VCU and Dayton have a lot of turnover multiple players gone from their respective teams and new coaches. George Mason could make a run toward the top of the conference alongside Davidson and Saint Louis as sleepers. Only time will tell and we will likely have this discussion in late February and early March. Enjoy the season!
Atlantic 10 Preseason Poll
1. Rhode Island (27)
2. St. Bonaventure (1)
3. Saint Joseph’s
7. Saint Louis
9. La Salle
10. George Mason
11. George Washington