The Atlantic Ten has always been one of our favorite leagues here at HoopsHD and the conference certainly has a chance to deliver up another fun season this time around. The league appears to be dominated by teams with great backcourts, which should lead to some exciting games and fast-paced action. The Rhode Island Rams, led by E.C. Matthews, are the preseason pick to win the conference, but there are quite a few teams that could take the title, including a Saint Louis team that Travis Ford has very quickly brought up from the bottom of the league standings.
Also in contention this season for both the league title and the NCAA Tournament will be St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s, Davidson and maybe even La Salle. Missing from that list are a pair of perennial favorites in the A-10, namely VCU and Dayton. Both teams welcome in new head coaches with rebuilding projects ahead of them, but don’t expect either program to remain down for too long. Finally, for those that have followed our previews the last few years when we have routinely claimed that this would finally be the breakout year for Fordham, that ship has finally sailed and the team from the Bronx is sadly picked to finish dead last.
Predicted Order of Finish
- Rhode Island – The Rams finally made it to the Big Dance last season (first appearance since 1999) and they should be back again this year with four key seniors, including guards E.C. Matthews and Jared Terrell, back. If URI does have any holes, it may be up front where they need to make up for the loss of Hassan Martin’s 13.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, plus near double-double numbers they got from Kuran Iverson. However, in a conference that will be backcourt-centric this season, there is no reason to pick against this team.
- Saint Louis – To pick a team that lost 21 games last season this high may look like a stretch, but in just his second season, head coach Travis Ford is pulling in more talent and experience seemingly every day. The Billikens, in addition to having four starters back, have a pile of solid eligible transfers that include D.J. Foreman (Rutgers), Adonys Henriquez (UCF) and Javon Bess (Michigan State). This may be the deepest team in the conference, and it would not be shocking at all to see them finish on top of the conference standings.
- St. Bonaventure – Rhode Island has a great set of guards, but the best pair in the conference may actually be playing in Olean, New York as Matt Mobley and Jaylen Adams will try to put the Bonnies in the Big Dance for the first time since 2012. Much like URI, the Bonnies biggest issues will be down low where someone will need to step up if they want to feel safe for a bid before the A-10 tournament starts.
- Saint Joseph’s – Despite a 12th place Atlantic Ten finish last season, the Hawks could contend for the league championship with virtually everyone back and, even more importantly, everyone healthy. Phil Martelli’s team was hit hard by injuries last season, but with Shavar Newkirk, Lamarr Kimble and Checco Oliva healthy, plus Charlie Brown having gained a ton of experience, this team has a better chance at 14-4 than being 4-14 again.
- Davidson – The Wildcats return four starters and most of the bench from a team that won 17 games. They also return Peyton Aldridge, who averaged 20.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. This is a recipe for contention, though they will need to find a way to make up for their biggest offseason loss, the conference’s leading scorer last year, Jack Gibbs.
- VCU – Mike Rhoades takes over head coaching duties now that Will Wade is at LSU, but don’t expect a departure from HAVOC as he is a former Shaka Smart assistant who used the style of play to guide Rice to some of their most successful seasons in recent memory. The biggest problem is a lack of depth, with seven key contributors gone from last season; however, Justin Tillman may be one of the league’s best players, and Maine transfer Issac Vann could surprise.
- Richmond – The Spiders return a pair of double-digit scorers in the backcourt, with De’Monte Buckingham and Khwan Fore ready to score even more now that T.J. Cline and ShawnDre’ Jones are gone. They will need to find some help for their two standouts, and that may come in the form of forward Solly Stansbury. Repeating last season’s 22 win performance will be a stretch, but the Spiders should be competitive.
- La Salle – The Explorers should once again score a ton of points with Pookie Powell in the backcourt and B.J. Johnson on the wing. The biggest question will be whether they can improve defensively, and Demetrius Henry’s late decision to leave school really hurts them there.
- George Mason – Another Atlantic Ten team with a pair of standout guards, the Patriots will be led this season by Otis Livingston II and Jaire Grayer. However, there are a ton of question marks down low, and it will be tough to replace the 17 rebounds per game that Marquise Moore and Jalen Jenkins combined to pull down last season.
- Dayton – Archie Miller is now coaching in Indiana and the majority of last year’s team is gone. In fact, the only starter from last season still on the roster, Ryan Mikesell, will not play this season due to hip surgery. That means that Anthony Grant has a pretty big rebuild project ahead, and not much should be expected this year.
- George Washington – The Colonials were a surprise finding a way to win 20 games last season despite firing their head coach in late September. Maurice Joseph has had the “interim” tag removed from his name, but probably lost too many pieces in the offseason to sniff another 20 win season.
- Massachusetts – Matt McCall inherits a mess in Amherst, which was made worse by Pat Kelsey’s decision to accept and then reject the head coaching job. Perhaps the biggest saving grace for this season will be 6-11 center Rashaan Holloway — a rare force down low in such a guard oriented conference.
- Duquesne – Keith Dambrot has been one of the nation’s winningest coaches the past 12 years at Akron, and he may be just the man to turn around a woeful Duquesne program. It will not be happening in Year One however, as there are very few pieces in place. Dambrot did manage to convince Mike Lewis II to remain with the program, and the standout sophomore guard could begin to lay the foundation of successes to come.
- Fordham – Joseph Chartouny can not only score, but was among the best in the nation at stealing the ball last season. Unfortunately for the Rams, he may be their only player of note this season, leading to another long year in the Bronx.