It’s been a fun ride through the Atlantic 10 this year, and if Brooklyn shapes out like it always does, we’re in for a real treat of a conference tournament. Let’s look back on some of the major takeaways from the last 4 months.
1. 2020 Dayton will go down as one of the best A-10 teams ever
It’s no secret; the Dayton Flyers’ historical season has been great for the Atlantic 10, as the league gets a spotlight that’s usually reserved for the Power 6 teams. Heck, even College Gameday came for a Dayton vs. George Washington game that was streaming on ESPN+. Depending on what happens in the NCAA Tournament, you could put the 2020 Flyers right up there with Saint Joseph’s in 2004.
2. Chris Mooney proved everyone wrong
Remember when a billboard went up calling for Chris Mooney’s job? That was one season ago. Now, he has the Spiders finishing 2nd in the conference with a chance to earn an at-large bid in this year’s tournament. And in any other year, Mooney would be taking home A-10 Coach of the Year. Not to mention, the Spiders should be the pre-season pick to win next year’s A-10 as long as no one significant transfers out of the program.
3. It wasn’t a conference season of close games…
Get this: the Atlantic 10 had just 21 of 126 games be decided by 4 points or less (or OT); that ranks 29th of Division 1 conferences by Kenpom. Similarly, the conference saw 21 of 126 games be decided by 19+ points, ranking 5th in blowout percentage. We really didn’t see a ton of close games in conference play this year.
4. The Atlantic 10 currently ranks 9th in Kenpom conferences
Not bad, considering last year saw the league finish 11th and the year prior saw it finish 10th. Not to mention, the WCC is having an unprecedented year where it’s going to get 3 teams in the NCAA Tournament. Top-to-bottom, the conference is on its way up, and a very good showing in non-conference play helped boost the league once teams started facing one another.
5. Saint Louis this year is to Rhode Island last year
What do I mean by that? Saint Louis is a team entering the conference tournament on a hot streak with a ton of players coming back next year. Think about last season when URI knocked off VCU, and almost everyone was returning next season. That’s what SLU has to look forward to. It might not make the Big Dance this year, but it’s a hot pick in Brooklyn, and next year returns just about everyone from a double bye squad…
6. Underclassmen prowess means hope for next season
It wasn’t only the seniors getting the job done this year; in fact, most of the A-10 All-Conference Team members will likely come from players who have remaining years of eligibility at their respective schools. I’m thinking Jalen Crutcher, Fatts Russell, Tre Mitchell, Jacob Gilyard, Marcus Weathers, etc. Seniors didn’t really dominate this season like we may have thought: Jon Axel Gudmundsson had a good year, but he likely won’t make First Team All-Conference, and Marcus Evans caught an unfortunate injury bug that limited his potential.
7. Bottom-dwellers look to rebuild for the future
I’m not going to pretend this season has been a rose garden for teams like La Salle and George Washington, but both found a bit of success to hang their hats on. George Washington downed Duquesne and Davidson before an unfortunate 5-game skid to end conference play, and La Salle put together a really nice showing in non-conference play to give the league a boost. In particular, the Colonials have an impressive group of freshmen that could be really good under Jamion Christian in a couple of seasons.
8. Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure, & Duquesne are on the rise
I wouldn’t have predicted Massachusetts grabbing the 8 seed in this year’s A-10 Tournament, but here we are. The Minutemen had a nice 5-0 start to the season, and it became clear that this group of freshmen were going to be special under Matt McCall. In particular, Tre Mitchell is a shoe-in for A-10 Rookie of the Year, and he’s going to be one of the frontrunners for A-10 Player of the Year next season. It still feels a bit like “what could have been” if T.J. Weeks stayed healthy, but I could see UMass finishing top 5 next season. Duquesne had a great season, winning 21 regular season games after losing Eric Williams Jr. and has a chance to make some serious noise in the A-10 Tournament. The Dukes will return just about everyone. Finally, St. Bonaventure had a tough finish to the season, but Osun Osunniyi’s injury played a role in the Bonnies’ overall resume. They’ll return three stud juniors that will hopefully be healthy next November.
9. VCU & Davidson: Murphy’s Law or Parts Don’t Equal the Whole?
There’s two ways to look at the seasons Davidson (7 seed) and VCU (9 seed) had (picked 2nd and 1st in the A-10 respectively). On one hand, both teams faced hardships and bad luck. Luke Frampton left for personal reasons while Kishawn Pritchett and David Czerapowicz got hurt. Marcus Evans dealt with injuries all year, and most recently, De’Riante Jenkins and Vince Williams have been out of the lineup. Injuries are a brutal pill to swallow, but you could also argue each of these teams still had enough talent to finish in the top half of the conference. Losses to teams like George Mason, Saint Joseph’s, and Charlotte shouldn’t happen when you have guys like Bones Hyland, Marcus Santos-Silva, Kellan Grady, and Jon Axel Gudmundsson. To answer the question in the headline, it’s certainly been a combination of both.
10. Are seats getting warm?
I’d have thought Jeff Neubauer’s seat was on fire for the last few seasons, but with that program, you never know. Dave Paulsen is an interesting case. This will be the 3rd straight season the Patriots fail to crack the Kenpom top 150, and they limped their way to 5 conference wins the past few weeks. I can’t imagine fans in Fairfax have been too happy with the way this season’s shaped out.