Excitement Builds as A10 Conference Play Begins

The non-conference schedule is complete for all of the A10 schools and now we embark on the 2016 regular season conference schedule.  The OOC results for the conference were a bit of a mixed bag but fear not A10 fans, we are primed for some really fun basketball over the next 3 months.  Here are some observations, musings, critiques, and pointless ramblings from one basketball junky to others.

Dayton is a team that I find easy to like or at least enjoy.  The #TrueTeam moniker might be considered corny or hokey by some but if you watch Dayton play and see the unity within that group, a TRUE TEAM is what you observe.  These kids play their asses of for each other and their coach.  It isn’t always pretty or without fail, but the effort and accountability on the court by guys like Smith, Cooke, Pollard, both Davis’, and now Pierre resonates with a basketball fan like me.  I’m very interested to see where this journey ends for the Flyers.  Archie Miller is a fantastic coach and obviously an incredible motivator and his team possesses talent, experience, depth, and intelligence.  Dayton should be very good throughout conference play.  Extremely passionate fans, also very funny, give the Flyers are great home court advantage.  Dayton’s thrilling/are you freaking kidding me victory over Arkansas the other night showed a team that has movements of brilliance interrupted by movements of inexplicable sloppiness.  My money is on the brilliance continuing and the sloppiness get cleaned up as the season progresses.

George Washington is a team that is showing us that it is learning how to win on a more consistent basis.  I really like GW’s team last year heading into the season but things just didn’t work out.  The Colonials had moments of solid play and some nice wins but there were too many bad losses and inconsistent play wound up costing GW a shot at the Big Dance.  Now a team full of veterans and a huge transfer pick-up in Tyler Cavanaugh seems to be in the process of exorcising those demons from last season.  I absolutely love how GW is able to use Cavanaugh and Larsen in the high post.  Both big fellas are solid passers and never seem rattled when pressured outside the lane.  They move the ball quickly which often leads to open looks for teammates or they take defenders off the dribble to the rim; creating scoring chances or offensive rebounding opportunities against smaller defenders for teammates.  Garino is a snake on the defensive end; sitting and waiting for soft passes and then pouncing on them for steals and usually lay-ups.  Joe McDonald is the ultimate “glue guy” and the fact that he is a point guard only adds to his value and importance.  The guy just does whatever his team needs to win and he does it consistently.  The huge win at home against UVA catapulted GW into the “oh damn, these guys might be good” category in November and minus the bad loss at DePaul a few weeks ago, GW hasn’t done anything to take themselves out of that category.  Last season GW got hit in the mouth a few times in conference play and failed to respond.  I don’t see the same narrative playing out this season.

Anybody else need this holiday season to end ASAP?  I’ve enjoyed myself waaaaay too much and desperately need to eat a vegetable or go play some pick-up.  Today I took a shower with my glasses on and started to shave with butter.  Not a good look.

Much like GW, I really like how Richmond uses Cline and Allen as bigs who can move the ball, Cline particularly.  Allen has really come on strong this season and is making a serious push for A10 Player of the Year hardware.  His 34 point, 13 rebound performance against Cal and its future NBA 1st round draft picks was nothing short of brilliant. A recent ankle sprain for ShawnDré Jones is a little worrisome but all indications are that isn’t a really bad one.  UR had a nice OOC performance this season but an opening loss to JMU hurt and the loss at Texas Tech took some wind out of the sails a bit.  I’m not as down on the Texas Tech loss as others just because of the timing of the game.  But UR has shown that it can beat just about anyone but also lose a game to a far inferior opponent.  Can the Spiders win become a consistent winner this season?  A short bench hurts Richmond but the starting 5 is really solid.  UR would become a serious problem for teams if Tre Davis and Deion Taylor could provide reliable scoring.  Jones, Cline, Allen, and Wood (from outside) are going to get points and be the bread and butter for Coach Mooney.  Kwon Fore is a name to remember.  The freshman point guard is a freak of an athlete.  If UR can get some help from the bench and continued greatness from Allen, the Spiders could be dancing come March.

I watched Rhode Island escape with a victory over Brown the other night and came away thinking, “This sucks my butt the day after I tried the inferno wings.”    Deep thoughts for sure but what are you going to do?  It just sucks that this team has had so many injuries and all of them to key players.  Four McGlynn has insane range and can score in bunches.  Can Terrell and Garrett get hot?  Andre Berry is as big as the actual state of Rhode Island so maybe he gets some more run?  I don’t know.  I just hate seeing a team decimated by injuries. Hopefully Iverson and Martin are back soon because this team will fight its ass off every night and for that reason they have my respect and admiration.

Today I watched a guy and his lady do the “Laverne and Shirley Walk” as they entered a restaurant.  Part of me laughed and part of me wanted to go and tackle them in the parking lot.  Sometimes the struggle is more than real.

All of my thoughts about VCU were beautifully put into an article full of graphics and videos by my great friend Jeff Horne, @jefferyphorne.  He is a smart guy and he just bought me a growler of Bells Two Hearted Ale so he is also one of the world’s greatest men.  You should check it out if you like basketball.

Shifting Wins – Will Wade’s Favorite Formula

I’m really looking forward to watching Terry Allen and DeAndrè Bembry get after it tomorrow.  I love both of their games so I’m hoping they can manage to stay out of foul trouble if they wind up checking each other.  This has all of the makings of a great game and Saint Joseph’s solid play this season is a big reason why.  I realize Joe’s doesn’t have a huge resume at this point minus wins over Temple and ODU but it doesn’t have any bad losses either.  Bembry is a future pro.  He was such crucial component in 2014 when Joe’s took the A10 Tournament Championship.  That team had a little bit of everything and this year’s team seems to be developing into something along the lines of its predecessor.  Issaih Miles has come on like a madman this year and went absolutely HAM on Virginia Tech for 36 points and 15 rebounds.  At 6-7 and close to 230 pounds, Miles has the size and now the shot to be a problem for teams trying to defend him.  James Demery has been a bit up-and-down this year but he is a kid who has a lot of potential and can get hot quickly.  I like point guard Shavar Newkirk more than some others last year just because of his quickness.  His ability to attack defenses and get his guys good looks is a little underrated in my opinion.  I don’t know what Saint Joseph’s will wind up doing this year but I like this team.  And you can’t forget this guy:

Davidson has done a nice job taking care of business against the teams it should beat but has faltered against bigger completion this year.  Might not mean anything since the A10 is closer to the teams Davidson has beaten vs. the big boys who whupped ’em.  There isn’t a better shooter/scorer in the conference than Jack Gibbs and he along with Brian Sullivan and Peyton Aldridge are going to have to carry the Cats this year.  I’m hoping Jordan Barham’s knee injury isn’t too bad because he one of the guys in the conference I love to watch on both ends of the court.  If he can come back healthy, the trajectory of this team improves greatly.  Losing Jake Belford to concussions is a bummer.  5th year seniors are incredibly valuable, especially for a team with a short bench.  I hope Davidson makes it work this year and continues to play a beautiful version of the game.  The passing, cutting, screening, and shot-making the Cats displayed at times last year made me fell like I was watching a smaller version of the Spurs.

I was looking at KenPom as usual this morning and wanted to see where he had Saint Bonaventure finishing this season.  Drum roll please….17-12 (9-9.)  Sound familiar?  That is kind of what Bona has been for the past few years.  A team that will get some wins but is probably going to take an equal or close to equal amount of losses.  Does history repeat itself again?  I know I really, really like Dion Wright and Jaylen Adams.  Marcus Posely hasn’t shot the ball well this year but he can be absolutely clutch, ask Davidson and VCU, and can score in bunches when he is feeling it.  Bona is going to have to prove to me that it is a good team.  Great home court advantage helps for sure.  Can this team beat some top tier teams in the conference and then make sure it takes care of business against teams it should beat?  I wouldn’t be surprised if it does but I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t.  Brilliant insight, I know.  You are welcome.

Wife was really proud of me the other night when I pulled this number out while visiting some of HER friends:

How about those Dukes from Duquesne?  Yea, you feeling it?  I am!  Well, sort of feeling it.  Hey, these guys can score the ball.  Mason and Colter are good enough to go off at anytime against anybody.  Do they have enough help?  Will the Dukes be able to get stops when they need them, or just stops period?  We will see.  Kind of like what Ferry is doing up there in the Burg.  The Dukes are slowly improving and if they can get some solid results early this year, maybe they make a jump into the top half of the conference.

Fordham has won 9 games including a victory against St. John’s.  I know St. John’s kind of stinks but still, Fordham has 9 wins.  OK, so they aren’t impressive wins against solid teams but they are wins.  I ain’t hating Rams!  You do you!  Keep getting those W’s Fordham.  You play in a really cool gym and Vince Lombardi was the man.

I was really impressed with GMU’s victories in Charleston over Mississippi and OK State.  They haven’t done much since, played Northern Iowa tough in a loss, so we will see what happens with these guys.  I do like Coach Paulsen a lot and there is some really nice young talent on the roster.  He will develop that talent, it just might take some time.

UMass, Saint Louis, La Salle,.  Ball is in your court.

Happy New Year everybody!  I hope 2016 is a great one for all of you.

Brian Keiper is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a M.Ed from University of Richmond. He teaches, coaches, and spends way too mu...