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The A10 Talk Staff Makes Their 2021 A10 Tournament Picks

We have finally made it to the 2021 A10 Tournament. I can’t believe we actually got here, but here we are. We have a bracket as of Monday evening after the final games have played. I got the contributors together and made them make their picks and hot takes for the upcoming tournament where we will eventually have to crown a champion and hand over that coveted golden ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

Each staff member that participated gave their answers privately and truthfully. There were some homer picks, but that’s the nature of the game. They each answered 5 questions about each aspect about the tournament from their champion to their upset pick. in the Thursday games. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Our contributors:  Chris Pyle, Daniel Frank, Anthony Morelli, Jason Boleman, Jack Godar, Grant Hogan, Zach Weiss, Jack Milko, Sam Basel

 

Who is your overall pick to win?

Chris – This is the year the Bonnie’s break the streak. I love their team and think that the Dayton game on Monday was a wake up call. I like their matchups against Duquesne or Richmond, and the Saint Louis game was a toss up. Gimme the Bonnies.

Daniel – I’ve said all season long I feel like the pieces are just going to come together for VCU. But that was before Bones Hyland went down. Granted, he could be back in time for the tourney, but I have my concerns. I really feel this is the most wide open A-10 Tournament we’ve had in a LONG time. That said, I’m gonna stick with my gut here and say VCU.

Anthony – VCU is still my favorite to win this tournament. The old cliche of defense winning championships still rings true to me. I think that Bones Hyland will make a return and when he does the team will really roll. Look, VCU had no problem using its bench to dismantle SLU the other week. Not to mention that a one seed hasn’t won the tournament in a decent amount of time.

Jason – VCU. The seed wins the Atlantic 10 tournament less than the seed in any other conference. When healthy, VCU is the best team in the conference. While the health of Bones Hyland and Vince Williams is in question, I believe Mike Rhoades can cobble together the wins to get to Dayton. They seem to have a favorable opponent draw too, compared to St. Bonaventure and Saint Louis.

Jack G – I suppose I’m a little biased here, but Saint Louis is still the most talented team in the A10 in my estimation. Goodwin has been fantastic all year, flirting with triple doubles in multiple conference games, and Hasahn French is starting to find his stride after struggling most of the year. If SLU continues to play like it did against Richmond and UMass, it can win it all. However, while SLU is the most likely team to win in my mind, it is at least equally likely to drop its first game in the tournament. Anything can happen with these Billikens.

Grant – Saint Louis. While there is inherent bias in this selection, it is one I truly believe. Outside of a disaster class at Dayton, the Billikens seem to have regained some of their pre-COVID form that led them to a top 25 ranking in non conference play. Monday’s win over UMass was the type of performance the Saint Louis faithful had started to take for granted, but hopefully is a sign of things to come. The Billikens would love to remove all of the doubt and semantics of being on the bubble, and it’s hard to imagine Hasahn French and Jordan Goodwin accepting their 2019 defeat to Virginia Tech as their sole postseason appearance. All that said, Saint Louis has drawn a fortuitous slate of potential games given the results of Monday’s games. The double bye will be of great help to a team that’s somewhat still recovering from their nightmare hiatus, and a 5 seed UMass is
much less intimidating than a team of the likes ofRichmond or Davidson. Furthermore, avoiding VCU’s side of the bracket dramatically increases their chances of advancing to the championship game, given VCU’s undeniable talent and the fact that the semifinals will be held at the Siegel Center. Although St. Bonaventure or a well-performing Richmond team is capable of knocking the Bills out in the semis, a road game at VCU is far more disadvantageous of a matchup. In conclusion, Saint Louis is very clearly the best and most talented team in the conference if they can play their game the right way, and the stars are aligning for Billiken basketball to last well into March.

Zach – To me, Saint Louis has some good momentum going right now with the convincing win over UMass, and a good win against Richmond. The @ VCU game was close. Saint Louis is showing some good form and at the best possible time. VCU may or may not have Bones Hyland which affects things.

Jack M – St. Bonaventure Bonnies. Now I know a one-seed has not won an Atlantic 10 Tournament since St. Louis did so in 2013, but I have a special feeling about these Bonnies. Kyle Lofton, Jaren Holmes, and Dom Welch have all found their stroke lately. As a matter of fact, St. Bonaventure now ranks first in the conference in three-point field goal percentage at roughly 38%.. They have been terrific on the other side of the ball too, ranking second in the conference in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Teams have scored 70 or more on the Bonnies just twice this season, and Bona won both of those. The Bonnies will not have to worry about the NCAA Tournament bubble, as I think they will cut down the nets on Selection Sunday in Dayton.

Sam – Saint Louis. For me, SLU is the deepest team overall this season. Given how the bracket is set up this year, their biggest test is going to be against the Bonnies in the semi-finals. If they can hold off Osun, then they’ll have their dance ticket punched no problem.

Who is your darkhorse pick to win?

Chris – I’m going with Davidson. Many people are not picking them to win, but they have a pretty good draw with playing the winner of Fordham/GW/Mason. Then they get the winner of Rhode Island (who they beat), Dayton (lost in OT), or VCU (they beat already). And even though the VCU win was without Bones, we don’t know for sure if Bones will play, but I can’t imagine he will be 100% even if he does play plus VCU is still a good team even without Bones (they beat SLU). Even then, Davidson has been consistent all year and has a great, efficient offense. You know what you are going to get from them. Even defensively they are average and held their own against Bona and VCU defensively. Gimme Davidson.

Daniel – I feel like Richmond is trending in the right direction still, despite their loss to SLU. They could also have home court advantage for at least one round which could certainly benefit them. That said, if Dayton can somehow make it to UD Arena for a home game in the A-10 Finals, look out!

Anthony – Not all is lost for Dayton. This is a team with quality wins against Davidson, SLU (twice), and Saint Bonaventure. What does this all mean? It means that Dayton is capable of beating the best in the conference. Their road to victory is not easy, but if enough momentum can be generated this team can make a run.

Jason – Davidson, if a 3 seed counts as a dark horse. It feels as if nobody is talking about the Wildcats, but they are a solid team that has closed the season on a strong note. They have also drawn a favorable section of the bracket, getting a George Mason team that has an inflated ranking relative to their talent. If you’re looking for a jet-black darkhorse, give me Dayton out of the seed. I just have a feeling they can play spoiler and run the table.

Jack G – Dayton is pretty clearly capable of literally any outcome, but as long as they play good teams, they’ll compete. If they have to play Fordham or La Salle at any point in this tournament, though, it’s game over for the Flyers.

Grant – Saint Joe’s. I know. It’s crazy. But this is a different team with Ryan Daly in the lineup. They’re undefeated in conference play when he plays, riding a 3 game win streak into Richmond this week. But he’s not alone. Taylor Funk is emerging as an all conference talent over that same period including a 36 point explosion in their win over Dayton, and Jordan Hall is becoming an all around force, tallying a 22 point triple double in their thriller over La Salle.

Zach – The winner of the Richmond/Duquesne game has a good chance to make a run. Duquesne matches up well with the Bonnies and its defense provides options. It also has consistent post play which frustrated Osun Osunniyi in the second contest which with his game-changing defense is crucial. Richmond is a talented group which massively underachieved this year. If Blake Francis and Grant Golden are closer to healthy, then that immediately becomes dangerous. The eight seed is a bit of a fluke for them given there were so many scenarios for where they and many teams would finish.

Jack M – Davidson Wildcats. Davidson had to come off of a long Covid pause and play three consecutive games against two top 50 teams in the country. Yet, the Wildcats played well in a home-and-home series against St. Bonaventure and then they beat the VCU Rams. If Kellan Grady and Hyunjung Lee get hot, watch out. Bob McKillop’s Wildcats have the pieces in place to win three in a row and steal an At-Large bid. It all depends on how the Wildcats shoot from downtown.

Sam – VCU. VCU has obviously been one of the better teams in the conference this season, but the question regarding Bones Hyland’s injury muddies their potential for a deep run. If they can get to the weekend without Hyland at first, they should be in good shape.

 

Who is your pick to be upset in their first game?

Chris – Richmond. They almost lost to Duquesne the first time, but pulled it out and Duquesne has played teams better the second time around all season (see Rhody, Dayton, and Bona). I know a 9 over an 8 isn’t much of an upset, but Richmond will be favored by a few points, not just -1. Don’t sleep on the Dukes either…they have seen the Bonnies twice and played them tough the second game in Pittsburgh.

Daniel – UMass. I don’t think this needs a ton of explanation; I just haven’t been impressed with the Minutemen this season. They’re quite fortunate to be in the position they are presently in, but it just screams one-and-done to me.

Anthony – Davidson is a tricky team that I can’t seem to grasp. Their A10 conference schedule was the weakest out of all teams. I am not saying Davidson is a bad team. However, I just haven’t seen enough of Davidson to be confident in them. They are clearly a weaker top four seed and run the risk of being upset if they face off a team who has been building momentum from Wednesday/Thursday.

Jason – St. Bonaventure. I don’t remember a tougher draw for the seed than to possibly face a team like this Richmond team on Friday afternoon. While Davidson and George Mason seem to be pretty even at first glance, I believe it is more likely we see the Bonnies go one-and-done than the Wildcats.

Jack G – UMass. The Minutemen haven’t played many quality A10 teams this year, and they just ended the regular season by getting thoroughly outclassed by Saint Louis. Throw in the possibility of having to face Dr. Drip himself, Ryan Daly and a St. Joe’s team that hasn’t lost in conference play since Daly’s return, and UMass might be in for an early exit.

Grant – Leaning back into my unfathomable dark horse selection of SJU, UMass could be susceptible to an early exit on Thursday. Compounding a Ryan Daly led St. Joe’s (or upset happy La Salle for that matter) with a COVID fatigued Minutemen squad is a recipe for disaster for the supporters in Amherst.

Zach – I could see UMass getting upset in the first game. They came off a not so great effort at Saint Louis and are not back to full strength following a shutdown. La Salle has shown the potential and played spoiler multiple times this season. Since Ryan Daly has come back, Saint Joseph’s has been a noticeably improved team. Instead of rushing him back, he was brought back when he was ready and now the Hawks are showing some good signs.

Jack M – Richmond Spiders. I feel as if the Spiders peaked too early. Richmond won at Kentucky and at Vanderbilt in the non-conference but then lost at home to Hofstra and LaSalle. Which Richmond team will show up? I know the Spiders went on a lengthy pause, but they have failed to beat the three best teams in the conference this year: St. Bonaventure, VCU, and St. Louis. Blake Francis, Grant Golden, and Jacob Gilyard can get the job done, but I smell an upset coming Richmond’s way, despite the Spiders co-hosting this year’s Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Sam –Richmond. The Spiders clearly are playing under par right now, and given how momentum can play a huge part in the college basketball postseason, I think they’re in a dangerous position to head home a lot earlier than they intended.

 

Which Thursday team has the best chance to get to the championship?

Chris – It’s gotta be Dayton, right? They lost to St Joe’s, La Salle, and Fordham but beat St. Bona, SLU twice, and Mason twice. They are such a weird team that seems to get up for good teams and beats them, but loses awkwardly to the worst of the worst (sorry you weren’t invited, GW). Frankly, their first round draw isn’t terrible with Rhode Island considering they won easily the first time but lost an 18 point lead the second game that they should have won. But then they get VCU, the only top 4 team they didn’t beat, even though the second game was a bit closer. But, VCU might not have Bones Hyland, at least not at 100%. After that, it’s Davidson standing in the way of a championship on their own home floor.

Daniel – I’m gonna go with Dayton. I know they’ve been painfully inconsistent this year, but when they’ve been hot, they’ve proven they can beat anyone. Granted, they’ve also proven they can lose to anyone as well. I just have a gut feeling that now that we’re in March, this Flyers squad is playing for a little more than everyone else, as they try to avenge the March that-never-was last season. Plus that added incentive of a home game in the Finals too…

Anthony – Richmond is by far the most talented team in this group. Yes, they have fallen on some hard times. But when this team is healthy they are a top 4 team in the conference and so they are logically the best Thursday team.

Jason – Dayton. They always show up against great teams. If they can survive the landmine that is Rhode Island, then I believe they can get past VCU in their third matchup just simply because it is difficult to beat a team thrice in one season. From there, they get Davidson or George Mason, which I would definitely take Dayton in.

Jack G – Dayton. Jalen Crutcher has never been to an NCAA Tournament. This is one of the great travesties of A10 basketball and he has a chance to play himself into an automatic bid. I’ll take that possibility over any other Thursday team aiming to cut down the nets over a week after the semifinal.

Zach – Richmond/Duquesne have a good matchup with St. Bonaventure in my opinion or at the very least a more doable task ahead. I just do not see UMass based on its body of work stringing victories together. Dayton has not been at 100% as a team and Rhode Island has not had the season it would have wanted which does not make me confident that there can be a run. George Mason is gelling at the right time coming in winners of its last four contests, including at VCU, but the rest of the wins were ones against teams towards the bottom of the conference. Davidson is a tough out come March and I just do not see that changing.

Grant – Richmond. While I was prepared to answer this question with Saint Louis earlier this weekend, Richmond’s losing effort Monday has paradoxically placed them as my choice for Thursday’s most threatening team. The Spiders have flashed moments of brilliance this season, and their senior and star laden team makes their seeding incomprehensible to think about just a month ago. Nonetheless, it would be foolish to count out this team from realizing their potential this week.

Sam – Dayton. Like my SLU pick, I think Dayton’s half of the bracket leans heavily in their favor. Their biggest challenge will be Davidson. The Wildcats have been a premier team defensively in the conference recently, but if the Flyers shooters can get hot, I think they’ll be playing for an A-10 title.

 

Do you think a pillow fight team can get to Friday or beyond? If so, who?

Chris – I don’t think so just because it hasn’t happened ever in the tournament’s current format that was formed in 2014. I know many are thinking Saint Joe’s due to the win streak, but their three wins are against the 7th, 8th, and 12th seeded teams. A game against UMass is intriguing, though. Also, don’t sleep on George Washington beating Mason. I can see that happening as well.

Daniel – There’s not a doubt in my mind that George Washington could make a run. I know people have been making fun of me for believing in GW, but there’s just too much good there for me to ignore. Granted, their second half at Mason wasn’t great and I knew coming into the game at St. Bonaventure they were going to get eviscerated, and that’s exactly what happened. But all it will take is one of Ricky Lindo Jr, Jamison Battle and/or James Bishop to suddenly get hot and I think the Colonials could be a real threat to win a game or two down in Richmond.

Anthony – Saint Joe’s has really turned it on in these past few games. After the Richmond win Coach Billy Lange said that Ryan Daly was the best player in the conference. While Bones Hyland may have something to say, Daly really is a force. Taylor Funk, Cam Brown, and Jordan Hall are all really hitting their stride to. Fun fact, this is SJU’s first three game win streak since 2018. This team is coming together and is clearly the most dangerous of the bunch.

Jason – Saint Joseph’s. They are rolling right now, beating teams that on paper are way better than them. You have to wonder what could have been had Ryan Daly been healthy the entire year. Not saying they’ll go all the way, but I like their chances to get past the pillow fight and UMass. It is called March “Madness” for a reason after all.

Jack G – Yes, St. Joe’s. In Dr. Drip we trust.

Zach – La Salle and Saint Joseph’s each has the potential to be on for the night and in a strange year, the A-10 has been very strange as well. Each team found ways to get a signature win and both teams have enough fire power to go multiple rounds.

Grant – La Salle will be a popular pick in this category, given their flair for the dramatic upset, but the Explorers are equally underwhelming when they are on the wrong side of their Jekyll and Hyde act. However, I think St. Joseph’s has the greatest potential to shock the conference. This is an entirely different team than we have seen all season with a healthy Ryan Daly back in action, beating La Salle, Dayton and Richmond. Their offensive firepower and newfound swagger is the perfect recipe for disaster if you’re UMass on Thursday.

Sam – St. Joe’s is super hot right now. Ryan Daly is a major leader both on and off the ball, and Taylor Funk has been an automatic bucket in the Hawks recent winning streak.

Jack M – LaSalle Explorers. I know my friends over @TheGolaStandard will love this pick. How can you pick anyone else here besides LaSalle? I know the Explorers do not have a double-digit scorer, but they are the peskiest team in the conference. Guard Sherif Kenney dropped 22 in the Reilly Center last month and the Sophomore has the potential to light up the scoreboard again this week. The same can be said for Guards David Beatty and Jack Clark. After all, LaSalle beat Richmond, St. Louis, and Dayton this season, so let’s queue up my favorite meme of the year: