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2022 A-10 Women’s Basketball Conference Preview & Bracketology

Welcome to the 2022 edition of the A-10 Women’s Basketball conference preview! It’s an exciting time for the Atlantic 10, as the Conference is arguably as strong as it has been in over five years, and the league is finally back in the conversation to get multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament!

Before we get into the analysis and bracketology, lets take a look at the most recent A10 Talk Women’s Basketball Power Rankings:

 

And a quick look at the conference NET Rankings:

A-10 Conference NET Rankings (as of December 30)

  1. #47 UMass
  2. #54 Fordham
  3. #61 Rhode Island
  4. #69 VCU
  5. #85 Dayton
  6. #98 Richmond
  7. #110 Davidson
  8. #160 Saint Louis
  9. #181 Saint Joseph’s
  10. #186 George Washington
  11. #189 La Salle
  12. #231 Duquesne
  13. #246 George Mason
  14. #253 St. Bonaventure

A-10 Team Previews

Now, let’s break down all 14 teams!

Davidson

The Wildcats have put together a very solid showing in non-conference play, posting a 9-3 record and enter A-10 play on a four-game winning streak. Suzi-Rose Deegan and Elle Sutphin have been a two-headed monster for Davidson, averaging 13.0 and 12.9 points per game respectively. Issy Morgan is the running favorite to take home A-10 Rookie of the Year right now, averaging 8.6 points per game, and having earned A-10 Rookie of the Week honors three times already. After a 5-10 conference record a year ago, Davidson seems poised to take a big step forward this season, and could very easily find themselves in the top-half of the conference, a feat they haven’t achieved since 2019.

Best win: at Georgetown, 70-55

Worst loss: Columbia, 87-78

 

Dayton

This Dayton team is exactly what we expected them to be: a hard-nosed, experienced group led by its seniors who just find ways to win games. The Flyers enter A-10 play with an 8-3 record, with all three loses coming against Power Five schools (Duke, Mississippi State, Florida), while their wins include victories over Purdue, Illinois and Clemson. Offensively, it’s the usual suspects getting the job done, with Erin Whalen, Jenna Giacone and Araion Bradshaw all in the top-four on the team in scoring. The big surprise has been the emergence of sophomore Makira Cook, who is second on the team in scoring, averaging 14.5 points per contest.

Best win: at Purdue, 78-62

Worst loss: Duke, 70-56

 

Duquesne

It’s been tough sledding for Duquesne to open the season, posting a 5-7 record, with just one win over a team that is above 300 in the NET (#267 Akron). True, the Dukes have faced a tough schedule, facing the likes of UCF, Pitt, and Penn State, but they have had a couple of really tough loses as well. A one-point loss at Longwood comes to mind, as does a five-point loss at Kent State. One of the bright spots for this team has been sophomore Megan McConnell who leads the A-1o in steals at 2.7 per game, which ranks 39th nationally. The frustrating thing is despite that, Duquesne still has a turnover margin of -2.25 which is 13th in the A-10 and 288th in the nation. There’s been a number of close calls for Duquesne, if they can clean up the game, they still have the ability to make some noise in the A-10 this year.

Best win: Akron, 58-47

Worst loss: at Longwood, 77-76

 

Fordham

Any conversation around Fordham must begin with Anna DeWolfe, who leads the A-10 in scoring at 20.2 points per game, which ranks her 17th in the nation. In addition, Kendell Heremaia has put some impressive numbers of her own, including a dominant 29-point performance in the Rams win over Seton Hall. From a resume standpoint, Fordham has done all you really could have asked of them in the non-conference, securing wins over Quinnipiac, Seton Hall, Michigan State, Houston, and Princeton. They don’t have a bad loss to their name, with all three of them coming at the hands of  top-50 NET ranked teams (Notre Dame, Baylor, Arizona State). Fordham’s own NET ranking of #54 has them in the mix for NCAA at-large contention, especially if they can string together wins in A-10 play, and beat UMass on the road.

Best win: Michigan State, 71-68

Worst loss: Arizona State, 58-43

 

George Mason

In Vanessa Blair-Lewis’ first year in Fairfax, George Mason has already doubled their win total from all of last season, posting a 6-6 record. The signature moment of the season has without a doubt been Mason’s 71-66 victory over Florida, a team who later would go on to win ESPN’s Team of the Week honors with a record of 10-3 (including wins over Dayton, GW and Saint Louis). Bethune-Cookman transfer Amaya Scott has been the x-factor for the Patriots thus far, as she ranks 3rd in the A-10 in scoring at 17.0 points per game, which has her tied for 82nd nationally with Aliyah Boston of #1 South Carolina. Complimenting Scott is Jordan Wakefield and Tamia Lawhorne who contribute 13.8 and 10.4 points per game respectively. As a team, George Mason ranks 15th in the nation in free throws made (180) and 21st in the in free throw attempts (247). And while they rank 202nd in team offense (63.4 points per game), it is light years ahead of their final ranking of 326th last season at just a mere 50.5 points. There is measurable progress being made in Fairfax, and a team that went winless in the A-10 a year ago looks poised to contend to be in the top-half of the conference this year.

Best win: Florida, 75-71

Worst loss: Norfolk State, 66-59

 

George Washington

In the first year of Caroline McCombs’ tenue in Foggy Bottom, there has been a steep learning curve for a team that features 9 newcomers, and has battled their fair share of injuries and COVID-related absences already. Arguably the best story of the year so far in the A-10 is the story of walk-on Maxine Engel who had never seen a minute of game time before she was called into action in GW’s game against Lehigh. Not only did she hold her own, she points 8 points, earning her A-10 Rookie of the Week. While the Colonials have been competitive in nearly all their games, this biggest weakness by far remains on the offensive end, as their points per game ranks 332nd in the nation at just 52.2 points per game while their field goal percentage ranks 325th at just 34.10%. However, GW has been able to offset that by boasting the 2nd best defense in the A-10 (behind only Rhode Island), and the 24th in the nation, allowing just 53.6 points per game.

Best win: at Old Dominion, 47-45

Worst loss: Virginia, 62-53

 

La Salle

The Explorers are a tough nut to crack this year. Their record is solid at 7-5 and their loses are all to good teams, but they only have one top-200 NET win (#171 Penn). They also have a head-scratching loss to Coppin State at home, but were competitive in their three games against Kentucky, St. John’s and Villanova. Despite only playing two games this season, Gabby Crawford has been a bright spot for La Salle as she has scored 17 points in each of La Salle’s two most recent games against Sacred Heart and Villanova. Kayla Spruill has also had a strong season so far, averaging 14.8 points per game which ranks 9th in the A-10. As a team, the Explorers lead the league in free throw percentage, shooting a 78.6% clip, which ranks 8th best in the nation.

Best win: at Penn, 63-49

Worst loss: Coppin State, 73-70

 

Rhode Island

At 10-3, Rhode Island is an interesting team to look at. Their record certainly speaks for itself, but the three loses to their name all came consecutively in the span of a week to Long Beach State, Holy Cross and Buffalo. You take away even one of those three loses, the Rams would be in serious contention for an at-large bid. Even with those loses, URI sits at #61, within striking distance. They have wins over Providence, Princeton, and Virginia and won three-straight to close out their non-conference slate. Rhode Island certainly has shown flashes of brilliance, like their 64-point shellacking of Merrimack, but the biggest issue has been consistency. By the time the Rams next take the floor, they will have had nearly three weeks between games thanks to COVID cancelations. That said, there is no denying what they have accomplished so far: they boast the top defense in the Atlantic 10, allowing just 52.5 points per game, which ranks 17th best in the nation. Four different players are averaging in double-figures for Rhody, led by Emmanuelle Tahane with 14.6 points per game.

Best win: Princeton, 61-53

Worst loss: at Holy Cross, 66-54

 

Richmond

The Spiders have been sneaking their way up the NET rankings cracking the top-100 for the first time this season on December 30 at #98. At 9-4, Richmond enters conference play on a 5-game winning streak, which includes three wins away from the Robins Center. The Spiders also have four players who are averaging in double figures, led by Addie Budnik at 13.7 points per game. As a team, Richmond has been filling up stat sheets left and right all season long: they lead the A-10 in assists per game at 16.85 which ranks 32nd in the nation, while Emma Squires leads the league in three-point percentage at 46.3%. Additionally, Grace Townsend leads the A-10 in steals per game at 5.6 and Addie Budnik is second in blocked shots with 3.2 per game. This team is a cohesive unit that could be a darkhorse in the A-10 this year and could be very dangerous come March.

Best win: at Virginia, 74-65

Worst loss: Elon, 71-50

 

Saint Joseph’s

It has been a season of close calls for Saint Joseph’s, especially in their last several games. Of the 8 loses the Hawks have, exactly half of them were decided by six points or less, including their most recent loss to Harvard, a game in which SJU led almost the entire way. This feels like a team just about to turn a corner, despite their lackluster record. Their win on the road at Temple was HUGE for the confidence of this group, as was the win against Penn. If the Hawks are able to defeat La Salle on MLK Day, Saint Joseph’s could move into 2nd place in the Big Five, behind only Villanova. This SJU team is definitely one that could play spoilers in the Atlantic 10 this year, and will almost certainly surprise a few teams this year. Katie Jekot is the x-factor for SJU this year- if she gets hot, so could the Hawks.

Best win: at Temple, 73-63

Worst loss: at Monmouth, 57-45

 

Saint Louis

To say the Billikens had a rough go of it in non-conference play would probably be an understatement. Saint Louis posted just a 4-8 record against some tough competition, but primarily against games that SLU should have at least competed in. Double-digit loses against the likes of Illinois State and Northern Kentucky are head-scratchers, while the Bills’ worst loss of the year came at home to SIU-Edwardsville. Saint Louis is a team that returned the majority of its scoring from a year ago, with the only major departure being Rachel Kent who left to go to IUPUI. Brooke Flowers has been one of the few bright spots for Saint Louis this year, leading the A-10 in rebounding with 11.0 per game, which ranks 14th in the nation. Additionally, she also leads the league in blocks at 3.3 per game, which ranks 6th nationally.

Best win: UT-Martin, 59-54

Worst loss: at SIU-Edwardsville, 63-57

 

St. Bonaventure

The surprise of the season so far has been St. Bonaventure, who is off to an 8-3 start. Asianae Johnson has done it all, as she leads the Bonnies in scoring at 15.9 points per game, as well as assists at 3.63 per game. The one major cause for concern for this team as a whole is their strength of schedule. WarrenNolan.com ranks St. Bonaventure’s strength of schedule at 320 out of 356 teams in Division I. RealTimeRPI.com ranks it even lower at 325. Furthermore, of Bona’s 7 wins, only two are in the top-300 NET: #296 Binghamton and #233 Marshall. The rest of their wins are against #312 RMU, #337 Siena , #343 Canisius, Clarion (Non D-I), #345 Colgate, and #331 ETSU. The Bonnies themselves have the lowest NET ranking of any A-10 team at #253 for this very reason. The jury is still out on this team as to whether they are as good as their record would have you believe they are. Time will tell.

Best win: Marshall, 50-47

Worst loss: at Cleveland State, 58-49

 

UMass

This. Is. A. Special. Team. If you are not on the bandwagon now, GET ON IT NOW!!!! One simply cannot say enough good things about UMass, from their resume to their statistics to the intangibles that simply cannot be measured by any metric. The Minutewomen have FIVE players averaging in double figures: Sam Breen, Sydney Taylor, Destiney Philoxy, Angelique Ngalakulondi, and Ber’Nyah Mayo. Let’s start with Sam Breen, the walking double-double machine. She is casually averaging 17.1 points and 10.9 boards a night. She is 4th in the nation in double doubles (8), 13th in defensive rebounds per game (7.9), 2nd in field goal attempts (226), 11th in total points (240), 5th in rebounds (153), and 15th in rebounds per game (10.9). The rest of the crew? Hardly a bunch of nobodies. Destiney Philoxy is the player with the most heart of anyone I’ve ever seen. She is an elite distributor, ranking 6th in the nation in assists (78) and 25th in assists per game (5.6). If there was a statistic kept for most times diving on the floor of diving out-of-bounds after a loose ball, she would rank first in the nation. Sydney Taylor has become a three-point specialist, ranking 3rd in nation in threes attempted (108) and 16th in threes made (34). Not to be outdone,  Angelique Ngalakulondi 9th in nation in offensive rebounds (4.4) while Ber’Nyah Mayo 10th in nation in steals (35).

Oh, we’re not done yet. That’s just the individual statistics: we haven’t even talked about the team stats yet. The most significant: UMass is 2nd in the nation in total rebounds (613) and 7th in rebounding margin (+12.5). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Minutewomen rank 29th in the nation in offensive rebounds per game (15.4), 26th in rebounds per game (43.79) 10th in free throw attempts (269), 20th in free throws made (175), 26th in assists (204), and finally, 28th in win-loss percentage (85.7). All this is to say: UMass is the frontrunner to win the Atlantic 10 this season.

Best win: South Dakota State, 81-63

Worst loss: Boston College, 66-60

 

VCU

VCU’s record of 5-5 is kinda indicative of this this year has gone: close, but no cigar. Let me put this another way: on December 12, VCU hosted #17 USF and were absolutely dominating the Bulls, leading by as many as 16 points in the third quarter. VCU led 49-36 heading to the 4th quarter, but in the fourth were out-scored 28-8. Yikes. It’s been that kind of year. Still, this is a dangerous team that is, in my opinion, one of the top-six teams in the Atlantic 10 this year. They also have arguably one of the best wins in non-conference play this year, taking down Boston College back on December 5. They also have notable wins over Old Dominion, Washington and ECU. Make no mistake: the reigning Atlantic 10 Tournament Champions are still VERY dangerous.

Best win: Boston College, 69-65

Worst loss: at Stetson, 64-58

 

A-10 Bracketology

In the projected field:

UMass: The Minutewomen are by far the frontrunners right now, and present the best at-large hope the Atlantic 10 has had since 2017. In ESPN’s bracketology, Charlie Creme has UMass as an 11-seed (automatic bid) playing 6-seed Oklahoma in College Park, MD. Obviously a LONG way to go until March.

On the Bubble:

The most important thing to know about the NCAA Tournament this year is the field has FINALLY expanded from 64 teams to 68 teams, the same number the Men’s Tournament has had for a number of years now. The First Four teams out right now are Creighton (NET #28), Utah (#23), Washington State (#72), and Syracuse (#62). The Next Four out are Marquette (#74), Gonzaga (#30), South Dakota (#46), and Mississippi State (#79). Right now, four Atlantic 10 schools are within that range of NET rankings: #47 UMass, #54 Fordham, #61 Rhode Island, #69 VCU.

Interestingly, RealTimeRPI.com’s bracket projection actually has THREE A-10 teams in the field right now, with Rhode Island as a 7-seed, Fordham as an 8-seed, and UMass as a 9-seed. That’s likely on the optimistic side: I will happily take 2-bids in the field this year.

In my opinion, Fordham has the best shot (aside from UMass) at getting an at-large based on their resume, followed by Rhode Island. Dayton almost certainly will need to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament now, but time will tell. VCU is an interesting case, with their NET ranking being as high as it is. Their 5-5 non-conference record almost certainly is going to keep them out of the field, but it’s nice to see the Rams getting respect.

And of course, as last year showed, anything can happen in March. I think there are realistically six teams that have the ability to win the A-10 Tournament in Wilmington this year, but what happens between now and March is anyone’s guess. It’s going to be a fun two months!

 

D
Daniel Frank is a member of the George Mason Class of 2022. He graduated high school from the Academy For Individual Excellence in Louisville, KY. He ...