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2023 A-10 Women’s Basketball Conference Preview & Bracketology

Welcome to the 2023 edition of the A-10 Women’s Basketball conference preview! It’s an exciting time for the Atlantic 10, as the Conference is coming off their first multi-bid NCAA Tournament since 2018. The level of parity in the league looks to be at an all-time high, with team like Saint Joseph’s, Duquesne, GW and Mason taking big steps forward, while there has been a changing of the guard at the top with Dayton, VCU, and Saint Louis in rebuilding years.

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. UMass
  2. #80 Rhode Island
  3. #85 Fordham
  4. #92 Richmond
  5. #104 Duquesne
  6. #111 Saint Joseph’s
  7. #143 Davidson
  8. #155 George Washington
  9. #171 La Salle
  10. #184 Saint Louis
  11. #198 George Mason
  12. #212 Loyola Chicago
  13. #234 VCU
  14. #243 Dayton
  15. #308 St. Bonaventure

A-10 Team Previews

Now, let’s break down all 15 teams!

Davidson

It’s been an odd season for Davidson so far. After a slow start, the ‘Cats closed out conference play winning five of their final six games. Of their seven loses, two came on the road to ranked teams, another came at home to Duke, and only one total loss is to a team ranked lower than #150 in the NET. Injuries plagued them early but the ‘Cats really seem to have gotten the ball rolling as of late and are arguably the hottest team in the conference heading into A-10 play.

Best win: Charlotte, 68-55

Worst loss: at Appalachian State, 84-82

 

Dayton

So, uh, it’s been a rough season for the Flyers. Perhaps no other team in America has had as rough a turnaround from last March as Dayton: from a team that won a game in the NCAA Tournament and had 26 wins to, uh, yeah. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a full rebuilding mode for UD, after Shauna Green and the coaching staff left for Illinois, and  nearly all of their scoring from last season’s roster either graduated or transferred. Dayton’s 0-10 start was the worst in program history, and by a wide margin. Their lone win of the non-conference slate came in their finale and it came against Division II Cedarville (who is 2-9 in their own right).

Best win: Uhhhhhhhhhh…yikes

Worst loss: Ohio, 52-51

 

Duquesne

It has been a season of resurgence for Duquesne, as the Dukes have seemingly found their footing once more. Granted, their strength of schedule ranks towards the bottom of the Atlantic 10, but after the last couple of seasons, I think Duquesne fans will take wins any way they can get them! The defense has been getting it done this season, as the Dukes rank 17th in the nation in field goal percentage defense, at 34.4%. On the offensive end, Megan McConnell is the ONLY player in the nation with multiple triple-doubles this season!

Best win: Kent State, 73-67

Worst loss: at Temple, 66-60

 

Fordham

After a tumultuous offseason in the Bronx, Fordham has been able to still post a solid 8-5 record led by the same names A-10 fans are all too familiar with: Anna DeWolfe, Kaitlyn Downey, Asiah Dingle, and Megan Jonassen. This team, despite all their adversity, returns so much talent and experience that Fordham must be taken seriously as a contender for a double-bye come March in Wilmington.

Best win: South Dakota, 78-65

Worst loss: Fairfield, 82-75

 

George Mason

Year two of the Vanessa Blair-Lewis era in Fairfax has once again taken the Patriots to new heights. George Mason posted a winning record in non-conference play for the first time since the 2017-2018 season (aka the Natalie Butler season). Mason has just one loss outside the top-150 of the NET (a road loss to Robert Morris), and has wins over ECU and FIU. As far as I can tell, there’s no official statistic kept for fewest points allowed in fourth quarters this season, but if there were, I can guarantee you that this George Mason team would be right up there at the top of that list. This team has grown so much, and these Patriots look poised to take a big step forward in conference play this year.

Best win: East Carolina, 54-41

Worst loss: at Robert Morris, 53-52

 

George Washington

GW certainly had some interesting moments this non-conference season, as their game against TCU went *ahem* viral on social media. Shenanigans aside, the Colonials have posted their winningest non-conference record in six seasons, dating back to the 2016-2017 season, Jen Rizzoti’s first in Foggy Bottom. That team also went 8-5, before finishing 20-10 and earning a spot in the WNIT. Where the biggest improvement has been for GW this year has been on the offensive end, ranking 151st in the nation at 67.7 points per game and 162nd in field goal percentage at 41.06%. While those numbers may not jump off the page at you, it is a dramatic improvement for a team that has reliably been in the 300s in both categories nationally for nearly half a decade.

Best win: ETSU, 78-58

Worst loss: Cal State Fullerton, 70-64

 

La Salle

Expectations were as high as I can remember for La Salle, with the Explorers being picked second in the A-10 preseason poll. It has been a bumpy ride through non-conference play, but La Salle has managed to post a solid 8-5 record despite it all. The season openly less than ideally, with an opening day loss to Howard, followed a few weeks later by a road loss to Division II Alaska Anchorage in the Great Alaskan Shootout. Sandwiched between those two loses was a season-best four game winning streak that included wins over Drexel and Pepperdine. The Explorers have been a .500 team in the month of December, and are very difficult to get a read on in general. The loses came to Temple, USF and Villanova, certainly no bad ones there, but their wins came against Lehigh, Monmouth, and UMES, no good ones either. Time will tell if this La Salle team can live up to their preseason hype.

Best win: Drexel, 77-74

Worst loss: at Alaska Anchorage, 88-75

 

Loyola Chicago

Welcome to the Atlantic 10, Loyola Chicago! The Ramblers used their newly minted status as an A-10 team to boost their non-conference scheduling, putting together a gauntlet that they hope will have them ready for conference play. In fact as I write this, Loyola Chicago has already secured their first A-10 conference victory, going on the road to win at Saint Louis. I think a lot of folks had written off Loyola Chicago, thinking that they would struggle mightily in the transition against higher level competition. Time will tell what this season has in store, but a 1-0 start to conference play has to give this group quite the confidence boost.

Best win: Idaho State, 56-44

Worst loss: at Miami (OH), 79-53

 

Rhode Island

Despite a LOT of roster turnover, this Rhody team has hardly missed a beat this season! Having flirted with the NCAA Tournament bubble for much of the early part of the season, this bunch has posted an impressive 9-3 record, and was a buzzer-beater at Princeton away from posting 10 wins. After an opening day loss to Harvard, Rhode Island rattled off nine consecutive wins to get to 9-1, before two close Quad 1 loses to Wake Forest and Princeton closed out non-con. While those two loses may have shut the door on at-large hopes to the NCAA Tournament, the WNIT is still very much on the table, though this bunch has what it takes to make a run in Wilmington come March as well! Keep an eye on this team!

Best win: Providence, 74-72

Worst loss: at Harvard, 88-74

 

Richmond

Very, very quietly, Richmond is 10-3 entering Atlantic 10 play! This Spiders team is very much flying under the radar, and is also potentially positioning themselves for a WNIT appearance. Two of their three loses came at the hands of ACC opponents, in Clemson and Duke, while their only other loss came in a three-point loss to a scrappy NIU team. After the loss to the Huskies, Richmond closed out their non-conference slate winning five of their final six games, capping it off with an undefeated trip to Puerto Rico, defeating Ball State and Tarleton State.

Best win: Ball State, 75-73

Worst loss: NIU, 67-64

 

Saint Joseph’s

The surprise of the season without question has been Saint Joseph’s! After a 9-0 start to the year, this Hawks bunch had quite a few heads turning their direction. They did stumble a little down the stretch of non-conference, falling at the hands of Villanova and James Madison (both top-85 teams), but take nothing away from what they have accomplished so far! Talya Brugler and Mackenzie Smith has been a dynamic duo, both averaging 15 points per game this season, while freshman Laura Ziegler adds about 10 points per game.

Best win: at Vanderbilt, 67-59

Worst loss: James Madison, 78-66

 

Saint Louis

It’s a year of rebuilding for the Billikens, as this young team has at times struggled to close out games. Half of their loses were decided by 10 points or less, and you can count seven if you count their loss to Division II Maryville in their exhibition game. SLU’s win over Southern Illinois was their lone win in the month of December, as there are a lot of growing pains right now for this bunch. The bright spot in the season has been Longwood transfer Kyla McMakin, who has made an immediate impact, leading the team in scoring, and ranking 15th in the nation in field goals made.

Best win: Air Force, 77-58

Worst loss: Maryville, 78-70

 

St. Bonaventure

In the nicest way possible, what is there to say about St. Bonaventure that hasn’t been said before. The Bonnies have posted a 3-12 record against one of the weakest schedules in the A-10, with their lone wins coming against Siena, Niagara, and Binghamton. It’s never a good thing to have two separate four-game losing streaks, and its even worse when those came in fifteen total games. The Bonnies rank 334th in the nation in scoring offense, 322nd in field goal percentage, 305th in rebounding margin and 317th in assist to turnover ratio. Yeah. It’s bad.

Best win: at Siena, 69-63

Worst loss: at Canisius, 85-47

 

UMass

The reigning Atlantic 10 Tournament champions are back and looking for more! The Queens of the A-10 are 10-3, ranked in the NET, and in a prime position to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, whether by means of auto-bid or at-large. Despite battling injuries for much of November and December, the Minutewomen are back and stronger than ever. It all starts with Sam Breen, aka Queen Breen, who ranks second in the league in both scoring and rebounding. Breen isn’t the only one getting in done for UMass as FIVE different Minutewomen are averaging in double figures in scoring, (Sydney Taylor, Destiney Philoxy, Makennah White, and Ber’Nyah Mayo). Angelique Ngalakulondi has also been a key contributor, as has Saint Joseph’s transfer Laila Fair. This bunch is still a very hungry one, and don’t be suprised to see the Queen of the A-10 reigning once more come March.

Best win: at Arizona State, 88-64

Worst loss: Columbia, 83-74

 

VCU

VCU finds themselves in a rather unfamiliar position, sitting at 3-9 record and having lost five consecutive games. More to the point, the Rams have struggled mightily at home, post a 1-4 record at the Siegel Center this season with loses to William & Mary, James Madison, Gardner-Webb, and Howard. In fact, their lone home win of the season came in their opener against Lafayette. The road hasn’t been much kinder to the Rams, as they are winless in four games, including loses to Delaware, Charlotte, ECU and Old Dominion. The silver lining is VCU has rarely been blown out, but has rather just piled up close loss after close loss. This team may well figure it out eventually, but until they do, the tough sledding will likely continue.

Best win: Seton Hall, 62-61

Worst loss: Gardner-Webb, 61-56

 

A-10 Bracketology

In the projected field:

UMass: The Minutewomen are likely the only sure-fire shot that the Atlantic 10 has at an at-large bid this season. There’s been some close calls with Rhode Island, and Saint Joseph’s even had a case going there for a minute. Right now, the best-case scenario for the league is the UMass make it to the A-10 Finals or Semifinals and loses in a close game, which would very likely get the Atlantic 10 two bids again.

On the Bubble:

Rhode Island: The Rams were a buzzer-beater at Princeton away from being in the previous column. URI isn’t 100% out of the picture yet, but dropping their two Quad 1 games in the manner they did dealt a serious blow to their NCAAT hopes. But lots of basketball still to be played for sure!

In addition to the NCAA Tournament, the A-10 is primed yet again for another strong showing in the WNIT, with Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Fordham, La Salle, Duquesne, Richmond, and maybe even George Washington in the conversation right now. But one step at a time here folks! Right now everyone is vying for that A-10 title, and this season is shaping up to be one of the most competitive battles yet! It’s going to be a very fun next two months! Buckle up folks!

 

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 ...