At this point, most A-10 teams have ten or less games to go in the regular season. With the final third of the year coming into focus, it is becoming more and more apparent which teams are for real, and which ones or not (see bracketology).
This is also the time of year where we can start to evaluate the coaching performances this season by the staffs across the conference. Here are the four main contenders as of right now:
Mike Lonergan, George Washington
Lonergan’s Colonials appear primed for another NCAA tournament appearance based upon a solid season thus far. Earlier this year, GW was able to take down Virginia in one of the best A-10 wins of the season. Lonergan has established a family culture and continues to thrive using the fundamentals as well. GW leads the Atlantic 1o in offensive rebound percentage and free throw rate, which are by-products of this team’s ability to work efficiently within the parameters of the post. This is very reminiscent of the Bo Ryan style Wisconsin offense that led the Badgers to the Final Four the last two seasons. GW is a serious contender and much of the credit goes to Lonergan.
Will Wade, VCU
The shoes of Shaka Smart certainly are not easy to fill, but thus far Wade has been doing a fantastic job. Despite a rough start to the conference season, Wade kept his team competitive and currently has them riding a ten-game win streak. Possibly most impressive, Wade has been able to maintain the VCU culture of Havoc defense. The Rams rank 4th in the nation (1st in the conference) in defensive turnover percentage and 2nd in the nation (also 1st in the conference) in steals percentage. This is actually an improvement from the Smart coached team last season and it comes post-graduation of 3-time A-10 Defensive Player of the Year Brainte Weber. Shaka built VCU basketball, and Wade is doing a darned good job of keeping it in check.
Phil Martelli, St. Joseph’s
Sure, St. Joe’s may not be leading the pack in the A-10, but who can fault Martelli for getting his team off to a 16-3 start? Under his watch, we have been able to witness the maturation of DeAndre’ Bembry into one of the most complete players in the league, and likely the A-10’s best draft prospect. However, without a couple key wins, the Hawks still might not make the NCAA tournament. Martelli has done a solid job, but will need to make his team to the next level in order to boost himself to the forefront of this conversation.
Archie Miller, Dayton
Death, taxes, Archie Miller? Another year, another great team for one of the most desirable young coaches in all of college basketball. Believe it or not, Miller has never won A-10 Coach of the Year, even when he was able to take his team to the Elite Eight just two years prior. Miller is building a powerful and talented culture at Dayton, one that has the Flyers on the high road to another NCAA tourney bid. If the Flyers are able to edge VCU, GW and SJU for the regular season conference title, Archie should win this award.