There’s nothing quite like Atlantic 10 Media Day to get fans riled up for the season. Hearing from coaches can be fun, but everyone has questions that can’t be answered until the season actually tips off in November. However, the most fun part is seeing the projected league standings as well as preseason all conference players — there’s nothing quite like speculating, even when most of these predictions will be turned on their heads come March. Predicting the Atlantic 10 is always a tall task. Given today’s announcements, let’s take a look at who may be overrated and underrated — these are my “buys and sells” for the 2018-19 Preseason Atlantic 10 polls.
— Atlantic 10 MBB (@A10MBB) October 18, 2018
Buy: Massachusetts, 8th
The Minutemen are unlikely to see the NCAA Tournament this season, as last year featured a 13th place finish in the conference. However, this team will undoubtedly make the biggest jump this year, and I think that jump is going to be more than 5 places in the conference standings. In my mind, the grit Matt McCall has shown thus far is enough to believe in this year’s team. Winning games against Providence and Georgia were glimpses into the future — and that future should have UMass in the top 5 this year.
Giving LuWane Pipkins and Carl Pierre room to breathe is the biggest aspect; those 2 had to do way more than expected with Massachusetts’ countless injuries. If they score and shoot lights out yet again, they’ll be a tough duo to compete with in the conference. Massachusetts was dead last in the A-10 last season in effective field goal defense and was fairly poor at forcing turnovers. It’s obvious that Pipkins and the array of incoming transfers can score — they’ll have to defend at a high-level to rise above 8th in the league.
Buy: Duquesne, 11th
Duquesne, a lot like Massachusetts, has a ton of talent coming in. They’re less likely to make a huge move up the standings, as Keith Dambrot has few players with more 1 year of collegiate experience under their belts. However, 11th seems a bit low for a team that started to pick up some momentum in conference play last season. I’m not sure if the Dukes will manage to break the top 10, but I’d give them the benefit of the doubt with Dambrot seeming like one of the up-and-coming mid-major coaches in the country.
Duquesne has a lot of options to play with with so many new faces. Look for Marcus Weathers to possibly make a big impact as a 4.
— A10 Talk (@A10Talk) October 18, 2018
Marcus Weathers is one player who could step up big, but also look for an impressive 1-2 punch of Dylan Swingle and Gavin Bizeau, 2 freshmen that have nearly 14 feet of height between them. Like I mentioned, the talent is green and is going to take some time to integrate. I believe of a new era of college basketball is on the rise at Duquesne; however, it’s going to take a few seasons to really get there. This year may face some hardships, but I have to believe Duquesne is going to do better than 11th in the league…
Sell: Dayton, 6th
I think there may be some bias regarding the flagship programs and optimism surrounding coaches like Anthony Grant and Mike Rhoades entering their second seasons. The former keeps a lot of impressive talent at Dayton with Josh Cunningham, Jalen Crutcher, and the new addition of Dwayne Cohill. The Flyers’ didn’t lack talent last year; they didn’t look cohesive or sound at all in conference play, especially toward the end of the season, and that may not be such an easy fix for Anthony Grant and company in season 2. I think the Flyers are a bit overrated at #6, but that’s certainly not completely unreasonable.
Josh Cunningham is going to need the rock more often in 2018-19. A potential POY this season, Cunningham only took 22.1% of the team’s shots last season. That’s not enough. Anthony Grant faced criticism regarding late-game plays that did not involve a paint touch to Cunningham. Many fans were left scratching their heads after close losses that could’ve been improvements to UD’s record. I can’t stress this enough: Dayton has the assets to be a top 5 team, but utilizing them properly is a different story.
Sell: Rhode Island, 5th
I also have a bit of a tough time believing Rhode Island will finish as high as 5th this year. Jeff Dowtin and Fatts Russell will make up for lost talent, but it’s hard to replace that much talent. E.C. Matthews has been the program’s poster child for the past few seasons, and Jared Terrell made one of the biggest junior-to-senior jumps I’ve seen in a long time. Not to mention, Stan Robinson was one of the best defenders in the league and is a very difficult player to replace.
David Cox has weapons at his disposal, but it’s probably going to take a year or two to get things going. I like Jeff Dowtin to take one of the biggest scoring jumps in the entire league; I’d imagine he’ll average close to 15 or 16 points per game and maybe 7 or 8 assists as well. Fatts Russell has the potential to be a star, but he has to be more consistent, especially from the outside. I think the Rams end up around 7th in the end.