11 of the 14 A-10 teams have had their opening games, with a mixed bag of results. Davidson, Dayton, Fordham, Rhode Island, Saint Louis, Umass, and VCU all collected wins with varying degrees of difficulty. George Mason, GW, La Salle, and the Bonnies weren’t as lucky. It’s early. Very early. But let’s take a look at who’s rising and who’s falling.
St. Louis’s 3pt Shooting
The Billikens offense was not particularly pretty to watch last season. However, with the infusion of freshmen and transfers, the hope was that the offense would flow a bit more smoothly. This wasn’t the case on Tuesday night as SLU shot 16% (4-25) from three-point range. A big reason the Billikens had a difficult time putting away Kenpom #303 SEMO was because of their inability to connect from deep. With Hassan French and their slashing guards SLU will have no trouble scoring inside, but what could define whether or not this is a great season for them will be their outside shooting.
George Mason’s Ball Security
The Patriots touted their returning experience entering the season. In fact, they didn’t lose a single player after the 2017-2018 campaign. But George Mason did not play with the poise that a veteran team, especially one hoping to go to the NCAA’s, should. They turned the ball over 17 times in the contest, including three in the final five minutes. Two of those late turnovers came from senior point guard Otis Livingston, which gave Penn four straight points and the lead. GMU will have to start taking much better care of the ball if they hope to close out games.
Stony Brook did not score a single point until there was 10:04 left in the first half. Seriously. George Washington was up 22-0 and lost. I’m not sure GW could have lost much value given how low expectations were for them before the season (we projected them 13th in the A-10 in our first power rankings). This was truly disgraceful though. Slowly, over the course of the final 30 minutes of the game, GW wilted away until Stony Brook tied it up and won in overtime. A very bad loss for the A-10. A miserable loss for GW.
Kellan Grady already had hype and accolades entering the season. However, I was curious to see how Grady would perform without Peyton Aldridge drawing much of the defense’s attention. Cleveland State doesn’t have an intimidating defense, but the result in the first contest was good for the Wildcats, and for Grady. Grady scored 24 points in 36 minutes on 8-15 shooting. He also made five threes, collected seven boards, and didn’t commit a single foul. It’s no secret that Davidson, and the rest of the league, will revolve around Grady’s performance. The fans should just watch and enjoy. This kid is special.
Rhode Island’s Returnees
Rhode Island entered this season without a large portion of their core that led them past Oklahoma in last years NCAA Tournament. Many of the preseason polls had them taking a big plunge, partially due to the graduation of seniors and partially due to Dan Hurley’s departure. It was only one game, but the new look Rams don’t seem to care that people think they’ll drop off. Fatts Russell, Jeff Dowtin, and Cyril Langevine all had good games on Tuesday, combining to score 46 points. It’s highly unlikely that Rhody wins the league again, but if their returnees take the necessary steps forward, don’t expect them to take a big fall either.
Losing Jaylen Adams, Matt Mobley, and Idris Taqqee will inevitably cause the Bonnies to regress this season. While the Bonnies can still be very successful this year, their greatest triumph could come from developing their promising freshman. Last night was a good start on that journey. Kyle Lofton started the game and scored 18 points and dished out four assists. Osun Osunniyi had eight points in 16 minutes to go along with five boards and three blocks. Dom Welch added 10 points, and Alpha Okoli had a solid defensive game. While each player showed typical freshman flaws, it was an encouraging start towards the next four years for the Bonnies newbies.