We all know how important non-conference play is for the Atlantic 10 — if the league wants any chance at multiple at-large bids, it needs some teams to step up and get big wins in November and December. The 2019-20 season is still a long way away, but there are some early season tournaments that the league will be participating in that will have plenty of March implications. Thanks to Blogging the Bracket for the summary and breakdown for all of college hoops. Let’s take a look.
Saint Joseph’s Hawks: 2019 Charleston Classic
Saint Joseph’s has already endured quite the offseason, and next year isn’t shaping up to be the year the Hawks compete for the league crown. However, they’ll have an intriguing opportunity to prove me wrong in November when they travel to Charleston for this early season tournament. The field also features Buffalo, Connecticut, Florida, Miami (FL), Missouri St., Towson, and Xavier. Quite frankly, I envision Saint Joseph’s finishing 5th or 6th depending on its first round matchup. I think the Hawks could get a win over Towson or Missouri St., but anyone else would be a tough out. 2 wins in Charleston would be a huge victory for Saint Joseph’s when they make this trip in November.
Rhode Island Rams: Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic
This is quietly a very good field, though they’ve yet to determine the final team. Right now, Rhode Island will get a shot at either LSU or Utah St. (or both). Both groups should be NCAA Tournament teams in 2020, and I think Utah St. is predicted to be in the top 25 at the start of the season. URI is a team that could sneak up in the Atlantic 10 next year, especially with everyone coming back. I’d mark this tournament on your calendar as one that could be very intriguing.
Fordham Rams: 2019 U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam
This Thanksgiving Tournament will feature Fordham along with Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Grand Canyon, Illinois St., Nevada, Valparaiso, and Western Kentucky. This is actually a pretty intriguing field; no Power 6 team is represented, and the Mid Majors making the trip have all been historically strong. Honestly though, Fordham will be the likely candidate to finish 8th, so any win would be great. I’ll applaud Fordham for getting this one on the schedule though. The Rams have been notorious for scheduling ludicrously easy non-conference games and still losing those, so if you’re going to lose, it might as well be to some respectable competition.
Massachusetts Minutemen: 2019 Air Force Reserves Tip-Off
The Minutemen will be part of the Naismith bracket which includes Arizona St., St. John’s, and Virginia. I don’t imagine this one’s going to go too well for Massachusetts. Maybe the Minutemen could squeak out a win over the Red Storm, but a date with Arizona St. or Virginia is likely a guaranteed loss. The Minutemen should be in rebuilding mode next season, though the pick up of Tre Mitchell as an impact freshman will make any early season Massachusetts game fun to tune in for.
George Mason Patriots: 2019 Cayman Islands Classic
George Mason has historically folded in non-conference play, especially in these early season tournaments, so Dave Paulsen will hope this year yields a different result. The Patriots will be part of a bracket that features Colorado St., Loyola Chicago, New Mexico St., Old Dominion, South Florida, Washington St., and 1 TBA. This tournament as a whole is interesting because I don’t really see a clear favorite right off the bat. Mason might have the weaponry to beat any of these teams next year, but I have to image a New Mexico St. or Loyola Chicago is going to be more equipped to win this thing. George Mason should hope to leave the Caymans with 2 wins or more. Also, if I remember correctly, this tournament has been an absolute shit-show in the past, so I’m not sure about watching this…
Dayton Flyers: 2019 Maui Jim Invitational
This is a big one. Dayton has a huge non-conference opportunity in my favorite early season college basketball tournament: the Maui Invitational. This field features BYU, Chaminade (I guess they’re bringing them back?), Georgia, Kansas, Michigan St., UCLA, and Virginia Tech. Maui always brings a strong field, so the Flyers should have some major chances to take down a big opponent. Depending on the first round matchups, the Flyers could squeak out of Maui with 2 wins, but it’s more likely they get 1. Regardless, this will be a chance to get a resume-builder early in the season. Michigan St. could be the preseason #1, and Kansas is likely a top 25 team. Other than that, I think the rest of the field is going to be beatable, so don’t discount Dayton’s chances at finishing in the top 4.
Richmond Spiders: 2019 Legends Classic
It always seems that Richmond plays in some 4 team early season tournament, and this year will be no different. The Spiders will play in the Legends Classic where they could see Auburn, Wisconsin, or New Mexico, all teams that are likely to outmatch them in 2019. Honestly though, we’ve seen a fair number of players leave A-10 programs this offseason, and Richmond has been unscathed; the Spiders do bring back a lot of talent, including Nick Sherod who was injured all of last season. Quietly, I think Richmond’s A-10 stock is rising for next season. I still think they finish 0-2 in New York though.
Davidson Wildcats: 2019 Orlando Invitational
I believe this was formally the Advocare Invitational, an early season tournament that has historically brought some pretty good college basketball games. Davidson will be in the field accompanied by Fairfield, Harvard, Marquette, Maryland, Temple, Texas A&M, and USC. This is a very strong field; Marquette is likely the favorite, and Maryland is probably a top 25 team. I think Harvard is going to be strong next year, and I imagine Temple, Texas A&M, and USC could all put up a decent fight. I think Davidson has a real shot at this one depending on the matchups. A win over Maryland or Marquette would go a long way to getting an at-large bid next season.
VCU Rams: 2019 Emerald Coast Classic
This is an excellent field and a tournament that VCU is going to have a real shot at winning. The Emerald Coast Classic will also feature Tennessee, Purdue, and Florida St., all of whom could be in the top 25 at some point next season. I’d say Tennessee might be the favorite to win, but VCU wouldn’t be too far behind, and Purdue could be a pretty solid group next year too. Again, this will be a major opportunity for the Rams to show they belong in the NCAA Tournament next year as an at-large. A win over any of these teams would add to the non-conference resume.