With less than 2 WEEKS (!!!) until the Atlantic 10 season, we decided to get the A10 Talk staff to submit a few predictions on how things are going to go this year. Obviously, nothing ever works out the way we think it will in this league, but it’s always fun to give it a shot. Please tell all of us why we are wrong in the comments below.
A-10 Champ: VCU
You can make a case for Davidson or Dayton to challenge VCU offensively this season, but where the Rams really pull away from the rest of the league is on defense. VCU comes into the season with the 14th best defensive efficiency in the country according to Kenpom; no one else in the Atlantic 10 ranks in the top 50. Not to mention, the Rams have two of the most underrated defenders in the league in lockdown Issac Vann and incredibly efficient Vince Williams. VCU is going to be very hard to beat.
A-10 Sleeper: Richmond
Give me the Spiders. I really like the pieces they have coming into this season, especially with the addition of Blake Francis who made 98 threes shooting 41.0% 2 seasons ago at Wagner. I worry about this team’s depth though — we saw a similar UR team 2 seasons ago with an incredible starting 5 but not much to show for when those guys had to go to the bench. Still, this team is talented enough to finish top 5.
My A-10 Hot Take: The Atlantic 10 gets at least 3 non-conference wins over ranked opponents
This may not seem like much of a hot take, but I’m pretty sure last season did not see any wins over ranked opponents by any Atlantic 10 team. This year, however, the A-10 has a team in the top 25 (#25 VCU) and has good shots against #24 Auburn, #22 LSU, and other schools ranked similarly. I think the league did a great job scheduling this year, and the conference will finally get some big wins in November and December.
A-10 Champ: Davidson
Bob McKillop’s squad returns all five starters, which includes the terrific tandem of Jon Axel Gudmundsson and Kellan Grady. This dynamic duo combined for over 34 points per game last season as Davidson fell short of finding themselves in the Big Dance. The Wildcats will spend a lot of time flirting with the Top 25 this year as the entire country will watch the back-court dominate yet again. Sharpshooter Luke Frampton should average double digits in a supporting role and young big-man Luka Brajkovic will maintain his presence down inside. Davidson will be able to play with anybody this season.
A-10 Sleeper: St. Bonaventure
Courtney Stockard and LaDarien Griffin have graduated, which means the Bonnies have nine freshman and sophomores on their roster for this season. If last year’s run to the A-10 Championship was any indication, the young trio of Kyle Lofton, Osun Osunniyi, and Dom Welch should continue to flourish. With an easy non-conference schedule a head of them, the Bonnies should be playing well and oozing confidence when conference play rolls around. Expect to see those three young players stuff the box-score night in and night out. As the tallest team in the A-10, the Bonnies will be a thorn in the side of their opponents yet again.
My A-10 Hot Take: 4 Bids on Selection Sunday
Davidson, Dayton, and VCU are all destined for the NCAA Tournament. VCU has found themselves in the preseason Top 25 and Davidson is already receiving votes. Obi Toppin could lead the Flyers inside the Top 25 as well. Needless to say, the A-10 is back! However, as A-10 fans have seen over the last few years, the A-10 Tournament is anything but chalk: upsets are the norm in Brooklyn. Look at last year, where the 4 seeded Bonnies lost to the 6 seeded Bilikens. Don’t be surprised if St. Bonaventure, St. Louis, Rhode Island, or Richmond find themselves cutting down the nets in Brooklyn on Selection Sunday and stealing a bid from an undeserving power-five foe.
A-10 Champ: VCU
The only Atlantic 10 team nationally ranked in the preseason top 25, it’s tough to pick against the Rams this year. With a talented and deep roster, I think VCU edges Dayton by a game to win the A-10 regular season title.
A-10 Sleeper: Duquesne
Picked to finish 8th in the preseason poll, Duquesne is arguably the most undervalued A-10 team. Showing steady improvement under head coach Keith Dambrot, the Dukes seem primed to continue their climb. While making a run at the top four will be unlikely this year, I could easily see Duquesne finishing 5th or 6th in the A-10.
My A-10 Hot Take: Ibi Watson will compete for A-10 Player of the Year
A redshirt junior transfer from Michigan, Ibi Watson might be the best player that no one outside of Dayton is talking about. A 6’5″ guard, Watson can do a little bit of everything; including shooting the three ball very well. I would not be surprised to see Watson make an A-10 All-Conference Team at the end of the season.
A-10 Champ: Davidson
Led by the most dangerous backcourt in the conference, the Davidson Wildcats will take the A-10 this year. Kellan Grady’s knee brace is coming off this year, so I expect him to not only continue to be a prolific shooter but to be more physical in attacking the basket with a full season of health. If they can manage to defend the low post somewhat effectively, I don’t see any reason why this team can’t challenge VCU.
A-10 Sleeper: Richmond
Richmond is my dark horse this year and while they seem to be everyone else’s as well, I have a different reason than most. Obviously, the front-end talent of Grant Golden, Jacob Gilyard, Nathan Cayo, and the returning Nick Sherod will have no trouble finding the basket. However, I think a lot of people are sleeping on how deep this team is. Andre Gustavson and Jake Wojcik will both come off the bench after starting for a year, Sal Koureissi returns as an effective rebounder and penetrator at 6′ 9″ and freshman Tyler Burton is going to likely see his minutes consistently reach double figures as a 6′ 7″ wing that can both rebound and shoot.
My A-10 Hot Take: Blake Francis leads the Spiders in scoring
Being a Spider hoops writer I guess I’ll stay on topic, so here’s my take: Neither Jacob Gilyard nor Grant Golden will lead Richmond in scoring this year. I’ve heard over and over from within the team how Wagner transfer Blake Francis has to proven constantly how relentless of a scorer he is. Hitting the 26th most threes in Division 1 his sophomore season, look for the junior’s excellent perimeter shooting to take pressure off of Gilyard and improve his efficiency.
A-10 Champ: Dayton
Despite VCU being the consensus best team on paper, especially in the eyes of KenPom, my gut is telling me to go with the Flyers. True, Dayton doesn’t have the easiest schedule in the A-10, but they do get VCU twice, Davidson at home and Rhode Island twice so you know this team will be battle tested come March.
A-10 Sleeper: Rhode Island
Rhode Island is a team that seems right on the cusp of something, but are a team that not many people are talking about. Their non-conference schedule will challenge this group and their conference schedule will set up favorably to win some tie-breakers. Don’t be surprised to see this team get a double-bye in Brooklyn come March.
My A-10 Hot Take: UMass will finish 8th or better
KenPom really doesn’t like the Minutemen, especially given all the new unproven pieces on the roster this year, but this feels like a big breakthrough year for UMass.