It’s finally here. Atlantic 10 basketball returns tonight as the 2017-18 college basketball season kicks off with a host of games. Eleven A-10 teams will be in action tonight, looking to get their seasons started off right. While only two A-10 squads, Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure, made Joe Lundardi’s preseason bracketology, this is a conference that could feature plenty of sleeper teams. Lets take a look at the much awaited slate of opening night games in the Atlantic 10.
Game of the Night: Dayton vs. Ball State – 7:00 ET
Given just a 55.3% chance to win according to ESPN’s basketball power index, Dayton could be on upset watch opening night. With five freshman playing crucial roles and new head coach Anthony Grant at them helm, a lot of questions surround the Flyers as this season begins. That said, Dayton did look impressive in its exhibition game against Ohio Dominican. Junior captain Josh Cunningham and senior Darrell Davis both looked confident as they led the Flyers to a 79-61 win. Dayton’s five freshmen all showed a wealth of potential, but how quickly their talent will develop remains to be seen. It will be interesting to see what kind of identity the Flyers play with on Friday night.
As for Ball State, the Cardinals enter the 2017-18 season with high hopes. Going 21-13 last season, the Cardinals are looking to further improve upon that record and compete for a MAC title. A senior led team with some talented freshmen coming in, Ball State hopes to kick this year off with a bang. Sure, Dayton might have more talent than the Cardinals, but Ball State has a leg up when it comes to experience. Expect Friday night’s match-up between the Flyers and Cardinals to be a hard fought contest that comes down to the wire.
Prediction: Dayton 76, Ball State 68
Davidson vs Charleston Southern – 7:00 ET
Jack Gibbs might be gone but Davidson will have no shortage of offensive scoring power this season. The Wildcats return Atlantic 10 Player of the Year candidate Peyton Aldridge and add dynamic freshmen shooter Kellan Grady. Watch out for that duo to make some a lot of noise this year.
Prediction: Davidson 85, Charleston Southern 67
Fordham vs Miami (OH) – 7:00 ET
With Joseph Chartouny back and better than ever, Fordham hopes to make 2017-18 a year they improve. The Rams showed flashes of promise last season with wins over Davidson and VCU. Fordham still has a long way to go before competing for an A-10 title, but expect the Rams to be better this year. Miami won’t go down easy, however, I think the Rams come out on top and start their season with a win.
Prediction: Fordham 70, Miami (OH) 65
George Mason vs Lafayette – 7:00 ET
Improving last year under head coach Dave Paulsen, George Mason is getting back on track and fast. The Patriots went 20-14 last season after falling well below .500 each of the previous three years. With a wide open race in the A-10 this season, George Mason is looking to take advantage and surprise a lot of people around the country. I like the Patriots to overpower Lafayette and get off to a strong start Friday night.
Prediction: George Mason 83, Lafayette 62
VCU vs Grambling – 7:00 ET
Despite losing five seniors and their head coach, the VCU Rams are back and ready to attack the 2017-18 season. Picked to finish near the top of the conference once again, VCU is looking to bypass a rebuilding year and simply reload. The Rams did drop their first exhibition game Liberty, but bounced back well to down VUU in its final preseason bout. I fully expect VCU to get the Mike Rhoades era started right with a season opening win over Grambling.
Prediction: VCU 84, Grambling 63
Richmond vs Deleware – 7:00 ET
With Khwan Fore out to start the season due to injury, Richmond’s season could potentially get off to a shaky start. All signs point to Fore returning soon, but the Spiders will have to make ends meet without their star for the first few games of 2017-18. Fore’s absence will certainly make Friday’s battle with Delaware more difficult, but in the end I think Richmond still comes out on top.
Prediction: Richmond 75, Deleware 68
UMass vs UMass Lowell – 7:00 ET
Coming off a rather disappointing year in last season, the UMass Minutemen look to be much improved with new head coach Matt McCall at the helm. While the Minutemen should improve this year as a whole, some uncertainty surrounds the start of their season. Standout big man Rashaan Holloway’s status remains in question for Friday night’s opener as he continues to battle an injury. Whether Holloway plays or not, though, I see the Minutemen coming out on top over UMass Lowell.
Prediction: UMass 78, UMass Lowell 64
George Washington vs Howard – 7:30 ET
While I don’t expect much from George Washington this year as a whole, I do expect them to start the 2017-18 season off right. Facing a Howard team who went just 10-24 last season, watch for the Colonials to dominate in their season opener.
Prediction: George Washington 81, Howard 61
Rhode Island vs UNC Asheville – 7:30 ET
Picked to win the A-10 in the preseason poll, the Rhode Island Rams are back and better than ever. After making the NCAA tournament round of 32 last season, the Rams have high hopes once again this year. Led by conference star E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island should cruise to a win in its opening night contest with UNC Asheville.
Prediction: Rhode Island 86, UNC Asheville 63
St. Bonaventure vs Niagara – 8:00 ET
Combine Jaylen Adams with Matt Mobley and St. Bonaventure not only has one of the best backcourts in the A-10, but in the entire country. Expected to compete neck and neck with Rhode Island for the conference crown, the Bonnies hope to return to the NCAA tournament this year. Watch out for St. Bonaventure to come out and make a statement in its opening night game against a lesser Niagara squad.
Prediction: St. Bonaventure 90, Niagara 59
St. Louis vs Seattle – 8:00 ET
Looking like the most improved A-10 team from a season ago on paper, St. Louis has high hopes for this year. Attempting to get back to their winning ways and compete for a spot in the NCAA tournament, all signs point to the Billikens powering their way to a season opening win on Friday night.
Prediction: St. Louis 82, Seattle 65