A-10 Media Day was this past week, and there were few surprises. Rhode Island’s picked to win the league, and the preseason first team consists of Adams, Mobley, Aldridge, Tillman, and Matthews. While their may be a lot of question marks in the middle, various A-10 previews are all showing the same trends.
But it doesn’t ALWAYS go the way we think. Teams like Davidson and St. Bonaventure have rose from the dungeon (in preseason rankings) to win the league the last few years. We can’t always predict the standings; some team is likely to under perform and over perform. It’s just the way it is.
So let’s just say I’m not allowed to pick Rhode Island as the favorite to win the A-10 this year (though, they are). Let’s say we’ve got to be a little bolder in our projections. If things don’t go as we expect, the end of the season may just end up looking something like this:
Conference Champions: Saint Joseph’s Hawks
Yeah, they’re expected to make a jump this year, but is anyone picking the Hawks to win the league? I don’t think so. If we’re going to have a team dethrone the Rams, maybe it’d be Martelli’s club. Saint Joseph’s has potential all-conference talent in Shavar Newkirk, Lamarr Kimble, and Charlie Brown. Arguably, there’s no team in the conference that has a better core 3 players. Newkirk’s a guy that could be in POY contention…
So, I wouldn’t put an A-10 title out of reach for the Hawks. The real question will be: can other guys step up. Notably, guys like Chris Clover, James Demery, and Markell Lodge have to make huge jumps in talent if the Hawks want to win the league. But heck, this team is going to be much improved.
A-10 Player of the Year: B.J. Johnson
I could see Johnson playing with a chip on his shoulder this year, not being selected to the A-10 preseason first team. Realistically, this is a guy that’s going to put up ridiculous numbers next year. Averaging 17.6 points and 6.3 rebounds with Jordan Price in the mix last year was impressive. Now, with a season at La Salle under his belt, Johnson’s a guy that’s ready to take over Philadelphia and potentially be one of the nation’s leading scorers.
His chance at POY will come down to La Salle’s ability to place in the top 6. We saw a guy like T.J. Cline earn A-10 POY last season not only because of his incredible numbers, but also because he led the Spiders to a 3rd place finish in the league. Johnson will have to do something similar to earn the title.
Sleeper team to finish Top 6: George Mason Patriots
The official A-10 preseason rankings had the Patriots 10th, and I think that’s a little low for Paulsen’s squad. We’re talking about a team that loses incredible talent in Marquise Moore, yes, but the Patriots keep one of the best backcourts in the league and bring in some athletic talent in A.J. Wilson and Goanar Mar.
Paulsen has, by far, exceeded expectations as the head coach of George Mason, and it wouldn’t shock me too much to see the Patriots in the top 6 by the end of this season once more. A lot will come down to how his frontcourt performs, especially with the lack of depth and loss of rebounding in Moore and Jenkins.
St. Bonaventure makes the tourney without winning the league
Maybe this isn’t a bold prediction, but the consensus among predictions seems to be that this is a 1 bid league. I don’t think that’s the case. Should the Bonnies fail to win the league or the conference tournament, I’m betting that they still sneak their way into the Big Dance. This team got snubbed two seasons ago, and the support from guys like Joe Lunardi has at least gotten the Bonnies on the national radar.
Should St. Bonaventure finish 2nd (or even 3rd) in the league, I think they’ll have a good enough resume by the end of the season to go dancing once again. Jaylen Adams will make this team a thrill to watch, and the national attention should be greater than seasons past. If the Bonnies get snubbed once again… man that’d suck.