Your kids are not the only ones who filled out Christmas wish lists this year. Believe it or not, Santa’s workshop was flooded this holiday season with letters from Archie Miller, Will Wade, and other coaches from around the league. Everyone wished for success in the conference play, but each had his own individual wish as well. The Atlantic 10 had a rough go-around in the non-conference season, without a doubt, so there is no team that left its wish list blank this year. Let’s take a closer look at what each team wants for Christmas this season.
Davidson wished for a break. The Wildcats faced some brutal non-conference competition in North Carolina and Kansas, and even though the Wildcats fought down to the wire, superior competition proved to be too much. Lucky for Davidson, it’ll get to face a really bad Hartford team next, but the Atlantic 10 should be anything but an easy break this year.
Dayton wished for better starts to its basketball games. In the Flyers’ three losses this season, they struggled early shooting the basketball and had intense finishes where they fell just short. Dayton could’ve beaten Saint Mary’s, Nebraska, or Northwestern had it played a better first half of basketball. The Flyers are hoping that come conference play, they won’t need to dig themselves out of deep halftime deficits.
Duquesne wished that its able to take down good teams like Pittsburgh in conference play. The Dukes won the City Game over their longtime rivals for the first time since 2000, and they’re hoping that they can find the same level of success against some of the tough opponents in the Atlantic 10. Unfortunately for this team, it has also struggled against inferior opponents, losing to UMBC and Robert Morris.
Fordham wished for some help on the glass for the remainder of the season. Since Ryan Rhoomes graduated last year, the Rams have been getting killed on the boards; they’ve got a -11 rebounding margin through non-conference play. This team ranks 334th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, and its inability to hold its own on the glass has kept Fordham from winning some much-needed games prior to conference play.
George Mason Patriots
George Mason wished for a continuation of its 9 game winning streak against VCU at the beginning of conference play. The Patriots have been red-hot since losing 3 of their first 4 and hope that momentum will continue into Atlantic 10 play. A win over VCU might be a big wish for Santa to fill, as George Mason is just 1-4 against the Rams since joining the A-10, but this team is the hottest team in the league right now.
George Washington Colonials
George Washington wished to do a better job taking care of the basketball. The Colonials have a 21.2% turnover percentage that ranks 286th in the nation. Their offensive steal percentage at 11.2% ranks an abysmal 334th in the country. George Washington has been playing better basketball lately than it was at the start of the season, and if it cleans up some sloppy play, it could be that much better in the Atlantic 10.
La Salle Explorers
La Salle wished for better shooting defense following non-conference play. The Explorers have had one of the more high-powered offenses in the league thus far, but their defense has lacked severely. La Salle has allowed its opponents to score at least 80 points on 7 separate occasions this year, and that’s going to have to change. It’s also allowing better than 43% shooting from long range which ranks 344th in the nation. Yikes.
Massachusetts wished for a road win over Georgia State before heading into conference play. The Minutemen have avoided any losses to Kenpom 100+ teams thus far, but the Panthers rank 128th and could be a tough win away from home. This UMass team has played well this season and has played its opponents close, even when it came out on the bottom. Give UMass this win over GSU, and they’ll be in solid shape heading into A-10 play.
Rhode Island Rams
Rhode Island wished for Hassan Martin to get healthy and get back on the court. Rhode Island lost a close road game to Houston without Hassan and had a somewhat disappointing finish to its non-conference season after a win over Cincinnati. The Rams need their rock back if they want to keep up with other frontcourts in the A-10.
Richmond wished for a do-over game against Oral Roberts. The Spiders lost by 15 on the road to a team that ranks 228th overall according to Kenpom. Richmond shot just 2/23 from three and watched its chances at a road win slip away in the final minutes. More realistically, Richmond hopes to turn things around drastically in A-10 play because the Spiders had one of the more disappointing non-conference seasons in the entire league.
St. Bonaventure Bonnies
St. Bonaventure wished to pull out wins in close games in the conference portion of its season. The Bonnies’ 4 losses this season have come by a total of just 16 points. St. Bonaventure played teams down to the wire but failed to pick up wins over the likes of Little Rock and UNC Wilmington. If a couple of these close contests happened to go St. Bonaventure’s way, it’s right there as one of the best teams in the Atlantic 10.
Saint Joseph’s Hawks
Saint Joseph’s wished for continued dominance from its backcourt. With one of the best sets of guards in the Atlantic 10, the Hawks have been able to avoid any bad losses in non-conference play. Saint Joseph’s has two very capable scorers in Lamaar Kimble and Shavar Newkirk, and it’s hoping that its guards keep it up.
Saint Louis Billikens
Saint Louis wished for this season to be over. I’m sorry, but it’s true. The Billikens have a lot of talent that will be eligible next season: a 4 star recruit in Jordan Goodwin, and incoming transfers in Javon Bess, Adonys Henriquez, and D.J. Foreman. This is clearly a rebuilding year for first year head coach Travis Ford, and I think most Billiken fans can agree that it can’t be over soon enough. Next year will be better.
VCU wished for a similar start to conference play as last season. The Rams struggled in non-conference play in 2015, but won 12 in a row including its first 9 conference games. VCU enters conference play on a 3 game winning streak and has struggled a bit in non-conference play this year as well, so Will Wade and company are hoping that history repeats itself and the Rams get off to a hot start in the A-10.