It’s easy to say the Atlantic 10 should run a clean sweep against mid-majors at home on most given nights. However, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday proved that’s not always the case. George Mason and George Washington dropped home games to Penn and Stony Brook, followed by a St. Bonaventure loss to Bucknell, which was then followed by another Colonials’ loss, this time to Siena.
Friday night has to be different.
5 A-10 teams enter tonight with non-conference games against low-major opponents, only one of which currently cracks the #225 mark in Kenpom (#224 American). Saint Joseph’s is another story — we’ll get to that. The league absolutely needs to take care of business against all 5 of these opponents, as a loss to Hampton, New Hampshire, or Longwood would reflect horribly on the league as a whole. Here’s a quick breakdown of what to expect from a Friday night packed full of Atlantic 10 hoops.
Davidson vs. Dartmouth
Dartmouth’s opening 114-39 win over Newbury is a rout if I’ve ever seen one, but make no mistake, the Wildcats should take care of business on Friday night. Here’s a surprising statistic after game 1 — Davidson is leading the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, as it did an incredible job keeping Cleveland St. off the offensive glass. Luka Brakjovic has been an incredible add on the glass; look for him to continue to get involved on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
George Mason vs. American
George Mason’s opening loss to Penn was a bit worrisome, though the Quakers are a good team, but the Patriots have a chance to redeem themselves tonight. It starts with making threes; GMU was just 2/8 from deep, making it difficult to shut down Penn who knocked down 8 all game. Goanar Mar needs to shake off the rust as well; he scored 2 points while tallying 4 fouls and 3 turnovers. Mason needs more from its stud sophomore. This is a must-win for Mason by all means, so hopefully they come out of the gates on fire.
VCU vs. Hampton
Marcus Evans returns from injury much earlier than expected, which is an enormous addition for the Rams. Though he played only 9 minutes in Tuesday night’s contest, he had a strong showing, putting up 9 points in 9 minutes on 3/5 shooting from the field. VCU’s defense was strong in its opener (forcing 21 turnovers), but the Rams coughed up 20 of their own, including 5 from De’Riante Jenkins. If Issac Vann can stay hot, and the Rams start knocking down some threes, they could put away Hampton real quickly.
Massachusetts vs. New Hampshire
Little brother UMass Lowell put up a hell of a fight against UMass on Tuesday, but the Minutemen faithful could breathe easy, as Carl Pierre helped them pull away in the second half. I’d like to see Massachusetts shoot a bit better from three — it’s bread and butter — though it’s 2 point field goal percentage in its opener was promising (61%). Massachusetts should also look to keep its opponent off the offensive glass, as UMass Lowell was able to get 13 offensive boards on Tuesday night. Matt McCall’s team should cruise.
Richmond vs. Longwood
Richmond’s season-opener features one of the worst teams in all of college basketball, meaning it could be a fun one for the Spiders. They’ll look to utilize their big 3 — Grant Golden, Jacob Gilyard, and Nick Sherod — in what should be a blowout in the Robins Center. I’ll be curious to see who steps up as a reliable 4th and 5th option. The Spiders relied heavily on a 5 to 6 man rotation last season, but that will have to change.
Saint Joseph’s vs. Old Dominion
This is the game of the night in the Atlantic 10, and it’s going to be an incredibly fun matchup to watch. The Monarchs come in ranked 79th in Kenpom to Saint Joseph’s 105 and have an opening win against Navy under their belts. ODU is known for its strong defense, particularly inside the three point line, so the Hawks are going to have to be crafty in getting buckets and knock down any open shots they get. Look for Lamarr Kimble and Charlie Brown to be the X-Factors as they both return from injury. There will be no adjustment period — these 2 will be thrown into the mix and need to be ready to go immediately. The A-10 needs this game if it wants to get any kind of positive momentum going in non-conference play.