It’s that time of the year again! Whether you’re going to be at the tourney in Brooklyn or following along discretely while at work (we’ve all been there), it’s time for a week filled with A-10 hoops. We’re kicking it off right here with a staff-wide roundtable, breaking down the tourney and its teams into 3 categories: winner, sleeper, & bust. Be sure to follow along on A10Talk.com all week as well as on Twitter to stay updated.
Winner: Dayton. Maybe it’s just too easy to pick VCU? Who do I think is going to win? VCU. Who am I picking to win (shamelessly hoping for a 2 bid league, yes)? I’ll go with Dayton. I like the way the Flyers have been playing (hold a loss against URI) down the stretch, having won 5 of their last 6 — those include road wins over Davidson and Duquesne. If Obi Toppin takes control in Brooklyn, we could see Anthony Grant and Dayton cutting down the nets by the end of the week.
Sleeper: La Salle. I have a feeling many will say Saint Louis or Rhode Island. I want to play the contrarian and give the Explorers a voice heading into the A-10 Tournament. La Salle grabbed the 9 seed this year after an 0-10 start to the season and boasts home wins over Davidson and Duquesne. They’re certainly not the hottest team riding into the conference tourney, but La Salle can be a tough out when it starts hitting its threes…
Bust: St. Bonaventure. I have a feeling I may come to regret this, but I’m not sold on the Bonnies making a run in Brooklyn. They’ve won 6 of their last 7, yes, but St. Bonaventure has struggled on offense as of late and was really exposed at Davidson. Get rowdy and prove me wrong, Bona!
Winner: Dayton. I’m taking the Flyers because they’re arguably the most dangerous team in the entire conference. Dayton possesses the most lethal offense in the A-10 (statistically) and is playing well of late, winning five of its last six games. Forwards Obi Toppin and Ryan Mikesell have emerged as the Flyers’ most consistent players. Both guys have been playing at an incredibly high level in conference play, but Dayton will need additional contributions if it wants to take home the title. The Flyers must rely on Josh Cunningham, Jordan Davis, and Jalen Crutcher to all play with aggression. Dayton is at its best when attacking the hoop and spreading the ball around. In addition to the starters, Dwayne Cohill and Trey Landers have provided Dayton with a vital, gritty boost off the bench lately. Playing for their NCAA tournament lives, I ultimately think the Flyers compete with the effort level they need in order to win the title. I see the Flyers winning close games against Saint Louis and Davidson before taking down St. Bonaventure in the A-10 championship.
Sleeper: St. Bonaventure. I’m not sure if St. Bonaventure qualifies as a true “sleeper” team, but, aside from the top three seeds, the Bonnies are the only team I could see actually winning the title. Battling through injuries most of the year, St. Bonaventure seems to finally be playing healthy and it’s paying dividends. I think the Bonnies advance to the semifinals with relative ease and give VCU (presumably) one heck of a fight. If I had to pick a sleeper aside from St. Bonaventure, I would take Rhode Island without a doubt. The Rams are playing some of the hottest basketball in the conference right now.
Bust: Davidson. Despite having potentially the A-10 Player of the Year in Jon Axel Gudmundsson and a future NBA draft pick in Kellan Grady, Davidson seemed to struggle through the back half of conference play. Losing at home to Dayton and falling to other teams like UMass and La Salle, Davidson has been too inconsistent to trust in Brooklyn. That said, with three point shooters all over the court, the Wildcats can never be counted out. In the end, though, I think Davidson goes down in the semifinals.
Winner: Davidson. I’m sticking with the Wildcats for a second straight year. They have shooters at nearly every position, a stifling defense, the front-runner for POTY, and the best coach in the A-10. Davidson has the rest of the league exactly where they want them, and typically their best basketball comes during the conference tournament.
Sleeper: Rhode Island. Rhode Island is playing significantly better than a middle of the pack team in this year’s A-10. Fatts Russell has turned it on, Cyril Langevine has gone almost unnoticed (even though he’s a lock for First Team All-Conference), and Rhody is riding a four-game win streak. They also handed VCU one of their only losses on the season.
Bust: Duquesne. They didn’t collapse this year the way they did last season when they lost 9 out of their final 11 games. They have, however, gone a pedestrian 5-4 in their last 9 games and have to play Saint Joseph’s in the first round. I wouldn’t be shocked if Duquesne failed to reach the quarterfinals once again.
Winner: St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies have won seven of their last eight games, and they are playing stellar defense. This team also reminds me of the 2012 St. Bonaventure Bonnies with Andrew Nicholson… the last time Bona was four seed.
Sleeper: Rhode Island. The Rams, winners of their last four, come in to Brooklyn riding some momentum on the backs of Fatts Russell, Jeff Dowtin, and Cyril Langevine. If URI takes care of business on Thursday, don’t be surprised to see the Rams potentially upset #1 VCU in the first game on Friday.
Bust: George Mason. VCU stomping all over GMU last week says it all.
Winner: Davidson. I’m picking Davidson to repeat what they did last year. They have the experience and the triple threat of Grady, JAG, and Luka will allow them to go far.
Sleeper: Richmond. Wouldn’t be surprised to see them playing on at least Friday. Historically, they have been the kryptonite of many teams.
Bust: VCU. VCU is a one seed. Anything short of winning the tournament is a bust.
Winner: VCU. The regular-season champs have won twelve straight and show no signs of slowing down. The class of the conference, VCU went 3-1 against its fellow top-seeded teams and was undefeated against the rest of the top half of the bracket. Davidson and Dayton will impress, but the Rams will ensure that the A-10 remains a one-bid league in 2019 — unless likely quarterfinal opponent Rhode Island, the last team to defeat them, can make lightning strike twice.
Sleeper: Rhode Island. URI is hitting its stride at the right time, with four wins in four, including an overtime away victory over 3-seed Dayton. Fatts Russell has returned to form and embodies the confidence–swagger, even with which the Rams are playing at the moment. If Rhody can take care of business against LaSalle, it can fancy its chances against VCU as much as anyone else in the conference–remember, URI was the last team to take down Virginia Commonwealth.
Bust: George Mason. The Patriots picked the wrong time to hit a rut, losing three of their final five. Defeat to VCU was excusable, but the same cannot be said of George Mason’s losses to Saint Louis and Duquesne. Mason saw its double-bye snatched away by St. Bonaventure in a sprint to the regular-season finish, but that will not hurt as much as second-round defeat to the GW/UMass winner. You heard it here first–a team that played on opening day in the A-10 tourney will make the quarterfinals for the first time ever under the new format introduced in 2014.