Here we go. It’s tourney time!
The Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament starts this week with all 14 teams fighting to get that coveted automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. This is the first time that the conference tournament will be back to normal after the 2020 cancellation and the 2021 social spaced out event in Richmond and Dayton. Talking to folks on twitter, fans are excited and dying to get to Washington D.C. to finally see their teams back in action competing for an A10 title.
If you go to the tournament, the conference makes a huge guide for you to look at and learn about each team in great amount of detail. Some folks don’t have time for that or are not going to DC. That’s why the staff of A10 Talk got together to write you a basic programming guide to learn about the nitty-gritty about each team in this year’s conference tournament. We included each teams’ overall record (with conference record in parentheses), three key players to watch for, and a short summary of the team and their season.
Hope you enjoy!
#14 Duquesne Dukes
Record: 6-23 (1-16)
Key Players: Leon Ayers III, Primo Spears, Kevin Easley
The Dukes entered the season picked to finish 11th in the conference in the league’s preseason poll. As it turns out, even that was too ambitious. Duquesne had a winning record in conference play for a whopping 4 days. After a 78-74 win at Massachusetts on Jan. 8, Duquesne lost 16 straight. They only had an overall winning record for 4 days, defeating Rider in the season opener, 73-61, but then dropping four straight. The club even fell to La Salle to end the season to secure last place in the A10 and the No. 14 seed headed into the conference tournament. They’ll face a Rhode Island team Wednesday that just beat the Dukes by 16 points back on Feb. 26. With so many new pieces (four transfers and several first-year freshmen), I don’t see Duquesne getting out of the first round. Over the last decade, Duquesne has won only two conference tournament games (2015 versus Saint Louis and 2021 versus Richmond). I don’t see that changing this year.
-Ed Major (@edmajorphoto)
#1 Davidson Wildcats
Record: 25-5 (15-3)
Key Players: Hyunjung Lee, Foster Loyer, Luka Brajkovic
Wow! What a season for Davidson! This season certainly caught people by surprise. Because Davidson has no graduate school, they were at a disadvantage by not having graduate transfers. This notably led to the loss of three Davidson seniors, including now Kentucky star Kellan Grady. But despite this, Davidson is the A10 Regular Season Champions. This is their first title since they won it in 2015, which was their first season in the conference. Davidson’s only transfer player, Foster Loyer, has made a significant difference at point guard in his first year. But Davidson has also seen notable jumps from several players. For example, Michael Jones averaged 13.2 more minutes and 6.8 more points per game this season than last season. Davidson has three legitimate First-Team All Conference candidates in the key players listed above and two Player of the Year candidates in Brajkovic and Lee. The ‘Cats feel very good about their at-large chances, given that they are 5-4 in Q1/Q2 and 19-1 in Q3/Q4. But the question remains: Will they win the A10 Tournament? Davidson has never missed the semifinals, and all three teams that beat them this season are on the other side of the bracket. But you should always expect the unexpected in college basketball, and the second and third seeds, Dayton and VCU, both beat Davidson the last time they played them. The last and only other time Davidson won the A10 Tournament was in 2018.
-Cole Vulpis (@WildcatCole24)
#2 Dayton Flyers
Record: 22-9 (14-4)
Key Players: Toumani Camara, DaRon Holmes II, Malachi Smith
The Flyers come into the tournament as the #2 seed. They are one of the most complete and talented teams in the A10. Many of the sports books around the country have Dayton as the favorite to win the tournament. While Flyer fans are definitely optimistic about their chances to win it all in DC, the team has shown some inconsistency at times, which has caused some close losses to VCU, George Mason, and La Salle this season. Dayton is going to try and run most of the offense with their big men, Toumani Camara and DaRon Holmes II. Malachi Smith is the younger brother of Flyer legend Scoochie Smith (2013-2017), and, just like his brother, he is the floor general that sets the pace on offense and defense for Dayton. While Dayton is hot and cold with their offense, the defense is legit and can terrorize teams, especially when defending at the rim. The Flyers no longer have at-large chances due to some really bad losses during the season, but they are a talented team and a great bet to win the auto-bid in DC. Remember, this is a team that beat #4 Kansas on a neutral floor. And Dayton fans will turn that arena into a home game, no doubt about it.
-Chris Pyle (@parlaypyle)
#8 Fordham Rams
Record: 15-15 (8-10)
Key Players: Darius Quisenberry, Chuba Ohams, Kyle Rose
What does success mean for the Fordham Rams? Heading into the season, the bar was relatively low; defend home court, improve scoring, and win more than the typical 3-4 conference games than the Rams were used to in previous years. Now, as Fordham heads down to DC, it’s clear that they’ve hit that bar and then some. In 2021-22, this Fordham team has been characterized by the buzz they’ve brought back to Rose Hill, and their ability to play well even through adversity. After going 2-0 in conference play, Fordham’s roster was quickly shaken up by the departure of Antonio Daye, as well as the injury of Darius Quisenberry. Despite the loss of their two top scorers, Fordham was able to switch up their game plan to a two-forward rotation, and finish the season with an 8-10 conference record, their best since the 2015-16 season. Several wins, such as those over Mason, UMass, and GW, show that this team can win when their defense is aggressive, and their offense is unselfish. Guys like Darius Quisenberry and Antrell Charlton can rebound as effectively as some of their forwards, while Chuba Ohams has developed into an all-around behemoth this season. Now, as Fordham heads to DC, entering the tournament on the second day for the first time in a long time, the Rams once again have a chance to redefine what success means for this team.
-Sam Basel (@samjuan2878)
#9 George Mason Patriots
#7 George Washington Colonials
Record: 12-17 (8-9)
Key Players: James Bishop, Joe Bamisile, Brayon Freeman
Projected in the preseason to finish 13th, George Washington was arguably the biggest surprise of the A-10 and ended up finishing 7th in the conference. Even though GW finished 7th, they don’t have any signature wins. Basically, they’ve beaten who they’ve supposed to beat and lost to who they’re supposed to lose to. GW relies on their two top scorers, James Bishop and Joe
Bamisile, for most of their offense. Both of them are top 10 in the conference in scoring, and have the ability to take over games. When they both score 20 points, GW is undefeated (3-0). Having them firing on all cylinders will be key if GW hopes to pull off some upsets later in the tournament. A potential X-factor for GW will be freshman point guard Brayon Freeman. Freeman is an excellent on ball defender, distributor, and can score on all three levels. He is the perfect complement to Bishop and Bamisile. GW will also have a home court advantage during the tournament, with the Capital One Arena being only a few blocks from their campus. GW has been surprising teams all year, they might just have a few more tricks up their sleeve.
-David Korn (@david_korn4)
#12 La Salle Explorers
Record: 9-18 (4-13)
Key players: Clifton Moore, Jack Clark, Josh Nickelberry
The Explorers come into the tournament at the bottom of the conference and will play St. Joe’s in the first round. They share the least likely odds according to Barstool Sportsbook to win the title with Duquesne and GW at +10000. For the Explorers it has been a very rocky and bumpy season. Coming into conference play La Salle had a 5-5 record, perhaps indicating that they have the chance to finish middle of the pack, however that obviously has not been the case. They have a spectacular ability to play up to really good competition and play down to really poor competition. Examples of this can be seen when they managed to beat one of the best teams in the conference in Dayton not too long ago, but couldn’t find a way to beat Sacred Heart. On a team with so many inconsistencies, Clifton Moore has by far been the best and most reliable player on the team. You can always count on him to score double digit points, and his presence on the defensive end of the floor is just scary to opponents. Other players like Jack Clark and Josh Nickelberry can light the floor up when they’re on, but when they’re off it is quite disappointing. The Explorers will be looking to take the tournament one step at a time, and that first step is winning the first round against the Hawks.
-Joe Branderbit (@joe_branderbit)
#11 Rhode Island Rams
Record: 14-15 (5-12)
Key Players: Makhel Mitchell, Makhi Mitchell, Jeremy Sheppard
Back in mid-January, it would have been a pretty wild take to peg Rhode Island as a Wednesday pillow-fighting 11-seed in DC. Yet, here we are. Rhody finished off the season with losses in 11 of their final 13 games, and the typical reasons for something like that (injuries, COVID, transfers) don’t apply here. A good ol’ fashioned stretch of uninspired, unwatchable tire-fire brand of basketball is the sole source of blame. But hey, Rhody has by far the easiest first-game opponent of anyone in the conference, so maybe they’re playing chess while other teams play checkers. When the Rams are playing well, they’re doing it on defense, which ranks 4th in the conference per KenPom. The Mitchell twins, along with Antwan Walker and Malik Martin, have been stout rim protectors since opening night. The D is much needed, considering URI’s offense is lacking quite a bit. From free throw shooting to three point shooting to… well, shooting in general, Rhody has struggled to put points on the board, especially during this stretch. With all their problems (and we didn’t even come close to covering them all), it’ll be hard to pick against them on Wednesday against Duquesne. But don’t expect them to hang around DC much longer. The bigger question right now is if the A-10 Tournament will mark David Cox’s final game(s) as URI’s head coach.
-Rhody Rampage (@RhodyRampage)
#6 Richmond Spiders
Record: 19-12 (10-8)
Key Players: Jacob Gilyard, Tyler Burton, Grant Golden
The Richmond Spiders will begin A-10 Tournament play as the #6 seed, coming off close losses to Dayton and St. Bonaventure. The biggest plus for the Spiders is experience: the Spiders are among the oldest teams in the country thanks to multiple players using the fifth year of eligibility. Graduate student Jacob Gilyard is among the best passers in the conference and is the all time Division I leader in career steals. Junior Tyler Burton leads the Spiders’ offense in points and rebounds, averaging 16.5 points and 7.4 rebounds respectively, while graduate student Grant Golden adds 12.4 points per game and 6.3 rebounds. Along with fellow graduate students Nick Sherod and Nathan Cayo, the A-10 tournament marks the end of an era for many players who have become program institutions in the last half-decade. While Richmond finished below expectations this season, they were the victim of multiple buzzer-beating losses and have the talent and experience to make some noise one final time in the A-10 Tournament.
-Jason Boleman (@jasonboleman_)
#4 St. Bonaventure Bonnies
Record: 20-8 (12-5)
Key Players: Kyle Lofton, Osun Osunniyi, Jalen Adaway
The Bonnies capped off the regular season with a big home win over Richmond, thus securing a double-bye in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Following the victory, the University honored Kyle Lofton, Jaren Holmes, Dom Welch, Jalen Adaway, and Osun Osunniyi, the five senior starters. These guys are talented, experienced, and hungry for another NCAA Tournament berth. They have won the 2021 Atlantic 10 Championship and the 2021 Charleston Classic. Can the “Iron-Man Five,” a group in which all five starters average more than 10.0 PPG, win a third tournament in a calendar year? I wouldn’t bet against them, especially considering they’ve won eight of their last nine. And of course, that lone loss was with Osunniyi, Bona’s most important player, sidelined with an ankle injury. He looks like he’ll be fully healthy—or close to it—in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Watch out for the Brown and White in the nation’s capital.
-Jack Milko (@jack_milko)
#13 Saint Joseph’s Hawks
Record: 11-18 (5-13)
Key Players: Jordan Hall, Erik Reynolds, Ejike Obinna
The Saint Joseph’s Hawks have finished another sub .500 regular season, the third in a row under Coach Lange. Heading into conference play Saint Joe’s had a record of 6-5, with respectable wins against Temple and Georgetown. While there were some bad losses, the team still found a way to win and keep above .500. However, after injuries to Kascper Klazcek and Jack Forrest, the Hawks found themselves with a shallow rotation that has struggled throughout the majority of A-10 play. Many of the losses this season resulted from unacceptable second half collapses. The most frustrating part is that Saint Joe’s has real talent on this team. However, with the struggles of Taylor Funk, the team’s inability to manufacture consistent scoring, and with no ability to secure the ball, SaInt Joe’s has fallen short of their potential. The starting lineup for this team is by far better than the other teams in the bottom of the conference. Yes, because of this the team could make a run, especially when one considers how close they have played even the best in the conference. However, with Taylor Funk out for six weeks thanks to a hand injury, it is hard to believe the Saint Joe’s will win more than one game this week.
-Anthony Morelli (@jelly_morelli)
#5 Saint Louis Billikens
Record: 20-10 (11-6)
Key Players: Yuri Collins, Gibson Jimerson, Francis Okoro
The fifth seed in the A10 Tournament, the Billikens will need to win 4 games in 4 days to earn the elusive auto-bid. In the preseason, SLU had hopes of contending for the conference title. Expectations were drastically lowered when they lost preseason A10 POY Javonte Perkins to a torn ACL in November. Come February, however, the Billikens were thoroughly in the mix for an at-large bid, in large part due to the play of point guard Yuri Collins, the nation’s assist leader. But after ending the month on a 2-4 skid, the Bills’ bubble has popped. Still, Travis Ford’s team is as dangerous as any in the conference. With a top 50 offense and top 100 defense (per KenPom,) SLU boasts balance in a tournament full of extremes. (Dayton is the only other team ranking in the top 100 in offensive and defensive efficiency.) Keep an eye out for Jordan Nesbitt in DC, an uber-talented freshman who may very well be the X-factor if the Bills want to punch their ticket to the Big Dance.
-Grant Hogan (@granthogan7)
#3 VCU Rams
Record: 21-8 (14-4)
Key Players: Vince Williams, Ace Baldwin, KeyShawn Curry
The VCU Rams enter the Atlantic 10 tournament as the #3 seed and are one of the favorites to earn the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. VCU closed the season strong, winning eight of the last nine and holding on to at-large bid hopes. The Rams have been bolstered by a strong defense that has routinely held opponents to scores in the 50s and low 60s and ranks among the best in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. The key player to watch is senior forward Vince Williams, who is a candidate for conference player of the year. Described as a “Swiss army knife” type of player, Williams does all things well on the floor and leads the Rams in points and rebounds per game and is the team’s best 3-point shooter. The team’s primary ball handler, sophomore guard Ace Baldwin, returned in December from an Achilles’ injury suffered in May and did not miss a beat, leading the team in assists and providing a boost to a struggling offense. VCU is 17-4 with Baldwin; 4-4 in games he missed. Look for VCU fans to take the two-hour trip up I-95 to make Capital One Arena a mini-home game, and look for VCU to fight hard to, at minimum, gain some quality neutral court wins for the at-large resume.
-Jason Boleman (@jasonboleman_)
#10 UMass Minutemen
Record: 14-16 (7-11)
Key Players: Noah Fernandes, TJ Weeks, Rich Kelly
Is there magic brewing in Amherst? The sample size is small but the minutemen are undefeated since head coach Matt McCall was fired. The two wins over Fordham and Mason were huge for the Minutemen and helped them earn the number ten seed and avoid the Wednesday games. The minutemen have a high power offense and if the three-ball is falling they can be a problem for any team in the A-10. UMass will look to set up a lot of ball screens to get guards toward the basket or set up for a big man for a three. The UMass defense will need to make major leaps forward if the minutemen want to make some upsets happen in D.C. The minutemen let up 77.8 points per game which just isn’t going to cut it. If UMass can find a way to up their defensive intensity and the offense is clicking they can be a tough out this March.
-Quinn McCarron (@UMassReindeer)