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The Atlantic 10 Eats Well During Feast Week

Aside from March Madness, college basketball’s Feast Week may be the most exciting week of the season. Preseason tournaments lead to some great matchups across the sport, and lots of teams get 2 or 3 chances to prove themselves before conference play. Thankfully, the Atlantic 10 has been eating well. We all know Dayton had a chance to take down Kansas (and almost did) in the final round of the Maui Invitational, but lesser known is George Mason winning in the Cayman Islands and La Salle winning the Gulf Coast.

I was skeptical of GMU’s 5-1 start after the Patriots struggled to get by weaker opponents in Navy and Long Island. Mason blew everyone’s socks off down in the Caribbean, though. The wins only got better as GMU made its way through the bracket: Old Dominion, Nebraska, and New Mexico St. (Kenpom 162, 143, and 88 respectively).

Now, George Mason stands at 8-1 with 3 easy home tests approaching. In fact, Kenpom gives the Patriots 80%, 79%, and 81% chances of victory in their next 3. George Mason then goes on the road with a chance to down TCU, which would be the icing on the cake to a great non-conference slate. If George Mason goes 11-2 before starting league play, I think GMU fans should be absolutely thrilled.

La Salle is another team that won’t get mentioned a lot, yet the Explorers had an incredible week in the Gulf Coast Showcase, taking the title. Murray St., Wright St., and South Alabama are all Kenpom top 150 opponents; South Alabama also took undefeated Auburn to the wire at home. La Salle’s 4-2 start is a massive improvement from last year (0-10), obviously, and the Explorers are without a bad loss. 3-point shooting and 3-point defense have been huge keys for this team. La Salle is top 40 nationally in both.

So we had 2 championships won on Wednesday night, but we got a moral victory as well as Dayton took #4 Kansas to overtime, and if it weren’t for some late game mistakes (unforced turnovers), the Flyers could’ve held on for the win. Of course, Jalen Crutcher’s three to force overtime took a bit of luck, and the Flyers shot extremely well from three (16 made buckets), but I also thought Kansas played one of its best games of the year, and Jay Bilas agreed. We’re all witnesses to Obi Toppin and what the sophomore stud is capable of. For those curious, I see Toppin up to 8th in the most recent NBA Mock Draft. That’s good and bad news for the Flyers. They’re likely to lose their stud after this season, but it also sets a precedent for future recruits. If Toppin can come to Dayton and carve a path to the NBA, then so can some 4 star that Anthony Grant recruits in future seasons. I think Obi is the best thing to happen to Dayton since Archie Miller. The kid is an absolute diamond in the rough and will turn this program in the right direction.

Also worth noting is the national hype Dayton has received since destroying Georgia and Va. Tech in Maui before taking the Jayhawks to the wire. Gary Parrish of CBS Sports has the Flyers ranked 9th in his updated Top 25. I think that’s a bit high, and there’s no way Dayton will be ranked that high come Monday, but Dayton will be ranked, and that’s an awesome thing. I can’t recall the last time we had 2 teams in the AP Poll Top 25, but we didn’t even have 1 at any point last season. Progress!

Other notable performances this week include Richmond, who downed Wisconsin and led Auburn at the half. The Spiders have a chance to finish non-conference play with a very strong record, and based on recent fan power rankings, I think they’re a top 4 team right now. Davidson struggled in its opener against Marquette, and the Wildcats really have some work to do. VCU has a chance to keep the good times rolling for the A-10, as it faces off against Purdue tonight and then Tennessee/Florida St.