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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Thoughts after an opening night of Atlantic 10 hoops

If you’re anything like me, your heart may have skipped a few beats last night — on multiple occasions. Walking back from Davidson’s opening win over Cleveland St., I quickly tuned in to catch the end of George Mason – Penn and George Washington – Stony Brook. I can’t say I was thrilled with either result. Through the twists and the turns, one thing is true: A-10 basketball is back, and all the drama, excitement, and anxiety are there to accompany it as always. It’s a long season, and a lot of these buy games aren’t very telling, but let’s look at some of the headlines from last night.

The Good:

Rhode Island looked sharp from tip to finish, albeit it was Bryant

Yes, I know. It was Bryant. The Rams weren’t exactly facing Zion Williamson level talent, but they still looked sharp out of the gates at the Ryan Center. URI shot 13-27 from three (48.1%), which will be absolutely pivotal if they want to find success post Jared Terrell and E.C. Matthews. Jeff Dowtin is starting to make it clear that his name should be in the A-10 POY conversation — he went for 17 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds, showing that he’s ready to step up as the team’s best player this season. He also did this.

Despite how well Dowtin played (and Fatts Russell who had a career-high 21 points), it was Christion Thompson who had the most promising night. Connecting on 4-9 three pointers and securing 7 rebounds, Thompson looks like he’s ready to make a jump for the Rams, and that would be an enormous development for a team that already has 3 or 4 solid weapons at its disposal. We saw slower nights from forwards Cyril Langevine and Jermaine Harris, but that’s promising because Rhode Island looks like a team that can get 9 or 10 guys involved, and David Cox made sure his freshmen got plenty of minutes last night.

Carl Pierre never cooled off

I’ll be honest; I was a bit concerned for Massachusetts last night, as its little brother, UMass Lowell, never seemed to go away. However, once Carl Pierre got hot, it looked like the Minutemen had it in the bag. Pierre scored 21 points, connecting on 9 field goals, and hit 3 three pointers in last night’s 83-75 win. With all of the newcomers adjusting to the system and playing collegiate basketball for the first time in awhile (or ever), Pierre and Pipkins are going to have to step up big time in these opening games. Carl Pierre did just that last night, and it’s great to see that the sophomore continues to be a lethal shooting threat.

Davidson looked comfortable, even on an off shooting night

We know the Wildcats aren’t going to bury every three they look at (though it may seem that way sometimes). So when the shots aren’t falling, the question becomes: can Davidson lock down on defense and scrape together enough points to win? Cleveland St. kept within striking distance for the first 30 minutes last night, as Davidson tried to shake off the early-season rust. Jon Axel Gudmundsson was just 1-9 from two-point range (though he ended up burying 4 threes), and the Wildcats shot 36.1% from deep while the Vikings hit 50% of their long range attempts. Luka Brajkovic got involved down low and helped maintain a comfortable lead — Davidson handled Cleveland St. easily, even after a so-so night from the field.

Fordham scored 106

It was a D3 opponent, but yes, Fordham scored 100 points. Nick Honor played great in his first collegiate basketball game, and the Rams shot 71.4% from inside the arc. I’m still picking the Rams to finish 14th in the A-10, but they definitely played better than I expected in their opening contest.

The Bad

Saint Louis struggled to put SEMO away for good

The Billikens move to 1-0 after last night, which is all that matters, but the end of the game was a bit alarming. SLU shot just 16% from three, and after being in firm control all game long, the Redhawks started closing the gap and silencing the Billiken faithful. Saint Louis is going to be a bit rusty with all the new parts, and they shot particularly well in and around the paint. However, I think we were all hoping for a stronger performance against a sub-300 Kenpom team…

George Mason couldn’t seal the deal against Penn

This isn’t particularly a bad loss, but it’s a frustrating one. The Patriots were pegged to win the league in some preseason predictions, and with a talented group of seniors, this could be the year the Patriots get back to the Big Dance. Unfortunately, that looks like a much taller task following Tuesday night’s loss. Mason’s lack of outside shooting remains a bit of a concern, but Penn shot abysmal numbers from the charity stripe and was still able to pull out that win. It wasn’t a game the Patriots were supposed to win by a large margin, but if you’re Dave Paulsen, that’s one where you’ll be kicking yourself all year.

The Ugly

George Washington did WHAT?!?!

The Colonials got off to a 22-0 start in Foggy Bottom last night, giving a big middle finger to anyone who picked them to finish 13th in the league. Unfortunately, that lead would not last, and Stony Brook would come barreling back throughout the contest. The Colonials shot 16-34 (47.1%) from the charity stripe including 3-12 in the extra session that the Seawolves would go on to force. Had GW made its free throws, it may have snuck away with the win. Either way, that was a pretty awful lead to blow, and it had to feel like a crippling first loss for the Colonials. It’s a long season, but yikes… that was ugly.