This has been a down year for the A-10. With Davidson’s hot start and VCU’s steady run, there is still a minute chance the conference grabs three bids. But one bid remains a more likely possibility than three.
That said, the future of the conference has never looked brighter than this week. Freshman around the conference have not only become important contributors for their team, but often the go-to-guy for their respective squads.
The conversation has to start with Obadiah Toppin, Dayton’s freshman phenom. His headline numbers, 13.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, are solid. Yet the advanced metrics are stunning. He has a player efficiency rating of 28.4 and a box plus minus of 8.4. The freshman is shooting 69% from the field. This past week he exploded for 25.5 points, 8.5 boards, 2 steals, and 1.5 blocks, all while shooting over 70% from the field and 88% from the free throw line.
Toppin is without a doubt one of the best players in the conference already. Dayton fans need not worry if Toppin will develop into a star, at this point their concern should be about how long Obi will remain in the Miami Valley.
Of all the star freshman in the conference, none has been more consistent than Carry, especially during conference play. On the year, he has averaged 12.4 points and 5.9 assists. Over the past five games he has played, Carry has elevated these figures to 16.2 points and 6.9 assists. With Carry in the lineup, Duquesne has only lost one game. That was by four points at Davidson, currently the top team in the conference. Carry’s impressive rookie campaign is the most crucial reason why Duquesne has been the most surprising team in conference this season.
Just when conference opponents thought it had rid itself of high scoring Bonaventure guards with the departure of Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, Kyle Lofton emerges from the woodwork. The freshman out of New Jersey has average 23.0 PPG over the last three games hitting over 50% of his shots and 40% of his three pointers during that stretch. Lofton can get to the hole, pull up from deep, and is crafty around the bucket.
Frampton began his Davidson career firing away from deep; the redshirt freshman from West Virginia took at least seven pointers in every single non-conference game this season for Davidson. Early results didn’t necessarily match the confidence, has Frampton was shooting in the lows 30s from deep throughout the early part of the season.
Over the last five games, however, he has caught fire. He has hit 53% of his threes over that stretch, going an astonishing 23 of his past 43. During this stretch, he has averaged 15.2 PPG and nabbed four boards and dished out three assists. Unlike Davidson’s most famous three point-bomber (and the greatest shooter of all-time) Steph Curry, Frampton is not a lead or co-lead ball handler. Jon Axel Gudmundsson and Kellan Grady run the offense. Instead, Frampton’s style of play much more closely resembles Curry’s splash brother, Klay Thompson. Like Golden State’s star shooting guard, Frampton has an incredibly quick release on catch and shoot threes. As with Thompson, Frampton is also an underrated defender.
Rhode Island has struggled to shoot the ball all-year, a fact which has held back an athletic group with a lot of of other strengths all year. Enter Tyrese Martin. Over his past three games, Martin has averaged 16.3 points and 6.0 rebounds while hitting 9 out of 16 three pointers. Were it not for the rise of other freshman, Martin’s emergence would be getting more press.
Freshman over Seniors?
There is a legitimate argument that the conference’s freshman, particularly over the past month, have been better than the conference’s seniors. While there certainly are a number of standout seniors including Javon Bess, Josh Cunningham, Courtney Stockard, and Otis Livingston, it’s hard to say Toppin, Carry, Lofton, Frampton, Martin and other like Bynum, Honor, Osunniyi, and Brajkovic have not been as impactful in conference play.
Regardless of what happens over the final six weeks of the season, their can be little doubt that the A-10 has brighter days ahead.