There are a number of great individual talents graduating this month including four of the five A-10 First Team selections from this past season. But fear not, a handful of dynamic duos are here to save the day. Here are my top-five duos who I think can have a major impact on their teams next season.
1. Dyshawn Pierre + Kendall Pollard (Dayton)
With the release of Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson, UD’s primary beef in the paint last season, virtually all the Flyer’s frontcourt duties fell on the capable shoulders of Archie Miller’s dynamic duo of Dyshawn Pierre and Kendall Pollard (both just 6’6). The two helped carry the Flyers back to the Atlantic 10 tournament championship game for the first time since 2011 before winning another two games for Miller in this past season’s NCAA tournament. Skilled and versatile, Pollard and Pierre head into next season as upperclassmen with reinforcements should they need to catch a breath, a luxury neither possessed this past season.
2. EC Matthews + Hassan Martin (Rhode Island)
About as talented of an inside-out duo as you’ll find in the Atlantic 10, both bring size and explosiveness to a Rhodie lineup that will look to make it back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999, just three seasons after current head coach Dan Hurley finished his player career at Seton Hall. If Matthews can cut down on the turnovers while improving his stroke from deep, he’s a real threat to win A-10 Player of the Year honors while fellow 2015 A-10 Second Teamer Hassan Martin is a near lock to win this upcoming season’s Defensive Player of the Year award, an honor most thought he had all but locked up last season before Briante Weber surprisingly grabbed the honor despite his career-ending injury.
3. Jack Gibbs + Brian Sullivan (Davidson)
Sit down with Gibbs and Sullivan and you’ll converse with two of the nicest guys you’ll find in the conference. Play them head-to-head and you’ll take on their Dr. Jekylls, two Atlantic 10 killers that can make your life miserable on any given night. The reality is you could just as easily swap Jordan Barham in for Sullivan but with the graduation of A-10 Player of the Year, Davidson guard Tyler Kalinoski, I suspect Sullivan’s already stellar numbers (114.3 o-rating, 19.7 assist rate, 36.4% from three) rise, making Gibbs and Sullivan the best backcourt in the Atlantic 10, the second consecutive season the Wildcats will have earned that honor. But hey, while we’re talking about Barham, how good does his 120.3 offensive rating look next to Jack Gibbs’ 120.7, the two best in the conference last season by a mile…that is if you leave out Tyler Kalinoski’s 124.6. Sheesh.
4. Terry Allen + TJ Cline (Richmond)
Take two of the most underrated players in the conference (neither earned all-conference honors last season), put them in the same frontcourt and what do you get? A REALLY good duo. Allen and Cline are a ridiculously crafty pair that finished last season with 108.3 (Cline) and 105.7 (Allen) offensive ratings last season, two of the best marks in the conference (top-20 among players used 20% of their teams possessions, top-6 among 24% possession players). Both are about 6’8 240, and both hit over 58% of their two-point buckets with Cline checking in at a stellar 38.8% from range as well. Allen will look to finish his career with a bang while the severely underrated Cline will most certainly make a name for himself en route to a possible NCAA tournament season for the Spiders.
5. Marcus Posley + Dion Wright (St. Bonaventure)
There are several duos who could make a case for this last spot (Garino + Larsen? Johnson + Alie-Cox? Bembry + Bembry?) but I’ll choose to shine some light on another underrated duo that chose Olean, NY as their college destination. Posley and Wright return as one of the best scoring combos in the league for a Bonnies team that hovered around the middle of the pack despite boasting wins at Davidson and over VCU. Bona returns a combined 30.2 ppg from the duo, 13.5 from the efficient Wright, 16.7 from last season’s dagger king, Posley (who scored game-winners in consecutive games against both Davidson and VCU). If Posley can finish at a more efficient clip it will most certainly help St. Bonaventure past the loss of paint patroller Ndoye while hopefully climbing the Bonnies a step closer toward the top of the conference.