32 Conferences, 32 Previews, 32 Days: Atlantic 10

By Kevin Sweeney

The growth of the Atlantic 10 Conference over the past decade has been incredible.  The conference has helped change the way we look at mid-major teams, as it has consistently received multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament.  In fact, it has been 8 years since the league sent less than 3 teams to the Big Dance, an astounding record that doesn’t show signs of changing anytime soon. Year after year, the A-10 has proven to be not only one of the best mid-major leagues in college basketball, but simply one of the best leagues in general in college hoops.

Picks:

  1. Dayton
  2. Davidson
  3. Rhode Island
  4. VCU
  5. St. Bonaventure
  6. La Salle
  7. Richmond
  8. George Washington
  9. St. Joseph’s
  10. Fordham
  11. UMASS
  12. George Mason
  13. St. Louis
  14. Duquesne

Champions: Dayton-  The perennial A-10 power returns 4 of its top 5 scorers from a season ago, when the Flyers won 25 games and reached the NCAA Tournament for the 3rd straight season.  They also add Josh Cunningham, a 6-7 forward who had a strong first season at Bradley before transferring and sitting out last season. However, the Flyers will be playing with heavy hearts, as they remember their fallen teammate Steve McElvene, who passed away tragically in May at the young age of 20 due to an apparent heart issue.  The team seems motivated to honor McElvene with a huge season, and they certainly have the talent to once again be one of the best in college basketball.

Dark Horse: La Salle- Despite an awful 2015-16 season that saw the Explorers win just 9 games all year, optimism is aplenty around the program. The reason? La Salle returns their top 6 scorers from a year ago, and will also reap the benefits of 3 high-major transfers who had to sit out last season. With the introductions of Pookie Powell (Memphis), B.J. Johnson (Syracuse), and Demetrius Henry (South Carolina), to compliment the returning core, the Explorers could quickly turn into one of the top teams in the conference.

Preseason First Team:

  • F: Tyler Cavanaugh- George Washington
  • F: T.J. Cline- Richmond
  • G: Jack Gibbs- Davidson
  • G: Jordan Price- La Salle
  • G: Jaylen Adams- St. Bonaventure

Player of the Year: Jack Gibbs- How do you improve on one of the best seasons from any player in college basketball last season? That is the question that Jack Gibbs has to answer, thanks to a 2015-16 season in which he scored over 23 points per game.  Gibbs drew comparisons to former Davidson star Stephen Curry last season, as he devastated defenses repeatedly en route to three 40 point games and seven more games with at least 30 points. The scariest part is that Gibbs isn’t done improving. He made slightly under a third of his 3’s last season, a number that Gibbs is sure to improve upon this season. Next time you sit down to watch Gibbs play, pop some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the show: He is one of the most exciting players in college basketball.

Newcomer of the Year: Stanford Robinson (Rhode Island)– Robinson, who is eligible to play this season after sitting out last season following transferring from Indiana, is a dynamic playmaker at the shooting guard position who could make a huge impact this season for the Rams.  URI struggled with injuries last season, but with the return of some key players, the Rams could be a true contender in the A-10, and Robinson might be the guy who can put them over the top.

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