2009-10 Atlantic 10 Basketball Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 11/12/2009
Here are my 2009-10 Atlantic 10 basketball predictions to help you with your college basketball picks:
The Favorite: Dayton
Yeah, you're reading this right - the A-10 is the Flyers' conference to lose. And don't sleep on this team for one second as far as being a sleeper team for the Elite Eight. Dayton welcomes back 11 of its top 12 scorers from a team that went 27-8 and advanced to the second round of The NCAA Tournament last year. Four of five starters are back, including a trio of three-year starters in off guard Marcus Johnson, center Kurt Huelsman and stud forward Chris Wright. Hueslman and Wright are beasts underneath and they have solid depth behind them. But the four senior guards who run the show are really the core of this team. That is, as long as Rob Lowery manages to come back healthy from a knee injury that ended his 2008 season. Dayton did have some scoring issues last year (they were No. 11 in the league in scoring and No. 12 in shooting) so they'll be a tough team to cash with as a heavy favorite. But they defend, they have experience, and they have skill at all positions.
The Challenger: Xavier
A new role, a new coach, and a new core for the X-Men this season. Coach Sean Miller split for Arizona and left the Musketeers scrambling a bit. But new coach Chris Mack still has a team with the potential to continue the program's tournament run. Three-year starter Jason Love and seven-foot monster Kenny Frease give this group the best frontcourt group in the conference. They also can rely on last year's point man Terrell Holloway and clutch shooter Dante Jackson, as well as slick-shooting Brad Redford. Depth is a problem. And the losses from last year - three double-digit scorers and their three best players - are just too much to replace. With or without Miller this team would be backsliding this year.
The Dark Horse: Richmond
I was one of the few heralds last year that were touting the Spiders and they came through for me with many significant wins. Now this year they are ready to take a step up in class and really compete for a second tournament bid out of the A-10. This team runs a modified Princeton offense and is devastating in their home building. Their backcourt is loaded with a pair of three-year starters in Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalvez. Anderson is one of the league's best all-around players and Gonzalvez's is one of the most lethal sharpshooters in the country. The real value on this team is that it won 20 games last year without it's best player. Their leading scorer and top rebounder from 2007-08, Dan Geriot, blew out his knee and missed last season. The point forward is the key cog in the offense and gives the team much-needed size underneath. That was their main problem last year - they had too few serviceable big men. If they can get anything out of the post, and if Geriot returns to form, this team is really going to be something.
The X-Factor: LaSalle
The Explorers were a team that I was very high on and very excited for last year. Unfortunately, they never put it together on the offensive end and before closing the year with a solid 6-3 run they had been a big disappointment. But it's "do or die time". They have four three-year starters, four players that averaged double figures, and one of the best players you have never heard of in Rodney Green. Green is an NBA prospect that is looking to close his brilliant career with a tourney berth. LaSalle also added the best freshman in the league in center Aaric Murray. If the 6-10 center is as dominating as people think he could be than this group is yet another competitor for a little dancing.
The Surprise Team: Duquesne
The Dukes just keep on keeping on. They were six points away from an NCAA bid last year despite having one of the youngest rosters in the nation. Four starters are back, as are their issues underneath. This team can run, can come at opponents in waves, and has a solid blend of youth, talent and experience. It's tough for a team to be The Surprise in back-to-back seasons, but the Dukes may pull it off nicely.
The ATS Machine: Charlotte
This has been one of the top programs in the conference for a long time. But Bobby Lutz has been all over the map in his last three seasons, going from 14 wins in 2006 to 20 in 2007 and sinking to just 11 last year. Last season's club was a mess of ugly shooting, poor defense, personnel losses, and overmatched bigs. However, I think that this group is ready for a big bounce. Top scorer Lamont Mack is gone. But three starters (two three-year starters) are back, as are five guys who averaged around 8-9 points per game. It's a start. This team also adds one of the league's top transfers in Shamari Spears. Spears was a promising post player from Boston College and will add deft scoring around the hoop. This group will transition from a chuck-it-and-see perimeter group to a solid post-option attack. And I think that the value will be there after a down season.
The Disappointment: Temple
The Owls lost as much to graduation as any team in the conference. Dionte Christmas and his 20 points per game are gone. As are seven-foot post Sergio Olmos and glue guy Semaj Inge. They do have a nice pair to build around in Ryan Brooks and Lavoy Allen. But I see with this team what I saw with St. Joe's last year: the losses were too great and the players left behind, although talented, are simply not good enough to elevate their game and keep this team competitive with the top tier. I think that Temple takes a step in the wrong direction.
St. Bonaventure - The Bonnies were this close to being listed as my Surprise Team and I think that they are another group that will be able to sneak up on quite a few unsuspecting foes this season. Last year it matched its win total from the previous two years combined (15) and they could be poised for a bid in one of the smaller postseason tournaments. Unfortunately, this team had two key pieces booted from the program. But they have A-10 Newcomer of the Year Andrew Nicholson in the post, swingman Jon Hall on the wing, and sharpshooter Chris Matthews spotting up. This is a solid team and they are headed in the right direction.
Rhode Island - Last year I had the Rams pegged as a team to fade because of massive personnel losses. But Jimmy Baron and Kahiem Searight were simply much better than I thought. But now that those two have moved on I think that this is the year that URI falls down. Three starters are back and Jim Baron always seems to find ballers. But I think it's going to be a weak performance out of the Rams.
Massachusetts - UMass was a big-time disappointment last year. And it could get uglier this season. Two of the top three scorers are gone from a 12-win team. They do have stud Ricky Harris back and welcome a sweet shooting freshman in Terrell Vinson. But there are just a lot of unsettled spots on this roster as coach Derek Kellogg continues his rebuilding project.
George Washington - Few programs have fallen as far, as fast, as GW in the past several seasons. After going 90-32 over a four-year stretch this group has bumbled to a 19-35 mark over the past two years. They went 4-12 in league play last year and lost their leading scorer. Not good. Karl Hobbs has brought in five freshman and if things go south early I wonder if he'll start looking toward the future.
St. Joseph's - The Hawks were supposed to compete with Xavier for the conference crown last year but meekly settled for a 17-15 overall record. And now their potent one-two punch of Mr. Inside (Ahmad Nivins) and Mr. Outside (Tasheed Carr) are long gone. I just don't see how they can improve. They have a lot of bit pieces and no real go-to guy (although keep an eye on freshman Justin Crosgile).
St. Louis - Wow, is this team a train wreck. Rick Majerus soaked every ounce out of last year's overmatched group by leaning on his seniors, Kevin Lisch and Tom Liddell. They are gone. And Majerus' prize recruit, Aussie Cody Ellis, didn't get cleared to play. So that leaves the Billikens with a roster that has NO JUNIORS OR SENIORS! That is just amazing. He has seven freshman and four sophomores and this team is simply going to get wrecked.
Fordham - If St. Louis is primed to be one of the worst teams in the country, and I have Fordham listed below them, you know things are bad. The Rams were simply not competitive last year, dropping 25 games and losing four contests by 30 or more points. With the exception of smooth sophomore Jio Fontan, anyone with any measure of (limited) talent or experience left the program. What remains is a group that may be slightly, slightly better than last year's group. But what is that: 20 losses and two defeats by 30 or more?
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and he has gained nearly +300 Units over the past three college basketball seasons. You can purchase his college basketball picks here.
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