Thursday, October 25, 2007

Atlantic-10 Conference Preview


The Atlantic-10 flew below the radar for much of the season, but they featured a good conference race and one of the most balanced leagues in the country. Six teams finished above .500, two teams finished 8-8, and six teams finished below .500. Xavier and Massachusetts tied for the regular-season title at 13-3, with George Washington finishing two games behind them. The Musketeers won their last eight games, while UMass won nine of their last ten. George Washington and Rhode Island surprised some by facing off in the title game, with GW emerging victorious. The Colonials lost to Vanderbilt in the Big Dance, but Xavier beat BYU and almost beat Ohio State before heroics by the Buckeyes put them on top. The A-10 is going to be one of the better conferences in the country this year, with several teams capable of making noise.

Favorites: Xavier had a very good season last year, going 25-9 overall and 13-3 in the conference, but loses three starters from that team. Despite that, expect the Musketeers to reload and stay atop the league. It starts with point guard Drew Lavender, who improved as the year went on after his transfer from Oklahoma. He is one of the best lead guards in the country. Stanley Burrell, a very good long-range shooter, starts next to him. Adrion Graves and stud freshman Dante Jackson provide depth. Up front, a trio of versatile forwards mans the frontline. C.J. Anderson, a transfer from Manhattan, will make an immediate impact. Josh Duncan is a solid inside-outside player who can do a lot of things. Then there is Derrick Brown, who is extremely athletic and can rebound with the best in the league. B.J. Raymond and Jason Love come off the bench.

Contenders: Saint Joseph’s will give Xavier some competition this year at the top of the standings. The Hawks have one of the best frontcourts in the country in forwards Pat Calathes and Robert Ferguson, as well as big man Ahmad Nivins. Calathes is a very good inside-outside option and a match-up problem, while Ferguson is a good scorer and rebounder. Nivins is arguably the best player in the conference. He is dominant in the low post, and has improved in other areas too. In the backcourt, Iowa State transfer Tasheed Carr and Darrin Govens will likely start. Sixth man D.J. Riviera and Garrett Williamson will help to provide perimeter balance. Rhode Island returns four starters from a team that reached the conference tournament finals before falling. The Rams are led by the duo of guard Jimmy Baron and forward Will Daniels, one of the best tandems in the country. Baron is very consistent from deep, while Daniels can score in a variety of ways and is a solid rebounder. Also up front will be double-figure scorer Kaheim Seawright and Joe Mbang, a solid long-range shooter. Parfait Bitee and Keith Cothran will fight for the shooting guard position.

Postseason Possibilities: Saint Louis also returns four starters from last season, a year in which the Billikens won 20 games but finished seventh in the conference. The wing duo of Tommie Liddell and Kevin Lisch leads the way, forming one of the top wing combos in the nation. Liddell is a terrific all-around player who can score and rebound well, and is also an outstanding shooter. Lisch can shoot as well, and is also a good defender. Luke Meyer is another very good perimeter player, while point guard Dwayne Polk can pass the ball well. Danny Brown provides depth. JC transfer Barry Eberhardt could start down low. Dayton returns four starters from a team that went 8-8 in conference play a year ago. No player is more important than Brian Roberts, one of the most efficient shooters and scorers in the country. He is one of the most underrated two-guards in the nation. Joining him in the backcourt will be Andres Sandoval, Wisconsin transfer Mickey Perry, and Marcus Johnson. Those three will all have a chance to make an impact, as will London Warren because of his ability to play the point. Up front, sixth man of the year Charles Little returns, as does Kurt Huelsman and Jimmy Binnie. Freshman Chris Wright, an underrated newcomer with tons of potential, will likely start immediately. Fordham, which returns all five starters, is another team with a legit inside-outside duo in Marcus Stout and Bryant Dunston. Stout is a good scorer who can knock down threes, while Dunston is a terrific shot-blocker and rebounder. Also returning up front will be Sebastian Greene, a break-out candidate, and Michael Binns, a good forward with shooting touch. Brenton Butler averaged almost double-digits from the wing last season. George Washington was embarrassed in the NCAA Tournament by Vanderbilt, losing by 33 in the first round. With the loss of three starters, the Colonials will likely not reach the Big Dance. Maureece Rice, an all-conference candidate guard, is expected to boost his scoring average this year as he will have to become the go-to-guy and team leader offensively. Starting next to him on the perimeter will be Travis King and Cheyenne Moore. Up front, Rob Diggs returns as a starter, while Damian Hollis is a solid scorer. Virginia Tech Wynton Witherspoon will have a chance to see time.

Sleepers: Duquesne
won only10 games last year, but with the influx of several transfers and the return of quality performers, the Dukes will make noise. Let’s start with the returnees. Kieron Achara is one of the best big men in the conference, and could improve this year. In the backcourt, double-figure scorer Aaron Jackson and Reggie Jackson both return, as does Gary Tucker, a player who came on strong late, and Stephen Wood. The newcomers will make the difference, though. Siena transfer Kojo Mensah is a very good scorer and passer who can also rebound, while Northeastern transfer Shawn James might be the best shot-blocker in the country. Massachusetts loses three starters from its first-place finish, and will take a step back. The returnees are led by all-conference candidate Gary Forbes, a wing who can do a multitude of things. The backcourt features Chris Lowe, a solid point guard, and Ricky Harris, a good scorer. Up front, Etienne Brower and Dante Milligan are the top performers returning besides Forbes, but 7-1 Luke Bonner will likely start down low. Temple struggled last season and will likely do the same this year, but the Owls have the league’s top two scorers, meaning they will be tough on a nightly basis. Dionte Christmas can light up the scoreboard in a variety of ways, while Mark Tyndale is a tough player to defend and is also a very good rebounder and passer. In addition to those two, Chris Clark returns at the point, with Semaj Inge and Ryan Brooks fighting for minutes on the perimeter. Sergio Olmos will likely start down low, but freshman Lavoy Allen has a chance to make an immediate impact. Charlotte started last year strong with a win over Hofstra, but struggled for much of the season. This year, newcomers will make the difference for the 49ers. Pepperdine transfer Michael Gerrity is a very good scorer and passer at the point, while big man Phil Jones will make an impact down low. An’Juan Wilderness will also start on the wing this season. Leemire Goldwire is an all-conference candidate at one of the guard spots, with Ian Anderson also returning in the backcourt.

Rounding Out the Pack: Richmond returns four starters, but the Spiders finished next to last in the league last year. Dan Geriot is the team’s best player, and will look to take the next step towards all-conference status. Starting next to Geriot will be Oumar Sylla and possibly Jarhon Giddings or Gaston Moliva. In the backcourt, David Gonzales is the leading returnee, while Ryan Butler is a very good shooter. La Salle finished last in the league last year, and lose two starters from that team. With that said, the Explorers could move up in the standings. Darnell Harris is one of the more underrated players in the conference, but is a good starter. Ruben Guillandeaux will likely start at the point next to Harris, while Rodney Green is a very solid scorer and rebounder and also returns. Up front, Yves Mekongo Mbala and Kimmani Barrett are the two best returnees and will start. Furthermore, Brian Grimes and Paul Johnson provide depth. St. Bonaventure has won only 24 games in the past four seasons, but will likely win more than six games this year. The Bonnies have a very solid trio in guards Zarryon Fereti and Tyler Relph, two very good shooters and overall players, and forward Michael Lee, the team’s best scorer and rebounder. Tyler Benson will also see time up front. Newcomers round out the rotation.

Prediction: The Atlantic-10 has been down for the past couple of seasons, but has the talent at the top of the league and the depth in the middle of the league to be considered the best of conference outside the Big Six. Xavier is at the top, and will contend for a spot in the Top 25 all season long, while Saint Joseph’s and its outstanding frontcourt will help lead the Hawks to the NCAA Tournament as well. As for the rest of the teams, Rhode Island is the most likely to reach the NIT, but teams like Dayton, Saint Louis, and always-dangerous George Washington will also be teams fighting for postseason berths.

Player of the Year: Ahmad Nivins, F, Saint Joseph’s

All-Conference Team:
G- Drew Lavender, Xavier
G- Brian Roberts, Dayton
F- Will Daniels, Rhode Island
F- Ahmad Nivins, Saint Joseph’s
F- Bryant Dunston, Fordham

Second Team:
G- Maureece Rice, George Washington
G- Dionte Christmas, Temple
G/F- Tommie Liddell, Saint Louis
F- C.J. Anderson, Xavier
F- Kieron Achara, Duquesne

Third Team:
G- Jimmy Baron, Rhode Island
G- Stanley Burrell, Xavier
G/F- Gary Forbes, Massachusetts
F- Pat Calathes, Saint Joseph’s
F- Mark Tyndale, Temple

Photo Credit: AP


  1. Surprised you didn't mention Chris Wright when talking about Dayton.

  2. Nice preview. Looking forward to the upcoming A-10 season.

  3. You should also keep your eyes open for Chris Lowe (Umass). If he improves in year 3 by as much as he did from year 1 to 2, he will end up on an all conference team this year. He could easilly score 10+ per game and have 6+ assists per game........

  4. Dionte Christmas will have a great year and be a first round pick in 2009. Ryan Brooks will be a starter by the end of the year and Temple will be decent this year, but in 09' they will be a top 25 team.

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