2020-21 Atlantic 10 Basketball Preview

LWOS continues on with conference previews with our Atlantic 10 Basketball Preview. The league had a perennial national title contender with the Dayton Flyers last season. However, Obi Toppin is gone and projected to be a lottery pick in a few weeks. That means the door is open for a few other teams to take their place as noisemakers for the 2020-21 season. This is always a fun league to watch and always finds a few teams dancing in March.

2020-21 Atlantic 10 Basketball Preview

14. Fordham Rams

Key Returners: Jalen Cobb, Chuba Ohams, Joel Soriano

Key Losses: Antwon Portley

Key Newcomers: Julian Dozier

Fordham finds itself in familiar territory once again. It is almost becoming cliche at this point to pick the Rams to finish last every year. However, many key pieces from last season return on a team that is still fairly young. Ohams and Soriano make a formidable frontcourt. This will be a season of continued growth, but the Rams may be a tad more competitive than people are used to.

13. La Salle Explorers

Key Returners: David Beatty, Scott Spencer

Key Losses: Ed Crosswell, Isiah Deas

Key Newcomers: Clifton Moore (Indiana), Tegra Izay

La Salle follows in Fordham’s footsteps as a young squad. Beatty and Spencer will have to carry the load for this team as the senior leaders. Having Jack Clark healthy will also give a boost. Indiana transfer Moore Jr. will provide an added punch to the frontcourt as well. However, the biggest hole to fill is who will run the point. The Explorers will be using this season to have the roster mesh with an eye towards 2021-22.

12. Saint Joseph’s Hawks

Key Returners: Ryan Daly, Cameron Brown, Taylor Funk

Key Losses: Lorenzo Edwards

Key Newcomers: Jadrian Tracey

Saint Joe’s has a star in Ryan Daly but is very young other than that. There were flashes of good last season, including a win over UConn. However, there was plenty of ugly too. The hope is that the experience gained will lead to better results this season. Incoming freshman Tracey should see some significant minutes. Having Funk for a full season will also help. The goal for the Hawks this season will be to finish inside the top ten in the standings.

11. George Mason Patriots

Key Returners: Javon Greene, A.J. Wilson, Jordan Miller

Key Losses: None

Key Newcomers: Malik Henry, Tyler Kolek

George Mason had plenty of games last season where Greene shined. He and Wilson will need to step up once again for this team in 2020-21. There are some talented freshmen incoming in Henry and Kolek, meaning this program is getting set up for the long run. The Patriots will continue to see some growing pains this season, though improvement is expected. Do not be surprised if they outperform this projection.

10. George Washington Colonials

Key Returners: Jamison Battle, Maceo Jack, Jameer Nelson Jr.

Key Losses: Armel Potter, Arnaldo Toro

Key Newcomers: Matt Moyer (Vanderbilt), Noel Brown, James Bishop (LSU)

George Washington will be one of the more improved teams in the A-10 this season. Jack and Nelson Jr. form a tremendous backcourt duo, while Battle is a rising star in the frontcourt. The addition of Vanderbilt grad transfer Moyer brings another good veteran presence. Frontcourt depth is the biggest issue facing this team. However, the Colonials will be fun to watch this season. A push for a finish in the top eight is very possible.

9. Davidson Wildcats

Key Returners: Kellan Grady, Luka Brajkovic, Hyunjung Lee

Key Losses: Jon Axel Gudmundsson

Key Newcomers: Grant Huffman, Sam Mennenga

Davidson was easily one of the biggest disappointments in the country last season. Many, including LWOS, felt the Wildcats could be a national sleeper. Now, Bob McKillop‘s team can use that as motivation for this season. However, Grady will have to shoulder even more with Gudmundsson graduating. Lee will be expected to step up his role after an all-rookie campaign last season. Davidson has a lot of minutes back but will need to prove that they are better than what they showed in 2019-20.

8. VCU Rams

Key Returners: Nah’Shon Hyland

Key Losses: Marcus Santos-Silva, De’Riante Jenkins, Marcus Evans

Key Newcomers: Mikeal Brown-Jones, Levi Stockard III (Kansas State)

VCU was another disappointing team last season. The Rams just flat out fell apart during the meat of A-10 play, popping their bubble before February hit. Now, this is a young team led by all-rookie finisher Hyland. His role will increase tremendously, making him a breakout candidate in the league. Expectations for this team will be lower than fans have been used to, but they need to think in the long-term. VCU is in transition this season.

7. Massachusetts Minutemen

Key Returners: Tre Mitchell, T.J. Weeks, Carl Pierre

Key Losses: Sean East, Samba Diallo

Key Newcomers: Mark Gasperini (American), Dyondre Dominguez, Noah Fernandes (Wichita State)

Massachusetts is a sleeper candidate coming out of the A-10. The Minutemen feature last year’s rookie of the year in Tre Mitchell. He will carry the frontcourt and will be anchored by Gasperini and Dominguez. However, the backcourt is where depth is an issue. The approved waiver for Wichita State transfer Fernandes will help with that, but the load will fall on Weeks and Pierre. UMass might be one year away from pushing for an NCAA berth, but the NIT seems like a nice goal to have.

6. Duquesne Dukes

Key Returners: Marcus Weathers, Sincere Carry, Michael Hughes

Key Losses: None

Key Newcomers: Freshmen class of six who will get a development year

Duquesne started strong last season before fading during league play. That is not to say they were not competitive, but they fell off the pace of the teams at the top. The Dukes return all five starters and lose only one key piece from last season. That experience should pay off and keep this team towards the top of the league. A push for a top-four spot is in play, and this team is easily a dark horse to make a run at a league title. An NIT spot seems more likely though.

5. Dayton Flyers

Key Returners: Jalen Crutcher, Ibi Watson, Rodney Chatman

Key Losses: Obi Toppin, Trey Landers, Ryan Mikesell

Key Newcomers: Zimife Nwokeji

It is going to be hard for Dayton to top last season. The Flyers were easily one of the biggest teams affected by the NCAA Tournament’s cancellation, having a real shot at winning a national title. Now, Anthony Grant‘s team needs to regroup to make a push back to the top of the league. Crutcher and Watson return a lot of experience. However, replacing Toppin is the biggest hole for Dayton, and there is not much experience left with his departure. The Flyers will still be competitive, but there will be a natural step back.

4. Saint Bonaventure Bonnies

Key Returners: Kyle Lofton, Jaren English, Osun Osunniyi

Key Losses: Bobby Planutis

Key Newcomers: Jalen Adaway (Miami OH), Eddie Creal (JUCO), Jalen Shaw (JUCO)

St. Bonaventure has the ability to push the teams at the top of the league with all five starters back, though coming into the year they seem to be a step behind. The Bonnies have a tremendous inside-out duo of Lofton and Osunniyi. Lofton, in particular, has a chance to contend for the player of the year award. This team gets added depth from the incoming transfers. This is a potential bubble team and a program that should hang around the top of the Atlantic 10 for a few years.

3. Rhode Island Rams

Key Returners: Fatts Russell, Jermaine Harris

Key Losses: Jeff Dowtin, Tyrese Martin, Cyril Langevine

Key Newcomers: Jalen Carey (Syracuse), Malik Martin (Charlotte), Makhel Mitchell (Maryland), Makhi Mitchell (Maryland)

Transfer waivers have been kind to Rhode Island this off-season. The Rams seemed destined to finish in the middle of the pack before Carey, Martin, and the Mitchell twins all were granted immediate eligibility. Add in star Fatts Russell, and this team has a chance to get to the NCAA Tournament. Of course, that all depends on how the team gels together. There is a lot of variation on what Rhode Island could accomplish for 2020-21. However, the Rams seemed poised to be a team most will not want to play again this season.

2. Richmond Spiders

Key Returners: Blake Francis, Jacob Gilyard, Grant Golden

Key Losses: None

Key Newcomers: None

Richmond will be one of the best mid-major teams in the country this season. However, the loss of starter Nick Sherod to an ACL injury earlier this month hurts tremendously. Still, the Spiders still have their other four starters and most of the key bench pieces from a team that rode the bubble last season. Francis, Gilyard, and Golden create a three-headed monster that will be hard to contain. Nathan Cayo will have to shoulder more with Sherod’s injury. That will also make the depth behind the starters have to develop quicker. That may make or break how far Richmond can go this season. Expect to see the Spiders ranked this season.

1. Saint Louis Billikens

Key Returners: Jordan Goodwin, Hasahn French, Javonte Perkins

Key Losses: None

Key Newcomers: Marten Linssen (UNC Wilmington)

This will be a controversial pick for some. Richmond will be fantastic this season, but so should Saint Louis. The Billikens are led by Goodwin, who has a chance to improve his numbers even more after averaging 15.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game a season ago. This is another squad with almost everyone back, and UNCW transfer Linssen adds frontcourt depth. Saint Louis will be ranked at some point, even if not right away. The race between the Billikens and Spiders will be fun, but the edge goes to Saint Louis in this Atlantic 10 Basketball Preview.

2020-21 Atlantic 10 Basketball Preview Award Projections

Player of the Year: Jordan Goodwin, Saint Louis

Goodwin’s statistics from last year have already been mentioned. However, it cannot be understated how much of a playmaker he is. Not only can he score, but he gets teammates involved as well through his defense and passing ability. Goodwin is not just one of the best players in this league, but in the country.

Defensive Player of the Year: Jacob Gilyard, Richmond

Gilyard will be looking to repeat with this award. He averaged 3.2 steals per game a season ago, and there is no reason to think he cannot at least duplicate that. His ability to lock down defensively can help lead to quick transition points that help make the Spiders dangerous.

Rookie of the Year: Matt Moyer, George Washington

Moyer should see an increased role with George Washington after stints at Vanderbilt and Syracuse. That should lead to improved numbers and make him one of the best newcomers in the league. His experience will also play a key role in his ability to take home this award.

Most Improved Player: Jarren McAllister, VCU

McAllister will see a huge role increase with all the positions that need to be filled for the Rams. He was a highly-touted recruit who will get a chance to showcase his talent. McAllister’s averages should vastly improve this season.

Sixth-Man of the Year: Javonte Perkins, Saint Louis

With Saint Louis returning almost all of its rotation, there is no reason to think Perkins’ role will change. Therefore, he can continue to be a spark off the bench after averaging 15 points per game over an average of 27.3 minutes. Depth that has talent like Perkins is a big reason why the Billikens can win this league.

Coach of the Year: Travis Ford, Saint Louis

The Saint Louis love continues with the coach of the year honor. Travis Ford will most certainly win this award if he can capture the league title for the Billikens. He can earn even more praise with the fanbase if he can get this team into the NCAA Tournament and make a run.

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