Atlantic 10 Basketball Preview 2021-22

Atlantic 10 Basketball Preview
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LWOS coverage of the NCAA continues with the Atlantic 10 Basketball Preview. Over the past few years, the Atlantic 10 has been on the rise. This conference has had a high degree of success in recent history. Teams like Dayton, VCU, Rhode Island, and St. Bonaventure have all had NCAA tournament success in recent years. This year the A-10 has five or six quality teams, which is a lot for a mid-major conference. Check out our prior preview on the AAC here.

2021-22 Atlantic 10 Basketball Preview

14. La Salle University Explorers

Key returners: Jack Clark, Sherif Kenney, Jhamir Brickus

Key losses: David Beatty

Key newcomers: Andrés Marrero, Khalil Brantley, Daeshon Shepherd

La Salle has many returning players returning this season, but none averaged double figures last season! They also have a terrible non-conference schedule this year. The only recognizable opponent on their agenda is Villanova! This scheduling issue will make their players less prepared for Atlantic Ten play. The transfers that La Salle brought in each averaged less than two points a game on their previous teams. I am also worried about the frontcourt depth that La Salle lacks. They only have four frontcourt players, and two are transfers. This lack of experience in the frontline will hurt them against teams of significant size like St. Joseph’s and George Washington. Losing Beatty hurts them offensively and loses a player who had big-game experience.

13. Fordham University Rams

Key returners:  Jalen-cobb, Kyle Rose, Josh Navarro 

Key losses: Chris Austin. Joel SorianoTy Perry

Key newcomers: Darius QuisenberryAntonio Daye Jr Rostyslav Novitskyi

Fordham is a highly new team this season; they only have four total returning players. With so many newcomers and losing their top two scorers Austin and Soriano, from last year, this year may be a struggle for the Rams. However, there is some hope, Darius Quiesenberry averaged 17.5 points at Youngstown State last season, and Antonio Daye averaged 17.1 at FIU. These two players can help transform this team this season. However, I am worried about their lack of size on this roster. They only have three players above 6-5 on their roster. This size deficiency will hurt them in conference play. Picking up some great transfers is a good start, but this team must find more scoring from the rest of the roster to contend in this conference.

12. Rhode Island Rams

Key returners: Jeremy Sheppard, Antwan Walker, Makhel Mitchell

Key losses: Fatts Russell, D.J. Johnson, Jermaine Harris

Key newcomers: Ishmael El-Amin, Parnell Pierre, Sebastian Thomas

Rhode Island lost a significant amount of scoring this offseason when Fatts Russell transferred to Maryland. Russell was their most experienced scorer and best player last season. However, the acquisition of Ishmael El-Amin will help fill this void. El-Amin averaged 16.4 points per game at Ball State last season. Rhode Island has three returners in Sheppard, Walker, and Mitchell that should help their continuity throughout the year. The Rams lack size this season; they only have two players above 6-7. This size deficiency will hurt them against bigger teams. Rhode Island has created a very weak non-conference schedule this year. The best team they will face is in-state rival Providence. This easy schedule worries me for when they play Atlantic 10 basketball. This schedule also makes it challenging to build a resume for the NCAA tournament.

11. Duquesne University Dukes

Key returners: Toby Okani

Key losses: Marcus Weathers, Michael Hughes, Tavian Dunn-Martin

Key newcomers: Leon Ayers III, Kevin Easley, Amir “Primo” Spears

Duquesne has a young roster that only includes two seniors who are transfers, an extreme lack of experience that worries me greatly. They lost their top three scorers, Marcus Weathers, Michael Hughes, Tavian Dunn-Martin, and! Without this scoring punch, Duquesne will struggle to put points on the board this season. The addition of Leon Ayers is an excellent asset at the guard spot, but he played for a subpar conference last season. Primo averaged 21 points in high school and has a high basketball IQ. Thanks to these two players, Duquesne should have a strong backcourt this season. The problem will be in the frontcourt; the loss of Michael Hughes, who averaged ten points a game, is challenging to replace. They will need a breakout season from Mounir Hima to give themselves a shot to contend.

10. St. Joseph’s University Hawks

Key returners: Taylor Funk, Jordan Hall, Cameron Brown

Key losses: Ryan Daly, Greg Foster Jr 

Key newcomers: Ejike Obinna, Charles Coleman, Kacper Klaczek

St. Joseph’s is an improving team this year. Last year they won three league games and were in 13th place. Thanks to the acquisitions of Coleman and Obinna, they have an elite size. The Hawks also bring back second-leading scorer Taylor Funk, who averaged 17 points per game last season. Funk was the leading three-point shooter last year as well. The most significant loss from last season is Ryan Daly. Daly averaged 18.5 points per game last year and was a leader for the Hawks that they could trust. This team only has two seniors, a lack of big-game experience that will hurt them in conference play. Thanks to the Wooden Legacy Classic, they play a decent schedule, including USC, Georgetown, and San Diego State. This tournament will expose the Hawks to the tough competition needed to contend in Atlantic 10 basketball.

9. George Washington University Colonials

Key returners: James Bishop, Ricky Lindo

Key losses: Jamison Battle, Matthew Moyer, Jameer Nelson Jr.

Key newcomers: Brendan Adams, Tyler Warner, Laziz Talipov

This season, George Washington has elite size with four players 6-9 or taller, making them difficult to guard on the inside including, Ricky Lindo, who averaged eleven points per game last season. The loss of Jamison Battle will hurt, but they brought in Tyler Warner to help make up for that loss. Their schedule is weak, but they do have Maryland on it. This game against the Terps is the biggest test on their schedule. Aside from that game, they play a lot of subpar opponents. Therefore, they will not have enough big-game experience heading into conference play. Their size will help offset some of this experience, but it won’t solve their issues. Their backcourt may struggle at times because Bishop is the only experienced guard on their roster. Without good guard play, the bigs will struggle to get the ball and not achieve their potential.

8. Massachusetts Minutemen

Key returners: Javohn Garcia, T.J. Weeks, Noah Fernandes

Key losses: Tre Mitchell, Carl Pierre, Ronnie Degray III

Key newcomers: Trent Buttrick, Greg Jones, C.J. Kelly

The Minutemen are primed for a middle of the pack season in the A-10 this year. UMass lost their two top scorers from a year ago, which includes Tre Mitch and Carl Pierre. In contrast, they returned three players who scored at least nine points per game last season. Buttrick, Jones, and Kelly have an opportunity to play a significant role. Buttrick gives UMass big-game experience from the big ten, which will help the Minutemen through some adversity. The biggest issue is their schedule. The Minutemen’s most significant challenge is Rutgers. This subpar schedule will make it difficult for them to be ready for conference play.

7. Davidson Wildcats

Key returners: Hyunjung Lee, Luka Brajkovic

Key losses: Kellan Grady, Carter Collins

Key newcomers: Styrmir Thrastarson, Desmond Watson 

Davidson is coming off of a good year where they ended at 7-4 in conference play. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Kellan Grady’s and Carter Collins’s departures mean they have to replace 27 points per game. However, some of that production will come from Lee and Brajkovic, but they will need others to step up. Davidson has a decent amount of size, but their biggest problem is scoring.  Newcomers like Watson and Tharstarson will be thrown into the fire early to see what they got. Davidson has a weak schedule; their only big games are the Myrtle Beach Invitational, where they will play New Mexico State, Utah State or Penn, and maybe Oklahoma. This tournament is not enough for them to be ready for Atlantic 10 basketball. Despite that, Davidson has the talent and coaching to surprise some people and can make a run if they get hot in March.

6. Saint Louis Billikens

Key returners: Gibson Jimerson, Marten Linssen

Key losses: Jordan Goodwin, Hasahn French, Javonte Perkins (ACL tear)

Key newcomers: Rashad Williams, DeAndre Jones, Jordan Nesbitt

Saint Louis has a few early tests against Memphis, Boise State, Boston College, and Auburn, which will help determine how good this team is.  They lost two double-digit scorers from last season. Furthermore, huge news yesterday, as Javonte Perkins tore his ACL! This injury will cost the Billikens dearly and lower their projection. Perkins, who averaged 17 points a game last season, was crucial for this team to remain competitive. Transfers Rashad Williams and DeAndre Jones will be critical factors in their success this season. The one weakness I notice is size. There is no one on their roster over 6 foot 8. This lack of height will hurt them against teams like Richmond and St. Bonaventure. Without Perkins and their top two scorers, this team will have a tough time getting on a run, staying in the middle of the conference.

5. Dayton Flyers

Key returners: Mustapha Amzil, Elijah Weaver

Key losses: Jalen Crutcher, Ibi Watson, Rodney Chatman, Chase Johnson

Key newcomers: Toumani Camara, Lynn Greer III, Kaleb Washington

The Flyers are a younger team that only has one senior who barely played throughout his career. However, I am encouraged by the acquisition of Toumani Camara from Georgia because he averaged 12 points a game in the SEC. Camara is vital to their success because the Flyers do not have a lot of size on their roster. Additionally, if Camara gets into foul trouble, the Flyers could find themselves in a tricky situation. The losses of Crutcher, Watson, and Johnson will be tough to replace; together, they add up to about 46 points per game. Lynn Greer averaged 18 points per game in high school; he should be a suitable replacement for Watson. Washington is a good frontcourt player that will help Camara down low. Dayton is participating in the ESPN Events invitational, where they could play Miami and Kansas. This tournament will help prepare them for A-10 play.

4. George Mason Patriots

Key returners: Josh Oduro, Jamal Hartwell II 

Key losses: Jordan Miller. Javon Greene, Tyler Kolek

Key newcomers: DeVon Cooper, Davonte Gaines, Mike Gray

The Patriots are a good team in this conference; the question is can they take that next step. George Mason built a problematic non-conference slate that includes Maryland, Washington, Nevada, and Georgia. These four games are one of the reasons I am higher on George Mason than some of the others in this conference. They lost three double-digit scorers from last season in Miller, Greene, and Kolek. In contrast, the acquisitions of Devon Cooper and Mike Gray should help offset some of that production. Cooper is a transfer from Morehead State that made the tournament last season. I could see them making a surprise entrance in the dance, although it would take some help from the top teams. This team also has four seniors or grad transfers with considerable conference experience to help this team maintain their poise in close games.

3. VCU Rams

Key returners: Vince Williams Jr., Adrian Baldwin Jr. Levi Stockard III

Key losses: Nah’Shon Hyland, Jamir Watkins (ACL tear)

Key newcomers: Marcus Tsohonis, Jayden Nunn, Jimmy Nichols Jr.

The Rams had an excellent year last year, finishing second in the A-10. VCU has a challenging schedule that includes the Battle for Atlantis. Their coach Mike Rhodes has a 65.5 percent win percentage for his career. Thanks to Rhodes, I am confident that this team can persevere. However, the loss of Nah’Shon Hyland, who averaged 19 points per game last year, will be challenging to replace. In the transfer wire, they picked up Tsohonis. Tsohonis is a transfer from Washington, where he averaged double figures last season. In addition, freshman Jayden Nunn averaged 21 points in high school; if he can average half of that this season, the Rams will have a chance to succeed again.  They only have one player 6-9 or taller. As a result, they have trouble matching up with Richmond’s Grant Golden during the A-10 conference play.

2. St. Bonaventure Bonnies

Key returners: Kyle Lofton, Jaren Holmes, Jalen Adaway, Osun Osunniyi

Key losses: none!

Key newcomers: Oluwasegun Durosinmi, Anouar Mellouk, Brett Rumpel

The Bonnies had an excellent year last season, making the tournament before a loss to LSU. They do not lose any one of significance from that roster. The signings of Durosinmi and Rumpel are very impressive and should help improve their depth at multiple positions. Not to mention that the Bonnies bring back all four double-figure scorers from last year’s tournament team. Despite being the only ranked team in the conference, their schedule is somewhat suspect. However, they do play Uconn and Virginia Tech, but they are not participating in any tournaments. Without tournament participation, they may not be ready for A-10 play. The Bonnies have a towering frontline that will be hard to match up with, including two players at 6 foot 10. SBU is a team that could win the A-10 and makes a run in the tournament if they have the right draw.

1. Richmond Spiders

Key returners: Jacob Gilyard, Tyler Burton, Nathan Cayo, Grant Golden 

Key losses: Blake Francis

Key newcomers: Jason Nelson, Marcus Randolph, Malcolm Dread

Richmond is the only complete team in the Atlantic ten. The Spiders have the most intimidating frontline, with Golden as the centerpiece of their offense and elite guard play with Gilyard and Cayo. They have taken full advantage of the COVID year with seven graduate students on their roster. The Spiders are one of the most experienced teams in the country. The acquisitions of Jason Nelson and Malcolm Dread will help increase their depth at the guard position and make up for the loss of Blake Francis. Richmond has a solid non-conference schedule that includes Louisville, Utah State, Maryland, and NC State. These games will prepare the Spiders for A-10 play. Their strength of schedule puts the Spiders ahead of St Bonaventure as my favorite in the conference. The Spiders have all the tools necessary to win the conference and make a deep run in this year’s NCAA tournament.

Atlantic 10 Basketball Award predictions

Atlantic 10 Basketball Player of the Year: Grant Golden, Richmond

Golden averaged 12.6 points and six rebounds per game last year. He is the best frontcourt player in the conference, and he will perform in big games. As the best player on the only complete team, Golden gets my nod.

Atlantic 10 Basketball Rookie of the Year: Brett Rumpel, St. Bonaventure

Rumpel averaged 35 points and nine rebounds per game in high school, and he has the potential to put the Bonnies over the top this season. He will give them incredible depth at the guard position and be a good sixth man for them to trust.

Atlantic 10 Basketball Coach of the Year: Kim English George Mason University

In light of the ACL tear of Perkins, I had to change my vote. The Patriots are a much-improved team. Their transfers Cooper and Gaines, afford them great tournament experience that will help them in conference play. Cooper averaged 16.4 points at Ball State, and Gaines was an excellent defensive player at Tennessee. Their schedule is hugely challenging this season which makes a case for English stronger. This team has a great collection of young talent that can mature into a title contender. If English can get his team to gel and get a few big non-conference wins, they will have a great chance to surprise everyone and ensure their coach receives the recognition he deserves.

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