College Basketball Preview: Atlantic 10 set for its biggest year ever?
The A-10 is loaded this year. It's so loaded, in fact, that Xavier could finish in the bottom half of the league. With the addition of Butler and VCU, it's a conference that could legitimately get a half-dozen teams into the NCAA tournament this season. And the A-10 tournament should get plenty of pub since it's in the brand-new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
|Shaka Smart and VCU are new to the A10 this year, as is Butler. The league is as good as ever now. (US Presswire)|
The A-10 is loaded this year. It's so loaded, in fact, that Xavier Musketeers could finish in the bottom half of the league. With the addition of Butler Bulldogs and VCU Rams , it's a conference that could legitimately get a half-dozen teams into the NCAA tournament this season. Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart will be far more relevant throughout conference play nowadays -- and the A-10 tournament should get plenty of pub since it's in the brand-new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. This could be a banner season for the Atlantic 10 -- all the way around.
Last year's regular-season winners: Temple Owls
Last year's tournament winner: St. Bonaventure Bonnies
Conference tournament: March 14-17 (Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Ten best non-conference games:
1. Indiana vs. Butler in Indianapolis (Dec. 15)
2. Xavier vs. Cincinnati (Dec. 19)
3. Alabama at VCU (Dec. 15)
4. Gonzaga at Butler (Jan. 19)
5. Temple at Kansas, Jan. 6
6. Duke vs. Temple at the Izod Center in Newark, N.J. (Dec. 8)
7. Temple vs. Syracuse at Madison Square Garden, N.Y. (Dec. 22)
8. Saint Joseph's at Creighton Bluejays (Dec.1)
9. New Mexico at Saint Louis Billikens (Dec. 31)
10. Miami at Massachusetts Minutemen (Dec. 1)
What I like: A-10's one-year circumstance, the new coaches, the best shooter in hoops.
Why: This is a loaded league, especially this year since Temple isn't off to the Big East until 2013-14. Commissioner Bernadette McGlade added Butler and VCU -- and there are already four of five teams that will have the opportunity to compete for an NCAA tournament bid. You've got Temple, Butler, VCU, Saint Joe's, Saint Louis and UMass in the top tier, but don't discount Dayton Flyers , La Salle Explorers , Richmond Spiders or even a young Xavier team. This year should be highly entertaining and competitive in a league that could set a record come March.
The coaching contingent -- With the addition of Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart, there is no shortage of terrific coaches in this league -- some old, some new. Phil Martelli and Fran Dunphy are the vets while guys like Stevens, Smart, Chris Mack, Archie Miller, Chris Mooney, Derek Kellogg, Dan Hurley and Mark Schmidt are all rising young coaches. You can't forget about guys like John Giannini, Tom Pecora, Mike Lonergan, Jim Ferry and Alan Major. This league is loaded with quality coaches.
|The Temple/St. Joe's intra-league rivalry will cease to be after this year, when the Owls go Big East. (US Presswire)|
Rotnei Clarke -- He's the best shooter in the entire country and he's back on the court after sitting out last season. Clarke only has one year left after spending three seasons at Arkansas, and he'll make the conversion to the point guard spot under Stevens. I can't wait to see Clarke at Hinkle Fieldhouse. It's the ideal marriage.
What I don't like: Rick Majerus' absence, a weakened Xavier, Temple's exodus.
Why: That Majerus will be spending much of the season in the hospital and not on the sidelines. I know he's got his detractors, but Majerus is going through some serious health issues and won't return this season -- and maybe won't return to the sidelines ever again. That's sad and we wish Majerus the best in his recovering from heart issues.
Xavier is down. Really down. The Musketeers lost Tu Holloway and Kenny Frease to graduation, then parted ways with Mark Lyons -- who will finish his career at Arizona. Then Dez Wells, the team's top returning player, was kicked out of school after rape allegations that never turned into anything more than allegations. Wells landed at Maryland -- and Xavier has landed towards the bottom of the league, an unfamiliar place for the Musketeers.
Temple is leaving. Dunphy and the Owls are in their final go-around in the A-10. In six seasons at the helm, Dunphy has a 134-65 overall mark, has gone to five consecutive NCAA tournaments and has finished either first or second in the league in each of the past five seasons. While the league is excited to add Stevens and Smart, Dunphy is one of the classiest and most underrated guys in the game.
Player of the Year will be: Khalif Wyatt (Temple). It's a safe pick. Dunphy is a heck of a coach and even though the Owls lost Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez, Temple still has enough to repeat as the regular-season champs. Wyatt averaged 17.1 points per game last season and could put up 20 per contest this year.
The next best five:
Rotnei Clarke (Butler)
Chaz Williams (UMass)
Kwamain Mitchell (Saint Louis)
Kevin Dillard (Dayton)
Chris Braswell ( Charlotte 49ers )
And the five after that:
Carl Jones ( Saint Joseph's Hawks )
Chris Gaston ( Fordham Rams )
Langston Galloway (Saint Joseph's)
Darien Brothers (Richmond)
Best freshman: Semaj Christon (Xavier). Part of the reason is because the kid is talented -- and it's also because Chris Mack and the Musketeers are going to need him to be the focal point immediately after losing so much production in the offseason.
Previously in previews:
No. 8 -- Mountain West
No. 9 -- Missouri Valley
No. 10 -- Conference USA
No. 11 -- West Coast
No. 12 -- Western Athletic
No. 13 -- Colonial
No. 14 -- Horizon League
No. 15 -- The Ivy League
No. 16 -- Summit League
No. 17 -- MAC
No. 18 -- Atlantic Sun
No. 19 -- Sun Belt
No. 20 -- MAAC
No. 21 -- Patriot League
No. 22 -- Ohio Valley
No. 23 -- Big West
No. 24 -- SoCon
No. 25 -- NEC
No. 26 -- Big South
No. 27 -- Southland
No. 28 -- Big Sky
No. 29 -- America East
No. 30 -- MEAC
No. 31 -- Great West
No. 32 -- SWAC
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