Early Thoughts on the A10, A Different Perspective

by Rogabee

Since Steve gave his thoughts on early A10 prediction tiers, I'll chime in with mine and a quick little write-up on each team.

Tier 1:  SLU.

The league's defending champs return a load of talent, losing only Brian Conklin of significant value.  Kwamain Mitchell, Cody Ellis, Dwayne Evans, McCall, Jett, Remekun, etc. are all solid players if not stars in the A10, coached by one of the nation's best.  I don't see anyone else touching SLU.  I disagree with Steve and think this SLU team is not only a top 25 team, but also a Sweet 16 team if they can avoid a rough S16 matchup.

Tier 2:  UMass, Temple, SJU, VCU

Temple.  Steve mentioned they get Dalton Pepper in and mentioned other graduations, but also forgot to mention they get Scootie Randall back, and I don't see Temple out of the top 5 by any stretch.  Cummings at PG seemed like a player even though he didn't play much last year.  Temple also has a top 150 recruit at the 4.  A fivesome of Wyatt, Hollis-Jefferson, Randall, Cummings, and Pepper should be the makings of a potentially excellent A10 team without a hole in the top 5 or at the head coaching position.

UMass.  They have Chaz and the most athletic team in the A10 as well as perhaps the deepest.  However, Kellogg is still too much of a question for me to place them in a tier with SLU, as does their FT shooting with nobody on the team above 80% last year. 

VCU.  VCU has struggled on the road some in CAA play, losing to seemingly a couple teams they should have been 10+ points better than on a neutral floor every year, and winning 1-2 more games solely because CAA opponents got worn down with VCU's pace, which won't happen in the A10.  As Dukes fans know, life on the road in the A10 is an absolute nightmare, and I fully expect some regression on the road.  Combine that with the huge loss of Burgess, and I see VCU struggling some despite the early top 25 predictions in some magazines.

SJU.  Their young guys are finally getting experience and strength, as Carl Jones, Galloway, and Aiken are becoming a great trio.  If Roberts comes off the bench again, he would be my favorite for 6th man of the year.  However, an overall lack of depth separates them from the likes of St. Louis IMO.

Tier 3:  Xavier, Dayton

Xavier.  While it pains me to put Xavier this low, I just don't see enough talent outside of Dez Wells to put the Muskies in the top 5 in the A10.  And this is coming from someone who puts X first almost every year.  Last year I also think Mack lost his team before the brawl, not just after, as X was playing a lot of an NBA style 1-on-1 rather than team ball and we all saw that they looked beatable after.  While they have the best recruiting class int the A10, I'm worried in part because their aura of invincibility at the top is over.  Now what?  I could see an NIT-style season.

Dayton.  I disagree with Steve about Dayton being a potential top 4 A10 team, and see them as 6-7th in the A10 and further behind than most think.  The loss of Chris Johnson will hurt, as it will leave Dillard not only as the primary offensive weapon, but perhaps the only one.  The next best players returning from last year's team are Josh Benson (if he's healthy after his knee injury and can stay healthy after), Paul Williams, and Matt Kavanaugh.  I'm not sold on any of those guys, though I admit I haven't looked at how Vee Sanford (a Georgetown transfer) plays or fits into Miller's system as he played little at Georgetown.  I just don't see the depth the others in the tier above have to put Dayton up there, with the only thing that separates Dayton from GW and La Salle and SBU being Dillard.  The couple games Dillard gets  in foul trouble UD could be in trouble.

Tier 4:  La Salle, Richmond, GW, St. Bona

Richmond.  Mooney redshirted many of his recruits last year to get them some strength, and while he took a hit with it last year it could pay some dividends for the next few.  I do like Kendall Anthony, Cedrick Lindsay, and Brothers.  Steve and I vastly disagree on Derrick Williams, who I think will be a huge contributor and possible A10 third teamer, which will give the Spiders four quality players IMO.  The question is how will the redshirted recruits from last year perform.  They're a huge wild card team that could potentially get a bye or at the bottom of this tier.

La Salle.  Earl Pettis did a lot more for the Explorers than a lot of people gave him credit for in addition to being their leading scorer.  Yes, Ramon Galloway, Duren, Mills, and Jerrell Wright are all solid players, but likely whoever plays along with them will be exposed, as I didn't see anyone else that looked like they played decent D to where they wouldn't be a target for opposing offenses.  Bench depth also looks suspect.

GW.  With Armwood coming in, and an extremely highly rated incoming class as well, look for GW to surprise some people and move up into this tier.  It's not just Armwood and Pellom in the post Steve, as Dwayne Smith in my opinion would start on at least half of A10 teams.  Yes, their PG play may be suspect, but their interior should put them up a class from the others.  And with experience, come the second half of the year GW could be a very tough out.

SBU.  Steve and I disagree about Nicholson's impact here.  The Bonnies went 10-6 with Nicholson, and their game at DU last year showed a lot about what happens when Nicholson isn't in the lineup or was mentally checked out.  Also many are discounting how much defenses focused on Nicholson allowing the others on St. Bona's teams to be open.  I'm expecting around a 6-10, 5-11 season here.  I also don't like the longterm extension for Schmidt right after last season, as I'd rather have Schmidt prove it without Nicholson before giving him money and the chance to possibly relax for a year or two.

Tier 5:  Fordham, Charlotte, Rhode Island, Duquesne

Duquesne.  We know their story.  Unfortunately, I think they belong in the bottom four and will be competing just to make the A10 postseason.

Charlotte.  Major as a coach has disappointed me, particularly with the lack of defense and discipline.  The difference between Charlotte and DU and URI is that Charlotte seemingly has a difference maker that none of the others have in Braswell, but also perhaps more non-A10 caliber players than a team like Duquesne.  Given Charlotte's apparent lack of any type of outside shooting going into the season, Charlotte may be zoned to death in or at a minimum have the paint clogged against them.

Fordham.  Pecora is building a better program.  However, like Steve said, the rest of the bottom of the A10 also seems up, and Pecora isn't being given much help in terms of administrative support.  Combine that with Fordham is seemingly a tougher sell to recruits than most A10 schools given their history and facilities (not just Rose Hill but the general the lack of fan support, weight rooms, locker rooms, etc.) from what I've been told.  I do like what Pecora's doing, but I don't think he gets out of the bottom rung anytime soon.

Rhode Island.  Hurley will likely be a coaching upgrade over Baron.  The team returns IMO more talent than last year's team.  However, the question is whether it returns nearly enough, which I don't think it does...