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October 26, 2011
We continue with our league breakdowns for the upcoming season; we'll work backward from league No. 32 to our top-ranked league.
The breakdowns will become more in-depth as the leagues get bigger.
7. ATLANTIC 10
Go ahead, try to project the Atlantic 10.
In each of the past four seasons, Temple and Xavier have represented the A-10 in the NCAA tournament. The third tournament-bound A-10 team in the past four seasons has been a revolving door: Richmond in each of the past two seasons, Dayton in 2009 and Saint Joseph's in 2008. Expect the revolving door to spin again this season.
Xavier returns the top three scorers off last season's team, which finished 15-1 in the Atlantic 10. The only conference loss was, shockingly, to 13th-place Charlotte. The Musketeers will have one of the best backcourts in the country, led by Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons. The lingering issue is if returning starter Kenny Frease and a handful of newcomers, such as Monmouth transfer Travis Taylor and freshmen Justin Martin and Dezmine Wells, can produce in the frontcourt.
As with Xavier, Temple has plenty of backcourt experience with Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore returning along with Khalif Wyatt, the reigning A-10 sixth man of the year. Mainstay Lavoy Allen is gone in the frontcourt, but the Owls will be fine if guys Scootie Randall and Michael Eric can stay healthy.
That's where the certainty in the A-10 ends.
Saint Louis was a team to watch going into last season, but the Billikens suspended F Willie Reed and G Kwamain Mitchell for the season. Mitchell, who averaged 15.9 points per game in 2009-10, is eligible this season, and he returns to a team with all five starters back. Then again, that team went 12-19.
George Washington also gets back a key player, but from injury, not a suspension. Lasan Kromah, who had a standout freshman season, returns from a season-long foot injury and will team with prolific G Tony Taylor. The Colonials went 10-6 in the A-10 last season, but still replaced coach Karl Hobbs with Vermont's Mike Lonergan.
Another coaching change occurred at Dayton, where Arizona assistant Archie Miller, the brother of former Xavier coach Sean Miller, takes over for Brian Gregory, who left for Georgia Tech. Miller will deal with roster turnover, but that might not be a bad thing - the group that's leaving was one of the most confounding rosters in the league. He'll rebuild around veteran F Chris Johnson and Kevin Dillard, who was a standout point guard at Southern Illinois in 2009-10.
Saint Bonaventure F Andrew Nicholson will be one of the top players in the A-10 after averaging 20.8 points and 7.3 rebounds. He has drawn the attention of NBA scouts, but it remains to be seen if he has enough talent around him for the Bonnies to finish in the top half of the league.
The big question for the middle portion of the league is how Richmond and Duquesne handle major losses. No team loses more than the Spiders, who must replace four starters from the team that won the A-10 tournament and reached the Sweet 16. Duquesne loses standouts Damian Saunders and Bill Clark, but the Dukes are prepared to build around G T.J. McConnell, who was one of the league's best point men as a freshman.
Saint Joseph's and Charlotte struggled last season, but they have enough returning players to make some noise. G Carl Jones averaged 17 points per game for St. Joe's, and fellow guard Langston Galloway is one of the A-10's rising stars. At Charlotte, F Chris Braswell and G Derrio Green form a solid inside-outside duo. Somehow, this team found a way to beat Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Xavier, but still went 2-14 in the league.
ALL-ATLANTIC 10 FIRST TEAM
ORDER OF FINISH
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