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October 26, 2009

League preview: Atlantic 10

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Dayton
2. Xavier
3. La Salle
4. Richmond
5. Duquesne
6. Temple
7. Charlotte
8. Rhode Island
9. Saint Joseph's
10. Massachusetts
11. Saint Louis
12. St. Bonaventure
13. George Washington
14. Fordham
PRESEASON PICKS
First team
F Lavoy Allen, 6-9/225, Jr., Temple
F Chris Wright, 6-8/226, Jr., Dayton
G Kevin Anderson, 6-0/175, Jr., Richmond
G Jordan Crawford, 6-4/195, Soph., Xavier
G Rodney Green, 6-5/205, Sr., LaSalle
Second team
F Damian Saunders, 6-7/210, Jr., Duquesne
F Shamari Spears, 6-6/238, Jr., Charlotte
G Ricky Harris, 6-2/175, Sr., Massachusetts
G Marcus Johnson, 6-3/200, Sr., Dayton
G David Gonzalvez, 6-4/200, Sr., Richmond
Player of the Year
G Chris Wright, 6-8/226, Jr., Dayton
Newcomer of the Year
F/C Jordan Crawford, 6-4/195, Soph., Xavier
AT A GLANCE
Regular-season winner last season: Xavier
Tournament winner last season: Temple (lost in first round of NCAA tournament to Arizona State as a No. 11 seed)
2010 conference tournament: March 11-14. Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, N.J.
New coach: Chris Mack, Xavier
Best frontcourt: Dayton.
Best backcourt: Richmond.
Coach on the rise: Chris Mooney, Richmond.
Last NCAA title team: None (La Salle won it all in 1954 but wasn't a league member)
Last NCAA runner-up: None (Dayton finished second in 1967 but wasn't a league member)
Last Final Four appearance: Massachusetts, 1996
Last time league received multiple NCAA bids: 2009
Today, we continue our conference countdown. We're working backward, from our No. 31 league to the top league in the nation.

We started with the low-major leagues, unveiling three per day, and the mid-major leagues, unveiling two per day. Each of the top 12 leagues gets a day to itself. .

Don't tell the rest of the Atlantic 10 about Xavier's run of success despite coaching changes.

League contenders hope the departure of coach Sean Miller, who led the Musketeers to the past three A-10 regular-season titles, to Arizona opens the door for their programs to take a turn atop the league standings. Never mind that coaching changes - from Pete Gillen to Skip Prosser to Thad Matta to Miller - haven't fazed the Musketeers one bit.

Xavier has played in the NCAA tournament eight times since 2000. That's twice as many appearances as anyone else in the conference.

The most likely usurper is Dayton, who returns four starters and the league's top player in Chris Wright from a team that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. But La Salle, Richmond and Duquesne have the experience and the firepower to contend.

PROGRAM ON THE RISE
Dayton: The returns of Chris Wright and Marcus Johnson make Dayton the preseason favorite. An NCAA tournament first-round upset of West Virginia shows the Flyers can do some damage with their style of play.

PROGRAM ON THE DECLINE
Saint Joseph's: The Hawks couldn't make the postseason last season with A-10 player of the year Ahmad Nivins. With limited experience returning, how will they win games without Nivins this season?

COACH ON THE HOT SEAT
Charlotte's Bobby Lutz. School officials have said it's time for Charlotte to be one of the top teams in the league. The 49ers were one of the top teams in Conference USA, but they've become an afterthought in the A-10.

BIGGEST SNEAKERS TO FILL
Guard Dionte Christmas, Temple: Christmas was the league's leading scorer and often came up big for the Owls, who have been to the past two NCAA tournaments. It will take a group effort to replace his production.

MOST OVERRATED PLAYER
Guard Ricky Harris, Massachusetts: Harris turned in a fine season, finishing second in the league in scoring. But he often plays out of control and needs to become a more well-rounded player.

MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER
Guard London Warren, Dayton: Dayton has been one of the league's best defensive teams the past two seasons, and part of the reason is the dreadlocked Warren. He doesn't score much, but he's quick and aggressive on defense. He also had 154 assists last season.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.



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