Next year is now. While there will be a few more changes to the look of next year’s A-10 (added recruits, a transfer here and there, perhaps a coaching change), here is the quickest of snapshots of next year’s teams.
DAYTON – The Flyers lose all-conference forward Dyshawn Pierre but return a loaded team that should once again compete for a conference championship. Consider this: Dayton played without a suspended Pierre their first 11 games this season and went 9-2 with wins over the likes of Iowa, Vanderbilt (on the road), Alabama and Monmouth. Dayton is going to be extremely dangerous and will be one of the team’s expected to raise the A-10’s RPI with a strong non-conference showing.
VCU – The Rams lose two of their best scorers in Melvin Johnson and Korey Billbury but return a ton of talent including senior versions of JeQuan Lewis and Mo Alie-Cox. Both should dominate. The biggest challenge will be replacing Johnson’s shooting but look for extra minutes to to fall into the lap of a guy like Justin Tillman, who while not a three-point shooter like Johnson, presents other problems for A-10 opponents (Tillman led the conference in offensive rating this past season). VCU will look different but should be very good and a likely top-three preseason pick.
ST. BONAVENTURE – The Bonnies lose two of their top-three players in Marcus Posley and Dion Wright, an inside-out duo responsible for about half of St. Bonaventure’s shots this season. Jaylen Adams returns as one of the best players in the conference with a solid supporting cast and as long as they are coached by Mark Schmidt, will always be a threat. They’ll be a tough road game for the Rams next season but I’ll be surprised if they finish tied for first against next season.
SAINT JOSEPH’S – Much of Saint Joseph’s 2016-17 success will depend on whether or not A-10 Player of the Year DeAndre’ Bembry returns for his senior season. An early draft entry and that’s three huge losses that would be sure to knock the Hawks back a notch, already losing Isaiah Miles and Aaron Brown (28.5 points between the two of them), as well as Papa Ndao, one of SJU’s best three-point shooters (and a 6’8). If Bembry declares the Hawks probably fall back to the middle of the pack despite some talented young players.
GEORGE WASHINGTON – Hard to believe Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald are about to FINALLY GRADUATE (sheesh, I feel like I was covering those guys back in our CAA days). Add in Alex Mitola and GW has a ton of holes to fill. Tyler Cavanough will return as one of the most effective bigs in the conference, but will no longer have Garino and Larsen next to him to draw attention of opposing defenses. I expect GW to take a step back in production but not sure there are many A-10 teams ready to cruise past them.
DAVIDSON – Gone are Brian Sullivan and Jordan Barham, two capable seniors who I honestly expected more from this season. Returning however is the extremely talented Jack Gibbs and the very underrated Peyton Aldridge (who for my money is one of the best and most versatile bigs in this conference). Sullivan’s graduation brings a farewell to the Cats’ only 40% three-point shooter, as well as a ton of leadership, but with Gibbs and Aldridge as well as some talented young players and 6’11 Boston College transfer, Will Magarity, I think the Cats could take a step forward next season.
RHODE ISLAND – The Rhody Rams had about as unlucky of a season as a team could ask for. After catching some first place preseason votes, star guard EC Matthews saw his season end 10 minutes into URI’s first game. Rhody was average without Matthews after finishing in the top-four the previous season with him, then added insult to injury with yet another injury, this time to star big Hassan Martin, but heading into March so very late in the season. The Rams biggest loss next year will be the graduation of deep-ball shootin’ Four McGlynn, but outside of him should return a dangerous squad who will be hungry for some wins. I expect the Rams to be a top-three preseason pick.
FORDHAM – The Rams put together one of their best seasons in a while, finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2007. While I love both A-10 Rookie of the Year Joseph Chartouney (Fordham’s Briante Weber) and Christian Sengfelder, the loss of big man Ryan Rhoomes is a killer for a team like Fordham who at this point doesn’t collect players like that very easily. Mandell Thomas graduates and the Rams will now lose Jon Severe to transfer as well. I expect Fordham to keep up an overall program improvement but my take a step back in terms of wins next season. They are headed in the right direction though.
RICHMOND – What the heck happened with these guys? I picked the Spiders top-four in my A-10 preseason poll, only to see them finish four games below .500 in conference play. While I love the addition of freshman DeMonte Buckingham (still think he should’ve been a Ram), losing Terry Allen will be a killer for a team already thin in the paint. Add in the graduations of Deion Taylor and Tre Davis and the Spiders have some real work to do. TJ Cline and ShawnDre Jones are two very talented returnees and Kwan Fore has nice potential, but I ask you, who on their team is guarding Mo Alie-Cox and Justin Tillman? Who?
DUQUESNE – Micah Mason is gone, Derrick Colter is gone, combine the two and you’ve just seen 195 made threes from this past season move on. The Dukes lost eight of their last nine A-10 games, oddly enough winning the last game of their season at Saint Joseph’s, preventing the Hawks from winning a share of this year’s A-10 title while also bumping VCU down to the No.2 seed. To make matters worse, the Dukes will lose talented sophomore TySean Powell to transfer and graduate Jeremiah Jones, who saw his career end prior to A-10 play with a torn ACL. The Dukes were 10-2 with Jones in the lineup. Expect another rough year for Jim Ferry and Duquesne.
UMASS – These guys. UMass was pretty terrible for much of this season yet somehow managed to shock the Rams in Amherst. They’ll graduate guards Trey Davis and Jabarie Hinds, two very important pieces on this year’s team, as well as two 6’9 bigs in Antwon Space and Tyler Bergantino, but will bring in arguably the best recruiting class in the Atlantic 10. That said, the Minutemen are still a few years away and shouldn’t do much damage in next year’s Atlantic 10.
GEORGE MASON – Mason fans want to believe in the youth movement with guys like Otis Livingston, Jaire Grayer and DeAndre Abram. After a 5-13 conference finish, that somewhow, someway, included a home win over VCU, Mason’s young guards will have to grow up real quick or they could have an even worse season next year. Why? Well because 6’11 Shevon Thompson, one of the nation’s best rebounders and Mason’s monster in the paint, is gone. Thompson is such an underrated piece for Mason and I think they really struggle without him, making it hard for the Patriots to improve on this year’s 5-13 conference mark. But who knows, maybe they surprise us all.
SAINT LOUIS – The Billikens graduate Villanova transfer Ash Yacoubou but return everyone else from a bad team. Everyone else but their coach, that is. Jim Crews got the axe during this year’s A-10 tournament in stunning fashion. Someone will inherit a nice program but a bad team. SLU should be a bit better than this previous season but don’t expect them to climb out of the bottom half of the league just yet.
LA SALLE – Here’s the bad news: La Salle returns basically everyone from a really bad team. Here’s the good news: They also add a bunch of high-major transfers. BJ Johnson (Syracuse) and Rashawn “Pookie” Powell (Memphis) were both top-100 recruits out of high school who have found their way to the Explorers. They’ll team up with fellow former top-100, Jordan Price (Auburn transfer) as well as South Carolina transfer Demetrius Henry. Outside of Price however, none have had any real D1 success. On paper though La Salle adds talent and options. They should be better. Will they be surprisingly good? Tough to say. That’s what happens with a surprise. But it’ll certainly be hard for them to be much worse. Be glad these guys are playing at the Siegel Center next year and don’t get VCU in Philly because they could see a big improvement.