A few weeks back, Blackburn gave some quick, early thoughts on the A10. With finals week upon us and Wednesday TV being so terrible, there is no better time to fire up the SEO headline machine and give some random thoughts. These power rankings are for entertainment purposes only. Our method, as always, is to put very little thought into where the teams are placed.
White people of the A10, Havoc is coming. Don’t let the 6-3 record fool you, VCU is scary good. The Rams lost a tough home game against a damn fine Wichita State team, and went 1-2 in the Bahamas, beating Memphis and dropping tough games to Duke and Mizzou.
Shaka Smart’s team comes at you in waves, athlete after athlete swarming you on defense until you politely hand them the ball or throw some junk at the rim. If their defense doesn’t end you, they have four guys who shoot better than 38% from three, and Juvonte Reddic is the boogeyman in the paint. If that’s not enough, they can bring a top 100 freshman in Melvin Johnson off the bench.
VCU is deep, talented, and force you to play faster than you are capable of playing for all 40 minutes. Fear them.
Scootie Randall has returned from injury to lead the Owls in scoring (15 PPG) and rebounding (7 RPG), and while Khalif Wyatt’s shooting numbers are down (don’t buy Atlantic City hookers, kids), he is still a match up nightmare. Anthony Lee is having a bit of a breakout year in the paint, 10 points per game on 61% shooting, and nearly 7 rebounds per game. This team is long, athletic, and will defend you until you cry.
Temple is doing what they do, win games, albeit against a very un-Temple like schedule to date. Villanova was a road game against a rival, but the only real test they’ve had to this point is Duke, a 23 point loss. A neutral floor game against Syracuse and a road game at Kansas loom. Even if they lose both, Temple has set themselves up to contend for an A10 title and yet another NCAA tourney bid before they head off to bigger (?) and better (?) pastures in whatever the Big East will be.
Butler comes into the A10 with all the stone faced swagger you would expect from suburban white kids. An early drubbing at Xavier didn’t faze them, as they went out to Maui and beat Marquette on a prayer buzzer beater and then ran away from UNC before the Tar Heels knew they were playing a game. The resume isn’t all Maui based, as Butler went on the road and beat a respectable Northwestern team.
If I had to pick a team in the current top three that’s most likely to struggle, it would be Butler. They are a bit too reliant on the jumper for my liking. When on, Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham are shooting 22 foot layups, but they can just as easily shoot 2/14 in a game. I don’t trust Andrew Smith inside against strong, athletic A10 big men. They will be playing bigger, stronger, and more athletic teams almost every night. The collective grind that is a two month, 16 game A10 schedule could wear them down.
Butler deserves to be where they are, but I’m not sure they are likely to remain one of the better teams once league play begins. A game against Indiana this Saturday would seem to be their chance to prove me wrong, but I’m looking more toward the road game at Vandy as being their real test.
The 49ers have been the biggest surprise in the A10 thus far, winning the Great Alaska Shootout and running out to a 9-0 record against an admittedly weak schedule. A road rivalry win (what are those?) against Davidson is the best they have, but undefeated is undefeated. Not even Alan Major’s hairline knows what to make of this team.
Pierria Henry has shown he is capable of running the show with an impressive 5 assists and a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. Chris Braswell is doing Chris Braswell things, 14 points and 7 boards per night.
We will learn more about Charlotte over the next couple of weeks, as they travel to Miami (FL) and play Florida State in a neutral floor game across town at the Bobcats Arena.
5. St Joseph’s
St Joe has perhaps the most talented roster in the A10, behind Langston Galloway, CJ Aiken, Ronald Roberts Jr, and Carl Jones. After years of building, this was supposed to be their year. A convincing win over Notre Dame affirmed those beliefs, but losses to Florida State and Villanova, along with a complete drubbing at Creighton, make you wonder if it will ever happen for them. A young team can be an enigma, a team loaded with upperclassmen is supposed to be consistent and play with urgency. It’s just not happening.
Out of chances for another big non-conference win, St Joe must now focus on building for A10 play. They should have no problem winning 10 or 11 games on talent alone, but I’m not sure that’s good enough for them, or for their NCAA chances. If it all clicks, though, they can run through this league with relative ease.
I don’t need to spend much time here. The yearly loss that makes you weep, and the yearly win that makes you think things are going to be different. They probably won’t be different.
Xavier came into the year as the biggest unknown in the league. A dominating home win over Butler had everyone wondering if this was the same Xavier we know and stalk late at night. Since then they have come back to expectations, though a win at Purdue is no small feat. The Muskies lost to Pacific on a neutral floor, and blew a 13 point second half lead at home to a down Vandy team.
Freshman Semaj Christon has lived up to his billing as a dynamite scorer. The A10 may as well carve his name on the Rookie of the Year award. Dee Davis has had an up and down season to date, and may well be the biggest key for Xavier this year. When he plays well, Xavier will be tough to beat. Travis Taylor has taken a big step forward inside, but the enigma that is Jeff Robinson still leaves you wondering if he really just wants to be in his apartment playing Dungeons and Dragons and drinking Faygo Red Pop.
This is still Xavier, and a down Muskie team will still have nights where it looks like they can’t do anything wrong. I’m just not sure they will have enough of them.
8. St Louis
Even with lowered expectations following the loss of Rick Majerus and injury to Kwamain Mitchell, SLU has still underwhelmed thus far. The Billikens were run out of their own gym by Santa Clara, dropped a very winnable road game at Washington, and were taken to the final minute by a horrible North Texas team. They do have three straight cupcakes before New Mexico comes to town, so they have every opportunity to build some momentum and a decent OOC resume.
The SLU team of today is certainly not the team the A10 will see. Kwamain Mitchell will return, and the Billikens will make a run at a top 4 spot in the league.
9. La Salle
The good Doctor finally has talent at La Salle, and many picked the Explorers to compete for an NCAA berth. Tyreek Duren, Ramon Galloway, and Sam Mills are perhaps the best backcourt in the league. Jerrell Wright is blossoming into a star inside, and Steve Zack is the awkward, physical role player every team needs.
A terrible home loss to Central Connecticut State brought their early hype back to Earth, but LaSalle has responded with five straight wins. They certainly are not the only team susceptible to the bad loss, but unlike Dayton and others, they lack the opportunities to make up for the CCSU loss. Beating a down Villanova team will not impress anyone, nor will wins over Northeastern, Hartford, or Penn State. A road game at Miami (FL) in early January is their last chance to have an impact win OOC. A loss their would all but end their NCAA hopes, outside of a 14-2 A10 record or a run in Brooklyn. I wouldn’t put money on either.
Chris Mooney coaches basketball porn. But like real porn, understanding how to work within his basketball porn takes time. You can’t just throw an 18 year old in “Pirates” and expect seductive eyes during the money shot. The 9-2 record is a bit deceiving, the Spiders were dumptrucked at Minnesota and Ohio, and their best win is a 2 point home win over Wake Forest. Working in Mooney’s favor is a dynamic triumvirate in the backcourt, Kendall Anthony, Darien Brothers, and Cedric Lindsay. Derrick Williams, a Nate Green clone, has become a top-tier big man in the A10 (14 points, 7 boards, 58% shooting).
In a league with about 9 sleepers, Richmond sticks out as having the highest ceiling, but also the lowest floor. If they stick with Mooney’s system, this is a team that no one will want to play in late February and into March. If it takes more time to click, they will hover around 8-8 and still find a way to ruin someone’s season (probably Dayton).
UMass was the media darling of the league entering the season. Coming off a run in the NIT with everyone returning, it was natural to assume they would all of a sudden become a contender, right? Ah, no. As we Dayton fans know all too well, simply returning players does not mean automatic improvement, especially when you have a wet mop for a coach.
Plagued by the same issues as last year, UMass has won every game they were supposed to win, and lost every game they were supposed to lose. Chaz Williams is still lightning quick, but still plays with all the stability of Ron Swanson’s ex-wife, Tammy 2. They defend nobody, and when given the choice, they’d still rather shoot a contested 27 footer over a layup or free throw. They’ve even had to suspend starting center Cady Lalanne…twice. It seems like Derek Kellogg wants to play a “havoc” game like VCU, but his team lacks the talent, strength, and discipline to pull it off.
I see no reason why UMass is anything but what they were last year, a fringe NIT team. They can beat anyone, and they can lose to anyone. They do Dayton better than Dayton does Dayton.
12. St Bonaventure
To be honest, I have only watched the Bonnies play about 3 minutes this year, which is 3 minutes more than you. Their results seem to show a team who can no longer rely on Andrew Nicholson for wins, and the hot freshman’s chubby friend. The Bonnies sit at 5-3 against an uninspiring schedule. The only legit team they’ve played is Ohio, a loss. This is not a good team, nor is it a bad team. It is definitely a team, though.
Jim Ferry took over a program with little talent and even less hope. Early returns have to be encouraging for Duquesne fan (Rosceaux?). Expected to challenge Fordham for 15th place, the Mighty Dukes are looking like a team who will compete for a spot in Brooklyn. Sean Johnson is living the dream, shooting whenever he wants with no regard to offensive efficiency (12 PPG on 37% shooting). Freshman PG Derrick Coulter is the foundation for Ferry, putting up nearly 11 points and 5 assists per game. Their win over West Virginia had to feel good, with Ron Everhart now an assistant under Huggins, but it would look a lot better to everyone else if West Virginia wasn’t terrible. Huggins is counting on Aaric Murray. AARIC MURRAY! Billy and Juwan just can’t win.
14. George Washington
According to the internet, Foggy Bottom was cautiously optimistic about this GW team. A home loss to Mount St Mary’s probably sent most of the fans back to Georgetown games. I’ve seen far more of GW than I would like to admit, and they aren’t good. They can’t shoot, are average defensively, and aren’t particularly smart. Standing out from the muck is Isaiah Armwood, a transfer from Villanova. Taking full advantage of playing on a bad team, Armwood is averaging 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game. Special shout out goes to Bryan Bynes, perhaps the worst offensive player in all of college basketball. Shooting 17% from the floor and 11% from three, Bynes makes London Warren look like Brad Redford. Do you, Bryan. Do you.
Memo to Mike Lonergan: Recruit Eastern Europe.
15. Rhode Island
I can only imagine what goes through Danny Hurley’s head as he watches his team play, knowing his incoming recruits and transfers sitting out would likely be 5 point favorites against his active roster. I bet his inner voice is just James Earl Jones repeating “Soon” over and over. Close losses to George Mason and Seton Hall show this team will fight, but they just don’t have the talent to beat any team with real players. JUCO transfer Xavier Munford leads them with 17 points per game. Sophomore Mike Powell and freshman Jordan Hare are players to watch as they develop.
Rhody will not win many games, but they will be a tough out for A10 teams. Of course, they will beat Dayton at the buzzer. We all know that.
They’re still shitty.