Oregon lost to a team with real players on both lines, so it is now officially basketball season. As you know, the A10 is a league in transition. Some teams left, George Mason just kinda showed up, and Fordham is still a thing. Despite losing three key programs (and Charlotte), the A13 will be a rather strong league, at least in the immediate future.
The Blackburn Review prides itself on bringing you the very best in half-assery. As is custom, the A10 has three true favorites at the top followed by about 8 teams so similar that a coin flip actually raises your chances of correctly predicting the order of finish. How many NCAA bids will the league grab, you ask? I say 3.5. The top three will be safely in, with a 4th team sweating out bubble weekend praying Northwestern loses to Ohio State in the Big Ten semis.
Havoc is the clear favorite. Treveon Graham and Juvonte Weber form the best 1-2 punch in the league. Briante Weber is the league’s best defender. Rob Brandenberg and Melvin Johnson are very talented complimentary pieces. This is the deepest and most talented VCU team since Shaka Smart took over. If they can adjust to the new officiating directives without losing their defense losing the “Oh Shit” factor, everyone else is playing for 2nd place.
Already I don’t feel good about this. There is little doubt that the Billikens can play, but losing Kwamain Mitchell will hurt their guard depth. Much like VCU, they will have to find a way to adjust to whistles without losing some of their defensive edge. Unlike VCU, I’m not sure they have the depth to pull it off consistently.
Dewayne Evans had a breakout junior season, and comes into his senior year as THE guy for SLU. Jordair Jett is the best defender not named Briante Weber in the A10, and will team up with Mike McCall to form a very solid backcourt. Rob Loe is a tantalizing, yet a bit underwhelming stretch 5. Grandy Glaze (a name that even makes Brazzers producers blush) and Jake Barnett will role play their way into the rotation.
SLU will run a train on a few teams at home (Dayton), but I wonder about them over the long haul. Sticking with them at #2 out of respect, and a little pity. They’re going to suck for while after this year.
3. La Salle
The Good Doctor’s bunch surprised everyone last year, capping the program’s best year in decades with a Sweet 16 appearance. Tyrone “Kel Mitchell’ Garland is a dynamite pure scorer, and is ready to become a first team all-league player. Tyreek Duren may be the best “under the radar” PG in the country. Jerrell Wright appears ready to dominate in the paint. Sam Mills, DJ Peterson, and Steve Zack round out a very good rotation. If I had any guts, I’d pick them second. I do not.
Blackburn said it best, no one really knows what to expect. However, I have a theory that any A10 team bringing a legit top 75 recruit off the bench gets the benefit of the doubt early on. With Vee Sanford and Dyshawn Pierre owning starting spots, Jordan Sibert is very likely to be the 6th man. With the aforementioned triumvirate leading the way, expect UD to have a delightfully efficient offense capable of scoring points in bunches. Interior play will get a boost with Kavanaugh’s return, and could get a bigger boost with improvement from Jalen Robinson and Devon Scott.
Point guard play and defense are the question marks, but the new officiating may actually ease some worries. More whistles will help keep Khari Price and Scoochie Smith from shitting their pants against physical defense, and it’s not like UD was playing any defense of their own previously. More space and/or more free throws will only help the offense put up points. They don’t have to be a great defense, just decent. I think it happens. Added bonus? A guaranteed loss in the house of the overlords has become a “hey, they might win this” game at Richmond. They probably won’t, but they might.
Chaz Williams returns for his senior year, looking to finally get UMass back into the NCAA tourney. UMass, like Dayton, can outscore many teams, but all too often fail to get the stops needed to win tough games. Raphiael Putney is a solid stretch 4, and Cady Lalanne and Samson Carter return to man the paint. Trey Davis, Maxie Esho, and Derrick Gordon will add to the rotation. UMass seems largely interchangeable with Dayton, but Dayton gets this game at home.
I’m already out of “want to” here. Back cuts and screens and tiny little guards. Chris Mooney does what he does, and he does it well.
7. Rhode Island
Danny Hurley is quickly turning Rhody around. They’ll win more than they lose, but are still a year away from true contention.
8. George Washington
Some good players, some bad players. Isaiah Armwood is a good player.
9. St Joes
Talent? Yep. A coach five years past his expiration date? Yep.
10. George Mason
The only thing I really know about them is that Paul Hewitt is their coach. That’s all I need to know.
Decidedly less shitty!
12. St Bonaventure
They should retire Andrew Nicholson’s clown shoes. Just tie the strings together and throw them up to the rafters.
Here we go Steelers and such.
**Kavanaughty picture courtesy of @theREALbrianrad**