It has been a damn long while since I threw an article up on the BBR, mostly due to the uncertainty that currently casts a cloud over college basketball…but you already knew that. I wanted to talk some basketball today, and put it into some context of what’s going on regarding Dayton, so let’s do that.
ANYWAYS, we’re here on the site today because college basketball’s foremost Sayer of Things, has, well, said some more things. Now, if you’re not familiar with Jon Rothstein, he’s a TV personality on CBS, that is better known for his twitter account where he’s a cheerleader for just about every program under the sun. While I understand Jon to be a perfectly nice dude who can laugh at himself, his twitter account is outwardly unbearable. He “leaks” stories that are days old, hounds grad assistants for scheduling scoops, constantly bombards readers with dad-like catch phrases, and recently peddles masks for money to make ends meet. His online presence is as brilliant as it is annoying, but I digress.
I’m here today because old Jonboy had his sights set on the A10 conference yesterday, and again, he said some things. So let’s unpack them, shall we?
Starting from the top down, credit where its due: the A10 (as we have talked about endlessly on this website) has found itself in a precarious position of being neither a true mid-major nor truly classified as one of the “power” conferences…whatever “power” means. Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing Jon got right about the A10 on August 25th.
First, let’s state the obvious: while I remain steadfast in my belief that we will have college basketball, the powers that be are making it pretty clear that a Christmas or January start is the most likely. So back to my point at the top, it is simply pandering to a silent audience to express the “criticality” of early season tournaments, when no one on earth is sure when and if they will be played at all. They are critical to the A10, just like they are every year, but we are no longer operating under the standard lens of which college basketball is viewed.
If I was a betting man on the day of this writing, I would put my money on A10 teams being able to play in one single tournament that will operate in a bubble format. How this affects their chance at getting to the NCAA Tournament would assume we know the criteria and numbers of teams to participate…which we do not. You see where I’m headed here? Talking about non-conference games is pointless. Typically I would be coming to you right around this time with my annual “Non-Conference Schedule Breakdown” …but I’m not because they don’t exist. I will no longer waste time talking about why they are critical.
Ok, onto the conference. If we are to assume college basketball will be played, what is the league looking like this year? Well, despite what Jonny has to say…it looks about the same as it always does, or rather, the same as it has for about 5 or 6 years now. Let me explain.
First off, the league is fully well aware they NEED to play quality games in November and December, just like they have been every other year of our fucking existence. Why Jon feels the need to say these things is again…pandering at the lowest level. If the A10 was able to schedule games right now, they would do it, current circumstance dictate that they cannot. So be it.
Next, the league is not “LOADED” from 1-9. It has the same preseason front runners, the same irrelevant teams that will be pesky, and then a few really bad teams…as well as Fordham. That’s the same A10 you remember isn’t it? Me too.
Preseason front runner: Richmond.
This one is real simple: UR is bringing back the entire farm from a 24-7 team that was surely headed to the dance and finished #2 in the league. With a dominant 18-0 UD taking a step back, this is truly Richmond’s best chance to win the league since Kevin Anderson was in school. Anyone who doesn’t have the Spiders at the top of the preseason polls is being a contrarian or being a homer, real easy.
The Contenders: Dayton, URI, SLU, Bonaventure, DUQ
This is pretty much it this coming season for teams that can possibly make the tournament or win the A10. For the record, I see Bona, URI and DUQ as teams that can get to the dance with the talent they’re bringing into the season, but the only three teams who have a legit chance to win the conference are the aforementioned Spiders, the Billikens, and your Dayton Flyers.
DUQ is in a “put up or shut up” type of season under Keith Dambrot. The Akron boy is entering his fourth season in Pittsburgh and the rebuilding period is over. For the last two years I’ve proclaimed DUQ is a “year away” and they are no longer given the benefit of that doubt. The Dukes will (hopefully) be playing a brand new shiny gym, return all five starters from last year’s 21-9, 5th place team, including 7 of the top 8 scorers and bring in a seven man freshman class. What Dambrot has been building since he was hired is all here, it’s time to win on the bluff. Anything less than a trip to the dance with this roster will be a disappointment to Dukes fans. This was extremely refreshing to say – Welcome to the land of preseason expectations, Dukies.
You know who SLU is by now, and nothing will change this year. They’re going to frustrate you with defense, play a physical brand of basketball, and miss half of their free throws. They bring back the entire meaningful roster, including the names Flyer fans recognize: Jordan Goodwin, French and Perkins. Along with Yuri Collins and a slimmed up Jimmy Bell, this is going to be a good team capable of winning it all. Expectations should be high in St Louis. It’s back to dance or bust.
URI is going to be the biggest question mark of the bunch in this group, mainly because the cast of characters has experienced a considerable amount of turnover. URI has lost SEVEN players off their roster from early in 2020, and has been scouring the country for transfers ever since. Most importantly, Jeff Dowtin and Cyril Langevine graduated, and then Jacob “Dont call me Obi” Toppin transferred to Kentucky. Would he have had that offer on the table without being Obi’s brother? Jury remains out. Anyways, URI has replaced a non-existent roster with four transfers, and let’s be honest, you don’t care to have me break them all down in this article. Let’s suffice it to say: Fatts Russell will be a favorite for preseason conference player of the year, and will be surrounded by a group of guys you haven’t heard of yet. Predicting where this team will end up is even more fruitless than the exercise I’m going through right now, so let’s just leave it here by saying the Rams SHOULD be staying in the top 5 of the league when all is said and done, but the possibility very much exists that they find themselves in a rebuilding year as well.
Alright alright, so what about the Dayton Flyers? I know that’s what you’ve come here to read.
Plain and simple in August 2020: The Dayton Flyers have brought back a team capable of winning the league. The national college basketball media has predictably glossed over them, assuming the loss of Obi as well as Chip and Trey would be too much to overcome and rebuild. I am here to say I find that assumption perfectly reasonable from the outside looking in, even if it’s outwardly incorrect.
The Flyers bring back A10 POY front runner Jalen Crutcher, along with his starting companion Rodney Chatman, and Ibi Watson at third spot. These three will make up one of the best guard trios in the country, let alone the A10. If the roster was Drew and I in the 4th and 5th spots, UD could still wins some games in league play. Fortunately for Flyers fans, there are capable bodies in the front court, even if you should be apprehensive to trust their effectiveness. It is likely the Flyers see an interchangeable trio down-low of Chase Johnson, Chimichanga and newcomer Moulaye Sissoko. Where Florida State transfer Zimi Nwokeji fits into this picture is anyone’s guess, but you should fully expect him to contribute offensively and give UD meaningful minutes. If you add a healthy dose of Dwayne Cohill off the bench and sprinkle in freshman Koby Brea, Lukas Frazier and RJ Blakney, this is one healthy stew the Flyers have cookin. The freshman won’t be counted on to do much, nor should they, and typically that means a well balanced meal that doesn’t need any extra ingredients. UD has lost a lot, obviously, but they bring back a lot as well. If the three guards play to their potential, Jordy stays out of foul trouble nightly and Chase Johnson chips in 10 a night, this team can win the conference. It’s really that simple. UD has all the pieces to not only compete this year, but find themselves right back in the dance with a single digit seed. If anyone tells you otherwise, you direct them my way.
The Pesky Bunch: Davidson, VCU, UMass,
Going to do some quick hitters about the rest of the field here because your attention spans for this sort of thing aren’t typically so prolonged in August towards basketball.
VCU has a giant ass hill to climb this year to be relevant. Marcus Evans, De’Riante Jenkins, Mike’L Simms and Isaac Vann have all graduated, and Marcus Santos-Silva used his grad transfer option to pick up and move to Texas Tech. When you consider the team I’m mentioning lost 8 of their last 10 games and will only have two returning seniors on the roster (one is a transfer from K-State), it’s pretty clear to see this is a rebuilding year in Richmond.
Davidson will be bringing back three of five starters from last year’s team, the downside is that last year’s team wasn’t very good. Their lack of inside presence will continue to get exposed unless Luka Brajkovic makes massive strides in the offseason to improve his game, or they add a useful newcomer, but Kellan Grady will still be there to score. After that, you just have to pray the Wildcats stay healthy if you’re a Davidson fan. Everything will need to go right for this roster to get back into relevance in the A10, and I mean everything.
UMass is the most promising of the bunch, even if that promise is rooted in deep seeded optimism within their fanbase, which will be proclaiming for third straight season that “this is the year”. Matt McCall is entering year #4 in Amherst, and while he hasn’t done much, sorry – anything – noteworthy he has improved every year to his credit. This year will likely decide whether he stays in the UMass job long term or is shown the door. The Minutemen continue to be a revolving door of transfers and will rely almost entirely on Freshman of the Year, Tre Mitchell, who will go into the season as one of the best sophomore big men in the country. There’s some new guys, there’s some familiar names, but trust your old pal Sully – the Minutemen are squarely camping out with George Mason these days in the tent labeled “irrelevant until proven otherwise”. I think they’ll go over 500 in conference, win a couple games they shouldn’t, but ultimately be in the muck that is the middle of the conference. Prove me wrong, UMass.
The Rest: George Washington, George Mason, St. Joe’s, LaSalle
GW isnt going from 6-12 to competing, their rebuild will take longer than that, even if it is on track thus far.
George Mason will be entering their 8th season in the A10 and have yet to do fuck all. It’s a fair assumption to suggest that will continue until something drastic changes my mind.
St Joes is about the same as GW: you arent going from the basement to the rooftop patio in one season. The rebuild is on track, but it’ll take a few years.
When you saw the name “LaSalle” did you think “competing”? Me either. They’ll be in the muck of the conference, they’ll play basketball, the season will end.
I end this post by reminding you that Fordham will always be Fordham, and take the time to re-link the BBR’s most read article of all-time to remind why Fordham will always be Fordham.
I hope you enjoyed this Jon Rothstein-sparked preview of the A10 Conference. Let’s do it again soon.
Wear red, stay LOWD