Top Atlantic 10 Teams for the 2016-17 Season

E.C. Matthews; Credit - AP

E.C. Matthews; Credit – AP

By Leighton Schneider,

The Atlantic 10 has been a formidable conference for the past several years, constantly getting teams into the NCAA tournament. Four different teams have won the A-10 regular season crown in the past five years, St. Louis being the only two-time winner, having won it in the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 season’s. This article will tell you the team’s that have a shot at winning the regular season crown this upcoming season, as well as two dark horse candidates that could surprise you. I have also put my pick for the A-10 Player of the Year in.

Dayton: Dayton should be a top 25 team when the first official college basketball rankings come out. There is good reason for this, as Dayton only lost two significant players from last season’s team that went 25-8, 14-4 in conference and won the Atlantic 10 regular season title. The Flyers bring back four of their top five scorers and assisters in Charles Cooke, 15.6 PPG, 1.9 APG, Scoochie Smith, 11.7 PPG, 4.3 APG, Kendall Pollard, 10.3 PPG, 1.4 APG, and Kyle Davis, 8.0 PPG, 2.1 APG. Dayton will need to find some rebounding after losing Dyshawn Pierre to graduation and Steve McElvene to a tragic death this offseason. Dayton should be the favorite to win the league again in 2016-2017 and go to the NCAA tournament. Charles Cooke should be a first team All-Atlantic 10 again and near the top for A-10 player of the year.

Rhode Island: Rhode Island is another Atlantic 10 team that should be in the top 25 when the season starts. In several way-too early polls the Rams have been ranked between 15 and 25 in the rankings. Last season, URI went 17-5, 9-9 in conference after losing their star E.C. Mathews to a torn ACL in their season opening game against American. Mathews is a legitimate star after averaging 15.2 PPG, 4.4 reb as a freshman and 16.9 PPG, 4.6 reb as a sophomore. As long as he is healthy, he should be on the All A-10 first team and be among the favorites for the A-10 Player of the Year. The Rams bring back four of their top five scorers and rebounders in Jared Terrell 13.6 PPG, 3.4 reb, Jarvis Garrett, 12.5 PPG, 3.7 reb, Hassan Martin, 12.0 PPG, 5.6 reb, and Kuran Iverson, 9.8 PPG, 7.1 reb. Hassan Martin is one of the top defensive players in the Atlantic 10 and one of the top shot blockers in the country. For his career, Martin has averaged 2.7 blocks per game for his career and has 248 career blocks. He is Martin is a difference maker inside.

George Washington: George Washington is the reigning National Invitational Tournament champion. Even though they are losing three seniors who left a huge mark on the Colonial program in Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald, GW should be back at the top of the Atlantic 10. The key player for the Colonials will be senior Tyler Cavanaugh. The 6’9 forward led the team in scoring last season with 16.9 points per game and ranked second in rebounding, 7.6, field goal percentage, .509, and three point percentage, .423. Other important members of the 2016-2017 team will be junior guard Yuta Watanabe, 8.4 PPG, 4.0 reb, junior guard Paul Jorgenson 4.9 PPG, 2.1 APG and junior guard Jaren Sina, a former four star recruit, who made 42 starts and averaged 6.4 points and 2.3 assists in his two seasons at Seton Hall. Colonials head coach Mike Lonergan thinks that incoming freshman Kevin Marfo could be a four-year starter for his team. Marfo averaged 11.3 PPG and 9.2 reb in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball league last summer and he will be looked upon to take over the rebounding lost by Garino, Larsen and McDonald.

Dark Horses:

LaSalle: La Salle went 9-22, 4-14 in conference last season while effectively playing six players the entire season. Jordan Price, Cleon Roberts, Johnnie Shuler and Amar Stukes all averaged over 30 minutes per game. La Salle will do a 180 this season and be near the top of the Atlantic 10 and if the shots fall in the right games, could win the Atlantic 10 title. The Explorers bring back their top six scorers and assisters and their top four rebounders from last season. La Salle will get a influx of talent as former top 100 recruits Pookie Powell, Demetrius Henry and B.J. Johnson will be eligible after having to sit out last season because of NCAA transfer rules. Powell comes by the way of Memphis where he played one season. The 6’0 guard averaged 4.3 PPG, 1.2 reb and 2.7 APG in his lone season with the team. Henry, a 6’9 forward, played two seasons at South Carolina started 48 career games and averaged 6 PPG, 3.6 reb and .8 blocks per game in his sophomore season with the Gamecocks. He will bring much needed size down low for the Explorers. Johnson, a 6’7 forward, played two years at Syracuse. He averaged 4.3 PPG and 3.3 reb in his sophomore season.

St. Louis: St. Louis went 11-21, 5-13 in the Atlantic 10 last season. They fired head coach Jim Crews following the Atlantic 10 Championship after back-to-back 11-21 seasons. The Billikens went on to hire former Oklahoma head coach Travis Ford. Ford spent eight seasons at the helm of the Cowboys leading them to a 155-111 record and five NCAA tournament appearances. He will be looked upon to lead a team that only lost three players, two transfers and one graduate, and which was made up of mostly freshman and sophomores last season. One of the players they will miss is Ash Yacoubo, who averaged 11.0 PPG, 5.7 reb and .7 STL. The key player for the Billikens this season will be Mike Crawford. Crawford, a 6’4 senior guard, averaged 10.3 PPG and 3.5 reb last season, while hitting 42.8% of his shots. Look for these numbers to increase as he gets a bigger role this season. If Ford can get this team to jell quickly during summer practices and if the now sophomore and juniors grow as players, St. Louis could shock some team’s in A-10 play.

Player of the Year: Jack Gibbs of Davidson – My pick for player of the year is Jack Gibbs from Davidson University. Last season, the Davidson senior led the league, and was fifth in the country, in scoring with 23.5 points per game, was fourth in assists with 4.9 per game and was fifth in steals with 1.8 per game. His role on the team drastically changed as he went from averaging ten field goal attempts a game, to 18 last season, along with playing another five and a half minutes per game. Even with the increased shooting and scoring load, Gibbs continued to get his assists, averaging 4.9 per game, compared to 4.8 the previous season. Most of his scoring came from inside the three point arc, as he only hit 2.6 three’s per game and he did not even shoot that well last season, shooting 33.5% on the year, almost 10% worse than the 2014-2015 season, 42.5%. If Gibbs can get back up to his 2014-2015 percentage, he could easily be around the 30 point mark per game next season. This should not surprise Davidson and A-10 fans as last year he scored 30 points or more ten times, including three games over 40 points. The only other player in Davidson history to score 40 points in a game is a player named Stephen Curry, who did it six times in his Wildcat career.

What is your take on the upcoming A-10 season? Is there a team you think could surprise people or a player who you might think could win the Player of the Year award? Let me know in the comments.

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