Conference Countdown: No. 8 Atlantic 10


Preseason Awards

Player of the Year: Kevin Anderson, Richmond, Sr.

is the reigning A-10 player of the year, and for good reason. He led
Richmond, a team good enough to earn a seven-seed in the NCAA
Tournament, to a 26-win season and a third place finish in the league
by averaging 17.8 ppg and putting up impressive performances (31 in a
loss to Wake Forest, 29 in a win over Temple, 27 is a win at Xavier)
against good competition. With his back court mate David Gonzalvez
departing, that means there will be just that many more shots available
for Anderson. But with the improvement that Justin Harper showed late
last season, and with the possibility of Dan Geriot returning to his
sophomore year form, Anderson will have some help. He is a cat-quick,
6′ guard that can get into the lane against just about anyone. With an
improved jump shot, Anderson will be near unstoppable at this level.

And a close second goes to: Chris Wright, Dayton, Sr.

didn’t develop as much as Dayton fans would have liked last season.
He’s still a tremendous athlete, that certainly hasn’t changed, but the
perimeter game that he needs to become a potential pro is not yet
there. His jump shot needs a healthy dose of reliability, and his
handle is not yet to the point where he can go more than one or two
dribbles it take to get from the perimeter to the rim. That said, with
Dayton losing seven seniors, Wright’s usage is no doubt going to go up,
and there is no reason why the 6’8″ forward can’t average 15 points and
9 boards for the Flyers even if his perimeter game doesn’t improve. If
it does, and Wright shows he can hit a jumper and be a threat putting
the ball on the floor, he has as high of a ceiling as anyone in the

Breakout Star: Ramone Moore, Temple, Jr.

are a number of interesting candidates that could slide in here —
Xavier’s Mark Lyons, Richmond’s Justin Harper, St. Louis’ Cody Ellis,
Rhode Island’s Akeem Richmond, UMass’ Terrell Vinson. But I like Ramone
Moore, the reigning sixth man of the year in the league. Moore averaged
just 7.6 ppg as a perimeter reserve for a team that saw their three
perimeter starters average nearly 100 minutes combined. When he did get
the opportunity — a seven game stretch in February where Juan
Fernandez was dealing with a severe blow to the head he took against
Forham — Moore saw him minutes increased, and responded by averaging
16 ppg over that stretch. With Ryan Brooks and Luis Guzman graduating,
there are minutes — and shots — available for the 6’4″ junior. I
expect a big season out of him.

All-conference First Team:

  • POY – Kevin Anderson, Richmond, Sr.
  • G – Terrell Holloway, Xavier, Jr.
  • G – Juan Fernandez, Temple, Jr.
  • F – Lavoy Allen, Temple, Sr.
  • F – Chris Wright, Dayton, Sr.
  • F – Damian Saunders, Duquesne, Sr.

All-conference Second Team:

  • G – Chris Johnson, Dayton, Sr.
  • G/F – Delroy James, Rhode Island, Sr.
  • F – Chris Gaston, Fordham, So.
  • F – Aaric Murray, La Salle, So.
  • F – Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure, Jr.

Freshman of the Year: Juwan Staten, Dayton

comes to Dayton at the perfect time, as the Flyers lose their top four
back court players. He is also the perfect point guard for a Brian
Gregory team. Strong, athletic, and tough, Staten isn’t afraid to mix
it up defensively, but he is also a quite talented offensive player
(top 100 nationally). He can get into the paint and finish, either
around the rim or with a series of floaters and short jumpers. He can
also draw defenders and create, and has enough range to keep the
defense honest. Dayton is going to need a playmaker this season,
someone that can create opportunities for others, and Staten could very
well be that guy.

All-Freshman Team:

  • G – Tyreek Duren, La Salle
  • G – Daryl Traynham, UMass
  • G – Langston Galloway, St. Joseph’s
  • F – Jordan Latham, Xavier
  • F – CJ Aiken, St. Joseph’s

What Happened?:

  • Jim Baron’s rough offseason:
    It started when Billy Baron, the son of the URI head coach, decided to
    not to follow his brother’s footsteps in playing for their father.
    Instead, Billy opted to head to Virginia
    to play in the ACC. Then there was Kyle Cain, a talented 6’7″ forward
    that became a hot commodity during his senior season. Baron let Cain out of his LOI, and he ended up at Arizona State.

    It gets worse. Baron has drawn some criticism for the way he has been recruiting as well. Baron didn’t get word until September
    that Daniel West (a former Tennessee commit that sat out a year in
    Knoxville and spent last season at a JuCo) was eligible, while the two
    most highly touted freshmen that URI landed will not be suiting up this season
    — PJ Lockridge did not qualify, while Tashawn Marby felt homesick and
    left school. In addition, junior Orion Outerbridge will be ineligible for the first semester.

  • Jim Baron wasn’t the only one with a rough offseason:
    St. Louis was supposed to be a team that would compete for an NCAA
    Tournament spot this year. Instead, they will be rebuilding, as their
    two best players — Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed — were both kicked out of school, most likely because of an alleged sexual assault that occurred back in May.
  • Derek Kellogg cleans up the SEC: Kellogg has landed
    both Luke Cothron, a non-qualifier at Auburn that was a top 50 recruit,
    and Cady Lalanne, a non-qualifier at Georgia. Neither will be eligible
    this season, but if he can get them eligible for 2011, UMass could be a
    dangerous team.
  • St. Bonaventure players get in a fight: Four players — Malcolm Eleby, Lewis Leonard, Da’Quan Cook, and Brett Roseboro — were linked to a fight that resulted in two men getting stabbed. All four were let off with fines and a disorderly conduct charge.
  • Bobby Lutz gets the axe:
    Despite being the winningest coach in the history of the Charlotte
    basketball program, a couple of disappointing seasons had Lutz on the
    hot seat heading into the 2009-2010 season. It seemed as if Lutz had
    saved his job as the 49ers jumped out to an 18-5 record and seemed a
    lock for the NCAA Tournament. But after losing six of seven regular
    season games, getting bounced in the first round of the NCAA
    Tournament, missing the NCAA’s and the NIT, and declining an invitation
    to the lesser tournaments, Charlotte axed Lutz, who wound up at Iowa State with Fred Hoiberg. The 49ers replaced him with Alan Major.
  • While we’re on the topic of coaches: Fordham’s Dereck Whittenburg was fired
    just five games into the season, and 28 year old Jared Grasso was given
    the reins of the program. Grasso did well to keep the Rams playing
    hard, but after he went just 1-22 in his 23 game tryout, Fordham
    elected to go with Hofstra’s Tom Pecora instead.
  • Transfers leaving and coming in:
    Duquesne lost three transfers this summer, but the name that really
    matters is third leading scorer Melquan Bolding, who will be headed to Farleigh Dickinson. Xavier, on the other hand, brings in a talent. Monmouth standout Travis Taylor, who averaged 17.8 ppg last season, will be joining the Musketeers in 2011.
  • Tu?: While we’re on the subject of Xavier, how about Terrell Holloway’s name change.
    Holloway will be that much more important this season, as two members
    of Xavier’s backcourt will miss the season — Brad Redford tore his
    acl, while Justin Martin was a partial academic qualifier.

What’s Next?:

  • Can Temple win a tournament game?:
    The knock on Fran Dunphy since he has been at Temple has been that the
    Owls have been unable to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. He’s 0-3,
    including last season’s beat down at the hands of Cornell. With a team
    that looks capable of making another run to the NCAA’s, will this be
    the year that Temple breaks through?
  • How long until St. Joe’s is relevant again?:
    The Hawks have not mattered nationally since Jameer Nelson and Delonte
    West graduated. And while Phil Martelli’s club looks like they will
    once again be near the bottom of the conference, they do bring in a
    fantastic recruiting class. The question now becomes how long does it
    take for that excellent recruiting class to deliver excellent results
    on the court.
  • How good will the Atlantic 10 be this year?:
    The isn’t as top heavy as last season, as Xavier looks like they only
    team that will be top 25. But the A-10 is deep and balanced this year.
    Quite a few of last year’s all-league players are back this season, and
    teams that project to the bottom of the league this year have enough
    talent to make one wonder if a tournament run is possible. Sure, its
    unlikely that La Salle or UMass makes a tournament run, but would
    anyone be all that surprised if either team finished in the top half of
    the league? What about George Washington or St. Joe’s? There is quality
    basketball being played in this conference.

Power Rankings:

  1. Xavier:
    The Musketeers will once again be a favorite in the A-10, but with
    Jordan Crawford bolting for the NBA and Jason Love graduating, there
    are going to be some big holes to fill. The newly-named Tu Holloway
    returns, and he has developed into one of the best point guards on the
    east coast. He’s a playmaker with a knack for making clutch plays in
    crunch time. With Crawford gone, expect him to have a big season. X
    will have a fairly deep back court next season. Mark Lyons, a redshirt
    sophomore, is a talented kid that could shoulder some of the scoring
    load left by Crawford, and Dante Jackson has turned into a very solid
    role player, able to knock down an open three and lock up defensively.
    With Brad Redford (acl) and Justin Martin (didn’t qualify) both out,
    freshman Jay Canty is going to be counted on quite a bit to provide
    quality perimeter minutes off the bench.
    The front court will be more of a question mark. Kenny Frease is a
    junior that came into Xavier with a lot of hype, but has not exactly
    lived up to that potential quite yet. Jamel McLean is a big time
    athlete and rebounder, but neither he nor Frease has proven to be much
    of an offensive threat. Andrew Taylor, a senior, played some big
    minutes against Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament, but he has not
    provided much production in his time with the Musketeers. Beyond that,
    it will be two freshmen — Griffin McKenzie and Jordan Latham —
    fighting for minutes. Xavier, once again, will be the class of the
    A-10, and if they get breakout performances from a couple people this
    year, could very well win, at least, a game in the NCAA Tournament.
  2. Temple:
    The Owls had a fantastic regular season, using a stifling defense to
    win both the A-10 regular season and tournament title, only to once
    again flame out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. While Temple
    loses leading scorer Ryan Brooks, they should still have more than
    enough weapons to compete for the league title. Junior sharpshooter
    Juan Fernandez is back and should be expected to have a bump in
    production has he becomes the centerpiece of Fran Dunphy’s perimeter
    attack. Big man Lavoy Allen, who flirted with the NBA Draft, also
    returns after averaging a double-double last season. Combine those two
    with talented junior Ramone Moore, who won the A-10 sixth man of the
    year award, and the Owls once again have a solid core. Michael Eric, a
    6’11” Nigerian junior, has shown some promise and could develop into a
    nice sidekick for Allen, while sophomore Rahlir Jefferson is a talented
    swingman that seems to be a nice fit for Dunphy’s defensive style.
    Temple was not all that deep last season, especially towards the end of
    the year as Craig Williams (who had knee surgery and is out for the
    first month), Scootie Randall, and TJ DiLeo really saw their minutes
    shrink. With two starters — Brooks and Luis Guzman — that combined
    for 68 minutes a game gone, Dunphy is going to have to find minutes
    somewhere, and it seems as if those three, plus incoming freshmen Aaron
    Brown and Anthony Lee, will be the ones competing for that time. Temple
    is always going to be competitive with their defensive ability, but
    there were times when this team struggled to score last season. With
    Brooks gone, that could become more of an issue. I think Temple will be
    a tournament team and a contender for the A-10 title, but they need
    depth, and another scoring option, to develop for that to happen.
  3. Dayton:
    The Flyers had a disappointing finish to what seemed to be such a
    promising season. With all five starters returning and seven seniors on
    a roster with quite a bit of talent, most analysts predicted Dayton to
    win the Atlantic 10. But the Flyers, who ended up finishing seventh in
    the A-10, could never quite figure out how to execute down the stretch,
    as all 12 of their losses were by less than eight points. This year,
    Dayton essentially loses their entire back court as Mickey Perry,
    London Warren, Rob Lowery, and Marcus Johnson all graduate. Brian
    Gregory does have some talented perimeter players coming in —
    headlined by four-star point guard Juwan Staten and two-guard Brandon
    Spearman — but, as is the norm with freshmen, they may not be ready to
    contribute significantly immediately. Dayton did catch a break when
    Chris Wright made the decision to withdraw from the NBA Draft. A super
    athletic combo-forward, Wright was the Flyers leading scorer and
    rebounder last season, but he didn’t quite develop into the star that
    many believed he would. Chris Johnson, Dayton’s second leading scorer
    and another big wing, also returns, as does Paul Williams, who may
    sneak into the starting line-up this year. Inside, Kurt Huelsman, who
    started every game in his Dayton career, graduates, but the rest of the
    front court is back. Sharpshooting Luke Fabrizius, Devin Searcy, and
    sophomores Matt Kavanaugh and Josh Benson will likely all see minutes.
    I expect Searcy and Benson, in particular, to have good years. This
    Dayton squad lost quite a bit of talent, but they were a deep team the
    last few years. There is still talent on this roster, and while they
    may not be the favorite in the league, they will compete for an NCAA
    Tournament spot.
  4. Richmond:
    While the Spiders lose David Gonzalvez to graduation, the good news is
    that reigning A-10 player of the year Kevin Anderson returns. A 17.8
    ppg scorer last season, Anderson is a lightening quick 6′ guard that
    can get into the paint against just about anyone. Shouldering more of
    the load this season without Gonzalvez, he could very well become a 20
    ppg scorer this season. The question is going to be who steps up in the
    back court to replace Gonzalvez. The best answer may one of Chris
    Mooney’s two freshmen guards, Cedrick Lindsay and Wayne Sparrow, as
    junior Frances-Cedric Martel is really the only perimeter returnee.
    Richmond’s achilles heel last season was in the paint, as evidenced by
    the pounding they took from Omar Samhan in the NCAA Tournament. And, by
    and large, this will be the same group as last season. Much will be
    expected of 6’10” Justin Harper, a 6’10” forward with a nice perimeter
    touch. He averaged 10.6 ppg last season, but with his excellent play
    down the stretch, he will be counted on to pick up some scoring. Also
    returning in Dan Geriot, who is already a 1,000 point scorer, but
    struggled to regain the form of his sophomore year, when he averaged 14
    and 7, after tearing his acl and missing the 2008-2009 season. Darius
    Garrett also returns, a slender 6’9″ forward. You know what you are
    going to get out of Anderson, and if some of his teammates can pick up
    the slack and make up for the loss of Gonzalvez’s production, this is a
    team that will compete for the league title once again.
  5. Charlotte:
    Charlotte had an interesting season in 2009-2010. With three transfers
    leading the way, Charlotte got out to an 18-5 start and Bobby Lutz
    seemingly saved his job. But that didn’t last, as the 49ers lost six of
    their last seven before being bounced by UMass in the first round of
    the A-10 tournament and decided to end their season after being passed
    over by both the NCAA and the NIT selection committees. Then Bobby Lutz
    was fired, and replaced by Alan Major. So what should you expect from
    the 49ers in 2011? Well, the good news is that they return their top
    three scorers, including one of the league’s best front courts. BC
    transfer Shamari Spears proved to be a handful for A-10 foes, averaging
    16.0 ppg and 5.9 rpg, while Chris Braswell had an excellent freshman
    campaign, averaging 9.5 ppg and 8.5 rpg. Also back is gunner Derrio
    Green, who is the epitome of the streak shooter. When he’s on, he can
    go for 25 against anyone. When he’s off, he might shoot 0-10.
    Experienced small forward An’Juan Wilderness also returns, but the
    x-factor for this team is going to be at the point. DiJuan Harris led
    the A-10 in assists, and he’s gone. Jamar Briscoe, a sophomore transfer
    from NCCU that averaged 17.8 ppg (but just 2.6 apg) as a freshman, and
    Luka Voncina, a 6’4″ Slovenian point guard, will be the two most likely
    to compete for the job. Voncina, however, has not yet been cleared by the NCAA.
    The other issue for Charlotte will be depth. Phil Jones should see some
    time inside, and Javaris Barnett returns as well, but this is not a
    deep team, especially with Charles Dewhurst and KJ Sherril battling
    knee injuries. There’s talent on Charlotte. They have size and they
    will be able to put up points. But learning a new coach and system
    while dealing with point guard and depth issues is not easy. I think
    the 49ers will be a borderline tournament team, but I expect them to be
    too inconsistent — springing a couple of upsets, losing a couple games
    they shouldn’t — to be a lock.
  6. Rhode Island:
    While the Rams won 26 games last season, their year peaked in February
    when they had a record of 19-3 and say at 11th in the RPI. URI would
    proceed to lose six of their last ten in the regular season and miss
    the NCAA Tournament with a third straight late season collapse. Things
    didn’t get better in the off-season as Stevie Mejia, one half of their
    point guard rotation, transferred and both Kyle Cain and Billy Baron,
    head coach Jim Baron’s son, both opted to go to high-major programs.
    They will also lose two of their three leading scorers, Keith Cothran
    and Lamont Ulmer, to graduation while freshmen Tashawn Mabry (homesick)
    and PJ Lockridge (academics) are both off the URI roster. All hope is
    not completely lost, however. Delroy James has a chance to become a
    real star at this level as he will likely be the focal point of Baron’s
    offense. Two other starters — big man Will Martell and point guard
    Marquis Jones — will both be back as well. Sophomore guard Akeem
    Richmond should be ready to slide into the starting lineup for Baron. Junior
    forward Orion Outerbridge was expected to be a starter, but it was
    announced in September he will miss the first semester due to
    academics. Someone out of this group, most likely Richmond, is going to
    need to become a reliable secondary scoring option, but on paper this
    is a pretty solid starting five. After that, the question marks pile
    up. If the three players mentioned above are ineligible, will the
    combination of Ben Eaves and Jamil Wilson, who broke his foot and is
    out until December, be enough back court depth? Can sophomores Ryan
    Brooks and Nikola Malesevic (who played a combined 33 games last
    season) and freshmen Levan Shengelia and Blake Vedder, a 7’3″ project,
    be contributors at this level? In terms of talent, this team has enough
    to finish in the top half of the A-10. With a couple of players currently banged up (Martell, Shengelia), it will be interesting to see if URI has enough depth.
  7. Duquense:
    The Dukes had a shot to be really good last season as they returned the
    majority of their roster from a squad that went 21-13. But they could
    never quite find any consistency, struggling to a 16-16 finish before
    being bounced in the first round of the CBI. That potential is still
    there this season, as Rob Everhart’s team brings back the five of their
    top seven, headlined by Damian Saunders. Saunders is one of the best
    players in the A-10. A long, 6’7″ forward, Saunders averaged 15.3 ppg,
    11.3 rpg, and led the conference with nearly 3 steals and 3 blocks per
    game. Also returning will be three talented perimeter scorers in Bill
    Clark (14 ppg), BJ Monteiro (11 ppg), and Eric Evans (10 ppg), although
    Evans will miss about eight weeks after fracturing his foot. Also
    expect sophomore wing Sean Johnson and freshman point guard TJ
    McConnell to contribute significant minutes in the back court as well.
    There are two issues for this Duquesne team. The first is depth, which
    wasn’t helped when 6’9″ freshman Derrick Martin was deemed a partial
    qualifier. This was basically a six or seven man team last year, and
    three of their rotational players — Melquan Bolding, Morankinyo
    Williams (both transfers), and Jason Duty (graduated) — are gone.
    Everhart did bring in a five-man recruiting class, but we will see if
    there is anyone that can contribute outside of Martin and McConnell.
    This Dukes team is especially thin up front, where any injuries or foul
    trouble to Saunders could really put the Dukes in a bad situation. The
    other issue is shooting. Duquesne may, legitimately, be the worst
    shooting team in the country. As a team, they shot just 26.1% from
    three and 60.4% from the free throw stripe. And their best three point
    shooter (the only player to shoot above 31%) and free throw shooter was
    Duty. There is talent on this team, and if they can put it together,
    this team can make some noise in the A-10. That is a big ‘if’, however.
  8. La Salle:
    The Explorers were derailed by injuries last season, ruining what was
    expected to be a good season, but it could be a blessing in disguise
    for this year. For starters, it means experienced guard Ruben
    Guillandeaux will be back for another season — he missed all but four
    games with a stress fracture. With Rutgers transfer Earl Pettis getting
    eligible and three talented guard recruits — Tyreek Duren, Cole
    Stefan, and Sam Mills — joining the mix, the Explorers figure to have
    a deep and talented back court next season which should help replace
    the loss of guys like Rodney Green and Kimani Barrett. Up front, Aaric
    Murray returns. Murray was a steal for John Giannini, a 6’10” center
    with range that was a consensus top 50 recruit. If he can be more of a
    post presence this season, and less of a spot up shooter, he should
    improve on his averages of 12.2 ppg and 6.6 rpg. Joining him up front
    will be Jerrell Williams, who averaged 10.1 ppg and 7.1 rpg, Steven
    Weingarten, and Devon White. The Explorers could end up being a sleeper
    in the A-10 if their talented freshmen live up to the hype and Murray
    develops into more of a true post.
  9. St. Louis:
    The Billikens were a surprise last season, winning 23 games — 11 in
    A-10 play — with a roster comprised of just freshmen and sophomores.
    With that roster essentially intact next season, anything less than an
    NCAA Tournament berth is likely going to be considered a
    disappointment. The problem is that the roster is not intact. The
    Billiken’s two best players — Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed — are
    both off the team as a result of an alleged sexual assault. Those
    losses are devastating the Billiken’s chances. Mitchell was far and
    away the best scorer for St. Louis. There will be some talent left.
    Kyle Cassity and Christian Salecich will both likely start, while Brian
    Conklin, Justin Jordan, and Paul Eckerle will also be counted on to
    play some big minutes. The x-factor for the Billikens will likely be
    6’8″ Cody Ellis, an Australian that missed the first 12 games waiting
    for NCAA clearance, but averaged 10.5 ppg and made the A-10
    all-freshmen team anyway. Without Mitchell and Reed, Ellis is going to
    be counted on for a huge portion of the scoring load, as there isn’t a
    lot of scoring left. The front court isn’t as deep as their back court,
    as a couple of freshmen will play big minutes. The Billikens are a
    tough defensive team, although they struggle at times on the glass —
    they will be small even for the A-10. If a couple of scorers develop
    alongside Ellis, maybe there is a chance for the Billikens to sneak
    into the top half of the league. But the tournament bid that was
    possible a few months ago is a pipe dream now.
  10. UMass:
    While Derek Kellogg has had a rough start to his tenure in Amherst,
    winning just 12 games in each of his first two seasons, the future
    looks bright for the Minutemen. UMass was a very young team last season
    — they started three freshmen and a sophomore — and while the loss of
    Ricky Harris will obviously be a blow, this is a team that should be
    better in 2011. Second leading scorer Anthony Gurley, who was moved to
    the bench at the end of last season, is a guard that could develop into
    a big time scorer this season and help offset the loss of Harris.
    Sophomores Terrell Vinson, an athletic and versatile combo forward, and
    Freddie Mitchell, a shooter who showed flashes of potential, both
    should see a bump is shot attempts and production as well. Junior David
    Gibbs, who started 16 of 21 games at the point before breaking his
    foot, should be better with another season in the dribble drive offense
    while 6’10” Oregon State transfer Sean Carter is one of the better
    rebounders in the league. No matter how you slice it, that is a pretty
    good starting five in the A-10. With three star freshmen Daryl Traynham
    and Maxie Esho joining a bench that also includes Javorn Farrell,
    Sampson Carter, Gary Correjia, and Hashim Bailey, Kellogg will have
    some pretty solid depth to work with. UMass finished last season
    strong, beating Rhode Island, Charlotte, and giving Richmond a fight in
    the A-10 tournament. This team isn’t yet ready to compete for the A-10
    title, but you shouldn’t be surprised if this group finishes somewhere
    in the middle of the league this year.
  11. George Washington:
    GW loses leading scorer and rebounder Damian Hollis, but the Colonials
    return 10 of their top 12 players, all of whom averaged at least 10
    minutes per game. The key is going to be rising sophomore Lasan Kromah.
    A 6’5″ wing, he is the closest thing Karl Hobbs has to a go-to scorer
    on his roster. He’ll be joined in the back court by point guard Tony
    Taylor, who is one of those point guards coaches love. He scores a
    little (9.4), he was third in the conference in assists (4.2), he
    doesn’t turn the ball over, and he can defend. Joining those two in the
    back court will be Aaron Ware, Bryan Bynes, Tim Johnson, and Travis
    King along with freshman Dan Guest. Up front, Karl Hobbs will have a
    lot of size and a lot of bodies at his disposal. There aren’t exactly
    any stars in the front court, but with guys like Joseph Katuka, Dwayne
    Smith, David Pellom, and Jabari Edwards returning, along with freshmen
    Daymon Warren and Nemanja Mikic, Hobbs has a lot of options. Once
    again, this is going to be a deep GW team that will play Hobbs’
    preferred uptempo pace. After back-to-back 13th place finishes in the
    A-10, GW made the jump last season and reached the CBI. While much of
    this year’s success will be determined by what kind of player Kromah
    turns into and whether or not another scorer develops, it is safe to
    assume that GW will again be a team around .500 on the year.
  12. St. Joseph’s:
    On the surface, it looks like the Hawks could be in for another long
    season. They lose their top two scorers from a team that won just 11
    games last year. That said, there is reason to be hopeful thanks to an
    excellent recruiting class brought in by Phil Martelli. It starts with
    CJ Aiken, a 6’9″, top 100 forward, that should help to boost an
    interior that was truly overmatched last season. Joining senior Idris
    Hilliard, who averaged double figures last season, Todd O’Brien, and
    Carl Baptiste, this gives the Hawks a front line that will, at the very
    least, be more competitive than last season. In the back court,
    sophomores Tay Jones and Justin Crogile, who both saw significant
    minutes as freshmen, are back. With highly regarded recruits like
    Daryus Quarles, Langston Galloway, and Patrick Swilling joining them,
    there is quite a bit of potential for the future here. St. Joe’s will
    be young this season, but if there freshmen come in ready to contribute
    there is an outside shot for this team to make a run at the top half of
    the league. More likely, however, I think the Hawks finish somewhere
    below .500, although the future does look promising.
  13. St. Bonaventure:
    The Bonnies have a potential star in 6’9″ center Andrew Nicholson.
    After winning the A-10 rookie of the year award, his sophomore campaign
    was quite impressive as well, as he finished the year with averages of
    16.4 ppg and 7.1 rpg. But with Chris Matthews and Jordan Hall both
    graduating, the Bonnies have some serious question marks with the rest
    of their lineup. For starters, is there anyone else that can be an
    impact player on the interior? Junior Da’Quan Cook has potential, but
    has been maddeningly unproductive in his first two seasons. Marquise
    Simmons, Brett Roseboro, and Jake Houseknecht haven’t proven to be
    reliable enough to contribute significant minutes. The other question
    is in the back court, where the Bonnies are going to need someone to
    step up and become a scorer. The best option may be Michael Davenport,
    a 6’4″ junior that showed some flashes as a sophomore, averaging 8.4
    ppg. Juniors Ogo Adegboye, who has reportedly looked impressive
    this summer playing for Great Britain, and Malcolm Eleby will likely
    battle for the starting point guard spot. Sophomore Demitrius Conger
    showed some potential as well, and two freshmen — Sam deHaas and
    Matthew Wright — could also see some time. Keep in mind, this St.
    Bonaventure team may also have to deal with some suspensions from the
    fight this summer. Nicholson should be enough to get this club some
    wins, but I expect much of the same from the Bonnies this year —
    thorough mediocrity.
  14. Fordham:
    The Rams were dismal last season, finishing the year just 2-26 and
    without a win in A-10 play. There were two bright spots, however. Chris
    Gaston proved to be a serious threat, averaging 18.0 ppg and 11.4 rpg
    and winning the A-10’s player of the year award, while Brenton Butler
    returned from a knee injury to averaged 16.5 ppg. Both of them return,
    as does third-leading scorer Alberto Estwick. Gone, however, is Jio
    Fontan, the Rams star point guard who transferred to USC midway through
    the year. Also gone is Lance Brown, who started a majority of Fordham’s
    games. The good news is that Fordham did have a number of young guys
    contribute last season, and with a solid recruiting class coming in,
    there’s hope for the future for new head coach Tom Pecora. But its
    difficult to think Fordham will be all that much improved next season.

No. 20 Maryland upsets No. 7 Notre Dame at the buzzer, 74-72

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Diamond Miller scored 31 points, including the game-winner at the buzzer, to lead No. 20 Maryland to a 74-72 victory over seventh-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Irish guard Sonia Cintron’s layup had tied the game with 15 seconds left off before Maryland held for the last shot. Miller hit a contested mid-range jumper just before time expired to give the Terrapins a victory over a top-10 opponent. It was the 15th lead change of the game.

Miller also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to go along with five assists. Shyanne Sellers added 17 points.

Maryland (7-2) picked up its first win over Notre Dame (6-1) since 2007.

Cintron’s double-double led the Irish with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Notre Dame’s leading scorer Olivia Miles got off to a slow start on Thursday due to foul trouble. She scored 12 of her 14 points in the final 15 minutes of the game to go along with seven assists and two steals.


Maryland: The Terrapins picked up their second top-20 win of the season ahead of the upcoming Big Ten opener.

Notre Dame: The Irish have had issues with foul trouble this season, a problem that persisted on Thursday. Miles played just 25 minutes, including the majority of the fourth quarter, due to picking up her fourth foul late in the third quarter.


Maryland: Returns to College Park for the program’s Big Ten opener Sunday against Nebraska.

Notre Dame: Stays home to host No. 3 UConn Sunday.

Virginia’s depth helping its rapid climb in the AP Top 25

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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The starting five is the same, but that is where comparisons between the Virginia team that has climbed to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 and last year’s NIT quarterfinalists ends.

Yes, one more year together and a trip to Italy has made the first five significantly better, but part of the credit for that surely goes to another group: the reinforcements. They’ve helped the Cavaliers (6-0) already knock off No. 6 Baylor, No. 16 Illinois and Michigan.

Virginia has scored 70 points or more in its first six game for the first time since the 2003-04 season, and coach Tony Bennett said it was the offense – and not UVA’s signature relentless defense – that saved them in a 70-68 victory this week at Michigan in the ACC/Bg Ten Challenge.

“Our offense kind of kept us in it in the first half,” Bennett said, before the team put it all together, erasing an 11-point halftime deficit to disappoint a raucous Wolverines crowd.

Reece Beekman was the offensive catalyst, scoring 15 of his 18 points before halftime, but four others joined him in double figures, including Jayden Gardner. His foul-line jumper with 39.9 seconds left provided the last of his 11 points, and the winning margin.

Gardner, who led Virginia in scoring last season (15.3 ppg), is averaging 11.5 this year.

“We’ve got a lot of capable scorers and we’re just gonna keep playing together. And we’re playing very unselfish basketball right now,” Gardner said after scoring 24 against Maryland Eastern Shore. He went into the game with 31 points through four games.

“He’s not the most jumping type of guy, but he’s got so much power,” Hawks coach Jason Crafton said of Gardner, an East Carolina transfer with 2,068 career points. “That low center of gravity and the flexibility that he has to be able to get under people and hold his position is elite. When he wants the ball at a certain spot, he can get it there.”

The leader remains guard Kihei Clark, who already has a place in Virginia history, having retrieved a loose ball and fed Mamadi Diakite for a jumper that sent the Cavs’ Elite Eight game against Purdue into overtime on the way to winning the 2019 national championship.

Newcomers Ben Vander Plas, a transfer from Ohio, and freshman Isaac McKneely have given Bennett more options, and more scoring power than a year ago.

As a junior, Vander Plas had 17 points for No. 13 seed Ohio when the Bobcats upset Virginia 62-58 in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

He scored seven straight in the second half against the Wolverines, twice scoring inside and then swishing a 3-pointer while trying to slow down bruising big man Hunter Dickinson.

“Ben, yeah. Just his poise and composure in the post, took advantage of some mismatches and he really gave us a great lift,” Bennett said. Vander Plas is the son of a teammate of Bennett’s at Green Bay, and his first name is a tribute to Bennett’s father, Dick.

McKneely scored 15 and made 4 of 6 3-point tries in an 89-42 victory against Monmouth

“He was standing in front of our bench. I’m like, `Listen, we’re not helping off him,”‘ Monmouth coach King Rice said he told his team, pointing at McKneely, a two-time player of the year in West Virginia. “And he kind of looked at me and I said, `Yeah, you, because you make all of them,’ and he started laughing.”

Ryan Dunn also made quite the impression on Rice in his first collegiate appearance, scoring 13 points with six rebounds and three blocks in almost 27 minutes.

“I was in the building when De’Andre Hunter came off the bench and had a breakout game,” Rice said of Hunter, now with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. “Dunn reminds me a lot of Hunter, and you can tell he’s young. But when he grows into that body with that skill set, he’ll be giving people problems for a long, long time.”

The Cavaliers open Atlantic Coast Conference play against Florida State, then host top-ranked Houston, which beat them 67-47 last season, a week later.

“A good schedule for sure and it tests you, it kind of shows you, win or lose, you see where you’ve got some holes,” Bennett said.

So far, the Cavaliers have been able to fill them all.

No. 4 Arizona turning heads early in the season

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd knew there was talent on his roster. He wasn’t exactly sure how good the team would be.

The former longtime Gonzaga assistant had a similar view of last year’s team and that one turned out to be pretty good, running all the way to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

This year’s team could end up being even better.

Buoyed by transfers and improved returning players, Arizona has rolled through the early part of its schedule, climbing to No. 4 in this week’s AP Top 25 after winning the Maui Invitational.

“I learned that we’re good,” Lloyd said. “We’re tough. We’re gritty. I think there’s going to be some great things for us to really double down on and some things to show our guys where we went the wrong way.”

Lloyd had a superb first season in the desert, earning coach of the year honors last season with a team that lost three players to the NBA.

The Wildcats (6-0) had to replace three NBA players again this season. Again, they made a seamless transition.

Improvement on the part of the returning players has been a big part of it.

Oumar Ballo, considered a project as a freshman at Gonzaga, has transformed into one of the nation’s best big men. The 7-foot, 260-pound center from Mali has vastly improved his footwork and developed patience in the post, setting himself up for good shots instead of trying to bull his way to the basket.

Ballo is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 76.7% from the field, fourth-best nationally. He was named Maui Invitational MVP after finishing with 30 points and 13 rebounds against No. 7 Creighton in the title game.

Not bad for a player who averaged 2.5 points and 6.3 minutes per game two years ago at Gonzaga.

“When he struggled, I still believed in him,” Lloyd said. “I didn’t need for him to be instantly successful for me to reaffirm my belief in him. When he struggled, we continued to love him and work with him and then he continued to hang in there and I think it is a great story.”

Fellow big man Azuolas Tubelis has made a few strides of his own, adding strength and toughness to his athletic, fluid game. The 6-10 forward leads Arizona with 19.3 points per game while grabbing 8.0 rebounds.

Fiery point guard Kerr Kriisa has rounded into a reliable floor leader, averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 51% from the 3-point arc.

“I don’t pay attention to the antics because they don’t mean anything to me,” Lloyd said. “I know maybe that draws attention to him from other people but when it comes to just pure basketball, I mean he is doing a good job and I think he is really showing something.”

So is Courtney Ramey.

The Texas transfer has given the Wildcats a huge boost in his first season in Tucson, providing hounding defense, leadership and another scoring option. He’s averaging 16 points per game and has hit 10 of 16 from 3-point range so far this season.

Campbell transfer Cedric Henderson Jr. has provided an athletic lift off the bench and 7-foot Estonian Henri Veesaar has given Arizona solid minutes.

The mix of new and old has helped Arizona lead the nation with 97.5 points a game and rank second with 21.8 assists per game. The Wildcats climbed 10 spots in this week’s poll after wins over Cincinnati, No. 24 San Diego State and Creighton.

Arizona opens Pac-12 play Thursday at Utah.

“It was good to get the recognition, but we’re not satisfied,” Ramey said. “Our ultimate goal is to be No. 1 at the end of the season and be the final two teams playing, so I think the regular season matters but it’s not the ultimate goal for us.”

The Wildcats are certainly off to a good start.

Gardner, No. 3 Virginia rally for 70-68 win at Michigan

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Tony Bennett’s team passed all its tests in the opening month of the season.

Jayden Gardner made a go-ahead jumper with 39.9 seconds left and blocked Jett Howard’s 3-point shot just before the buzzer, allowing No. 3 Virginia to stay undefeated with a 70-68 win over Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday night.

The Cavaliers (6-0) won their first true road game against a team that was ranked in the first two polls this season, a little more than a week after beating then-No. 5 Baylor and then-No. 19 Illinois in Las Vegas.

“It got pretty intense in here,” Bennett said.

Virginia trailed by 11 points at halftime, rallied to go ahead with 7:25 left and built a five-point lead that didn’t last.

The Wolverines (5-2) went ahead 66-65 at the 1:42 mark when Hunter Dickinson made one of two free throws.

Michigan missed chances to stay or go ahead when Dickinson missed a hook shot with 1:01 to go and Princeton transfer Jaelin Llewellyn turned the ball over with 16 seconds left.

“Hunter has made that running hook before,” coach Juwan Howard said. “The turnover, yes, down the stretch, it hurt, but overall that’s not the reason we lost the ballgame.

“We could’ve easily put our heads down when they came out in the second half and made a run.”

Reece Beekman, who finished with 18 points, stepped in front of Llewellyn’s pass in the final minute and made one of two free throws.

Virginia’s Armaan Franklin missed two free throws with 5.7 seconds left, giving Michigan a chance to extend or win the game. Howard took a contested shot beyond the 3-point arc on the right wing – near his father, Michigan’s coach – and Gardner came up with the block against the freshman guard while Wolverines coaches and players screamed for a foul call.

It appeared that Gardner got all ball on the block.

Kihei Clark scored 16 points, Gardner had 12, Kadin Shedrick fouled out with 12 points and Ben Vander Plas added 10 for the balanced Cavaliers.

“You need different guys, and that’s what it takes, to make plays offensively and defensively,” Bennett said.

Dickinson scored 23 points, Jett Howard had 11 of his 15 in the first half and Kobe Bufkin added 11 points for Michigan.

“Jett is a gamer, he’s going to compete no matter what,” Juwan Howard said. “He’s loved basketball since he was a little baby boy.

“He’s going to help us win a lot of games this year.”

The Wolverines started slowly, trailing 9-2 in the opening minutes, before Howard scored eight points to lead a 13-2 run. Michigan led 45-34 at halftime when Bufkin made a layup after a steal.

“We can’t be sloppy like that on the defensive end, but we did battle hard in the second half,” Bennett said.

Vander Plas scored nine points during an 11-2 run that put Virginia ahead 65-60. The Cavaliers then went 4 1/2 minutes without a basket before Gardner’s big shot.


Virginia: The Cavaliers have their highest ranking since the 2018-19 season – which ended with a national title – and are off to their best start since being 7-0 three years ago. The team continues to honor the memory of three football players who were fatally shot on campus earlier this month, wearing warmup jerseys with their names.

Michigan: Juwan Howard’s team matched up well in its first game against a ranked opponent this season.

“When we come out with the effort like we did today for 40 minutes, I love our chances against any college team in the country,” he said.


Virginia: Hosts Florida State (1-7) on Saturday.

Michigan: Plays No. 19 Kentucky (5-2) on Sunday in London.

Marquette’s defense overwhelms No. 6 Baylor in 96-70 win

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

MILWAUKEE – Marquette has developed a habit under Shaka Smart of saving its top performances for the best opponents on its schedule.

Olivier-Maxence Prosper scored 24 points and Marquette capitalized on a dominant start from its defense to roll past No. 6 Baylor 96-70 on Tuesday night in the Big 12-Big East Battle. This was the highest-ranked team Marquette (6-2) has beaten under Smart and the Golden Eagles improved to to 7-6 against AP Top 25 squads in his tenure.

“Most of the time against these great teams, they don’t have us winning that game,” said David Joplin, who scored 19 points. “We just come out, we want to go out and prove everybody wrong. And that feeling, that chip makes us play so much better.”

Marquette nearly produced its most lopsided victory against a Top 25 team. The Golden Eagles trounced No. 16 Providence 88-56 on Jan. 4 in Smart’s debut season.

“When you go into a game and the game is bigger in the minds of your players than anything else, to me that’s the best recipe for winning,” Smart said. “It should be that way all the time, but human nature sometimes messes with that.”

Marquette’s defense embarrassed a highly regarded Baylor backcourt.

The Golden Eagles raced to a 51-25 halftime lead thanks to a 24-0 edge in points off turnovers. Baylor (5-2) already had a season-high 16 turnovers by halftime.

Baylor entered Tuesday ranked third among Division I teams in assist-turnover margin. The Bears had 20 turnovers and 12 assists against Marquette.

“I didn’t see that coming,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Credit the crowd. Credit them for building momentum. Credit Shaka for having them prepared and how hard they played. At the end of the day, we fed to the fire by turning it over and making some uncharacteristic mistakes.”

Prosper scored 10 points and sank two 3-pointers during a 23-2 run that turned an early 7-2 deficit into a 25-9 advantage. Chase Ross capped the spurt by getting a steal and throwing down a left-handed dunk.

Baylor never cut Marquette’s lead below 22 points in the second half.

Kam Jones had 20 points as Marquette shot 58.3% overall to win its third straight. The Golden Eagles shot 12 of 25 from 3-point range, with Jones going 4 of 7 and Prosper and Joplin each going 3 of 4.

Baylor’s LJ Cryer had 17 of his 19 points, in the second half. Adam Flagler had 16 and Keyonte George added 12 for the Bears.


Baylor: The Bears shot 48.2% (27 of 56) but had no answers for Marquette’s defense and dug too deep a hole. Baylor rallied from a 25-deficit to force overtime in an NCAA Tournament loss to North Carolina last season, but the Bears never mounted any kind of comeback Tuesday.

Marquette: After losing to Purdue and Mississippi State earlier this season, the Golden Eagles delivered the kind of performance that showed they’re capable of beating anyone. Marquette will try to prove that again when it hosts Wisconsin on Saturday.


The Big 12-Big East Battle started Tuesday and runs through Sunday. Last season’s Big 12-Big East Battle ended in a 5-5 tie.


Marquette came out of its locker room wearing shirts with No. 24 to honor George Thompson, who died in June of complications from diabetes. Thompson played for Marquette from 1967-69, and he was the school’s career scoring leader for 40 years.

Tuesday would have been Thompson’s 75th birthday. A No. 24 banner with Thompson’s name hangs from the Fiserv Forum rafters.

“I really felt like we needed to win tonight to honor George,” Smart said. “If you make it George Thompson Night, you couldn’t lose.”


Baylor: Faces No. 14 Gonzaga on Friday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Marquette: Hosts Wisconsin on Saturday.