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.

Bubble Banter: It’s that time of year again!

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It’s getting to be that time of year.

Bubble Banter is back, baby!

Over the course of the next three days, we are going to be diving headlong into bubble chatter right here, breaking down every single team that is on or near the bubble for the NCAA tournament Field of 68. This, of course, is according to our Dave Ommen, who sent me a list of all the bubble teams. Our cut-off, at least for this conversation, is teams that currently sit as a No. 9 seed or better in the most recent bracket that we released.


Because — with the notable exception of Ohio State — it is difficult to see how any of those teams can end up out of the NCAA tournament before our next bracket projection gets published on Monday.

So, you know, they’re not currently on the bubble.

Anyway, come back throughout the weekend to see who the winners and the losers are and what it means for their standing in regards to the cut line.


PURDUE (NET: 37, NBC: Off the bubble): Purdue’s schizophrenic January continued on Friday with a blowout win over Wisconsin (30) at home. The Boilermakers have lost four of their last six, and the two wins were utterly dominant wins over the Badgers and Michigan State (10). Their 11-9 (4-5) record isn’t pretty, but three Quad 1 wins and just one Quad 3 loss — at Nebraska (165) — is enough to keep them in the mix.

YALE (NET: 60, NBC: 12): The Elis are in this conversation because they don’t really have a bad loss to speak of. Their “worst” loss was a road game at San Francisco (!00), and if North Carolina gets Cole Anthony back, then that loss is not going to look nearly as bad by Selection Sunday. Their problem is a lack of quality wins. They won at Clemson (75), which is barely a Quad 1 win. That’s their only win that didn’t come against Quad 3 or 4 opponents. That’s not going to change in the Ivy. I think they need to win out and lose to Harvard in the Ivy title game to have a real at-large chance.




VCU at La Salle, 12:00 p.m.
PITT at SYRACUSE, 12:00 p.m.
ST. JOHN’S at DEPAUL, 2:00 p.m.
VIRGINIA TECH at Boston College, 2:00 p.m.
LSU at TEXAS, 2:00 p.m.
RHODE ISLAND at St. Bonaventure, 3:00 p.m.
UNCG at Samford, 3:00 p.m.
AKRON at Ohio, 3:30 p.m.
LIBERTY at Stetson, 4:00 p.m.
Chattanooga at EAST TENNESSEE STATE, 4:00 p.m.
N.C. STATE at Georgia Tech, 4:00 p.m.
SMU at MEMPHIS, 4:00 p.m.
TENNESSEE at No. 3 Kansas, 4:00 p.m.
BYU at San Francisco, 5:00 p.m.
No. 7 Dayton at RICHMOND, 6:00 p.m.
No. 15 Kentucky at No. 18 TEXAS TECH, 6:00 p.m.
Kansas State at ALABAMA, 6:00 p.m.
Washington State at UTAH, 7:00 p.m.
NOTRE DAME at No. 5 Florida State, 8:00 p.m.
SAINT MARY’S at LMU, 9:00 p.m.
WASHINGTON at No. 23 Colorado, 9:00 p.m.
No. 22 Arizona at ARIZONA STATE, 9:30 p.m.
Colorado State at UTAH STATE, 10:00 p.m.


VIRGINIA at Wake Forest, 12:00 p.m.
No. 11 Michigan State at MINNESOTA, 3:00 p.m.
Fordham at SAINT LOUIS, 3:00 p.m.
XAVIER at Creighton, 4:00 p.m.
Loyola-Chicago at NORTHERN IOWA, 4:00 p.m.
OHIO STATE at Northwestern, 6:30 p.m.

Best Bets: Previewing Baylor-Florida, Texas Tech-Kentucky

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As always, the Vegas lines are not out for the weekend games, so we will be breaking them down using KenPom, Torvik and Haslametric projections.


MARQUETTE at No. 13 BUTLER, 9:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Butler 72, Marquette 66
  • TORVIK: Butler 72, Marquette 66
  • HASLAM: Butler 71, Marquette 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: Butler 70, Marquette 64

In theory, this is an ideal buy-low spot for Butler. They are coming off of three straight losses, the last two of which came on the road. The loss at DePaul was a bad matchup, and the loss at Villanova was a result of Sean McDermott and Jordan Tucker shooting a combined 1-for-12 from three until the final minute of a 15-point loss.

Marquette, on the other hand, is in a prime sell-high spot. The Golden Eagles have won three in a row. Two of them came at home and the third was at Georgetown, a team that is down to just seven scholarship players. Trying to predict the nights that Markus Howard doesn’t score 30-plus is more or less impossible, but I do think that it is worth noting Butler is 12th nationally in defensive three-point field goal percentage and has a couple of quality perimeter defenders they can throw at him.

BEST BET: The logic says to bet Butler here. The problem is that, at Butler (-6) or (-6.5), I don’t think we’re buying Butler low or selling Marquette high. KenPom and Torvik both have the line at (-6) while Haslam has it at (-7). I was hoping to get it at (-5) or lower, which is unfortunate. Either way, if I’m going to be betting this game — which, let’s be honest, is probably going to happen — it will be with Butler.

Oh, and Butler is unveiling Butler IV, their new puppy, tonight. Never fade the puppy play.


No. 15 KENTUCKY at No. 18 TEXAS TECH, 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Texas Tech 67, Kentucky 64
  • TORVIK: Texas Tech 67, Kentucky 64
  • HASLAM: Texas Tech 69, Kentucky 63

The more I think about this, the more I like the Texas Tech side here. I do think that the Red Raiders have one of the best coaching staffs when it comes to developing and instituting a game-plan. That’s a problem for a Kentucky team that tends to be fairly limited in what they run offensively. Put another way, Kentucky tends to figure out what works for them and run it over and over and over again. Their playbook shrinks as the season progresses, and that’s the kind of thing that Chris Beard and Mark Adams can take advantage of.

This is also a good buy-low spot for Texas Tech, considering that they are coming home off of a loss at TCU.

On the other side of the ball, I do worry about Texas Tech’s ability to create offense. They have struggled on that end, and I don’t think they actually have the front court pieces to be able to pull Nick Richards out of the paint.

BEST BETS: I’ll be curious to see where the line opens up here. I lean Texas Tech at anything (-4) and below, and I hope that the Kentucky effect can push that line much lower. I also will be on the under. If I think Texas Tech will have trouble to score, and Kentucky will have trouble to score, it only makes sense.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: This line opened at Texas Tech (-4) and has moved to (-4.5). I still like the Tech side here, but I think number I think that under (132.5) is a better bet at this point.

No. 1 BAYLOR at FLORIDA, 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Baylor 65, Florida 64
  • TORVIK: Baylor 65, Florida 63
  • HASLAM: Baylor 65, Florida 64

Baylor feels like they’re due for a loss, right?

They needed to erase a 12-point second half deficit at Oklahoma State last weekend. On Monday night, they nearly had Austin Reaves hitting a three in the final seconds to give Oklahoma a win in Waco. And now they are heading back out on the road to take on a Florida team that has been better of late?

Here’s to hoping that this line gets inflated because of the number next to Baylor’s name.

I also believe that the under is in play here. Baylor is one of the nation’s best defensive teams. Florida has not been as good on that end of the floor of late, but they, too, have shown flashes of being able to guard. They also matchup well with the Bears. But more importantly, I don’t believe that either of these teams are going to try and push the tempo. Florida has shown a frustrating determination to play possession by possession this season, while the Bears rank 269th in average offensive possession length.

BEST BET: I’ll be targeting the Florida ML here, particularly if the Gators end up getting points, but taking the under seems like the best play in this game.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: This game opened up as a pick-em and, as of 9 a.m. ET, had moved to Florida (-2.5). I know I said I liked Florida in the section above, but this line has moved too much for my liking. I think the value is on Baylor at this number, and I’ll have a little bit on their ML (+120).

But like Texas Tech-Kentucky, this is another spot where the under (130.5) seems like the best play in the game.

No. 8 VILLANOVA at PROVIDENCE, 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Villanova 70, Providence 68
  • TORVIK: Providence 70, Villanova 69
  • HASLAM: Villanova 68, Providence 66

It’s not going to feel comfortable, but this feels like a good spot to take Providence. Villanova has won five in a row and 11 of their last 12, but their last four games have been played at home. They’ve failed to cover in two of their last three games and are just 1-3 against the spread on the road this season.

Providence has lost back-to-back games on the road, covering the spread in both games, and have covered in six of their last eight games.

BEST BET: I’ll be on the Providence side, but whether I take the Providence ML or take the points will depend on what the line opens up at.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: This line is bouncing between Providence (+2) and (+1.5). I like the Friars at that number, and I’ll be on the ML (+104) myself.

No. 21 ILLINOIS at MICHIGAN, 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Michigan 71, Illinois 68
  • TORVIK: Michigan 71, Illinois 68
  • HASLAM: Michigan 71, Illinois 69

The logic here is going to be exceedingly simple: Illinois is as hot as any team in the country right now. They’ve won five straight games, including wins at Wisconsin and at Purdue, the latter of which was by 17 points. Michigan, on the other hand, has not been the same team since they lost Isaiah Livers to a groin injury and, since January 1st, they’ve ranked 127th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to Torvik.

BEST BET: I’ll be all over the Illinois ML, especially if this line opens up at Illinois (+3).

*SATURDAY UPDATE: Turns out that the line opens at Illinois (+3.5) and moved to (+4). Ride the Illini, and a sprinkle on the ML (+155) seems tasty as well.

TENNESSEE at No. 3 KANSAS, 4:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Kansas 68, Tennessee 54
  • TORVIK: Kansas 68, Tennessee 54
  • HASLAM: Kansas 70, Tennessee 50

Kansas ranks No. 1 nationally in adusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. They’re third in Torvik’s rating system. Since Lamonte Turner saw his season come to an end, Tennessee has ranked 251st nationally if adjusted offensive efficiency. The one point guard on their roster, freshman Santiago Vescovi, is averaging 5.0 turnovers per game despite playing just 24.5 minutes — to be fair, he had 21 turnovers in his first three games and has had just nine in the last three.

BEST BETS: I think Kansas rolls here after a week of hearing how bad they are because of Tuesday night’s fight.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: I thought the line would open around Kansas (-14), which means (-13.5) is tasty.


No. 17 MARYLAND at INDIANA, 1:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Maryland 67, Indiana 66
  • TORVIK: Indiana 67, Maryland 65
  • HASLAM: Maryland 66, Indiana 64

Maryland is 1-4 on the road this season. Their one win came at Northwestern in a game where they trailed by 14 points in the first half. The Terps might be the worst road team in the Big Ten, a league where road teams have been terrible this season.

BEST BET: If Indiana is getting points, take the ML. I also will be interested in betting the Indiana first half line. Fade Turgeon is in full effect this weekend.


  • KENPOM: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 71
  • TORVIK: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 71
  • HASLAM: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 70

This is a tough spot for me. Michigan State has not been great away from East Lansing this season and they are coming off of a road loss at Indiana on Thursday night. That said, their loss came after erasing a 16-point first half deficit in a game where Xavier Tillman missed a wide-open layup that would have forced overtime.

BEST BET: I will be staying away from this game.

Kentucky’s Kahlil Whitney is leaving school

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Kentucky will be down a five-star recruit for the rest of the season.

Kahlil Whitney, who was the No. 11 prospect in the Class of 2019, according to 247 Sports’ composite ranking, announced on Friday that he will be leaving the Kentucky program.

“My time at Kentucky has not gone as I had hoped,” Whitney wrote in a statement released on his twitter page, “and I therefore need to make a difficult decision quickly to put myself back in to the best position possible as I continue to develop and work towards my ultimate goal.

“I’ve realized since high school that the business of basketball waits for no one, and sometimes tough choices need to be made in order to progress.”

Whitney was a starter early on in the season for the Wildcats, but he has been relegated to a limited role off the bench since league play started. He’s averaged 3.3 points in less than 13 minutes. In the last seven games he’s averaging just 6.1 minutes.

Whitney’s statement does not mention transferring, but if he did opt to head to a different school, he will not be eligible to play until 2021-22 without a waiver.

Bracketology: The top seeds remain in place

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Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

It’s been a while since we could say this:  All four No. 1 seeds remained in place between bracket updates: Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas and San Diego State.

Elsewhere, more than a handful of teams still have significant resume questions.  And several current bubble teams have important showdowns this weekend – including key matchups in the Big 12 / SEC Challenge.

On a closing note … remember that the Selection Committee evaluates a team’s entire profile, from beginning to end.  How a team performed in its last ten games is no longer an official criteria (although each Committee member may have his or her own perspective on its importance).  So while Ohio State and Michigan, as examples, have both struggled of late, each team’s early wins remain relevant considerations with regard to team sheet evaluation.

The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …

UPDATED: January 24, 2020

EAST REGION Oklahoma vs. VCU
MIDWEST REGION Minnesota vs. Texas Tech

SOUTH Houston                  WEST – Los Angeles 
Omaha Spokane
8) USC 8) Wichita State
9) Michigan 9) Arkansas
St. Louis Sacramento
5) Butler 5) Arizona
4) Maryland 4) Iowa
Albany Greensboro
6) Wisconsin 6) Marquette
11) Virginia Tech 11) NC State
3) Villanova 3) West Virginia
Tampa Spokane
7) Rutgers 7) Indiana
10) Memphis 10) BYU
2) Florida State 2) Oregon
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Sacramento Omaha
1) SAN DIEGO STATE 1) Kansas
9) Florida 9) Ohio State
Tampa Cleveland
5) Penn State 5) Creighton
4) Kentucky 4) DAYTON
Greensboro St. Louis
6) Auburn 6) Colorado
11) Oklahoma / VCU 11) Minnesota / Texas Tech
Albany Cleveland
7) Illinois 7) LSU
10) Saint Mary’s 10) DePaul

Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Saint Mary’s Oklahoma Xavier Arizona State
DePaul Minnesota Richmond Alabama
Virginia Tech Texas Tech Georgetown Mississippi State
NC State VCU Rhode Island Tennessee

Top Seed Line
Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, San Diego State
Seed List

Breakdown by Conference …
Big Ten (11)
Big East (6)
ACC (5)
SEC (5)

Big 12 (5)
Pac 12 (5)
American (3)

West Coast (3)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (1)

Duarte’s 30 points leads No. 12 Oregon past USC 79-70 in double OT

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EUGENE, Ore. — Paying close attention paid off for Oregon’s Chris Duarte.

The junior guard had 30 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals, and the No. 12 Ducks outlasted Southern California 79-70 in double overtime Thursday night.

“I was watching the point guard’s eyes. I was watching everybody’s eyes. So I knew where they were going to pass the ball,” Duarte said. “So I took that as an advantage.”

Oregon teammate Payton Pritchard added 24 points and seven assists, becoming the first Pac-12 player to reach 1,500 career points, 600 assists and 500 rebounds. When the achievement was noted on the video scoreboard at Matthew Knight Arena in the second half, the crowd gave the senior guard a standing ovation.

Pritchard is the sixth player in Pac-12 history with 1,500 points and 600 assists, joining Oregon State’s Gary Payton, Arizona’s Damon Stoudamire and Jason Gardner, USC’s Jordan McLaughlin and UCLA’s Tyus Edney.

Oregon (16-4, 5-2) led by 11 in the second half but USC rallied with a 17-2 run to take a 62-58 lead, capped by Jonah Mathews’ 3-pointer with 1:24 left.

C.J. Walker and Pritchard hit consecutive layups to tie it at 62 and send the game to overtime.

Pritchard’s 3-pointer in the first extra period gave the Ducks a 65-64 lead, but Ethan Anderson’s layup and free throw put the Trojans up by two. Duarte made free throws for the Ducks to tie it again, and Mathews and Pritchard both missed shots down the stretch.

Duarte and Pritchard each hit a pair of free throws that gave Oregon a four-point advantage to open the second overtime. Duarte’s 3-pointer put the Ducks up 74-68, and USC couldn’t catch up.

Duarte’s eight steals were one shy of the school record.

“He was the difference in the game,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “No doubt about it.”

Onyeka Okongwu had 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Trojans (15-4, 4-2).

“You’ve got to take care of the ball. Some ill-timed passes that went to the other guys. We just have to make the right basketball play,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Give them credit, they’re a good defensive team.”

It was Oregon’s third overtime game in league play.

Oregon was coming off a 64-61 overtime win at Washington last weekend. The Ducks overcame a 16-point deficit and won it on Pritchard’s 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left. But Oregon lost to Washington State 72-61 last Thursday, resulting in a fall from No. 8 to No. 12 in the AP Top 25.

USC had won nine of its last 10 games and three straight, including last Saturday’s 82-78 overtime victory against Stanford. The Trojans came back from a 21-point deficit in the second half to beat the Cardinal.

The Ducks built an early 15-7 lead after Duarte’s fast-break layup and 3-pointer. Oregon stayed in front, but USC closed to 24-23 on Daniel Utomi’s jumper.

The teams went to the break with Oregon ahead 32-30. Utomi led all scorers with 10 points.

Okongwu’s layup for USC tied it at 32 to start the second half but the Ducks responded with a 10-0 run, capped by Duarte’s jumper off a dish from Pritchard. Okongwu’s dunk ended the Trojans’ scoring drought.

Okongwu made consecutive baskets to pull USC to 56-53, and Matthews tied it with a 3-pointer to top off an 11-0 Trojans run. Pritchard answered with a layup for Oregon.

Freshman forward Chandler Lawson’s layup stretched the Ducks’ lead to 49-38 midway through the second half.

“A lot of things we’ve got to work on. But we got some defensive stops when we needed it, we got some big rebounds when we needed it, and just found a way to win the game,” Altman said. “We’ve been doing that too much, though. We’ve got to find a way to get our offense cranked a little bit.”

Lawson made his first start for the Ducks after he had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Washington. Oregon was without center N’Faly Dante, who was questionable for the game after hurting his knee against the Huskies.

Pritchard was one of just two Division I players averaging at least 19 points, five assists and four rebounds per game, joining Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross.


USC: The Trojans started 4-1 in conference play for the first time since 2016. USC went 5-0 to open conference play in 2002. … Enfield said afterward that this loss stung. “We’ve played a few close games this year. We won three or four close ones,” he said. “We were right there and we lost. It hurts when you lose a game and have a chance.”

Oregon: Pritchard is closing in on Oregon’s career record of 614 assists held by Kenya Wilkins. … Pritchard has won 96 games as a Ducks player, one shy of Oregon’s career leader, Johnathan Lloyd. … Sabrina Ionescu, star guard for the No. 4 Oregon women, was at the game and was interviewed by the Pac-12 broadcast team during the first half.


USC visits Oregon State on Saturday.

Oregon hosts UCLA on Sunday.