Conference Countdown: No. 8 Atlantic 10

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Preseason Awards

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

Anderson
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.

Wright
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
league.

Breakout Star: Ramone Moore, Temple, Jr.

There
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

Staten
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.

Villanova, Syracuse fall out of Top 25 poll as Duke, Kansas stay on top

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Two of college basketball’s bluebloods remained firmly entrenched atop the AP Top 25 after a week of easy wins, while two more tumbled all the way out after a week filled with defeats.

One of them happens to be the reigning national champion.

While top-ranked Duke and No. 2 Kansas did little to hurt their status as early national title contenders, Villanova and Syracuse slid all the way out of the Top 25 on Monday. The Wildcats lost a rematch of last year’s championship game with Michigan, then lost in overtime to Furman on Saturday to give coach Jay Wright’s team back-to-back losses for the first time in five years.

The Wildcats had risen to No. 8 last week. They were among those receiving votes this week.

“We’re trying to work out a lot of chemistry things with our team. We have a lot of new guys,” Villanova guard Phil Booth said. “We’re trying to play more together and figure things out.”

Indeed, the Wildcats are trying to replace key players Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman after last year’s championship run. But while a strong recruiting class is trying to find its way, the Wildcats are off to a 2-2 start for the first time since 1997.

They’re also the first national champion to start 2-2 since UCLA in 1995.

The Wildcats weren’t the only big-time program to take a tumble this week. Syracuse dropped from No. 15 out of the poll after losing to Connecticut and Oregon in the 2k Classic.

“We have to play better offensively we’re going to be successful. Our defense is nowhere near the point it was last year. That’s something that also has to get better,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, whose team is 2-2 for the first time since the 1987-88 season. “There’s no doubt we have a lot of work to do. We’re a long ways away.”

The top five remained unchanged with Duke remained the clear No. 1, receiving 53 of 63 first-place votes after blowing out Eastern Michigan. Kansas was second with seven first-place votes after wins over Vermont and Louisiana-Lafayette, followed by Gonzaga, Virginia and Tennessee.

“I think in the past few days we grew up a bit more,” said Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team played San Diego State in the first round of the Maui Invitational on Monday.

Gonzaga (3-0) and eighth-ranked Auburn (3-0) are also in the tournament.

“It’s a great field,” Krzyzewski said. “You’re playing three straight days, which will never happen otherwise during the season, so success or failure there has to be looked at a little bit closer. It’s a great opportunity for competition, and there are some big-time teams in the tournament, which usually there are when we’re in the tournament.”

AT THE TOP

The only major movement in the top 10 involved Villanova dropping out and Michigan (5-0) climbing from No. 18 to ninth. Nevada (3-0) remained sixth and North Carolina (4-0) seventh. Auburn moved up one spot and Kentucky (3-1) rounded out the first 10.

BIG RISERS

The Wolverines were the biggest movers, while Virginia Tech (4-0) climbed three spots to No. 13. Clemson was No. 16, followed by UCLA, TCU and LSU after each of them also moved up three spots.

ALSO SLIDING

Marquette joined Villanova and Syracuse in dropping from the poll after the Golden Eagles (3-1) were routed by Indiana. Oregon (3-1) dropped from No. 13 to No. 21 after splitting its games against Iowa and Syracuse in New York.

BIG TEN NEWCOMERS

Iowa (4-0) leaped into the poll at No. 20 after beating Oregon and blowing out UConn to win the 2K Classic. It’s the first time the Hawkeyes have been ranked since the final poll of the 2015-16 season.

The other newcomers this week were also from the Big Ten: Ohio State (4-0) entered at No. 23 after beating Creighton and South Carolina State, and Wisconsin squeaked in ahead of another Big Ten rival in Nebraska at No. 25 after the Badgers (3-0) took care of Xavier and Houston Baptist.

Brian Bowen sues Adidas, associates over corruption scandal

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Former Louisville and South Carolina player Brian Bowen II has sued Adidas and several associates caught up in the college basketball corruption scandal alleging federal racketeering violations that cost him the chance to develop his game.

Bowen’s lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in South Carolina. It has asked for unspecified damages and says Bowen and other players targeted by Adidas’ “criminal racketing enterprise” were denied the chance to grow their talents in college on the way to becoming professionals.

“Adidas has thus far infiltrated college basketball with complete impunity. It is now time for them to answer for what they have done and to suffer the consequences of their corporate misconduct,” attorney Mullin McLeod said.

Adidas did not immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The suit also names Adidas associates James Gatto, Merl Code, Christian Dawkins, Munish Sood, Thomas Gassnola and Christopher Rivers. Gatto, Code and Dawkins were found guilty last month in a federal trial.

Sood and Gassnola were witnesses at the trial after pleading guilty.

Bowen’s attorney Mullins McLeod said Adidas should answer for their misconduct. The company “has thus far infiltrated college basketball with complete impunity,” he said.

It was alleged the scheme involved giving Bowen’s father $100,000 to have his son play for Louisville.

The younger Bowen enrolled at Louisville in the fall of 2017, but never played a game. He transferred to South Carolina for the spring semester and left in May when it became apparent the NCAA would keep him from playing for longer than Bowen hoped.

Bowen took part in the NBA’s Draft Combine last spring and is playing professionally in Australia.

He has denied any wrongdoing and knowledge of his father’s plans.

“I have always felt that Brian was the true victim of everything that transpired with Adidas,” said attorney Jason A. Setchen, who represented Bowen II in his NCAA case.

Monday Overreactions: Michigan’s elite, Jay Wright on the hotseat, and weekly awards

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: LaGerald Vick, Kansas

No one in college basketball shot the ball the way that Vick did last week. He went for 32 points in a win over Vermont and set a record by hitting all eight of the threes that he shot. Making that performance all-the-more impressive is that he also made two jumpers with his toes on the three-point line; he was six inches away from going 10-for-10 from three.

Vick then followed that up with a 33 point performance in a win over Louisiana, leading the Jayhawks back from a 12 point first half deficit with another seven threes. This time, however, he shot just 7-for-12. He finished the week 15-for-20 from beyond the arc.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Michigan Wolverines

What else is there to say about the Wolverines at this point?

They are an elite defense, absolutely dominant at times, that can play big — with Jon Teske at the five — and matchup with teams that want to play small — using Iggy Brazdeikis and Isaiah Livers at the four and the five. There are still some kinks they are going to have to work out on the offensive end of the floor, as they ended the week ranked 149th in raw offensively efficiency, according to KenPom, but if there is anyone that can figure out how to make an OK team capable of scoring, it’s John Beilein.

MONDAY’S OVERREACTIONS

1. THE BIG TEN IS THE DEEPEST CONFERENCE IN THE COUNTRY

It’s hard to overstate just how good the Big Ten, as a whole, has been this season, which is a stark contrast from the way that we viewed this league entering the year.

Through the first two weeks of the season, the conference has suffered a grand total of just six losses. That’s the same number as the ACC. The Big 12, which has four fewer teams and has not yet played their conference challenge, has four total losses. Three of the Big Ten’s six losses have come against teams that are all-but destined to finish at the bottom of the conference. Michigan State lost to then-No. 1 Kansas in the Champions Classic, Purdue lost to No. 16 Virginia Tech in the finals of the Charleston Classic and Indiana lost by a point at Arkansas in a game where they missed two layups in the final five seconds that could have won the game.

As of today, there are eight teams that are in the mix for a spot in the top 25 and two more that could end up being tournament teams by the time it is all said and done.

The Spartans are just as good as advertised, while Michigan has climbed to the top of every Big Ten power ranking after their tremendous start to the season. Ohio State has won at Cincinnati and at Creighton. Wisconsin won at Xavier as Ethan Happ suddenly looks like the dominant force we have expected him to be all year long. Indiana blew out Marquette at home before the Arkansas loss. Purdue has looked better than expected even with the loss to Virginia Tech. Nebraska blew out Seton Hall. Iowa rolled over both Oregon and UConn in the 2K Classic.

Even Maryland and Minnesota have looked good through the first two weeks.

Who predicted that the Big Ten could end up with more NCAA tournament bids than any other league in the sport?

(Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

2. THERE IS NOT A TOP 25 TEAM IN THE BIG EAST

As good as the Big Ten has been, the Big East has been just as bad.

What’s the best win that a team in the league has this season? Is it Butler’s home win over Ole Miss? Providence beating South Carolina in Uncasville? St. John’s winning at Rutgers? Georgetown winning at Illinois? Or beating South Florida in Jamaica? What about DePaul’s home win over Penn State? Might that be it?

I haven’t even gotten to the losses yet. The reason Georgetown played South Florida in Jamaica was because they lost to Loyola Marymount in the opening of a four-team tournament. Providence already has losses to Wichita State and Michigan, who man-handled the Friars. Those same Wolverines humiliated Villanova in Finneran Pavilion just three days before the Wildcats lost in the same building to Furman. They went just 3-7 in the Gavitt Games, and that didn’t include Seton Hall’s home loss to Saint Louis.

The league has certainly had better starts.

3. JAY WRIGHT IS ON THE HOT SEAT

I do not know if that ails Villanova right now is entirely fixable this year. I’ve talked about this over and over again, but the fact of the matter is that Villanova is a program that relies on their culture. They bring in good players and let them marinate a year or two within the culture that Jay Wright has built before unleashing them on the unsuspecting world of college basketball.

But since Wright worked his magic too quickly with Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman, he’s left himself with too many youngsters and not enough veterans to plug those holes. After getting mollywhopped by Michigan, Wright did not play five-star freshman Jahvon Quinerly for a single second in a home loss to Furman. Brandon Slater did not play, either, while Saddiq Bey and Cole Swider combined for 17 minutes in the overtime loss.

It is far from uncommon for Wright to limit the minutes of freshmen that don’t understand what he is asking from them, but I can’t help but wonder if maybe this year — in a season where he needs that youth to be experienced as quickly as humanly possible — he might be better off throwing them to the wolves early and often.

Hell, it’s not like things can be worse than a 27 point home loss to Michigan or an overtime loss to Furman, right?

And for the record, Jay Wright isn’t actually on the hot seat. He’ll never be on the hot seat at Villanova, not before holograms are living creatures and I can write this column while vacationing on the moon.

4. VIRGINIA TECH IS REAL FINAL FOUR THREAT

The Hokies are not going to go anywhere this season, as it looks like Buzz Williams has the most talented group he’s had to date in Blacksburg. Nickeil Alexander-Walker was absolutely sensational during their run to the Charleston Classic title, and Justin Robinson and Ahmed Hill were just as impressive as they were last season.

The top of the ACC is no joke. Duke is Duke, Virginia looks like a juggernaut once against and North Carolina is impressively underrated. I don’t think Virginia Tech is in that group just yet, but they aren’t all that far away.

5. BOL BOL AND MOSES BROWN ARE THE MOST UNDERRATED FRESHMEN IN THE COUNTRY

Bol Bol and Moses Brown are two of the most polarizing prospects in the Class of 2018, and they also happen to be the two-best seven-footers in the class.

Those question marks are a product of the same root problem: motor. Bol Bol’s motor runs hot and cold. There are times where he is, unquestionably, the best player on the floor, a 7-foot-2 unicorn with length, perimeter skill and a soft touch that belies his size. He can be an utterly dominant defensive force when he wants to be. Last week, we saw it, as he went for 26 points, nine boards and four blocks against Syracuse.

Moses Brown has some of the same question marks, and his production has been elite through three games: 19.7 points, 13.7 boards and 4.0 blocks. It will be worth tracking them as the season moves on, but the early returns have been impressive.

NBC Sports Top 25: Michigan, Big Ten climbing in the rankings

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The biggest shakeup of the last week came thanks to Michigan, who not only rolled into Villanova and beat the brakes off of the then-No. 4 Wildcats, they then went up to Mohegan Sun and easily brushed off both George Washington and Providence en route to a dominating win in the Air Force Reserves Tip-Off tournament.

With that win, the Wolverines jumped all the way up to ninth in our preseason top 25, which might actually be low considering just how good this team has been to date.

It also adds to a theme that we see this week: Big Ten teams jumping leaps and bounds into the NBC Sports Top 25. Michigan is 9th. Michigan State is still 13th. Ohio State, Iowa and Purdue climbed into the back end of the rankings at 22, 23 and 25, while Wisconsin, Nebraska and Indiana are all good enough that there would be nothing wrong with slotting them somewhere in the same range.

The ACC, for my money, is the best conference in the country, but the Big Ten looks to be right there with the Big 12 and the SEC in the running for the second best conference in the country.

1. Duke (3-0, Last week: 1)
2. Kansas (3-0, 2)
3. Gonzaga (3-0, 3)
4. North Carolina (4-0, 8)
5. Tennessee (3-0, 6)
6. Virginia (3-0, 7)
7. Nevada (3-0, 5)
8. Auburn (3-0, 9)
9. Michigan (5-0, 22)
10. Kansas State (4-0, 10)
11. Virginia Tech (4-0, 11)
12. Florida State (2-0, 12)
13. Michigan State (3-1, 13)
14. TCU (3-0, 14)
15. UCLA (3-0, 15)
16. Kentucky (3-1, 18)
17. Oregon (3-1, 16)
18. LSU (4-0, 19)
19. Mississippi State (3-0, 20)
20. Clemson (3-0, 21)
21. N.C. State (4-0, 23)
22. Ohio State (4-0, UR)
23. Iowa (4-0, UR)
24. Buffalo (2-0, 25)
25. Purdue (4-1, UR)

New Additions: No. 22 Ohio State, No. 23 Iowa, No. 25 Purdue
Dropped Out: 4. Villanova, 17. Syracuse, 24. Marquette

Sunday’s Three Things To Know: Michigan rolls, Gafford shines, Virginia Tech beats Purdue

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Some believe that Sunday is fun day.

Others think of Sunday as a day for football and nothing else. 

But Sundays are also for college hoops, as Michigan, Daniel Gafford and Virginia Tech showed us.

Here are the three things you need to know:

1. NO. 18 MICHIGAN CONTINUED TO DOMINATE

Fresh off of a 27 point blowout win at Villanova, the Wolverines went to the Mohegan Sun casino and rolled over both George Washington and Providence. The win over the Friars came on Sunday, as Iggy Brazdeikis scored 20 points and Jon Teske added 17. Providence shot just 28 percent from the floor in the loss, as a late first half surge from the Wolverines more or less put this one out of reach before the second half started.

I’m not sure what else there is to say about Michigan at this point in time. The Wolverines are already one of college basketball’s elite defensive teams, and given the new look they can run out this year — playing Brazdeikis and Isaiah Livers, both of whom are strong, 6-foot-8 athletic combo-forwards, at the four and the five — makes them all-the-more versatile. There are still kinks to work out on the offensive end, but if there is anyone that I would want to give four months to figure out how to make offense work, it is John Beilein.

2. NO. 16 VIRGINIA TECH LANDED A COME-FROM-BEHIND WIN OVER NO. 23 PURDUE

The best game of the night was Virginia Tech’s win over Purdue in the title game of the Charleston Classic.

Purdue jumped out to a 12-point lead thanks to a hot start from Carsen Edwards and some timely play-making by Evan Boudreaux, but the Hokies came roaring back in the second half. Nickeil Alexander-Walker was terrific while Justin Robinson and Ahmed Hill made big play after big play in the second half.

There is a lot to like about Tech this season, and it looks like Buzz Williams has them lined up for their third straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

3. ARKANSAS CENTER DANIEL GAFFORD WAS DOMINANT

Gafford looked every bit the part of a future lottery pick, as he went for 27 points, 12 boards and three blocks in a win over Indiana in Fayetteville on Sunday evening. This is exactly the kind of performance that Arkansas fans were expecting out of their star center when he announced that he would be returning to school for his sophomore season. It is also the kind of performance that could end up getting Arkansas on the right side of the bubble come Selection Sunday.

There is still so much time left this season, but Indiana has looked good at times this year. This result had quite a bit to do with a young Indiana team missing two starters while playing on the road for the first time this season. That ended up being a great combination for the Hogs, and it earned them a win that is going to look better two or three months from now than it does today.