Conference Catchup: Atlantic 10 has five strong teams entering conference play

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College basketball’s non-conference season is coming to a close, and to help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.

MORE: All of CBT’s Conference Catchups

Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Atlantic 10.


VCU has seen some inconsistent play from Melvin Johnson and Briante Weber in certain situations this season, but Graham has stepped up his play with consistent all-around offense and good play on both ends of the floor. The senior is averaging 16.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game and he’s also shooting the best three-point percentage of his career at 44 percent. Considering Graham never shot above 36 percent from three before this season, that’s a remarkable difference and it makes him that much tougher to defend.


  • Treveon Graham, VCU
  • E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island – The sophomore received a lot of buzz over the summer and has put up nearly identical numbers to his freshman campaign. Matthews is averaging 17.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game on higher shooting splits (45% FG, 38% 3PT, 73% FT) for a NCAA Tournament contender.
  • Jack Gibbs, Davidson – Just an insane start to the year for the sophomore point guard. Gibbs is sixth in the A-10 in scoring (16.1 ppg), sixth in field goal percentage (57 percent), first in assists per game (4.9), first in free-throw percentage (91 percent), fifth in steals (1.9 per game) and fifth in three-point percentage (46 percent).
  • Tyler Kalinoski, Davidson – With the one-two punch of Kalinoski and Gibbs, Davidson is looking good entering Atlantic 10 play. A senior, Kalinoski is averaging 16.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game while shooting really good splits (45% FG, 44% 3PT, 84% FT).
  • Jordan Price, La Salle – The Auburn transfer leads the Atlantic 10 in scoring at 18.7 points per game and had a big month of December. On an Explorer team that desperately needs perimeter scoring, Price gets a lot of tough baskets and is also averaging 3 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game.


1. The nation whiffed on Davidson. Badly: Did Bob McKillop do something mean to deserve Davidson’s preseason standing within the Atlantic 10? It’s Davidson’s first season in the league after jumping from the Southern Conference but CBT predicted the Wildcats would finish 13th in our preseason A-10 preview. The Athlon preview also put them at 13th while The Sporting News put Davidson last at 14th. It’s not as if this were some media-only phenomenon. The Atlantic 10 coaches picked them to finish 12th. While we still aren’t sure how the Wildcats will adjust to the new league, they certainly look like they deserve to be in the top half after a 9-2 start. Davidson has one of the nation’s best offenses and shooters galore. They’ve only lost to North Carolina and Virginia. They look pretty legitimate now.

2. VCU is not the unanimous choice to win anymore: Besides the oversight of Davidson’s preseason ranking, VCU is certainly no shoe-in to win the Atlantic 10 this season after being the unanimous choice by the coaches of the league in the preseason. The Rams losing to undefeated teams like Villanova and Virginia isn’t a concern. But the way they played against Old Dominion, a very good C-USA team, shows that teams with less talent can get to the Rams on an off-night. With the Atlantic 10 again having a lot of tough teams, VCU running away with the conference doesn’t seem very likely.

3. There are plenty of feisty, NCAA Tournament-caliber teams: The A-10 had five NCAA Tournament teams in 2013 and six more in 2014. Six might seem a bit ambitious going into conference play in 2014-15, but VCU is once again strong, Davidson has looked legitimate and George Washington won the Diamond Head Classic over Wichita State. Rhode Island has been unbeatable at home — with a nice win over Nebraska — and Archie Miller’s Dayton Flyers are again looking solid at 10-2. That’s a stable of five strong teams entering conference play and teams like St. Bonaventure, La Salle and Saint Louis (and plenty of others) have all shown signs of life as well.


1. Will Dayton’s lack of size hurt them in conference play? Dayton is coming off of an Elite Eight appearance in 2014 and the Flyers are once again loaded with talented guards. But size is going to be a huge question mark for Dayton after the team dismissed its two tallest players in Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson in December. That means the Flyers’ tallest active player is now 6-foot-6. So far, it hasn’t hurt the team very much, but this could come back to be an issue during conference play. How will Dayton defend bigger interiors or keep opponents off the glass?

2. Can Davidson take its non-conference momentum into A-10 play? Davidson has been one of the biggest surprises in the conference and the Wildcats now enter into an Atlantic 10 conference schedule for the first time. After dominating the Southern Conference for so many years, how will Bob McKillop’s group adjust to going up a level of play? So far, it looks like Davidson will at least be able to score with any team in the country. The Wildcats are second in the nation in points per game and just scored 72 points on a very good defensive team in Virginia. The key could be getting timely stops and if Davidson can continue its hot perimeter shooting — 41 percent in non-conference play.

3. Where does UMass fit into the scheme of things? UMass is currently sitting at 7-6, but they’ve played a very difficult schedule and they’re still 5-0 at home. The Minutemen tested themselves extensively in non-conference play as their losses came against Notre Dame, Harvard, LSU, Florida Gulf Coast, Providence and BYU. None of those losses look awful at this point in the season (FGCU is the Atlantic Sun favorite) and UMass certainly has talent in Maxie Esho, Cady Lalanne, Derrick Gordon and Trey Davis. Can the Minutemen turn it around during conference play and make a run in the Atlantic 10? It doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility.


1. VCU takes the Atlantic 10 (but it won’t be easy): Much was made of other programs potentially figuring out “Havoc” — and they may be better adjusted to it — but the Rams still have the most talent in the conference and the league’s best player in Treveon Graham. They’re used to having a target on their back by this point and should feel no additional pressure to be a favorite once again.

2. Five NCAA Tournament bids for the Atlantic 10: I’ve already gone over the five teams that are in great standing entering conference play (VCU, Davidson, George Washington, Dayton and Rhode Island) and it feels like the conference will once again see five teams dancing on Selection Sunday. Even if one of those five falters, another team like UMass could emerge and have a great push during conference play to earn a tourney bid. Five sounds about right with this league given the struggles of some of the power conferences like the SEC and AAC.

3. America will meet Davidson sophomore Jack Gibbs: I hate to use hyperbole but Gibbs might be the most underrated player in the country. And he’s getting no attention despite his ridiculous efficiency and only being a sophomore. While the hot shooting numbers — and school — will make some believe Gibbs is the new version of Steph Curry, Gibbs is probably more similar to current Wichita State point guard Fred Van Vleet. Gibbs won’t blow you away with athleticism or quickness, but he’s very savvy and a winning player.


NCAA: VCU, George Washington, Rhode Island, Dayton, Davidson

NIT/CBI: UMass, St. Bonaventure, La Salle, Saint Louis, Saint Joseph’s, Richmond

NO POSTSEASON: Duquesne, Fordham, George Mason

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.