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September 22, 2016

Xavier and Dayton lead the Atlantic 10

Although the basketball season is still relatively new and over a month remains before conference games begin, the Atlantic 10 teams are starting to round into mid-season form.

Headlining the conference are Xavier and Dayton, which are both currently ranked in the top 25. The No. 9 Musketeers have backed up the preseason prediction that slated them to win the A-10 conference with a 5-0 record. XU will next play Middle Tennessee in a tilt featuring two teams both coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Looking to lead the Musketeers to their sixth straight win will be April Phillips, who recently earned A-10 Player of the Week honors. The senior forward guided her team to three wins last week, including the Freeport Division Championship at the 2009 Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas. During that stretch, Phillips averaged 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and shot 53.1 percent from the field.

Dayton is currently enjoying their first top 25 ranking in school history at No. 24. The Flyers are playing well, outscoring their last three opponents by an average of 32 points per game. In the season opener on Nov. 13, Dayton defeated then-No. 10 ranked Michigan State in a 77-74 upset. Since then, the Flyers have gone on to defeat No. 23 Purdue. Dayton will face UW-Milwaukee in its next game today.

Surprising the conference so far has been St. Bonaventure, which has yet to drop a game this season. At 6-0, the Bonnies look to continue their winning ways and disprove their preseason prediction to finish No. 6 in the A-10.  The 6-0 record is the best start to a season in the history of the school. The Bonnies have held their opponents to under 50 points and 45 percent shooting from the field to lead the A-10 in scoring defense and scoring margin. They will next host Marist on Sunday this weekend.

Off to a slow start this season has been George Washington with a 2-4 record. A recent bright spot for the Colonials has been Shi-Heria Shipp. The freshman forward was just named the A-10 Rookie of the Week for her strong play in the Junkanoo Jam, as she led the Colonials in scoring in both games, averaging 13.0 points while shooting over 70 percent from the floor. Although she has yet to start a game this season, Shipp is second on the team in points, steals, and assists. Her 0.588 shooting percentage is good for fifth best in the conference.

Tabbed to finish last in the A-10 was Fordham. The Rams are coming off a 61-59 victory over St. Peter’s, a team they hadn’t defeated since 1993. The win also came in Jersey City at the Yanitelli Center, where the Rams hadn’t defeated the Peahens since the 1977-78 season. Leading the way for Fordham was senior forward Randall Hurst, who also leads the A-10 in scoring with an average of 18.1 per game. Hurst also averages 6.4 rebounds per game, good for 14th in the A-10.

Ample time remains before the start of conference games in the A-10. Conference favorites such as Xavier and Dayton will look to carry their out-of-conference successes into conference play.

Steve Levine can be reached at slevine@student.umass.edu.

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