Atlantic 10 up for grabs in 2009-10

By Jeffrey R. Larnard

The Atlantic 10 is not what it used to be. It is not that it is now a weaker conference then in past years, but a lot of familiar faces left the conference making the title up for grabs more than it has been the past two years.

Xavier dominated the regular season the past two years and Temple rose in the conference tournament to win two straight A-10 titles, yet neither is favored to win the conference in the preseason polls, or by myself. Here’s a look at how I see the conference finishing in conference play in 2009-10, with each team followed by their overall and A-10 record in 2008-09.

1. Dayton (27-8, 11-5)

The Flyers have been picked to finish top in the standings at the end of the season and have even started the season at No. 22 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. This is a team who advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to Kansas. With four returning starters, led by junior guard Chris Wright who averaged 13.3 points per game and 6.6 rebounds, Dayton has reason to believe they can advance even further this year.

2. Richmond (20-16, 9-7)

The team has two of the better guards in the conference, and the return of center Dan Geriot, who was a scoring threat for the Spiders in the two seasons before he missed 2008-09 with a torn ACL, makes Richmond have reason to believe this season.

3. Xavier (27-8,12-4)

Xavier is still good and they very well could end up at the top of the conference again, but they lost their coach Sean Miller (who left for Arizona) and Derrick Brown (who left for the NBA). The only senior on the team is Jason Love. The bright side for the Musketeers is Jordan Crawford, the team’s transfer from Indiana. After sitting on the bench last season, the sophomore is ready to play. Crawford could be the difference between Xavier being at the top of the conference or at the bottom.

4. La Salle (18-13, 9-7)

Four starting seniors return, a top-50 recruit in 6-foot-10 center Aaric Murray. The Explorers have a nice mixture of teammates to help them fight for a top spot in the A-10.

5. Duquesne (21-13, 9-7)

The Dukes lost in the A-10 Championship game last spring, but return a ton of experience this season. Seven-foot transfer Marakinyo Williams from Kentucky will be a nice addition to forward Damian Saunders and their 3-point threats, Bill Clark and Jason Duty.

6. Charlotte (11-20, 5-11)

After a disappointing season last year, the 49ers will bounce back, especially with the return of Shamarr Bowden whose season was ended early to injury. Charlotte still made the A-10 Tournament as the 12-seed, but will grab a better seed this March.

7. Temple (22-15, 11-5)

Replacing the three-time A-10 leading scorer in Dionte Christmas won’t be easy. Yes, Temple won two-straight A-10 Tournaments despite being a middle-of-the-pack seed, but a lot of that was because of Christmas’ play, and there are questions as to who will take on that role.

8. Rhode Island (23-15, 11-5)

The Rams are another squad who have to deal with big-time losses to graduation (Jimmy Baron and Kahiem Seawright) and because of this will slip in the standings. URI has a lot of youth, but maybe not enough experience.

9. Saint Joseph’s (17-15, 9-7)

Similar to Temple, the Hawks will have to deal with a huge loss in Ahmad Nivins, the 2009 A-10 Player of the Year. But the difference from Temple is that St. Joe’s has fewer players who can step up to fill the loss.

10. Massachusetts (12-18, 7-9)

UMass returns guard Ricky Harris, who the team will lean on, and is showcasing a lot of youth from Derek Kellogg’s highly touted recruitment class. The Minutemen will need some production out of Anthony Gurley in his second year in Amherst to help take some pressure off Harris if they look to improve their record from last year.

11. St. Bonaventure (15-15, 6-10)

Winning 15 games was a big jump from the two the Bonnies won the year before, and they may win more this year … but not many more. St. Bonaventure has last season’s A-10 Rookie of the Year in forward Andrew Nicholson but will also rely a lot on incoming youth this season.

12. Saint Louis (18-14, 8-8)

There is a serious lack of experience on the current Billikens squad. Coach Rick Majerus has one junior, four sophomores, eight freshman and zero seniors. It’s a rebuilding year.   

13. Fordham (3-25, 1-15)

The Rams barely get the nod above George Washington; the two teams could be really be interchanged. Both will finish at the bottom of the A-10 again and miss out on the tournament, the only question is which will be the worst. Fordham will get guard Brenton Butler back after he played in only seven games last season.

14. George Washington (10-18, 4-12)

The Colonials get the final spot simply because of what they lost compared to Fordham. Losing three of its top four scorers from last season will definitely hurt and is why Fordham gets the nod for “best of the worst.”

Jeffrey R. Larnard is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]