photo: David Kohl/USA Today Sports
By Anthony Goss, Ryan Surmay and Peter Byrne
The 2020-21 college basketball season begins on Wednesday, with several Atlantic 10 teams scheduled to begin play over the holiday weekend.
This article is the first of a two-part series highlighting each A-10 team other than St. Bonaventure, which was previewed several weeks ago. After each team completes its respective non-conference schedule, A-10 play is scheduled to begin in late December.
2019-20 Record: 16-14
Best Player: Kellan Grady
For a team known for its precision and consistency, Davidson dealt with many issues last season in terms of injuries and unexpected departures.
This offseason, the Wildcats lost guard Jon Axel Gudmundsson, the 2018-19 A-10 player of the year. Despite a slump early last season, Kellan Grady has shown he has the capability of leading a Wildcat offense that operates on motion and ball movement.
Grady can score the ball at all levels, and his shot is deadly from beyond the arc. Grady will be surrounded by Hyunjung Lee and Michael Jones, who can both knock down three-pointers as well. Luka Brajkovic will shoulder most of the work inside with his skillset inside as a low-post scorer.
Defense will be the issue for Davidson, as it usually is in most seasons, and rough nights on offense could get ugly during A-10 play. However, guarding this offense presents a daunting task for opposing teams.
2019-20 Record: 29-2
Best Player: Jalen Crutcher
First of all, what a season for the Flyers in 2019-20. They had a legitimate shot to win the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed. Those chances do not come very often for A-10 teams.
With that being said, the Flyers lost some major talent heading into this season. The big loss is Obi Toppin, the Naismith Player of the Year who was selected No. 8 overall in this year’s NBA draft by the New York Knicks. Dayton also lost Trey Landers and Ryan Mikesell to graduation, a duo who combined to average just under 20 points a game last year. That’s a total of 40 points per game lost. However, the Flyers return Jalen Crutcher, who is arguably the best player in the league heading into this season. They also bring back two guards in Ibi Watson and Rodney Chatham who each should put up double digits points per game. Lastly, Dayton also loves what they see from 6’11 transfer Jordy Thiamine from Nebraska. He should be a force down low for the Flyers.
All in all, this team returns enough talent and solid newcomers to compete for a top-four spot in the conference. Will they go 18-0 again? Doubtful. However, this team is definitely good enough to win 12 or 14 games in the A-10.
2019-20 Record: 21-9
Best Player: Marcus Weathers
Since Keith Dambrot took over as head coach, Duquesne has gotten better every season. This upcoming season should be no different, as the Dukes return every starter and seven of their top eight scorers from last year’s team that won 21 games.
They are led by 6-8 forward Marcus Weathers, who averaged 14.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last season. Something to look out for with the Dukes is their offensive efficiency under Dambrot. Last season, they had the fourth-most efficient offense in the A-10 behind Dayton, Richmond and Davidson. Duquesne only scored less than 60 points in only three games last season, so they’re a team that is not afraid of a shootout.
After being picked fifth in the league’s preseason poll,, it is more than fair to say that the Dukes could sneak into the top four when the regular season ends.
2019-20 Record: 9-22
Best Player: Chuba Ohams
After yet another season of single-digit wins and another last-place conference finish with two A-10 wins, it’s safe to say the Fordham basketball program has taken another step backwards. This season, Fordham will be faced with filling the void left from the graduation of its starting backcourt of Antwon Portley (10.4 points per game) and Erten Gazi (8.9 points per game).
The Rams will look toward Chuba Ohams, a redshirt junior, to continue his success from last season after a knee injury suffered during warmups in January ended his campaign prematurely. Before going down, he averaged 11 points and 8.2 rebounds per contest. While their record may not have shown it, their games last season only had a -3.1 point differential, which gives optimism for Fordham fans coming into this season.
Going into his sixth season with the Rams, head coach Jeff Neubauer’s teams have only gotten progressively worse in conference play, winning eight, seven, four, three and two games per season, respectively. Once again, Fordham was the preseason pick to finish last in the A-10.
George Mason Patriots
2019-20 Record: 17-15
Best Player: AJ Wilson
Last season, George Mason constantly adjusted its style of play on the fly to accommodate Justin Kier’s injuries. The inconsistency resulting from this spoiled a historic 11-1 start.
With Kier now gone, the Patriots now turn to redshirt senior AJ Wilson, along with Javon Greene and Jordan Miller, to make some noise in the A-10. Wilson likes to operate from the top of the key, and while he prefers going right, he has the strength to finish around the rim on both sides. Wilson does not hunt a three-point shot off the dribble, preferring to shoot off of a screen or a drive-and-kick.
Last season, the Patriots pressed more often than most teams. This defensive mindset should remain this season, but head coach Dave Paulsen’s emphasis on conservative defensive principles will be noticeable for GM. With a crowded field at the top of the conference, it might be hard for the Patriots to move up much this season, but expect them to play spoiler against conference foes with Wilson as the catalyst.
George Washington Colonials
2019-20 Record: 12-20
Best Player: Jameer Nelson Jr.
This is the second year of the Jamion Christian era, and his mark is already being put on the George Washington program. Christian returns budding young talent in Jameer Nelson Jr., Chase Paar and Jamison Battle, who all played together last season.
Christian also brought in several pieces from the transfer market, notably Sloan Seymour and Brandon Leftwich, who played for him at Siena and Mount St. Mary’s, respectively. George Washington’s offense emphasizes shooting, and the bigs will look to stretch out the floor. Look for Nelson Jr. and the rest of the guards to attack in pick-and-roll action, as the Colonials led the nation in such sets last season and it will likely generate most of their offense this year.
Don’t expect a major jump in the standings, as this team simply is not ready to compete at the top of the A-10. But, with Christian’s emphasis on player development, expect to see the core at George Washington to develop toward a bright future.
La Salle Explorers
2019-20 Record: 15-15
Best Player: David Beaty
Last year, the Explorers finished near the bottom of the pack in the A-10, tied for 10th. They finished the season with a .500 record at 15-15, but struggled in conference play, going 6-12.
To make matters worse, the Explorers lost their best player to the transfer portal in Ed Croswell. Croswell averaged 10.4 points and 7.6 boards for LaSalle last season. Furthermore, the Explorers also lost two senior starters in Isiah Deas and Saul Phiri. The two impact starters that remain are senior David Beaty and Scott Spencer, who combined to average about 20 points per game last season.
The Explorers were picked to finish 13th in the preseason poll, so it could be a rocky year in Philly for coach Ashley Howard and his team.