Atlantic 10 men’s basketball preview, part one

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.

Davidson Wildcats
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.  

Dayton Flyers
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. 

Duquesne Dukes 
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.

Fordham Rams
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.

Lofton’s game-winning jumper propels Bonnies over La Salle

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

Kyle Lofton did it again. 

The St. Bonaventure guard hit a go-ahead jumper with three seconds remaining and the Bonnies defeated the La Salle Explorers Wednesday night, 62-60. 

Lofton, a freshman, got the ball to start a Bonnies possession with 10.7 seconds left and the score tied. He dribbled to his right, drove to his left and pulled up from the free throw line to send the Reilly Center crowd into a frenzy. 

“It was on me to take the last shot,” said Lofton. “Coach trusts me and gives me room to make errors, so that makes me more comfortable. I was confident and I hit it.” 

Lofton finished the game with 18 points. 

Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said he has been impressed with Lofton’s shot-making ability all season and that the freshman plays beyond his years. 

“I trust him, he plays 40 minutes a game,” said Schmidt. “He hits big shots and he doesn’t play like a freshman. Out of the timeout, I can put the ball in his hands and know that, for the most part, he’s going to make the right play.” 

The game was close the whole way, with SBU leading by four points at halftime. The Explorers came out of the gates strong in the second half, but an and-one dunk from SBU forward Osun Osunniyi followed by a technical on LaSalle gave the Bonnies momentum. They proceeded to go on a 13-3 run. 

The Bonnies led by as many as 11 points in the second half (50-41), but La Salle’s shooting got them back into the game late. 

The Explorers hit ten three-pointers on the night, as opposed to just three from the Bonnies. 

La Salle appeared as if it would get the last possession of the game, but guard Isiah Deas slipped on a drive and turned the ball over, giving Lofton his chance. 

Schmidt talked about SBU’s defensive performance and its struggles that kept La Salle in the game. 

“I always say, if you defend, rebound, take care of the ball and make your foul shots, you’ll do well,” he said. “We only did two of those things tonight. In the last couple games, we took care of the ball and made our free throws, and that’s why we won by a larger margin. We didn’t do those things tonight, which kept it close.” 

Courtney Stockard scored 16 points and dished out seven assists for the Bonnies. Osunniyi had another big night on the glass with 13 rebounds, nine points and five blocks. 

“Defense has always been the main focus of my game,” said Osunniyi. “We feed off the crowd and want to get them in the game early, so if I can block some shots it gets them involved and helps my teammates on the offensive end.”  

La Salle was led by Pookie Powell, who scored 20 points and knocked down four three-pointers. Deas added 16 points. 

Explorers guard Saul Phiri scored 10 points and hit a big three with a minute left to tie the game at 60 before the Lofton magic. 

St. Bonaventure improved to 12-14 overall and 8-5 in the Atlantic 10, and La Salle fell to 8-17 overall and 6-7 in the A10. 

The Bonnies have now won three games in a row and six of their last eight. 

“It wasn’t a masterpiece offensively, but we gutted it out,” said Schmidt. “It was a blue-collar win.”

Men’s basketball: Bonnies make statement in rout of La Salle

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

After last Saturday’s loss at George Washington, Denzel Gregg took to Twitter to express his frustration about his foul-out.

“Man I shoulda played football smh,” Gregg wrote.

If Wednesday night’s 83-65 Bonaventure victory over La Salle had been a football game, it would’ve been like if the Atlanta Falcons hadn’t squandered their 25-point lead over the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. On this night, Bona only gave up a metaphorical touchdown in garbage time.

Gregg scored 18 of his career-high 28 points in the first half, a half SBU (16-9, 8-5) took a lead just three minutes into and would never surrender. The 6-foot-7 Syracuse, N.Y. native was whistled for just one foul on the evening.

After La Salle (13-11, 7-6) cut Bona’s lead to one (19-18) about eight minutes in, coach Mark Schmidt’s team outscored the Explorers 64-47 the rest of the way. As often happens in a blowout, Bonaventure took its feet off the gas at the end and La Salle went on an 11-0 run to close the game, but the damage had been done.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Bonnies make statement in rout of La Salle”

Men’s basketball: To stay in top four race, Bonnies need win against La Salle

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

Jaylen Adams clearly understood the importance of Wednesday night’s meeting with La Salle at the Reilly Center.

Adams termed the game as a “must-win,” and it’s hard to argue with him. The Bonnies are currently tied with the Explorers at 7-5 in the Atlantic 10. The winner is tied with at least George Mason, which won over Richmond Tuesday night, for fifth in the standings. The loser will be a full two games behind fourth place if Rhode Island takes care of business at home against Fordham, with just five games left.

Bona doesn’t hold any tiebreakers against the current top four of VCU, Dayton, Richmond and Rhode Island, so there’s a very small window for slip-ups if it hopes to earn a double-bye and Friday start in the A-10 Tournament in Pittsburgh. It holds head-to-head tiebreakers over six of the other nine teams, so beating a La Salle team it only plays once in the regular season would be a lucky seventh.

“I feel like you have to approach every game like it’s the most important game,” Adams said. “Being that this is a home game and so far this season we’ve struggled at home, I think this is a big one.”

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: To stay in top four race, Bonnies need win against La Salle”

Men’s basketball: Bubble burst? Bonnies suffer stunning loss to La Salle

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

PHILADELPHIA- With 55 seconds on the clock and his La Salle team holding on to a two-point lead on Wednesday night, guard Jordan Price received a screen, drove to the hoop and put up a shot over Bona center Jordan Tyson.

The basket was made and served as the dagger, as the Bonnies ended up falling 71-64 at Tom Gola Arena. Any hope for an at-large bid was possibly dashed in Philly, against a team that came in with a 1-11 Atlantic 10 record.

“I’m very upset,” senior guard Marcus Posley said dejectedly. “We were supposed to win this game, but didn’t take care of business.”

Posley scored 21 points, 15 of them coming in the second half, to lead all scorers. Dion Wright added 16, while Jaylen Adams chipped in 12. Bona did not shoot well, however, with a 37 percent clip from the field and 7-of-19 mark from three-point range.

Unlike their opponents, the Explorers were comfortable shooting the basketball, making 46.8 percent of their shots. 11 of their 22 field goals were threes, including seven in the first 12 minutes of the contest.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Bubble burst? Bonnies suffer stunning loss to La Salle”

Men’s basketball: Bonnies travel back to Philly for meeting with La Salle

(Derrick Woods Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies men’s basketball team has been on upset alert against Saint Louis and at Fordham in recent weeks, and survived. It will try to make the outcome less interesting when it faces La Salle on Wednesday at 7, its second game in Philadelphia in the last three weeks.

The Explorers have been reduced to a spoiler role this season, sitting in the cellar of the Atlantic 10 with a 1-11 conference record. They are two games behind the three three-win teams and just lost by 26 to a St. Joe’s team that Bona handled. Incredibly, Dr. John Giannini’s club’s one league win was a 61-57 victory over league-leading Dayton, proving that you just don’t know with the A-10.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Bonnies travel back to Philly for meeting with La Salle”

Men’s basketball: A-10 Awards

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

The Atlantic 10 Tournament is less than a week away. Before the conference converges on Brooklyn, it’s time to hand out some awards. The Intrepid doesn’t have an official ballot, but here’s how I would vote on each league honor:

Player of the Year: DeAndre Bembry, St. Joseph’s. I originally had Dayton’s Jordan Sibert winning this award because he’s the best player on the team I think is the best in the conference. However, the award is for the best overall player in the conference, and Bembry has been just that this year. The sophomore leads the league in scoring at 17.8 points per game and averages 3.5 assists a contest. He has scored or assisted on 45 percent of his team’s baskets, which is absolutely insane, and he’s seventh in rebounds as well at 7.9 a game. The Hawks aren’t the best team in the A-10 by any means, but Bembry has kept them afloat; there’s no way they are 7-10 in the league without him. All those factors make the St. Joe’s forward the Player of the Year.

Honorable mention: Sibert, Jordan Price (LaSalle), E.C. Matthews (Rhode Island)

Defensive Player of the Year: Hassan Martin, Rhode Island. Martin leads the league in blocks at 3.14 a game and is eighth in rebounding at 7.7 a contest. He has had nine games with double-digit rebounds and six games with five or more blocks. All the more impressive: he has more blocks (88) than personal fouls (73). The sophomore’s most impressive game this year was against La Salle on Jan. 22, when he registered 10 blocks and nine rebounds to go with his 14 points. You don’t see a forward come a rebound short of a triple-double every day, but Martin is not your average forward. He should take home the hardware.

Honorable mention: Shevon Thompson (George Mason), Youssou Ndoye (SBU)

Rookie of the Year: Christian Sengfelder, Fordham. If Jaylen Adams hadn’t missed the last third of the conference slate due to injury he would have definitely been the front-runner, but Sengfelder had an incredible freshman season as well. He led a young Rams team in rebounds (7.3 a game) and field goal percentage (49 percent) while playing just under 34 minutes a game. Teammate Eric Paschall has a strong chance at this award as well after leading the team in scoring with 16.5 points per game, but Sengfelder’s defense will likely give him the upper hand.

Honorable mention: Paschall, Adams

Most Improved Player: Kendall Pollard, Dayton. Pollard went from playing 8.5 minutes a game to playing 28.6, and he made the most of his increased workload. He scored 12.4 points a game after scoring just 2.2 last year and grabbed 5.5 boards a game as opposed to averaging 1.3 last season. His improvement was certainly necessary after the December dismissals of Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson left the Flyers with just seven scholarship players.

Honorable mention: Jack Gibbs (Davidson), Mo Alie-Cox (VCU)

Sixth Man Award: T.J. Buchanan, Rhode Island. In a season where coaches were reluctant to use their benches, Buchanan has arguably been the most productive reserve. He has not started a game this season but has played 22.8 minutes a game in which he is leading the team in assists per game with 2.6 in addition to his average of 5.5 points. Four double-digit point games also help Buchanan’s case.

Coach of the Year: Archie Miller, Dayton. The decision is clearly between Miller and Davidson’s Bob McKillop. The Wildcats’ dominating victory over VCU on Thursday night gave them a chance to win the regular season title and will surely swing some votes McKillop’s way. There is no wrong selection, but Miller has done more with less the whole season, and even coming up just short for the top spot wouldn’t lessen the incredible performance he’s had. Not many coaches go 16-4 after booting their best big men off of the team, and guiding the Flyers through all the adversity should help Miller grab the top spot.

Honorable mention: McKillop, Dan Hurley (Rhode Island)

First Team All-Conference:

Kendall Anthony, Richmond

Jordan Sibert, Dayton

DeAndre Bembry, St. Joseph’s

Treveon Graham, VCU

Hassan Martin, Rhode Island

Second Team All-Conference:

Jordan Price, La Salle

E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island

Marcus Posley, St. Bonaventure

Dyshawn Pierre, Dayton

Shevon Thompson, George Mason

Third Team All-Conference:

Jack Gibbs, Davidson

Tyler Kalinoski, Davidson

Patricio Garino, George Washington

Dion Wright, St. Bonaventure

Youssou Ndoye, St. Bonaventure

All-Defensive Team:

Mandell Thomas, Fordham

JeQuan Lewis, VCU

Hassan Martin, Rhode Island

Shevon Thompson, George Mason

Youssou Ndoye, St. Bonaventure

Men’s basketball: La Salle preview

By Chuckie Maggio and Jeff Fasoldt

After two weeks away from the Reilly Center, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies return home Saturday night at 7 when they take on the La Salle Explorers.

This is a pivotal game for two teams in the middle of the pack. The Bonnies come in at sixth in the Atlantic 10 with a 4-3 record in conference play, while the Explorers come in ninth at 3-4.

The teams met three times last year, with Bona winning two of the matchups; the last one was in Brooklyn for the A-10 Tournament.

Will the Bonnies grab their fourth win in five games, or will La Salle win their third in four? Let’s break it down:

The Coaches:

St. Bonaventure- Mark Schmidt. 118-116 as Bonnies coach, 5-6 vs La Salle.

La Salle- Dr. John Giannini. 169-168 as Explorers coach, 8-6 vs St. Bonaventure.

Key players for La Salle:

Jordan Price- 6-5 sophomore guard. The leading scorer for the Explorers, Price is averaging 15.8 points per game and is shooting over 38 percent from the field for the yellow and blue. He is especially strong from the free throw line at 85 percent in the Explorers 20 games this season. Price could be due for a big game after struggling mightily in his last two games against Rhode Island and St. Josephs — only scoring a combined 10 points.

Jerrell Wright- 6-8 senior forward. Wright is “the guy” inside for La Salle and while he’s not a huge threat on defense, averaging less than a block a game, he is strong offensively at 11.8 points per game and leads the Explorers in rebounds at 6.8 per game. He’s been in double figures his last three games, going 7-12 against St. Joe’s for 19 points.

Keys to victory for La Salle: La Salle needs to continue to rely on their dominating defense if they want to beat the Bonnies at the Reilly Center on Saturday. They come into the game allowing the second fewest points in the A-10 and that can not change. Expect to see lots of three pointers from Cleon Roberts as he’s the man on the perimeter for La Salle at 42 percent on the season.

Keys to victory for St. Bonaventure: Don’t look ahead. After this game the Bonnies head to Davidson on Wednesday, then face number 14 VCU on Saturday. Those are two extremely tough battles, especially the VCU one, but SBU must focus on the task at hand and take care of business. Everyone else can look ahead to next Saturday, but Schmidt’s team cannot allow themselves to. After the bad non-conference losses, they know better than to overlook an opponent.

Predictions:

Chuckie- The Explorers have a stingy defense (only 61 points allowed per game), and if the game were taking place in Philly, where La Salle is 7-3 this season, they would probably hold the edge. In the Reilly Center, however, the Explorers don’t have a powerful enough offense to withstand the Bonnies. They only score about 63 points a game, while the Bonnies have averaged 71 in their home games this season. SBU will bring the offensive attack again on Saturday and win a close contest in front of a student section that has been chomping at the bit to watch this team play. 76-71 Bonnies

Jeff- The Bonnies are coming off a tough loss at Rhode Island and have struggled to defend the three on the season. With that said, La Salle is not necessarily a great shooting team. However, if the Bonnies want to win they’re going to have to put up a better effort offensively than St. Joe’s did last Tuesday, scoring only 48 points. Still, I like the Bonnies at home, in the atmosphere of the Reilly Center. 54-51 Bonnies