After a ho-hum ’21-22 season, A10 basketball is back in a big way with proven head coaches and multiple teams poised to contend for NCAA Tournament bids.
The 2021-22 season wasn’t what the Atlantic 10 envisioned. St. Bonaventure started the year ranked in the preseason AP poll and fell out of the at-large picture while injuries hampered fellow contenders in Saint Louis, VCU and others.
But the conference has rebounded in a huge way for the ’22-23 season. Two former high-major coaches join the conference in Frank Martin (UMass) and Archie Miller (Rhode Island) while all-leaguers Yuri Collins, Josh Oduro, Tyler Burton, Ace Baldwin and several others return.
As one of the most unpredictable and parity-driven conferences in all of college basketball, the Atlantic 10 figures to have yet another must-watch year in ’22-23. Let’s check out where things stand with five months to go before the regular season.
Projected order of finish
15. Saint Joseph’s: Saint Joe’s has a ton to replace from last year’s 12th-place team. Team leader Jordan Hall turned pro and Taylor Funk left for Utah State — the two combined to tally over 27 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists per game. Point guard Erik Reynolds looks like the obvious breakout candidate after playing 32 minutes a night in Year 1 as the team’s No. 3 option on offense behind Hall and Funk.
14. Duquesne: Transfers Tevin Brewer (FIU) and Dae Dae Grant (Miami-Ohio) will bring offensive pop to a Dukes squad that lost 17 straight to end the season. The offensive rehaul will need to start from the ground up after ranking 315th in 3-point percentage, 331st in 2-point percentage and 351st in assist rate. With nine newcomers, it could be a while before Keith Dambrot’s program figures it all out, but maybe the additions will provide a breath of fresh air.
13. Fordham: Fordham seemed poised for a breakout season in Year 2 of the Kyle Neptune era. But when Jay Wright announced his unexpected retirement, Neptune was tabbed as his successor at Villanova. Keith Urgo was elevated to head coach as a result of the move. All-A10 Second Team honoree Chuba Ohams is off to the pros after averaging a double-double and leading per-game scorer Antonio Daye Jr. transferred. The addition of Georgia Tech transfer Khalid Moore should allow the Rams to remain one of the league’s better defensive groups.
12. La Salle: Since reaching the Sweet 16 in 2013, the Explorers are 60-99 (.377) in A10 action. La Salle alum Fran Dunphy was brought in to reignite the dormant program, boasting one of the sport’s great coaching resumes with 580 wins and 17 NCAA Tournament appearances to his name. However, the La Salle rebuild looks like a multi-year project for the 73-year-old Dunphy — four of the five Explorers who started at least 18 games last season transferred.
11. George Washington: Former Miami associate HC Chris Caputo is the new man in charge at GW. Joe Bamisile is gone after averaging more than 16 points a game and All-Freshman nod Brayon Freeman transferred to Rhode Island. Leading scorer James Bishop is going to need a lot of help offensively if George Washington wants a top-half finish.
10. Rhode Island: Archie Miller is back in the A10 where he led Dayton to 139 wins and four tournament appearances in six seasons. URI has had a dry spell ever since Dan Hurley left, going 34-36 in league play under the dismissed David Cox. Both Mitchell twins — Makhel Mitchell and Makhi Mitchell — are gone along with fellow starters Jeremy Sheppard and Ishmael El-Amin. The Rams will likely lean heavily on GW transfer Brayon Freeman.
9. St. Bonaventure: Mark Schmidt hasn’t had a losing season in the A10 since 2014 but a .500 finish or better in ’22-23 would be quite the accomplishment. The Bonnies roster has been decimated this offseason as 6,595 out of a possible 6,625 minutes have either transferred, graduated or turned pro. Schmidt will rely heavily on transfers Daryl Banks (Saint Peter’s), Kyrell Luc (Holy Cross), Moses Flowers (Hartford), Chad Venning (Morgan State) and Max Amadasun (Pitt).
8. UMass: Frank Martin has plenty of newcomers on the way for Year 1. UMass will pair the productive Noah Fernandes with former top-50 recruit and UConn transfer Rahsool Diggins in the backcourt. South Carolina starting big man Wildens Leveque followed Martin to Amherst while former ACC role players Matt Cross (Louisville) and Gianni Thompson (Boston College) provide frontcourt depth.
7. George Mason: With Josh Oduro back on campus, the Patriots are equipped with the best big man in the conference. Tennessee transfer Victor Bailey is joined by a pair of three-star recruits in Elvis Nnaji and Devin Dinkins and redshirted top-75 prospect Justyn Fernandez. Swingman Davonte Gaines is also back after averaging 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds while shooting 40.2 percent from deep. Kim English‘s group should contend for a top-5 finish if everything clicks.
6. Davidson: William & Mary transfer guard Connor Kochera took a step back in efficiency as a sophomore but figures to carry a significant role in the new-look Davidson offense. Losing three of the team’s top four players hurts — Luka Brajkovic, Hyunjung Lee and Michael Jones — but at least point guard Foster Loyer is back after a breakout season.
5. Richmond: Chris Mooney‘s Richmond squad has recovered admirably after what initially appeared to be a potential rebuilding season. Player of the Year candidate Tyler Burton is back after averaging 16 points and eight rebounds and he has help on the way in sniper Jason Roche (The Citadel), seven-footer Neal Quinn (Lafayette) and versatile wing Isaiah Bigelow (Wofford). The biggest question remains at point guard as the Spiders move on from the NCAA’s all-time minutes and steals leader Jacob Gilyard.
4. Loyola Chicago: The newest member of the A10 is Loyola Chicago, which joins the A10 after a five-year run that included three tournament trips, a Final Four, and a second-round win over top-seeded Illinois last year. Drew Valentine is one of the sport’s rising young coaches after a 25-win campaign in Year 1. By recent Loyola standards, the ’22-23 projections seem a bit tamer than previous years. Three of the top four scorers are gone but the transfer class of Bryce Golden (Butler), Sheldon Edwards (Valpo), Jeameril Wilson (Lehigh) and Philip Alston (D-II Cal U-Pa.) should keep the Ramblers in the mix.
3. VCU: While Saint Louis and Dayton will receive the majority of the A10’s offseason headlines, VCU has the makings of a title spoiler. Former top-100 recruits Zeb Jackson and Brandon Johns Jr. transfer over from Michigan to join a nucleus that includes stud defender Ace Baldwin, All-Freshman nod Jayden Nunn and Jamir Watkins. If Watkins is up to speed after his torn ACL last preseason and top-100 freshman Alphonzo Billups and sharpshooting Hartford transfer David Shriver are ready to contribute, the Rams should return to the NCAA Tournament.
2. Saint Louis: SLU and Dayton are essentially options 1A and 1B at this point. The biggest lingering question is the health of Javonte Perkins, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Playing alongside the nation’s assist leader in Yuri Collins and a sniper in Gibson Jimerson, the three-headed Billikens attack will be challenging to slow down.
1. Dayton: The Flyers had the youngest roster in all of college hoops last season and still nearly managed to scratch out an at-large bid. With the entire starting five set to return, Anthony Grant‘s squad is poised for a breakout campaign. A10 Rookie of the Year DaRon Holmes — a former top-40 recruit — is the name to watch. Holmes was one of just four players last season with at least 80 made dunks and 80 blocked shots.
George Mason: Kim English’s team lost eight of its final 11 games of the season, ending the campaign on a sour note after a 4-1 start to league play. But with swingman Davonte “Ticket” Gaines and all-conference big man Josh Oduro back on campus, English has plenty to build upon in Year 2. Down-transfers Victor Bailey (Tennessee) and John Ojiako (Virginia Tech) should contribute immediately after serving in smaller high-major roles. Meanwhile, Justyn Fernandez was listed as a 4-star recruit on ESPN before taking a redshirt and should contribute right away. Can Mason replicate last season’s lofty perimeter shooting numbers? Taking attention away from Oduro (49th nationally in usage rate) could open up the offense.
Breakout player to watch
Jayden Nunn, VCU: The oft-mentioned “sophomore jump” could be in play here for Nunn, a 6-4, 190-pound guard who was an all-conference freshman last season. Nunn closed Year 1 with a bang, drilling six 3-pointers in the NIT second round. As is often the case with VCU guards, Nunn is an excellent defender as well. One of his best qualities is pressuring the basketball and doing so without fouling, helping translate to an even 46 steals and 46 fouls this past season.
Alphonzo Billups, VCU: As if the VCU backcourt couldn’t get much better, the Rams landed top-100 freshman Alphonzo “Fats” Billups. A shooting guard with noteworthy length at 6-7, Billups selected VCU over LSU, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and many other schools. According to 24/7 Sports, Billups is the fifth-highest-rated commit in program history, thanks in large part to his playmaking abilities on offense.
Best transfer addition
Javon Pickett, Saint Louis: Pickett joins the SLU rotation after starting 84 games in the SEC. His calling card comes as a big-bodied slasher who offers plenty of value as a versatile defender. The Billikens are already equipped with offensive weapons which will limit Pickett’s scoring numbers (he averaged 11.1 points per game last season at Mizzou), but he figures to play a pivotal role in providing the winning minutes needed to capture an A10 title.
Player of the Year prediction
Javonte Perkins, Saint Louis: It may be a gamble to stamp a POY projection on a player who missed all of last season, but Javonte Perkins is just that skilled offensively. Perkins may be even more effective in ’22-23 because of SLU’s supporting cast. Yuri Collins averaged 7.9 assists per game last season without Perkins, and defenses also can’t afford to misplace Gibson Jimerson, who connected on 87 3-pointers. Perkins, a 6-6, 210-pound swingman, will continue to create mismatches against undisciplined defenders.