Skip to content

Conference Catch-ups: Atlantic-10 Battle Royale

Jan 8, 2013, 7:25 PM EDT

VCU AP AP

Conference play is right around the corner, so to help you get out of that post-holiday haze, we’ll be catching you up on all the happenings in the country’s top 12 conferences. Here’s our Atlantic-10 Conference Catchup:

Favorite: Virginia Commonwealth
The Ram’s blend of experience, leadership, 3-point firepower and HAVOC defense is what sets them apart from the rest of the A-10.

Both Troy Daniels and Darius Theus were members of the 2010 Rams squad that lost to Butler at the Final-4 and are now the heart and soul of the Ram’s team. Juniors Juvonte Reddic, Rob Brandenburg and D.J. Haley have all been vital contributors during their time in Richmond. It seems like every season Shaka Smart loses 2-3 talented experienced seniors, only to see a new crop of leaders emerge from the underclassmen ranks. It has happened nearly every season since he took over in 2009. Sophomore Treveon Graham leads the team in scoring with 14.8-ppg and sophomore Briante Weber is the nation’s leader in steal percentage (8.67%).

The Ram’s patented “HAVOC” defense continues to give people fits and their offensive firepower goes unrivaled in the A-10. There are a handful of teams that could win the Atlantic-10, but VCU looks like the only team right now that should.
 
 
Contenders: The top of the Atlantic-10 is as deep as any conference in the country, even the Big-Ten. No team has been through as much as the Saint Louis Billikens have this season. They got a new coach, lost their best player to injury, and mourned the passing of Rick Majerus. But after losing three of their first six games, the Billikens have rattled off seven in a row, including a 14-point win over No. 20 New Mexico. Oh, and they’ve got their star player, Kwamain Mitchell, back from injury.

But we shouldn’t forget about Butler or Temple. In fact, the top four teams in the A-10 are all capable of making a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Rotnei Clarke has added the scoring threat the Butler Bulldogs desperately needed, and it showed in high-profile wins over Marquette, North Carolina and Indiana. The Bulldog’s frontcourt of Khyle Marshall and Andrew Smith has been as good as advertised.

Then there is Temple. The Owls are just a Canisius loss away from being talked about among the nation’s elite. Their only other losses were to No. 1 Duke and No.6 Temple. Plus they dominated No. 3 Syracuse at Madison Square Garden. They also have the conference’s best player in Khalif Wyatt.
 
 
Biggest Surprise: Charlotte
This isn’t really a surprise, since Charlotte ranks 292nd in strength of schedule and lost their only two non-conference games against BCS-conference teams. But at 12-2 heading in to A-10 play, the 49ers should be commended for winning all the games they should win and not slipping up against inferior competition. This team has enough experience and youthful talent to cause a scare in the A-10. Freshman forward Willie Clayton has the second best offensive rebounding percentage in the country (19.4%) and sophomore Pierra Henry ranks 9th nationally in steal percentage (5.82%). They deserve the recognition now because in a month they will start one of the most hellacious 6-game stretches of any team in any conference: at Temple, VCU, at Butler, at Saint Louis, Temple, and Dayton.
 
 
Biggest Disappointment: Saint Joseph’s
Considering the Hawks were preseason favorites to win the A-10, sitting at 8-4 with ugly losses to Creighton, Florida State, Villanova and Fairfield is troubling. What’s also troubling is the manner in which they lost. They were outclasses by Creighton on the road, lost their composure against Villanova and came up flat against a bad Florida State team and Fairfield. The Hawks have one of the most talented rosters in the A-10, and aside from an overtime win against Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden, they have not won any signature games.
 
 
Player of the Year: Khalif Wyatt, Temple
The senior guard leads the team in scoring with 16.1-ppg and was the driving force in Temple’s huge win against Syracuse. He scored 33 points on 8-for-17 from the field and a perfect 15-for-15 from the free throw in the Owls’ 83-79 win at Madison Square Garden. Aside from his six point performance against Duke, Wyatt is usually the best player on the court, which should bode well for the Owls as they head in to A-10 play.
 
 
Best Freshman: Semaj Christon, Xavier
The freshman guard has been the lone bright spot for the Musketeers, who have lost four in a row and sit at 7-6 with losses to Wofford and Pacific. Christon is a play-making guard who can score from almost anywhere and have stepped up in big spots, like on the road at Purdue, where he scored 25 points on 8-for-12 from the field. Unfortunately, he is being asked to do too much for a freshman, and is not getting the support from the front court that the team needs.
 
 
Three Predictions:

  • The A-10 Tournament in Brooklyn will be the best Championship Week Tournament. The A-10 is leaving Atlantic City in favor of the fresh digs at the Barclays Center in Brookyln. This conference is going to have multiple NCAA Tournament bids hanging in the balance come Championship Week, and with the Big East Tournament taking place on the other side of the bridge, there is going to be a lot of buzz surrounding Brooklyn.
  • An Atlantic-10 team will make the Final-4. This is one of the deepest conferences in the country. If VCU can escape league play with only minor scrapes and bruises, there is no reason to believe they can’t win six games in-a-row at a neutral site. Temple and St. Joseph’s have the talent to compete with any team in the country and Butler is still Butler, only now they Rotnei Clarke.
  • Xavier will not win the A-10. I know, I know. Not that bold of a prediction. But the Musketeers have dominated the conference for what seems like the last two decades. However with the addition of Butler and VCU, along with the team’s lack of depth and production in the frontcourt, the Musketeers will be on the outside looking in. Semaj Christon has been great, but the X-Men could really used a boost in play from their experienced leaders like Jeff Robinson and Brad Redford, but they aren’t getting it.

Power Rankings (* = tourney team):

1. Virginia Commonwealth*
2. Temple*
3. Butler*
4. Saint Louis*
5. Saint Joseph’s
6. Dayton
7. Xavier
8. UMass
9. Richmond
10. Charlotte
11. LaSalle
12. Duquesne
13. St. Bonaventure
14. Rhode Island
15. George Washington
16. Fordham

You can find Troy on Twitter at @TroyMachir

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Louisiana Tech’s Michael White prime candidate for Tennessee vacancy

    Apr 20, 2014, 12:58 AM EDT

    Michael White AP

    According to a report, Louisiana Tech’s Michael White is the focus of Tennessee’s search for a new head coach.

  2. Report: Former Marshall guard Kareem Canty transferring to Auburn

    Apr 19, 2014, 11:03 PM EDT

    Kareem Canty AP

    Just over a week after his appeal to be released from his scholarship at Marshall was granted, Kareem Canty’s decided to transfer to Auburn.

  3. Kentucky fan follows through on promise to get tattoo honoring Willie Cauley-Stein

    Apr 19, 2014, 9:17 PM EDT

    NCAA Men's Final Four - Championship Getty Images

    A Kentucky fan promised to get a tattoo of Willie Cauley-Stein if the 7-footer returned to Lexington for his junior season. Saturday, Michael Gray followed through.

  4. 2014 shooting guard Patrick McCaw commits to UNLV

    Apr 19, 2014, 7:36 PM EDT

    Dave Rice AP

    UNLV has added another player to its 2014 recruiting class, as shooting guard Patrick McCaw verbally committed to the Mountain West program.

  5. Arizona State lands former UNLV forward Savon Goodman

    Apr 19, 2014, 6:24 PM EDT

    Savon Goodman, Brandon Spearman AP

    Arizona State has made another addition to its roster, landing a commitment from former UNLV forward Savon Goodman.

  6. USF forward Zach LeDay announces decision to transfer

    Apr 19, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT

    Zach Leday, Shaquille Thomas AP

    Forward Zach LeDay has decided to leave the USF program after spending two seasons in Tampa.

  7. Florida A&M fires head coach Clemon Johnson after three seasons

    Apr 19, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    2013 Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic - Florida A&M v Florida Gulf Coast Getty Images

    New Florida A&M AD Kellen Winslow Sr. has already decided that the basketball program needs a new leader, as head coach Clemon Johnson was relieved of his duties Friday.

  8. Will Tonny Trocha-Morelos finally suit up for Texas A&M?

    Apr 19, 2014, 4:25 PM EDT

    CBE Hall Of Fame Classic Getty Images

    Will highly-touted Colombian center Tonny Trocha-Morelos finally be joining the Texas A&M program?

  9. Michigan lands 2014 commitment from guard Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman

    Apr 19, 2014, 2:39 PM EDT

    2013 NBA Draft Getty Images

    Michigan had some open scholarships following the 2014 NBA Draft departures of Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III and they filled one of those on Saturday with a commitment from senior guard Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman.

  10. Gonzaga will have a tough non-conference schedule in 2014-15

    Apr 19, 2014, 1:25 PM EDT

    Wichita State v Gonzaga Getty Images

    Gonzaga will have a very tough non-conference slate during the 2014-15 season.

  11. Adam Silver says raising NBA’s age limit a top priority

    Apr 19, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT

    Adam Silver Adam Silver

    Two-and-through sounds more and more likely to happen.

  12. Former Marquette commits Ahmed Hill, Satchel Pierce follow Buzz Williams to Virginia Tech

    Apr 19, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    Buzz Williams AP

    Former Marquette commits Ahmed Hill and Satchel Pierce are following former Golden Eagles coach Buzz Williams to Virginia Tech as the duo committed to the Hokies on Saturday morning.

  13. POSTERIZED: SMU commit Emmanuel Mudiay flushes a ridiculous alley-oop during Jordan Brand Classic (VIDEO)

    Apr 19, 2014, 10:03 AM EDT

    emmanuel-mudiay

    SMU commit Emmanuel Mudiay put down the best dunk at the Jordan Brand Classic.

  14. Northern Illinois extends contract of head coach Mark Montgomery through 2017-18

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:20 PM EDT

    Mark Montgomery Mark Montgomery

    Northern Illinois extended the contract of head coach Mark Montgomery through the 2017-18 season.

  15. Chicago duo Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander earn MVP honors as East beats West in Jordan Brand Classic

    Apr 18, 2014, 9:39 PM EDT

    Beach Ball Classic Basketball AP

    Chicago natives Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander earned MVP honors as the East beat the West in the Jordan Brand Classic.

  16. Report: Houston imposes transfer restrictions on Danuel House, TaShawn Thomas

    Apr 18, 2014, 8:40 PM EDT

    TaShawn Thomas AP

    Houston is allowing Danuel House and TaShawn Thomas to transfer, but only to certain programs.

  17. Indiana grabs commitment from prep school center (VIDEO)

    Apr 18, 2014, 7:31 PM EDT

    North Dakota State v Indiana Getty Images

    Indiana grabbed a commitment from a 2014 center on Friday night.

  18. Miami forward James Kelly intends to transfer

    Apr 18, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT

    Jim Larranaga AP

    Miami forward James Kelly is moving on.

  19. Butler loses guard Elijah Brown to transfer and adds Indiana transfer Austin Etherington

    Apr 18, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT

    Brandon Miller AP

    It was a busy day for the Butler Bulldogs on Friday as freshman guard Elijah Brown intends to transfer while former Indiana wing Austin Etherington will transfer to the Big East program.

  20. Ole Miss signs Tennessee State transfer M.J. Rhett

    Apr 18, 2014, 5:05 PM EDT

    Ole Miss picked up a big graduate transfer on Friday when former Tennessee State forward M.J. Rhett signed with the Rebels.

Featured video

Derrick Gordon says 'Why not me?'