Atlantic 10 Preview
- Rhode Island
- George Washington
- Saint Joseph’s
- St. Bonaventure
- La Salle
- Saint Louis
- George Mason
Player of the Year: DeAndre Bembry, Saint Joseph’s
Coach of the Year: Dan Hurley, Rhode Island
Rookie of the Year: Luwane Pipkins, Massachusetts
All-Conference 1st Team
C/F Shevon Thompson, George Mason
F Dyshawn Pierre, Dayton
G/F DeAndre Bembry, Saint Joseph’s
G E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island
G Jordan Price, La Salle
All-Conference 2nd Team
C/F Mo Alie-Cox, VCU
F Hassan Martin, Rhode Island
G/F Melvin Johnson, VCU
G Marcus Posley, St. Bonaventure
G Jack Gibbs, Davidson
All-Conference 3rd Team
C/F Terry Allen, Richmond
F Kendall Pollard, Dayton
G/F Patricio Garino, George Washington
G Micah Mason, Duquesne
G Derrick Colter, Duquesne
C/F Jonathan Nwankwo, VCU
F Xeyrius Williams, Dayton
G/F LaMarr Kimble, Saint Joseph’s
G Jesse Pistokache, Richmond
G Luwane Pipkins, Massachusetts
Key Returners: Dyshawn Pierre, Scoochie Smith, Kendall Pollard
Key Losses: Jordan Sibert
Key Newcomers: Charles Cooke, Steve McElvene, John Crosby, Xeyrius Williams, Sam Miller
UPDATE: Dayton has announced they will suspend Dyshawn Pierre for the first semester. That's huge. Pierre is their best player by a mile. Dayton probably loses to Vandy early in the year and will be tested against Iowa, Arkansas, and Alabama without their stud. If he returns for conference play, Dayton should still win the league, but Rhode Island and Davidson will be poised to pounce.
F Kendall Pollard, Jr.; (12.7/5.3/1.1/0.9/0.9)
F Dyshawn Pierre, Sr.; (12.7/8.1/2.9/0.6/0.4)
G Charles Cooke, Jr.; (w/ JMU) (14.3/5.0/1.7/1.4/0.4)
G Kyle Davis, Jr.; (7.1/2.8/2.4/1.5/0.5)
G Scoochie Smith, Jr.; (9.2/3.1/3.8/1.4/0.1)
Reserves: Darrell Davis, Bobby Wehrli, Steve McElvene, Xeyrius Williams, Sam Miller
Postseason Projection: 6 Seed
As much as I like Rhode Island, Dayton is the favorite to win the A-10 in 2015-16. Like Hurley at Rhody, Archie Miller has defined Dayton basketball in his 4-year tenure and has brought the program to new heights. The last two seasons, Miller has led Dayton to the tourney as an 11 seed (while ranking in the top 40 in kenpom’s rankings both years), making the Elite Eight in 2013-14 and the second round in 2014-15. That’s success, and now Miller hopes to build on that success this season and take its program to new heights.
Dayton loses its best player Jordan Sibert but returns a very strong core, including four starters from a year ago. Dyshawn Pierre is the head honcho in town; the 6’6’’ wing is as versatile as they come. Pierre can score from anywhere on the floor; he likes to mix it up inside on smaller defenders, but he can also step outside and knockdown the trey (35.6% on 104 attempts). Pierre was the Flyers’ leading rebounder last year and also it’s second leading assist-getter. He is a do-everything sort of player and will challenge Matthews and other top dogs for conference POY.
In addition to Pierre, Dayton returns three junior stalwarts in Kendall Pollard, Scoochie Smith, and Kyle Davis. Pollard had the highest usage of all Flyers last season and plays a post-style game at 6’6’’. The junior was forced to play a lot of center for Dayton with the departure of big men Scott and Robinson a season ago. Pollard held his own inside getting to the line at a torrent pace (212 FT attempts – sadly only 58% of them went in) and shooting 55.9% from the floor. He provided good rim protection for the Flyers, impressive considering his size, and he also was a strong defensive rebounder. Scoochie will regain point duties for Dayton; the guard posted a 24.8 Assist Rate with a 20.8% TO Rate in 2014-15, not awful considering the amount of ball handling he did, and shot the ball well turning in a slash of .439/.380/.755. Smith should improve on his TO Rate and post similar shooting numbers this season, making him a very valuable piece to Dayton’s lineup. Kyle Davis starts at the off-guard spot, providing mostly stout perimeter D. The 6’0’’ Davis shot a ridiculous 64.9% inside the arc last season (whole lot of layups), but a disgusting 22.1% from outside the arc (17/77). The junior got to the line a ton for Dayton as well, and converted on 70.7% of his attempts from there. Davis will be an important role player for the Flyers, providing the little things every team needs to be great.
Some newbies come to Dayton in 2015-16 looking to make an impact. First and foremost is James Madison transfer Charles Cooke, a 6’5’’ guard built to replace Sibert. As a freshman, Cooke was James Madison’s best player, averaging 14 point per game. He’s basically a lesser version of Sibert, and if he can produce even half of what Sibert provided the Flyers last season, Dayton will be a tough team to beat. The other newbie is 6’11’’ redshirt freshman Steve McElvene. The Flyers were severely undersized last season and paid for it by getting manhandled on the boards, posting a team OR % of 23.3%, good for 337th in the country. McElvene, though raw offensively, should at least provide some inkling of rebounding presence and will all but certainly be a plus player on defense with his rim protection potential. McElevene was the 40th rated center in the class of 2014 and his nickname is Big Steve, so I mean, he should be somewhat decent right? Dayton also brings in three 3-star recruits, John Crosby (6’3’’ PG), Sam Miller (6’7’’ PF), and Xeyrius Williams (6’8’’ PF). Out of the three, Williams has the best shot at contributing immediately due to his size and athletic ability. Miller comes out of one of the most competitive prep leagues in the country, and he too could see substantial minutes in the frontcourt.
Dayton will also have two valuable subs coming off the bench in guard Darrell Davis and wing Bobby Wehrli. Davis, who could challenge the other Davis for a starting nod, shot 45% from three last year on 104 attempts (28th nationally), but attempted only 37 2-pointers (hitting only 7 of them – 18.9%). Davis clearly is a one trick pony, and that’s just fine for Archie Miller and crew; the Flyers will rely on his three-point shooting prowess, especially with Sibert’s departure. Wehrli is also a lights out shooter, in limited minutes he went 12/24 from deep. He may not see a whole lot of PT with Dayton’s depth, but it’s good to know that the Flyers have options down the pine.
Dayton is the odds-on favorite to win the A-10 this year, and I think they get it done. Pierre is a stud and he is surrounded with veterans and shooters. If McElvene, Williams, or Miller can step up and provide some semblance of a post presence, Dayton will be a very competitive squad and a potential top 25 team. I see Dayton landing at around a 6 seed in this year’s dance.
2. Rhode Island
Key Returners: E.C. Matthews, Hassan Martin
Key Losses: T.J. Buchanan
Key Newcomers: Four McGlynn, Kuran Iverson, Andre Berry, Nicola Akele
C Kuran Iverson, Jr.; (w/ Memphis) (4.6/1.9/1.0/0.4/0.5)
F Hassan Martin, Jr.; (11.4/7.4/0.3/0.7/3.1)
G E.C. Matthews, Jr.; (16.9/4.6/2.0/0.8/0.5)
G Four McGlynn, Sr.; (w/ Towson) (12.0/2.2/1.6/0.3/0.2)
G Jarvis Garrett, So.; (6.4/2.3/2.8/0.9/0.0)
Reserves: Jared Terrell, Andre Berry, Nicola Akele, Earl Watson
Postseason Projection: 7 Seed
I have a crush on Rhode Island and I love E.C. Matthews. Unfortunately everyone else seems to too, so that’s frustrating that I don’t have a secret up-and-coming team, as the cat is apparently quite out of the proverbial bag. First off, what’s not to love about Coach Dan Hurley? The guy had a great 2012 year at Wagner of all places, and then proceeds to lead a program to a 23-10, 13-5 finish after going 8-21 and 3-13 two years prior. Hurley, brother of Bobby, has built this Rhode Island program from the ground up and now he gets to reap what he has sowed.
Let’s begin with E.C. Matthews, who I have already admitted to loving. Matthews shot a ton for the Rams last season, mainly because he had to. While the Rams were a stout defensive team (9th in Adj. D), they were pretty lousy on offense, particularly in the shooting department. Matthews attempted 204 threes last season, which was 44% of his team’s total attempts. He LED THE TEAM in 3P % at 32.4%. So from an offensive efficiency standpoint, Matthews wasn’t outstanding last season, but he did average 16 ppg, got to the line like nobody’s business and proved that he is one of the most, if not the most, talented player in this conference. He should blossom in his junior season under Hurley after deciding (smartly) to forego the NBA draft. With Matthews, the Rams return almost everyone, losing only two major contributors – wingman T.J. Buchanan and reserve big Gilvydas Biruta.
The returning paint presence is Hassan Martin, a 6’7’’ sturdy force in the middle of the court. Martin was perhaps the best defender in the conference in 2014-15, posting an 11.7% Blk % (11th nationally) while dominating the boards. Martin also was excellent finisher last season around the rim, connecting on 60.3% of his shots. There may not be a better one-two in the A-10 than Matthews and Martin.
Joining Matthews in the backcourt will be two up-and-coming sophomores – Jared Terrell and Jarvis Garrett. Garrett is the Rams’ returning point man; the sophomore showed a lot of poise in his rookie year handling the rock, posting a solid assist rate compared to turnovers. Garrett doesn’t shoot the ball very well, but he really doesn’t shoot a lot; he is a true point guard who knows his role which is crucial to the Rams’ success as they want their focus to be on Matthews and Martin. Terrell will compete with incoming transfer Four McGlynn (yes I do love that name) for the starting 2-guard duties. Terrell was kind of a brick last season with a shooting slash of .395/.322/.709, but I suspect these numbers will climb in 2015-16 with another year of development. The Rams, who ranked 313th in 3P % in 2014-15 will need him to produce from outside.
Two of Rhody’s most valuable assets this season will be its two transfers, aforementioned Towson guard Four McGlynn and Memphis big man cast-off Kuran Iverson (yes, yes he is related to Allen). Four (yes, of course he is #4) is exactly the type of player Rhody sorely needs. He is a pure shooter and possesses a keen ability to space the floor. McGlynn led Towson in scoring last season and turned in a shooting slash of .420/.379/.917 – he was the 5th best free-throw shooter in the nation last season going an incredible 122/133. McGlynn is going to completely open up the Rams’ offense and, as a graduate transfer, he has the maturity and experience to play smart basketball. Iverson is a 6’10’’ center and comes to Rhode Island immediately eligible to play under the now-extinct hardship waiver. Iverson saw limited time in his tenure with the Tigers, but he was a top 30 recruit coming out of high school and all signs point to him starting in the middle for the Rams on day one with their lack of frontcourt depth. All Iverson really needs to do is play decent D and decent O and the Rams will flourish.
Supporting the gifted starting lineup are 6’7’’ center Earl Watson, who will be the primary backup for Iverson, 6’8’’ JUCO transfer Andre Berry, who averaged 11 and 5 for his JUCO last season, and Italian freshman Nicola Akele, who comes as an intriguing prospect that could morph into a legitimate asset. 3-star recruit Leroy Butts (ha!) is not eligible for the fall semester; if he does join the team in spring, he could be a nice sub off the bench.
The sky is the limit for the Rhody Rams this year in the A-10. They are absolutely capable of winning the league and securing a top 6 seed in the tournament. I’ll scale back my extremely bullish prediction a tad and set them at a 7 seed with a 2nd place finish in the A-10.
Key Returners: Jack Gibbs, Brian Sullivan, Jordan Barham
Key Losses: Tyler Kalinoski
Key Newcomers: Will Magarity, KiShawn Pritchett, Dusan Kovacevic
F Oskar Michelson, So.; (5.6/1.9/0.8/0.3/0.2)
F Peyton Aldridge, So.; (9.4/5.1/1.5/0.4/1.1)
G Jordan Barham, Sr.; (11.8/6.1/1.1/0.4/0.4)
G Brian Sullivan, Sr.; (12.7/3.0/3.9/0.7/0.0)
G Jack Gibbs, Jr.; (16.2/3.7/4.8/1.5/0.0)
Reserves: Andrew McAuliffe, Nathan Ekwu, Jordan Watkins, Will Magarity
Postseason Projection: 8 Seed
Davidson turned in a surprising season last year in their inaugural tour through the A-10, winning the regular season title and making “Kalinoski” and “McKillop” semi-household names. The Wildcats return everybody from that squad, except for team-leader Tyler Kalinoski, as they look to repeat their title run in 2015-16. Bob McKillop is a wonderful coach and one more year of cohesion with essentially his same nucleus is huge for Davidson’s tourney hopes.
The Cats lived and died (mostly lived) by the three last season and rarely turned the ball over and that doesn’t figure to change this year – not with Jack Gibbs and Brian Sullivan back. Gibbs was brilliant running the show for the Cats last season, posting an Assist Rate of 29.1 (102nd nationally) and shooting percentages of 51.2% from 2, 42.4% from 3 (103rd nationally), and 85.3% from the line (58th nationally). Gibbs’s O-Rating was 120.7, good for 80th in the country. So basically, you can’t ask for much more out of your point guard. Sullivan attempted an ungodly 228 three-pointers last season, connecting on 36.4% of them. Sullivan is essentially a threat to pull it when he walks in the building.
Serving on the wings and as pseudo-fours are Jordan Barham and Peyton Aldridge. Barham posted an O-Rating on par with Gibbs in 2014-15 and at 6’4’’ was in the top 200 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Barham is a skilled finisher inside the arc (60.3%) and gets to the line often. Aldridge is a 6’7’’ sophomore with range (42/109 38.5% from 3 in 2014-15); he is a capable scorer and also excels at blocking shots. Expect Aldridge’s usage to increase from his limited 15.4% a year ago with the departure of Kalinoski.
Davidson isn’t a very big team, and they don’t really have to be the way they shoot threes, but still a consistent post presence would be a nice thing to have. The Cats were a weak rebounding team a year ago and will look to three big men to potentially right the ship. Oskar Michelson is a 6’9’’ sophomore who greatly prefers hovering around the perimeter jacking threes to banging down low as his three-point attempts (109) and awful rebounding numbers suggest. He also plays matador defense at the rim, so while he’s a nice weapon offensively, he won’t add much of anything else. Andrew McAuliffe, a 6’8’’ junior, fits more of the traditional postman mold. McAuliffe stays inside and rebounds effectively though, like Michelson, doesn’t do much for the Cats in the rim protection department. The third big option is Boston College transfer and Swede Will Magarity. Magarity is 6’11’’, but like Michelson is more of a jump-shooting big. Well shoot, he can’t protect the rim either and only rebounds marginally better than Michelson. Screw it, Davidson just won’t have a traditional big guy and that just might be okay. Nathan Ekwu has the potential to bolster Davidson’s rebounding and defense off the bench and Jordan Watkins will contribute in a reserve role in the backcourt.
This season with Davidson, you’re going to see a very similar team as the year before. They will naturally regress slightly across the board with no more Kalinoski, but the experience and coaching may be enough to make up for the loss. The Cats are a tourney lock with 7/8 seed aspirations and are a legit contender for a second A-10 title.
Key Returners: Mo Alie-Cox, Melvin Johnson
Key Losses: Treveon Graham, Briante Weber, Terry Larrier
Key Newcomers: Jonathan Nwankwo, Samir Doughty
F Justin Tillman, So.; (3.6/2.5/0.1/0.3/1.0)
F Mo Alie-Cox, Jr.; (7.4/5.7/0.8/0.6/1.9)
G/F Jordan Burgess, Jr.; (5.1/4.4/0.8/0.6/0.5)
G Melvin Johnson, Sr.; (12.4/1.9/1.8/1.0/0.1)
G JeQuan Lewis, Jr.; (8.5/1.7/2.7/1.4/0.0)
Reserves: Jonathan Nwankwo, Samir Doughty, Doug Brooks, Jonathan Williams
Postseason Projection: 9 Seed
The Shaka Smart era has finally come to an end in Richmond, VA and what an entertaining era it was. Smart elevated the VCU Rams to a perennial powerhouse and instilled a culture of high pressure, in-your-face defense, the likes of which resulted in the Rams being consistently ranked in the top tier of defenses in the nation. Taking over for Smart is former VCU assistant and Chattanooga head coach Will Wade. The word on Wade is that he will continue to put a high focus on defensive pressure and he made a conscious effort to push Shaka’s defensive values onto his Chattanooga teams over the past two years. The good news for Wade is that he won’t be inheriting a gutted team; rather, he will be gifted with a talented group that should be a lock for the NCAA tourney and that possesses the capabilities to be a nationally ranked squad.
Starting with the departures, VCU loses two cornerstone players in Treveon Graham and Briante Weber, the latter of which had a tragic ending to his career via a gruesome leg injury. The Rams also lose promising freshman Terry Larrier as he transfers to Connecticut this season. Aside from that, VCU is a deep team with experienced vets and intriguing newcomers. Leading the team inside will be titan Mo Alie-Cox while Melvin Johnson will be looked upon to provide much of the team’s scoring from the backcourt.
Alie-Cox is undersized a bit for how much center he plays, but the man is a bulky, highly efficient basketball player. Alie-Cox put up strong finishing numbers last season, shooting 59.4% from the floor; most of these attempts were the result of his excellent offensive rebounding (12.4% good for 89th in the nation). The big man also showed a strong ability to get to the line often where he shot an uninspiring 60.4%. If he improves his free-throw shooting by a few percentage points, it will go a long way in determining how VCU fairs this year. The most valuable part of Alie-Cox is his defensive prowess, specifically his rim protection ability. He posted an 8.7% Blk % (55th in the country) in 2014-15 while anchoring one of the best defenses in the land.
Melvin Johnson is VCU’s leading returning scorer and only returner to hold a scoring average in double digits. VCU was good not great on offense last season and they will be heavily reliant on Johnson and incoming transfer Korey Billbury (more on him in a bit) to make up what they lack on offense. Johnson shot the ball very well his junior season sporting a shooting slash of .466/.363/.785. He will be the Rams’ top three-point threat in 2015-16.
Shouldering the scoring load with Johnson will be Billbury, the 6’3’’ guard from Oral Roberts. Billbury averaged 14 ppg for the Orals last season while rebounding the ball extremely well for his size. Billbury’s shooting percentages weren’t the greatest (.403/.338/.659) as he would often settle for mid-range jumpers and contested threes, the reason for which could simply be that Oral Roberts wasn’t a great team last season. He should find plenty better looks this year when he dons the Black and Yellow.
VCU also brings back a couple of enticing guards in juniors JeQuan Lewis and Jordan Burgess. Lewis will be the de facto point guard this season for the Rams; he did a pretty good job filling in for Weber but struggled with turnovers (24.1% TO Rate). The guard was a wizard on defense in the mold of Weber (not quite as good of course) posting a steal % of 3.9% (51st in the nation). Lewis was steady shooting-wise, shooting 35.8% from behind the arc, but would often force the issue within the 3-point line (38.1%). A focus on better quality shots and ball protection will do wonders for his game. Burgess was steady while in the lineup last year; the guard didn’t post a very high usage rate but rebounded extremely well on the defensive end and provided a lot of intangibles to the VCU effort. With Graham departing, he will be forced into a greater role.
Similar to last season, VCU isn’t very big. Alie-Cox is only 6’6’’ and past him, there isn’t much substance to the frontcourt. Justin Tillman, a sophomore this season, will be asked to step in and contribute; he played well as a rookie shooting 54.4% from the floor while succeeding at protecting the rim. Freshman Jonathan Nwankwo could be the solution to VCU’s big man problem. The 4-star recruit is 6’10’’ and has a big body. He excels at defending and rebounding though he is still a bit raw on the other side of the ball. Nwankwo needs a little time to develop fully, but he could be inserted into the lineup next to Alie-Cox to start of the season. 3-star freshman Samir Doughty and 6’7’’ newbie Gerron Scissum will provide even greater depth in the backcourt and on the wing.
Overall the Rams look to be in good shape this coming season, having taken plenty of Advil for their Shaka hangover. VCU has a strong core and will look to enter the Dance for 6th consecutive season. Within the A-10, they finish anywhere in the top 5.
Key Returners: Terry Allen, T.J. Cline, Shawndre Jones
Key Losses: Kendall Anthony
Key Newcomers: Jesse Pistokache
F Terry Allen, Sr.; (13.0/6.7/1.3/1.4/0.7)
F T.J. Cline, Jr.; (11.8/3.7/1.6/0.7/0.2)
F Deion Taylor, Sr.; (2.5/3.8/1.3/1.0/0.7)
G Trey Davis, Sr.; (4.2/4.8/2.3/1.2/0.3)
G Shawndre Jones, Jr.; (10.3/1.1/2.6/1.0/0.1)
Reserves: Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, Marshall Wood, Jesse Pistokache, Josh Jones
Postseason Projection: 11 Seed
The Spiders is a cool mascot for a school but a not-cool thing to come across while in the comfort of your own home. Stay on the basketball court where you belong, Spiders! Richmond loses only Kendall Anthony from a bubbly team a year ago which means the Spiders should be a dangerous team in 2015-16. What plagued Richmond last season was their horrendous rebounding; the Spiders played stout defense, shot the ball well, and did not turn the rock over – but rebounding, yeah that was shit. With the year-over-year personnel consistency and lack of frontcourt influx, the Spiders project to be a similar squad to the team a year ago, meaning they won’t rebound well but they will be solid in all other areas. And that may be just enough to get them to the dance this year and over the bubble hump.
Richmond will start a familiar group of players, all of which are upperclassmen – the backcourt will consist of junior Shawndre Jones and senior Trey Davis, while the frontcourt will consist of junior T.J. Cline and seniors Deion Taylor and Terry Allen. Replacing Anthony’s production in the backcourt will not be an easy task. Most of the scoring duties will fall on Jones who put up a nice shooting split of .484/.376/.725 last season. Jones can be deadly from deep and he can be relied upon to handle the ball-handling duties after turning in a 19.6 Assist Rate to go along with a super low 12.1 TO Rate. Davis, Jones’s colleague in the backcourt, doesn’t offer much in the realm of scoring but provides value on defense and is capable of guarding multiple positions. Since Davis is nearly non-existent on offense (30 mpg with a 12.2% usage rate), guard Josh Jones and freshman guard Jesse Pistokache will be asked to step in and provide a little more offensive potency to the 2-guard slot.
The frontcourt is solid and is led by Terry Allen, the Spiders’ leading returning scorer and rebounder. Allen is ferocious on the defensive glass but didn’t put forth as much effort on the offensive glass, primarily due to the fact he likes to shoot away from the basket. Allen shot 58.1% from inside the arc last season but was a dreadful 16/66 (24.2%) from 3. A little more focus on the middle from Allen will not only help his shooting efficiency but assist greatly in the rebounding woes of Richmond. Cline turned in a great sophomore season in mostly a sixth man role. He shot a scorching 38.8% from 3 and 60.5% from 2 but only made an unexplainable 65% of his free throws. Cline is strictly a wing / stretch 4 type of player and Richmond will rely on his scoring abilities. Taylor, like Davis doesn’t offer much on the offensive side of things, but the senior provides rim protection and lock-down defense, both keys to Richmond’s success.
Alonzo Nelson-Ododa will likely see a jump in his minutes this season. The 6’9’’ reserve is the Spiders’ best shot blocker and has potential to be their best rebounder as well. Nelson-Ododa also possesses a nice shooting touch and Richmond will desperately need his rebounding skills come the start of the season. Marshall Wood, a lanky 6’8’’ forward from Virginia Tech also joins the fold and should be inserted into the lineup quickly. Wood can shoot from deep when called upon and is also a strong defensive rebounder.
So despite losing their leading scorer, the Richmond Spiders project to be a solid team in 2015-16. I see them getting into the dance as an 11 or 10 seed while finishing in the top 5 of the A-10 conference.
6. George Washington
Key Returners: Patricio Garino, Joe McDonald, Kevin Larsen
Key Losses: Kethan Savage
Key Newcomers: Jordan Roland, Collin Goss
C Kevin Larsen, Sr.; (10.9/7.4/2.4/0.5/1.0)
F Yuta Watanabe, So.; (7.4/3.5/0.6/0.4/0.6)
G/F Patricio Garino, Sr.; (12.4/5.3/1.5/1.7/0.8)
G Paul Jorgensen, So.; (3.6/1.3/0.9/0.3/0.0)
G Joe McDonald, Sr.; (9.9/5.8/3.1/1.2/0.1)
Reserves: Tyler Cavanaugh, Collin Goss, Jordan Roland, Matt Cimino, Anthony Swan
Postseason Projection: NIT
Fact that I did not find shocking – George Washington the person was our first president. Fact that I found shocking – George Washington the school has only made one NCAA tournament in the past 8 seasons. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like GW is constantly in the tourney talks or hanging around the bubble fringe. Guess not; guess I’m delusional.
Anyways. This year’s Colonial squad takes a hit with 3 transfer-outs including best player Kethan Savage, but returns a solid core to once again be competitive in the A-10. What’s good about GW’s returning players is that they have a clear-cut leader/contributor at each spot on the court – point, wing, post – making them a well-balanced team. At the point is senior Joe McDonald, a pass-first point guard who protects the ball. McDonald can be a knock-down shooter and finisher when called upon (45.8% from 2, 37.3% from 3) and gets to the line fairly often for a point (but shoots a laughable 54.8% from the stripe). On the wing is junior Patricio Garino, GW’s leading scorer from last year. Garino is a slasher who uses his big frame to bulldoze to the basket and get to the free-throw line, where he converts regularly (73.5%). The wing is also GW’s best all-around defender, posting a top 125 Stl % and top 500 Blk % in 2014-15. In the post is 6’10’’ senior Kevin Larsen. Larsen is a bit of a brick shooting-wise, but he’s a solid rebounder who provides good rim protection for the Colonials.
Conveniently for GW, the Colonials have two reserves from prior year that will fit perfectly into the vacancies left by starters Savage and forward John Kopriva. Paul Jorgensen, a 6’2’’ sophomore will take on the 2-guard role, though he also can and will play some point. Jorgensen is a capable shooter and passer who should blossom into a solid spot-up threat and secondary ball-handler. Yuta Watanabe, a 6’8’’ sophomore fills in for Kopriva at the 4 spot. Watanabe has loads of potential. In his rookie campaign, the forward posted an O-Rating of 109.8 while using 17.3% of his team’s possessions, and owned a shooting slash of .420/.348/.831. Watanabe is long and can provide good rim protection for the Colonials. He will need to get stronger to contribute more on the boards, but that should come with age. He should be one GW’s main three-point options this season.
GW brings in only 2 freshmen of note, off-guard Jordan Roland and wingman Collin Goss, both of which are 2-stars and both of which will be forced to see the floor this season with the Colonials’ shallow bench. Tyler Cavanaugh, a 6’9’’ transfer from Wake Forest, will challenge Watanabe and Larsen for minutes all season. Cavanaugh had a nice sophomore season with Wake and looks to build on that success in his junior year at GW.
GW isn’t a team that will wow anybody with their speed or athleticism. They are a solid, sturdy team that plays a methodical style of basketball under Coach Mike Lonergan. The Colonials will likely look to slow the pace down this season like prior year and play, for lack of a better word, boring offense. GW will once again be a consistent squad, but without any real star-power it’s hard to see them finishing higher than 3rd. This will be a team squarely on the bubble come March, and my thoughts are they will end up on the wrong side of that bubble when all is said and done.
7. Saint Joseph’s
Key Returners: DeAndre Bembry
Key Losses: Chris Wilson
Key Newcomers: LaMarr Kimble, Chris Clover
F Javon Baumann, Jr.; (3.6;/3.7/0.6/0.4/1.3)
F Isaiah Miles, Sr.; (10.7/5.1/0.8/0.6/0.9)
G/F Aaron Brown, Sr.; (9.3/3.9/1.2/0.6/0.2)
G DeAndre Bembry, Sr.; (17.7/7.7/3.6/1.9/0.9)
G Shavar Newkirk, So.; (3.3/1.7/2.3/0.7/0.2)
Reserves: James Demery, LaMarr Kimble, Chris Clover
Postseason Projection: CBI/CIT
Coach Phil Martelli and the St. Joseph’s basketball program have had sporadic success since their 2004 1 seed breakout team led by NBAers Jameer Nelson and Delonte West. After making the tourney in 2014 as a 10 seed, the Hawks cruised to a 13-18 record while going 7-11 in conference play last season. The problem with St. Joe’s last year was their piss poor shooting – 29.9% from 3, 45.5% from 2, and 61.5% from the line. St. Joe’s brings back an experienced team, having lost only one major contributor, Chris Wilson, from prior year, and with this experience comes the expectation of development and improvements in all floor areas (including shooting).
The nucleus of the Hawks squad is wingman DeAndre Bembry who played an unfathomable 38 minutes per contest last season (95% of his team’s minutes). While a lot of this had to do with St. Joe’s lack of depth, Bembry received that much PT because he’s a good player – and not just on offense. Bembry was St. Joe’s best defender perimeter defender last season; he drew fouls at a high rate, stayed healthy and out of foul trouble despite his ludicrous amount of PT, and shot tolerable .484/.327/.637 slashes. With players around him developing, the hope is for Bembry’s shot percentages to see an uptick as a result of better looks and smarter decision making on Bembry’s part. Oh and Bembry was St. Joe’s best rebounder (7.7 rpg) and by a wide margin.
Supporting Bembry are three forwards – Isaiah Miles, Aaron Brown, and James Demery. Demery, the sophomore, had a horrendous rookie season in which he owned a shooting slash of .410/.175/.564 (and he was 6’6’’ 186 lbs.). It is literally impossible to not improve this season. Brown and Miles were better shooters, but not elite by any means. Miles represents the Hawks’ best 3-point threat and Brown has shown a knack for getting to the charity stripe – both valuable attributes.
Like most of teams in the A-10 this season, St. Joe’s is small. The Hawks will likely start Javon Baumann, a 6’8’’ junior, in the middle this year. Baumann finished extremely well around the rim in limited minutes, posted blocked 7.1% of shots he faced, and, despite his size, is a load in the middle at 260 pounds.
Sophomore Shavar Newkirk and two freshmen, LaMarr Kimble and Chris Clover, will provide depth at the guard position. Kimble, a 3-star recruit, is a savvy floor leader and possesses great strength for his size; he will likely be counted on to fill the void at point to start off the season. Clover, also a 3-star recruit, will provide stout defense on the perimeter and will be a solid rim attacker for the Hawks offense.
St. Joe’s is an athletic group of perimeter players who play tough defense. They lack a true inside presence and have really only 2 or 3 legitimate three-point threats. If Martelli can get anything more than the lackluster offense his squad spewed out a season ago, St. Joe could rattle a few cages in the middle of the conference.
8. St. Bonaventure
Key Returners: Marcus Posley, Dion Wright, Jaylen Adams
Key Losses: Youssou Ndoye, Andell Cumberbatch
Key Newcomers: Derrick Woods, LaDarien Griffin, Courtney Stockard
F Dion Wright, Sr.; (13.5/7.0/1.4/0.8/0.6)
F Denzel Gregg, Jr.; (3.7/3.2/0.9/0.7/0.9)
F Courtney Stockard, Jr.;
G Marcus Posley, Sr.; (16.7/2.9/2.1/1.2/0.0)
G Jaylen Adams, So.; (10.0/2.5/4.5/1.1/0.0)
Reserves: Idris Taqqee, LaDarien Griffin, Jalen Adams, Nelson Kaputo
Postseason Projection: CBI/CIT
Coach Mark Schmidt has done a nice job during his tenure at St. Bonaventure bringing the basketball program back to relevance and inspiring his team to play less like Bonnie and more like Clyde (poor attempt at a joke and also sexist, apologies). From 2004-2008 the Bonnies did not win more than 8 games in a single season; after Schmidt’s first year, the school has finished under .500 only twice in seven seasons. The Bonnies should be right around the same trajectory to finish their season in a spot similar to last year (when they went 10-8 in the A-10).
The team suffers two big losses to graduation in 7’0’’ double-double machine Youssou Ndoye and sharpshooter Andell Cumberbatch, but brings back a solid core of capable players. The Bonnies bring back their two leading scorers - guard Marcus Posley and forward Dion Wright; as well as sophomore guard Jaylen Adams who added 10 ppg last season as a freshman. Posley shot the ball a ton last year and could definitely be considered a volume scorer (which is basically a way to say “I’m clearly good so coach lets me shoot a lot, but I’m a bad shooter so I miss a ton of the shots I shoot”). Posley had a shooting slash of .450/.322/.783 last season, not terrible really, but I have to think he could have been just as potent offensively by taking better shots (I mean he shot 236 three-pointers, some of those had to be contested jacks). Wright was a very strong offensive player for the Bonnies last season. The 6’7’’ senior shot 55% from the field and crashed the offensive boards at an effective rate. His steadiness and leadership will be key for the Bonnies going forward this season. Adams is a rising star in the Bonnie backcourt. The sophomore earned a lot of playing time in his rookie season and was an effective shooter (.509/.324/.783) and distributor (27.7 Assist Rate). He was prone to turnovers, as most freshmen are, but that should smooth out this year as he comes in with a year under his belt.
Supporting the trio of Posley/Wright/Adams will be wing Idris Taqqee and forward Denzel Gregg. Both Gregg and Taqqee struggled mightily last season (80.9 and 81.2 O-ratings, respectively) but will be relied upon more this year as the Bonnies do not possess a wealth of depth. Neither players are much good shooting the ball, but both have defensive potential, which last season turned out to be the Bonnies’ strong point (though the departure of Ndoye will hurt).
The Bonnies didn’t make too many waves in the ocean that is the recruiting market (do they ever?) nabbing three newcomers, one of which is an ESPN 2-Star (Derrick Woods), the other two are fairly unheralded (LaDarien Griffin and Nelson Kaputo). Woods and Griffin are both 6’7’’ power forwards who will most likely see court time in the early going. Kaputo will in all likelihood spend most of his time slapping his palms together while sitting on a chair as he watches Posley and Adams strut up and down the hardwood. Courtney Stockard, a JUCO transfer, however, could be a major contributor for the Bonnies right away. Stockard averaged 23 and 9 at his JUCO and will provide the Bonnies with a good scoring option on the wing to start the season.
The Bonnies are an interesting team – a team kind of just stuck in the middle. They are too good to be buried in the cellar of the disastrous bottom half of the A-10, but they aren’t quite good enough to compete on a consistent basis with the elite 4 or 5 teams at the top. Anywhere from a 10-8 to 8-10 season is likely, coupled with a 7th to 8th place finish.
9. La Salle
Key Returners: Jordan Price
Key Losses: Steve Zack, Jerrell Wright, Khalid Lewis
Key Newcomers: Karl Harris, Yevgen Sakhniuk
C Tony Washington, So.; (0.5/0.5/0.0/0.0/0.1)
F Yevgen Sakhniuk, So.; DNP Last Season
G Cleon Roberts, Jr.; (8.8/2.9/1.1/1.2/0.4)
G Jordan Price, Jr.; (17.2/3.9/2.3/0.8/0.2)
G Amar Stukes, So.; (5.3/1.4/1.3/0.9/0.0)
Reserves: Johnnie Shuler, Karl Harris
Postseason Projection: None
La Salle’s 2014-15 season was one of ups and downs. The Explorers showed a lot of potential in some of their contests, particularly in their victories over VCU, Richmond, Dayton, and George Washington. Alas, for however many good moments they had last season, La Salle had just as many bad ones including losses to SLU, George Mason, Fordham, and American.
The young Explorers team appears poised to take a step backward in 2015-16. They lose their whole frontcourt in seniors Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright and point guard Khalid Lewis to transfer. La Salle will be relying on junior guard Jordan Price like a blind man relies on his walking stick and guide dog to “see”. The role will be nothing new for Price as he basically carried the team last season as well while taking 33.6% of the teams shots while on the floor (15th in the country). For the sheer volume of shots he took, Coach Giannini would have preferred him to be a tad more accurate (42.4% from 2, 34% from 3), but the Explorers didn’t have many options on offense.
Returning with Price is really nothing short of a motley crew of guards and a big man who barely saw the court in his freshmen season. Guards Cleon Roberts and Amar Stukes will be relied upon to complement Price in the starting rotation while reserves Johnnie Shuler and Rohan Brown will see dramatic increases in their playing time. Stukes and Roberts weren’t terribly efficient last season but both players are young and have potential for greater development this year. Tony Washington is La Salle’s only returning player above 6’6’’ which is made more frightening by the fact that the sophomore played in only 13 games last season. This team will be a gaping chasm in the paint.
The Explorers bring in one freshmen, guard Karl Harris, and one Ukrainian who sat out 2014-15, Yevgen Sakhniuk. Harris likely won’t see many minutes with the heavy guard presence, but Sakhniuk, who stands 6’7’’ will likely be counted on to start and provide major minutes.
La Salle’s outlook isn’t strong for 2015-16, but this is a young team capable of bigger and better things down the road. Finishing anywhere from 8th to 12th is most probable.
Key Returners: Micah Mason, Derrick Colter
Key Losses: None
Key Newcomers: Nayke Sanders, Mar’Qwyell Jackson
F Dominique McKoy (7.9/6.2/1.0/0.6/0.5)
F L.G. Gill (6.9/4.1/0.9/0.5/0.6)
G Jeremiah Jones (7.3/4.5/3.3/0.5/0.2)
G Micah Mason (12.8/4.0/2.9/1.1/0.0)
G Derrick Colter (13.2/2.9/3.6/0.9/0.1)
Reserves: Darius Lewis, Nayke Sanders, Jordan Robinson, Mar’Qwyell Jackson, TySean Powell
Postseason Projection: None
The Duquesne Dukes are on the rise ladies and gentlemen. Yes sir, out of the basement and into the stairwell of the basement leading to the first floor, here come the Dukes! Coach Jim Ferry has improved Duquesne’s conference record in each of the past three seasons – the Dukes went 6-12 in 2015 and finished 11th.
The good news for Dukes fans (all 17 of you) is the team returns all of its 5 starters from last season including its two leading scorers Derrick Colter and Micah Mason. Colter and Mason were the pulse of the Dukes last season, both averaging over 31 minutes per game. Colter mans the point and put up a good shooting slash last season of .456/.398/.770. He also was fairly successful in limiting turnovers and distributing the ball. Mason is a skinny 2-guard and turned in one of the best shooting seasons in the entire country last year. The guard shot 44.5% from 3 (41st) on 191 attempts, 51.2% from 2, and 90.2% from the free throw line. Yes, that is a 50/40/90 season, although Mason only shot 41 free throws. Alas, his effective FG% of 61.9% ranked 26th in the nation and he owned the 31st highest O-Rating (125.1). The Dukes don’t have just one of the best backcourt duos in the conference; they have one of the better combos in the country.
What sucks is they don’t offer much inside. Darius Lewis is their tallest force at 6’11’’, and if they get any production from him in the rebounding or shot blocking department, it could go a long way. Dominique McKoy, a 6’8’’ forward turned center will be counted on to assume most of the big man role – he put up strong rebounding numbers and finished well inside shooting 54.8% from the field (he’s a garbage free throw shooter though – 36.9%). L.G. Gill will attempt to man the other forward spot, but he’s more of a finesse shooting forward and doesn’t possess the ability to bang down low. Jordan Robinson, a 6’8’’ 250 lb. sophomore saw some floor time last year and will be counted on to contribute as well.
The Dukes do bring in a couple promising in fresh faces this season. Nayke Sanders is a 6’8’’ forward out of Staten Island; Sanders is a Rivals 3-Star recruit and should see immediate minutes in the frontcourt. Former UTEP player Mar’Qwyell Jackson will provide nice depth and size (6’5’’) to the guard spot as will touted British product Josh Steel.
If the Dukes had anything resembling a competent frontcourt, we could be talking about a tournament team. Instead, Duquesne likely stays pat from their 11th place finish from a season ago. Regardless of finish, I’m interested in watching Mason and Colter this season as I literally just now learned about their existence.
11. Saint Louis
Key Returners: Achraf Yacoubou, Milik Yarbrough, Marcus Bartley, Davell Roby
Key Losses: Austin McBroom
Key Newcomers: Elliot Welmer, Jermaine Bishop, Matt Neufeld
F Austin Gillman, So.; (3.5/2.1/1.1/0.1/0.4)
F Milik Yarbrough, So.; (10.0/4.8/1.5/0.6/0.4)
G/F Achraf Yacoubou, Sr.; (9.1/4.8/1.4/0.9/0.2)
G Davell Roby, So.; (6.5/2.8/1.8/0.9/0.0)
G Marcus Bartley, So.; (4.9/1.7/1.7/0.4/0.1)
Reserves: Mike Crawford, Elliot Welmer, Brett Jolly, Reggie Agbeko, Miles Reynolds
Postseason Projection: None
The Billikens were atrocious last season. After taking over for Majerus and leading SLU to a 4 seed in 2013 and a 5 seed in 2014, Jim Crews’s crew went a barf-worthy 11-21 and 3-15 in conference play. Okay granted SLU did lose majority of their team from 2014 to last season, so I guess let’s give them a pass. This year, the young Billikens 4 of their 5 starters from a year ago and lose only one major contributor in transfer Austin McBroom, so a return to norm may be in the cards for the Bills – well at least a return to A-10 competitiveness.
SLU will be led by its 4 returning starters – senior Achraf (Ash) Yacoubou (whose name looks as though it were spelled backwards), and sophomores Milik Yarbrough, Davell Roby, and Marcus Bartley. Yacoubou earned the most PT last season for the Bills and he will be looked upon as a senior leader in 2015-16. Shooting wasn’t the wing’s strength last year (.446/.226/.631), but then again nothing on offense was really his strength (85.6 O-Rating, 20.2 TO Rate). Yacoubou however is a good rebounder for his size and a solid defender, and he proved in his short appearance with Villanova that he can actually knock down a shot or two when given space.
The three sophomores, Roby, Bartley, and Yarbrough, were thrown into the wood chipper as freshmen as they started nearly every game last season for a team that lost its entire identity from the year before. While the process at times was painful, that experience will pay dividends for the three men as they enter their sophomore campaigns. Yarbrough plays a more power-forward style of basketball and makes his living finishing at the rim and getting to the foul line (where he shot a pitiful 58.3%). His focus this year should be improving his charity throws, as he already possesses the ability to finish and board at a consistent rate. Roby and Bartley will handle most of the ball-handling duties for the Billikens. Both guards were too much in love with turning the ball over last season, which is weird because you’d think as a guard you would hate to turn the ball over. Bartley did have a strong assist rate despite his affinity for turnovers and shot a very solid 43% from deep. Roby was an awful shooter (like most of his teammates) but was able to draw a lot of fouls and get to the line.
The Billikens as a team last year got to the line a ton, the problem was they shot a collective 65.3% from there. Inside the Bills lose 6’11’’ John Manning, but that’s okay because he wasn’t any good. Top candidates to replace the center are sophomore Austin Gillmann (a product of Oakville high school) and Brett Jolly (a former Marquette high school potential school-goer). Gillmann showed flashes of competence in limited minutes last season and at 6’10’’ could become a matchup problem with his ability to shoot from behind the arc. Jolly needs work but at least he’s pretty big. Reggie Agbeko, an undersized post-man will also provide depth in the frontcourt.
One of the most promising returning players is junior wing Mike Crawford who, by advanced stats, was the most efficient Billiken on the floor last season (and it wasn’t even close). Crawford is a knock-down shooter (.520/.369/.806) and will be a breath of fresh air for the Bills off the bench as he opens the congested court like a nasal strip does a congested nose.
SLU brings in three new recruits – Elliott Welmer, Jermaine Bishop, and Matt Neufeld. Welmer is a 3-star and looks to have plenty of upside from the 4 spot. He should get plenty of opportunities this season to prove his worth. Bishop is a 2-star guard and Neufeld is 6’11’’ (yay!).
SLU will be better than last year, but still won’t have enough to make a major leap in this conference. They’re basically a slightly worse version of St. Joe’s.
Key Returners: Jabarie Hinds, Trey Davis, Donte Clark
Key Losses: Cady LaLanne, Maxie Esho, Derrick Gordon
Key Newcomers: Luwane Pipkins
F Antwan Space, Sr.; (w/ A&M) (4.2/2.9/0.3/0.2/0.4)
F Zach Coleman, So.; (2.5/1.9/0.3/0.2/0.3)
F Donte Clark, So.; (9.6/2.5/2.0/0.7/0.2)
G Trey Davis, Sr.; (10.8/2.8/3.8/1.0/0.1)
G Jabarie Hinds, Sr.; (8.1/1.2/2.2/1.0/0.0)
Reserves: Luwane Pipkins, C.J. Anderson, Tyler Bergantino
Postseason Projection: None
UMass is kind of gross this year. I’ll try not to fall asleep writing this preview, because this is a boring team, no two ways about it. The Minutemen lose 3 of their top 4 leading scorers with Cady Lalanne and Maxie Esho graduating and Derrick Gordon transferring to Seton Hall. Coach Derek Kellogg and Co. will be heavily reliant on seniors Jabarie Hinds and Trey Davis and up-and-coming sophomore Donte Clark. I like seeing 5’11’’ Hinds dart around the court and the point guard improved across the board last season from his sophomore year at West Virginia. Hinds will start next to Davis next season, forming a small but quick backcourt; if he gets his turnover issues under control he could turn out to be a nice player for Kellogg in his senior farewell.
Trey Davis loves to shoot threes, having taken 154 of them a year ago, but he wasn’t very good at making them in 2014-15 (30.5%). His shooting his junior year was a bit of a head-scratcher as he saw his 2P % increase from 41.4% to 47% but saw his 3P % decrease from 37.7% to 30.5%. I’ll dismiss last season as an anomaly and assume that Davis does actually know how to shoot and has the capabilities to put up efficient numbers. He will feed off spotting up for open looks off Hinds drives. Donte Clark will resume the 3-man role he held last season; Clark has a keen ability to get to the rim and draw fouls and can knock down a deep jumper when called upon. Expect Clark’s game to grow by leaps and bounds as he is forced to pick up the slack from Gordon’s departure.
Lalanne’s graduation left a giant hole in the middle which UMass will struggle to fill. Forwards Tyler Bergantino and Zach Coleman will be called upon to spackle the hole. Bergantino was soft in limited minutes last season, but sported a lovely touch around the basket. Coleman has range for a 4-man and possesses at least some inkling of toughness on the glass. Both big men will likely be overmatched against better competition. Antwan Space, a graduate transfer from Texas A&M, will likely begin the season in the starting rotation
Sophomore C.J. Anderson will provide wing depth for the Minutemen after showing promise during his freshmen year with the team.
The most exciting story this season for UMass will be the progression of 4-star prospect Luwane Pipkins. Pipkins is a 5’11’’ point guard out of Chicago and should offer immediate relief for Hinds and Davis in the Minutemen backcourt. The PG will unfortunately not be a part of UMass’s summer trip to Europe which may hurt his early development with the program. He should get plenty of opportunity later in the year though when UMass struggles to play .500 basketball.
UMass will take the biggest step backward this season in the A-10. With the losses of key players and a thin bench, the Minutemen don’t have a whole lot going for them this year. They could slide all the way down to 12th if Davis, Clark, and Hinds don’t play up to snuff.
Key Returners: Christian Sengfelder, Mandell Thomas, Ryan Rhoomes
Key Losses: Eric Paschall, Bryan Smith
Key Newcomers: Nych Smith, Jahshire Hardnett, Jesse Bunting
F Ryan Rhoomes, Sr.; (6.4/8.6/0.8/0.4/1.3)
F Christian Sengfelder, So.; (11.7/7.1/0.7/0.5/0.4)
G Mandell Thomas, Sr.; (13.3/4.0/3.6/2.4/0.4)
G Antwoine Anderson, So.; (4.6/1.1/2.4/0.8/0.2)
G Nych Smith, Fr.;
Reserves: Nemanja Zarkovic, Jahshire Hardnett, Jesse Bunting
Postseason Projection: None
The name Fordham basketball has never struck the fear of God into the hearts of opponents, and this year will be no different. The Rams can take solace in the fact, however, that they will probably be better than last year (actually maybe not) when they went 10-21 overall and 4-14 in the A-10. The Rams have a new coach in Jeff Neuberger who manned the helm at Eastern Kentucky the last 10 years and made 2 NCAA tournaments with them in the process. Fordham has made 4 NCAA tournaments in its illustrious history, the last being in 1992. They will not end that streak this year.
The major reason why the Rams won’t make it to the promise land can be found in the transfer of leading scorer Eric Paschall, who jumps ship after just one season in New York (also everyone else is just kind of meh). The Rams also lose reserves Manny Suarez and Jon Severe to transfer and starter Bryan Smith to graduation. Fordham returns it’s three other starters and brings in three 3-star recruits (not too shabby for Fordham).
Leading the way in 2015-16 will be Christian Sengfelder, Mandell Thomas, and Ryan Rhoomes. Sengfelder is a beefy forward who plays mostly like a stretch 4, his specialties include decent defensive rebounding and a strong finishing rate inside the arc (62.3%). Rhoomes joins Sengfelder to form a terrifying 6’8’’ / 6’7’’ frontcourt. Despite his size Rhoomes is actually a really solid rebounder (12.7% OR%, 20.6% DR%) and Fordham’s rebounding last season was one of the only parts of their game they did semi-well. Mandell Thomas is a guard with an okay shooting touch and sticky fingers (4.1% Stl %).
Fordham’s three 3-star recruits, Jahshire Hardnett, Nych Smith, and Jesse Bunting, offer some promise of a brighter tomorrow. Hardnett and Smith are both 5’10’’ point guards and both have weird first names. Expect one of these guards to nab the starting PG slot. Bunting is a 6’8’’ center in the mold of Fordham’s current centers and he will be counted on to contribute immediately given their lack of overall size.
The bottom of the A-10 is bad so Fordham may sneak away with as high as an 11th place finish. Anything higher and I will eat my hat!
14. George Mason
Key Returners: Shevon Thompson
Key Losses: Corey Edwards
Key Newcomers: Danny Dixon, Kameron Murrell
C Shevon Thompson, Sr.; (12.5/11.3/0.2/0.5/1.1)
F Julian Royal, Sr.; (3.4/2.4/0.2/0.2/0.3)
F Jalen Jenkins, Jr.; (8.0/4.4/1.2/0.6/0.8)
G Patrick Holloway, Sr.; (10.9/1.2/0.7/0.7/0.0)
G Marquise Moore, Jr.; (9.5/3.2/3.1/0.9/0.3)
Reserves: Marko Gujanicic, Danny Dixon, Kameron Murrell
Postseason Projection: None
Remember when George Mason made the Final Four? That was neat. The Patriots used to be the class of the Colonial, then they joined the A-10 in 2014 and have suffered through two dumpster fire season going a combined 20-42 and 8-26 in conference play. They do have a new coach in former Bucknell general Dave Paulsen. Paulsen replaces the departed Paul Hewitt who coached Mason for 4 years after flaming out with Georgia Tech.
The Patriots lose some production from last year’s highly successful 9-22 squad in transfer-outs Isaiah Jackson and Trey Porter (both of whom were freshmen and showed promise) and seniors Corey Edwards (the point guard) and Vaughn Gray (he’s just a guy). The key returning players for Mason include 6’11’’ center Shevon Thompson, guards Patrick Holloway and Marquise Moore, and wing Jalen Jenkins.
Thompson will be the center (HA!) of George Mason’s basketball world. The big man averaged a double-double last season and was one of the few competent players on the roster. Thompson turned in the 5th best OR% in the country (17.2) and 12th best DR% (27.2), was an excellent rim protector, and shot 53.7% from the field. The senior is not only the bright star in a dark Mason galaxy, but he is also a legitimate All-League player.
Moore will likely slide over and assume point guard duties from the departed Edwards, while Holloway will continue his role as the only three-point threat the squad has to offer. George Mason was a bottom 7 team in the entire country in three-point attempts in 2014-15 and shot a dismal 31.6% when they decided to finally hurl it up from deep. Jenkins will serve as an athletic 3 or 4 man and will contribute on the boards and on defense.
Two seniors, Julian Royal and Marko Gujanicic will see a dramatic increase in their playing time with the departures. Both are 6’8’’ which I guess counts for something? Mason brings in two freshmen of note, Danny Dixon and Kameron Murrell. Neither is highly touted, but Dixon, a 6’10’’ forward, will provide nice frontcourt depth while Murrell will assist in getting assists in the backcourt.
George Mason’s outlook for 2015-16 isn’t pretty. They have a real nice player in Shevon Thompson, but their backcourt is a car accident. If anyone can emerge as a legitimate three-point threat it will do wonders for Thompson’s spacing in the post. Expect Mason to experience yet another bottom-feeding year in the A-10.