Playing in the shadow of the Big East, many people tend to sleep on the Atlantic 10. After sending six teams to the Big Dance last year and seeing one team (Dayton) go as far as the Elite Eight, the conference is riding a nice wave of momentum.
So much so that the conference has be taken as seriously as the Big East— at least for the moment. The conference is led by Virginia Commonwealth (VCU), which was riding a 12-game winning streak before losing on Saturday to Richmond, and is now ranked 18th in the country.
But it’s not all about VCU, though, as there are a few teams who you have to be mindful of before we reach March. The following teams are squads you need to monitor as the conference again has six teams who could be worthy of an NCAA Tournament bid. Remember, a lot of people did not feel Dayton belonged in the field last year and we know how that turned out.
So, let’s dissect the A-10 and the teams that could be a major factor in the postseason.
After a Final Four run in 2011, the Rams have become ensconced in the consciousness of the NCAA community as a team that is always a threat to make a deep run.
However, a black cloud is now hanging over the club as senior leader Briante Weber is out for the year with a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus. It’s a tough blow no doubt, but the show must go on.
With a suffocating defense that comes at you in waves, Shaka Smart’s club is a disciplined team that forces you into plenty of mistakes. Although Weber’s absence will loom large, the Rams still have a good duo in Treveon Graham (16.8 points per game) and Melvin Johnson (13 points per game). Look for Smart to maximize the most of this team sans Weber.
Coming off an Elite Eight appearance last season, what does coach Archie Miller do for an encore?
Well, the only thing better than an Elite Eight appearance is a Final Four appearance, and the Flyers could potentially get there if everything goes right. With a smart, balanced squad led by Jordan Sibert (16.5 ppg), Dyshawn Pierre (12.8 ppg), Kendall Pollard (12 ppg), and Scoochie Smith (8.6), Dayton has an experienced and dynamic squad.
All of the above gained some major experience in their surprising run last year, and they will prove to be a hard out in March.
Known as the school that first put the spotlight on NBA stud Stephen Curry, Davidson is once again turning some heads this season.
Head coach Bob McKillop has built a fine program at Davidson, and it is gearing up for another shot at taking down some big programs in its path. The Wildcats have adjusted just fine in their first year in the A-10 and have a 14-5 record (5-3 in conference) to show for it.
Davidson possess wins over Richmond and Dayton while also taking Virginia to the wire. With a couple of high-scoring guards in Tyler Kalinoski and Jack Gibbs (who is hurt at the moment) who can both flat-out shoot the rock, you must keep your eye on this club.
While they have a middling record (12-9, 5-3), the Spiders do though have an RPI of 45 and will probably be on the bubble for the duration of the season.
The Spiders are coming off a huge win over VCU on Saturday. They also own a win over Davidson while playing well in losses to Old Dominion, N.C. State, Northern Iowa and Wake Forest.
Head coach Chris Mooney is a vastly underrated coach and has been to the NCAA twice and the Sweet 16 once back in 2011. Don’t bet against his team come March.
With a win over Wichita State (along with decent wins over Colorado and DePaul) in the non-conference schedule, it looks like the Colonials may be inching toward a return trip to NCAA Tournament.
George Washington is a tough team that will grind you to death. It plays well in the half-court but will get after it in on the break. The Colonials, who are coming off two-straight losses, have an RPI of 68 and still might have some work to do.
However, this team passes the eye test (if you saw them play in the Diamond Head Classic, you understand) and is an extremely disciplined team that can give any team fits.
Head coach Dan Hurley is starting to turn his team into a feared program.
The Rams have already beaten Nebraska and George Washington this season and are trending in the right direction. They have won four in a row and ten out of their last twelve. Their RPI still needs some work as it stands at 71.
Still, with a star in E.C. Matthews (16.2 points per game), this is a very dangerous Rams club to contend with.
All RPI ratings courtesy of KenPom.com