A-10 preview: VCU, Rhode Island & Dayton poised to battle for league crown
Sports Illustrated’s 2016–17 preview is guided by data from our College Basketball Projection System, a collaboration between economist Dan Hanner and SI’s Luke Winn and Jeremy Fuchs. We project teams on a player-by-player, lineup-based level and then simulate the season 10,000 times to generate our 1–351 national rankings and conference forecasts.
These are the model’s projections for the A-10, including individual awards, the teams’ order of finish and (advanced and raw) stats for the top seven players in each school’s rotation.
Player of the Year: Jack Gibbs, Davidson
Gibbs finished fourth among multi-bid conference players in scoring last season, and we project him to be the top scorer in college basketball this year. If he beats out players from bigger teams and conferences, like Duke’s Grayson Allen and Iowa’s Peter Jok, expect Gibbs to be a lock for conference player of the year and in the conversation for national player of the year. You can also expect to hear a lot of Stephen Curry comparisons, even as Gibbs tries his best to keep them at bay.
Newcomer of the Year: Emile Blackman, Duquesne
Blackman arrives to Duquesne as part of the great diaspora from Niagara, which has lost 20 players to transfer since coach Chris Casey began his tenure in 2013. Last year, Blackman averaged 15.8 points in 33.4 minutes a game for the Purple Eagles, and he was the team’s emotional core. This season he projects as the Dukes’ leading scorer in part because of his history of high-volume (and decent-efficiency) shooting and in part because Duquesne is replacing its top four scorers from 2015–16.
All-Conference Team & Sixth Man
PG: Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure
PG: Jack Gibbs, Davidson
SG: Charles Cooke, Dayton
PF: T.J. Cline, Richmond
PF: Tyler Cavanaugh, George Washington
6th man: SG: EC Matthews, Rhode Island
Projected Order of Finish
(Projected conference record in parentheses. The tiebreaker for teams with identical records is their standing in SI’s 1–351 national rankings, which will be revealed in early November.)
|Conference Rank||Team||Proj. Conf. Record||’15-16 Conf. Record|
1. VCU (13–5)
In Will Wade’s first season, the Rams finished in a three-way tie for first place in the A-10 and advanced to the tournament championship before losing to St. Joseph’s. And although they lost leading scorer Melvin Johnson, last year’s No. 2, JeQuan Lewis, has shown he’s ready to handle a bigger role. In VCU’s five postseason games, he averaged 21.0 points and 8.0 assists. He’ll be complemented by big man Justin Tillman and middle linebacker Mo Alie-Cox down low. Four-star wing De’Riante Jenkins is the prize of the 2016 recruiting class, and fellow freshman Samir Doughty should be a key contributor from the start of the season.
2. Rhode Island (13–5)
Rhode Island was a trendy pick as an A-10 contender and NCAA tournament sleeper team a year ago, but those hopes came crashing down when star guard E.C. Matthews tore his ACL 10 minutes into the season opener. Matthews is now healthy, and an experienced team surrounds him: Each of our seven top projected scorers for the Rams is an upperclassman.
3. Dayton (13–5)
The Flyers are still reeling from the tragic death of 20-year-old center Steve McElvene in May. This year, Archie Miller will look to guide Dayton to the team’s fourth straight NCAA tournament with four seniors as his top scorers. Wing Charles Cooke is a projected first-team All A-10 player.
4. Davidson (11–7)
Bob McKillop has assembled a roster comprised of players from seven different countries and three continents, but the most important of them will no doubt be Ohio native Jack Gibbs. Stretch four Peyton Aldridge will benefit from a substantially healthier frontcourt alongside him this season.
5. Richmond (10–8)
The Spiders posted the worst conference record in coach Chris Mooney’s 11-year tenure last season. Thanks to seniors T.J. Cline and ShawnDre’ Jones, Richmond seems like a safe bet to move back above .500 in the league, but an at-large NCAA tournament bid is a shakier prospect.
6. George Washington (10–8)
The Colonials fired coach Mike Lonergan in the middle of September over allegations of verbal and emotional abuse and replaced him with assistant Maurice Joseph in an interim role. Joseph will rely heavily on Tyler Cavanaugh, who was the leading scorer on last year’s NIT championship team, and Seton Hall transfer Jaren Sina.
7. St. Bonaventure (9–9)
The Bonnies were one of the most high-profile NCAA tournament snubs in 2015–16, but it doesn’t look from the outset of this season that they’ll get revenge on the selection committee. Jaylen Adams, who was second in the A-10 in assists and eighth in points last year, is the unquestioned leader entering his junior season.
8. Saint Joseph’s (8–10)
Juniors James Demery and Shavar Newkirk were the top non-senior scorers last season, but they have big shoes to fill. Another A-10 tournament championship seems unlikely without NBA first-round pick DeAndre Bembry or 18-points-a-game forward Isaiah Miles. Phil Martelli is a patient and proven rebuilder, though, and the Hawks will be back sooner rather than later.
|Charles Brown Jr.||Fr||SF||6.9||3.6||0.8||95.8||20%||50%|
9. La Salle (8–10)
The leading returning scorer in the city of Philadelphia is Jordan Price, who averaged 19.2 points a game last season for the Explorers. He’s scored more than 1,000 points since transferring to La Salle after a season at Auburn, and we project him to improve on last season’s numbers and finish among the top five scorers nationally.
10. Massachusetts (8–10)
After a steady rise during Derek Kellogg’s first six seasons at the helm, culminating in an NCAA tournament appearance in 2014, the Minutemen have regressed. Although Donte Clark seems capable of bearing a heavy offensive load, he alone can’t carry UMass back to the Big Dance.
11. Fordham (7–11)
The Rams showed significant strides in Jeff Neubauer’s first year as head coach. Neubauer will reunite with 6' 5″ wing JaVontae Hawkins, whom he acquired as a transfer at Eastern Kentucky before leaving for the Fordham job. Hawkins should continue to be a high-efficiency, high-volume shooter for the Rams, but our projections don’t think he’ll keep up his 17-points-a-game pace.
12. George Mason (6–12)
Dave Paulsen’s first year with the Patriots was technically an improvement, but an 11–21 (5–13) record is rarely considered comforting. Paulsen’s team will boast enviable depth in the backcourt, but size—only one player, Danny Dixon, in our projected top seven scorers is taller than 6' 8″—will be a significant challenge.
|Otis Livingston II||So||PG||12.3||2.9||3.4||105.4||21%||81%|
13. Duquesne (5–13)
Although Blackman is likely to earn plenty of individual honors, he can’t replace the sheer amount of talent that coach Jim Ferry lost in the off-season. Gone are the top three scorers: guards Micah Mason and Derrick Colter and forward L.G. Gill (who transferred to Maryland). With so much roster turnover, the Dukes could struggle to address their area of biggest weakness: defense.
14. Saint Louis (5–13)
Travis Ford returns to the A-10, where he helmed UMass from 2006 to ’08. Our projections expect a big scoring leaps from senior guard Mike Crawford and sophomore guard Jermaine Bishop, but ultimately the pieces Ford will need to turn around the Billikens aren’t on the current roster.