Xavier runaway No. 1 in A-10 preseason poll
Xavier and Temple have a lot in common in regard to the Atlantic 10 Conference. They are the teams that have made the top of the standings their own.
Xavier has won at least a share of the regular-season title for the last five years. Temple has won the postseason tournament three of the last four years.
There is bad news this season for the other 12 teams in the league: Xavier and Temple have two of the best backcourts in the nation.
''I feel like when you have a senior point guard who has been through the wars and he has a running mate as talented as any guard in our conference, it makes me feel good as a coach that you can hand the ball to those two guys and they can run the team the way you want,'' Xavier coach Chris Mack said of Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons.
''They have leadership and a desire to really make their mark on the program nationally. ... When you have that as opposed to kids just learning the system it's such a huge advantage and we have to take advantage of it. We've scheduled very aggressively and I think they're up to challenge and we're going to need them.''
Holloway, the conference player of the year last season after averaging 19.7 points and 5.4 assists while being selected the league's defensive player of the year, is really ready for his senior season.
''When you're in sports you need a great pitcher, a great quarterback, a great point guard and we have someone who's been there for 90 games and three NCAA tournaments,'' Holloway said Thursday at the conference's media day when he was chosen preseason player of the year. ''The coaches always ask the seniors 'What is your legacy? What will you leave?' I know what I want to leave.''
The Musketeers have been to six straight NCAA tournaments and 10 of the last 11. Holloway's first two seasons ended in the round of 16 and last year they lost in the second round. Holloway would like to lead Xavier to its first final four.
Temple broke a three-game losing streak in the NCAA tournament with a second-round win over Penn State. It was coach Fran Dunphy's first NCAA win in 10 appearances - the first seven were with Penn.
''It was so good for our guys. It was fabulous to get that tournament win,'' Dunphy said.
The Owls' backcourt is seniors Ramone Moore, who averaged a team-leading 15.2 points, and Juan Fernandez, who averaged 11.2. They both had over 100 assists and Fernandez had just 64 turnovers while playing 32 minutes a game.
''It's comforting to know we have a backcourt like we have,'' Dunphy said.
Xavier was the runaway choice of the league's coaches and members of the media, getting 18 of 22 first-place votes. Temple got the other four No. 1 votes.
''There are good backcourts in this league,'' Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said, rattling off the names Holloway, Lyons, Moore and Fernandez like he has said them many times. ''It's been like the big brothers on the block kicking your butt and saying 'Come on again,' and you always do.''
Saint Louis was third followed by St. Bonaventure, Richmond, Dayton, Saint Joseph's, George Washington, Duquesne, Rhode Island, Charlotte, Massachusetts, La Salle and Fordham.
The preseason first-team is all seniors: Holloway, St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson, Moore and Fernandez, and George Washington's Tony Taylor.
One change in the league's look will be Dunphy's facial hair. After having a mustache for 40 years, he shaved it off last week to honor the graduation of former player Dionte Christmas.
''It's taken a while to get used to not having it,'' Dunphy said between wisecracks from the other coaches. He was asked if his upper lip has started getting cold. ''Luckily the weather has been nice.''
As Xavier and Temple remained at the top, Fordham was again at the bottom of the standings. The Rams are 2-26 in the conference the last three seasons. They snapped a 41-game conference losing streak by beating Massachusetts in the final game of last season, coach Tom Pecora's first at Fordham.
''It was big to put that behind us, but the new guys aren't even aware of it,'' Pecora said. ''And you what? I'm not anymore, either.''