2009-10 Team Capsules
The 49ers have scads of talent, with a good mix of newcomers and returners. The question for Charlotte remains consistency. Impossible to predict last season -- the 49ers won games no one thought they could win and lost games no one could ever imagine they'd lose -- Charlotte could be a league player if it gets organized.
With Chris Wright
, who ought to be the preseason league player of the year selection, back as well as three other starters, the Flyers should be more than just the league front-runner. Expect Dayton to make some serious noise in the national picture.
Losing leading scorer Aaron Jackson
hurts, but everyone else is back from a team that advanced to the A-10 finals and is coming off its most wins since 1971. Mix in some size in the form of Morakinyo Williams, a 7-foot transfer from Kentucky, and Duquesne should finish in the top half of the league.
That Jio Fontan
is back is a good thing. That the guard played well with the Puerto Rican national team is even better. Fontan averaged 13.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 5 assists per game for the 19-and-under team this summer.
GW brings in a class of six -- three guards and three frontcourt players -- but there is a lot of work to be done. In 2006 and '07, the Colonials combined to go 50-12 (27-5 in A-10) and made back-to-back trips to the NCAA tournament. During the past two seasons, they have finished 19-35 (9-23 in A-10).
Highly touted freshman Aaric Murray
is the unproven commodity. Rodney Green
is the sure thing. The slashing scorer is another reason the Explorers should expect to be even better than last season's 9-7 league finish. Murray and Green could end up being the toughest inside-outside duo in the conference.
Ricky Harris' return certainly buoys the expectations for the Minutemen, but until Derek Kellogg can find a replacement for point guard Chris Lowe
, UMass will remain a question mark.
Hotshot shooter Jimmy Baron
is gone, but URI's "shoot first, ask questions later" style remains. Now the Rams just need to find someone to make up for Baron's 17.4 points per game average. No easy task, because he connected on 45 percent of his 3-point attempts. The graduation of Kahiem Seawright
(14.2 ppg) doesn't help matters.
Three years ago, the Spiders were a disaster, finishing 8-22 in Chris Mooney's second season. Funny how a little patience can pay off. With Dan Geriot
plus four other starters back, Richmond seems an easy pick to finish among the conference's elite.
Junior college transfers Leonard Lewis and Ogo Adegboye
join four starters, which should help the Bonnies continue their return from disaster. Considering the depths from which he had to climb and the Olean, N.Y., address, Mark Schmidt should be staring at some coach of the year honors soon.
It'll be a tough transition year for Phil Martelli. Atlantic 10 player of the year Ahmad Nivins
is gone, and although Darrin Govens
and Garrett Williamson
return, both have served as role players their entire career.
Incoming power forward Cody Ellis
starred for the Australian under-19 team this summer. He and fellow Australian Christian Salecich
are part of a six-man recruiting class that Rick Majerus hopes will bring the Billikens back to relevancy.
Owls fans have been waiting three years for Lavoy Allen
to consistently deliver on the teasing promise his talent suggests. Now is the time. With Dionte Christmas
gone, along with Sergio Olmos
and Semaj Inge
, Allen needs to step into the spotlight to keep Fran Dunphy's smooth transition flowing.
Plenty of coaches would be thrilled to have Chris Mack's rebuilding roster. Dante Jackson
, Jason Love
, Kenny Frease
and Terrell Holloway
aren't exactly a cast of no-names. Oh, and there's also that guy who dunked on LeBron. You haven't heard the last of Jordan Crawford.
By Fran Fraschilla
It's never too early for predictions. Fran Fraschilla offers up his thoughts on the upcoming season in the A-10:
Coming off 27 wins and an NCAA tourney victory over West Virginia, Brian Gregory's Flyers return four starters and 10 of their 11 top scorers. Because he is a warrior inside and plays way above the rim, homegrown product Chris Wright
is the perfect face of a program that relies on toughness and grit. Sophomore Luke Fabrizius
is an outstanding compliment to Wright beyond the arc. This team is my favorite to win the league, but the battle with I-75 rival Xavier will be fierce.
New coach and former Musketeers player Chris Mack is poised to become Xavier's next outstanding young coach, even though his nonconference schedule is beyond brutal this season. Because of his hometown roots, Mack may actually stay awhile. Indiana transfer Jordan Crawford
is a scoring machine, and Mark Lyons will be another weapon in the backcourt after sitting out a year. And despite the loss of Derrick Brown
to the NBA, the front line is solid. Jason Love
, Jamel McLean
and Kenny Frease
can bang bodies with the best of them.
The Spiders might end up being a surprise on the national level, but Atlantic 10 folks fully expect Richmond to make a run toward the top of the league. Chris Mooney has one of the most underrated backcourts in the country in David Gonzalvez
and Kevin Anderson
. The return of 6-9 junior Dan Geriot from season-ending knee surgery will give this team an anchor, both inside and out -- as long as he returns to his All-Atlantic 10 self.
4. La Salle:
Dr. John Giannini has done a terrific job of infusing life into a program that has had great tradition in the past. Last season's 18-13 record was another step in a positive direction. The Explorers are awaiting word on an extra year of eligibility for Vernon Goodridge, but even without him, they return their top four (and six of their top seven) scorers from last season. The team still has some issues with perimeter shooting and backcourt depth, but look for 6-foot-5 senior Rodney Green
to emerge as one of the best players in the country you've never heard of. He put up 25 points against UConn last season.
The Dukes must replace maybe the most important player in the league a year ago in Aaron Jackson
, a great leader on and off the court. But every other key player for coach Ron Everhart is back. Eric Evans
and Melquan Bolding
could be rising stars in the backcourt for the next three years. Once a laughingstock, Duquesne is a serious dark-horse candidate for the league title.
Coach Fran Dunphy must replace three starters from last year's Atlantic 10 tourney champion, including ultrascorer Dionte Christmas
. Lavoy Allen
, a 6-9 junior, has as much talent as any big man in the league and should be ready to step into a prominent role. Sophomore guard Juan Fernandez
, an Argentine import who jumped into the fire at midseason, will be much more consistent this season. He is a Pepe Sanchez-type point guard with Philadelphia-style moxie.
This is a critical year for Bobby Lutz, but he has a good mix of returnees and newcomers. The 49ers, in fact, could be sneaky good. If that happens, Charlotte's strength coach may play a huge role in the success of this team. Boston College transfer Shamari Spears is a load inside and could be a dominant A-10 inside scorer if he is in shape. DiJuan Harris
is an underrated point guard and a big key to the season as well.
8. St. Bonaventure:
Success is measured in different ways around college basketball. Last season's 15-15 record was a huge deal to Bonnies fans, who have suffered plenty in recent years. The road back to respectability is being led by coach Mark Schmidt and a 6-9 sophomore from Toronto, Andrew Nicholson
. The Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year will get added attention from opposing defenses, so his 15 pounds of added muscle will come in handy. Fellow soph Michael Davenport
is a quality athlete who will help Nicholson inside.
With so many newcomers added to the UMass roster this season, Derek Kellogg will be giving out name tags at the first practice. He does have a prolific scorer in senior guard Ricky Harris
, who knocked down almost 90 3-pointers a year ago. Wake Forest transfer Anthony Gurley
was very inconsistent in his first season in Amherst and must improve. Terrell Vinson
, a 6-6 freshman, has a chance to impact immediately.
10. Rhode Island:
Jim Baron lost two very key players to graduation, including his sharpshooting son Jimmy. Returning are outstanding role players Keith Cothran
, Lamonte Ulmer
and Delroy James
, the league's best sixth man in 2008-09. Each will need to step up if the Rams are to stay in the conference's upper division. Playing hard has never been a problem for Baron's teams, and I have a suspicion that will be the reason this team might overachieve.
11. Saint Louis:
With the backcourt of Tommie Liddell
and Kevin Lisch
having finally graduated, the transition to Rick Majerus-recruited players is complete. The coach will have one of the youngest teams in the country with 11 freshmen and sophomores. If the program starts to flourish, it's likely that 5-11 sophomore point guard Kwamain Mitchell
will be a big reason. He already has proved to be an outstanding floor leader. Forward Willie Reed
oozes potential, and if he listens to his coach the next three years, he'll reach it. The Billikens' future is bright, but this year could be bumpy.
12. Saint Joseph's:
The loss of the league's best big man, Ahmad Nivins, is significant. Replacing point guard Tasheed Carr
won't be easy, either. The Hawks have been a consistent 9-7 in A-10 play the past four seasons, and Phil Martelli probably would take 9-7 again in a heartbeat. Guards Darrin Govens
and Garrett Williamson
will have to play like Jameer Nelson and Delonte West for Saint Joe's to make noise in conference play.
13. George Washington:
The Colonials have struggled the past two seasons and still have to replace about 50 percent of their offense. Senior Damian Hollis
is the only returnee who has had any significant success for coach Karl Hobbs. He'll have to lead a team that has a bevy of freshmen. Guard Tony Taylor
, a 6-1 sophomore, has had moments of brilliance. He'll need to grow up this season.
Yikes. When a 3-25 team loses almost 60 percent of its scoring, there's not much positive to talk about. The one bit of really good news is that outstanding sophomore guard Jio Fontan
did not transfer after much speculation that he might. The incoming recruiting class is solid again, but the Rams will be way too green to do any damage in the conference.