No Longer Top Dogs, A-10 Newcomers Blend In
BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Had Butler stayed in the Horizon League, the Bulldogs would have been picked to win the conference.Had Virginia Commonwealth stayed in the Colonial Athletic Association, the Rams would have been the choice there, as well. Instead, VCU was picked third in the Atlantic 10. Butler sixth. During the recent A-10 media day, VCU coach Shaka Smart and Butler coach Brad Stevens were just another two coaches. There was no special place for them to sit, no perks, no treatment reserved only for them. Butler and VCU were a coup for the A-10, but now it's time to earn their place. Smart and Stevens have been wooed by higher-paying schools and the Big Six conferences. But both have remained and both bumped up to a higher-level conference, to a place where multiple at-large bids should be a given. Each coach is comfortable in his own skin, with who he is and where he lives. "You hope you find a place where you're comfortable, where you can achieve all your dreams," Stevens said. "We shouldn't take a backseat to anyone. VCU has done it, too. We've talked all the time that what's right for one person may not be for another."
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Finally A Rebuilding Season At Xavier?
BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- No Mark Lyons. No Dez Wells. No Tu Holloway.That's why it's no surprise to see Xavier picked ninth in the A-10, but it's still a surreal position to be in for a program that has been at the top of this conference for so long and is coming off yet another Sweet 16 appearance.
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Philly Still Plays Central Role In A-10 Hoops
VCU coach Shaka Smart
Temple coach Fran Dunphy
They Said It
Who the A-10 head coaches are identifying as a sleeper or a key player on their team:
Butler: Brad Stevens on senior center Andrew Smith
"Nobody's talking about him, and he's a 6-11, 245-pound senior that has been a two-year starter on teams that won 50 games. He can score in a variety of ways -- on either block, on the run, facing the basket -- and on top of that he's a great worker."
Charlotte: Alan Major on freshman center Mike Thorne
"I think Mike Thorne will surprise people this year. He redshirted last season so he used our practices as games. Redshirting last season really helped Mike with his development. He is 6-foot-10 who with his length and size gives us another dimension. I think he is ready to have a role for us."
Dayton: Archie Miller on junior forward Devin Oliver
"Devin Oliver is a guy who could be the surprise player of our team. He has worked hard in the offseason to expand his game and improve his body. He has had a terrific fall, and his versatility will give him an opportunity to have a major role."
Duquesne: Jim Ferry on junior forward Jerry Jones
"Jerry is a guy to keep an eye on. He finished last season strong, worked hard over the summer and came back to campus in great shape. He has a lot of the qualities we look for in a swingman. He can run, pass and has the ability to develop into a solid defender."
Fordham: Tom Pecora on freshman forward Travion Leonard
"Travion has been working hard since the day he arrived at Fordham this summer. He has dropped 60 pounds, going from 320 to 280, and is becoming a presence under the boards. The main thing I like about him is that he just keeps getting better every day."
George Washington: Mike Lonergan on freshman wing Patricio Garino
"Our team's sleeper this year could be freshman Patricio Garino. He is a 3-man from Montverde Academy by way of Argentina. He has a very high basketball IQ and is a terrific defender. Patricio makes everyone on the court with him better. For us to be successful this season, we will have to rely heavily on our five freshmen, especially Patricio. We expect him to be an immediate starter and one of our best players."
La Salle: John Giannini on sophomore center Steve Zack
"Steve has simply worked extremely hard. He has dramatically improved his conditioning, strength and quickness. He is confident, highly motivated and comfortable compared to last year. He's much better."
Massachusetts: Derek Kellogg on junior guard Chaz Williams, senior forward Terrell Vinson and junior guard Jesse Morgan
"Chaz's leadership and energy is a must for us. Terrell is a senior who played his best ball in our NIT run last year and brought maturity and toughness. Jesse is a relentless worker who keeps getting better every day."
Rhode Island: Dan Hurley on senior guard Andre Malone
"Like Nikola [Malesevic], Andre is coming off a disappointing year. But he came into the preseason in shape and ready to take a leadership role. He has an ability to score and we will need to rely on him to give us a spark. I don't think Rhody fans have seen what Andre can do on the court."
Richmond: Chris Mooney on sophomore guard Wayne Sparrow and junior forward Derrick Williams
"Wayne is a very versatile player with a great sense for the game. His athleticism and skill level have really improved since he has been in college. We expect him to contribute at a few positions this year. Derrick has a chance to have a great season. He is not just a powerful interior player -- he can handle the ball and make decisions and his shooting has continued to improve. His hard work has increased his confidence and he should have a great year."
St. Bonaventure: Mark Schmidt on senior wing Chris Johnson
"Chris put in a lot of work over the summer and he's poised to have a big year for us. His combination of both size and acceleration makes it difficult for defenders to stay in front of him. He's also gotten much better at passing the ball and his improved jump shot will surprise a lot of people. His floor game is really good as well, and he had a few big games for us last year, so he's proven he can be a valuable asset for us."
Saint Joseph's: Phil Martelli on the most important position for the Hawks
"It's our point guard position, as opposed to one specific player. If our point guard play is good, then we're good. If it hasn't improved then we will be the same team as last year."
Saint Louis: Jim Crews on junior forward Rob Loe
"We anticipate Rob to have more of an inside presence this year. He is obviously comfortable shooting the 3, and playing inside will be an added dimension to his game. This summer, he continued playing competitively with the national team in New Zealand, which will only help him as continues to develop into a complete player."
Temple: Fran Dunphy on sophomore guard Will Cummings
"His speed and quickness will hopefully push us in transition better than we have done in recent years."
VCU: Shaka Smart on senior guard Darius Theus
"He is our most valuable player. He's our coach on the floor, our toughest player, and our most unselfish player. We will go as Darius goes this year."
Xavier: Chris Mack on sophomore guard Dee Davis
"He played behind two all-conference guards a year ago. He's stronger, a pass-first point guard and a good defender."
Xavier coach Chris Mack
SLU coach Jim Crews
A-10 Preview Content
For a Blue Ribbon breakdown of all 16 A-10 teams, click here.
More Atlantic 10 coverage:
• Dana O'Neil's "Five Things I Can't Wait To See" in the A-10
• John Gasaway answers five key questions for the conference
• Katz writes that the A-10 title race runs through Philadelphia this season
• Katz on new Rhode Island coach Danny Hurley
• O'Neil on Richmond coach Chris Mooney opening up his heart and his home to a grieving student manager
• Podcast: Katz interviews several coaches at A-10 Media Day
• Eamonn Brennan on the growing Big East-Atlantic 10 debate
• ESPN.com's Summer Shootaround preview of the A-10.
• Katz rates and analyzes the nonconference schedules of the Atlantic 10
• Dave Telep gives us the complete recruiting picture in the Atlantic 10
• For more Atlantic 10 coverage in the Nation blog, click here
St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli
Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley