With the start of college basketball season less than a month away, we're previewing each team in nine conferences. Using a statistical projection system developed by economist Dan Hanner and SI's Luke Winn, which is now in its second season, we've forecast the conference standings and the top seven scorers from each team. Next up is the A-10:
Coach of the year: Dan Hurley, Rhode Island
Hurley, now in his fourth season, has built arguably the league’s most talented roster, and took a major step forward last season with 23 wins and an NIT berth. With what should be the deepest rotation in the conference, featuring the A-10’s top guard, E.C. Matthews, and one of its most under-the radar stars in Hassan Martin, Rhode Island looks poised for another leap. If the Rams fulfill their considerable potential and win the conference, the savvy Hurley’s rebuild will be complete.
Player of the year: DeAndre Bembry, Saint Joseph’s
In his first two college seasons, Bembry, a 6'7" forward, has risen to stardom. He’s a stat-sheet stuffer who contributes all over the floor and scores inside and out, averaging 17.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.9 steals and nearly one block last season. Bembry, now a highly regarded NBA prospect, remains the focal point of the Hawks’ approach, and no player in the conference shoulders more of a load. It might take a major improvement from a team that only won 13 games last season for him to fully earn it, but based on talent, production and workload, Bembry edges Rhode Island’s Matthews for the pre-season nod.
Freshman of the year: Lamarr Kimble, Saint Joseph’s
We’ll admit it: this category is a bit of a toss-up this year, with not a single Rivals top-150 recruit landing in the conference. If UMass guard Luwane Pipkins is ruled eligible, consider him a top candidate. John Crosby was a solid get for Dayton, but he remains behind several talented players in a loaded backcourt. Therence Mayimba was ineligible last season for George Mason but had a good showing for Gabon at this summer’s AfroBasket tournament. Let’s hedge an early, tempered bet on Kimble, a decorated three-star recruit from Philly with a shot at backcourt minutes.
Projected Conference Race
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Each team's outlook in about 68 words
There’s not a deeper team in the A-10, and probably not a more talented one, either. The aforementioned Matthews anchors the backcourt with Jared Terrell, Jarvis Garrett and grad transfer Four McGlynn. Dynamic Hassan Martin (11.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.1 blocks) is poised for a breakout year, and Memphis transfer Kuran Iverson will be a factor. The Rams are well-equipped for a top finish, with the personnel to make waves into March.
After winning the conference last season, Davidson loses a star in Tyler Kalinoski but brings back just about everyone else in Bob McKillop’s unselfish, team-first system. Jack Gibbs, one of three returning guards who scored in double figures, led the conference in assists and will make the offense go. Sophomore Peyton Aldridge is a good bet to increase his production. The Wildcats will be right back near the top of the pack.
The talk will be about what the Rams have lost (coach Shaka Smart, Briante Weber and Trevor Graham, Uconn transfer Terry Larrier), but if there’s any coach equipped to maintain tradition it’s Will Wade. The former Smart aide takers over after two years heading Chattanooga and inherits a good group led by guard Melvin Johnson. The “Havoc” system isn’t going anywhere, and neither should VCU.
The fate of this group is tied to the availability of senior and leading scorer and rebounder Dyshawn Pierre, currently in a legal battle with the school over his suspension for sexual assault allegations. If and when he takes the basketball court, he joins a tournament-tested core that includes juniors Kendall Pollard and Scoochie Smith. They just might be good enough for a run at the conference, even without him.
The Spiders may have lost Kendall Anthony, but they will continue to deploy a stingy, switch-heavy matchup zone and bring back experience in reigning A-10 Sixth Man award-winner ShawnDre’ Jones as well as Terry Allen and T.J. Cline (the son of Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman). Chris Mooney’s team has sleeper potential after last year’s NIT berth.
Mike Lonergan’s Colonials are an intriguing pick to leap up the standings with the amount of talent they bring back. GW boasts some international flavor with leading scorer Patricio Garino (Argentina), big man Kevin Larsen (Denmark) and forward Yuta Watanabe (Japan). With the right breaks, this team could sneak into the league’s top four.
The explosive Marcus Posley should again strike fear into defenses and finish among the conference’s top bucket-getters. Key pieces return in second-leading scorer Dion Wright and lead assist man Jaylen Adams. The Bonnies will need to replace the double-double production of center Youssou Ndoye, but there’s some surprise potential here.
It’s all about DeAndre Bembry, likely the conference’s top player. He has the ability to lead the team to a better finish, but he could clearly use help. If Phil Martelli coaches this group up around his star, there’s room to improve. Shavar Newkirk, a former three-star recruit from the Bronx, who logged 20 minutes per game as a freshman, could see a jump in production.
Seniors Derrick Colter and Micah Mason return to form a potent, though undersized backcourt. Butler transfer guard Rene Castro will make his debut, and freshman forward Nakye Sanders could make a splash for a team in need of help on the glass.
Three of the Minutemen’s top four scorers have departed, and guards Trey Davis and Donte Clark will have to pick up the slack. Bigs Rashaan Holloway and Malik Hines were partial qualifiers last season who could make an impact on the interior. If eligible, freshman Luwane Pipkins has the ability to score in bunches.
Jordan Price was the league’s second-leading scorer last year, but will need others to step up, especially up front where the Explorers lost their starting big men and top two rebounders. With just two eligible players over 6'6", it could be a tough task.
Last year’s A-10 freshman of the year Eric Paschall transferred to Villanova, an early setback for new coach Jeff Neubauer, who joins the Rams from Eastern Kentucky. Almost everyone else is back, but the odds of a major turnaround are long.
Coach Dave Paulsen arrives from Bucknell to help kick-start a rebuild. But beyond Shevon Thompson, the league’s top rebounder last season and an imposing figure in the paint, the Patriots don’t have much else.
It was tough going for the Billikens last year, nosediving from 27 wins to 11. On the bright side, eight of their top nine scorers return, including standout forward Milik Yarbrough; but for context, this was the A-10’s worst offense. The continuity makes a jump out of the league’s basement within reach.