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Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Preseason Rankings: Dayton Has Tantalizing Upside

An influx of high-profile coaches like Archie Miller and Frank Martin adds plenty of intrigue to the conference.

As part of its 2022–23 men’s basketball preseason coverage, Sports Illustrated is rolling out previews for each of the top 10 conferences. First up is the Atlantic 10.

So much of success in college basketball is determined by investment, and recent moves throughout the Atlantic 10 shows a league invested in big-time success on the hardwood. Look no further than the caliber of coaches (and the money committed to them) brought in this offseason. The headliners are Frank Martin, who coached South Carolina to a Final Four and is in at UMass; Archie Miller, who takes over at Rhode Island with a résumé that includes an Elite Eight while at Dayton; and Fran Dunphy, a legend in Philadelphia who took the La Salle job. But it goes beyond those three. Two extremely well-regarded young coaches in Drew Valentine and Kim English ply their trade in this league, and some of the league’s best programs (VCU, Dayton, Saint Louis) all have had stability at the top. All this is a recipe for success: At-large bids, NCAA tournament wins and more.

More Previews: AAC | Mountain West | WCC

SI’s picks for …

Player of the Year: DaRon Holmes II, Dayton

Newcomer of the Year: Victor Bailey Jr., George Mason

Dark-Horse Team: UMass

First-Team All-Conference:

  • Yuri Collins, Saint Louis
  • Tyler Burton, Richmond
  • Javonte Perkins, Saint Louis
  • Josh Oduro, George Mason
  • DaRon Holmes II, Dayton
Dayton’s Daron Holmes II holds the basketball

Holmes is the anchor of Dayton’s returning core.

A-10 predicted order of finish:

1. Dayton

In a year in which men’s college basketball was the oldest it had been in a long time, Dayton went through 2021–22 with a rotation nearly entirely made up of freshmen and sophomores. After a disastrous start, the Flyers played like a top-25 team most of the way and now will essentially run it back. Sophomores DaRon Holmes II and Malachi Smith seem poised to blossom into household names nationally—Holmes as a two-way interior force and Smith as one of the better young point guards in the sport. This group won’t be as dynamic offensively as the ’19–20 Flyers who were on their way to a No. 1 seed before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the ceiling here is still sky-high.

Postseason Projection: Second Weekend Upside

2. Saint Louis

The Billikens winning 23 games despite losing star Javonte Perkins for the season a few weeks before tip-off last fall was an impressive achievement. Now, Perkins returns to complete an incredibly talented roster that also features the nation’s defending leader in assists in Yuri Collins and elite shooter Gibson Jimerson. That trio will be a nightmare for opposing teams to guard, and Saint Louis pairs that elite offensive skill with a pair of dirty-work guys in Missouri transfer Javon Pickett and Francis Okoro up front. This team has the athleticism, star power and experience necessary to get to the NCAA tournament and make some noise once it’s there.

Postseason Projection: Safe to Dance

3. VCU

An anemic offense held back the Rams from going dancing in 2021–22, but Mike Rhoades’s team posted a top-15 defense per KenPom for the third time in the last four seasons. That end of the floor should remain VCU’s calling card this season with ballhawking guard Ace Baldwin Jr. leading the charge, but there are some reasons for optimism that the Rams will be better on offense. Sophomore Jayden Nunn is a strong breakout candidate after being thrust into the fire a season ago, and more experience for Nunn and Baldwin could help cut down on the turnovers that plagued them in 21–22. Plus, Michigan transfer Brandon Johns Jr. presents a more skilled offensive option than the Rams have had lately up front.

Postseason Projection: On the Bubble

4. Loyola Chicago

The Ramblers step up in weight class from the Missouri Valley to the A-10 after a 25-win season in Drew Valentine’s first year in charge in the Windy City. Six scholarship seniors departed, but Valentine reloaded quickly with a strong transfer portal class to complement returning starters Braden Norris and Marquise Kennedy in the backcourt. The result? A roster that, while it may not have the experience and chemistry of the last two Ramblers teams, is bigger and more athletic than Loyola has been in a long time. Butler transfer Bryce Golden should solidify the center spot, but this team’s ceiling might be dictated by high-upside forwards Philip Alston (Division II Cal U) and Saint Thomas, a pair of next-level athletes with impressive skill sets.

Postseason Projection: On the Bubble

5. UMass

Frank Martin has brought new energy and excitement to a program that has struggled to get out of its own way in recent years, and a loaded class of newcomers gives the Minutemen a chance for immediate success with their new coach. Physically, this roster looks like a high-major team with its length, athleticism and recruiting pedigree, and that’s especially true up front with big bodies like Wildens Leveque and touted freshman Tafara Gapare. Martin’s South Carolina teams often struggled early, and incorporating so many new faces into his extremely demanding system may take some time. But come February, no one is going to want to see this team.

Postseason Projection: NIT Bound

6. George Mason

The Patriots fizzled out after an 11–7 (4–1 A-10) start, going just 3–9 in February and March in Kim English’s first season as head coach. But Mason wasn’t far away from having quite the first year under English: That 3–9 finish featured 10 games decided by seven points or less and four overtime affairs. English’s team has the pieces to get over the hump this season and compete for a postseason bid, bringing back the outstanding duo of skilled big Josh Oduro and do-it-all forward Davonte “Ticket” Gaines and adding some top talent. Tennessee transfer Victor Bailey Jr. has scored everywhere he has been, touted freshman wing Justyn Fernandez has a game-ready body and Virginia Tech transfer Ginika Ojiako gives George Mason the interior enforcer it lacked a year ago. If Saquan Singleton can solidify the point guard spot, this team could compete for a top-four finish.

Postseason Projection: NIT Bound

7. Richmond

The Spiders made a surprise run through the A-10 tournament last year to steal the league’s automatic bid, then upset Iowa in the first round of the Big Dance. That run should silence any talk of coach Chris Mooney’s job security for a while, regardless of whether Richmond gets back to the postseason this year. Star wing Tyler Burton should be one of the league’s best players after testing the draft waters, while sharpshooter Jason Roche (The Citadel) and elite passing big man Neal Quinn (Lafayette) keep this team relevant despite losing four starters.

Postseason Projection: There’s Always Next Year

8. Davidson

The Wildcats actually won the A-10’s regular-season crown a season ago, riding an elite offense to the program’s most wins since Stephen Curry was suiting up at the school. But this roster suffered heavy losses, not to mention the retirement of legendary coach Bob McKillop, making a repeat title a big ask. What made Davidson so hard to guard a season ago was its shooting at every position, and the departures of Hyunjung Lee, Michael Jones and Luka Brajkovic will hinder that greatly. So while point guard Foster Loyer had a great year in 2021–22 and transfers Connor Kochera and David Skogman fit the program well, expect enough regression offensively to keep the Wildcats in the middle of the A-10 pack this season.

Postseason Projection: There’s Always Next Year

Archie Miller holds a Rhode Island jersey at his introduction

Miller enters Year 1 of his second stint at Rhode Island.

9. Rhode Island

Archie Miller is back in the A-10 after URI parted with David Cox this offseason. The former Dayton and Indiana coach won big in this league the last time he was in it and should turn this program around before long. This team is just a bit too young to count on a big jump in Miller’s first year. Transfers Brayon Freeman (George Washington) and Brandon Weston (Seton Hall) are long-term building blocks, but the Rams’ frontcourt is shaky, and talented UNC transfer guard Anthony Harris won’t arrive until the semester break.

Postseason Projection: There’s Always Next Year

10. St. Bonaventure

It’s hard to bet against Mark Schmidt, but the Bonnies have quite the rebuilding job on their hands after losing more than 99% of their scoring from a season ago. Three transfer guards in Daryl Banks III (Saint Peter’s), Moses Flowers (Hartford) and Kyrell Luc (Holy Cross) will try to help keep the Bonnies afloat, while freshman Yann Farrell should get plenty of chances to get on the floor early. Still, it’s hard to picture St. Bonaventure finishing above .500 in league play, which would be the first time they’ve dropped below that threshold since 2015.

Postseason Projection: There’s Always Next Year

11. George Washington

New coach Chris Caputo inherits a couple of nice pieces in scoring guard James Bishop and physical post player Ricky Lindo Jr., but it’s going to take him some time to turn this program around. Outside shooting may be a concern outside of Bishop, and the backcourt depth as a whole doesn’t compare favorably with the rest of the conference. I’m a believer in Caputo long term, but there should be some bumps in the road for George Washington this season.

Postseason Projection: There’s Always Next Year

12. Duquesne

Last season was a disaster of epic proportions for the Dukes, who completely fell apart down the stretch to the tune of 17 straight losses to close out the year. This is essentially a completely new team in Pittsburgh that on paper should be much improved. Dae Dae Grant and Tevin Brewer bring stability to a backcourt that was far too volatile a season ago, and Keith Dambrot has a nice stable of versatile forwards at his disposal that give this group a little upside.

Postseason Projection: There’s Always Next Year

13. Fordham

The Rams finished .500 or better for just the second time since 2007, but lost coach Kyle Neptune in the offseason to Villanova after Jay Wright’s retirement. In an effort to maintain some momentum, AD Ed Kull elevated top assistant Keith Urgo to head coach, which avoided a mass roster exodus for a group that should at least be competitive on paper. Experienced guards Darius Quisenberry and Kyle Rose should help ease the transition, and the addition of do-it-all forward Khalid Moore from Georgia Tech should pay dividends.

Postseason Projection: There’s Always Next Year

14. Saint Joseph’s

Recruiting victories haven’t yet translated to on-court wins for Billy Lange at St. Joe’s, and the clock may be ticking to turn things around. The biggest reason for optimism is young guard Erik Reynolds II, who should step into a starring role this season after the talented Jordan Hall departed this offseason. The rest of this roster is rather unproven, though, and quality depth could be an issue.

Postseason Projection: There’s Always Next Year

15. La Salle

Hiring 74-year-old Fran Dunphy feels like a move meant more to drive excitement and ticket sales than actual wins for a program that needs a major overhaul, but Dunphy’s decorated track record in Philadelphia gives this hire at least a chance of working. He doesn’t inherit much from predecessor Ash Howard, and returners Khalil Brantley and Jhamir Brickus will have to produce to give the Explorers a path out of the cellar.

Postseason Projection: There’s Always Next Year

More Previews: AAC | Mountain West | WCC