By: Ben Brady
Last season the top four teams in the Atlantic 10 finished within one game of each other, as Dayton, VCU and Saint Bonaventure shared the regular season crown. However, it was Saint Joseph’s who would win the conference tournament.
VCU, Dayton and St. Joe’s would be the only teams to get berths into the NCAA Tournament. VCU and St. Joe’s would make it past the second round while Dayton would lose too Final Four team Syracuse.
George Washington, Davison and Saint Bonaventure would all make it into the NIT tournament and George Washington would make the most of it. The Colonials won five consecutive games to claim the NIT championship.
Here are some predictions for the 2016-17 season in the Atlantic 10:
Tyler Cavanaugh of George Washington is the player to watch in the Atlantic 10 this year. He’s 6-foot-9, 240 pounds and averaged 16.9 points and 7.6 rebounds last year. Add on top of that he shot 42 percent from the 3-point line and 84 percent from the free throw line. If George Washington wants to make some noise in the Atlantic 10 it is going to rest on his shoulders. The Colonials last season slide late in the year and it cost them a trip to the NCAA Tournament but Cavanaugh and Yuta Wantanabe could lead them to the tournament in 2017.
Freshman to Watch
Six-foot-six Deriante Jenkins out of South Carolina could be a great recruit for VCU this season. He is not going to thrusted into the lineup but will be able to learn under senior JeQuan Lewis. Jenkins will make his impact for the Rams on more than one occasion this season.
Massachusetts finished in the bottom five of the Atlantic 10 last season posting a 14-18 record and a 6-12 record in conference. The Minutemen’s issue last year was their scoring and UMass may have one of the most underrated backcourts in the Atlantic 10. Donte Clark will be returning after averaging 16.2 points last season and freshman Luwane Pipkins is coming in and both can shoot the ball. Plus, transfer from Canisius. Zach Lewis will be playing for the Minutemen and he averaged 12.5 points last season.
Looking at the top of the conference last year it was log jammed and this season should be no different. VCU, Rhode Island and Dayton are coming in as the favorites to win the conference. Number 22 ranked Dayton should be able to get it done with Archie Miller’s program being 27-9 in the Atlantic 10 the last two seasons. Plus, Miller has Charles Cooke (15.6 ppg), Scoochie Smith (11.7 ppg), Kendall Pollard (10.3 ppg), and Kyle Davis (8.0 ppg). All four players are seniors.
Miller has done a great job with the Flyers since he arrived in 2011. They won 78 games the past three seasons with a berth to the Elite Eight in that span. Look for the Flyers to continue their ways with experience leading them to the Atlantic 10 title for the second straight year.
Another Team to Watch
Since coming to the Atlantic 10 in 2013 George Mason has been a bottom team in the conference. They went 11-21 overall and 5-13 in conference play. Otis Livingston and Marquise Moore are both returning to the backcourt and they should be more comfortable this year with playing with each other. If Livingston, Jaire Grayer and DeAndre Abram improve their outside shooting the Patriots could get out of the basement of the Atlantic 10.