BX Atlantic Ten Conference Preview

BX Atlantic Ten Conference Preview
Oct 26, 2007, 09:48 am

-A new scheduling mandate has been issued. With 14 teams in the league and 16 conference games, that only allows for home-and-homes with three other teams. Coaches are asked to vote on the order of finish, and the home-and-homes are scheduled based on that. The idea is to give the better teams home-and-homes with each other in order to enhance the RPIs.

-It’s my opinion that the Atlantic Ten does not consist of like-minded institutions. On one side of the spectrum it has Xavier and Dayton who pack about 10,000+ fans in to every home game. On the other side there are programs that play in gymnasiums and struggle to get 4,000 fans. I see that as being a potential problem from an administrative standpoint. A cluster of teams with different philosophies when it comes to athletics can tend to get in each others’ way instead of being able to collectively move forward.

-People sometimes poke fun at the Big Ten and call it the ‘Big Eleven.’ The Atlantic Ten has that beat. There are 14 teams in the league.

-In 2004 four conference teams went to the NCAA Tournament and two teams advanced to the Elite Eight. Since then no team from the league has been past the second round or earned a seeded better than #8th.


-XAVIER appears to be the team to beat in the Atlantic Ten. The Musketeers finished the season very strong last year and advanced to the second round where they nearly upset national runner-up Ohio State. Three starters are back. Stanley Burrell and Drew Lavender, who both averaged in double figures last season and played well down the stretch, make up a very strong backcourt. Freshman Donte Jackson should be a contributor out on the perimeter as well. Manhattan transfer C.J. Anderson is eligible this year and should be a huge presence in the frontcourt. Forward Derrick Brown showed quite a bit of athleticism off the bench last year as well and should be a big time player this year. There is a good chance Xavier will begin the season ranked in the Top 25 and if center Charles Bronson can turn out to be a big time contributor this team could be very dangerous. They also play a rather tough out of conference schedule against the likes of Virginia, Auburn, Arizona State, Indiana (possibly), Tennessee and Creighton. They have an opportunity to make a big splash on the national scene right out of the gate.

-SAINT JOSEPH’S is another team to watch for this year. They were young and inconsistent last year, but they return a ton of experience and have quite a bit of potential. Four starters are back, including forwards Ahmad Nivins, Pat Calathes and Rob Ferguson, who all averaged in double figures and grabbed quite a few rebounds last season. They make up a very strong frontcourt. Calathes is one of the most complete players in the league, and even proved to be an effective guard despite the fact that he’s 6’10”. This is a team that should contend for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, which would be their first trip back since their Elite Eight run in 2004.

-Look out for RHODE ISLAND this year. They’ve not made the NCAA Tournament in nine years and weren’t expected to do much last year, but they finished third in the conference standings and advanced to the championship game before losing to George Washington. With four starters coming back, the Rams should be in the NCAA Tournament mix this year. Forward Will Daniels is a big time player inside, and guard Jimmy Baron is a terrific outside shooter. They do need to have someone step up at center, and if that can happen then this should be a tournament caliber team.

-SAINT LOUIS hired Rick Majerus over the summer, and that alone has already generated quite a bit of enthusiasm. The team won 20 games last season, and it’s unfortunate that they ended up getting rid of Brad Soderberg, but Majerus should be able to speed up the building process. They were a strong defensive team last year, and that will likely be the case again this year. They are probably going to be playing at a faster tempo than they did under Soderberg. Guards Kevin Lisch and Tommie Liddell give them quite a bit of talent and experience out on the perimeter. This is another team that could make a push for either the NIT or NCAA Tournament.

-DAYTON got off to a 10-1 start last season and beat Louisville and Creighton in that stretch. Then things began to digress as they went 9-11 the rest of the year and finished just 8th in the conference standings. This was a team that struggled big time on the road and won just one true road game on the season. However, they are more experienced this year and that should result in the team being more consistent. Guard Brian Roberts, who averaged over 18ppg last season, appears to be the team leader. He is a fantastic outside shooter and can pass the ball really well. Charles Little gave them an inside presence last season as well. The Flyers have failed to make it past the Atlantic Ten quarterfinals the past three seasons and are really starved for some postseason success. This could be the year, but the Flyers will have to start winning away from home.

-FORDHAM posted their first winning record since the 1991-92 season, and were actually in the race for first place for a time, but four straight losses in February ended them in a tie for 4th. Still, the Rams finished the season very strong and with all five starters coming back there is reason for them to be excited this year. Forwards Brian Dunston and Sebastian Greene make up a very strong front court. Both were very good at scoring and rebounding the basketball. Marcus Stout is a very good guard as well. I don’t see the Rams being in the NCAA Tournament this year, but who knows?? Either way this should be the best season the team’s had in a very long time.

-GEORGE WASHINGTON has been to three straight NCAA Tournaments and won the conference championship two of the last three years. They finished third in the standings last season, but played very impressively in the conference tourney, won it, and earned a spot in The Dance. The Colonials only have two starters back from last year, but they overcame some big time departures from the previous season and still ended up winning 23 games. Guard Maureece Rice is one of the better guards in the league and does very well with the fast-paced type of play GW likes to run. Wynton Witherspoon, a transfer from Virginia Tech, is also eligible this season and should contribute as well.

-Mark Tyndale and Dionte Christmas were the top two scorers in the league last year, but TEMPLE still managed to go just 12-18 on the year. Both players are back this year and the Owls should be much better under second year coach Fran Dunphy. This program is known for its defense, but that’s where they struggled last season. They also need someone to step it up in the frontcourt. Michael Eric (6’10”) and Lavey Allen (6’9”) are two freshmen who we could see get quite a few minutes this season and make an impact underneath the basket.

-CHARLOTTE was just 14-16 last year and ended up finishing 9th in the standings, which is fairly sub-par. They have four freshmen on the team this year, along with two juco transfers, so we can expect to see quite a few changes. Leemire Goldwire is the only returning starter, but he’s a good one to have coming back. With so many new players it’s hard to say how good Charlotte will be. They should improve, but I don’t see them making the NCAAs.

-DUQUESNE has one of the best recruiting classes in about thirty years coming in this year. This is a team that has not had much to celebrate at all, but second year coach Ron Everhart finally has Duquesne fans excited about hoops once again. Shawn James and Kojo Mensah are transfer players who will be eligible this year, and that should help the Dukes out quite a bit. Stuard Baldonado would have been joining them as an eligible transfer, but likely won’t play due to multiple legal issues. They also return four starters, three of which averaged in double figures last year. Center Kieron Achara averaged close to 16ppg last year, and grabbed over 7rpg as well. He is a big inside presence and should be an effective player once again. If the Dukes make the NIT, it will be a huge improvement compared to what they typically did before Everhart arrived on campus. It feels weird to say this, but Duquesne really has something going.

-MASSACHUSETTS did tie for first in the league standings last year, but bowed out of the conference tournament early, probably because several of their better players were sick. Just two starters are back and it isn’t likely they’ll be able to match last year’s success, but this does look like a program that’s getting better over time. Gary Forbes and Chris Lowe will need some help if UMass wants to finish near the top of the standings. Expect quite a few freshmen to see significant playing time this year.

-LA SALLE won just ten games last season, but they were a very young team. They did show some signs of talent though, and should be much better this year. Guards Darnell Harris and Rodney Greene make up a fairly decent backcourt. The team has not come close to making the NCAA Tournament for quite some time and probably won’t contend for it this year, but they do appear to be improving as a program.

-RICHMOND was a very young team last year and ended up winning just eight games and barely making the Atlantic Ten Tournament. Three starters are back, and the team as a whole should have a better understanding of the Princeton style offense that head coach Chris Mooney has implemented. The win total should increase this year, but they’ve still got a ways to go before they contend for a conference championship or a spot on the NCAA Tournament.

-SAINT BONAVENTURE has a new head coach in Mark Schmidt, and he has a tough job ahead of him. The Bonnies were just 7-22 last year and have been a very poor team since they were forced to forfeit all their wins in 2002-2003. Since then, the team has gone just 24-88. A.J. Hawkins, one of their best players last season, ended up transferring to Wichita State. It looks as though the team will struggle once again this season, but Schmidt is the kind of coach that can hopefully get the Bonnies back to respectability.

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