Atlantic 10 Preview
1. St. Bonaventure
4. St. Louis
7. Rhode Island
8. George Mason
10. St. Joseph’s
12. George Washington
Player of the Year – Kyle Lofton (St. Bonaventure)
Coach of the Year – Mike Schmidt (St. Bonaventure)
Freshman of the Year – DaRon Holmes II (Dayton)
Field of 68 Teams
1. St. Bonaventure (2020-2021 Record: 16-5, 11-4)
It is an exciting time in Olean New York as the St. Bonaventure Bonnies are ranked in the AP top 25 for the first time since January of 1971. The Bonnies are the A-10 defending champs and bring back all five of their starters who happen to all be Seniors as well. Mike Schmidt is in his 15th season at the University, and this seems to be his best team yet. After losing to LSU in the round of 64 last season, this veteran group is looking to repeat as A-10 champs and make a deep run in the big dance. Reigning A-10 Defensive Player of the Year Osun Osunniyi is a huge reason why the Bonnies were so efficient defensively a season ago. He averaged 2.9 blocks per game last season and will be the man in the middle again leading the strong defensive unit. Kyle Lofton is my pick for conference Player of the Year, and I got the Bonnies making back-to-back trips to the NCAA tournament.
2. Richmond Spiders (2020-2021 Record: 14-9, 6-5)
Last season was bugged with Covid-19 stoppages and ultimately did not live up to expectations after the (at the time) huge win against Kentucky. All the preseason buzz seems to be focused on the Bonnies, but the Spiders are a serious contender in this league and are included in my field of 68 to begin the season. This team brings back four starters from a season ago and get back Senior guard Nick Sherod who missed last season with a torn ACL. Sherod averaged 12.7 points and shot an extremely efficient 43.8% from beyond the arc in 2019-2020. Chris Mooney is already in his 17th season as head coach of the Spiders, and he looks to get back to the big dance for the first time since 2011. This team has the talent to make it back to the dance and give St. Bonaventure a run for their money in this league. The 5’9 Senior point guard Jacob Gilyard is back and will be the glue guy of this ballclub creating shots for his teammates and forcing turnovers on defense.
3. VCU Rams (2020-2021 Record: 19-7, 10-4)
The Rams had a heartbreaking ending to their season due to multiple Covid-19 positive tests just prior to their NCAA tournament game. They were the only team in the Indianapolis bubble that was forced to forfeit their game ending an impressive 19-7 season. A couple of huge loses at the guard position include Bones Hyland who chose to go pro this offseason and Ace Baldwin who will be out most of the season with an injury. Senior Vince Williams and Washington transfer Marcus Tsohonis will step into much bigger roles trying to help lead the Rams to back-to-back NCAA tournaments. Head coach Mike Rhoades always instils toughness into his teams, so I predict they will be right around the bubble conversation all season long. It will be interesting to see if they can sneak out a tourney bid and make the Atlantic-10 a three-bid league.
4. St. Louis Billikens (2020-2021 Record: 14-7, 6-4)
St. Louis was hammered with Covid-19 pauses last season after starting the season a red hot 7-1. Those pauses really derailed their chance at an NCAA tournament even with quality power five wins over NC State and LSU. The Billikens went from looking like an automatic at-large bid to a 14-7 ballclub and the number 1 seed in the NIT. Travis Ford looks to put last season behind them and get this group to the big dance. Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn are no longer with SLU, and they no longer will have potential A-10 Player of the Year Javonte Perkins who averaged 17.1 points last year due to a torn ACL injury. Yuri Collins and Gibson Jimerson are both junior guards and will take the lead with Perkins out. With Perkins back I had this team as a potential at-large bid, but now it seems like a trip back to the NIT is their ceiling.
A-10 1st Team
G Kyle Lofton (St. Bonaventure)
G Jacob Gilyard (Richmond)
F Hyunjung Lee (Davidson)
F Grant Golden (Richmond)
C Osun Osunniyi (St. Bonaventure)
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