As conference play begins the Atlantic 10 race is heating up quickly. No team truly asserted itself at the top of the conference, but leading into league play trends are starting to form. Let’s break it all down.
WANNA WIN THE LEAGUE? BEAT DAYTON.
Dayton has been the A-10’s best team so far, and there’s no question about it. The Flyers are in the top-10 in the RPI and five of their 12 wins are of the top-70 variety. Dayton has five players averaging seven or more points, and the return of Dyshawn Pierre has bolstered an already strong team. Pierre has averaged 8.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in his three games this season. Expect those numbers to rise as the win counter goes up.
RISE OF THE COLONIALS
Since making a pair of NCAA tournaments a decade ago it’s been hard times for George Washington. The Colonials have consistently been a midpack team in the A-10. Not this year. GW is the only other team from the league in the top 30 of the RPI, and the Colonials’ win over Virginia will look extra pretty come selection time. The recent loss to Saint Louis does offer some cause for concern.
The Colonials are led by one of the league’s most consistent players in Tyler Cavanaugh, who is averaging 15.7 points and 7.1 rebounds a game while shooting 51.7 percent from the field. More importantly, the Colonials have only one player averaging more than 31 minutes a game through 15 contests this season, and every coach will tell you how important depth is. Next Friday the Colonials play at Dayton in the first mega game of the A-10 slate.
RHODY COMING TOGETHER
The injury to E.C. Matthews is in the past for the Rams. Dan Hurley’s team has slowly figured out to how survive and thrive without its star guard. The scoring among the starting five is arguably the most spread out in the nation. The five starters are all averaging between 11.1 and 12.9 points a game. Rhode Island isn’t setting the world on fire offensively; its 71.4 points-per-game average is good for 214th in the country, but the Rams hang their hat on defense. Rhody is 31st in the nation, allowing 63.8 points a game. Hurley only accepts tenacity from his defenses, and this team has delivered. The Rams have a critical stretch to end January, one that includes two games with St. Joseph’s and road games at St. Bonaventure and George Washington. That’s four potential top-100 wins for a team that has none so far.
St. Joseph’s has been one of the most consistent teams in the league this season. The Hawks have two solid road wins, at Richmond and Temple, but more important is that they survived non-conference play without any bad losses. All three of their losses have been against higher-level competition (Villanova, Florida, and VCU). St. Joe’s has ridden the shoulders of Isaiah Miles and DeAndre Bembry so far this season. The pair is averaging a combined 34 of the Hawks’ 75 points.
BONNIES QUIETLY GAINING MOMENTUM
Aside from winning the A-10 title in 2012, St Bonaventure has traditionally been a mid-tier team in the A-10 for much of the last decade. That looks like it’s changing this year because of the three-headed scoring machine the Bonnies have in Marcus Posley, Jaylen Adams, and Dion Wright. The trio is averaging between 16.2 and 18.2 points a game. Adams leads the team with 4.8 assists a game, and Wright is pulling down a team-leading 8.5 rebounds. The Bonnies are also shooting free throws at a cool 76.6 percent a game, with three players shooting 82 percent or better. In a league that can get physical, being able to make free throws can be the difference between the NIT and an NCAA tournament bid.