2018 Atlantic 10 Tournament Guide: Rhode Island Rams Eye Repeat


A10 Tournament

The 2018 Atlantic 10 Tournament tips off later today from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., as the bottom four seeds – GW, La Salle, Massachusetts, and Fordham – battle for entry to the second round on Thursday. Top-seeded Rhode Island (23-6, 15-3) earned one of the four double-byes and the Rams need not hit the hardwood until the quarterfinal round on Friday at noon.

Here are 7 rapid-fire thoughts about all things A-10, from the conference awards to this week’s festivities in the nation’s capital.

All-Conference Musings

St. Bonaventure’s Jaylen Adams and Davidson’s Peyton Aldridge shared POY honors, and great cases can be made for both along with fellow first-teamer Jared Terrell. While Adams and Aldridge stuff the stat sheets offensively more so than Terrell, the latter is a significantly better defensive player… but that’s not the side of the ball favored at awards time.

B.J. Johnson’s exclusion from the first team despite averaging 20.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game while shooting 36% from three-point range is surprising. Matt Mobley of St. Bonaventure is a fine player for a better team, but he’s not Johnson. The nod to Mobley seems to suggest that team-finish carried weight (which it often does), but conversely team-finish was not seemingly afforded equivalent weight in handing out some of the other awards.

Which brings me to Stan Robinson… who was snubbed for Defensive Player of the Year in favor of GW’s Yuta Watanabe. Watanabe is a fine player who, at 6-foot-9, can guard multiple positions and is a capable shot-blocker. But his numbers pale in comparison to Robinson’s (like defensive rating, defense +/-, etc.) across the board despite playing significantly more minutes… and that’s only half the story. Robinson’s value in guarding spots 1-4, checking players significantly taller, and leading the free-world in drawn charges for the league’s top team whose brand identity is defense deserved a more sincere examination. Hassan Martin had a nightmare in Japan and didn’t even realize why until 12 hours later.

Rhody Repeat?

Dan Hurley’s program hopes D.C. is as kind as Pittsburgh a year ago at tournament time. The Rams will face the winner of Thursday’s 8/9 matchup between perennial league heavyweights VCU (8) and Dayton (9), which each saw offseason coaching changes and are in the midst of reloading.

Who would I rather face in the quarters? Dayton. VCU Ram Nation will be making the easy trek from Richmond and the southern Rams have two seniors in all-conference performer Justin Tillman and Jonathan Williams to rally around. Strange things happen. Dayton’s youth is arguably more talented, but youth also means little “bright lights” experience.

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At the end of the day, the Rams don’t care. Matchups are are for us to discuss. So long as Rhode Island maintains focus inward — anchoring to its core principles of unselfishness, offensive aggressiveness, and defensive disruption — they’ll be well served regardless of who they play.

Calling the Doc

If there’s one team that a) I missed on in the preseason, and b)underachieved in the regular season relative to talent level, it’s La Salle. So what am I going to do? Double-down of course. Formal awards aside, B.J. Johnson is a first team all-conference talent who put up first-team all-conference numbers this year. The team also has three potent guards and length in the front court. If they can cut down on the mental miscues that plague them at key moments, they’re capable of screwing up the bracket big time and reaching the semis. They’ll face UMass tonight and should be playing loose. Let’s see.

Fabulous Freshmen

Some serious freshmen will be on display this weekend, from all-conference performers Kellan Grady of Davidson (also ROY) and Grant Golden of Richmond, to lesser known talents like Jacob Gilyard (Richmond) and Carl Pierre (UMass). The foundation of this league is strong and D.C. will allow us the first window to view these stars-in-the-making, collectively.

What else do they need to do?

St. Bonaventure is Brown & White hot, winning 12 straight games entering tournament play. The Bonnies sit at 24-6, 14-4 and own victories over the likes of Syracuse, Vermont, Maryland, Buffalo, and Rhode Island. Yet, I’ve read internet chatter that they need to make the tournament final to feel “comfortable” on Selection Sunday. Let’s talk about what they should need to do?

Answer: Nothing other than show up, tie shoe-laces and compete on Friday.

Here’s the most accurate bracket site for the past nine years: https://bracketville.wordpress.com/bracketology/. Mark Schmidt’s team is a nine seed. They’re also in 116/117 brackets on bracket-matrix and, if Oklahoma, who has proven to be allergic to winning in the homestretch is safely in (and then some), then I’ll draw my line in the sand that Bonaventure has done enough. As is.

We have you covered this weekend

Cox/Yurview has you covered for 2018 Atlantic 10 Tournament coverage this weekend, bringing you quick hitting interviews with folks like Joe Lunardi and basketball analysis; the “why” behind what’s going on. Follow us on Twitter @CDiSano44, @YurviewNE and @CoreyO39.