Programs across the conference footprint are letting it rip on the practice floor and amping up their social media presence. Meaningful college basketball games are close. And Atlantic 10 Media Day is a mere 10 days away in Brooklyn, New York. For the first time since 2019 it will be an in-person experience – and I’m looking forward to seeing many familiar faces and several new ones next Thursday.
We know Dayton (five returning starters) and Saint Louis are primed and ready, while six programs welcome new head coaches to the fold. Here’s a smattering of A10 thoughts to begin the week:
How will they pull this off? Just about every year, Mark Schmidt and staff seemingly outpace expectations and pull every fiber of success possible from their teams. This year, the charge is greater than ever. The Bonnies turned over 11 of 12 players including the transfer departure of their highly successful core group (Lofton, Osunniyi, Welch, Holmes). Quality guards Kyrell Luc (Holy Cross), Daryl Banks II (St. Peters) and Moses Flowers (Hartford) are incoming but getting so many players up and down the roster on the same page is a monumental ask. If any staff can mold a collection of disparate pieces into an upper half A-10 collective, it’s Schmidt – I’m just not sure how.
Eyes on Jalen. Saying nothing about his defensive potential which I’m also high on, I’m intrigued to see the offensive development and usage of Rhode Island guard Jalen Carey under Archie Miller. Carey averaged 5.6 points and a couple boards per game, offering economical 46.7% (14 of 30) shooting from long range. Miller wants to play fast and prioritizes shooting – and Carey is a slippery explosive athlete. To this point in his career, Carey needs to be on-ball to score it. There’s an opportunity to improve his movement without it and capitalize on his athleticism – and I’m betting Miller finds it. On a team that will share it more purposefully, cutters will be rewarded.
Embarrassment of guards. With Javonte Perkins back in the fold and talented transfer additions, Saint Louis is loaded at guard. They remind me of Dan Hurley’s 2017-18 Rhode Island squad. Travis Ford boasts perhaps the best point guard in the nation in Yuri Collins, the aforementioned Perkins, Missouri transfer and 11ppg scorer in 6-5 Javon Pickett, gamer Fred Thatch, dead-eye shooter Gibson Jimerson – and welcomes sophomore Sincere Parker (another shooter), touted freshmen 6-5 Kellen Thames, 6-4 Larry Hughes, Jr., and 6-3 hometown kid Nick Kramer. That’s a wave of steeled veterans and long, complementary newcomers taking it at you every night. Headaches galore for opposing coaches and players.
- Matt McKillop takes over from his legendary father at Davidson. Foster Loyer returns, but the ‘Cats lost top contributors Luka Brajkovic, Hyunjung Lee, and Michael Jones. The development and play of bigs 6-9 Sam Mennenga (8.4ppg, 5.3rpg) and 6-10 Buffalo transfer David Skogman (8ppg, 6.3rpg) is the key. The Cats say they want to play fast, but they’ve perennially been one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country because of a slower pace and surgical half court execution. They’ll need these two playing well to pull it off.
- International additions abound for Fran Dunphy at the rebuild of his alma mater, La Salle, as he welcomes Andres Marrero, a 6-5 shooter from Venezuela; Lucas Mercandino a 6-5 jack of all trades from Argentina; 6-3 guard Jorge Sanchez-Ramos from Madrid, Spain 6-3, and ball-skilled 6-10 Rokas Jocius of Kaunas, Lithuania.
- I’m tracking 6-7 Georgia Tech transfer Khalid Moore as an underrated get at Fordham for new head coach Keith Urgo. Moore has a willing motor, good length and brings defensive energy. With capable shooting range, he’ll help space the floor too. Expect to see him benefit in the two-man game with standout guard Darius Quisenberry.
- Finally, there’s a new, slimmer “Fats” (only one “t”) in town. After a Fats-free year in the Atlantic 10, VCU welcomes Alphonzo “Fats” Billups to the fold. A 6-7, 180-pound, fluid top-100 prospect from nearby Varina.
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men’s Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow on Twitter for five straight years, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44