WH's 2007-08 predictions/previews for the A-10

With no Michael Eric, that certainly impacted Temple’s ranking.

[QUOTE=Ninerballin;262556]With no Michael Eric, that certainly impacted Temple’s ranking.[/QUOTE]

I agree. That allows the Niners to “slip up” to 10th place!

Temple is still my “sleeper” pick. Losing Michael Eric this year leaves them a bit undersized, but they still have a number of weapons. WH noted that Tyndale could win POY and be an All-Defensive pick if he has the desire, Christmas was the league’s leading scorer last season, Allen is said to be “arguably the most gifted young bigmen to enter the league this season” (bulletin board material for Big Phil?), and I think Brooks and Kee (as a zone-buster) will both find ways to contribute.

More importantly, Temple was expected to suck last year as they made the transition from Chaney’s ‘prevent-the-turnover, strong-defense’ style to Dunphy’s up-tempo style. If Allen can be the solution to the problems they had in the middle - then I’m expecting plenty of improvement in Dunphy’s 2nd year.



Last year: 14-16 (7-9) 9th place

Halton Arena
Seats: 9,105
Average attendance: 6,026

Bobby Lutz 10th year (19th overall)
Record at Charlotte: 168-112 (349-203 overall, 63.2% winning percentage)

1 Michael Gerrity JR PG 6-0 180 Yorba Linda, CA/Pepperdine
2 Charlie Coley JR F 6-7 220 Lake Worth, FL/Dodge City CC (KS)
3 Dijuan Harris SO G 5-9 170 Charlotte, NC/Hillsborough JC (FL)
5 Gaby Ngoundjo FR PF 6-7240 Little Rock, AR
10 Jerrell Lewis JR PG 6-0 197 Brooklyn, NY/New Hampton Prep (NH)
11 Ian Andersen SO WG 6-4 180 Portland, OR
*12 Leemire Goldwire SR G 5-11 190 Palm Beach Gardens, FL
21 An’Juan Wilderness FR PF 6-6 215 Dunwoody, GA
31 Charles Dewhurst FR G/F 6-5 185 Charlotte, NC
35 Sean Phaler SR F 6-9 200 Anaheim Hills, Calif./Fullerton JC
41 Phil Jones FR C 6-10 270 Brooklyn, NY/Laurinburg (NC) Prep
?? Javarris Barnett FR WG 6-5 200 Charlotte, NC
?? Lamont Mack JR F 6-7 230 Chicago, IL/Angelina College (TX)

*Returning starters


It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

At least in Charlotte, it is.

First fans got mad at the team’s poor play and suddenly losing ways. Then coach Bobby Lutz got mad because the school would not extend his contract. He almost took a lesser job at South Alabama, a very mad idea that made Niners fans even madder. “I would never have looked, but I was told that maybe it was time that you looked somewhere else," Lutz told AP.

After coming to his senses, a re-energized Lutz chose to stay. He’s recruited like mad to upgrade the roster.

Lutz has not forgotten how to field a winning team, but first things first. He has to reassert his authority over an increasingly disorganized program. Lutz has let the inmates run the asylum since the school joined the A-10 and it’s amazing the Niners have won as much as they have.

His task won’t be easy. Charlotte only has one experienced player left on a completely overhauled roster and the Niners are young in a league rich in veteran players. On a more positive note, youth is impressionable. Lutz has a clean slate on which to imprint his signature.

Now the only thing that will make everyone happy in Charlotte is if the program returns to its winning ways, preferably with a winning style. If Lutz fails to accomplish at least the first goal, he’s almost certain to lose his job. It’s no longer just a question of how the Niners play the game.


De’Angelo Alexander – The 6-5 transfer scored in bunches (17.6 ppg) and did a good job on the boards (7.2 rpg), earning Third Team A-10 honors. The numbers don’t tell the whole story. Alexander rarely missed a chance to shoot at the first opportunity – often from well behind the 3-point line – and his quick trigger disrupted the flow of the offense. To make matters worse, his accuracy declined (33.5% 3PG from 43% 3PG) and he was not a stalwart defender. All his points and rebounds cannot obscure the truth that he was never a team player. It’s clear now why Oklahoma was willing to let him go.

E.J. Drayton – Former junior-college star became a workhorse inside during his third and final season at Charlotte (he redshirted two years ago because of tendonitis.). Drayton finished third on the team in scoring (13.4 ppg) and grabbed 8.4 boards a game, second in the A-10. Though not a star, Drayton put up numbers that normally would earn a spot on an All-Conference team. He was snubbed because of Charlotte’s dismal 9th place finish.

Antwon Coleman – Erratic 6-7 space eater (4.6 ppg) never lived up to his junior-college billing. He was big and strong and had a decent touch, but Coleman lacked sufficient quickness to maneuver adroitly in the post. He shot a meager 44% from the field, constantly got in foul trouble and was often beaten to the boards (just 2.6 rpg).

Courtney Williams – The passive 6-9 reserve was the team’s tallest player, but Williams (3.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg) did not provide an inside threat. He was more comfortable 15 feet from the basket. In league play he was a nonfactor, scoring just 39 points in 17 A-10 games.

Jerell Jamison – Athletic 6-5 wing forward sat for the first year and a half after arriving from jucoland. Given a chance once A-10 play began, Jamison supplied the Niners a spark with his hustle, energy and defense. He set career highs in points (15) and rebounds (10) in a win at Duquesne.

Carlos Williams – Junior-college star was anything but in his first and only season as a 49er. Touted by Lutz as the best passer he had signed in years, Williams was just a passing fancy. He lost playing time in league play and later transferred. Poor decisions (75 assists to 65 turnovers) and bad shots (27% 3PG) saw to that.

David Booker – Former Gatorade Player of the Year in Mississippi was too slow to play on the wing but not big enough to play down low. The 6-7 Booker also transferred.


Leemire Goldwire – Senior guard is the only returning player of note in Charlotte’s revamped roster, but he happens to be a darn good one. Goldwire (14.5 ppg) might be the most combustible scorer in the A-10. When he’s feeling it, Goldwire unleashes a torrential downpour on opponents. He nailed seven 3-pointers in a win over Dayton and replicated that feat in a victory against Richmond. He also hit six 3-pointers in three other games and five treys in another three. Goldwire even managed to boost his 3-point accuracy to 39.4% from 34.6% even though defenses were zeroed in on him. When they fouled, he made them pay (90.5% FT).

Goldwire is not just a shooter. He grabbed 3.1 boards, averaged 2.7 assists and played better defense (39 steals) than most of his teammates. As the only four-year player left on the roster, though, he has to do even more. Goldwire still had too many 2-10 or 3-9 nights. He has to shoot with more consistency, and that means taking better shots. Sometimes he brings the ball down the floor and fires away the moment he reaches the top of the key. Other times he fires on the move and off-balance, even early in the clock. For such a great free-throw shooter, Goldwire should also drive more to the basket. Almost 75% of his attempts came from beyond the arc, but he’s quick and strong and defenders have to respect his shot.

Jerrell Lewis – Redshirt junior has only hit two baskets in his career. Lewis is a good athlete and handles the ball well enough, but he can’t find the exit to Lutz’s doghouse. Even though talented transfer Mike Gerrity won’t suit up until late December, Lewis doesn’t figure to play a major role.

Ian Andersen – Sophomore is a pure shooter, but unlike typical Charlotte marksmen, he likes to get his feet set before he lets fly. Andersen played in all 30 games, averaging 4.6 points. He hit three 3-pointers in five separate games, scoring a career high 11 points vs. both Wofford and George State. He also tallied 10 points vs. George Washington. Of his 48 field goals, 39 were 3-pointers. In other words, Andersen was like a box of crayons with only one color.

While Lutz’s offense requires a great shooter or two, Andersen has to change his colors from time to time. He’s not the most athletic player, but he’s a solid passer and knows where he’s supposed to be on the floor. He’s also a very hard worker in practice. There’s a role for Andersen on the 49ers. How big it is will depend on how much he expands his game.

Sean Phaler – Emaciated 6-9 forward (1.9 ppg) hit 10 of 39 treys but did not contribute much else. Phaler is thinner than most French supermodels and gets thrown around like a rag doll. He’s likely to be a deep reserve.


Mike Gerrity – Pepperdine transfer could make the biggest impact of all the newcomers. Lutz plans to start Gerrity at point once he gains eligibility in late December. Named freshman of the year in the WCC two years ago, the former Wave averaged 14.1 points 3.4 rebounds and nearly 2 steals a game. Gerrity is quick and likes to attack the basket, scoring most of his points off the dribble. He’s a good passer but likes the ball in his hands and is a bit wild. With a better jumpshot and more mature decision making, he could be an All-League player in another year.

Phil Jones - The 6-10 bigman from Brooklyn signed with Charlotte in 2006 but was denied NCAA clearance after an investigation of his former prep schools. A late bloomer, Jones (No. 106, Rivals 2006) is a good rebounder with a nice touch and improved low-post skills. He drew attention from several major programs but they backed off because of his questionable academic status. Jones decided to stick with Charlotte even though he was forced to sit out, but he should vie for a starting job on a team with no experienced post players returning.

Lamont Mack – The 230-pound forward, ranked by one service as a top-20 juco, reportedly can score inside or out and does a good job on the boards. “He’s a multi-dimensional player who can play two or three different positions,” juco coach Todd Neighbors told the Charlotte Observer. “He can step out and take a big guy away from the basket, he can take people off the dribble and he can knock down the open 3.”

What sort of impact Mack will have is uncertain. He’s coming off surgery and needs to lose weight. Lutz has also whiffed on several jucos in recent years and a big contribution from Mack should not be taken for granted. Still, he shores up a 49ers frontcourt depleted by graduation and gives Lutz some muscle inside.

Charles Coley – Rated even more highly than Mack, Coley is known as a world-class leaper who excels in the open floor and can dunk with the best. “While he scores around the basket and in transition, Charlie is a tremendous rebounder and can defend a post or perimeter player,” Lutz says. “He is someone who simply helps you win games at both ends of the floor and will provide some highlight plays during his career at Charlotte.”

Charles Dewhurst – The 6-5 Charlotte native played in a few games before being redshirted after an ankle injury. A terrific athlete, Dewhurst put up big numbers in high school and is a solid shooter. After a year of lifting weights and acclimating himself to the 49ers system, Dewhurst will get a shot a major minutes on a young squad.

An’Juan Wilderness - Three-time Division AAA Georgia Player of the Year signed with Charlotte two years ago but attended prep school. Wilderness is strong and aggressive, if somewhat undersized as power forward. He is a solid passer and tough rebounder who scores most of his points near the basket. He also excels in transition and has been polishing his jumper. One service, HoopScoop, ranked Wilderness among the top 100 players in the class of 2006.

Gaby Ngoundgo - Hustling Cameroon native played ball in Arkansas. Like many players from Africa, he’s extremely athletic but undeveloped offensively. He has long arms and quick hops and made a name for himself at the prep level as a rebounder and shotblocker. Early reports from practice suggest he could make an immediate impact on defense.

Javarris Barnett - Local prep star was lightly recruited until he shined in a regional all-star game during his senior year. He attracted offers from Wake Forest and Vanderbilt. Barnett is a long 6-6 wingman with an accurate 3-point jumper. The late bloomer still needs to work on ball-handling and taking defenders off the dribble. With so many wing players on the roster, Barnett will have to continue to improve rapidly to earn time.

Dijuan Harris – Superfast point guard – Lutz says he’s the quickest player he’s ever coached – was given a scholarship in late summer. Harris, who played one year of juco ball, is a pass-first floor general and defensive pest. He’ll get a chance to play early on with Gerrity out till December. An improved shot would help his chances of staying in the regular rotation.


The 49ers need drastic improvement on both sides of the ball. Start with the offense. Charlotte finished dead last in the A-10 in field goal percentage (40.3%) and assists. The Niners are excessively reliant on the 3-pointer, take too many poor or contested shots, often early in the clock, and point play has been a disaster.

A new and bigger frontline should help. Touted redshirt center Phil Jones and juco forwards Mack and Coley are expected to contribute immediately, as are freshmen Wilderness and Ngoundjo. All five are strong and athletic and the quintet composes the biggest frontcourt collection in the league. Not a single one has Division 1 experience, but as the adage goes, you can’t teach size.

Better frontcourt play would also help the guards by giving them more room to operate. That could lead to higher shooting percentages all around.

Point play is a big question early on. Gerrity does not become eligible until December. He’s more of a scorer than a distributor, but he represents a huge upgrade at a position that’s been a major weakness for Charlotte since it joined the A-10. Goldwire can help out at the point in Gerrity’s absence, but he’s better off the ball as the team’s most reliable deep threat. The only pure point is smallish juco Dijuan Harris.

A more balanced and efficient offense is not enough. The Niners play defense like the French Army confronted by a Panzer division. Charlotte allowed other teams to shoot 46%, whereas the best A-10 teams typically hold foes to 40%. Perimeter defense was an open sore. The Niners gave up more 3-pointers than any other team except Rhode Island. The newfound athleticism and depth should allow Lutz to turn up the heat with frequent full-court pressing and half-court traps. Better defense could also lead to easier baskets in transition.

The biggest reason why Charlotte could improve, though, is because the job of the coach is at stake. Lutz knows he’ll be fired if Charlotte experiences another season like the last one. He will do whatever it takes to preserve his hard-earned reputation as a winner.

“I still think I’m the best guy for this job,” Lutz told AP. “Now, I’m comfortable we’ll be able to prove it.”


Charlotte is the X-factor in A-10 play. The team is young and inexperienced, but Lutz brought in a tremendous recruiting class (on paper). The new Niners are big and athletic and Charlotte seldom lacks for shooters. What’s more, the eventual starting backcourt consists of a pair of established scorers in Goldwire and Gerrity. Goldwire is the better shooter, Gerrity the superior penetrator.

Yet it’s vital that Lutz revitalize the inside game and half-court offense and force the guards to feed the post. Even if the bigmen fail to finish, they’ve got the size and muscle to pound opponents inside and clean up on the offensive glass. The penetration of Gerrity should also give them ample opportunity for easy baskets or followup dunks off missed shots. The Niners will still hoist plenty of treys, but they won’t have to be so reliant on the deep ball.

If Lutz can reestablish Charlotte’s inside play and Gerrity duplicates his performance at Pepperdine, the Niners could be as much of a surprise this season as the team was a disappointment last year. It might not show right away, however. The Niners have to go without Gerrity for the first eight games of the second toughest nonconference schedule in the A-10.

With so many unknowns, it’s hard predict a dramatic improvement on Charlotte’s 14-16 record. A winning season seems within reach, but a postseason invitation will be harder to grasp. No one in Charlotte would be entirely happy with such an outcome, but it might be enough to secure Lutz’s job, at least for another year.

Record: 16-15 (8-8), 10th place

Note: Charlotte has not officially added numbers for its newcomers on its web site. The numbers will be added once they become available.

Predicted Noncon Wins and Losses

L – Georgia Tech (Virgin Islands)
W – Illinois-Chicago/Winthrop winner (Virgin Islands)
W – Wichita State/Baylor (Virgin Islands)
W – WAKE FOREST (Bobcats Arena)
W – At Hoftstra
L – At Tulsa
L – MARYLAND (Bobcats Arena)
L – At Clemson

I am taking a big gamble on Charlotte’s noncon sked. I peg the Niners at 8-6.

High Point might be the best team in its conference and it has everyone back, including a very good forward who transferred from Virginia two years ago. High Point beat some good teams last year. Hard way to start the season. Appalachian State won 25 games and brings back some good talent, but I don’t see the Niners losing both of these games at home. GTech is super young and this is a winnable game on a neutral court. I give the nod to the ACC, though. The second Paradise Jam game is likely to be against Illinois-Chicago, a team with lots of question marks. I see a win. The final Jam game is probably going to involve Wichita. Great new coach in Greg Marshall, but the talent level took a dive.

My upset special is at home after Charlotte returns from the Jam. Usually teams fare poorly in the first game back from one of these early-season tournaments. Wake is very young, coach is new and maybe there is overhang from the summer tragedy. I see a Niners team raring to go in a soldout Bobcats arena. I think Charlotte will beat either Wake or Maryland in one of these two games. Local games with pumped-up players and good crowds.

Then Charlotte has an inevitable letdown vs. a superior Davidson team that returns all five starters. For once, though, Charlotte will be seen as the big underdog and it will interesting to see how Davidson responds as the road favorite. The very next game is the one Gerrity suits up for. Niners fans celebrate his return to live action with an upset win over the Salukis. Charlotte goes up North and beats a Hofstra team that lost two of the best players in the program’s history to graduation. The Niners lose at Tulsa (winnable game), beat Gardner-Webb and end on a sour note with losses to two more ACC teams.

Final record vs. the ACC: 1-3.

[URL=http://www.basketballforum.com/atlantic-10-conference/379532-10-preview-10th-place.html][B][COLOR=DarkGreen]Link to Review[/COLOR][/B][/URL]

[QUOTE=NinerAdvocate;261956]10th. Just guessing.[/QUOTE]


How the mighty have fallen. I CAN’T believe we are picked to lose to High Point.

the ooc schedule is definitely going to be unpredictable. i don’t think that’s questionable. however, i think after this team plays against that caliber of competition, has time to gel together, and gets gerrity, we will do a lot more damage in conference than 10th place. just my opinion.

[QUOTE=ninerball49;263105]the ooc schedule is definitely going to be unpredictable. i don’t think that’s questionable. however, i think after this team plays against that caliber of competition, has time to gel together, and gets gerrity, we will do a lot more damage in conference than 10th place. just my opinion.[/QUOTE]

I agree 100%. I think Christmas is coming early this year.

the ooc schedule is definitely going to be unpredictable. i don't think that's questionable. however, i think after this team plays against that caliber of competition, has time to gel together, and gets gerrity, we will do a lot more damage in conference than 10th place. just my opinion.

Yea, we’ll be 9th:49ers:

Great preview WH. Very accurate based on what we’re hearing here.

We need to beat HP and App to start the season. It will be like us playing ACC teams to them. Trying to prove they belong. North Texas turned out to be pretty good last year. I can see the same thing happening for HP. Lutz better have our guys ready. I think he will.

I’ll take 2 wins in the Virgin Islands for sure. Will make for a very enjoyable trip for me. :biggrin:

[QUOTE=ChevEE;263090]. High Point might be the best team in its conference and it has everyone back, including a very good forward who transferred from Virginia two years ago. High Point beat some good teams last year. Hard way to start the season. Appalachian State won 25 games and brings back some good talent, but I don’t see the Niners losing both of these games at home. [/QUOTE]

I believe he is a little confused here, HPU doesn’t have a transfer from UVA, ASU does. Donte Minter is a stud PF who played for ASU last year and was very impressive. We actually recruited him(just not hard enough) and I really wish he was playing for us. He will be very hard for us to handle.

[QUOTE=Jimmyhat49er;263170]I believe he is a little confused here, HPU doesn’t have a transfer from UVA, ASU does. Donte Minter is a stud PF who played for ASU last year and was very impressive. We actually recruited him(just not hard enough) and I really wish he was playing for us. He will be very hard for us to handle.[/QUOTE]

I thought Minter was a senior last year and that they lost several other guys. HP is the one returning a bunch of players.

Is it really true that we have the best size in the conference?

[QUOTE=LeftyNiner;263206]Is it really true that we have the best size in the conference?[/QUOTE]

Tell me about it.

Remember that list of incoming post players that were all monstrously huge I used to post earlier? One by one, they all re-classified for next year. And yesterday I heard that 7’3"+ Keefe is probably going to redshirt and transfer out by the end of the semester.

Plus, after getting pretty jaded with ‘Australian Rules’ rulers, it’s nice to see that our newcomers are as-advertized. It’s looking pretty good for us.

I am soo PUMPED

[QUOTE=LeftyNiner;263206]I thought Minter was a senior last year and that they lost several other guys. HP is the one returning a bunch of players.

Is it really true that we have the best size in the conference?[/QUOTE]

Looks like Minter is back. They lost their guards but have depth inside. Two tough games to start with major significance because they are in-state smaller programs.

[QUOTE]Appalachian State welcomed 15 players to the Holmes Center, including five newcomers. Point guard Donald Sims, guard Donterious Hughes, Watauga product and walk-on J.R. Archer and 6-foot-10, 295-pound center Isaac Butts joined a veteran team that returns two starters in forward Jeremy Clayton and Davis Bowne. The Mountaineers also return standout sixth-man Donte Minter, who is likely to be moved into the starting lineup.

Minter acknowledged the early practices have been intense. His stray elbow caught the left brow over Butts’ eye on Friday.

“It is, man,” Minter said. “We’re still trying to feel everybody out and try to get used to everybody. We’ve got to make sure we can come up with an excellent year.”

The Mountaineers have to work fast so the newcomers can mesh with the veterans and find what roles they’ll play once the season begins.

“It’s definitely harder than last year,” added Clayton, who got ready for his senior season by adding eight pounds of muscle. “Last year when we came in, we really didn’t have anybody who was new. Last year, everybody knew everything. Now, we have to be a little more patient.

The Mountaineers know expectations are high. Appalachian State went 25-8 last year, setting a record for the most wins in school history. Appalachian’s 15-3 league record won the SoCon’s North Division and the Mountaineers’ final RPI of 64 earned them an at-large bid into the NIT. The Mountaineers lost to Ole Miss in the first round of the NIT, but they have a goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament this year.

That was the goal last year, but the Mountaineers were upset 89-87 in overtime by College of Charleston in the semifinals of the SoCon Tournament.

“It was a heartbreaker last year,” Clayton said. “We lost in the SoCon…but I’m happy with the team we’ve got right now. We lost some good guys, but we’ve got some good guys coming back.”

The Mountaineers will have to repair their backcourt after they lost D.J. Thompson, Demetrius Scott, Jeremy Harper and Nate Cranford to graduation. They return Ryann Abraham, a redshirt sophomore, and Eduardo Bermudez, a junior, who are the early incumbents to start.

[QUOTE=survivor45;263209]Remember that list of incoming post players that were all monstrously huge I used to post earlier? One by one, they all re-classified for next year. And yesterday I heard that 7’3"+ Keefe is probably going to redshirt and transfer out by the end of the semester.[/QUOTE]
Keefe is gone. Never quite understood that one, since he didn’t fit the profile of the players La Salle has been signing under Dr. G.

UMass drops to 9th this season…

[b]A-10 PREVIEW – 9th PLACE

Last year: 24-9 (13-3), 2nd place

University of Massachusetts Amherst
Location: Amherst, MA
Founded: 1863
Enrollment: 26,600
Affiliation: Public university

Mullins Center
Seats: 9,493
Average attendance: 5,968 (up from 4,904 two years ago)

Travis Ford, 3rd year (10th overall)
Record at Massachusetts: 37-24 (165-135 overall; 55.0% winning percentage)


1 Papa Lo FR F/C 6-9 215 Senegal/Winchendon School (MA)
*3 Gary Forbes SR F/G 6-7 220 Brooklyn, NY/Virginia
5 Ricky Harris SO G 6-2 175 Baltimore, MD/Winchendon School (MA)
11 Gary Correia FR G 6-1 180 Providence, RI/Mount Herman School (MA)
13 Max Groebe FR G 6-4 185 North Miami Beach, FL
*14 Chris Lowe JR G 6-0 160 Mount Vernon, NY
20 Dante Milligan SR F 6-9 215 New York, NY/Pittsburgh
21 Trey Lang FR F 6-7 215 Marrieta, GA
22 Etienne Brower SR F 6-7 215 West Hempstead, NY/Boston University
24 Tony Gaffney JR F 6-8 195 Berkley, MA/Northfield Mount Hermon (MA)/BU
31 Luke Bonner JR C 7-1 245 Concord, NH/West Virginia
33 Matt Glass FR G 6-7 190 Underhill Center, VT/Northfield Mount Hermon (MA)
50 Matt Hill FR F 6-7 210 Middletown, CT/Tilton School (NH)

*Returning starters


All-Conference forwards Stephane Lasme and Rashaun Freeman are gone, but all is not lost. The Minutemen return six veterans, an emerging star in Gary Forbes and arguably the second best point guard in the A-10. Third year coach Travis Ford also welcomes what appears to be one of the better recruiting classes in the league.

The Minutemen are due for a makeover, however. For the past two years the team relied on Freeman and Lasme for a potent inside attack. Now that they are gone, Ford plans to revert to former ways. He likes to run and press and rain treys on opponents, and now he thinks he’s got the personnel to do it.

UMass certainly has the motor to spark Ford’s offense. Chris Lowe is a true point guard with great dribble speed, good vision and the ability to get to the basket. Forbes is an inside-out scorer who can create his own shot when the half-court offense sputters.

A few members of last year’s supporting cast, however, have to accept bigger roles. And some of the newcomers have to quickly get over their stage fright.

If all goes according to script, the Minutemen just might - might - be able to book a return trip to the postseason.


Stephane Lasme – The first native of Gabon to play college basketball in the U.S. set a high standard for future countrymen. An unknown recruit when he arrived, Lasme developed into one of the nation’s best shotblockers. He capped off a spectacular senior season (13.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 61.1% FG) by earning the league’s top award (Player of the Year) and getting drafted by Golden State. In his final year, Lasme expanded his offense and was a force at both ends. His intimidating presence inside (168 blocks, second in the NCAA) will especially be missed.

Rashaun Freeman – The 6-9 forward bounced back from a relatively disappointing junior season and was named to the league’s First Team for the third straight time. He increased his scoring (team-leading 14.7 ppg) and field goal percentage (60.9% FG) and finished third in the A-10 in rebounding (8.3 rpg). Although he sometimes struggled against large, athletic frontlines, Freeman was a constant threat in the post whose presence helped draw defenders away from Lasme and the guards. The two bigmen did a lot of damage in propelling UMass to its first 20-win season and postseason bid in seven years.

James Life – Former juco sharpshooter hit some big baskets and also became the team’s top perimeter defender (48 steals), but his questionable shot selection and penchant for trash talk sometimes hurt the Minutemen. Though Life was productive as a senior (11.5 ppg, 39% 3PG), it was time for him to move on. UMass might miss his long-range gunnery, but not his abrasive attitude toward coaches, teammates and opponents.

Brandon Thomas – Multi-skilled 6-6 athlete (4.0 ppg, 42.9% 3PG) showed flashes of brilliance during his two-year stay in Amherst, but his performance flickered like an aging light bulb. Thomas lost confidence easily and did not gain it back quickly.

Emmanuel “Tiki” Mayben – Heralded red-shirt point guard, a former Syracuse recruit, was given a chance to run the team, but he eventually lost his job to former starter Chris Lowe. Mayben turned the ball over too much (82 turnovers), and like most freshmen, his decision making was spotty. Poor shooting (2.9 ppg, 36.7% FG) and inadequate defense didn’t help his cause. For all those difficulties, Mayben was a capable ball-handler with great court vision. He dished out 127 assists (4th in the A-10) and improved steadily, though his minutes waned near the end of the season after Ford tightened the rotation.


Gary Forbes – The 6-7 forward (13 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 32.7% 3PG) is a legitimate candidate for A-10 Player of the Year. Strong and athletic, Forbes is a versatile scorer who can post up, shoot the trey or attack the basket. A good ball-handler and passer (81 assists), he even played effectively at point when Mayben and Chris Lowe struggled early in the season. He can play some defense, too (31 steals, 16 blocks).

It wasn’t as easy as Forbes apparently thought it would be, however. Starting slowly he averaged 11 points and hit just 26% of his treys in the nonconference portion of the schedule. He took too many bad shots and briefly lost his starting position after several poor performances.

By the time A-10 play rolled around, though, the transfer from Virginia was mostly on top of his game. Forbes put up bigger numbers in conference games, averaging nearly 15 points and 6.3 boards while shooting 41% beyond the arc. He’s one of the best players in the A-10 at creating his own shot and can dominate a game when he’s feeling it. He scored as many as 31 points in a game, grabbed as many as 16 rebounds and dished out up to 8 assists.

What Forbes has to do as a senior is to make better decisions and deliver consistently. He can be a Jekyll and Hyde in the same game, or even the same half. With Lasme and Freeman gone, Forbes will be tempted to try to take over the team to burnish his draft prospects. If he plays selfishly, however, it would only hurt the team and Ford won’t stand for it.

Chris Lowe – After an off-campus altercation, Lowe was suspended for preseason scrimmages and the first game and lost his starting job to Mayben. At the end of December, he worked himself back it the starting lineup because of his steadily improving play and the shaky decision making of Mayben. By year end, Lowe elevated his game to become one of the best point guards in the league. In the Minutemen’s thrilling overtime win over Alabama in the NIT, Lowe was the best player on the floor. He scored a career high 19 points and added 6 assists and 5 steals in a signature performance.

Ford doesn’t expect Lowe (7 ppg) to score like that in every game. The junior point guard is a good creator (4.2 apg, third in the A-10) and good decision maker who makes the Minutemen’s uptempo offense go. He might be the fastest player in the A-10 in going from one end to the other with the ball. He sometimes goes too fast, but Lowe increasingly knows when to step on the gas and when to ease off. And his defense is an underrated aspect of his game. Although physical guards can give him a hard time, Lowe stays low to the ground and has quick hands (35 steals). He makes opponents work when they bring the ball upcourt.

A poor shooter in his freshman season, Lowe has worked diligently to get better. He’s developed an effective lefty runner in the lane that he can loft over almost any defender. His 3-point accuracy also improved to 35% (16-46) from 27.8% as a freshman. He doesn’t look to shoot the threeball, but he will if defenders give him time to set up.

With his talent, speed and decision making, Lowe should become the best point guard in the A-10 not named Drew Lavender. If the Minutemen are going to surprise, Lowe has to take complete command of the offense. The Minutemen cannot maintain last season’s winning ways unless he does.

Dante Milligan – The 6-8 transfer from Pittsburgh will finally get a chance to start six years after he left high school. Older than most players in the A-10 – Milligan turns 24 in February – he’s physically mature, strong and athletic. While he lacks Freeman’s scoring in the post or Lasme’s game-changing defensive ability, Milligan (3.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 49% FG) is good enough to start for lots of A-10 teams. He runs the floor well, is a decent finisher near the basket and can hit faceup jumpers out to 15 feet. He’s also an above-average rebounder and post defender (16 blocks). Milligan is not flashy and he won’t put up big numbers, but he might be good for 8 points and 5 or 6 rebounds a game.

Ricky Harris – Undersized but explosive guard (4.5 ppg, 36% FG) received quality playing time as a freshman and Ford even trusted him in some tight late-game situations. The quick-footed Harris is a fearless penetrator who can drive or dish, but he’s just as prone to launch 3-pointers. He hit two big treys in a win at Louisville and tallied 13 points in a loss to Kentucky. Harris also has the physical tools and mindset to become a topnotch defender (12 steals). “Ricky Harris is a tremendous player,” Ford told the Springfield Republican with his typically exaggerated praise.

As a sophomore, Harris is set to start and will be relied upon heavily. He’ll need to tame some of his aggression and shoot better from outside (25% 3PG). While he seems to have good form, some of his 3-point attempts were ill-advised and more than a few clanked loudly off the rim. Ford likes his players to shoot treys, but 25% won’t cut it. UMass has other players who can shoot better than that. One thing is for certain, though. Harris will score. He forgets his last miss the moment after it leaves his hand.

Luke Bonner – The four-year junior (1.6 ppg, 1.2 rpg) will get a chance to start after sitting out a year as a transfer and riding the bench for two others – one at UMass and another at West Virginia. Ford says he has looked good in practice and is ready to step up. Only time will tell. Bonner has played far too little to know how he will perform in real games with extended minutes.

Bonner does have size and skills. He’s a 7-footer in a league where such players are about as rare as the hair on Phil Martelli’s head. He’s plenty mobile for his size and there’s no reason he can’t be a decent rebounder and shotblocker. In just 7 minutes a game, he even led the Minutemen in charges drawn with seven.

On offense, Bonner is best suited to play the high post. He’s a good outside shooter and passer, but he’s not a beast on the low blocks. Bonner is more apt to toss up a George Mikan-style running hook than bull his way to the rim. He’s simply not strong enough to impose himself on shorter but stouter defenders.

In his typical hyperbole, Ford has said Bonner possesses all the skills to be a star in the A-10, but he was unable to showcase his talent because he played behind Lasme and Freeman. Minutemen fans themselves are skeptical. They would find a modest contribution to be perfectly acceptable. It’s all they have the right to expect.

Etienne Brower – The Boston University transfer, named to the America East Third Team as a sophomore, suffered a severe ankle sprain before last season and missed the first seven games. By the time he came back, Brower (2.7 ppg, 2 rpg) was unable to crack the regular rotation, especially after his ankle problem flared up again. He never regained full health.

In limited minutes, though, the versatile Brower showed good skills and Ford expects him to play a big role in his final season. When healthy he’s a fine athlete and big leaper. He’s also one of the better 3-pointer shooters (37.5 3PG) on the team and a nifty passer too (24 assists). “He can shoot it, he can handle it. He can do a lot of things,” Ford says.

Brower might also be the Minutemen’s best frontcourt defender, though he’s ideally suited to cover small forwards. He can stay with them outside and is an alert help defender when opponents throw the ball into the post.


Gary Correia - Travis Ford loves good shooters, and Correia is said to be one of the better ones in his class (47% on treys). The quick 6-1 combo guard is a good spot-up shooter who moves well without the ball, though he doesn’t look to penetrate much. He’s also a good passer and ball-handler who will back up Lowe at point. He signed late with UMass after getting looks from some Big East schools.

Max Groebe - The confident 6-5 big guard from Miami (via Germany) is a terrific shooter who has connected on as many as 50% of his treys in a season. Groebe likes to catch and shoot and has a quick release. He is also physically strong and willing to mix it up inside, though he’s not an A-plus athlete, which hurts him on defense. Groebe got serious looks from South Florida and other big-conference programs before picking UMass.

Trey Lang - The son of former NBA center Andrew Lang is an excellent athlete who plays above the rim. Trey Lang got lots of attention from major schools, but some question his intensity and the Georgia native needs to expand his game. He’s mostly an inside player and rebounder. Since he’s the most physically mature of the first-year forwards, the 6-8 Lang might be the first frosh bigman off the bench.

Matt Glass - Former Player of the Year in Vermont is most noted for his 3-point proficiency. He’s a decent not great athlete who uses his shot to pull defenders out. Glass can get by them when they overcommit, but he’s not a good finisher. Although his outside touch is needed at UMass, Glass might need time to develop his body and the rest of his game.

Matt Hill – Hill caught Ford’s eye because of his versatility and potential offensive skills (shooting) at the four-spot. The undersized power forward is a good athlete with the ability to hit midrange jumpers and even some treys. He’s also a solid defender who rebounds well and blocks shots. Hill injured his Achilles tendon and missed his senior year. If he doesn’t regain his full health, he could find it hard to adjust to a higher level of competition after a year off.

Papa Lo - Slender 6-9 Senegal native, who prepped in New England, is long and athletic and said to be a terrific shotblocker. Likened to a young Stephane Lasme, Lo is also very raw offensively and needs time to fill out. “If he gets stronger and stays healthy, there’s a place for him with his shot-blocking,” Ford told the Republican. “Immediately? Maybe.”

Tony Gaffney – Another transfer from Boston University, the 6-8 Gaffney is an athletic tweener known for his aggressive defense. He’s reportedly a decent shooter, but there’s little evidence from his days at BU. He averaged 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds two years ago while playing 17 minutes a game.

Sedale Jones – Former prep star in Western Massachusetts walked on in hopes of earning a scholarship next season, but that’s looking doubtful unless some current players transfer. Jones was noted for his outside shot and scoring ability in high school, but few big programs came nibbling. He’s big, at 6-4, and athletic enough to play in the A-10. He’l l have to show something special, however, to break into the rotation.


The starting backcourt appears to be in solid shape. Lowe might be the ideal point guard to fuel Ford’s uptempo attack. He excels on the fastbreak and can break down defenses with the dribble. Sophomore Ricky Harris, an aggressive slasher, had some impressive moments in his first year. He and Lowe might represent the quickest backcourt in the A-10. Whether by harassing ball-handlers or driving to the basket, the pair will try to cause chaos for UMass opponents.

Lowe and Harris might not scare opponents with their outside shooting, however. That might have to come from elsewhere, but the question is who. The team’s best shooter, departed senior James Life, accounted for 45% of the Minutemen’s 3-pointers. No one came close to equaling his production.

Forbes hit than 40% on treys in A-10 play and Brower connected on 38% of his attempts, but Harris struggled and none of the three are lights-out shooters. The best outside threats are freshmen Groebe and Correia. If Massachusetts is going to throw up as many as 30 treys a game – that’s Ford speaking – the Minutemen will have to shoot better than last season’s 34% clip (11th in the A-10).

In the paint, Ford no longer has a dominant low-post scorer or shotblocker and the Minutemen are not a beefy bunch. Yet the quartet of Bonner, Milligan, Forbes and Brower compose the oldest frontline in the A-10. UMass won’t lead the conference again in points in the paint, but the Minutemen should be able to stand their ground against most opponents.

It’s especially critical that the revamped frontline grab its fair share of rebounds. Lasme and Freeman accounted for 18 rebounds a game - almost half the team’s total – and UMass led the league last year (+7.7 margin). Unless the Minutemen rebound well enough on the defensive end, Ford’s plan for an uptempo attack are likely to fizzle.


Massachusetts won’t match last year’s total of 24 wins, but the program has some talented players and is not lacking for firepower. There’s enough size, balance and experience to compete for a spot in the upper half of the league.

Contributions from a few freshmen and better shooting are essential, but the strength of the team is its upperclassmen. None of the veterans aside from Forbes have played starring roles, but they are mature and have had a taste of winning. If they step up their games and teach the youngsters the ropes, the team should be in decent shape.

Lowe and Forbes are givens. To compete for an A-10 title, however, Ford has to draw much better performances from the likes of returnees Bonner, Brower and Harris. "Etienne is our X Factor,” Ford says. “He and Luke Bonner must have big seasons.”

Bonner himself thinks he’s up to the task. “Last year, I was backing up Rashaun Freeman and Stephane Lasme, but this year, being more assertive is what my role calls for,” he told the Republican. “I know I’ll have more of a leadership role."

Still, it’s a lot to ask. While the potential is there, the Minutemen might not have enough star power to take center stage.

Record: 16-14 (8-8), 9th Place

Predicted Noncon Wins and Losses

W – Cal Poly (BTI Tip-Off Tourney, Iowa)
W – Northern Illinois (Iowa)
L – Northern Iowa (Iowa)
L – At Syracuse
W – Marist (Mohegan Sun, CT)
L – At Boston College
L – At Vanderbilt

I project an 8-6 noncon record. The Minutemen’s sked isn’t as easy as it looks. Yale and IUPUI are predicted by Blue Ribbon to win their conferences and Cal Poly is supposed to have one of its best teams ever. UMass starts at a tournament held by Northern Iowa and it could be argued that the Minutemen are better than all three teams. Northern Illinois is rebuilding and Northern Iowa has lost a bunch of key players in the past two years. Still, I’d be happy coming out of that 3-game event with two wins.

Then UMass beats a solid Yale squad and a well-coached W-BG team, relying on intense full-court pressure to defeat both. I chalk up the Syracuse and IUPUI games as losses even though both are winnable. Cuse is very young. They will lose to at least one A-10 team this year (they play four: St. Joe’s, UMass, Rhody and Fordham, all at home). I see Marist as a win at home and a loss at BC, although the Eagles are a bit depleted.

Three straight wins vs Toledo, CC State and a much improved BU team, which almost beat UMass last year. The BU game could be a tough one, possibly a loss. I think the Minutemen can beat Houston, but the Cougers are athletic and have shooters. I call it a loss to be conservative, and I have a hard time seeing the Minutemen win at Vandy.

Link: A-10 PREVIEW - 9th PLACE

The new coach on the block picked to finish 8th…

[b]A-10 PREVIEW – 8th PLACE

Last year: 20-13 (8-8), 7th Place

Saint Louis University
Location: St. Louis, MO
Founded: 1818
Enrollment: 11,800
Affiliation: Private, co-educational Catholic Jesuit university

Savvis Center
Seats: 20,000
Average attendance last season: 9,667
[NOTE: SLU will open on-campus 10,000 seat Chaifetz Arena next season]

Rick Majerus: 1st year (20th overall)
Record at Saint Louis: 0-0 (422-147 overall; 74.2% winning percentage)

00 Dwayne Polk SR PG 5-9 160 Saint Louis, MO
1 Danny Brown SR WG 6-4 200 Houston, TX
2 Anthony Mitchell FR WF 6-4 205 East. Saint Louis, IL
4 Dustin Maguire SO WG 6-5 205 Bethalto, IL
10 Paul Eckerle FR WG 6-1 175 Washington, MO
15 Barry Eberhardt JR PF 6-7 250 Inkster, MI/Coffeyville CC (KS)
*21 Kevin Lisch JR WG 6-2 180 Belleville, IL
23 Marcus Relphorde FR F 6-7 220 Homewood, IL/American Christian (PA)
*25 Tommie Liddell JR G 6-4 200 E. Saint Louis, IL/Hargrave Military (VA)
*32 Luke Meyer SR G/F 6-5 200 Washington, MO
43 Adam Knollmeyer SO F 6-9 235 Linn, MO
44 Bryce Husak SR C 7-0 260 Mt. Vernon, IA

*Returning starters


When 10-3 Saint Louis lost back-to-back games on the road at St. Bonaventure and at home to Duquesne, coach Brad Soderberg’s fate was sealed. Those losses destroyed hopes of getting to the NCAA tournament and set in motion a train of events that led to the hiring of Rick Majerus.

Rarely have crushed hopes so quickly turned into unbridled optimism.

The new coach needs no introduction. A future Hall of Famer, Majerus has piled up 422 wins to just 147 losses, a gaudy 74% winning percentage. Just as impressive, Majerus has never suffered a losing year in 17 full seasons of coaching.

He’s not about to start now.

Two reasons Majerus can expect to continue his winning ways are juniors Tommie Liddell and Kevin Lisch, arguably the best backcourt tandem in the A-10. The Billikens also return four seniors, making Saint Louis one of the oldest teams in the league. What the Bills lack in numbers and sheer talent, they make up with stellar wing play, experience and coaching.

To win 20 games for the second straight season, however, Majerus needs sizable contributions from the program’s two little-used sophomores or a quartet of newcomers. A smallish Billikens squad especially needs help upfront after the loss of 6-10 widebody Ian Vouyoukas.

If the 300-pound Majerus can find a way to plug the hole in the middle with someone other than himself, Saint Louis will be a strong contender for the postseason birth that eluded the school in Soderberg’s ill-fated final season.


Ian Vouyoukas – If the failure to reach postseason can be blamed on one thing, the performance of Vouyoukas might be it. He put up good numbers but did not dominate like he did as a junior, when he was named to the league’s First Team. He scored less (12.4 ppg vs. 13.9 ppg), shot at a lower percentage (51.7% vs. 55%) and got into frequent foul trouble (101 fouls). Vouyoukas was easily frustrated and sometimes disappeared, a nearly impossible trick to perform for a 6-10 270-pounder. Poor officiating didn’t help. Referees called a number of ticky-tack fouls on him. The regression of Vouyoukas cost the Billikens and former coach Brad Soderberg dearly.

Justin Johnson – Enigmatic 6-8 forward (2 ppg, 2 rpg, 44% FG) remained inscrutable till the very end. Though strong and athletic, with seemingly above-average skills, Johnson never found a role. He averaged just 11 minutes as a senior on a team desperate for inside help. Not even Mystery Inc. could solve this caper.

Obi Ikeakor – Once considered the Billikens’ bigman of the future, the 6-8, 240-pound freshman left the team after the first semester. Ikeakor redshirted his first year to recover from a knee injury, but he never lost all the weight he gained after surgery.

Horace Dixon – Highly athletic forward struggled academically and left the program after the first semester. He played in only two games.


Tommie Liddell – The do-it-all junior (15.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.6 apg, 47% FG), a Second Team All-Conference selection, is one of the leading candidates for A-10 Player of the Year. He can score anywhere on the court, break down defenses with passing and penetration and rebound better than any guard in the country. Playing all three wing positions, he’s difficult to defend and requires constant attention. During one midseason stretch Liddell scored 20 points or more in six straight games, two shy of the league record. At times he looked like a carbon copy of George Gervin with his silky spin moves and gorgeous finger rolls.

What makes Liddell so dangerous – and what makes him an NBA prospect – is his much improved outside shot. He added the 3-pointer to his repertoire as a sophomore and drained 45.4% of his attempts, quite a turnaround for a player who hit only 2 of 21 treys as a frosh. Liddell canned 8 treys vs. Temple and 5 each vs. URI and St. Bonaventure. He’s not a great outside shooter on the fly, but he’s taller than most defenders and gets his feet set. If opponents get too close, Liddell can blow by them to score himself or create layups for teammates. He’s long and quick and an explosive leaper.

In his third season, Liddell still has plenty of room for improvement. For one thing, he needs to increase his stamina. Liddell played almost 36 minutes a game to lead the league and his performance tailed off near the end of the season. He failed to score in double figures in only five games, but three of them came in late February and March, when Liddell shot 3-17 (17.6%) on treys. He also turned the ball over 99 times, the second highest amount in the A-10. And while Liddell is a good defender (27 steals, 19 blocks), he should be a great one.

Kevin Lisch – Although Lisch is a fine all-round athlete, he’s no Tommie Liddell. He doesn’t dunk very much or wow opponents with his physical tools. Instead he relies on grit, great fundamentals and finely honed skills. The result is no less impressive. Lisch (14.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg) is one of the best two-way players in the league and is just as important to the Billikens’ success as his more gifted teammate. When Lisch got hurt last season, Saint Louis struggled. The Bills played their best when he was relatively healthy.

The starting point for Lisch is his shooting (41% 3PG). He’s doesn’t need much time to get his feet set and releases the ball quickly. His quick trigger forces defenders to guard him tightly, but Lisch is very aggressive and will try to shoulder his way to the rim if he can’t find space to launch a trey. If he gets to the line, he’s an 82% free-throw shooter. Lisch scored in double figures in the final 14 games, including 28 vs. Charlotte and 26 vs. Richmond.

Lisch is also very smart, like a coach on the floor, and he’s the player who should have the ball in his hands late in the game. He dished out a team-leading 111 assists (3.6 apg), but only turned the ball over 59 times. When the Bills needed a clutch shot, he was usually the one to deliver. No one in the A-10 has hit more big shots in the past two years.

Amazingly, all the time Lisch has to spend scoring and organizing the offense does not detract from his other responsibilities. He’s one of the best perimeter defenders (32 steals) in the A-10 and should be a preseason selection to the All-Defensive team. He gets so close he could probably brush the teeth of his opponents. Expect Majerus to give Lisch more opportunity to gamble in his high-pressure man -to-man defense. Lisch was made to play like that.

Luke Meyer – Senior forward (9.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg) is one of the unsung heroes of the A-10. Though just 6-5, Meyer constantly battles bigger forwards in the paint, often to a standstill. He’s strong for his size, positions himself smartly and uses quick hands to strip careless opponents (33 steals). At times he gets overwhelmed, but Meyer mostly does a good job. He’s such an overachiever that he’s certain to become a Majerus favorite.

Meyer’s offense is similarly workmanlike. He’s in constant motion, makes clever passes and does not take many bad shots (49% FG). He sneaks in for offensive rebounds and finishes well near the basket, sometimes using the glass to bank shots. What would help is if Meyer could shoot more accurately from distance to help stretch defenses and pull bigger defenders from the paint. Meyer has a nice looking shot, if a somewhat slow release, and he regularly cans midrange jumpers. It’s hard to believe he cannot do better, but he’s only a career 27% 3-pointer shooter.

Dwayne Polk – Senior point guard (5.1 ppg, 2.4 apg) has never developed into a frontline starter, but he’s a solid reserve and sometimes is part of a three-guard offense with Lisch and Liddell. What he gives Saint Louis is a good on-the-ball defender whose quickness can change the tenor of the game, especially at home. Every now and then Polk will have a scoring outburst and he can generate baskets with his defense, but he’s never been a regular producer. Polk does not shoot well (38% FG, 31% 3PG) and he’s too small to finish consistently when he penetrates the lane. He only scored a total of 6 points in the last six games of the year. Polk has speed and talent. The question is whether Majerus can milk it out of him every game.

Danny Brown – The 6-4 wing guard hit a plateau as a junior. He averaged 4.8 points and 2.1 rebounds a game while shooting 33% from the arc, the same numbers as his sophomore year. He’s stronger and more athletic than many guards in the A-10 and does not lack for skills, but Brown has never performed up to his capabilities. Like Polk, he has a big game now and then, but often disappears. He only scored in double figures once in 19 conference games. What Polk and Brown are both about to find out is whether it’s them or the prior coaching staff. Soderberg kept tight control over his players. Perhaps more freedom and responsibility under Majerus will set them loose. Before that can happen, though, Brown has to get healthy. He had knee surgery in the offseason and might not be ready by the first game.

Bryce Husak – After nearly five years, the Billikens might receive a modest return on their investment in the slow-developing 7-footer. He played his best basketball at the end of his junior year, highlighted by a career high 10 points and 6 rebounds in the team’s victory over Massachusetts in the A-10 Tournament. Husak also gave the Bills quality minutes in an early-February win at St. Joseph’s.

Husak (2.1 ppg, 2 rpg, 47% FG, 14 blocks) won’t regularly score down low or fill the lane on the fastbreak. He does not have great hands and is not fleet of foot. What the fifth-year senior can do is set picks, grab a few boards, clog the paint and block shots. Majerus knows how to deploy bigmen as well as any coach in the country. He’ll figure out the best use for Husak, even if it’s just a few minutes a game.

Early on, that’s probably all Husak be able to play. He suffered a stress fraction in his left foot and was unable to practice. He needs to improve his conditioning and acquire first-hand experience with the new system Majerus has installed before the coach trusts him on the floor.

Dustin Maguire – Recruited as an outside shooter, the 6-5 Maquire only sank 1 of 8 three-pointers in 70 minutes of action. He’ll have to prove himself quickly to Majerus or lose out to freshmen Mitchell and Relphorde, both of whom are far more athletic and better defensively.

Adam Knollmeyer – Second-year power forward barely played as a frosh (83 minutes), but he’ll get another chance on a Billikens team short of post players. He seems to know how to play with his back to the basket and has decent hands. Yet Knollmeyer lacks sufficient quickness to pose a major threat down low and he’s likely to have trouble defending more athletic forwards. If he improves his footwork and conditioning, Knollmeyer could find a role. At 6-9 and around 240 pounds, Knollmeyer brings plenty of beef. He could give Saint Louis a physical presence in the paint if he learns to toss his weight around.


Anthony Mitchell – Tough and tenacious, the 6-4 Mitchell is an athletic slasher with a quick first step who’s active around the glass. He thrives in transition, rebounds very well for his size and has above-average potential as a defender. Michell is not a great shooter, though, and needs work on range and consistency. Saint Louis has plenty of time to give newcomers. Figure on Mitchell and Marcus Relphorde to earn major minutes if they show a ready ability to grasp coach Majerus’ schemes and supply the effort he requires.

Marcus Relphorde - Rangy 6-7 swingman from the Chicago area received late looks from major programs and reportedly was offered a scholarship by several other A-10 schools. He is a good 3-point shooter who can also take defenders off the dribble. During a year in prep school he expanded his game and added some muscle. The Billikens need another shooter with the athleticism to defend, so Relphorde could get plenty of minutes if he stays focused. He has a reputation as an up-and-down player.

Paul Eckerle – A top player in the Saint Louis area, Eckerle is the cousin of Luke Meyer and one of two players added after Majerus was hired in April. The 6-1 combo guard is a dead-eye shooter, hitting 44% of his 3-pointers and more than 80% of his free throws as a senior. He’s not a great athlete, but he gives Saint Louis additional firepower on the bench. As a bonus, he’s such as good student that he’s also eligible for an academic scholarship. Majerus can free up his scholarship if a good recruit becomes available.

Barry Eberhardt – Stout 6-7 forward is the heir apparent to Vouyoukas. While he’ll give up height to opponents, the 250-pound Eberhardt has the girth to carve out space inside. And he can be difficult for bigger players to guard because Eberhardt is a good outside shooter (40%-plus 3PG) and passer mobile enough to put the ball on the floor.

The prospect of Saint Louis competing for the league title could well depend on whether Eberhardt generates similar production in Division 1 ball – no sure bet based on the recent performance of jucos in the A-10. Yet the Billikens don’t have much size or skill upfront and need Eberhardt or one of the returnees to elevate their game at both ends of the court.


The Billikens only have a few high-level Division 1 players, but no one in the country is better than Majerus at making lemonade out of lemons. Fortunately Majerus has just enough sugar (Lisch) and honey (Liddell) to sweeten the Saint Louis pot. In different ways each player puts tremendous pressure on opponents. Both are triple threats who can shoot, dish or attack the basket off the dribble.

They just need a little more help from their teammates. Saint Louis was the third lowest scoring team in the A-10, averaging just 66 points. Although Soderberg repeatedly promised his team would run, he was a conservative coach at heart who had no stomach for wide-open offenses.

Majerus is not a disciple of Paul Westhead, but he likes to put pressure on opponents. He plans to take advantage of the ball-handling capabilities of Lisch, Liddell and Polk to speed up the tempo.

“We want to push it,” Majerus told Rivals.com. “We want to break. We want to get out in transition.”

The Bills need to generate easy baskets in transition because the inside game appears nonexistent. Even though he did not play up to par, Vouyoukas regularly attracted two, three and even four defenders, freeing up space for the perimeter players to shoot or drive. Now that’s gone.

Husak, the 7-footer, has shown very little ability to score, while sophomore Adam Knollmeyer doesn’t look like the answer. Majerus hopes the 6-7 juco Eberhardt can give the Billikens some scoring in the paint or at least pose a threat from the high post with his shooting and passing.

A more critical worry is rebounding. The Billikens frontcourt players as a group are not especially quick and will have to rely on good positioning and boxing out to win the battle of the boards. Fortunately they’ll get a key assist from Liddell, a one-man fastbreak once he snares a rebound.

The defense is less of a concern. Saint Louis finished first in field-goal percentage defense, barely allowing opponents to shoot over 40%. Majerus is also a stickler for defense, though he takes a very different approach. Instead of packing the paint like Soderberg did, Majerus favors high-pressure man-to-man and ball denial. The Billikens won’t finish last again in steals.

“We’re going to put a priority on defending and rebounding,” Majerus told Rivals.com.


Rick Majerus is raring to go after years of battling health problems and it would be foolish to underestimate him. Even though he did not inherit a roster full of talent, his coaching ability alone should make Saint Louis a factor in the race for the A-10 title. He’s won at least 20 games in 13 of 17 full seasons and has never lost more than 14 games in one year.

Nor is Majerus playing with an empty deck. He has a pair of aces in Lisch and Liddell and can build a winning hand around them. It’s vital that they stay injury-free, however. The Billikens have precious little depth and it’s worth noting that the team’s struggles last year coincided with an injury to Lisch. There is no one on the roster who can pick up the slack when one of the two L’s are away from the table. Meyer is a Jack of all trades while Polk and even a healthy Brown are a pair of wild cards.

The big coach’s bigmen are, well, the biggest concern. Majerus doesn’t need a superhuman effort from them, but they have to be able to contain the better frontcourts in the A-10. That’s where Husak could be huge, literally. He’s not easy to move or shoot over and he disrupts foes with his shotblocking.

Getting offense from the bigmen would be a bonus. The Billikens hope Eberhardt can add some scoring punch down low or draws big defenders away from the paint with his outside shooting. If he can do that, Lisch and Liddell will be tough to contain – and the Billikens hard to beat.

Expect some rockiness early on, however, and an increasingly competitive A-10 will be no picnic in the park. The Bills should get close to 20 wins again, but it will take some good health, good luck and a little bit of Majerus magic to finish among the top four in the league or get an NCAA bid.

Record: 18-11 (9-7), 8th place

Predicted Noncon Wins and Losses

W – North Carolina AT&T (Pittsburgh)
L – At Pittsburgh
L – At Missouri State
L – At Kent State
L – At Boston College

I am predicting a noncon record of 9-4, although I think every game on the sked is winnable with perhaps the exception of Pitt. The Panthers had a lot of turnover, however, and their frontcourt, while talented, is a bit unsettled, and Saint Louis has the advantage in guard play. Still, I call that a loss. The Bills win the other two games at that Pittsburgh tournament, one of which involves a non-Division 1 team. Detroit is not as tough or as talented as it used to be. Furman is simply inferior. Two more wins.

I think Saint Louis is better than Missouri State and should win, but it’s on the road and the crowd will be ready for Majerus. His presence alone will make road games tougher because everyone will get up for Rick coming to town. Pacific, meanwhile, has fallen off dramatically after a great run. The next game, at Kent, figures to be a hard one. Kent doesn’t lose much at home and all five starters return from a 21-win team. If the Bills win at Missouri State and beat Kent, that means something special is brewing.

Long Beach State lost all its top players from the year before and is rebuilding. Ditto for BC, which has suffered big graduation losses in the past two years. Still, the game is in Boston and the Eagles have lots of size to pound the Bills inside. This is a good time to play BC, but I call it a loss. Sam Houston State should be a win, though that team is picked to finish near the top of its conference. Loyola Chicago just lost its two top players and has no one of comparable talent. Southern Illinois is getting all the press, but losing stellar guards Tatum and Young is going to hurt more than other prognosticators seem to expect, in my view. I take Saint Louis at home, with their superior wing play neutralizing SIU’s superior frontcourt. The final game could be a trap. IUPUI is a solid midmajor squad expected to win its conference. The Bill have to avoid a letdown if they do beat SIU.

As I work my way down the list, I’ve got the final eight teams bunched up within two games of each other, including three or four with 9-7 records. Then it came down to tiebreakers and who had homecourt advantage. Nothing super scientific.

I basically see the top three or four teams as having fewer flaws than the rest, and the next four or five as all having some major question marks. I honestly think that as many as nine teams could win the conference this year, or at least threaten to win the league tourney. It might be the most competitive league we’ve seen since the A-10 got five teams in the NCAA tournament in the late 1990s.

Saint Louis is obviously intriguing because of Majerus. Lisch, Liddell and Meyer can compete with any other team’s top three players, but the Bills need better production from the three other seniors. Eberhardt might hold the key. Jucos usually take half a year, minimum, to get comfortable, and sometimes a whole year. I hope either Mitchell or Relphorde can help right away, but then I remember they are Soderberg’s recruits. He’s had a few hits, but mostly missed the mark.

I’ve already annointed the Bills as my team to watch this year. The story line is too good to ignore and it would be great if Majerus got this squad back to the NCAA and into the national spotlight in his first year.

Imagine what that would do for recruiting - and for the A-10.

Link: A-10 PREVIEW - 8th PLACE

Seventh goes to the Flyers…

[b]A-10 PREVIEW – 7th PLACE

Last year: 19-12 (8-8), 8th place

University of Dayton
Location: Dayton, OH
Founded: 1850
Enrollment: 10,500
Affiliation: Private Catholic co-educational university

Dayton Arena
Seats: 13,455
Average attendance last season: 12,266

Brian Gregory, 5th year (5th overall)
Record at Dayton: 75-49 (75-49 overall; 63.7% winning percentage)

0 Mickey Perry SO G 6-2 193 Maywood, IL/Wisconsin
*2 Brian Roberts SR WG 6-2 175 Toledo, OH
3 Andres Sandoval Sr. 6-2 198 Milford, MA/Richmond/Santa Fe (NM) CC
11 Stephen Thomas FR PG 6-1 164 Indianapolis, IN
14 London Warren SO PG 6-0 180 Jacksonville, FL
*15 Charles Little JR F 6-6 237 Cleveland, TN
23 Chris Wright FR F 6-8 214 Trotwood, OH
32 Marcus Johnson SO G 6-3 193 Akron, OH
33 Jimmy Binnie SR WF 6-7 211 Johnston, IA
34 Devin Searcy FR F/ C 6-10 208 Romulus, MI
*41 Kurt Huelsman SO C/F 6-10 240 St. Henry, OH
54 Thiago Cordeiro JR F/C 6-9 220 Brazil/Barton CC (KS)

*Returning starters


The Flyers looked every bit like a postseason team to start the 2006-07 season, winning nine of their first 10 games, with victories over eventual NCAA Tournament participants Louisville and Creighton. The great start petered out in late December after Dayton suffered back-to-back blowouts at Pittsburgh and North Carolina. Those defeats began a stretch in which Dayton lost 10 of 16 games and saw its chances of a postseason bid crash and burn.

The source of Dayton’s difficulties were not hard to figure. Erratic point play, inadequate post production and lackluster offensive support for scorer deluxe Brian Roberts all contributed to the team’s breakdown.

Coach Brian Gregory tried to address those problems with one of the better recruiting classes in the A-10 and the league’s best newcomer, but he still needs the veterans to lead the way. Although Dayton finished the season 19-12, the Flyers are not going to rise to the top of the A-10 heap on the back of newcomers, even someone as gifted as freshman sensation Chris Wright.


Monty Scott – Though skilled and athletic, Scott never fulfilled his promise. The last of former coach Oliver Purnell’s recruits, he was consistently inconsistent during his five years at Dayton. He played lackluster defense – just 10 steals in his last two seasons combined – and became one-dimensional on offense. In an injury-shortened senior season, Scott (10 ppg, 4.4 rpg) took 60% of his shots from behind the arc (39% 3PG). Aside from a late barrage in a win over Creighton, he seldom asserted himself in late-game situations. Great Scott he was not.

Norman Plummer – Undersized 6-6 forward (8.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg) was encouraged to transfer after a troubled junior season in which he was suspended twice. Plummer was a clever scorer around the basket, but like several other Flyers in recent years, he bulked up too much and lost some quickness. The added weight didn’t really help; Plummer was usually overmatched down low. Yet his experience and willingness to get physical cannot be discounted. A youngish Flyers squad could miss his presence early on.

Desmond Adediji – The 290-pound sophomore transferred after a season on the pine (just 9 minutes all year). He showed promise as a freshman, but the supersized Adediji did not lose enough weight to satisfy Gregory. The coach thought he was not fit enough to be a regular contributor.

Nick Stafford – Springy big forward, once considered a promising recruit, never really developed. He played just 83 minutes in his final year.


Brian Roberts - The 6-2 shooting guard, voted to Second Team All-Conference, is the most lethal offensive weapon (18.5 ppg, 45.3% 3PG) in the A-10. Somehow Roberts finds a way to score even when blanketed by defenders. He is a deadly long-range shooter at a standstill or on the move. Roberts is also dangerous off the dribble. He’s a good ball-handler who gets into the lane to loft floaters and running one-handers over opposing bigmen. And he’s deadly at the line (89.9% FT). As a junior, Roberts topped the 20-point mark 13 times and peaked at 34 in a win over LaSalle. Roberts only failed to reach double figures in three games, but the Flyers won all three.

Roberts is not a selfish player. When foes double team him, as they often do, Roberts has good vision and can hurt them with his passing (83 assists). He might have topped 100 assists if his teammates did a better job of finishing plays. Because of his teammates’ shortcomings, Dayton has grown too dependent on Roberts’ scoring over the past two seasons. He logged the most minutes on the team (35.6 mpg, 2nd in the A-10) and handled the ball in almost every late-game situation. Roberts is a one-man wrecking crew, but he can’t rebuild the Flyers into a postseason team without more help.

Charle Little – Explosive 6-6 power forward grew by leaps and bounds as a sophomore. Little more than doubled his scoring (10.5 ppg, 52% FG) and rebounding (5.2 rpg) and became a reliable option inside. He reached double figures in 17 games, including seven of the last eight, capped by a 28-point outburst in a loss to Xavier. He also hauled in a career-high 16 boards in a win over Temple. A poor passer as a freshman, Little even dished out 36 assists and did a better job in recognizing double teams.

Little is not a classic low-post scorer, but he rarely shoots beyond 10-12 feet. He’s gets open with constant movement and can use the dribble to beat bigger defenders with ease. He’s also likes to run the baseline and is a monster on the offensive glass. He has great hops and gets up quick for rim-rattling dunks. His defense (23 steals, 11 blocks), a weakness as a freshman, has come a long way, too. The Flyers need Little to expand his offense and hit the boards even harder as a junior. He’s the strongest player and most experienced “bigman” on the roster. Better free-throw shooting would also help, especially in tight games. He was a miserable 54% from the line (and 48% as a frosh).

Andres Sandoval – The 6-4 guard, who started his career in Richmond, did not look anything like the player who suited up for the Spiders three years ago. Last season he was bigger and slower, less effective defensively and a diminished offensive threat (5.9 ppg, 33.6% FG, 29% 3PG). Part of his problem stemmed from a broken foot suffered in preseason. He missed the first five games and never got into tip-top shape. Yet Sandoval also made plenty of bad decisions (49 turnovers) that could not be blamed on his body. His playing time yo-yoed and Gregory could never be sure how Sandoval would perform.

Sandoval has always had the athleticism and skills to be a topflight player, even an All-Conference performer. His career has been interrupted by one setback after another, however, and it’s unrealistic to expect him to tap his full potential as a senior. Before his final season, though, Sandoval lost weight and improved his conditioning. He’ll get another chance to nail down the starting point position, though Sandoval will get pressed by rising sophomore London Warren.

When he’s in shape, Sandoval is a good defender and legitimate offensive threat. He’s a decent shooter and passer and has the strength and quickness to get to the basket. The Flyers don’t need him to put up a lot of points. What they need most is better decision making and distribution of the ball.

Marcus Johnson – High-flying freshman (6.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg) scored 23 points in his first college game, but that turned out to be the highlight of his season. He only reached double figures in six other games and never scored more than 14 points. He scored 5 or fewer points in 14 games. His low offensive output is easy to explain. Johnson is basically a small forward in a 6-3 body and a poor shooter to boot (31% 3PG). Most of his baskets came on offensive rebounds or in transition. He was a liability in half-court sets.

Despite his lack of offense, Johnson still proved a valuable contributor. He’s an advanced defender (23 steals, 10 blocks) for his age and can guard three positions. He also plays with great energy and intensity and gives the Flyers a big dose of athleticism. If he improves his shot, he could develop into top A-10 player, but Johnson has a lot of work to do. In his second season, he might even lose minutes to newcomer Mickey Perry and highly acclaimed freshman Chris Wright. Perry is a better shooter and the bigger Wright is a true small forward.

London Warren – Sophomore point guard (2.4 ppg, 2.5 apg) is superfast and gets up the floor like a speeding bullet, but he needs to learn to play at a locomotive’s pace. Too often the target of his passes were the hands of opponents (60 turnovers to 79 assists). Warren has a tendency to leave his feet too soon or stop his dribble too quickly, especially when pressed. By the end of last season, though, he was making progress. Warren averaged 23 minutes in the last seven games, compared to just 11.8 minutes in the first 24 contests. He delivered his best performance in a win over Charlotte in the A-10 tournament, dishing out a season-high 8 assists to just one turnover.

Warren also has to improve his shot (38% FG) so defenses won’t sag off. He had trouble finishing drives to the basket and his coarse-looking jumper was the opposite of Roberts’ silky smooth release. At the other end of the court, Warren can be a pesky on-the-ball defender (27 steals), and that could become an area of strength as he gets older. There’s much to like about Warren, but his game needs plenty of sandpaper and muscle.

Kurt Huelsman – Hard-working 6-10 center didn’t do anything special as a freshman (3.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 48% FG), but he started all 31 games and gave the smallish Flyers a presence in the post. Huelsman is intelligent, fairly athletic and fundamentally sound. He doesn’t have any “wow” in his game, though, and won’t dominate at either end. Only once did he reach double figures in points and he never hit that mark in rebounds.

If he makes a typical sophomore’s progress, Huelsman could become a solid player in a league in which size commands a premium. He is capable of a modest increase in scoring and rebounding as his body fills out and he could become a steady interior defender. What Huelsman needs to show is more assertiveness and better decision-making, especially when he’s double teamed. He gets swallowed up easily by multiple defenders.

Jimmy Binnie – At some point following Binnie’s promising freshman debut, his outside shot was apparently abducted by aliens. The onetime sharpshooter from Iowa – could it be the cornfields? – has only hit 32.7% of his 3-pointers in the past two years. In his first season, he shot almost 39% behind the arc. What’s more, Binnie’s free-throw shooting has fallen from 80% two years ago to 67% as a junior.

Since jumpers rarely return after a two-year absence, Gregory cannot count on higher production from Binnie (4.3 ppg). He’ll still get 10 to 15 minutes a game, and he’ll have an offensive explosion or three, but he doesn’t figure to play a major role. The rest of his game (2.8 rpg, 1.2 apg) is not good enough to compensate for so-so shooting.


Chris Wright – The league’s best prospect, Wright is a local player sought by a number of major programs. He’s an explosive leaper who can dunk with the best, rebound and block shots. Like many top athletes, Wright is a mediocre shooter who needs to expand his repertoire. He’s unlikely to be a consistent scorer as a freshman, but Wright has the talent to blossom quickly into an A-10 star. In his first year, he’ll be expected to fills the lanes, defend, rebound – and make some highlight-reel plays. If he shows an improved outside touch, the Flyers could even leap right back to the top of the A-10. Wright could have that much impact.

Mickey Perry - Transfer from Wisconsin will gain eligibility in December. Perry was a well regarded recruit in high school who was known as an outstanding shooter. He’s an above-average athlete and solid defender but his ball-handling is considered suspect. At Dayton, he won’t be asked to handle the ball a great deal, but the Flyers sure could use another good shooter to stretch defenses and relieve the pressure on Roberts. Dayton could be much improved if the team can field another shooter. The past two editions of the Flyers have suffered from inadequate shooting and scoring.

Thiago Cordeiro – The 6-9 Brazilian was the top shotblocker in junior college, swatting 145 shots and averaging 4.3 blocks a game. He’s also supposed to be a decent faceup shooter, though offense is not his forte. What Gregory wants from Cordeiro is a defensive presence down low. "He has a talent you can’t teach in blocking and altering shots,” Gregory told the Dayton Daily News. “He has a very good feel for that. Once he gets a grasp of the total defensive concepts, he’ll really blossom.”

Devon Searcy – The long and athletic center, another promising recruit, is the sort of bigman Dayton has been lacking since joining the A-10. Searcy will need time to develop his offense, but he’s got the size and presence to help with interior defense and rebounding. If he’s healthy enough after preseason surgery, he’ll get a chance to spell Huelsman and contribute as a shotblocker, a skill rarely found on the Flyers.

Stephen Thomas - Heady combo guard from Indianapolis is a good passer and ballhandler who likes to get teammates involved and doesn’t shy away from taking the big shot. Thomas will be groomed to step into the regular rotation after the graduation of seniors Roberts and Sandoval.


Dayton has generally been a good if unspectacular defensive team under Gregory, but he’s imported a higher level of athleticism and added some shotblockers. The Flyers may be ready to generate more offense from steals and blocks, areas where Dayton has often lagged. Cordeiro could be the biggest surprise if he blocks as many shots as he did in the juco ranks. He could make Dayton’s defense among the best in the league.

The addition of Wright, Searcy and Cordeiro should also shore up Dayton’s interior game, especially in the rebounding department, though it’s hard to expect a steady supply of post scoring from the trio of newcomers. Rising junior Charles Little, the strong but undersized power forward, will have to carry that load.

Just as imperative is better point play. Warren came on strong at the tail end of freshman year, though his game still has gaping holes. He gets up and down the court as fast as any guard in the league and has a chance to be a great on-the-ball defender. He needs to make better decisions and hit enough shots to keep opponents honest.

Senior Andres Sandoval, for his part, lost weight in the off-season and is determined to end his checkered college career on a positive note. He’s a better player than he’s showed. Strong performances from both Warren and Sandoval would allow Roberts to rest more, handle the ball less and focus on scoring. He won’t fade again down the stretch if he’s fresh.

The Flyers also have to find another outside shooter or two. Last year, Roberts accounted for 54% of the 3-pointers made by players now on the Dayton roster. Warren won’t help much, but Sandoval and Binnie have the ability, if not the confidence. It may fall to the Wisconsin transfer Perry to fill that role when he suits up in late December.


Gregory believes he’s found the missing ingredients to cook up a postseason invitation. The Flyers are deeper and more athletic, with bigger size upfront and more options on the wing.

The key addition is superfrosh Chris Wright, whose incredible athleticism is rarely seen in Dayton any more. He’s not a smooth scorer, but his explosiveness could help the Flyers much like Derrick Brown energized archrival Xavier. It’s also not hard to expect improvements from several returning players, especially point guard London Warren.

What’s less clear is whether Gregory has found the third leg to support the Dayton offense. He’s been looking for two years without an answer. Roberts is a stud and Little may become one, but those two are not enough. Dayton needs consistent scoring from a few more players if their postseason aspirations are going to take flight.

Propelling the Flyers forward is the best fanbase in the league. Dayton almost always wins at least six conference games at home. Acting as a headwind, however, is arguably the toughest conference schedule in the league. The Flyers have to face Xavier, Rhode Island and St. Louis twice. Last year, Dayton finished 1-5 vs. those teams.

The Flyers cannot afford a repeat. If they can get a split with those three teams and steal a few more wins away from the Arena – Dayton was a poor road team last year – the school could keep in the hunt for regular-season A-10 title until the first week of March.

Record: 18-11 (9-7), 7th place

Predicted Noncon Wins and Losses

L – At George Mason
W – At Miami-OH
L – At Holy Cross
L – At Louisville

I predict Dayton to finish 9-4 in noncon play. The Flyers have a good chance to win every game on their schedule with the exception of perhaps Louisville. Dayton usually wins all of its noncon games at home each year against lesser teams. East Tennessee is decent while Akron and High Point figure to have good teams this season. Even Loyola, which has several good BCS-conference transfers, has had a rebirth under Jimmy Patsos. I could see the Flyers losing one of these games, but I call them all wins. Toledo is in a bit of a rebuilding year and Coppin State does not have enough talent or size to surprise. Another pair of wins.

SMU has some good recruits coming in, but the roster has almost completely turned over and the Flyers get payback for last year’s defeat (a game Dayton never should have lost). The Flyers and Xavier always seem to have trouble at Miami, but I don’t see Dayton losing back to back to Miami and Holy Cross, both of which are well-coached teams that regularly beat big programs. If Dayton wins both games, that’s a great sign. A-10 teams in recent years would lose to one or both of these teams on the road. I chalk the Pitt game up as a loss, but the Flyers can and should win at home. Pitt will be good again, but not quick as imposing inside and the Flyers might even have a backcourt edge.

Link: A-10 PREVIEW – 7th PLACE

WH lists his key A-10 conference games this season…

[b]Key Matchups for 2007-08 Season[/b]

For different reasons, here are the games I’ve marked on my calendar.

Jan 9 – Fordham at Duquesne. Former A-10 doormats meet up to see which team gets the inside track in the race to finish among the top 4. Fordham and Byrant Dunston have typically had trouble with large, athletic teams. And that is exactly what the Dukes have this year. What they don’t have is the Rams’ experience and togetherness. The two teams meet again 10 days later.

Jan. 9 – Richmond at La Salle. Both programs are looking to move up in the standings after finishing 12th and 14th the year before. Like Fordham and Duquesne, the two teams meet again 10 days later. If either team loses both games, it’s destined for another poor finish.

Jan. 9 – Saint Joseph’s at Massachusetts. The Hawks want to show they are the league’s best team. The Minutemen want to prove that last year’s success was not a fluke.

Jan. 12 - Temple at Charlotte. First conference game for both teams, whose coaches are both coming off difficult seasons. Lutz doesn’t have the confidence of fans. Dunphy does. Yet both have lots of questions to answer about the direction of their programs.

Jan. 16 – George Washington at Fordham. The Rams have lost eight straight to GW and some of those losses have been ugly. Fordham sometimes has been overwhelmed athletically and GW has the edge again, but the more physical Rams have an advantage in muscle and experience.

Jan. 26 – George Washington at Duquesne. These two high-octane offenses might put up 200 points in this game. For once, the Dukes might have the firepower to stay with the Colonials (When was the last time Duquesne beat GW?).

Jan. 27 – Xavier at Massachusetts. The Musketeers almost always have trouble in Amherst. UMass likes to get physical with Xavier, but that won’t be the case here. The league’s two best point guards match up in what’s likely to be a high-scoring game with lots of three’s.

Feb. 6 – Saint Joseph’s at Duquesne. Ahmad Nivins, a future NBA draft pick, meets Shawn James, a future NBA draft pick. The two best bigmen in the A-10 – and two of the better ones in the country – square off. This game might tell us once and for all if the Dukes are real.

Feb. 7 – Rhode Island at Massachusetts. If URI hopes to win the regular-season title, this heated rivalry game in Amherst could pose a major stumbling block. The Minutemen crushed the Rams at home last year before a raucous sellout crowd.

Feb. 7 – Xavier at Saint Louis. The Musketeers have not fared well on the Billikens’ home floor. This game pits the league’s two best backcourts against each other. The game also pits the A-10’s most high-profile coach against its most high-profile team. It’s a measuring stick for both.

Feb. 10 – Rhode Island at Fordham. The two Rams butt heads in this budding rivalry. The teams split last year, each winning on the other’s home court. Whoever wins this game is likely to go ahead in the standings.

Feb. 18 – Xavier at Rhode Island. The Musketeers want to avenge last year’s upset in the A-10 tournament at the hands of Rams. League bragging rights could be at stake in this late February matchup.

Feb. 24 - Xavier at Dayton. The Flyers need this game badly against their archrival, which has dominated the series over the past few years. Now Dayton seems to have the athleticism and depth to match up.

Feb 28 – Saint Louis at Saint Joseph’s. Phil Martelli goes head to head for the first time with Rick Majerus. Bring your cameras and microphones – and check out a couple of future NBA draft picks (Nivins and Liddell).

March 1 – Rhode Island at La Salle. If the Rams are in the race for a postseason bid in the first week of March, this game could be dangerous. URI barely beat the Explorers at home last year and the matchup is not especially favorable.

March 2 – Temple at Saint Joseph’s (Palestra). The Owls have been dominated by the Hawks since the last Temple team went to the NCAA tournament six years ago. If the Owls prove to be better than forecast they’ll be looking for some payback. The Hawks cannot look past Temple in preparation for the showdown with Xavier.

March 5 – Fordham at Richmond. Another trap game. The Rams are supposed to be better, but the Spiders almost upset Fordham in the A-10 tournament last season. They won’t lack for confidence in this game, which could get slow and ugly. Still, it’s a must-win for the Rams and their postseason aspirations.

March 6 – George Washington at Charlotte. The Colonials hope a win here helps get them a bye in the A-10 tournament, but the Niners are quickly becoming a fierce rival. If Charlotte surprises, this game looms large and could get quite heated.

March 6 – Xavier at Saint Joseph’s. The league set this game up thinking it will decide the regular-season A-10 champ. That very well could be the case. Hawk Hill will be rocking.

March 8 – Saint Joseph’s at Dayton. If the Hawks manage to beat Xavier two days earlier, their reward is a date with the Flyers at the Arena. Like the Temple game before the Musketeers matchup, the meeting with the Flyers is a trap for the Hawks. Dayton catches them at a good time and could burnish its postseason credentials with a win.

Link: Key Matchups for 2007-08 Season