WH's Weekly A-10 Hoops Rankings

WH is going to start ranking the league next week. Today we get an alpha snapshot.

[b]A-10 Snapshot No. 1[/b]

I plan to start weekly rankings – basically an excuse to comment on each team – starting next week. It’s just for the noncom slate. This week I will stick to brief comments on each team in alphabetical order.

[b]CHARLOTTE. The Niners have lost three heartbreakers by a combined 5 points in the waning seconds. Yes, they should have beaten ODU and App State (both solid teams), but Charlotte is oh-so-close to being 3-1 instead of 1-3.

The Niners will be a good team once the players adjust to new roles. PG Dijuan Harris is trying too hard to score, as is Lamont Mack (31.6% FG). Soph bigman Phil Jones (9 ppg, 4.8 rpg) is coming on strong. Some tough games coming up, however, and the Niners need a few big wins to keep at-large possibilities alive. Surprisingly Charlotte has been outrebounded despite plenty of size in the frontcourt.[/b]

DAYTON. The Flyers (3-0) have beaten three teams they should have beaten, at home, and got their newcomers some needed experience. Now comes the tough part with games vs. a surprisingly good Mercer team, Auburn and Marquette. Junior guard Marcus Johnson is looking like a future go-to guy and juco transfer Rob Lowery has been better than expected. The 6-5 frosh Chris Johnson (7.3 ppg), an athletic do-everything type, is playing like an All-Rookie Selection. The defense has been tough and physical, though outside shooting has been erratic.

DUQUESNE. I noted in my Dukes (3-0) preview that Everhart has a history of getting his teams to outperform in nonconference games. He uses his team’s athleticism to hound opponents and wear them down. It doesn’t always work against superior foes, but it does against the likes of Furman. Still, the young Dukes have been impressive enough, especially senior slashing guard Aaron Jackson (18 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and super soph Damian Saunders (15.7 ppg, 5 rpg). Both are playing like all-conference players. Shake-and-bake Rookie PG Eric Evans (10.7 ppg) is a good one, as is 6-8 frosh Rodrigo Peggau. Though recovering from knee surgery, he’s been a big surprise. Peggau is a banger who seems to get to every loose ball. He finishes well around the basket, too.

FORDHAM. The Rams (0-3) are in disarray. They have no size upfront, at least until West Virginia transfer Jacob Green suits up in late December, and have gotten killed on the boards (minus 17.3!). Guard play hasn’t been kosher, either. Junior Brenton Butler (35% FG) has merely been so-so, and touted frosh PG Jio Fontan (24% FG) is trying to be a scorer instead of a distributor (15 assists to 12 TOs). Until he learns to run the team and create for teammates first, Fordham will have a hard time winning ANY game. The biggest bright spot has been frosh WG Trey Blue (14.3 ppg), a good shooter with deep, deep range.

GEORGE WASHINGTON. The Colonials (2-1) are much improved, but coughing up a 15-point halftime lead at Auburn shows that GW still lacks physical and mental toughness. Travis King is not even close to 100%, but frosh PG Tony Taylor (9 ppg, just 5 TOs) has been impressive. Rob Diggs has yet to truly assert himself upfront, however. Nor has Damian Hollis, though he’s been the best player on the team thus far. Wynton Witherspoon is also struggling. Until those three start to produce as expected, the Colonials will be up and down.

LASALLE. The Explorers (1-3) lost three close games, just like Charlotte, to Florida State, UConn and Southern Mississippi. Like the Niners, LaSalle should have won two of those games. The Explorers aren’t far from being a good team. The players are adjusting to new roles and a true go-to player has yet to emerge, though Rodney Green appears the likely candidate. The defense has generally been quite good, but decision making on offense is another matter. Outside shooting (32.2%) is spotty, a low-post option is unsettled and turnovers are too high. Soph Jerrell Green is trying too hard to make things happen and Ruben Guillandeaux has been erratic. Vernon Goodridge isn’t scoring much and has been in constant foul trouble, but he’s rebounded well and presented a shotblocking threat.

MASSACHUSETTS. The Minutemen (1-2) lost tough road games at Southern Illinois and Memphis after a win over a non-Division 1 team. Already UMass has lost two frontcourt players, Luke Bonner for one month and sophomore forward Matt Hill for the full year. Also, senior PG Chris Lowe has turned the ball over 20 times in three games. He has to settle down for UMass to win. On the bright side senior Tony Gaffney has been a force inside (12.7 ppg, 13.7 rpg, 61.5% FG) and Ricky Harris has scored as expected. Although the Minutemen are thin upfront, they have the best collection of guards in the league. It will take another month to get a good handle on Derek Kellogg’s Minutemen.

RHODE ISLAND. The Rams (3-1) have been one of the league’s two early surprises. URI almost beat Duke at Duke and knocked off a good VCU team at home. The defense hasn’t been great (49.8% FG percentage defense), but the Rams have forced lots of turnovers and converted them into easy baskets. Jimmy Baron is in the best shape of his life and shooting lights out. Soph Delroy James is playing like a future star. Junior swingman Keith Cothran (16.8 ppg) has been the biggest surprise, harnessing his great athleticism and performing at an all-conference level. Special mention goes to unspectacular second-year PG Marquis Jones, who’s been very steady as a distributor and defender. Unlike Parfait Bitee, Jones is a natural point guard, and it shows.

RICHMOND. The Spiders (1-1) beat a nonDivision 1 team and then gave Syracuse a scare in the Dome before falling. In the Cuse game, Richmond showed good offensive spacing, generally smart decision making and solid defense. The backcourt is one of the best in the league and the frontcourt, despite the loss of Dan Geriot, looks promising. Sophomores Justin Harper and Kevin Smith are versatile and very athletic and lanky 6-11 Australian import Josh Duinker appears to have good skills and basketball smarts.

ST. BONAVENTURE. The other big surprise early on, the Bonnies (3-1) are far more talented and athletic than at any time in the last 5-6 years. Frosh bigman Andrew Nicholson (11 ppg, 6 rpg, 13 blocks, 56% FG) is this year’s Lavoy Allen and tough swingman Jonathan Hall (18.6 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg) is the A-10’s biggest impact juco in years. He plays like a point forward and has great court vision. Wash St transfer Chris Matthews gives the Bonnies a great shooter. After a nice win at Rutgers, the Bonnies have a chance to make an even bigger statement with Mississippi State coming to Olean this week.

SAINT JOSEPH’S. The Hawks (1-1) haven’t looked pretty in wins over Rider and an overtime loss at Holy Cross. Converted PG Tasheed Carr has underperformed, the bench is very thin and offense isn’t always easy to come by. With so few players in the rotation, it’s hard to expect the Hawks to maintain a high level of defensive intensity. St. Joe’s plays a super talented Texas team on Monday in a game that could reveal all the Hawks’ flaws.

SAINT LOUIS. The young Billikens (2-1) have played terrific in home games against Kent State (OT loss) and BC (close win). While senior guards Kevin Lisch and Tommie Liddell have shown the way, several frosh have stood out. Undersized forward Brian Conklin has been very tough inside (9.3 ppg, 6 rpg) and 6-9 pogo stick Willie Reed has excited with slams and swats. Quick PG Kwamain Mitchell, a good outside shooter and defender, will be a four-year starter. As good as the freshman class is, Lisch and Liddell remain the keys to success. So far Lisch has played like a First Team All-Conference player

TEMPLE. The Owls (3-1) look like the second best team in the league. Dionte Christmas (23.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg) has quickly cemented his frontrunner status for league POY and redshirt frosh Ramon Moore (9.8 ppg) looks like a future star. Soph bigman Lavoy Allen is playing well, but he can get a lot better. Point play is still the biggest concern, though a Dunphy offense can work very smoothly without a great penetrator. The ball movement has been terrific so far.

XAVIER. The Musketeers (5-0) have won with toughness, incredible defense and free-throwing shooting. They are the class of the league and will only get better as their young guards gain experience. We all know about Kenny Frease and frosh Terrell Holloway is one of many terrific point guards in the A-10 freshman class. Also, Tulsa transfer Jamal McClean has been a beast inside. Tough senior forward CJ Anderson is still the straw that stirs the drink, however, and Derrick Brown is the shot of 151 on top. The guy who still has to get it going is BJ Raymond. As Holloway gets better, Raymond will too. He’s not getting the ball in the right spots, at the right time, to rain treys like he did last year.

Link: A-10 Snapshot No. 1

WH also posted this about league PGs today, so figured I’d put it in this thread.

[b]Getting the point[/b]

What makes me, er, guardedly optimistic about the A-10’s future is the sudden influx of good point guards. I can’t remember the last time there were so many promising PGs in the league.

In this year’s freshman class, we have:

  1. Eric Evans at Duquesne

  2. Jio Fontan at Fordham

  3. Tony Taylor at GW

  4. Stevie Meija at URI. (However, he has to beat out the much improved sophomore Marquis Jones.)

  5. Kwamain Mitchell at Saint Louis

  6. Terrell Holloway at Xavier

  7. Hopefully Juan Fernandez will be joining them soon when he suits up at Temple.

Along with those six, Richmond Kevin’s Anderson (8) will only be a junior next year, and UMass welcomes UConn transfer Doug Wiggins (9). Minuteman frosh David Gibbs has also shown the ability to run the point, and do it well.

GW, of course, also has Travis King, who is a very good player when healthy.

In addition, La Salle (10) has a good point sitting out this season in Karon Burton.

Charlotte will have Dijuan Harris back, but they need a good young PG for next season to groom.

That leaves St. Bonaventure, St. Joe’s and Dayton. All appear to have serviceable points for the next year or two, and St. Joe’s has a pair of well regarded PGs coming in next season.

It’s very simple. The best years in the A-10 have coincided with lots of great play at point. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

Link: Getting the point

Here’s this week’s ranking of the A-10…

[b]A-10 Weekly Rankings - November 30, 2008[/b]


  1. Xavier. The nationally ranked Muskies (6-0) are winning ugly with great defense and a physical inside game. Xavier still doesn’t have a reliable go-to scorer yet and the backcourt minus Terrell Holloway hasn’t truly gotten tested, but this team is tough, athletic and resilient.

  2. Dayton. Sometimes the Flyers (6-0) can’t hit the broad side of a barn from 3-point land, but they are just as physical and athletic as Xavier, have more experience and are arguably the deepest team in the A-10. Point guard play has been surprisingly good and sophomore sensation Chris Wright is one-man wrecking crew. Dayton needs to shoot better, however, to challenge for the A-10 title.


  1. Temple. The Owls (3-2) were playing very well until a hiccup at Buffalo, a game Lavoy Allen missed after breaking a thumb. The offense is running with Dunphy-like efficiency despite mediocre point play. Dionte Christmas has clearly played like the best player in the A-10 and one of the best in the country. Allen, however, has yet to truly assert himself on offense. A broken thumb won’t make it any easier. Temple could play better defense.

  2. Rhode Island. The deep and athletic Rams (5-2) have been lifted by the shooting of Jimmy Baron and the improved all-round play of junior swingman Keith Cothran. Steady PG Mark Jones and exciting WF Delroy James, both sophomores, have eased the loss of Parfait Bitee and Will Daniels, though each has shown the usual inconsistency of younger players.

  3. Richmond. The league’s best backcourt evidently resides in Richmond (4-2), not Amherst. David Gonzalvez and Kevin Anderson have led the way early on, with help from Jarhon Giddings and Kevin Smith. Giddings, the oft-injured 6-9 senior, is finally playing up to his considerable potential. Smith is a great athlete and warrior in the paint. The Spiders certainly look NIT capable at the very least.


  1. George Washington. The Colonials are a very unimpressive 3-1, but a win on the road vs. a solid Boston University team is enough to put them ahead of the league’s laggards and youngsters. GW could have been a more impressive 4-0 if the Colonials had not blown a 15-point lead at Auburn. Sharpshooter Noel Wilmore has been great and frosh PG Tony Taylor is a good one. Yet Travis King has been slow to recover from last year’s knee injury and upperclassmen Diggs, Hollis and Witherspoon have yet to get fully untracked. If they do, GW has enough talent and athleticism to make noise in the parity-stricken A-10.

  2. La Salle. The suddenly veteran Explorers (2-3) have lost three close games and conceivably be 5-0. On the other hand, they barely eked out the two games they won, so La Salle could be 0-5. On the positive side of the ledger, the Explorers have played solid defense and outrebounded opponents. LaSalle has struggled to score and hold on to leads, however, and Giannini has yet to find a reliable go-to guy when the team needs a bucket. Right now this team could go either way, but in this year’s A-10, the Explorers have enough stuff to finish in the top half with just a little better point play and decision making.

  3. Saint Joseph’s. The Hawks (2-3) have shot very poorly and gotten crushed on the boards (-5.6 margin), but good defense has kept them competitive in every loss. It’s hard to see St. Joe’s getting back to the postseason this year. The team is woefully short on depth and offensive weapons. Even the reticent Amhad Nivins, the league’s best postman, will only do so much.


  1. Charlotte. The Niners (1-6) have lost two overtime games and three nailbiters, two of which they led with just a few minutes to go. Lamont Mack has shot poorly and leads the team in turnovers, the result of trying too hard to become the team’s go-to player. Wing guard and backup point have been problem positions. Only PG Dijuan Harris and rapidly developing sophomore center Phil Jones have played up to par or better. Outside shooting is a particularly big weakness. The Niners are one of only two A-10 teams shooting below 30% on treys, but inexplicably, they have taken the most 3-point attempts in the league. (While the poor start is very disappointing, none of the teams I rank lower likely would have done any better. Charlotte has played a very tough schedule.)[/b]


  1. St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies (3-3) suffered a letdown in a surprising loss to an inferior Canisius team after nearly beating Mississippi State and knocking off Rutgers on the road. St. Bonaventure has enough talent to finish in the top half of the league, but with so many newcomers consistency will be the key. Frosh Andrew Nicholson is a future all-conference performer and juco Jonathan Hall is one of the most versatile players in the league.

  2. Duquesne. The Dukes (4-1) haven’t beaten any team of note and were pasted at Duke, but they have a couple of go-to players in Damian Saunders and Aaron Jackson and are athletic enough to cause trouble for most A-10 opponents. Frosh PG Eric Evans has looked good, as has first-year big forward Rodrigo Peggau. Saunders is putting up First or Second Team All-Conference numbers.


  1. Saint Louis. The Bills (2-3) looked lost offensively in road losses at Nebraska and Detroit Mercy (a 6-win team one year ago). Saint Louis struggles to score when seniors Lisch and Liddell are off and the freshmen have naturally been inconsistent. Brian Conklin, a warrior inside, has been the steadiest and most impressive of a talented freshman class. And the defense has been solid.


  1. Massachusetts. The Minutemen (1-4) are a mess right now, with no wins vs. Division 1 opponents. UMass has a -6.0 turnover margin and its vaunted backcourt has played very poorly. The guards have shown bad decision making and shot selection and failed to play hard defensively. The only bright spot has been Tony Gaffney, who leads the league in rebounds (13 rpg) and blocks.

  2. Fordham. The Rams (0-5) have no size inside and have gotten demolished on the boards (-15 rebounding margin!) while the young guards have struggled mightily. Chris Bethel has been the only consistent producer; junior WG Brenton Butler has been a big disappointment. This team might have trouble winning a single A-10 game if Fordham doesn’t show great improvement.

Link: A-10 Weekly Rankings - 11/30/08