Best Teams In the A10
 12/12/2017 6:01:38 PM      Replies: 8

rkelley12/11/2017 3:01:06 AM

Following the exodus of coaches Shaka Smart, Lonergan, Archie Miller, Will Wade, subsequent transfers and some superstar graduations, the A10's talent has clearly thinned. It's hard to figure out the who the top is in this sea of mediocrity, but a few teams do show some promise. Here's my take on the top 6 teams so far:

1. URI (KenPom 48) - This is a deep, athletic team with a surplus of athletic guards who can shoot from deep, run the floor and slash into the paint. They're the most experienced team in the A10 with a ton of veteran leadership. They have a name-brand coach in Dan Hurley and they're returning most of their tournament team from last year. They do lack the size they've had in previous years after Martin's departure, and they're going to be exposed in the post defensively and offensively against bigger teams. Overall though, this is a good team that can run with big-conference squads.


----- Big drop off --------


2. Saint Joe's (109) - I pity Phil Martelli and Saint Joe's. After losing Shavar Newkirk early last year, they lost their superstar guard Lamar Kimble after 1 game this year. With Kimble healthy, they were arguably the best team in the conference, perhaps having a shot at the Top-25 and going a few rounds in the tournament. Without Kimble, they still should finish in the top 4 spots of the conference. The problem is, they're also missing another one of their key players right now--forward Charlie Brown--who broke his wrist in practice at the end of October. Hopefully, he'll be ready to play by conference play. Assuming he returns healthy, this team will vault to the top of the conference, otherwise they'll fade to the sea of mediocrity due to the lack of depth in the front and back court.

Despite missing two of their top players, St Joe's has hung in their en route to a 4-5 record so far, beating Bucknell and Princeton and losing by respectable 3 to Temple. Freshman swing forward Taylor Funk is the truth, splashing 30/58 three-point attempts so far, and scoring a combined 28 points in two games against  Temple and Villanova recently. His 132 ORTG is within the top 75 in the nation right now, and at 6'9" he's already pulling down 5 rebounds in his 25 minutes a game.   Shavar Newkirk, their point guard, is healthy and averaging 16.7 ppg and 3.4 assists to 1.9 turnovers. James Demery after leading the team with 6.5 rpg and 14.5 points last year is also healthy and playing well at the 3 and the 4. Brown and Kimble's absence has pushed Chris Clover into 25 minutes a game, and he has played adequately on offense but is a downgrade defensively(111 DRTG). Sophomore Piefrancisco Oliva has also been forced into bigger minutes due to the aforementioned injuries, and he was ineffective against quality opponents like Nova and Temple, combining for 6 points, 8 REB, 4 TO, 4 PF in 48 minutes.

3. Davidson (79) - The departue of Jack Gibbs, one of the best players in conference history, certainly hurts Davidson. And they weren't perfect last year, going 17-15. However, Bob McKillop is one of the best and most underrated coaches in the NCAA, and after consistently finding diamonds in the rough in the past like Gibbs, Tyler Kalinoski and of course Steph Curry, Peyton Aldridge is leading the team and is proving to be one of his greatest finds. Aldridge has an 117 ORTG so far, consistent with his previous three years, and is averaging 21.7/7.1/4.1 so far. He'll probably end as the conference player of the year after being 2nd-team All-Conference last year. Four-star recruit out of Northfield Mt. Herman Kellan Grady may be the most talented freshman in the conference--he's shooting 38.6% from deep, 78% from the line, and is averaging 15.4 ppg with 2.6 AST to only 0.6 TO. His ORTG is 118. Their point man taking over for Gibbs, sophomore Jon Axel Gundmundssen, is picking up 5.4 assists per game (to 1.6 TO) and is raining 3's, shooting 44% (18-41). He's also posting a 86% mark from the line and pulling down 6 boards per game.

So far, Davidson has the best turnover rate in the country, they're shooting 38% from deep as a team and their effective field goal percentage is 31st in the nation. They're not deep, but they're well-rounded and they have talent in the front and back court. Their adjusted offensive efficiency is 64th in the country, and defensively they're 118th according to KenPom. As usual, their athleticism, size and strength will be their weakness and they will yield a great deal of points to fast, big, athletic teams. However, if Aldridge, Gundmundssen and Grady produce like at the rate they're capable of, their extraordinarily efficient offense will give them the opportunity to win 20 games and earn a trip to the dance straight-up or via the conference tournament.

4. Saint Bonaventure - Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley are two of the best scorers in the A10 and both generate turnovers at an impressive clip defensively. Their bigs aren't superstars but they're solid. LaDarien Griffin is a long, lean, athlete who can box out, get a hand on the ball and put it back. Newcomer out of community college Courtney Stockard is a blue-collar banger in the post who can hold his own defensively and offensively. They're not deep but they have two of the most talented players in the A10, and have enough on the tank to win 20 games.


----------- Big Drop off -------------


5. Saint Louis(209)- This story is almost as tragic as the Saint Joe's injuries. Travis Ford is an up-and-coming coach and this team looked like it would be absolutely stacked entering the season. They brought in **two** ESPN-100 recruits and they got big-name transfers from Michigan State, BC, UCF and USF while holding onto some quality returning young talent in Eliott Welmer, Jermaine Bishop, Jalen Johnson and Davell Roby. Unforunately a sexual assault scandal has suspended 3 of their most-talented players from their roster--Adonys Henriquez, Ty Graves and Jermaine Bishop. On top of that, Welmer who led the team in blocks and scored 7.9 PPG as a freshman is sitting with a broken foot. Javon Bess is off to a great start with 14.4/6.1/1.8 and stud-talent guard Jordan Goodwin is at an excellent 10.2/6.9/4.2 but Roby and Johnson have both been very whelming. After that, missing 4 talented players has left the team extremely thin and they simply lack scorers. They're at the bottom of the league in effective field goal percentage, and Wellmer's size is sorely missed in the post. If Wellmer returns soon, the team still has a shot to finish the season nicely, but without him, they're a 200ish team. Tragic, this team could've been a top-25 contender with this coach and those 4 players available.

6. GW (158) - GW has senior guard-forward Yuta Watanabe, one of the top 5-10 players in the conference, an up-and-coming sophomore in Jair Bolden, and a promising freshman in Terry Nolan. Arnoldo Toro is a soft player defensively, but he is solid-average on offense, able to collect some boards and put-backs and can step out and hit mid and long-range jumpers. Steeves is undersized and to slow and small to be a good starter in the post, but he is smart and has enough offensive tools to not hurt the team. He is ideally a utility forward who can swing between 3/4, but GW's depth problem has forced him into starter minutes.

Beyond those 5, there's transfer forward Bo Zeigler. Zeigler remains an exciting athlete who can jam for the highlight real, but he's undersized and has no shooting, ball-handling or passing ability. He's a one-dimensional player. After that, this team has almost nothing to offer in the short-term. And really, the top isn't that bright. They're thin on talent in the front court, relying very heavily on grittiness and players with no defensive value. Their backcourt has quality two-way players in Bolden and Yuta, however Bolden has proven to be a below-average-and-reckless shooter thus far. Nolan is fast and athletic, able to score in transition, but he is extremely small and is a defensive liability while offering no ability to shoot from deep.

As a team, GW can't shoot a lick, with a 49.6 eFG--219th in the nation--and 30.6% from deep which is 298th. Yuta can beat defenses off the dribble and draw some fouls, but the team lacks the athleticism to draw fouls at the rim. Their FTA/FGA is 247th in the nation. Their reliance on young players like Bolden and Nolan has also led to a great deal of turnovers--20%/213th. Following the Lonergan scandal, subsequent transfers and the graduation of Cavanaugh, GW's talent level is dangerously light. Thus, they play their starters more than nearly any other team in the country--bench players play just 19% of the game (348th). Relying on so few players makes endurance an obstacle, and often GW has faded considerably in the second half of games.



rkelley12/11/2017 3:01:52 AM

The Bonnies are KenPom 68 by the way.

thomas12/12/2017 1:17:19 PM

St.Bonaventure beat Maryland, in my opinion that will be looked at as a big-time win in March, if they finish in the top 3, maybe they can get an at-large bid. Unfortunately, VCU has lost all of their big OOC games up to this point(maybe the CAL win will look good in March), but I still think they will finish 1st or 2nd in the A-10. Despite the coaching changes, player losses to graduation and transfers, VCU is still an elite A-10 team. 

What's the status of the suspended St.Louis players? Are they going to play this season? Are they still attending St.Louis? I've seen some of their games and the announcers didn't make any mention of those suspended players. 

gw alum abroad12/12/2017 1:26:44 PM

More prestige in beating Princeton than Cal (home losses to UCI and Central Arkansas). The CBI might be an A10-heavy tourney this year. 

wax daddy12/12/2017 1:51:38 PM

RKelley - is this all your analysis? Impressive stuff! Good to put it in perspective for st joes, honestly forgot they were missing some key guys

long suffering fan12/12/2017 3:06:46 PM

Great post, RKelly.  I think you nailed GW pretty good.  Still, I think this team can get by is the defense that has (and will continue to) drag them down.  

the mv12/12/2017 3:17:41 PM

Am reasonably confident that both VCU and La Salle will finish ahead of us.  Richmond ought to but has shown nothing so far this season.  Mason probably ought to but they need to overcome their psychological hurdle with us.

That all said, very nice write-up.

the real dude12/12/2017 5:41:02 PM

Good stuff RKelley. As the season continues, it's looking more likely we may only get 1 bid this year (sad when looking at where we were just a few years ago).

the dude12/12/2017 6:01:38 PM

Nice work RK, is this your own analysis?  Looks like your work.

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