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Atlantic 10 men's basketball preview 2021-22

Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Preview 2021-22

Outside of the power five conferences, the Atlantic 10 continues to be one of the best men’s basketball leagues in all of DI. With a collection of good teams like St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis, and VCU, the A-10 is in a position for multiple bids in the NCAA Tournament.

The 2021-22 campaign should be no different from the last with so much talent returning to the conference. Last season, the Bonnies won the Atlantic 10 Tournament and VCU also made an appearance in March Madness. This season, both teams will be favorites to make the Big Dance and to win the league, with Richmond and Saint Louis also in the mix to finish atop the A-10 standings and find a way into the tournament. It’s hard to ignore St. Bonaventure as the top favorite, though, because of the sheer talent at the team’s disposal.


Let’s take a look at what to expect from Atlantic 10 men’s basketball this season.

Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Preview 2021-22

Favorites: St. Bonaventure, VCU, Richmond

St. Bonaventure

Head coach: Mark Schmidt (15th season)

2020-21 record: 16-5 (11-4 in Atlantic 10)

Conference finish: 1st

The Bonnies are set for another championship season as they are returning their starting five, including leading scorer Kyle Lofton. Last season, Lofton scored 14.4 points per game, shot 41 percent from the field, and assisted 117 scores. Each of the starting five averaged more than 10 points per contest, and something similar will probably happen again.

Along with Lofton, one of SBU’s most impactful players will be Osun Osunniyi. He averaged 10.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per outing while shooting 57 percent from the field and blocking 60 shots in 2020-21, and those numbers should all be even better this time around. Osunniyi will be a clear frontrunner for A-10 Defensive Player of the Year if he can average a double-double and continue to block shots like he has.

Watch out for St. Bonaventure, in the Atlantic 10 and nationally.

VCU 

Head coach: Mike Rhoades (5th season)

2020-21 record: 20-7 (10-4 in Atlantic 10)

Conference finish: 2nd

VCU is coming off a great season where it won 20 games and received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Sadly, the Rams never had a chance to play because too many of its players contracted COVID-19, forcing them to forfeit their first-round game.

This season, they are bringing back many of the same players who helped them get to the tournament last March. Vince Williams Jr., Adrian Baldwin Jr., and Hason Ward were all big pieces of the puzzle, and they’re all back for 2021-22, contributing in a variety of ways. There a good amount of other talent on this roster that didn’t play too many minutes last season, and that’ll change this year. VCU should see some added benefits from that.

Richmond

Head coach: Chris Mooney (17th season)

2020-21 record: 14-8 (6-5 in Atlantic 10)

Conference finish: 8th

Richmond won 14 games last season but struggled in conference play. It should be set up for a better year in 2021-22, bringing back a handful of starters like Grant Golden and Jacob Gilyard, as well as some talented transfers entering the program.

Golden put up 12.7 points and six rebounds per game in 2020-21, plus shot 56 percent from the field, and Gilyard added his own 12.3 points per contest and had 82 steals and 116 assists. Gilyard’s experience and defensive skills will also be a boon for the Spiders. Nick Sherod will also play after an ACL injury sidelined him for a while. Two seasons ago, he averaged 12.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per outing and connected on 43.8 percent of his triples.

In all, Richmond will have an exciting team that can shoot inside and outside of the arc. The Spiders can definitely go dancing this year.

Contenders: Saint Louis, Dayton, Davidson, UMass

Saint Louis

Head coach: Travis Ford (6th season)

2020-21 record: 14-7 (6-4 in Atlantic 10)

Conference finish: 5th

Saint Louis is coming off of a solid season where it narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament. That should be different this time around.

The Billikens are returning leading scorer Javonte Perkins, who averaged 17.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in 2020-21. Saint Louis will be without Hasahn French and Jordan Goodwin, two important pieces from a year ago, but head coach Travis Ford added two strong transgers in DeAndre Jones (Central Arkansas) and Rashad Williams (Oakland) to fill the void.

Jones played just 10 games for Central Arkansas last year before an injury cut his campaign short, but he did score in double figures while available and put up 12.9 points per game in 22 appearances in 2019-20. Williams averaged 13.6 points per game for Oakland in 2020-21 and led the country in three-point attempts.

SLU should be set up for an exciting season, with a run late in the year a possibility.

Dayton

Head coach: Anthony Grant (5th season)

2020-21 record: 14-11 (9-7 in Atlantic 10)

Conference finish: 7th

Dayton will have some struggles this year. Its roster has only one senior, one junior, and two sophomore, with the rest being made up of freshmen. Dayton’s fourth-best scorer from a year ago, Mustapha Amzil, and his 9.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game are back, but that’s pretty much the gist of the returners – the Flyers lost almost all of their top scorers from 2020-21.

Six freshmen are joining the program, along with six redshirt freshmen in the mix. Also coming to the team is Georgia transfer Toumani Camara, who averaged 12.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest last year. He’s also an outstanding defensive player, which should be useful for head coach Anthony Grant.

I still believe that with the coaching Dayton has, it will be able to contend for a top-half finish in Atlantic 10 men’s basketball, but I don’t view the Flyers as more than that.

Davidson

Head coach: Bob McKillop (33rd season)

2020-21 record: 13-9 (7-4 in Atlantic 10)

Conference finish: 3rd

The Wildcats should be set up for another competitive season behind head coach Bob McKillop. With returning starters and a string of younger players who averaged fewer than 17 minutes per game, Davidson will have a team that could pull of some major wins in the A-10.

Lee Hyunjung, the second-leading scorers from 2020-21, is back with his 13.5 points and four rebounds per game, and opponents have to be careful of fouling the 90 percent free-throw shooter. Austrian international Luka Brajkovic, a low-post scorer who can also protect the rim, returns as well.

Otherwise, the team has a lot of youngsters who will see more playing time this season. With a coach like McKillop, Davidson is sure to have a fun team to watch in 2021-22.

Massachusetts

Head coach: Matt McCall (5th season)

2020-21 record: 9-7 (7-4 in Atlantic 10)

Conference finish: 4th

UMass struggled to stay above .500 in 2020-21 but made it to the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament before Saint Louis ended the dream.

The team’s best scorer, Noah Fernandes, is returning with his 11 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Fernandes can also knock it down from deep, shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc last year. Sophomore Javohn Garcia is also back after a great freshman year scoring in double figures and making an impact defensively. We should see a lot more of Garcia in 2021-22 as he improves and assumes a larger role in the team.

The Minutemen will have a similar season to the last one, but sophomores and juniors who got decent playing time last time around will have more opportunities to shine in this campaign.

Stuck in Purgatory: George Mason, Rhode Island, George Washington

George Mason

Head coach: Kim English (1st season)

2020-21 record: 13-9 (8-6 in Atlantic 10)

Conference finish: 6th

George Mason has been in the middle of the Atlantic 10 men’s basketball pack for some time now, and this year shouldn’t be any different. The Patriots should be a decent team and put on some good games for their fans, though they had some of their best players transfer out of the program, like Jordan Miller and Javon Greene.

Sticking around from 2020-21 is Josh Oduro, who averaged 9.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest last season. George Mason has some transfers coming in to support him, too, like Devon Cooper (Morehead State) and his 12.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per night.

The Patriots also have six freshmen entering the fold. They will be a young team and will be working out a new offense around new head coach Kim English, the former Missouri player.

Rhode Island

Head coach: David Cox (4th season)

2020-21 record: 10-15 (7-10 in Atlantic 10)

Conference finish: 10th

Last year’s Rhode Island team finished the season with just 10 wins and only seven victories in conference. This season, the Rams are returning a handful of starters, so things may be more positive than in 2020-21.

Jeremy Sheppard and his 11.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game are back, as is Makhel Mitchell, who almost scored in double figures and had a team-high 42 blocks. But Fatts Russell transferred out of the program to head to Maryland, and that’s a big loss.

Still, URI should be set for a solid season and should be competitive. But how competitive remains to be seen.

George Washington

Head coach: Jamion Christian (3rd season)

2020-21 record: 5-12 (3-5 in Atlantic 10)

Conference finish: 11th

The Colonials struggled last season and weren’t able to play many games because of COVID-19. This season, the pandemic shouldn’t impact scheduling as much as it did, which is an immediate improvement for George Washington.

GW is returning some of its top scorers, including James Bishop. The guard scored 19.1 points per game in 2020-21, plus dished 5.1 assists per outing, and is poised to do it again in 2021-22. Ricky Lindo Jr. is also still around and will offer defensive help for head coach Jamion Christian. Lindo averaged a double-double last year on 11.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per night and also picked up 2.1 steals per contest.

While I don’t think George Washington will factor into the race for the Atlantic 10 men’s basketball crown, it could be competitive enough to give some of the top programs a run for their money in individual games.

Basement: Duquesne, La Salle, St. Joseph’s, Fordham

Duquesne 

Head coach: Keith Dambrot (5th season)

2020-21 record: 9-9 (7-7 in Atlantic 10)

Conference finish: 9th

Duquesne is coming off of a solid season but lost almost all of its starters from last year. The 2021-22 squad also lacks much upperclassman experience – it has just two grad students and three juniors.

There aren’t many positives to take away from this year’s team. The Dukes will definitely struggle with the lack of senior talent and experience. One plus for this year’s team is grad transfer Rodney Gunn Jr., who averaged 19.6 points per game last season at DII Lenoir-Rhyne. He will offer a much-needed veteran presence.

La Salle

Head coach: Ashley Howard (4th season)

2020-21 record: 9-17 (6-12 in Atlantic 10)

Conference finish: 12th

La Salle had an abysmal season last year. It only managed to win six of its 18 conference games and finished well below .500 overall. The team struggled to score with no player on the squad scoring in double figures.

But the top-three scorers – Jack Clark, Sherif Kenney, and Jhamir Brickus – are back for 2021-22, so there is some hope that they will improve and bringing more buckets for the Explorers this time around. Otherwise, La Salle will be working with a lot of freshmen and returning sophomores, so it’ll be a young team with a lot of learning curves.

St. Joseph’s 

Head coach: Billy Lange (3rd season)

2020-21 record: 5-15 (3-9 in Atlantic 10)

Conference finish: 13th

St. Joe’s had another tough season in 2020-21, failing to win more than five games in the entire campaign. The Hawks had four players average between 10 and 19 points per game but turned the ball over at a worrying clip and struggled to assist and rebound, too.

This season could be even rougher with the team’s top scorer, Ryan Daly, no longer in the mix. But some other contributors from last season, like Taylor Funk (17.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Jordan Hall (10.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg), are back. But will the Hawks solve their turnovers issues? With a lot of youth and returning starters who struggled last year, St. Joe’s has a difficult road ahead.

Fordham 

Head coach: Kyle Neptune (1st season)

2020-21 record: 2-12 (2-11 in Atlantic 10)

Conference finish: 14th

Another year, another Fordham team that cannot escape the bottom of Atlantic 10 men’s basketball. This year probably won’t be much different.

First-year head coach Kyle Neptune will run the show this time around, which means a new offense and gameplan from 2020-21. The Rams lost their three best scorers and are left with a young team with just three grad students and no seniors. Jalen Cobb (7.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg) is still around, and Fordham added Darius Quisenberry (Youngstown State) via the transfer portal, and he scored 14.9 points per outing last year.

All in all, there won’t be much to watch and cheer about for the Rams in 2021-22.

2021-22 Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Players to Watch

Jacob Gilyard – Guard – Grad Student – Richmond

Jacob Gilyard will definitely be one of the top players to watch as Richmond aims for a league title. Last year, he averaged 12.3 points per game and notched 82 steals and 116 assists, and he can improve on this numbers this time around.

Now a grad student, Gilyard will play a big role on defense. He will be a leader both on and off the court, will create some of the team’s biggest plays, and will continue to be Richmond’s best assister. He will be a prime contender for Defensive Player of the Year and be a huge part of any success the Spiders see.

Toumani Camara – Forward – Sophomore – Dayton

Toumani Camara transferred in to Dayton from Georgia and will most likely thrive in the A-10 after playing well in the SEC. Last season, he put up 12.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in just 28.4 minutes per game and proved himself to be a versatile player who can perform on both sides of the court – Camara blocked 28 shots and had 30 steals in 2020-21.

He was already named to the Preseason All-A-10 Second Team and will be an All-Atlantic 10 player this year and a possible Player of the Year candidate.

Kyle Lofton – Guard – Senior – St. Bonaventure

Kyle Lofton will be the leader of the prime favorites for the Atlantic 10 title, St. Bonaventure. In 2020-21, he scored 14.4 points per contest while shooting 41 percent from the field and assisting 117 scores. He will be key to the rest of the team’s success and will lead the Bonnies offense with his own scoring and ability to set up his teammates with his distribution skills.

All eyes will be on the Bonnies, and so they will be on Lofton. He has the experience and skill to be one of the top players in the conference.

2021-22 MEN’S & WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL CONFERENCE PREVIEWS

Learn more about the upcoming 2021-22 men’s and women’s college basketball seasons with Nothing But Nylon’s extensive conference previews, with a new conference covered every week before the campaign tips off in November.

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