Atlantic 10 women’s basketball continues to be an exciting place for teams to contend and compete for a bid to the NCAA Tournament. VCU had a great season in 2020-21, winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament by defeating Dayton and Massachusetts to punch its ticket to the Big Dance. The Flyers also had a fantastic campaign, finishing first in the league with a 14-5 overall record and 12-1 mark in A-10 play.
Dayton is set up for another amazing year, returning graduate students Erin Whalen and Jenna Giacone, but there will be other teams to watch. Rhode Island and Fordham are each bringing back a handful of starters from last season and are the other favorites to win the Atlantic 10 women’s basketball crown. St. Louis, VCU, and UMass will also be in the mix and have good enough teams to make a run in the conference tournament.
Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Preview 2021-22
Favorites: Dayton, Rhode Island, Fordham
Head coach: Shauna Green (6th season)
2020-21 record: 14-5 (12-1 in Atlantic 10)
Conference finish: 1st
Dayton really should have been in the tournament last year but fell short to VCU in the Atlantic 10 Tournament Semifinals. The Flyers were set to make some noise and win a game or two with the seed they would have had, but that’s life in college basketball.
This year, not much will be different roster-wise. Dayton is returning its top five scorers, including last year’s leading scorer Erin Whalen, who averaged 13.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in 2020-21 while shooting 40 percent from the field.
Another Dayton player to watch out for is sophomore Tenin Magassa, who will most likely be Defensive Player of the Year in 2021-22. She posted 9.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per outing, plus 48 blocks, last season as well.
Combine Whalen and Magassa with Jenna Giacone and Kyla Whitehead, and Dayton has one of the best teams in Atlantic 10 women’s basketball this upcoming season.
Head coach: Tammi Reiss (3rd season)
2020-21 record: 11-8 (11-4 in Atlantic 10)
Conference finish: 3rd
Rhode Island finished third in the Atlantic 10 in 2020-21 and come into 2021-22 as one of the favorites to finish at the top of the pack. Head coach Tammi Reiss was named A-10 Coach of the Year last season in just her second year running URI and in the middle of a pandemic, and she has a good crop of talent to build on that momentum.
The Rams are returning their two top scorers and have a grad transfer in Dez Elmore (Seton Hall) entering the fold. Redshirt senior Emmanuelle Tahane, 2020-21 Co-Player of the Year in the league, led the team in scoring, averaging 14.8 points and an astounding 10.2 rebounds per game while shooting 59 percent from the field. She will be a frontrunner for A-10 Player of the Year again.
Also back is Marie-Paule Foppossi, who scored 12.7 points per contest and shot 70 percent from the free-throw line last year. But the biggest factor for this Rhode Island team will be Elmore, who was a First Team All-Big East player in 2020-21, averaging 17.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per night, plus blocked 33 shots.
Head coach: Stephanie Gaitley (11th season)
2020-21 record: 12-6 (8-2 in Atlantic 10)
Conference finish: 2nd
Fordham will be one of the best teams in Atlantic 10 women’s basketball, following up a similar performance from last season, winning eight of 10 games in the league.
The superstar from last year was Anna DeWolfe, who was named A-10 Co-Player of the Year after averaging 20.8 points per game and shooting 40 percent from the field and 81 percent from the free-throw line. Along with DeWolfe, the Rams welcome back Kendall Heremaia and Kaitlyn Downey.
Downey will be very important to Fordham’s defense. In 2020-21, she averaged 10.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest and blocked 15 shots, and he prowess around the rim will be required again to help the Rams be as prolific as they were on the glass last campaign. Fordham outrebounded opponents by an average of 38 boards per night to 30, and Downey was a big part of that.
Defense and continued growth from DeWolfe will be the keys for Fordham in 2021-22.
Contenders: Saint Louis, Massachusetts, VCU
Head coach: Lisa Stone (10th season)
2020-21 record: 14-9 (9-4 in Atlantic 10)
Conference finish: 4th
Saint Louis is set to have a great year in men’s and women’s basketball, and the women’s team will aim to eclipse its fourth-place finish in the Atlantic 10 a year ago. The Billikens will be a strong and tough team behind head coach Lisa Stone. They’ll welcome back top scorer Ciaja Harbison and defensive superstar Brooke Flowers.
Harbison scored 16.9 points per game while shooting 81 percent from the free-throw line and dishing out 76 assists. Flowers had an amazing season in her own right, averaging 10.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest, plus blocked 41 shots – she will be a frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year in 2021-22.
With those two and some up-and-coming players, like junior Julia Martinez, Stone and Saint Louis should be set up for another solid campaign.
Head coach: Tory Verdi (6th season)
2020-21 record: 16-8 (7-5 in Atlantic 10)
Conference finish: 7th
UMass had a decent season in 2020-21 but should be a tougher contender in 2021-22. The program has many returners, including leading scorer Sam Breen, who averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting 48 percent from the field last season. A grad student with plenty of experience, Breen is set for a fantastic year both on the court and as a leader.
That will be needed as she’ll work with five freshmen and two sophomores. But UMass also added Michelle Pruitt (UTEP) as a grad transfer, and she brings some scoring and rebounding relief. Senior Destiny Philoxy and junior Sydney Taylor both scored in double figures last season and are back, too.
The Minutewomen are set up to pull some upsets and shake things up in Atlantic 10 women’s basketball.
Head coach: Beth O’Boyle (8th season)
2020-21 record: 16-11 (10-5 in Atlantic 10)
Conference finish: 5th
The Rams are coming off of a magical season where they took out Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Tournament Semifinals, then dispatched of UMass in the championship to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Now, VCU brings back some solid starters but have lost two of its top scorers from last year. Graduate student Taya Robinson, who led VCU in scoring with 14.3 points per contest, is back, as are her six rebounds per outing and excellent defensive skills. She will continue to be the go-to scorer and leader on the court. Along with Robinson, key defensive factors Madison Hattix-Covington and Janika Griffith-Wallace will be very important for the team’s success.
Stuck in Purgatory: Richmond, Duquesne, La Salle, St. Joseph’s
Head coach: Aaron Roussell (3rd season)
2020-21 record: 13-9 (9-6 in Atlantic 10)
Conference finish: 6th
Richmond had an okay season in 2020-21 and will probably show similar results in 2021-22. The program is continuing to get better under head coach Aaron Roussell, who has a .700 winning percentage since joining the team in 2019.
The Spiders will also return their top four scorers from a year ago, but they will need to show some improvement in order to compete for the middle of the pack. Leading scorer Kate Klimkiewicz, who averaged 14.3 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting about 40 percent from the three-point line, is the headliner. Sophomore Addie Budnik, who put up 11.4 points and five rebounds per contests in 2020-21, is a player who will continue to grow and get better.
Head coach: Dan Burt (9th season)
2020-21 record: 5-11 (4-7 in Atlantic 10)
Conference finish: 9th
Duquesne is coming off of a rough season, only winning five games all year. This season, there may be some hope, though. The Dukes are welcoming back some of their top scorers, including Amanda Kalin, who averaged 15.5 points per game and shot 50 percent from the field in 2020-21. Also back are Libby Bazelak and Laia Sole, who both scored a bit more than eight points per contest last season.
Duquesne’s biggest issues last year were defense and rebounding. The Dukes allowed opponents to shoot 42 percent from the field and 36 percent from beyond the arc while converting just 28 percent of their own deep attempts, and nobody was able to dominate the glass. Improving defensively and at shooting will be key if the Dukes want to compete in the Atlantic 10.
Head coach: Mountain MacGillivray (4th season)
2020-21 record: 12-14 (7-10 in Atlantic 10)
Conference finish: 8th
La Salle has a lot of excitement coming into this season because of the talent it brings back. The Explorers struggled last year but did show potential, and fans are hoping that translate to a better go at it this campaign.
Junior Claire Jacobs, who averaged 16.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per night and stole the ball 45 times in 2020-21, and senior Kayla Spruill, who scored 15 points per game and shot 50 percent from the field, are the biggest names back. But other than them, the rest of La Salle struggled to score. The team also had issues with rebounding, giving up 43.8 boards per game while hauling in just 33.9 per contest itself.
The Explorers need to fix their rebounding and work to help other players score more if they want a chance to get into the top half of Atlantic 10 women’s basketball.
Head coach: Cindy Griffin (21st season)
2020-21 record: 7-10 (5-9 in Atlantic 10)
Conference finish: 10th
St. Joseph’s found itself toward the bottom of the middle of the pack in the Atlantic 10 last season, picking up just seven wins, five of which came in conference.
Like most of the teams in the A-10, the Hawks are returning a number of key players. Kaliah Henderson, who put up 11.4 points and 4.9 rebounds while shooting 42 percent from the field, and Katie Jekot, who scored 9.6 points per contest in 2020-21, are both back. But the rest of the team struggled to score last season. St. Joseph’s will need its juniors and seniors to step up to escape Atlantic 10 purgatory.
Basement: Davidson, George Washington, St. Bonaventure, George Mason
Head coach: Gayle Fulks (5th season)
2020-21 record: 9-14 (5-10 in Atlantic 10)
Conference finish: 12th
Contrary to their male counterparts, Davidson women’s basketball had a rough year in 2020-21, and it will most likely struggle in the Atlantic 10 again.
The team’s biggest issues last season were rebounding, free-throw shooting, and depth. The Wildcats return top scorer Chloe Welch (16.2 ppg), and Suzi-Rose Deegan and Cassidy Gould are also back, both scoring in double figures in 2020-21. But that likely won’t be enough for Davidson to compete. I expect the shooting and rebounding woes to continue and hold the Wildcats back again in 2021-22.
Head coach: Caroline McCombs (1st season)
2020-21 record: 9-14 (5-9 in Atlantic 10)
Conference finish: 11th
George Washington had a similar season to Davidson in 2020-21, not playing well and finishing low in the Atlantic 10 women’s basketball standings. The program also lost many of its top scorers from last year and now has a new head coach in Caroline McCombs to help with the reset.
The Colonials will run a brand-new offense under McCombs, and they’ll do so with three graduate transfers, including Ty Moore (9.7 ppg) from Troy. George Washington has a lot of work to do this season. It will be rebuilding and creating the foundation for a team in the future.
Head coach: Jesse Fleming (6th season)
2020-21 record: 6-15 (5-12 in Atlantic 10)
Conference finish: 13th
The Bonnies are coming off of a bad season, only winning six of their 21 games. But they’re welcoming back some of their top starters, so there is some hope there.
Asianae Johnson (13.5 ppg) and Tori Harris (11 points and 6.9 rebounds per game) are still around, but the rest of the team couldn’t score much. This season, St. Bonaventure will have similar issues. Johnson and Harris will lead the team but will need their teammates to help support them.
Head coach: Vanessa Blair-Lewis (1st season)
2020-21 record: 3-19 (0-14 in Atlantic 10)
Conference finish: 14th
There aren’t many positives to take away from George Mason’s last season after failing to win a single game in the A-10. The Patriots responded by making a change at head coach, ushering in the Vanessa Blair-Lewis era. All things considered, a transition year with not much to show on the court is likely this season.
Marika Korpinen, who averaged 9.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest last year, is still around and should be one of George Mason’s best players in 2021-22. She alone won’t solve the deeper issues the Patriots experienced, though. George Mason couldn’t keep the ball in 2020-21, turning it over 375 times while only forcing 271 turnovers from its opponents. This will be another tough year for the program, but hopefully its senior leadership can lead the team to at least one win in A-10 play.
2021-22 Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Players to Watch
Emmanuelle Tahane – Forward – Senior – Rhode Island
Emmanuelle Tahane is in her senior year and will be one of the frontrunners for A-10 Player of the Year after winning it last year. In 2020-21, she led her team in scoring and averaged a double-double, posting 14.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per outing while shooting 59 percent from the field.
With the great talent around her, like Marie-Paule Foppossi and Dez Elmore, Tahane will have plenty of help around her to help expand her impact. She will surely be one of the leaders for URI on and off the court and one of the best players in the conference.
Tenin Magassa – Center – Sophomore – Dayton
Dayton is one of the favorites to win the Atlantic 10, and one of those reasons is Tenin Magassa. She will be a frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year in the league after bringing down 7.3 rebounds per game and swatting 48 shots as a freshman.
As a sophomore, Magassa should be further improved, and she could improve on those numbers and her 9.6 points per contest from 2020-21. She will help make the Flyers the most difficult team to beat in the A-10 this season.
Anna DeWolfe – Guard – Junior – Fordham
Last season, Anna DeWolfe was named Co-Player of the Year in the conference, along with Tahane. DeWolfe will continue to show off her skills after putting up 20.8 points per outing and shooting 40 percent from the field and 81 percent from the free-throw line in 2020-21.
Fordham is set for another successful run, and with DeWolfe returning as a junior, the Rams should enjoy an even better version of her. The sky’s the limit with the numbers DeWolfe can post.