Men’s Basketball Atlantic 10 Championship Preview

The men’s tournament takes place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York March 12-17.

With the regular season officially in the books, all eyes in Atlantic 10 basketball now turn to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn where the A-10 men’s basketball championship will be held March 12-17. 

Much is at stake as the eventual winner will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and all 15 teams are looking to end their seasons on a positive note. The question of whether the A-10 will send more than one team to the big dance remains open. 

No. 2 Loyola University Chicago

Head coach Drew Valentine and his Loyola Ramblers have received the second-seed in the tournament after finishing the regular season tied with the University of Richmond for first-place in the A-10. With their seeding, they received a double-bye and will begin action Thursday, March 14 at 4 p.m. CST. 

Loyola is making the trip to Brooklyn after finishing the season on a tear, winning 17 of their last 20 games. Overall, they went 23-8 and finished 15-3 in conference play. The Ramblers have the seventh best offense in the A-10, averaging 73.4 points per game and rank fifth in the league in defense, giving up an average of 67.1 points per game.

Leading the way for Loyola has been third-year guard Des Watson, who has averaged 13 points a game and received second-team all conference honors, and fourth-year forward Philip Alston who made the third-team all-conference after averaging 12.4 points a game. Graduate guard Braden Norris, who received a third-team all conference nod, has also been key to the team’s success, finishing the season with an average of 9.1 points and 4.9 assists per game. 

Valentine, who has experience making deep postseason runs, said the team’s turnaround from last season was what made this year special compared to others. 

“It’s up there because of what this team is up against and the way that we had to go about getting to this point,” Valentine said. “It was unexpected by everybody except for the guys in the locker room and the coaching staff in the offices upstairs.”

Loyola’s strengths surround their ball movement and their interior defense, ranking first in the A-10 in assists averaging 16.8 a game and first in blocked shots, averaging five per game. The Ramblers rank fifth in the conference in rebounds, sixth in field goal percentage and seventh in 3-point percentage. 

No. 1 University of Richmond

The Spiders enter the tournament as the first-seed after finishing the season with an overall record of 23-8 and an A-10 record of 15-3. With A-10 coach of the year Chris Mooney at the helm and the conference’s second leading scorer graduate guard Jordan King, Richmond will be a formidable opponent for any team who lines up across from them. 

The Spiders have the eighth best offense in the conference averaging 72.7 points per game and the second best defense, only allowing an average of 66.1 points per game. 

Richmond is one of the best shooting teams in the league with a field goal percentage of 47% and a 3-point percentage of 37%, good enough for the second and third ranking. The Spiders are ranked sixth in steals, seventh in assists and 14th in rebounds. 

No. 3 University of Dayton

The Flyers stand amongst the nation’s best squads and have spent several weeks in the Associated Press’ Top 25 rankings throughout the season — currently No. 24. Third-year forward DaRon Holmes leads the conference in scoring with an average of 20.2 points per game and finished as the second best rebounder, averaging 8.3 boards a night. 

Dayton finished as the fifth best scoring offense and the third best defense allowing an average of just 66.3 points per game. 

The Flyers are the best shooting team in the conference with a field goal percentage of 48% and a 3-point shooting percentage of 41%. They rank second in assists, sixth in blocks and 12th in rebounds. 

No. 4 University of Massachusetts

The Minutemen assume the fourth-seed and benefit from a double-bye after going 20-10 overall and 11-7 in A-10 play. Leading their success has been fourth-year forward Josh Cohen who finished seventh in the A-10 in scoring averaging 16 points per game.

UMass boasts the league’s top scoring offense as they have averaged 78.1 points per game.  The Minutemen also have the ninth best defense, letting up an average of 70.7 points per game. 

They have the eighth best field goal percentage but were at the bottom of the league in 3-point shooting, making just 31% of their attempts from beyond the arc. The Minutemen rank first in rebounds with an average of 38.7 per game, second in assists averaging 15.7 per game and second in steals.

No. 5 Virginia Commonwealth University

The Rams earned the fifth seed in the conference after going 19-12 overall and 11-7 in conference play. Fourth-year guard Max Shulga has led VCU offensively, averaging 15 points per game. 

Averaging 72.4 points per game, the Rams have the 11th best offense in the conference and the sixth best defense, allowing an average of 67.6 points per game. 

VCU ranks 10th in the A-10 with a field goal percentage of 44% and shoot 36% from beyond the arc, good enough for fifth place. They rank fifth in blocks, sixth in assists and eighth in rebounds.

No. 6 Duquesne University 

The Dukes enter the tournament after finishing their regular season campaign 20-11 overall and 10-8 in conference play. Fourth-year guard Dae Dae Grant, the A-10’s sixth leading scorer, has led the squad with an average of 16.8 points per game. 

Duquesne finished with the 13th best offense in the league while defensively ranking fourth after allowing 66.8 points a game. 

In terms of shooting, the Dukes rank 12th in field goal percentage and eighth in 3-point percentage. The Dukes are the third best team in steals, fourth in blocks and ninth in assists. 

No. 7 St. Bonaventure University

After going 18-12 overall and 9-9 in A-10 play, the Bonnies received the seventh-seed in the conference tournament. They were led by third-year forward Chad Venning who averages 14 points per game. 

St. Bonaventure had the sixth best offense in the league, averaging 73.8 points a game and the eighth best defense allowing 68.3 points a game.

With a field goal percentage of 46%, the Bonnies rank fourth in the A-10 and finished second in 3-point percentage with a percentage of 37%. They rank seventh in steals, eighth in blocks and 12th in assists.

No. 8 George Mason University

The Patriots finished the season 20-11 overall and 9-9 in conference play. Second-year guard Keyshawn Hall is the A-10’s fourth leading scorer averaging 17.2 points a game. 

George Mason has the 12th best offense in the conference but boasts the league’s best defense, as they allowed an average of just 66 points per game. 

The Patriots are the third best team in field goal percentage shooting 46% and rank 10th in 3-point shooting with 35%. The Patriots rank fourth in rebounds, 10th in blocks and 13th in steals. 

No. 9 Saint Joseph’s University

The Hawks received the ninth seed after going 19-12 and 9-9 in conference. Third-year guard Erik Reynolds II leads the Hawks offensively and is the conference’s fifth-best scorer averaging 16.8 points a game. 

Saint Joseph’s scored an average of 76.7 points per game, giving them the third best offense in the league while they ranked 10th defensively, giving up 71.3 points per game. 

The Hawks are the ninth best team in the A-10 in terms of field goal percentage, shooting at a 44% clip and eighth in 3-point shooting with a percentage of 36%. They rank fourth in steals, fifth in assists and seventh in rebounding. 

No. 10 La Salle University

After surviving a scare against No. 15 George Washington 61-60 in the tournament’s first round March 12, the Explorers — who went 16-16 overall and 6-12 in conference — will take on St. Bonaventure in the second round. Third-year guard Khalil Brantley has been their leading scorer, averaging 15.1 points per game. 

Averaging 72.7 points a game, La Salle has the ninth best offense in the A-10 and the 12th best defense, as they have given up an average of 73 points a game. 

The Explorers have the 14th best shooting percentage in the league and the 12th best 3-point shooting percentage. They rank fourth in assists, ninth in steals and 10th in rebounding. 

No. 12 Fordham University

The Rams advanced to the second round of the tournament after defeating No. 13 Davidson College 73-61 Tuesday afternoon. They finished the regular season 13-19 overall and 6-12 in A-10 competition. They have been led by fourth-year guard Kyle Rose, who averages 10.5 points a game. 

Fordham finished with the 14th ranked offense, averaging 70.7 points per game, and the 11th best defense, surrendering 72.5 points a game. 

They rank last in shooting percentage at just a 40% clip and 14th in 3-point percentage. The Rams rank second in rebounds, second in blocks and first in steals. 

No. 14 Saint Louis University

The Billikens defeated No. 11 University of Rhode Island 64-61 on the tournament’s first day to reach the second round. They went 13-19 overall and 5-13 in conference and have been led by second-year guard Gibson Jimmeson, who has averaged 15.5 points per game.

Saint Louis finished the regular season with the fourth best offense scoring an average of 76 points per game, but had the league’s worst defense giving up an average of 78.8 points per game. 

Shooting at a 45% clip, the Billikens ranked seventh in field goal percentage and came in fourth in 3-point shooting with a percentage of 36%. The Billikens rank eighth in assists, 10th in steals and 13th in rebounds.

Featured image by Holden Green | The Phoenix

Griffin Krueger

Griffin Krueger

Griffin Krueger is the Editor-in-Chief of The Phoenix. He began working for The Phoenix during his first week at Loyola and previously served as Assistant News Editor and Sports Editor. Krueger is a fourth-year Political Science major with minors in Economics and History. In his free time he enjoys reading and exploring the city on his bike.