With the A10 grabbing 6 bids to the big dance last year I think its time they got their own legitimate article. As a Major conference in the NCAA, the people need to know who's who in this league before they lose all their money in ill-advised bets. With that said, I'll give you the predicted top 5 teams going into the 2014-2015 season:
#5) Dayton Flyers
Key Losses: Devin Oliver (12.1 ppg)
Key Recruits: Darrell Davis
After an impressive run in the tournament, the Flyers can feel good going into this season, even without a solid recruiting class. They are returning their top scorer Jordan Sibert for his senior year, as well as Dyshawn Pierre who was a freak as a sophomore. Not to mention they still have Archie Miller who is believed to be one of the best coaches in college ball and comes from a family of good coaches (see Sean Miller). This team will have an uphill road though having to travel for games against George Washington, VCU, and UMass next season.
In-Conference Prediction: 11-7
#4) George Washington Colonials
Key Losses: Maurice Creek (14.3 ppg), Isaiah Armwood (12.7 ppg)
Key Recruits: Matt Cimino
The scary part about the Colonials is that their top 3 players this year will only be Juniors. SF Patricio Garino (12.1 ppg), SG Kethan Savage (12.7 ppg), and PF Kevin Larsen (11.4 ppg) make up an outstanding triple threat. This team went 24-9 last year with those three as sophomores! With that many scoring options, the Colonials will at the very least stay close in every game, and it will come down to how well Garino and that nose mole of his can finish. I wouldn't be surprised at all if GW is in and out of the top 25 polls throughout the season. The only reason they are not higher is their tough 2-game conference opponents in Richmond, VCU, and George Mason.
In-Conference Prediction: 11-7 (better out of conference record)
#3) The University of Massachusetts - Amherst
Key Losses: Chaz Williams (15.6 ppg), Raphy Putney (8.8 ppg), Sampson Carter (10.4 ppg)
Key Additions: (potentially) Naadir Tharpe and Rashaan Armstead-Holloway
This squad took a big hit when they lost their senior leader in Chaz Williams. He's the only 4'8 ft player I've ever seen squeeze his way into a tight hole and get his shot off with ease. Kid played his best when his team looked to be face down, ass up, and led UMass to their first tournament bid since 1998. With that said, this ranking is really leaning on the Minutemen getting Tharpe. Coach Kellogg needs another dynamic playmaker who can run the floor with Gordon, Lalanne, and Esho. It will also be interesting to see how Clyde Santee develops, as he's in line for a big increase in minutes going into his sophomore year. As far as depth goes, this team has one of the deepest benches in the A10 with Berger, Santee, and Trey Davis (again, assuming Tharpe is on the squad).
In-Conference Prediction: 12-6
#2) University of Rhode Island Rams
Key Losses: Xavier Munford (16.9 ppg)
Key Additions: Jared Terrell, Jarvis Garrett, and Jordan Hare (coming back from leave)
For the 2nd straight year, Coach Hurley has been able to bring in an outstanding recruiting class. Last year he was able to acquire the A10 reigning freshman of the year, E.C. Matthews, as well as freak athlete and A10 All-Freshman teammate Hassan Martin. For those who stopped watching after the season went downhill last year, E.C. averaged 19.2 ppg in his last 11 games, he was 1 of 3 freshman nationally to average 14 ppg, 4 rpg, and 2 assists. He also LEAD THE NATION with the most 20 point games in 2014 as a freshman. Rhody has their senior bully Gilvydas Biruta (former Big East All-Freshman team) coming back to clean up boards and Jordan Hare coming back for his sophomore year after a 1 year sabbatical to help his kid. Jared Terrell is going to give this team a huge boost, as he has been touted the highest recruit URI has ever had. A lot of teams may write the Rams off early, but with the additions of Terrell and Hare combined with improvements from their young core of E.C. and Hassan, this team is well on its way to the tournament.
In Conference Prediction: 13-5
#1) Virginia Commonwealth University
Key Losses: Juvonte Reddic (11.9 ppg), Rob Brandenberg (9.6 ppg)
Key Recruits: Terry Larrier, Mike Gilmore, Justin Tillman
Lets all agree to call a spade a spade here and admit this team is going to be a problem. They return the hands-down favorite for A10 player of the year in Traveon Graham for his senior year, while grabbing three ESPN Top100 recruits in this years class. This team can run 10 players deep and not lose an ounce of talent on the floor. They can match up with anyone and run them out of the gym by keeping fresh legs on the court. How VCU continues to recruit with such disregard for the rest of the league is beyond me and should probably be looked into by the NCAA. I fully expect this team to steam roll through the A10 this year for an easy tournament bid and a top 15 ranking nation-wide.
In-Conference Prediction: 15-3