Dayton, Richmond and Xavier are the teams hot on the heels of the Owls. The Flyers and Spiders have similar profiles. Each has a couple very good players that make them a threat on any given night, but not enough help from the supporting cast to win the league championship. Richmond has a terrific little point guard in Kevin Anderson, as well as a solid power man in Justin Harper. They've also proven their mettle with a non-conference win over Purdue. Dayton comes at you with forwards Chris Wright and Chris Johnson, both of whom score and rebound. I lean Richmond as the better of these two because I like the inside-out balance their two stars offer and Anderson gives his team a big edge in any close game. Xavier is perhaps the most intriguing of this group though. They don't have the signature win, as their victory over Butler looks less impressive as the year wears on. But they do have four sound contributors and one star, that being Tu Holloway who's knocking down 22 a game. The pieces are in place and if the Musketeers get it all put together they have the horses to win the A-10.
Beyond these four, it's hard to see anyone making a serious push for the NCAA Tournament. Rhode Island is similar to Xavier in one respect--they have four good starters, one of whom is a clear go-to guy in Delroy James. But the on-court performance shows a loss to Quinnipanic. A bad early-morning pun would be that a loss like that means it's time to hit the Qunnin-"panic" button. Fordham is another team with possibilities, but bad losses that make one hesitant. Charlotte's Shamari Spears is a top individual talent with no help. Duquesne and LaSalle could be spoilers. The Dukes have a fine freshman point guard in T.J. McConnell, along with a solid post tandem of Bill Clark and Damian Saunders. LaSalle challenges themselves in non-conference play, so even though they've lost to Oklahoma State, Baylor, Missouri and Villanova, the experience should toughen them for the league slate. The last of the potential spoilers would be St. Bonaventure, with outstanding post man Andrew Nicholson (21 points, 9 rebounds) and a respectable supporting cast. Beyond this, the bottom tier of the league is populated by teams with a complete lack of inside play and average guard play at best.
The Atlantic 10 is a good competitive league that deserves some more national exposure. They've got some good NCAA-caliber teams at the top and several in the middle who need to translate potential into performance. If that happens, this could be a wild conference race.
Image from owlified.net
Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in the NFL, coverage of college basketball. and bowl commentary in college football. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.