Monday, September 27, 2010

Big 12: 2010-11 Preview

A team to review from last year...

The Longhorns began the season 17-0 and national championship contenders. The second half of the season was a huge disappointment. Rick Barnes' squad stumbled to a 7-10 record. However, the bad record can be largely attributed to the strength of the Big 12. Of the 10 losses, seven were to teams who finished in the KenPom top 20. The tempo free gods judged the Longhorns favorably when it was all said and done. They finished with the 25th ranked offense and defense. Texas was a very solid team, but just not the top five team that was perceived early in the season.

A flaw to consider
Missouri's defensive rebounding

Mizzou had a top 15 defense last season despite not being able to end possessions. Opponents grabbed offensive rebounds on 37.7% of shots. Graduate Keith Ramsey was on of the better players on the boards for the Tigers. Of course, Missouri's identity is to get up and force turnovers. However, they can make their life a lot easier by ending possessions that don't end in turnovers at a higher rate.

A team that will get more attention than their body of work merits...

Kansas is going to get tons of attention pretty much regardless of the particular year. Kansas will be Big 12 contenders yet again this season. However, so will non-traditional college basketball powers like Kansas St., Baylor, and Missouri. Despite losing Collins, Aldrich, and Henry, the Jayhawks have been given the best odds of the Big 12 teams to win a national championship. Kansas could very likely live up to these expectations, but is just one of several teams in the Big 12 contending for a league title. (Note: Josh Selby update)

A team that will get less attention than their body of work merits...

Last season, Colorado was great on offense and terrible on defense. The Buffaloes shot the ball extremely well, but so did their opponents. This season, almost all the team is back. Colorado should remain above average offensively in the Big 12. If the defense can improve, Colorado will be knocking on the door of the NCAA Tournament. Whether or not that "if" becomes a reality is something to watch closely.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jacob Pullen, Kansas State

No surprise here: Jacob Pullen is good. The departure of Denis Clemente should only increase Pullen's importance to K State. Pullen does most things right. He shoots it well from three, gets to the line (and makes free throws), and has a good assist to turnover ratio. Pullen's efficiency did come a little out of nowhere from 2008-9 to 2009-10. Assuming he maintains last year's numbers, Pullen will be the man once again in Manhattan.

Best of the Rest:

1) LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor
2) Marcus Morris, Kansas
3) Alec Burks, Colorado
4) Corey Higgins, Colorado
5) John Roberson, Texas Tech
6) Laurence Bowers, Missouri

BREAKOUT PLAYER: David Loubeau, Texas A&M

The Big 12 is full of potential breakout candidates. Loubeau is one of the best out of all of them. The 6'9" rising junior showed how effective he could be last season for A&M. Loubeau got decent minutes, but will surely see an increase this season. Additionally, Loubeau will be called on to take a bigger role in the offense with Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis gone.

Best of the Rest:

1) Jordan Hamilton, Texas
2) Michael Dixon and Marcus Denmon, Missouri
3) Matt Pilgrim, Oklahoma State
4) David Tairu, Texas Tech
5) Christian Standhardinger, Nebraska
6) Markieff Morris, Kansas

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Big Ten: 2010-11 Preview

A team to review from last year...

The Gophers were quietly a quality team last season. They shot the ball very well and took care of the ball. On defense, they also had success. As a result, Tubby Smith's club had a number of big wins. Minnesota defeated Butler, Ohio St., Wisconsin, Michigan St., and Purdue. Still, they struggled with consistency finish 8-8 in the Big Ten.

This season, the Gophers are a step behind the top heavy Big Ten. A couple months ago, we interviewed The Daily Gopher about Blake Hoffarber and Minnesota. The guys over there summed it up best, "There is the talent to compete for a conference title but the starts kind of have to align for that to be realistic possibility. If guys do not become eligible and Williams doesn't figure out how to get himself on the floor, this team will miss the NCAA Tournament and could finish way down in the Big Ten pecking order."

A flaw to consider...
Michigan State's turnovers

Turnovers and turnovers only are what kept Coach Izzo's club out of the top 20 in adjusted efficiency rankings. They were the problem on both offense and defense. Offensively, only two players had a TO% of under 18%. Defensively, the Spartans only caused their opponents to turn the ball over 18.7% of possessions. Michigan St. rebounded and shot the ball extremely well. However, if the Spartans are a true national title contender the turnovers will have to improve this season.

A team that will get more attention than their body of work merits...

The expectations aren't very high for the Wolverines entering this season. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims are gone from a team that finished just 7-11 in conference. Ballin' is a Habit has some interesting words about Michigan, "On paper, this looks like a team destined for a rebuilding year. But keep in mind, this is the kind of team that Beilein succeeds with. A bunch of scrappy underachievers willing to buy into Beilein's system." However, scrappiness is sometimes (not always) more perception than reality. Michigan probably just won't be good enough to compete this season.

A team that will get less attention than their body of work merits...

The Badgers are probably the cliche team for this category. Nearly every year they fly under the radar. The Badgers play at a slow pace and are by no means flashy. With the losses of Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon, new names will have to emerge. Knowing Bo Ryan's team, however, new players will step up. Jordan Taylor appears ready to breakout in the backcourt. Wisconsin will almost certainly shoot the ball well, take care of the ball, and rebound defensively. With these three attributes, the Badgers seem to be a lock to contend in the Big Ten.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jon Leuer, Wisconsin

Last year, Leuer had great numbers co-starring with Trevon Hughes. He shot 39% from three and 55% from two. He also had a ridiculous 8.5 TORate. The 6'10" senior will be back for part two, but minus Hughes. Leuer will not only be one of the top players in the Big Ten, but a top player nationally.

Best of the Rest:

1) Robbie Hummel, Purdue
2) Joe Shurna, Northwestern
3) Kalin Lucas, Michigan State
4) Demetri McCamey, Illinois
5) Talor Battle, Penn State
6) William Buford, Ohio State
7) Maurice Creek, Indiana

BREAKOUT PLAYER: Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin

Taylor does not fit the standard definition of a breakout player we have been using throughout the conference previews. He was third on the Badgers in minutes played. However, Taylor's role will go way up with the departures of Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon. As Dylan Burkhardt of pointed out, Taylor's sophomore season numbers were very similar to Hughes' sophomore numbers. Taylor is ready to emerge as the go-to guard for Bo Ryan.

Best of the Rest:

1) Rob Wilson, Wisconsin
2) Tyler Griffey, Illinois
3) Rodney Williams, Minnesota
4) Luka Mirkovic, Northwestern

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Big South: 2010-11 Preview

The Teams

Charleston Southern

CSU struggled last season to a 7-11 conference record. They struggled on both offense and defense. However, CSU has their four most important and efficient players back for this season. Jamarco Warren, Kelvin Martin, Jeremy Sexton, and Kenny Mitchell all were used on over 20% of possessions and had ORtg's over 100. Martin and Mitchell can rebound, block shots, and score inside the three point line at a high percentage. Warren and Sexton can both spread the court and hit the three. These four should lead an improved offensive team, but CSU will have to get more stops on defense this year to contend in the Big South.

Coastal Carolina

The reigning Big South regular season champions were by far the top team in the Big South last season. Defense was the key for the Chanticleers. They held opponents to the worst three point shooting percentage in the entire country. However, Joseph Harris, Mario Edwards, and Logan Johnson are all big losses. Chad Gray will once again be the go-to guy. Along with Gray is a promising sophomore class consisting of Kierre Greenwood, Danny Nieman, and Sam McLaurin. The most important player may end up being Mike Holmes. The South Carolina transfer will have to sit out the first four or five games of the season, but should be a force in the paint. Coastal Carolina will again be in the mix for an NCAA Tournament berth.

Gardner Webb

The Bulldogs finished second to last in conference last year. Most of the minutes from that team are gone. Gardner Webb will certainly struggle again this season. They should be in full rebuilding mode. Senior Jonathan Moore could prove to be a solid go-to guy, but without much around him the Bulldogs will be in the cellar.

High Point

High Point featured a pretty solid offense last year that led to a 10-8 conference record. They lost just one game the whole season at home. Rising sophomore Nick Barbour should be in for a big year. Last season his usage was in the top 50 nationally. He shot 40% from three, got to the foul line, and didn't a good job taking care of the ball. A key for the Panthers will be replacing the rebounding and interior defense of Cruz Daniels. Corey Law, Earnest Bridges, and Jourdan Morris are relatively undersized, but have shown positive signs of being able to take on increased roads. High Point should be about average again.


Another very average team last season was Liberty. Kyle Ohman is no longer for the Flames, but there are some potential candidates to fill his role. Sophomore Antwan Burrus shot over 50% from the floor, rebounded, and block shots in limited minutes last season. He is a potential breakout candidate for Liberty. Fellow sophomore Evan Gordon looks to build on a solid rookie campaign. Gordon shot the ball extremely well, but was very turnover prone. Overall, Liberty has a lot of minutes back and has the talent to take a step forward this season.

NC Asheville

Asheville started the season off 1-12 against D1 opponents. In their last 15 games, they went a solid 11-4. The Bulldogs played fast, with an adjusted tempo of 72.8 possessions per game (11th fastest in the nation). The Bulldogs were also extremely young last season. Now, everyone is back except for Sean Smith. The major problem will be taking care of the ball. Last year Asheville turned it over on 23.2 percent of possessions. The four highest usage players on the team all turned it over at least one in five possessions individually. Primm, Dickey, Stephenson, and Cunningham are all young players with upside, and NC Asheville will depend largely the development of those four.


The stage is set for Presbyterian. The team played with just one player older than a sophomore last season. They were the youngest team in the country. This was actually done by design. Al'Lonzo Coleman, Pierre Miller and Josh Johnson all red-shirted last year in order to retain eligibility for the 2011-12 season: the first year the team is eligible for the postseason. This situation certainly parallels North Dakota St. in some regards. Still, the three of them aren't exactly the next Ben Woodside or Brett Winkelman. Presbyterian will certainly be improved, but we aren't ready to bring back the "Bison Fever" quite yet.


The Highlanders played their way to a 13-5 conference record last season with strong defense. Radford loses a lot from last year, including the dynamic big man Artsiom Parakhouski. Parakhouski carried otherwise bad offensive team last season. Radford will certainly need impact from newcomers to remain a top team in the Big South. An interesting recruit to watch will be 7'1" Martins Abele from Oak Hill Academy.


The Keydets seems to have a perpetual identity crisis. They clearly play fast. In the last four years they have been 1st in the nation in adjusted tempo three times and 2nd in the nation once. The type of pace they play at would seem to indicate an extremely athletic team who probably likes to get out and press. Yet regardless of pace, VMI had the worst defense in the country last season. Athleticism wasn't prevelant on offense either. They had the high opponent block percentage in the nation as well. The one thing that you might not expect from a team with such a frantic pace is ball control. Yet the one thing VMI did well was take care of the ball (17.2 TO%). The Keydets have a lot back and are an interesting team to watch. Defense will have to improve to gain relevancy in the Big South.


The Eagles did something pretty remarkable last season: get to the P.I.G. without being able to shoot. Winthrop shot 26% from three and 43% from two. They could, however, play solid defense and take care of the ball. The Eagles have the core of the team back should once again have the best defense in the Big South, but it is really hard to win without being able to shoot. Expect an overall solid season from Winthrop.

The Players

Player of the Year: Nick Barbour, High Point

The 6'3" junior will be the leader for High Point this season. Last year, Barbour was used on 30% of High Point's posessions and had an ORtg of 106.6. He knocked down the long ball took care of the basketball. Furthermore, he drew 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes. His number one backcourt mate from last season, Eugene Harris, graduated. Barbour could even take a bigger role this season. He has shown he can handle a heavy workload and will be up to the task.

Best of the Rest:

1) Chad Gray, Coastal Carolina

2) Jamarco Warren, Charleston Southern

3) Kelvin Martin, Charleston Southern

4) Austin Kenon, VMI

5) Reggie Middleton, Winthrop

Breakout Player: Antwan Burrus, Liberty

Burrus was excellent in his freshman season for the Flames. Burrus was top 200 in the country in both offensive rebounding percentage and block percentage. He also shot 52% from the floor. The departure of Kyle Ohman will free up both minutes and possessions for Burrus. If he can even just maintain his production from last season with the increase in minutes, he will be one of the best low post players in the Big South.

Best of the Rest:

1) Kenny Mitchell, Charleston Southern

2) Corey Law, High Point

3) Jourdan Morris, High Point

4) Ryan Hargrave, Presbyterian

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Big Sky: 2010-2011 Preview

The Teams

Eastern Washington

The Eagles finished just 5-11 in the Big Sky last year. They had very interesting rebound splits. Offensively, their rebound rank was 330th in the country. Yet the Eagles were the 30th ranked defensive rebounding team. The 300 difference was almost certainly one of the biggest in the country. A pretty strong sophomore class is back for their second year at Eastern Washington. Glen Dean, Jeffrey Forbes, Kevin Moore each played significant visits in their rookie seasons. All three are under 6'0", which will create some problems for Kirk Earlywine's squad. The Eagles will look to Laron Griffin or incoming big men to fill out their frontcourt. Another rebuilding year is probable.

Idaho St.

The Bengals could not get stops last year on defense. Don't let the slow pace fool you, Idaho State's defense was one of the worst in the entire country. To make matters worse, five out of their six most significant players are lost to graduation. Broderick Gilchrest will be the go-to guy for Coach Joe O'Brien. 7'0" Deividas Busma, who started 17 games in 2008-2009, will be back from injury. However, there will be a bunch of new faces for the Bengals. It will be interesting to see the new guys, but expectations are low.


The Grizzlies went dancing after squeaking by Weber St. in the conference finals last season. Then, they managed to give a suspect New Mexico team a scare in round one. They could flat out shoot it last year from two and three. Star guard Anthony Johnson will be greatly missed this season. Ryan Staudacher and his 128.7 ORtg will also be missed. Montana took another hit when wings Michael Taylor and Raason Young both decided to transfer. However, the Grizzlies will still look to avoid a rebuilding year. The froncourt should be exceptional. 7'0" Derek Selvig and 6'11" Brian Qvale form a great duo. Selvig had great percentages from both behind the arc and twos last season. If he can improve his turnovers, he will be one of the top big men in conference. Qvale shot 62% with great rebounding, shot blocking and turnover prevention. The incoming recruiting class will be vital for the Grizzlies. Belgium native Idris Lasisi along with several other new guys will be counted on to keep Montana at the top.

Montana St.

Led by rising senior Bobby Howard, Montana St. shot the ball well and didn't turn it over last season. The Bobcats lose a bunch of key players from that team, but retain a strong backcourt. They do have some experience playing undersized. Montana St. played small for most of the year last season. They managed fairly well on offense, but the lack of size did hurt them on defense. It is hard to see the Bobcats matching their 10-6 conference record from last year.

Northern Arizona

The 8-8 team from last year has just about everyone coming back for more this season. This has caused a few people to get excited about the potential of the Lumberjacks. Cameron Jones is a star, but his per game stats from last year are a bit inflated from the amount of minutes he played. Overall, the Lumberjacks really weren't contenders last season. They shot the ball well and got to line well, but turned the ball over a ton and did not offensive rebound. Defense was not great either. The team will almost certainly improve with another year of experience under their belt and have a couple of guys key additions. First, a healthy Eric Platt is a great breakout candidate. He was both efficient and highly used in limited time last season battling injuries. Second, big man Austin Smith will be eligible this season after sitting out a year transferring from Liberty. Smith posted good numbers in very limited minutes his freshman season. Northern Arizona will certainly be a contender this season, but improvements from last year will need to be established to win a conference title.

Northern Colorado

The other UNC was not a fluke last year. They were solid on both offense and defense. Major contributor Will Figures graduated, but basically everyone else is back for the Bears. UNC will miss Figures, but they have plenty of efficient options. Devon Beitzel should be ready to become the go-to guy. In his junior season he posted an awesome 123.5 ORtg with a 20.6 %Poss. He shot the cover off the ball and valued the ball too. Chris Kaba, Mike Proctor, and Taylor Montgomery are all efficient scorers and rebounders. The one wildcard might be Neal Kingman. Kingman struggled from long range last year at just under 30%, but was at 42% the year before. Splitting the difference, Kingman can become yet another efficient scorer. The defense shouldn't be much different from last year: forcing turnovers and rebounding misses well. Northern Colorado may be the Big Sky favorite for the first time in their short history.

Portland St.

Portland St. was an interesting team last year. They had the best offense in the Big Sky and the second worst defense. However, they lose their three most efficient players entering this season. Waters, Jones, and Thomas are all very tough losses. The Vikings have the pieces to keep their offense at acceptable levels. Phil Nelson had a very nice year and could become the go-to guy for Portland St. Phillip Thomas played very well in limited minutes. Melvin Jones and Dane Johnson are too more players with ORtg's well past 100. The defense was so bad last year, however, that Portland St. did not finish over .500 in conference. Losing the three seniors makes it unrealistic to expect much improvement in that record. The Vikings will likely be an average team at best in the Big Sky.

Sacramento St.

Brian Katz's club struggled to a 3-13 conference record last season. It doesn't figure to get too much better this season with the graduation of three relatively good seniors from the squad. Rising senior Sultan Toles-Bey is back with his high usage play. He struggled shooting last year with a 2FG% of just 33%. Sacramento St. will likely remain in the cellar of the Big Sky for another year.

Weber St.
Damion Lillard is as good as advertised for Weber St. He returns with great efficiency and high usage for the defending conference champions. Steve Panos and Nick Hansen are unfortunate losses, as well as the transfering of Franklin Sessions. The Wildcats have competent potential replacements. They will be competing for another conference title. Lindsey Hughey, Kyle Bullinger, Trevor Morris, and Darin Mahoney will be the keys. If one or two can emerge as great second and third options to Lillard, they will be tough to beat.

The Players

Player of the Year: Damian Lillard, Weber St.

Lillard is the defending POY in the Big Sky. This season with the graduations of Panos and Hansen, Lillard will be the absolute go-to guy for Weber St. As a sophomore, he had a True Shooting Percentage of 59.4% (168th in D1). He led his time in ARate and was second in TORate. He was able to attack the hoop and get to the free throw line. Weber St. will be contending for the Big Sky title and Lillard will be by far the biggest reason why.

Best of the Rest:
1) Devon Beitzel, Northern Colorado
2) Bobby Howard, Montana St.
3) Cameron Jones, Northern Arizona
4) Broderick Gilchrest, Idaho St.
5) Chris Kaba, Northern Colorado

Breakout Player: Mathias Ward, Montana

The 6'7" freshman played sparingly last season for the Grizzlies. He is not a sure thing this season by any means, but showed signs that he could be ready to become a key contributor for Montana. When he was in the game he had a pretty big impact last season. He shot the ball efficiently and rebounded well. His flaw last season was turning the ball over. However, one big problem as a young player is fairly normal. Ward can be an average player as is, but with almost certain improvement in the turnover category he can take it to another level. Ward will be interesting to watch this seaosn.

Best of the Rest:

1) Eric Platt, Northern Arizona (22.5 %Min, 112.9 ORtg, 22.7 %Poss)
2) Phillip Thomas, Portland St. (14.3 %Min, 107.4 ORtg, 21.7 %Poss
3) Duro Bjegovic, Sacramento St. (40.9 %Min, 100.7 ORtg, 20.7 %Poss)
4) Phil Nelson, Portland St. (49.4 %Min, 105.5 ORtg, 20.0 %Poss)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Big East: 2010-11 Preview

A team to review from last year:

Once upon a time there was a team who graduated Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, and Dominic James. They weren't supposed to be good. They ended up being good. The end. This story has been on replay since Buzz Williams's team emerged as a contender in the Big East last season. Marquette had a great offense and a pretty good defense. They made shots and didn't turn the ball over. They played in many close games. 17 games were decided by five points or less. The Eagles went 8-9 in those games. Ultimately, they lost an 80-78 battle to Washington in the first round of the Dance.

Once upon a time there was a team who graduated Lazar Hayward, Maurice Acker, and David Cubillan. They weren't supposed to be good (ranked 10th in Big East here). Sounds familiar, right? It will be tough to duplicate last year for Marquette, but I'm not picking against them.

A flaw to consider...
Villanova's fouling

This is not breaking news. Even your little sister knows Villanova fouled way too much last year. Scottie Reynolds was the best on the team at not fouling last year. Without Scottie, the problem is certainly not going to get any better without working on it. Mouph Yarou, Maurice Sutton, and Isaiah Armwood are three young big men who could be called upon to produce more this season. All three, however, showed they too like to foul when in the game. Villanova will know doubt be good, but will continue to beat (foul?) a dead horse.

A team that will get more attention than their body of work merits...

The Huskies got a lot of attention last year for an 18-16 team. ESPN seemed to have them perpetually right on the bubble because of their reputation. Regardless, UConn played solid defense last season. They will likely be worse on defense this season. Calhoun did not use his bench very often and now he has a lot of inexperienced (yet talented) players. With Dyson, Robinson, and Edwards all lost to graduation, it seems like a rebuilding year is probable. Ater Majok, however, will not be part of the process.

A team that will get less attention then their body of work merits...
Seton Hall

The Pirates could score with ease last year. There really is no reason to think that will change this year. Hazell, Theodore, and Robinson are all back with ORtg's well over 100. Seton Hall will be one of the top teams in the Big East when it comes to putting the ball through the hoop. An improved defense would carry the Pirates into the NCAA Tourney. Whether they can improve or not is the million dollar question. Mississippi transfer, Eniel Polynice, should help the defense to some extent. Seton Hall is certainly a team with a high degree of variance, but could turn themselves into Big East contenders in a perfect world.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame

Picking out the top five players, let alone the top player, in a league this good and deep is brutal. Still, someone has to win. In the case Abromaitis's 2009-10 season was too good to ignore. He was one of the best shooters in the nation and didn't turn the ball over. No one can reasonably expect another 127.8 ORtg as the complete go-to guy this season, but he should once again be one of the most efficient scorers in the country. Cases could be made for about ten other guys to win this "award". Tim, make us proud.

Best of the Rest:

1) Corey Fisher, Villanova
2) Jimmy Butler, Marquette
3) Austin Freeman, Georgetown
4) Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall
5) D.J. Kennedy, St. Johns
6) Kevin Jones, West Virginia
7) Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh
8) Scoop Jardine, Syracuse

BREAKOUT PLAYER: Maalik Wayns, Villanova

Wayns showed a lot of promise in his freshman season for the Wildcats. The 6'1" rookie shot 49% from two, 32% from three, and 81% from the foul line. Turnovers bothered Wayns some. He turned the ball over just over 1/5 of possessions. Wayns was a big part of the Nova offense when he was in the game. He had a %Poss of 23.3 and an ORtg of 102.8. A big chunk of Scottie Reynolds' minutes will presumably go to Wayns. He showed last season that he can compete in the Big East. Most importantly, he has plenty of room for improvement. Wayns is an excellent breakout candidate entering his sophomore season.

Best of the Rest:

1. Casey Mitchell, West Virginia (18.5 %Min, 102.8 ORtg, 24.3 %Poss)
2. Dominic Cheek, Villanova (33.5 %Min, 109.9 ORtg, 18.2 %Poss)
3. Mookie Jones, Syracuse (12.8 %Min, 118.2 ORtg, 22.4 %Poss)
4. Dalton Pepper, West Virginia (14.8 %Min, 112.5 ORtg, 20.3 %Poss)
5. Augustus Gilchrist, South Florida (38.1 %Min, 104.8 ORtg, 25.3 %Poss)**

**Gilchrist missed significant time last season due to injury.

Tiered rankings sure to be wrong:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Atlantic Ten: 2010-11 Preview

The Contenders
Dayton, Xavier, Temple

These three teams are yet again expected to be at the top of the A10. Yes, Dayton finished 8-8 in conference last year. However, their per possession numbers were excellent. Yes, Dayton didn't make the NCAA Tournament last year. However, they won the NIT in rather convincing fashion beating Illinois St., Cincinnati, Illinois, Mississippi, and UNC.
Xavier loses the most out of the trio. Star players Jordan Crawford and Jason Love are both gone. Dayton also has some graduation to recover from, but not players as important as Crawford and Love. Temple is losing Ryan Brooks and Luis Guzman, but retain Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez.

A couple top recruits will be making the rich richer. Xavier reeled in a top 50 recruit in Justin Martin. For Dayton, top 100 recruit Juwan Staten should make an impact. Aaron Brown may be Temple's top recruit and will be a nice role player.

The A10 title will most likely come down to the wire this year. All three of the teams will be hard to knock off at home. Temple has some difficulties on offense, Xavier has the tough task of replacing their two best players, and Dayton may lack some depth with the graduation of five seniors. However, with Chris Wright, Chris Johnson, and a solid defense I would have to give a very slight edge to the Flyers.

The Next Best Things

Richmond, Rhode Island, St. Louis, Charlotte

Richmond overachieved to a 13-3 conference record last season. They were solid on defense, but only 67th in offensive efficiency. Kevin Anderson is obviously the man for the Spiders, but David Gonzalez and Ryan Butler are both big losses. I expect Richmond to stay pretty steady in efficiency from last year, but get worse results in conference play.

Rhode Island could light it up on offense, but was just 110th in defensive efficiency. URI faces a tough task in replacing their three highest usage players. However, every single significant player on their roster had an ORtg over 100. If a few of their extremely efficient role players can keep their efficiency and step up their involvement, Rhode Island will remain in the upper half of the A10.

Charlotte and St. Louis are in fairly similar situations this season. Both were so-so last year, but have a lot coming back. One difference between the two is balance between offense and defense. Charlotte is fairly balanced on both sides of the ball. St. Louis, however, was great on defense and brutal on offense. Defense alone will keep St. Louis in a lot of games. The offensive development of players outside of Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed will be crucial for the Billikens.

The Potentially Decent

George Washington, St. Bonaventure, Duquesne, UMass, St. Joe's

St. Bonaventure's is an intriguing team due to Andrew Nicholson. Nicholson was used on the most possessions for his team and had the best ORtg. He will certainly need help this season. Jonathan Hall and Chris Matthews are both unfortunate losses. Nicholson's supporting cast is questionable, but if a couple guys can step up the Bonnies will be interesting this season.

Duquesne returns just about everyone from last season, but likely doesn't have the talent to be anything but decent. 6'7" Damian Saunders is an interesting player. Saunders was used on nearly a quarter of Duquesne's possesions with an ORtg of 98.9. Saunders was great inside the arc, but brutal from outside. The rising senior shot just 19% from three, but still attempted 95 of them.

George Washington and UMass both have something in common: they lost their most important players (Damian Hollis and Ricky Harris) but have just about everyone else back. Both teams have a bunch of question marks, but could put together nice seasons. UMass also adds talented recruits Jesse Morgan and Maxie Esho.

Taking a look at St. Joe's season and players returning, they probably don't belong in this tier. However, Phil Martelli is bringing in a nice recruiting class this season. Incoming freshman are tough to get a feel for, but expect C.J. Aiken, Daryus Quarles and Langston Galloway to at least be given the opportunities to make impacts right away.

The Probably Bad

La Salle and Fordham

La Salle is a 4-12 conference team losing their go-to guy and an extremely efficient role player. It will be tough for the Explorers to improve offensively. Worse yet, La Salle struggled most on defense last year.

It's hard to expect much from a team who didn't win a conference game last season. There most likely won't be much noise made from Fordham again this season.

The Players

Player of the Year: Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure

Let's be serious, Nicholson isn't going to get the attention going into the season that will be given to Lavoy Allen, Kevin Anderson, Terrell Holloway, and Chris Wright. We picked Nicholson for two reasons. First, we like to stray from the mainstream pass when possible. Second, Nicholson is really, really good. The big man shot 56.4% from the floor, blocked shots, took care of the ball, and drew fouls extremely well in his sophomore season. The result was an ORtg 112.5 on 24.2 %Poss. Nicholson will be a force in the paint for the Bonnies.

Best of the Rest:

1) Terrell Holloway, Xavier

2) Lavoy Allen, Temple

3) Shamari Spears, Charlotte

4) Kevin Anderson, Richmond

5) Chris Wright/Johnson, Dayton

Breakout Player: Ramone Moore, Temple

Moore had a successful rookie campaign last year in somewhat limited minutes. Moore shot a scorching 56% from two. He took care of the ball, drew fouls, and rebounded fairly well for his size. The one area with plenty of room for improvement in Moore's game is shooting from deep. Moore was just 5-40 last year from three. Moore was actually used on a team best 25.6% of possessions when in the game for the Owls. Moore will be ready to slide into a starting job this year. Expect big things from him.

Best of the Rest:

1) Akeem Richmond, Rhode Island (44.8 %Min, 117.5 ORtg, 19.7 %Poss)

2) Jamel McLean, Xavier (59.2 %Min, 113.1 ORtg, 18.9 %Poss)

3) Will Martell, Rhode Island (57.4 %Min, 109.4 ORtg, 16.2 %Poss)

4) Gokhan Sirin, Charlotte (10.6 %Min, 103.3 ORtg, 22.4%Poss)