With the 2015-16 season on the horizon, a few members of the Mid Major Madness staff got together to chat about the upcoming season for the Atlantic 10 conference and how things might shake out. The conference has experienced a great deal of success over the last few years and looks like it could have even more this year.
Due to the length of the conversation, the comments have been split up into a series of posts that will be on the site over the next week. Today, we look at potential surprise teams in next year's Atlantic 10.
4. Who can be a surprise team in this year's Atlantic 10?
Thomas Beindit: Give me Richmond here. I know the Spiders are getting some chatter out there, so maybe this isn't a "surprise" pick in its purest form, but this is a team that has the chance to not only contend for an NCAA Tournament bid, but maybe even in the competitive race for the A10 title. The loss of Kendall Anthony is going to be significant, but with the vast majority of the lineup back and an exciting young player in ShawnDre' Jones, Richmond could be a team to watch out for over the course of next season.
Andrew Padyk: Honest question would VCU be a surprise if they play as if Shaka never left? I hope someone answer this one for me. I have two teams who I think will surprise this season, both of whom are veteran squads. The Spiders of Richmond with the defensive minded veteran squad that they have which includes Terry Allen and T.J. Cline are going to turn a few heads this season especially after coming off of an NIT run to the quarterfinals last season could be poised to do great things this season. My other pick is George Washington are coming off of a slightly disappointing 2014-15 season where it seemed they could not carry the momentum they had from the previous season into last year. Mike Lonergan's team this season could easily be one of the best if not better starting fives in the conference this season, which will feature Patricio Garino and Kevin Larsen, along with transfer forward shooter Tyler Cavanaugh. Regardless both teams are going to be fun to watch in a conference that will be deep at the top of the standings again.
Ryan McFarland: George Washington. With the success of VCU and Dayton over the past few years and Davidson winning the conference last year, the Colonials are flying under the radar and could make a lot of noise in conference. I really like Yuta Watanabe and think he could have a breakout year for them. Larsen is arguably the best center in the conference and Garino and Cavanaugh spread the floor to make them a very dangerous offensive team. I also believe the Saint Louis is going to be vastly improved this year. They were the youngest team in the league after losing an all senior starting line-up the previous year and are going through that transition phase last year. They are another year away from being contenders but they won't be 3-15 in conference this year. I think they could sneak up to 9-10th in conference this year which is surprising considering how bad they were last year.
Parks: I'm hesitant to roll with the Foggy Bottom Boys again. GW has been that "dark horse" team for 2 or 3 seasons now and hasn't completely broken through. Patricio Garino is one of the best point forwards in the game but I think GW's success comes down to Kevin Larsen really becoming a premier post presence in the A10. GW definitely has one of the most versatile rosters there is with Yuta Watanabe and others.
Richmond is a good pick as well. Although Alonzo Nelson-Ododa transferred to Pitt the Spiders still have a very interesting frontcourt with TJ Cline, Deion Taylor, Terry Allen, Trey Davis, and Virginia Tech transfer Marshall Woods. With such an experienced frontcourt the Spiders success will come down to ShawnDre' Jones and whomever else steps up in the backcourt with Kendall Anthony moving on.
I think the one team that could surprise a little bit this year is Duquesne. Micah Mason and Derrick Colter can fill it up while I think LG Gill will develop into one of the better forwards in the A10 this year. The Dukes just don't have very much in the paint which is going to hold them back.
Let us know your thoughts on surprise teams for this year's Atlantic 10. The Atlantic 10 roundtable series will continue on Tuesday with a look at the conference's potential NCAA Tournament teams.