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Looking At 5 Key Matchups In The 2015-16 Atlantic 10 Conference Schedule

Taking a look at some of the biggest Atlantic 10 conference battles for next season.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlantic 10 has enjoyed a great run of success over the last few seasons. There have been nationally competitive teams in each season and programs like Dayton and VCU have seen impressive success in the postseason. Historically speaking, it's been a time of great pride for the league.

Of course, with all this success, fans have to be excited about the upcoming season and particularly, some of the better matchups in conference play. The Atlantic 10 recently released the upcoming conference slate and to little surprise, there are a lot of fun games on the slate.

With that in mind, here are five matchups that look particularly interesting for next season in the Atlantic 10.

#1. Dayton Flyers at Rhode Island Rams (2/12)

Preseason predictions are never perfect, but there's not much debating that Dayton and Rhode Island look like two of the top teams in the Atlantic 10 for next season. In fact, it's not a hard argument to claim that they are the top two teams in the conference for next season. The Flyers return more than 75% of contributions from last season and Rhode Island returns a ton from a relatively inexperienced team that is set to improve on an already good base. Remember, these are both teams that won 23 or more games last season and Dayton has played in seven NCAA Tournament games the past two years. These teams are going to turn a lot of heads and as such, this has to be the most interesting game for next season.

#2. Rhode Island Rams at Dayton Flyers (2/27)

Yes, this might be considered cheating by some and an underwhelming choice given the #1 game on this list, but for the reasons stated above, it's hard not to put the return game at #2 on the list. After all, in ESPN's initial bracketology for next season, these were the only two teams from the Atlantic 10 to make the cut. That has to count for something, which warrants the series as the #1 and #2 games on this list.

#3. Richmond Spiders at VCU Rams (1/16)

On its face, this is not a game that looks all that intriguing. The Spiders haven't made the NCAA Tournament since 2011 and likely are not going to be at the top of the conference this year. However, this game is still really intriguing because of what it represents for VCU. As most are familiar with at this point, the Rams lost legendary head coach Shaka Smart to Texas this offseason and will be transitioning to Will Wade at the helm. This makes the matchup with Richmond particularly intriguing because it will likely be the team's first major challenge of conference play next year. Add in some rivalry flair and this turns into a really interesting game.

#4. Rhode Island Rams at George Washington Colonials (1/22)

As mentioned earlier, it's probably not all that outrageous to think that the Atlantic 10 runs through Dayton and Rhode Island next year. However, if something is going to mess with that discussion, it could very well be George Washington. If the Colonials are going to build off their 22 win season from last year and make a real run at the conference, winning a game like this is a must. Rhode Island should be an experienced and talented squad and this matchup will tell a lot about both teams.

#5. Rhode Island Rams at Davidson Wildcats (2/23)

The Wildcats clearly had an outstanding season in 2014-15 as they put together a 14-4 conference record. Of course, they will be losing star player Tyler Kalinoski, but they should still be one of the more pesky teams in the conference and will be a difficult road win for any team. They get Rhode Island in late February and it could be the biggest and most realistic opportunity for Davidson to score a major win in conference play.

Overall

There's no doubt that there are a lot of great games next season including matchups for teams not on this list, but these are some of the more interesting games - at least on paper - for next season. The Atlantic 10 should be a lot of fun next year and it should start immediately from tip-off in January.