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A-10 Power Rankings: Undermanned Dayton thriving, Richmond rising

NCAA Basketball: Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament-Saint Joseph's Hawks vs Dayton Flyers Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been three weeks since the last A-10 power rankings.

A lot has happened.

Dayton is off to a 3-0 start in league play, which is entirely unsurprising apart from how it’s happened. Saint Louis is 0-3, which is simply unsurprising. And VCU and Rhode Island still seem entrenched as challengers to the Flyers.

But there have been some unqualified surprises, including 3-0 Richmond, which has weathered injuries to jump out to a hot start (more on that below).

And since we’re in the ranking mood, let’s talk about the league POY race. Right now JeQuan Lewis (15.9 PPG, 4.4 APG, 42.2% on 109 3PA) would be my personal pick, but Marquise Moore, Scoochie Smith, Jaylen Adams and T.J. Cline would be hard to pass up. Discuss in the comments, if you’re so inclined.

Team Record Previous
Team Record Previous
1. Dayton 12-3 1
2. VCU 13-3 2
3. URI 10-5 3
4. Richmond 9-6 10
5. St. Bonaventure 10-5 5
6. George Mason 11-5 7
7. Davidson 8-6 4
8. La Salle 8-5 6
9. GW 9-7 9
10. UMass 10-6 8
11. St. Joe's 8-6 11
12. Duquesne 8-8 12
13. Fordham 6-10 13
14. Saint Louis 4-11 14

Dayton thrives, not just survives, without Charles Cooke

There’s no such thing as a comment that’s too glowing about Dayton right now. The Flyers beat two quality opponents without Cooke, their leading scorer and best perimeter defender. And they won both games in different ways. Torrid three-point shooting proved pivotal in the lopsided win at SBU, while the Dayton defense forced URI into a season-high 18 turnovers in a game that went down to the wire.

Maybe this isn’t a surprise considering the senior class that’s still on the floor. Scoochie Smith, Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis have now been a part of 90 wins at Dayton. And with the game on the line, is there a more reliable point guard in the country than Smith? Here’s the Dayton Daily News on the tight ending against the Rams:

Once in the final minutes, Smith waved everyone away and took on the Rhode Island defense on his own.

“I was just making sure we didn’t turn the ball over,” Smith said. “Being the point guard, you want to have it my hands. I think it worked out for the best.”

It appears Cooke may be ready to return to the court Wednesday night against UMass. VCU is riding a seven-game winning streak and URI is still dangerous, but Dayton is the league front runner at the moment.

Middle-tier front runner

Someone had to emerge from the league’s muddled middle of quality yet flawed teams. The early candidate is Richmond. With Marshall Wood and Grant Golden sidelined, Chris Mooney has gotten creative and relied on four guard lineups that have produced a hyper-effective offense.

The Spiders have posted a league-best 64.9 effective field goal percentage over their three A-10 games, which includes wins at Davidson and GW. The stretch has also included freshman guard De’Monte Buckingham’s star turn. The four guard lineup certainly has its downsides, underscored by the 6’4’’ Buckingham guarding the much taller Tyler Cavanaugh late in the GW win.

Mark Schmidt, who faces the Spiders on Wednesday, doesn’t see the issue.

"It doesn’t matter how tall you are. They’re playing extremely well," said St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt. "You look at a kid like (6-foot-4 freshman De’Monte) Buckingham, he plays the power forward and he plays much bigger than he is.”

It’s not time to give up on the Minutemen

The optics of an 0-3 league start aren’t good, but the schedule makers didn’t smile on a young team. UMass was competitive at VCU on Saturday before a barrage of Rams’ three’s turned the game into a blowout. That difficult road game followed similarly tough match ups against SBU and at George Mason. And it doesn’t get any easier with games against Dayton and URI this week.

That’s tough for any team, especially one that is now starting three freshmen. But don’t give on UMass. Derek Kellogg has continued to push the pace in A-10 play, and has seen Rashaan Holloway emerge in the post with back-to-back double doubles. Most encouraging? A decidedly more friendly stretch begins next week.

Courtesy KenPom.com

GW’s dynamic offensive struggle

The Colonials have a cast of good long-range shooters, and a bonafide star in Cavanuagh. So what’s holding back the GW offense, which has ranked 9th in offensive efficiency in A-10 play?

The eye test may provide an answer. The Colonials simply don’t have a ballhandler that can consistently get to the basket and force defenses to scramble. The numbers may back that up. GW is shooting just 40.6 percent on two-pointers over its three league games, which is second to last in the A-10.