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Atlantic 10 media day: Rhode Island is the favorite and other notes

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NCAA Basketball: Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Championship - Rhode Island vs VCU Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Rhode Island Rams are the favorites to win the Atlantic 10, according to the league’s preseason poll, released Tuesday at the conference’s media day.

The Rams received 27 of 28 first-place votes, with St. Bonaventure receiving the other one. E.C. Matthews is the Rams’ representative on the All-Conference First Team, while Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley made it for the Bonnies.

Preseason poll:

  1. Rhode Island (27)
  2. St Bonaventure (1)
  3. Saint Joseph’s
  4. VCU
  5. Dayton
  6. Davidson
  7. Saint Louis
  8. Richmond
  9. La Salle
  10. George Mason
  11. George Washington
  12. Massachusetts
  13. Fordham
  14. Duquesne

Preseason all-conference teams:

First Team:

Peyton Aldridge, Sr. F, Davidson
E.C. Matthews, Sr. G, Rhode Island
Jaylen Adams, Sr., G, St. Bonaventure
Matt Mobley, Sr., G, St. Bonaventure
Justin Tillman, Sr., F, VCU

Second Team:

Yuta Watanabe, Sr., G, George Washington
B.J. Johnson, Sr., F, La Salle
Jared Terrell, Sr., G, Rhode Island
De’Monte Buckingham, So., G, Richmond
Shavar Newkirk, Sr., G, Saint Joseph’s

Third Team:

Mike Lewis II, So., G, Duquesne
Joseph Chartouny, Jr., G, Fordham
Otis Livingston II, Jr., G, George Mason
Charlie Brown, Jr., So., F, Saint Joseph’s
Lamarr Kimble, Jr., G, Saint Joseph’s

All-Defensive Team

Joseph Chartouny, Jr., G, Fordham
Yuta Watanabe, Sr., G, George Washington
Jared Terrell, Sr., G, Rhode Island
Justin Tillman, Sr., F, VCU
Jonathan Williams, Sr., G, VCU

News and Notes:

Peyton Aldridge hopes to be a more vocal leader

Davidson is tasked with replacing two-time First Team All-Atlantic 10 guard Jack Gibbs. The most obvious candidate to replace Gibbs as the Wildcats’ leader is senior forward Peyton Aldridge. Aldridge acknowledged that he will need to be more vocal when it comes to rallying his teammates. He said he feels comfortable being Davidson’s go-to guy at the end of a game, but feels his team has multiple guys who are capable to stepping up in big moments if called upon.

Dan Hurley has J.R. Smith stories

You may know J.R. Smith for his high flying dunks, unwavering faith in his jump shot, unfiltered social media posts, or simply as the guy who had to be told by the President of the United States to put a shirt on a week after winning his first NBA Championship. But before he was setting NBA records for most three-point attempts in a game, he was getting buckets for Dan Hurley’s St. Benedict’s Prep team in Newark, New Jersey. While speaking with the media Tuesday, Hurley recalled the state championship game of Smith’s senior year, when J.R. was the second of five people ejected from the St. Benedict’s sideline, with Hurley following closely behind him. On his way back to the locker room, Smith took off both of his sneakers. He autographed the first sneaker and handed it to a young boy in a wheelchair. Smith then launched his second shoe as far as he could into the crowd in what would be his final act on a basketball court before becoming a first-round pick in the 2004 NBA Draft.

Jaylen Adams likes the feel of this St. Bonaventure team

St. Bonaventure has spent the last two years in the good-not-great category of the mid-major hierarchy. Two years ago, the Bonnies just missed an NCAA Tournament bid, when an Atlantic 10 Tournament loss to Davidson derailed their hopes. Adams, now a senior, says this team is more mature than in years past.

“You just get to know one another,” Adams said. “You get to big spots and you get to know where your teammates are going to be. You just get along.”

Adams himself says he is working on keeping his turnovers down and shooting at a higher percentage. For reference, he turned it over 3.4 times per game last year and shot about 42 percent from the field.

VCU is going to wear you down

New VCU coach Mike Rhoades made it clear on Tuesday that while the coaches have changed, the philosophy has not. Rhoades will make Havoc a constant at the Siegel Center and that will dictate the Rams’ look on both ends. Naturally on defense, VCU will press, trap, and force turnovers. On offense, he says he hopes the Rams can get a good shot up in seven seconds or less. The key will be to get a look before the defense has a chance to set up.

George Washington is going to look a lot different

Duh. Tyler Cavanaugh is gone, so the Colonials will be without a strong presence inside. George Washington also welcomes nine new players, and head coach Maurice Joseph is excited about their versatility. On the glass, it will need to be a team effort, he says, but the trade-off there is an interchangeable offense, allowing players to play anywhere on the court.

Senior Yuta Watanabe is the leader of that movement.

“[Watanabe], I think, is one of the best players in this league, seeing that he could guard 1 through 5 if he wants to,” Joseph said. “I think he’s probably the best two-way player in this league.”

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