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Atlantic 10 Media Day 2018: Catching up with Saint Louis, George Mason, Davidson, and more

Saint Louis is the preseason favorite, but three other teams received first-place votes.

NCAA Basketball: 2K Classic-Providence vs Saint Louis Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN — Saint Louis received 15 first-place votes and earned the top spot in the preseason Atlantic 10 poll, as selected by league coaches and media. The poll and conference preseason awards were unveiled at media day in Brooklyn.

With all 14 head coaches in attendance and available to the media, here’s a smattering of what we learned about the upcoming season:

Kellan Grady is blocking out the noise

Davidson coach Bob McKillop won’t hold back when discussing his star guard and preseason A-10 first-teamer. Grady burst onto the scene last year, averaging 18 points a game as a freshman. Naturally, that’s led to a ton of speculation around him about his potential NBA future.

“He has made a determination — a very mature one — that he’s not even going to be distracted by that and just focus on getting better,” McKillop said. “And he’s backed it up. It’s not just something he says, it’s something he does. If you watch his work ethic and you know his work ethic, you will see that he’s getting better.”

McKillop went on to say that Grady has been locked in on every aspect of the game and beyond. That includes skill work and game film, but also nutrition, stretching, and sleep. McKillop says Grady has made it a point to focus on it all.

Saint Louis is loaded with talent, but it will take time

There’s a reason the Billikens were picked to win the conference. Javon Bess and Jordan Goodwin (both preseason second-team all-league) are back, as is Hasahn French, who is developing into a beast in the post. They also welcome Cart’Are Gordon, a top-100 recruit who breaks backboards in his spare time.

It’s tough to argue against Saint Louis having the most talented roster in the conference, but putting it all together will be a different story. Travis Ford cautioned reporters at media day that the team is nowhere close to where he expects it to be by the end of the season.

“We are really taking this thing in practice really slow,” he said. “We haven’t put in a zone offense or a zone defense yet. I’m two weeks in. I haven’t put in a press offense yet. We put in about four offenses and one main defense, which is so atypical of me. We have five freshmen, two transfers and Elliot [Welmer] back. That’s eight players that didn’t play from last season that’s trying to figure things out.”

The NET is not exactly popular among coaches

If you took a nap this summer and missed it, NET is the the NCAA selection committee’s new stat meant to replace the RPI. The NET will account for the same principles as RPI (winning percentage, strength of schedule, etc.), but will also factor in efficiency numbers (think KenPom), scoring margin and more. It’s a good update to a stat like that RPI, which seemed to outlive its use years ago.

Granted, no coach blasted the NET itself, merely the way it was implemented — sprung on coaches mid-Summer for this coming season, after most coaches had already put together their schedules. Here’s what some of the A-10’s coaches had to say:

Mark Schmidt (St. Bonaventure):

“The problem that doesn’t make sense is they put that in after everyone did their schedule. I would think they would have put it in and given a year. Everyone based their schedule on RPI. Everybody did that and I don’t even know what the hell it is. It’s almost like you’re trying to prepare for a team but you don’t know what team you’re preparing for.”

Bob McKillop (Davidson):

“I don’t even think about that. Because I’ll get upset. So I don’t think about things that get me upset.”

Dave Paulsen (George Mason):

“I have to see how it comes out. I don’t know how that metric’s gonna go. We tried to schedule with the RPI in mind...I have a hard time believing it won’t be similar [to the RPI]”

Challenges ahead for Mark Schmidt

The Bonnies came in at ninth in the preseason A-10 poll, which seems fair. Head coach Mark Schmidt is honest about the challenges his rebuilding team will face and hopeful that some of the younger players are ready to contribute.

“There’s a lot of teaching going on,” he said about the first few weeks of practice. “Thank God that I’m an older coach. If I was a younger coach I would probably lose my mind. I’ve learned to have a little bit of patience and that’s what we’re going to need.”

He said that compared to last year, the Bonnies are probably about four days behind because his seven newcomers need to learn the system. Last year’s backcourt duo of Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley is gone, leaving Courtney Stockard and LaDarien Griffin as the two returners who have seen the most time. Schmidt expects them both to help him lead the team.

“Every good program, be it a football program or basketball program — if you’re good, you have good leadership,” he said. “How do you learn to be a good leader? When you’re a young guy you watch the older guys.”

Dave Paulsen isn’t sure of his rotation, but it’ll be good

George Mason coach Dave Paulsen joked that there was a silver lining to coaching his 16-17 Patriots last year: It wasn’t hard to figure out playing time.

“If you could breathe, you were going to play,” he said.

As for the playbook, it was, “let’s run something for Otis [Livingston].”

This year, it won’t be quite as easy. The Patriots were picked fourth in the preseason poll but did receive a first-place vote, giving fans realistic postseason expectations. Mason returns basically its entire rotation from last year and adds a few freshmen who Paulsen expects to contribute.

“It’s hard to play more than 10 kids,” he said. “Having said that, part of the reason we’ve had so many inter-squad scrimmages in the preseason is there’s not a lot of separation. So I think one of the things for me as a coach is developing a rotation. That’s going to take some time.”

He added:

“I could see us playing 10 guys but maybe it’s not always going to be the same 10 guys. Which is not ideal for players.”

The Patriots will scrimmage against Maryland this weekend, where Paulsen will have a chance to start sorting things out.

Preseason Poll and Awards:

Atlantic 10 preseason poll:

  1. Saint Louis (15)
  2. Saint Joseph’s (4)
  3. Davidson (6)
  4. George Mason (1)
  5. Rhode Island
  6. Dayton
  7. VCU
  8. Massachusetts
  9. St. Bonaventure
  10. Richmond
  11. Duquesne
  12. La Salle
  13. George Washington
  14. Fordham

All-Conference First Team:

G Kellan Grady, Davidson
F Josh Cunningham, Dayton
G Otis Livingston II, George Mason
G Luwane Pipkins, Massachusetts
F Grant Golden, Richmond

All-Conference Second Team:

G Eric Williams Jr., Duquesne
G Pookie Powell, La Salle
G Jeff Dowtin, Rhode Island
G/F Courtney Stockard, St. Bonaventure
G/F Javon Bess, Saint Louis
G Jordan Goodwin, Saint Louis

All-Conference Third Team:

G Jon Axel Gudmundsson, Davidson
G Lamarr Kimble, Saint Joseph’s
F Charlie Brown Jr., Saint Joseph’s
F Hasahn French, Saint Joseph’s
G De’Riante Jenkins, VCU

All-Defensive Team:

G Jon Axel Gudmundsson, Davidson
G Terry Nolan Jr., George Washington
F Cyril Langevine, Rhode Island
G Jacob Gilyard, RIchmond
F Javon Best, Saint Louis