A lot has been made of the Atlantic 10 to start this season. After a few down years, it was expected to be stronger in 2019-20, and so far, it has proven to be just that. Dayton has made the most noise thanks to one Obi Toppin, but behind the scenes, George Mason, Richmond, Duquesne, and more have gotten off to strong starts. That’s not even mentioning VCU and Davidson — a pair of teams whose records don’t quite match their talent.
It’s time to discuss just how many bids this league can get.
The Near Lock
No. 13 Dayton (9-2)
The Flyers are a team worth betting on this season. The Flyers have breezed through non-conference play with relative ease, safe for an OT hiccup against Kansas and a buzzer-beating loss to likely tournament-bound Colorado.
Toppin is one of the most complete players in college basketball. His stat line of 19.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 62 percent shooting, and 37 percent from behind the arc don’t even do him justice. He can be everywhere on the court, as needed, on any given night. His athleticism sets him apart and he still has plenty left in the tank, considering how much he improved in the offseason.
Couple Toppin with a trio of high-powered guards in Jalen Crutcher, Trey Landers and Ibi Watson, who all average about 10 points per game, and Dayton has enough scoring threats to compete with anyone. At this point, they’ve built enough of a resume that an at-large bid seems certain.
The Safe Bet
VCU (9-3): The Rams have a win against No. 23 LSU and two of their three losses are three-point blemishes to Purdue and Tennessee. VCU’s best player, Marcus Evans, mustered only 10 points in total for those two games. The difference-maker has been Marcus Santos-Silva, who now leads the team in points and rebounds per game. He’s not necessarily the guy who will have the ball in his hands with the game on the line, but the emergence of another star alongside Evans bodes well for Rams fans.
Saint Louis (10-2): At this point, the Billikens have played a pair of No. 12 teams, first losing by 17 to Seton Hall, and then by just six to Auburn. The duo of Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French have been among my favorite players to watch in college basketball. Goodwin is the next coming of Jemerrio Jones in that he’s one of the best rebounding guards in the game. French is a double-double machine and the glue that keeps the team together. If those two could ever combine for better than 50 percent from the free throw line, it would be scary to see how good they could be.
Duquesne (10-0): The Dukes have the best record in the league going into conference play, but their relatively weak non-conference schedule will show itself eventually. Though they do not have a major statement win so far, the closest thing to it is their 58-36 thrashing of Lipscomb. Sure, Lipscomb isn’t what it was last year, but the Bisons are an ASUN contender and the Dukes held them to just 36 points. The team is led by junior forward Marcus Weathers, who has pulled in 56 points in the last three games and is capable of double-doubles any day of the week. Sincere Carry has the confidence on the court to match his unique name. He’s averaged five assists per game and leads the Dukes in scoring average. Should they clean up their three-point shooting the Dukes could be a force to be reckoned with entering A-10 play.
George Mason (11-1): The most encouraging thing for the Patriots is that their star player, Justin Kier, has only played a few minutes this year due to injury. Without him, George Mason has put together an 11-1 start with a win over New Mexico State and no letdowns. Javon Greene and Jordan Miller have shouldered the weight for the guards.
Richmond (10-1): The Spiders have quietly put together wins against Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Boston College and Charleston. They are ninth nationally in assists per game with 18.2 and have big-time scorers who could make a case for themselves come conference play. Leading the charge is Blake Francis, who transferred from Wagner, and is the team’s leading scorer. Jacob Gilyard is the playmaker and engine behind this team. He now has five games with four-or-more threes apiece and leads the nation with 3.8 steals per game.
Rhode Island (7-3): Would this really be a complete list if we left Fatts Russell’s squad off? The junior guard is one of the most exciting scorers to watch in college basketball and has a stat line of 20.8 points and 5.5 assists per game to prove it. Seniors Jeff Dowtin and Cyril Langevine are key pieces for Rhody as well because of their experience winning NCAA Tournament games in both 2017 and 2018.
Davidson (5-5): I don’t count out any team with Jon Axel Gudmundsson, Kellan Grady and Bob McKillop behind the scenes. Since joining the A-10, they have 20-plus wins in all but one season. That’s quite a track record, but to get back to the dance, it might need to be with the auto-bid. The Wildcats have hurt themselves too much in the non-conference.