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Atlantic 10 Tournament Preview: In a league full of bubble teams, who will come out on top?

The tournament starts on Wednesday in Richmond.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 09 Rhode Island at VCU Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Atlantic 10 is a beautiful mess. Richmond, a bubble team, is the 8 seed. Last year's champion, Dayton, is the 7 seed. VCU can play two tournament games on its home court, and somehow 13 seed Saint Joseph’s has caught fire. There’s also St. Bonaventure as the 1 seed that still hasn’t solidified itself as an NCAA Tournament lock.

Instead of their planned post in Brooklyn, this year’s tournament location will be split between Richmond and Dayton. The first four rounds are in RVA, before the finalists move to the home of the Flyers. This helps three of the better teams in the league.

Every game means something to someone in the tournament. Rivalries will be renewed, jobs will be on the line, and tournament bids will be up for grabs.

Bracket

Schedule:

Note: First round, second round, quarterfinals, and semifinals are in Richmond. Finals are in Dayton. All game times are Eastern.

First Round (Wed., March 3), ESPN+

Game 1: No. 13 Saint Joseph’s vs. No. 12 La Salle, 11 a.m.
Game 2: No. 14 Fordham vs. No. 11 George Washington, 2 p.m.

Second Round (Thu., March 4), NBCSN

Game 3: No. 9 Duquesne vs. No. 8 Richmond, 11 a.m.
Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. No. 5 UMass, 1 p.m.
Game 5: No. 10 Rhode Island vs. No. 7 Dayton, 3:30 p.m.
Game 6: Game 2 winner vs No. 6 George Mason, 5:30 p.m.

Quarterfinals (Fri., March 5), NBCSN

Game 7: Game 3 winner vs. No. 1 Saint Bonaventure, 11 a.m.
Game 8: Game 4 winner vs. No. 4 Saint Louis, 1 p.m.
Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. No. 2 VCU, 3:30 p.m.
Game 10: Game 6 winner vs. No. 3 Davidson, 5:30 p.m.

Semifinals (Sat., March 6), CBSSN

Game 11: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 12: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 9 p.m.

Finals (Sun., March 14), CBS

Game 13: Game 11 winner vs. Game 12 winner, 1 p.m.

The Favorite:

VCU (17-6, 10-4): The Rams are the Vegas favorites, and one of many teams in this league that can get an at-large bid. Bones Hyland has had a Player of the Year type season, averaging 19.2 points per game, but is currently dealing with a foot injury. Jon Rothstein reported on Monday that Hyland hopes to be able to go this weekend, though. Vince Williams is another star for the Rams who is dealing with an injury, averaging 11.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.

Along with them, they have the potential A10 all-rookie team player in Ace Baldwin. He doesn’t have the average numbers that will pop out to you, but he can go off any minute. Baldwin is one of two Rams who currently ranks in the top 100 of steal percentage. Their backcourt runs the second-best steal percentage defense in the country and is one of the best defenses in whole.

Luckily for the Rams, they will be playing their quarterfinal and potentially semifinal games at their home court, the Siegel Center. The crowds might not be all that large, but it has the possibility of being more life-altering than a 10-day trip to Europe.

The Dark Horses:

Saint Bonaventure (13-4, 11-4): For the first time ever, Saint Bonaventure is outright Atlantic 10 regular season champions. Even if the Bonnies have a short stint in the NCAA Tournament, this will probably not be the last time you hear of them. All five of their starters are juniors. Kyle Lofton and Jaren Holmes each score around 15 points per game and are one of the great backcourts in the league. Osun Osunniyi is one of the scariest big men down low, averaging 10 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. They also have one of the most efficiently run defenses in the country. It would be crazy if the Bonnies don’t get an at-large bid, but they have the experience and coaching to win them another tournament title.

Saint Louis (13-5, 6-4): If it were not for a month-long COVID shutdown, the Billikens would be on the right side of the bubble. But as of now, they are not. They will probably have to make a run in the A-10 tournament to be in the conversation.

The Billikens have a good chance of that happening with their backcourt of Jordan Goodwin and Javonte Perkins. Perkins averaged 16.9 points per game while being one of the best free-throw shooters in the country on a team that was one of the worst last season. Goodwin averages a double-double with 14.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, ranking in the top 20 of the country in defensive rebounding percentage.

Just like the other great teams in the league, they have a great defense. Their offense has picked it up of late and will have to carry that into these two weeks to make the dance.

Richmond (13-7, 6-5): Many college basketball casuals this season might be asking, “Why are the Spiders the eighth seed? Didn’t they beat Kentucky?” Yes, they beat Kentucky, but Kentucky is terrible this season, and Richmond does not have many other good wins. To tie into that, they lost to Saint Joe’s to end the season, the second-to-last-place team in the league. They are far from bubble conversation as of now.

The Spiders do have their offense going for them, and a lot of experience. The Spiders are run by four seniors who have the 29th-ranked efficient offense in the country. Blake Francis averages 16.9 points per game and is an all-league candidate. Both Grant Golden and Nathan Cayo shoot in the high 50s from the field, averaging over 10 points per game. They’ll just have to be consistent to put together a stretch. They have the talent.

The Long Shots:

Davidson (12-7, 7-4): The Wildcats have had a strange season. They have beaten everyone that they are supposed to and battled but lost to almost everyone else, but VCU. Kellen Grady has had a stellar senior season, averaging 16.8 points per game. Hyunjung Lee and Luka Brajkovic have really grown. They will just have to get out of their comfort zone and win the big ones to win it all.

UMass (7-6, 6-4): Tre Mitchell is one of the best big men in the country, and the Minutemen have a really underrated backcourt. Their only problem is that they have only beaten La Salle, Fordham, and Rhode Island this season.

George Mason (12-8, 8-6): The Patriots have the longest winning streak in the league at four, which includes an upset victory of VCU in Richmond. They have a super fun backcourt in Jordan Miller, Javon Greene, and Tyler Kolek, along with one of the most underrated big men in the country in AJ Wilson. The Patriots are another one of those teams who really don’t have any amazing wins outside of VCU.

Dayton (13-8, 9-7): You have to feel bad for the Flyers last season. They put together one of the most impressive mid-major seasons ever but had it ended because of COVID-19. The epitome of brutality. They do return one of those stars in Jalen Crutcher, and he has the leadership skills to have them make a run. If they make the title game, they will be able to close it out on their home court.

Duquesne (8-8, 7-7): Every time the Dukes got hot, they got shut down because of COVID-19. They have one of the best front courts in mid-major basketball with Marcus Weathers, Chad Baker, and Michael Hughes. Their problem is that most of their guards left the program throughout the season. If Tavian Dunn-Martin makes his threes, this team could be deadly.

Rhode Island (10-14, 7-10): This is Fatts Russell’s last ride. They have some good pieces around him but can’t get a winning streak going. Some may say their lack of postponements hurt them throughout the season.

Players to Watch:

Kyle Lofton, Saint Bonaventure (14.8 PPG, 5.4 APG, 44.6% FG%)
Jalen Adaway, Saint Bonaventure (11.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 55.5% FG%)
Osun Osunniyi, Saint Bonaventure (10.0 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 53.4% FG%)
Bones Hyland, VCU (19.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 44.1% FG%)
Kellen Grady, Davidson (16.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 47.6% FG%)
Hyunjung Lee, Davidson (13.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 50.3% FG%)
Luka Brajkovic, Davidson (10.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 52.9% FG%)
Javonte Perkins, Saint Louis (16.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 46.5% FG%)
Jordan Goodwin, Saint Louis (14.6 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 45.9% FG%)
Tre Mitchell, UMass (18.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 50.4% FG%)
Jordan Miller, George Mason (15.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 46.1% FG%)
Tyler Kolek, George Mason (11.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 40.2% FG%)
AJ Wilson, George Mason (8.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 39.6% FG%)
Jalen Crutcher, Dayton (18.8 PPG, 4.9 APG, 48.1% FG)
Mustapha Amzil, Dayton (10.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 47.4% FG%)
Blake Francis, Richmond (16.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 43.0% FG%)
Grant Golden, Richmond (13.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 57.4% FG%)
Marcus Weathers, Duquesne (16.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 50% FG%)
Michael Hughes, Duquesne (10.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 52.2% FG%)
Chad Baker, Duquesne (9.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 41.8% FG%)
Fatts Russell, Rhode Island (15.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 33.7% FG%)
James Bishop, George Washington (19.1 PPG, 5.2 APG, 43.8% FG%)
Ryan Daly, Saint Joseph’s (20.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 46.7% FG%)

Prediction:

There could be 12 teams that could win this tournament, and I would not be shocked. In my opinion, I think that Saint Louis squeezes by VCU in the title game. Three teams will get tournament bids in Saint Bonaventure, Saint Louis, and VCU.