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Atlantic 10 roundup: Tourney bids dwindling?

There might not be as many NCAA Tournament teams from the A-10 as once thought

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 06 Atlantic 10 Tournament - Davidson vs VCU Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

St. Bonaventure began the 2021-22 season as one of the nation’s mid-major darlings, ranked 23rd in the AP Top 25 preseason poll and voted unanimously to win the Atlantic-10 conference.

It’s no longer the Bonnies, but the A-10 does still have one of the best mid-majors in the nation: Bob McKillop’s Davidson Wildcats.

Picked sixth in the preseason poll, Davidson currently sits at 9-1 in conference play and 19-3 overall with a signature win over Alabama. The Wildcats spent a week in the AP Top 25 before their lone A-10 loss to VCU took them out, but they’ve received votes consistently for the last few months as Foster Loyer, Luka Brajkovic and Hyunjung Lee lead the seventh-best offense according to KenPom.

Loyer, a Michigan State transfer, leads the team with 15.7 points and 3.6 assists per game, shooting a blistering 45.6% from deep. Brajkovic is a four-year starter under McKillop, averaging 15.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Lee is averaging 15.5 points per game on 37.7% from distance along with 6.3 rebounds and has bolstered his status as a 2022 NBA Draft prospect.

Saint Louis (16-6), VCU (14-7), Dayton (15-8) and Richmond (15-8) occupy the de facto “second tier” of the A-10, all having lost between six and eight games to this point.

The Billikens have weathered the loss of preseason all-conference first-teamer Javonte Perkins thanks to Gibson Jimerson’s 17.4 points per game and lights-out shooting. Yuri Collins remains a top perimeter defender in the A-10 while dishing out 8.5 assists per contest, and Oregon transfer Francis Okoro provides formidable interior presence.

VCU head coach Mike Rhoades has the Rams at number four in the country in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency and Vince Williams Jr. has been one of the most effective two-way players in the conference. VCU doesn’t have any notable non-conference wins outside of Jacksonville State and Syracuse, though they do have a close loss to Connecticut in overtime.

Dayton is led by freshman DaRon Holmes II, who averages 11.7 points, 6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. Holmes recently set Dayton’s single-season blocks record and put up 21 points and seven rebounds in a blowout win over VCU. Georgia transfer Toumani Camara posts 10.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game for the Flyers.

Richmond’s Tyler Burton is a top-five scorer in the A-10 at 17 points per game, and fifth- and sixth-year seniors Jacob Gilyard and Grant Golden are reliable as ever. The Spiders are likely the last A-10 team with any remote chance at qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.

George Mason (11-9) beat Maryland in November and has one of the A-10’s three leading scorers in Josh Oduro (17.7 points per game), along with the second-leading rebounder in Davonte Gaines (8.7 rebounds per game).

The Bonnies missed Kyle Lofton for three games, but he and Dominick Welsh have struggled to shoot the ball all season, contributing to St. Bonaventure’s (12-7) and failure to live up to lofty preseason expectations. Osun Osunniyi puts up 10.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game while Jalen Adaway leads Mark Schmidt’s team with 15.5 points per game.

George Washington (8-13) put a scare into Davidson last weekend and has markedly improved since losing eight of nine during the non-conference schedule. James Bishop, along with Fordham’s Darius Quisenberry, are tied with Oduro for the A-10 lead at 17.7 points per game.

Jordan Hall might project as the player with the most NBA potential in the A-10, and he leads a 10-11 St. Joseph’s team in every statistical category apart from blocks per game. Preseason all-conference second-teamer Taylor Funk turns in 14.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per night, shooting 41.4% m distance.

Losers of five straight, the Rhode Island Rams sit at 12-9 overall with a 3-6 conference record. They’ve lost six games by six points or less on the season. Makhel Mitchell mans the frontcourt with brother Makhi, averaging a team-leading 11.1 points and a conference-leading 2.9 blocks per game.

Massachusetts is 10-11 after a strong start to the season, but lost four in-a-row to start A-10 play before picking up a win over Saint Louis. Noah Fernandes is a top-10 scorer in the conference at 15.7 points per game on 40.8% from 3-point range.

La Salle (7-13) and Duquesne (6-14) have combined for three A-10 victories so far; both were picked in the bottom-four of the conference during the preseason. Fordham was predicted to be the worst team in the A-10 but have collected three conference wins and are 10-11 on the season.