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2023-24 Atlantic 10 Preview Part Two: The Pretenders

The Atlantic 10 Conference experienced a down season in 2022-23, with only one team, the VCU Rams, making it to the NCAA Tournament. Last season saw the emergence of teams like Fordham and Duquesne, while perennial top-half finishers Davidson and St. Bonaventure struggled.


The 2023-24 rendition of the A10 will be split into three distinct categories: the contenders, the pretenders and the bottom feeders. Up next, the pretenders. One or two of these schools could surprise some people, but all will likely end up mediocre at best. These four teams are this season’s pretenders.

 

10

Projected A10 record: 7-11

The Patriots surprised some people last season, finishing with an 11-7 A10 record (20 wins overall) and grabbing fifth place in the conference. However, George Mason looks like a completely different program entering the new season. Former head coach Kim English departed for Providence College and took his entire staff and most of his starters with him. Josh Oduro, Davonte Gaines and Justyn Fernandez all followed English to Providence.


Oduro led the Patriots with 15.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, while Gaines averaged 7.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Mason also lost starters DeVon Cooper and Victor Bailey Jr. along with role player Ginika Ojiako. The Patriots will only return 36 games started out of the possible 165 from last season, with Ronald Polite Jr. accounting for 28 of those starts.


New head coach Tony Skinn enters his first season with a completely remade staff that includes former St. Bonaventure assistant coach Steve Curran in the role of associate head coach. The new regime welcomed three freshmen and eight transfers into the program. Of the eight transfers, guards Jared Billups and Darius Maddox, along with forwards Jalen Haynes and Amari Kelly, appear to be primed to make the biggest impacts this season. Billups averaged 8.1 points per game at Siena last season, while Maddox averaged 8.5 points at Virginia Tech.


The forwards are the players Patriot fans should be most excited about. Haynes averaged 14.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game at ETSU last season while Kelly scored 7.8 points and grabbed 5.5 boards per game at UNC Wilmington. George Mason has a chance to really surprise some people this season, but there are simply better teams ahead of them that will be tough games to win.

 

9

Projected A10 record: 7-11

UMass lost 12 of its 15 players over the summer including leading scorers Noah Fernandes (13.4 points per game), RJ Luis (11.5 PPG), T.J. Weeks Jr. (8.8 PPG) and Dyondre Dominguez (8.7 PPG). Matt Cross will return along with Rahsool Diggins, who were both normal parts of the UMass rotation last season. Cross averaged 12.2 points and a team-high 6.3 rebounds while playing 26.9 minutes per game. Diggins scored an average of 4.7 points over 17.5 minutes per game in 2022-23.


The Minutemen have elected to go young as Martin and his staff have brought seven new freshmen into the program. A freshman to keep an eye on throughout his UMass career is 7’3’’ Mathok Majok, who went to Bridgeport Prep (CT) via way of South Sudan. The immediate impact transfer must be Josh Cohen. The 2023 Northeastern Conference co-player of the year averaged 21.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game at Saint Francis (PA) last season. UMass will be a young team searching for an identity all season. Expect the Minutemen to be below average in 2023-24 but win some games many have already chalked up as losses. The future looks bright in Amherst.

 

8

Projected A10 record 8-10

The Spiders finished 7-11 last season and lost star player Tyler Burton. The wing averaged 19.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in 2022-23, which was 9.5 points and 1.9 rebounds higher than any other player on the roster. Third-highest scorer Matt Grace and his 8.5 points per game also left the program, along with fourth-highest scorer Jason Nelson and his 8.0 points per game. Chris Mooney also lost Andre Gustavson, who started all 33 games, and Marcus Randolph who appeared in all 33 games last season.


Mooney and his staff made some moves in the transfer portal this summer along with recruiting five freshmen to the program. While it will be nearly impossible to replace Burton’s production, the solid transfer duo of Jordan King and DeLonnie Hunt will help fill that gap. King comes to Richmond as a graduate transfer from ETSU. While at ETSU, King averaged 15.6 points and 3.1 assists per game. Hunt enters the program as a senior from Wagner where he averaged 11.1 points and 2.7 assists per game per game. The Spiders will be more balanced throughout the lineup this season, but on paper are the definition of an average team.

 

7

Projected A10 record: 9-9

St. Joseph's went 8-10 in the A10 last season and will return most of its roster this season. The only starter the Hawks lost was Ejike Obinna, who averaged 8.4 points and 5.4 rebounds over 22.6 minutes per game. Billy Lange’s team had seven guys play more than 20 minutes per game with another two who played over 8.5 minutes per game.


St. Joe’s “big three” will all return for the 2023-24 season. Erik Reynolds II, Cameron Brown and Lynn Greer III were the only players to play in all 33 games last season, with the trio starting 98 of the 99 combined games. Reynolds averaged a team-leading 19.6 points per game while grabbing 3.1 rebounds. Brown scored 13.3 points per game while grabbing a team-high 6.0 rebounds per game. Greer averaged 12.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game last season. The trio averaged 35.1, 34.2 and 32.5 minutes per game in 2022-23 as well.


While the Hawks return most of its roster, the lack of any transfers will cost the program. St. Joe’s did welcome four freshmen but will need multiple players to take a step forward to support its stars if the Hawks are going to be a contender. This roster went 8-10 last season and it’s trending that way again in 2023-24.

 

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