A-10 basketball: Busy offseason for conference with transfer news dominating headlines

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St. Bonaventure celebrates A-10 championship at UD Arena on March 14, 2021

St. Bonaventure will still be heavy favorite next season despite losing entire bench to transfer portal

The constant roster shuffling in college basketball has not reshaped the expectations in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

St. Bonaventure, the defending regularseason and tournament champions, will be the favorite in the 2021-22 season over Virginia Commonwealth, which finished runner-up in the regular season and the tournament last season. Those two teams and Richmond, the preseason favorite last season, all made Joe Lunardi’s field of 68 in his first offseason bracket prediction for the 2021 NCAA tournament.

Despite having the A-10′s top-ranked recruiting class — No. 15, according to Rivals.com — the Dayton Flyers, with six newcomers among 12 scholarship players, may not land in the top four when the preseason poll comes out in the fall.

The offseason is less than two months old, but it has been a busy period. Here’s a breakdown of the biggest news in A-10 men’s basketball:

1. Coaching changes: Two of the 14 A-10 teams found new coaches in March.

George Mason hired Kim English, who spent the previous two seasons as an assistant coach to Rick Barnes at Tennessee. English replace Dave Paulsen, who was fired after going 95-91 in six seasons.

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Fordham hired Kyle Neptune. He was an assistant coach on Jay Wright’s staff at Villanova the last eight seasons. The hiring came two months after Fordham fired Jeff Neubauer, who was 61-104 in six seasons, in January.

2. Seniors decisions: Three Richmond seniors — forwards Grant Golden and Nathan Cayo and guard Jacob Gilyard — announced they will return for the 2021-22 season.

It will be the sixth season in college basketball for Golden, an All-A-10 third-team selection who averaged 12.7 points per game last season. It will be the fifth season for Gilyard and Cayo, each of whom have scored more than 1,000 points in their careers.

With the returns of those three players and forward Tyler Burton, who will be a junior, Richmond gets back four of its top five scorers. Another senior, guard Blake Francis, the team’s leading scorer with 16.1 points per game, announced he will pursue professional opportunities.

Another senior returning is VCU forward Levi Stockard III, who averaged 6.5 points last season in his first season at VCU after three seasons at Kansas State.

Saint Louis senior guard Javonte Perkins, who led the team with 17.1 points per game, announced in February he would take advantage of the extra year.

Among the seniors in the conference who have not announced whether they plan to return to college basketball or pursue pro careers are Dayton’s Jalen Crutcher and Ibi Watson.

3. Mass exodus: Seven of the 12 players who saw action last season for St. Bonaventure entered the transfer portal. Only one of those, however, played a significant role: Alejandro Vasquez, who averaged 13.4 minutes per game.

The Bonnies will return all five starters, including All-A-10 selections Kyle Lofton, Jaren Holmes and Osun Osunniyi. That’s why they’ve been featured in many early top-25 predictions for the coming season. ESPN’s Jeff Borzello ranked them 15th.

Virginia Commonwealth's Bones Hyland reacts after making a 3-pointer against Dayton in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament on Friday, March 5, 2021, at the Siegel Center in Richmond, Va. David Jablonski/Staff
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Virginia Commonwealth's Bones Hyland reacts after making a 3-pointer against Dayton in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament on Friday, March 5, 2021, at the Siegel Center in Richmond, Va. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

4. Pro decision: Virginia Commonwealth sophomore guard Bones Hyland, the A-10 Player of the Year, announced April 17 he will sign with an agent and enter the NBA Draft.

5. Fan situation: A number of A-10 schools didn’t allow any fans to attend games last season. Dayton had limited capacity with close to 100 fans at home games. Count VCU Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin among those optimistic the 2021-22 season will take place under more normal circumstances.

“Looking ahead to our 2021-22 season, we expect to return to full capacity in the Siegel Center for home games,” he wrote in a letter to fans on April 19. “The sellout streak will resume with all of you coming back to bring energy and passion that we sorely miss. With COVID-19 numbers decreasing and the optimism surrounding the success of a vaccine, we expect a return to normal in the fall.”

Dayton's Jalen Crutcher hugs Rhode Island's Fatts Russell after the game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
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Dayton's Jalen Crutcher hugs Rhode Island's Fatts Russell after the game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

6. Lost seniors: The NCAA decision to not count last season against anyone’s eligibility has opened doors for a number of players whose eligibility would have ran out this year.

Dayton wasn’t the only school to lose a senior — Rodney Chatman, who will be a sixth-year senior next season, will transfer to Vanderbilt — to a higher-profile conference.

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Davidson lost guard Kellan Grady to Kentucky on March 29. Grady was a two-time A-10 first-team selection who averaged 17.1 points per game last season as a senior. He’s the second A-10 player in as many years to transfer to Kentucky, following Jacob Toppin, who left Rhode Island after one season.

Rhode Island guard Fatts Russell, like Grady a significant contributor throughout his four seasons, announced April 3 he will play one more season of college basketball at Maryland.

Duquesne’s leading scorer, senior forward Marcus Weathers, will transfer to Southern Methodist for his sixth season.

Massachusetts senior guard Carl Pierre, who scored 1,353 points in four seasons, will play his final season at Rice.

Massachusetts center Tre Mitchell shoots over Dayton’s Obi Toppin in the first half on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. David Jablonski/Staff
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Massachusetts center Tre Mitchell shoots over Dayton’s Obi Toppin in the first half on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. David Jablonski/Staff

7. Other transfers: UMass star Tre Mitchell, who may have been the frontrunner for A-10 player of the year next season as a junior, announced a decision to transfer but has not picked a new school. He ranks sixth on a list, by The Athletic, of best players available among transfers or undecided incoming freshmen.

The two teams that hired new coaches lost key players to the transfer portal.

Forward Joel Soriano, who averaged 10.4 points as a sophomore at Fordham, announced he will transfer to St. John’s.

Tyler Kolek, who averaged 10.8 points as a freshman at George Mason and was named the A-10 Rookie of the Year, will transfer to Marquette. George Mason’s leading scorer, guard Jordan Miller, announced he will transfer to Miami.

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Dayton basketball recruiting history (Through April 2021)

8. Key additions: Dayton picked up the highest-rated transfer of the offseason: Georgia forward Toumani Camara.

Among the new players at VCU will be guard Marcus Tsohonis, who averaged 10.4 points as a sophomore at Washington.

Rhode Island landed Ball State guard Ishmael El-Amin, who scored 1,083 points in his first three seasons and averaged 16.2 points last season.

UMass will add two transfers named Kelly. Guard C.J. Kelly led Albany with 14.3 points per game as a redshirt sophomore. Guard Rich Kelly, who will be a fifth-year senior, has scored 1,386 points in three seasons at Quinnipiac and one season at Boston College.

A name familiar to Dayton fans will play next season at George Mason. D’Shawn Schwartz, who hit a last-second 3-pointer in overtime to beat Dayton in December 2019 when he was at Colorado, will play his final season in the A-10 after scoring 1,026 points in four seasons in the Pac-12.