Dayton vs. VCU: Highlights from final two minutes
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Early Atlantic 10 prediction: VCU, Dayton, Davidson among top contenders in 2020

League failed to win a NCAA or NIT game for first time ever in 2019

» TRANSFER LIST: Who left the A-10 this spring?

It was a four-bid league if you counted two NIT bids, but that won’t make A-10 fans feel any better. Virginia Commonwealth, Saint Louis, Dayton and Davidson combined to go 0-4 in the postseason. It was the first time since 2005 the conference didn’t win a NCAA tournament game and the first time ever it didn’t win a game in either the NCAA tournament or NIT.

A season full of talk of the A-10’s demise will be followed by a season with as much promise as any in recent memory. Only three seniors ranked among the 15 players named to the A-10 first, second and third teams. That means much of the top talent returns, though four of the league’s top players — Dayton’s Obi Toppin, Saint Joseph’s Charlie Brown Jr. and Davidson’s Jon Axel Gudmundsson and Kellan Grady, all of whom made the A-10 first or second teams — have declared for the NBA Draft.

» UD ARENA UPDATE: Final phase of renovation is underway

The season is six months away, but it’s not too early to look ahead. Here’s a prediction on where the 14 A-10 teams will finish in the 2019-20 season.

Virginia Commonwealth's Marcus Evans scores with six seconds to play to beat Dayton on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, at UD Arena.
Video: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

1. Virginia Commonwealth

Last year: 25-8 overall; 16-2 A-10 (first place); lost 75-70 to Rhode Island in quarterfinals of A-10 tournament; lost 73-58 to Central Florida in first round of NCAA tournament.

Coach: Mike Rhoades (43-23 in two seasons).

A-10 history: The Rams are 89-33 in A-10 play in seven seasons. Their .729 win percentage in that span is the best in the league by a wide margin. Dayton (80-42, .656) ranks second. VCU shared the regular-season title in 2016 with Dayton and St. Bonaventure and won the outright title for the first time in 2019. It won the A-10 tournament in 2015.

Top returner: Guard Marcus Evans, an A-10 first-team selection, led the Rams in scoring with 13.6 points per game in his first season after transferring from Rice, where he played his first two seasons for Rhoades. He’ll be a senior in the 2019-20 season. He made two go-ahead shots in the final minute to help VCU sweep the regular-season series from Dayton.

Top newcomer: Jaren McCallister, a 6-4 guard from Wake Forest, N.C., who attended Massanutten Military Academy last season, signed with VCU in November. He’s a three-star recruit.

Biggest loss: Forward Sean Mobley announced his decision to transfer April 8 after two seasons with the program. He started 23 games last season and averaged 4.2 points.

Summary: VCU returns four starters and seven other letterwinners from a team that ran away with the regular-season title after being picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll and played in the NCAA tournament for the eighth time in nine seasons. In addition to Evans, three other double-digit scorers return: guard De’Riante Jenkins (11.3); guard/forward Isaac Vann (10.8); and forward Marcus Santos-Silva (10.0). Evans, Jenkins, Vann, Mike’L Simms (4.7) and Malik Crowfield (3.7) give VCU the league’s strongest senior class.

Watch: Obi Toppin ties Dayton field-goal percentage record
Video: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

2. Dayton

Last year: 21-12 overall; 13-5 A-10 (third place); lost 64-55 to Saint Louis in the quarterfinals of the A-10 tournament; lost 78-73 at Colorado in the first round of the NIT.

Coach: Anthony Grant (35-29 in two seasons).

A-10 history: The Flyers won their only A-10 outright regular-season title in 2017 after sharing the crown with VCU and St. Bonaventure in 2016. They won their first and only A-10 tournament championship in 2003 at UD Arena and have gone 0-3 in the tournament in the last three seasons.

Top returner: Obi Toppin will be a redshirt sophomore forward if he withdraws his name from the NBA Draft by June 10. He announced April 17 he will explore the draft process this spring while maintaining his eligibility. He averaged 14.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in his first season on the court with Dayton, was named to the All-Atlantic 10 first team and became the first Dayton player to win the A-10 Rookie of the Year Award.

» RELATED: Former Flyers face off in European tournament

Top newcomer: Guard Ibi Watson is one of four transfers who will debut for Dayton in the 2019-20 season. He was a three-star recruit in the class of 2016 who appeared in 45 games in two seasons at Michigan, averaging 2.2 points in 5.2 minutes per game as a sophomore.

Biggest loss: Forward Josh Cunningham averaged 13.3 points as a senior and made the A-10 third team.

Summary: If Toppin returns, Dayton will have three starters back and two other letterwinners from an eight-man team. It also returns guard Jhery Matos, who suffered a season-ending injury in the sixth game. It has filled 11 of 13 scholarships, so could still add depth this spring, though even if it leaves those spots open, this will be the deepest Dayton team since the Elite Eight group of 2014.

Davidson’s Jon Axel Gudmundsson dribbles against Dayton’s Ryan Mikesell on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, at Belk Arena in Davidson, N.C.
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

3. Davidson

Last year: 24-10 overall; 14-4 A-10 (second place); lost 67-44 to Saint Louis in semifinals of A-10 tournament; lost 89-81 to Lipscomb in first round of NIT.

Coach: Bob McKillop (578-330 in 30 seasons).

A-10 history: The Wildcats won the A-10 regular-season title in 2015, their first season in the league, and won the A-10 tournament in 2018.

Top returner: Gudmundsson (16.9 points per game) became the third Davidson player in the last five years to win or share the A-10 Player of the Year Award. Like Grady, who prior to last season was the favorite to win the A-10 Player of the Year Award, he will explore the draft while keeping his options open in regard to returning to school.

Top newcomer: David Kristensen, of Denmark, is the latest player from Europe to sign with Davidson. He’s a 6-10 forward. Davidson had six players from foreign countries on its roster last season, and 36 international players have played for Davidson since McKillop was hired in 1989.

Biggest loss: Forward Nathan Ekwu was the team’s lone senior. He averaged 2.1 points in 13 games.

Summary: If Gudmundsson and Grady, who’s the conference’s leading returning scorer (17.3), don’t stay in the draft, the Wildcats will return all five starters, challenge for their third top-four finish in a row and compete for their third NCAA bid in six seasons in the A-10.

Rhode Island celebrates a victory against Virginia Commonwealth in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2019, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. David Jablonski/Staff
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer/David Jablonski/Staff

4. Rhode Island

Last year: 18-15 overall; 9-9 A-10 (eighth place); lost 68-51 to St. Bonaventure in A-10 semifinals.

Coach: David Cox (18-15 in one season).

A-10 history: The Rams won their only regular-season championship in 2018 and won A-10 tournament titles in 1999 and 2017.

Top returner: Forward Cyril Langevine averaged 14.7 points and a conference-best 9.9 rebounds as a junior and made the A-10 second team.

Top newcomer: Antwan Walker, a 6-7 forward, transferred to Rhode Island from Georgetown. He appeared in 23 games for the Hoyas as a freshman, averaging 2.6 points.

Biggest loss: Freshman guard Omar Silverio transferred to Hofstra. He averaged 1.9 points in 28 games.

Summary: Two years after a banner season that resulted in coach Dan Hurley leaving for Connecticut, Rhode Island will be poised again to compete for the A-10 championship and a NCAA tournament berth. The Ramns return their entire starting lineup and every player who averaged at least 3.0 points per game. In addition to Langevine, guards Jeff Dowtin (15.3) and Fatts Russell (14.2) are returning double-digit scorers.

St. Bonaventure’s Kyle Lofton ties a game against Dayton with a free throw on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, at the Reilly Center in Olean, N.Y.
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

5. St. Bonaventure

Last year: 18-16 overall, 12-6 A-10 (fourth place); lost 55-53 to Saint Louis in A-10 championship game.

Coach: Mark Schmidt (212-168 in 12 seasons).

A-10 history: The Bonnies share the A-10 regular-season title in 2016 with Dayton and VCU. They won the A-10 tournament in 2012.

Top returner: Guard Kyle Lofton ranked second on the team with 14.4 points per game as a freshman. Andy Katz, of NCAA.com, named Lofton to a list of 11 rising stars to watch in the 2019-20 season.

Top newcomer: Mount St. Mary’s transfer Bobby Planutis, a 6-8 forward, sat out last season after averaging 5.6 points as a freshman.

Biggest loss: Senior Courtney Stockard averaged 15.1 points per game and made the A-10 first team.

Summary: The Bonnies graduated three seniors and return six players. Last season’s strong freshman class, which also included forward Osun Osunniyi (7.5) and Dominick Welch (6.8), provide hope the team can challenge for its fourth top-four finish in the last five years.

Duquesne’s Marcus Weathers runs into Dayton’s Obi Toppin on Saturday, March 9, 2019, at the Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh.
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

6. Duquesne

Last year: 19-13 overall; 10-8 A-10 (tied for sixth place); lost 92-86 to Saint Joseph’s in second round of A-10 tournament.

Coach: Keith Dambrot (35-29 in two seasons).

A-10 history: The Dukes have never won the regular-season title. They won the first A-10 tournament in 1977.

Top returner: Guard Sincere Carry (12.1) made the all-rookie team as a freshman. He led the conference with 5.8 assists per game.

Top newcomer: Baylee Steele, a grad transfer from Utah Valley, committed to Duquesne on April 19. He’s a 6-11 center who averaged 8.5 points and 7.2 rebounds last season.

Biggest loss: Guard Eric Williams Jr., the team’s leading scorer (14.0), transferred to Oregon.

Summary: Duquesne had one of the most improved teams in the conference last season. It was one of the nation’s youngest teams, ranking 346th out of 353 teams in experience, and featured 11 newcomers, the third most in Division I. The loss of Williams hurts, but the Dukes should compete for a top-four seed in Dambrot’s third season.

Jordan Goodwin, of Saint Louis , reacts to a play during a game against Dayton in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2019, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. David Jablonski/Staff
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

7. Saint Louis

Last year: 23-13, 10-8 A-10 (tied for sixth place); beat St. Bonaventure 55-53 to win A-10 tournament; lost 66-52 to Virginia Tech in first round of NCAA tournament.

Coach: Travis Ford (52-50 in three seasons).

A-10 history: The Billikens won the regular-season championship in 2013 and 2014 and won the A-10 tournament in 2013.

Top returner: Forward Hasahn French averaged 9.3 points and a team-best 8.4 rebounds as a sophomore and made the A-10 third team.

Top newcomer: Forward Terrance Hargrove Jr., a three-star recruit, will be one of five incoming freshmen.

Biggest loss: Guard Javon Bess led the team with 15.3 points per game as a senior. He made the A-10 second team and was the A-10 Defensive Player of the Year.

Summary: The Billikens had the most experienced team in the conference last season and made the most of it in the A-10 tournament by beating Richmond, Dayton, Davidson and St. Bonaventure on four straight days in Brooklyn, N.Y. The loss of four seniors — Bess, Tramaine Isabell, D.J. Foreman and Dion Wiley — will make it hard for them to return to the NCAA tournament in 2020.

George Mason’s Javon Greene shoots against Dayton on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, at UD Arena.
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

8. George Mason

Last year: 18-15 overall; 11-7 A-10 (fifth place); lost 68-57 to St. Bonaventure in quarterfinals of A-10 tournament.

Coach: Dave Paulsen (65-67 in four seasons).

A-10 history: George Mason’s fifth-place finish last season was its best since it joined the league in 2013-14. It is 2-6 in six A-10 tournament appearances.

Top returner: Junior forward Justin Kier led the team with 14.5 points per game and made the A-10 second team. He won the Chris Daniels Award as the A-10’s most improved player.

Top newcomer: Guard Xavier Johnson, a three-star recruit, is one of three incoming freshmen.

Biggest loss: Guard Otis Livingston II finished his career with 1,865 points. He averaged 12.9 points as a senior.

Summary: The Patriots have improved their A-10 record in three of Paulsen’s four seasons, finishing 5-13 and then 9-9 two years in a row before climbing to 11-7 last season. With the loss of Livingston and Jarred Reuter (7.3), who’s graduating and pursuing professional opportunities, the Patriots will lean heavily on Kier.

Richmond’s Grant Golden shoots against Dayton on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, at UD Arena.
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

9. Richmond

Last year: 13-20 overall; 6-12 A-10 (tied for 10th place); lost 71-68 to Saint Louis in second round of A-10 tournament.

Coach: Chris Mooney (250-215 in 14 seasons).

A-10 history: The Spiders have not won a regular-season title since joining the league in the 2001-02 season. They won the A-10 tournament in 2011.

Top returner: Forward Grant Golden averaged 17.2 points per game as a sophomore and made the A-10 third team.

Top newcomer: Guard Blake Francis is a transfer from Wagner. He sat out last season after averaging 17.3 points as a sophomore.

Biggest loss: Forward Noah Yates averaged 3.8 points in 33 games as a grad student. He appealed to the NCAA for another year of eligibility but was denied in March.

Summary: Richmond has suffered back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since Mooney’s first two seasons. Despite a short-lived “Fire Mooney” billboard — paid for by fans and alumni — that appeared off Interstate 95 in Richmond last season, Mooney kept his job and will hope the experience gained by one of the nation’s youngest teams (331st out of 353) will pay off next season. The Spiders return their entire starting lineup and should add Nick Sherod back to the mix. He tore his ACL in November and missed the rest of the season. He was averaging 12.7 points at the time.

Massachusetts coach Matt McCall, left, and Jonathan Laurent react to a play during a game against Dayton Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass.
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

10. Massachusetts

Last year: 11-21 overall; 4-14 A-10 (tied for 13th place); lost 68-64 to George Washington in first round of A-10 tournament.

Coach: Matt McCall (24-41 in two seasons).

A-10 history: The Minutemen have won five regular-season championships, most recently in 2007 when they tied for first with Xavier. They won five A-10 tournaments in a row from 1992-96 under coach John Calipari.

Top returner: Guard Carl Pierre averaged 11.8 points per game as a sophomore.

Top newcomer: Tre Mitchell, a 6-9 center, is the top-ranked incoming freshman in the A-10. He ranks 81st in the class of 2019, according to 247Sports.com.

Biggest loss: Guard Luwane Pipkins (16.0) left for Providence as a grad transfer after scoring 1,516 points in three seasons at UMass.

Summary: The worst two-year stretch for the program since back-to-back 12-win seasons a decade ago will lead to more rebuilding for the third-year coach McCall. In addition to Pipkins, two other key players (Jonathan Laurent and Curtis Cobb) decided to transfer. On the bright side, UMass has the top-ranked recruiting class in the A-10.

FULLERTON, CA - NOVEMBER 25: Head coach Ashley Howard of the La Salle Explorers calls a play from the bench in the second half of the game against the Grand Canyon Lopes during the Wooden Legacy Tournament at Titan Gym on November 25, 2018 in Fullerton, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

11. La Salle

Last year: 10-21 overall; 8-10 A-10 (ninth place); lost 76-57 to Rhode Island in second round of A-10 tournament.

Coach: Ashley Howard (10-21 in one season).

A-10 history: The Explorers have not won the regular-season or tournament titles since joining the league in the 1995-96 season.

Top returner: Guard Isiah Deas averaged 11.9 points as a junior.

Top newcomer: Guard Scott Spencer will debut after sitting out last season as a transfer from Clemson. He received limited minutes in 22 games as a sophomore.

Biggest loss: Guard Pookie Powell averaged 15.0 points per game as a senior

Summary: The Explorers rebounded from an 0-10 start in Howard’s first season and then a 1-4 start in A-10 play to finish 8-10 in the conference. The program has suffered four losing seasons since reaching the Sweet 16 in 2013 and has not finished more than a game over .500 in that span.

12. Saint Joseph’s

Last year: 14-19 overall; 6-12 A-10 (tied for 10th place); lost 70-60 to Davidson in quarterfinals of A-10 tournament.

Coach: Billy Lange enters his first season. He spent the last six seasons as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers.

A-10 history: The Hawks won the regular-season championship in 1986. They have won four A-10 tournaments, most recently in 2016.

Top returner: Forward Taylor Funk averaged 8.4 points as a sophomore.

Top newcomer: Guard Ryan Daly is a transfer from Delaware. He sat out last season after averaging 17.5 points as a sophomore.

Biggest loss: Charlie Brown, the A-10’s leading scorer (19.0), declared for the NBA Draft, and while he could still opt to return to school, he said in a statement “he was ready to move on to the professional ranks.”

Summary: The Hawks will try to rebuild under a new coach after firing Phil Martelli, who coached for 24 seasons, in March. It won’t be easy for Lange. The team loses its top four scorers. Lamarr Kimble (15.6) transferred to Louisville. Jared Bynum (11.3) transferred to Providence. Chris Clover (8.5) was a senior.

George Washington’s Justin Williams shoots against Dayton’s Ryan Mikesell on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, at the Charles E. Smith Center in Washington, D.C.
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

13. George Washington

Last year: 9-24 overall; 4-14 A-10 (tied for 13th place); lost 61-57 to George Mason in second round of A-10 tournament.

Coach: Jamion Christian enters his first season. He coached last season at Siena and was 17-16.

A-10 history: The Colonials won the regular-season championship in 2006 with a 16-0 mark. They won the A-10 tournament in 2005 and 2007.

Top returner: Guard D.J. Williams, a transfer from Illinois, led the team in scoring with 13.7 points as a junior.

Top newcomer: Jameer Nelson Jr. committed to GW in April after decommitting from Saint Joseph’s, his dad’s alma mater, following the firing of Martelli.

Biggest loss: Sophomore guard Terry Nolan Jr. (10.6) announced he would transfer

Summary: The Colonials fired Maurice Joseph after three seasons. They have won 24 games the last two seasons after topping 20 wins four years in a row.

Fordham’s Chuba Ohams dunks against Dayton on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, at Rose Hill Gym in Bronx, N.Y.
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

14. Fordham

Last year: 13-20; 3-15 A-10 (last place); lost 52-50 to Richmond in first round of A-10 tournament.

Coach: Jeff Neubauer (51-75 in four seasons).

A-10 history: Fordham has not won a regular-season or tournament championship since joining the conference in the 1995-96 season.

Top returner: Guard Jalen Cobb averaged 10.1 points as a freshman.

Top newcomer: Joel Soriano, a 6-9 forward, is a three-star recruit.

Biggest loss: Leading scorer Nick Honor transferred to Clemson after averaging 15.3 points as a freshman guard.

Summary: Honor is just the latest talented young player to transfer from Fordham, which has had 12 straight losing records in A-10 play.

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