(Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series detailing my picks for the Atlantic 10 preseason all-conference teams and predicted order of finish. Today, a look at my top 15 players heading into the 2019-20 campaign).
It used to be a rarity.
Over coach Mark Schmidt’s first seven seasons, from 2007-08 to 2013-14, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team had just one preseason all-conference honoree: Andrew Nicholson, who appeared on that list each year from 2009-2011.
In those days, fans had become acclimated to the idea that Bona would be picked to finish somewhere near the bottom of the standings and wouldn’t be represented among the all-league teams.
My, how things have changed.
Though it ultimately matters little — just ask Schmidt his feelings on the preseason poll — Bona has had an all-conference selection in each of the last five campaigns, including First Team choices in each of the last two (Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley in 2017; Courtney Stockard last year).
The Bonnies almost certainly won’t have an October First Team pick this time around, though point guard Kyle Lofton should be no lower than Second Team. But it could, and probably should, have multiple selections again — that is, if center Osun Osunniyi makes it on the strength of his defensive prowess and potential.
Of course, given the Bonnies’ success in the last half decade, these acknowledgements, both pre- and postseason, are deserved. Here’s how I think the all-conference teams should look when they’re announced at Atlantic 10 Media Day on Oct. 24 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn:
15. Osun Osunniyi, St. Bonaventure
Even if Osunniyi takes only a slight step forward offensively, he’s among the league’s top 15 players based on his defensive presence alone.
The 6-foot-10 center led the A-10 and was sixth nationally in blocks (2.7) last winter, while also finishing tied-for-third in the league in rebounding (7.6) en route to both an All-Rookie Team and All-Defensive Team citation. If there was a “charges taken” category, he likely would have led the conference there, too.
14. Jordan Goodwin, Saint Louis
Goodwin actually took a slight step back statistically as a sophomore, but was still an imposing presence for the defending A-10 Tournament champions.
One of the strongest guards in the league, the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder averaged 11 points while finishing fifth in the A-10 in both rebounds (7.5) and steals (1.8). Schmidt described him as the “difference” after Goodwin tagged Bona for 16 points and 14 rebounds in the Billikens’ title game win over Bona.
13. De’Riante Jenkins, VCU
A postseason Third Team selection last year, Jenkins was one of the key cogs on a VCU team that ran roughshod on its way to an A-10 regular season title and an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.
The 6-foot-5 guard was VCU’s second-leading scorer (11.5 points) and rebounder (3.9) as a junior. The Rams could have two or three all-league guys again this season, and Jenkins will almost certainly be one of them.
12. Hasahn French, Saint Louis
Perhaps the most physically dominant big man in the league, French has a case as a top-10 player based almost solely on that factor.
A Third Team and All-Defensive Team selection as a sophomore, the 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward was second in the A-10 in rebounding (8.4) and third in blocks (1.8). Saint Louis will continue to be one of the league’s most rugged teams, and French is the personification of that identity.
11. Justin Kier, George Mason
Kier was the best player on a George Mason team that finished fifth in the league standings, earning him a Second Team all-conference nod.
The 6-foot-4 guard had a strong all-around year, averaging a team-best 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals while shooting 47 percent from the field. He’s one of the league’s better rebounding guards, as evidenced by his seven double-doubles, and the A-10’s eighth-leading returning scorer.
10. Grant Golden, Richmond
Already a two-time all-conference honoree, Golden has staked his claim as the best offensive big man in the league.
The quarterback of Richmond’s Princeton-style system, the 6-foot-10 forward averaged an impressive 17.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists as a sophomore, numbers that ranked third, eighth and 14th in the A-10. A tremendous passer for his size, he’ll be expected to lead the Spiders to a top-half finish this season.
9. Jeff Dowtin, Rhode Island
Dowtin, perhaps surprisingly, didn’t make an all-conference team last year, but is still one of the top overall point guards in the conference.
A three-year starter, the smooth 6-foot-3 junior averaged 15.3 points (8th in the A-10), 3.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists (9th) for a Rhode Island team that took a step back last year with an eighth-place finish, but figures to be among the top four or five this winter.
8. Jacob Gilyard, Richmond
The feisty 5-foot-9 point guard was again among the league’s most productive players as a sophomore, netting him a Second Team All-A-10 honor.
Gilyard was the only player in the conference to finish in the top five in points (5th, 16.2), assists (3rd, 5.2) and steals (1st, 2.8) last season, and was also No. 4 in 3s per game (2.4). One of the country’s best on-ball defenders, he finished seventh nationally in steals.
7. Kyle Lofton, St. Bonaventure
A star in the making, Lofton went from breakout player to guiding force of a young Bona team that reached the A-10 championship game last year.
The 6-foot-3 point guard averaged 14.4 points and 3.7 assists while finishing second in the A-10 in minutes played (37.4), hit a number of clutch shots and had two 20-plus point games in the A-10 Tournament.
There’s no reason to think Lofton won’t take another significant step this season.
6. Jalen Crutcher, Dayton
Dayton’s re-emergence as one of the A-10’s top teams has aligned with the rise of its young players, Crutcher among them.
The 6-foot-1 guard took a big step as a sophomore, bumping his averages to a rock-solid 13.2 points, 5.7 assists (No. 2 in the league) and 4.0 rebounds while finishing seventh in 3-pointers per game (2.1).
Crutcher could make the jump from Third Team to a First Team-type guy this season.
5. Cyril Langevine, Rhode Island
The list of A-10 bigs who are equal parts tough, skilled and experienced begins with the senior from Rhode Island.
Given a bigger role in the wake of URI’s senior-laden 2018 tournament team, Langevine excelled, averaging 14.7 points and a league-best 9.9 rebounds — making him the league’s only true double-double man — while shooting 56.7 percent from the field. The 6-foot-8, 225-pounder was successful against even the likes of Bona’s Osunniyi.
4. Obi Toppin, Dayton
Toppin emerged as perhaps the league’s most exciting player last season, wowing A-10 audiences with his highlight-reel dunks and top-flight athleticism en route to winning Rookie of the Year honors.
The 6-foot-9 forward averaged a team-best 14.4 points and 5.6 rebounds while finishing No. 2 in the conference in field goal percentage (66.1) as a freshman. Toppin is considered by many as the front-runner for this year’s A-10 Player of the Year award.
3. Marcus Evans, VCU
If there was any question of how much Evans means to the Rams, it was answered when the 6-foot-2 guard went down with a knee injury in the first half of an A-10 quarterfinal matchup against URI last March, leading to top-seeded VCU’s early exit.
The heart-and-soul of a Rams team that went 16-2 en route to the regular-season title, Evans averaged 13.6 points and 3.2 assists while doubling as a shutdown defender.
2. Kellan Grady, Davidson
Last year’s preseason favorite for A-10 Player of the Year, Grady was limited by nagging injuries — and the award ultimately went to a teammate — but he still had a fantastic sophomore season.
The 6-foot-5 guard averaged a team-best 17.3 points and 4.5 rebounds while helping the Wildcats to a second-place finish the league standings, and he was still a killer, as evidenced by the way he took the game over in Davidson’s February win over Bona.
1. Jon Axel Gudmundsson, Davidson
The league’s top award winner as a junior, there’s no reason to think Gudmundsson won’t have a similar season in 2019-20.
The 6-foot-4 guard does everything for the Wildcats, and he parlayed that into a Player of the Year honor last year, finishing fourth in the league in points (16.9), seventh in rebounds (7.3) and fifth in assists (4.8) while shooting 46 percent from the field.
You can’t go wrong with either Davidson guard as the front-runner for this year’s POY award.