This Week in the A-10: 5 Things to Look Out For(1/18)
After a week full of upsets and returns, the A-10 Standings are starting to shake themselves out as expected, but still some pretty big outliers remain. Here are the four biggest things to look out for in this week of play in the Atlantic 10.
Where can Joe Bamisile take the Colonials this year?
I've talked a bit about how Fordham could avoid the pillow fight this year, but after George Washington's 77-76 win over Mason on Monday, the Rams might have some serious competition. George Washington is a tough team to evaluate this year; they have never been a serious contender in the conference this year, and even with the win over Mason, they're still probably destined for a second round exit. With that being said, they've got some serious hoopers on this squad that, given a few more solid performances, could not only get GW a few wins, but also give Jamion Christian some much needed credit on his resume come extension time.
In terms of who can be that hooper to save the Colonials program, all signs currently point to Joe Bamisile. He's had four 20-point performances leading up to Monday night this season, but it was his career high 26 points against Mason that really shifted the goals of this team. It's clear that Christian has been a solid recruiter, but his main problem has been retaining the talent he's brought in. A guy like Bamisile leading the way as a sophomore could really show incoming recruits that there's a good foundation to stay and build GW back into a winning program.
Could load management become an issue in college basketball this year?
While George Washington definitely deserves to celebrate their win against Mason, they won't have a lot of time to do so, as the Colonials now shift right into preparing to play St. Joe's on Wednesday. While it's great that games are simply getting moved this year instead of cancelled like last year, Selection Sunday 2022 remains unchanged. Because of that, teams are going to have to cram in as many games as they can in February and Early March to get a full 18-game conference slate in, giving these athletes a much busier schedule than they've experienced in their college careers so far. Even top teams like the Bonnies are affected; they're playing 4 games in 11 days in the beginning of February.
More games means more games to watch, which is great for fans, but it also means more opportunities for injury, which is great for no one. If you're a team like Davidson, or the Bonnies, does it now become worth it for you to conserve your top players in easier games to focus on the conference tournament, or do you need to make sure you're winning every game you can to stay afloat in the at-large conversation? Like we've seen with everything in sports over the past two years, we're trying to solve problems we've never encountered before. Teams in the Atlantic 10 and other mid-major conferences are going to have to figure out this dilemma fast if they want to make it deep into March.
How does Fordham adjust without Antonio Daye?
Last week, Antonio Daye sank a last-second layup to put the Rams ahead of Duquesne 72-71, leading Fordham to their first ever 2-0 start in Atlantic 10 play. Less than 24 hours after the game ended, Fordham Athletics announced that Daye will be withdrawing from the university, and that no further information on the topic would be released regarding the situation. Obviously, the first priority for Fordham and Fordham fans is hope that Antonio Daye can solve whatever off-court issues led to his departure and prioritize his own well-being, but moving forward, there are definitely questions as to what the rest of Fordham's season will look like without their leading scorer.
Against Saint Louis, Fordham clearly looked off-kilter, but several guards in the rotation showed a lot of promise, especially considering the fact that they're underclassmen. Freshman and Sophomore guards Ahmad Harrison and Kam'Ron Cunningham have brought way more energy to this team than what shows up on the box score, and Sophomore Antrell Charlton has really stepped into his role as one of the team's premier floor generals. Adjusting out of Daye's departure will probably take a bit for the Rams, but there's still plenty to look forward to this season for Fordham basketball fans.
How long will the Bonnies remain in the bubble?
I was pleasantly surprised when the Bonnies took down VCU on Saturday. It's not that the Bonnies aren't the better team, but after they had to scrape out an overtime win against La Salle, I figured that it would take them some time to resettle into conference play. Obviously, there game against the Explorers was enough, as the Bonnies steamrolled VCU by 20 points in Olean. Regardless of their undefeated record, the general consensus around the various bracketologies is that the Bonnies are part of the last four in at-best, with some publications putting them on the outside looking in.
Like any other year, it's going to be a lot harder for the Bonnies to make up for lost ground in conference play to their competition's lack of variety, but there are still a few must-win opportunities. As mentioned before, if they can come away from that early February gauntlet with three wins, they'll be entering the conference tournament almost set for March Madness. That being said, the only way to continue down that path will be to get the win tonight in Dayton. In the ultimate test of experience vs raw talent, the Bonnies will have to prove that they can still compete against one of the most exciting young cores we've seen in the history of the Atlantic 10.