WASHINGTON — The Atlantic 10 teams have four new coaches — two because the teams did so well that power-conference teams came calling and two because the teams did not do well and a new voice was sought at the top. That was somewhat predictable because that is the way of the college sports world.
What is much less predictable is how the always-amusing, often incorrect preseason predictions will turn out. After a great finish to its season that included nine straight wins, an A-10 Tournament championship, an NCAA Tournament win and a 75-72, second-round loss to eventual Final Four participant Oregon, Rhode Island was picked to win the regular season, with 27 of 28 first-place votes by head coaches and media members in a poll released during Tuesday’s Media Day at Capital One Arena. Saint Joseph’s was picked third, La Salle ninth.
Dayton and VCU, which finished 1-2 in the regular season, lost coaches Archie Miller and Will Wade to Indiana and LSU, respectively. Anthony Grant (Dayton) and Mike Rhoades (VCU) are in jobs that are in demand and steppingstones. Grant has been the coach at VCU and Alabama. Rhoades, a former VCU assistant who played for Lebanon Valley College’s 1994 Division III national champions, came from Rice.
Massachusetts and Duquesne finished 12th and 14th last season, so Derek Kellogg and Jim Ferry were out, replaced by Matt McCall (UMass) and Keith Dambrot (Duquesne). McCall came from Chattanooga, Dambrot (LeBron James’ first high school coach) from Akron. where his teams won from 21 to 27 games each of the last 12 seasons. A lot of very successful coaches, including Ferry, have tried to crack the Duquesne winning code, but none has managed at a school which last made the NCAA Tournament in 1977. The Dukes were picked last.
St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli noted that the A-10 is an “older league’’ while pointing out that nine of the 10 players on the preseason first- and second-team all-league teams are seniors. That, of course, does not happen in power leagues with all the one-and-done players.
“Outside of Rhode Island, it’s as unpredictable as it’s ever been,’’ La Salle coach John Giannini said. “I really think there are nine or 10 teams that are so close you could just pick the names out of a hat right now in terms of trying to predict where they would finish.’’