The last time two teams from the Atlantic 10 conference played each other was March 11 at the A-10 tournament in Brooklyn, the night before coronavirus cancellations sent shockwaves through the sports world.
The return of conference play happens this week, and the anticipation is about more than just the debut. URI will host Davidson at 7 p.m. in the A-10’s second league game of the season, with hopes high for what’s to come across the conference.
Richmond and St. Louis look like definite NCAA Tournament at-large contenders, a chase pack is emerging and several quality wins have been banked. How it all turns out remains to be seen – and the pandemic still hovers over the proceedings – but the promise that coaches and conference officials touted through the preseason is certainly evident.
The league’s signature non-conference wins belong to its preseason favorites. Richmond turned heads around the country with a win at Kentucky in Rupp Arena. With the Wildcats scuffling more than usual, St. Louis’ win over LSU looks even better according to the numbers, with the Tigers ranked 30th at KenPom and the Wildcats at 40th.
As of Monday, the league had totaled eight wins over KenPom top 100 teams. Richmond has also beaten Northern Iowa (88), URI has won over Seton Hall (55) and San Francisco (72), VCU owns victories over Memphis (56) and Utah State (87), and Dayton topped Mississippi State (81).
St. Louis leads the contingent on KenPom at 37. Richmond is 57th, VCU 59th, Dayton 65th, Davidson 70th and Rhode Island 73rd. St. Bonaventure is 74th, though it has played only one game due to COVID-19 issues.
According to NET rankings, URI is eighth among conferences. The Big East ranks No. 1, followed by the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, SEC, ACC and American Athletic. The league’s overall non-conference record stands at 28-23, with some shaky losses by lower-tier teams hurting the cause.
URI and Davidson enter Friday’s game as teams with sights set on contending. The Rams are 3-4, with all their losses coming to KenPom top 100 teams. Davidson is 3-2 with wins over High Point, Georgia Southern and UNLV, plus narrow losses to Texas and Providence in the Maui Invitational. On Tuesday, the Wildcats fell to Charlotte 63-52 in a disappointing defeat.
Davidson is led by one of the league’s mainstays in preseason first-team all-conference pick Kellan Grady. The senior guard is averaging 18.8 points per game. Teammate Hyunjung Lee is not far behind at 16.8 points per game.
URI split two meetings with Davidson last year, winning at home and losing on the road.