This article is part of our Draft Kit series.
I once considered the A10 the understudy to the Big East. That distinction has been blurred by the new Big East and the fact that the A10 now boasts 14 teams, including newcomer Davidson. VCU and George Mason have been recent additions and this may the year that the Atlantic 10 beats the BEast.
The conference certainly had more success in last year's NCAA tournament. Dayton advanced to the Elite Eight, while Saint Louis, George Washington, St. Joseph's, UMass, and VCU all made appearances. The league may not get six teams into this year's tournament, but there is plenty of talent here to pick through.
Cady Lalanne, center, Massachusetts Minutemen – The Minutemen will fall off without point guard Chaz Williams, but the 6-10 Lalanne will ensure that the team doesn't slip too far. He has showed steady progress in his three years in Amherst and provided 11.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks in 29.0 minutes as a junior. Lalanne came up with 10 double-doubles, including five in his first seven games to raise expectations. As a senior, he may be able to fulfill those high expectations and consistently produce double-doubles, even in conference play.
Traveon Graham, guard/forward, VCU Rams – As a senior, Graham has made the Big Dance in all three of his seasons as a Ram. He will need to improve his game from the perimeter in order to make that dream reality. The 6-6 swingman hit just 33.7 percent of his 3-pointers. He averaged 15.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. That kind of board work is excellent for a guard-eligible player. Graham was only held to single digits in points three times and scored 20 or more six times, including a career-high 34 in a double-overtime win against La Salle.
E.C. Matthews, guard, Rhode Island Rams – Lalanne and Graham are seniors, but the future of the conference is players like the 6-5 Matthews who is just a sophomore. He was able to show off a diverse offensive game in providing 14.3 points, including 1.5 3-pointers, in 2013-14. He added 4.3 boards and 2.3 assists. After starting the season quietly, Matthews scored in double digits in his last nine games, including a season-high 32 points in a loss to Duquesne. With Xavier Munford gone, coach Danny Hurley will rely on Matthews for more.
Yuta Watanabe, forward, George Washington Colonials – Watanabe is just the third basketball player born in Japan to play for a Division I team (K.J. Matsui at Columbia from 2005 to 2009 and Taishi Ito at Portland from 2006 to 2010 were the first). The 6-8 forward can dribble like a guard, but has enough size to play forward. He is somewhat slight at 195 lbs, but if he can pack on muscle in his second year in the US (he played at St. Thomas More in Connecticut last year), he could be a nice contributor for the Colonials.
Achraf Yacoubou, guard, Saint Louis Billikens – No team in the A10 has as many vacancies to fill as last year's regular season champion Billikens. Yacoubou, a 6-4 guard from the Bronx, sat out last season after transferring from Villanova. As a Wildcat, Yacoubou played 12.0 minutes per game and provided 2.9 points and 2.6 rebounds. His playing time drifted off in the second half of the season (which likely led to his transfer), but he provided 13 points in a December win over Penn. Yacoubou could lead Saint Louis in scoring and provide a healthy amount of rebounds for a guard.
Pair of Sleepers
Youssou Ndoye, center, St. Bonaventure Bonnies – Based on his stats (10.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.2 blocks) and his size (7-0, 245 lbs), Ndoye shouldn't really be a sleeper. He has improved in each season as a Bonnie and should be ready to lead the team in scoring as a senior. He did his damage in 26.2 minutes last year and a bump to around 30 minutes would result in many double-doubles. Ndoye produced four double-doubles last season, including a 19-point, 10-rebound outing against La Salle in the A10 tournament.
Chris Wilson, guard, St. Joseph's Hawks – Like Saint Louis, the Hawks are largely going to have a new cast of characters. Halil Kanacevic, Ronald Roberts Jr., and Langston Galloway are all gone. DeAndre Bembry should lead the team in scoring as a sophomore, but Wilson will provide a steady hand for the young team. The 6-3 senior provided 9.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in 33.9 minutes for the Hawks last year. He should see his assist total jump because his ball handling duties will increase.