After winning a program-record 30 contests and advancing to the Elite Eight of
the NCAA Tournament, Xavier has been tabbed as the team to beat in the Atlantic
10 men's basketball race, according to a poll of Atlantic 10's head coaches and
media released Tuesday during Basketball Media Day.
The Musketeers received 44 of the 61 first-place votes cast by the panel of coaches and media members. Xavier (30-7/14-2) returns a pair of starters from last year's team which captured its second consecutive A-10 regular season title. Leading XU will be junior forward Derrick Brown (10.9 ppg., 6.5 rpg.) and senior guard/forward C.J. Anderson (10.7 ppg., 5.9 rpg.), who garnered preseason All-Conference first- and third-team honors, respectively. Xavier has won 20 or more games in 11 of the last 12 seasons and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in seven of the past eight years, including Elite Eight appearances in 2004 and 2008.
Temple received 12 first-place votes and placed second in the preseason poll. The Owls (21-13/11-5) captured the 2008 Atlantic 10 Championship for the first time since 2001 - their league-leading seventh time overall. TU welcomes back senior guard Dionte Christmas (19.7 ppg., 5.9 rpg.), a preseason first-team All-Conference selection who is vying to become the first player to lead the A-10 in scoring three times.
Dayton (23-11/8-8) was picked third and will be led by preseason second-team selection Chris Wright (10.4 ppg., 5.7 rpg.), a 6-8 forward who garnered All-Rookie team distinction a year ago. The Flyers earned three first-place votes. 2008 NCAA participant Saint Joseph's (21-13/9-7) was tabbed fourth and will be anchored by preseason first-team choice Ahmad Nivins (14.4 ppg., 5.8 rpg.), the A-10 field goal percentage leader the past two seasons.
One of a league-record eight teams to win at least 20 games a year ago, Charlotte (20-14/9-7) earned a pair of first-place votes and was selected fifth in the poll, while NIT runner-up Massachusetts (25-11/10-6) was picked sixth. Saint Louis (16-15/7-9) was tabbed seventh, followed by Richmond (16-15/9-7), Rhode Island (21-121/7-9), La Salle (15-17/8-8), George Washington (9-17/5-11), Duquesne (17-13/7-9), Fordham (12-17/6-10) and St. Bonaventure (8-22/2-14).
In that same poll, the coaches and media selected the preseason All-Conference teams. The first-team is comprised of Brown, Christmas, Nivins, Kevin Lisch of Saint Louis and Massachusetts' Chris Lowe. The second-team consists of Wright, George Washington's Rob Diggs, Ricky Harris of Massachusetts, the 2008 recipient of the Chris Daniels Most Improved Player Award and the league's second-highest returning scorer (18.2 ppg.), Tommie Liddell of Saint Louis and Charlotte's Lamont Mack. On the third-team are C.J. Anderson of Xavier, Richmond's Kevin Anderson, Jimmy Baron of Rhode Island, La Salle's Rodney Green and David Gonzalvez of Richmond.
The preseason All-Defensive team consists of Brown, Lisch, Lowe, Lavoy Allen of Temple and Saint Joseph's Garrett Williamson. The All-Rookie team is comprised of Melquan Bolding of Duquesne, Dayton's Paul Williams and Xavier teammates Kenny Frease, Terrell Holloway and Mark Lyons.
The 2008-09 season tips off on Nov. 11 when Massachusetts faces Arkansas-Monticello in the 2K Sports Classic in Carbondale, Ill. The top 12 teams will advance to the 33rd Annual Atlantic 10 Championship, to be held Mar. 11-14 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.
Last season marked the 14th time in Conference history and fifth since 2000 that multiple A-10 teams earned at-large berths to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. In addition, Charlotte, Dayton, Massachusetts and Rhode Island advanced to the NIT and Richmond earned a berth in the inaugural College Basketball Invitational.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Xavier (44)
2. Temple (12)
3. Dayton (3)
4. Saint Joseph's
5. Charlotte (2)
7. Saint Louis
9. Rhode Island
10. La Salle
11. George Washington
14. St. Bonaventure
- First-place votes in parentheses