It's never too early to start looking at next season. Thus, I've decided to put together a preview of the 2012-13 season in the Atlantic 10. Where does your team fall?
1. Saint Louis -- The Billikens return six of their top seven scorers off an NCAA team that won its first NCAA Tournament game since 1998. Brian Conklin will be sorely missed, but John Manning, Cory Remekun, Cody Ellis, and Dwayne Evans should be able to fill his role. Point guard Kwamain Mitchell will likely be a preseason Player of the Year contender.
2. St. Joseph's -- The Hawks didn't play well down the stretch, but they return every single player on their roster. Carl Jones and Langston Galloway make up a formidable backcourt duo and Halil Kanacevic and C.J. Aiken work well together in the post. If Phil Martelli can find some scoring from his bench, the Hawks could make a run at the tournament in 2012-2013.
3. Massachusetts -- The Minutemen are still alive and kicking. They take on the Drexel Dragons tonight in the quarterfinals of the NIT. What a finish to their season. UMass beat top-seeded Temple to kick off the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament, and has kept the ball rolling ever since. Jitterbug point guard Chaz Williams and smooth-shooting Raphiael Putney will only be juniors next year, and Jesse Morgan and Terrell Vinson will be back for UMass as well. Cady Lalanne has showed the ability to work well inside and should take over for graduating senior Sean Carter. This will be a very scary group.
4. Xavier -- The Musketeers are in the Sweet 16 thanks to victories over Notre Dame and Lehigh. Losing Tu Holloway, Kenny Frease, Andre Walker, and potentially Mark Lyons is a big blow. Transfer Isaiah Philmore will see time at power forward and incoming freshman point guard Semaj Christon should see quality clock. Freshman Dez Wells is a true spark for the Muskies and will only continue to get better. The No. 4 spot is very much in the air though depending on Lyons' decision to leave early for the NBA.
5. La Salle -- The Explorers lose leader Earl Pettis, but will bring back the rest of the squad coming off an NIT berth. Ramon Galloway and Tyreek Duren are the keys to the puzzle, but the most interesting player to watch will be Jerrell Wright. If he works hard in the offseason, the sophomore-to-be will cause fits for the rest of the Atlantic 10.
6. Temple -- The defending regular season champions will sport a much different look next year. Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez, and Micheal Eric won't be wearing the Owls jersey any longer. Khalif Wyatt will lead the troops and Scootie Randall should return from injury to play an important factor for Fran Dunphy's bunch. Anthony Lee will continue to grow and showed promise this year, and incoming freshman Daniel Dingle is expected to get decent minutes. Nonetheless, the Owls likely won't be dancing in their last year before hopping to the Big East.
7. Dayton -- The Flyers' best player will still be there in Kevin Dillard. However Chris Johnson, Paul Williams, Luke Fabrizius, and Josh Parker won't be. UD will rely on Matt Kavanaugh, Devin Oliver, and hope that a rejuvenated Josh Benson returns to action. Jevon Thomas will see minutes as well and provide some nice depth in the backcourt.
8. Richmond -- Darien Brothers, Kendall Anthony, Derrick Williams, and Cendrick Lindsay are all really solid players. Better yet, they're all returning. Darrius Garrett's departure will leave a hole on the defensive end, but this young and up-and-coming team should finish in the middle of the pack in 2012-2013. Chris Mooney has done it before, and he'll do it again. The Spiders look on the rise yet again.
9. St. Bonaventure -- The Bonnies made an improbable run to the NCAA Tournament on the heels of Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Andrew Nicholson. His time in Olean, N.Y. is over, though. Demitrius Conger, Chris Johnson, and Matthew Wright all return, and Youssou Ndoye showed some poise as a freshman, but replacing Nicholson is impossible. This figures to be a rebuilding year for Mark Schmidt and Co.
10. Charlotte -- It's probably not a good time to be a Charlotte fan. Lots of boosters will calling for Alan Major's head at the end of the season. Javarris Barnett and Derrio Green were talented players and will be missed. All-Conference star Chris Braswell returns for the 49ers and DeMario Mayfield figures to add a nice scoring piece as well. Can they all co-exist and stay out of trouble? That's the big question.
11. Duquesne -- T.J. McConnell is one of the more talented guards in the league. That being said, the loss of B.J. Monteiro and Eric Evans puts a bit of a damper on the outlook for next season. Sean Johnson is a quality role player who will get more chances to excel in the Dukes' system next year. Mamadou Datt or Andre Marhold will need to improve greatly in the offseason for Duquesne to stay competitive.
12. Fordham -- Not only does head coach Tom Pecora headed in the right direction, but five of the Rams' top six scorers return including All-Conference performer Chris Gaston. Gaston averaged 17.1 points per game and 9.9 rebounds per game. He's an absolute matchup nightmare for opponents. He won't be the only one who can put the ball in the hoop, though. Branden Frazier, Devon McMillan, and Bryan Smith face important offseasons in terms of making this Bronx squad a relevant team. I believe they'll make the A-10 Tournament in Brooklyn next season.
13. George Washington -- The Colonials lose their heart and soul, Tony Taylor, to graduation. Lasan Kromah, David Pellom, and Nemanja Mikic all come back for head coach Mike Lonergan, but replacing your best player and point guard is always an incredibly tough task. Brian Bynes, who backed up Taylor this year, doesn't have a whole lot of experience and it will take some time to grow into the lead guard role. Transfer Isaiah Armwood should be able to contribute immediately.
14. Rhode Island -- With today's news, the hiring of head coach Dan Hurley, the Rams are in a good spot for the future. As with any other coaching hire, it will take some time for things to gel. I love the young pieces in Kingston, but there's a lot of uncertainty remaining. Jamal Wilson and Orion Outerbridge won't be there. Who knows if Billy Baron will be. Still, Nikola Malesevic, Jonathan Holton, and Mike Powell will provide the fans with a lot of excitement. Alas, the growing pains might continue for a bit longer.