Atlantic 10 Notebook - November 13, 2008

This is the Atlantic 10 Conference's latest preseason men's basketball notebook. Massachusetts was the first league team on a regular season court yesterday and Tuesday in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.


Atlantic 10 Conference Notebook
November 13, 2008

  • The Atlantic 10 is tied (with Conference USA) for second nationally among Division I conferences with five active head coaches with 300 or more career victories. The ACC leads all Division I conferences with seven active head coaches with at least 300 career wins.

  • Temple senior guard Dionte Christmas and junior forward Derrick Brown of Xavier are among 50 candidates for the John R. Wooden Award All-American Team and Player of the Year trophy.

  • For the 14th time in Conference history and fifth since 2000, the Atlantic 10 Conference earned multiple at-large berths to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament last season as league champion Temple was joined by Xavier and Saint Joseph's in the field of 65. The A-10 earned two of the six at-large bids awarded to non-BCS conferences.

  • The Atlantic 10 had a league record seven teams win at least 20 games in 2007-08 and all seven earned postseason berths. Only the Big East (eight) had more 20-win teams. In addition, 11 of the Conference's 14 teams reached the 15-win mark a year ago, the most in league history.

NICE START

UMass forward Tony Gaffney has opened his senior year in grand style with his first career double-double (16 points, 13 rebounds) in the Minutemen's 90-71 win over Arkansas-Monticello on Nov. 11 and a career-high seven blocks versus Southern Illinois on Nov. 12.

    Note: The final score was 80-73 in favor of the host Southern Illinois Salukis of Carbondale, Ill

THREE-SPEAK

Jimmy Baron of Rhode Island enters his senior season with 243 career three-pointers, the most among active players in the Atlantic 10. The 6-3 guard is one of eight returning players in the league who drained at least 60 field goals from beyond the arc a year ago.

SELECT COMPANY

Temple guard Dionte Christmas averaged a league-best 19.7 points last season to become just the third player in Conference history to lead the Atlantic 10 in scoring in successive years. The two other players to hold that distinction are John Battle of Rutgers (1984-85) and St. Bonaventure's Earl Belcher (1980-81). Christmas enters his senior campaign poised to become the first three-time scoring champion in league history.

START YOUR ENGINES

Forty-one starters are scheduled to return for the 2008-09 campaign. While no A-10 program welcomes back all five starters, five schools have four returning starters. Below is a look at which A-10 team has who back:

    5 - None
    4 - Charlotte, GW, La Salle, Richmond, Temple
    3 - Dayton, Rhode Island, St. Joe's, Saint Louis
    2 - Duquesne, UMass, St. Bonaventure, Xavier
    1 - Fordham
    

NUMEROLOGY

Plenty of talented returnees will be back in the fold for the 2008-09 season around the Atlantic 10. Below is a look inside the numbers of the returning student-athletes:

  • Nine players who ranked among the league's top 20 scoring leaders last season are slated to return, including two-time scoring champion Dionte Christmas of Temple.
  • Kahiem Seawright of Rhode Island averaged 8.4 rebounds last season, good for second in the Conference, and is joined by 11 players who finished the year ranked in the top 20 of the league in rebounding.
  • The leaders in assists (Chris Lowe, UM, 6.29 apg.), field goal percentage (Ahmad Nivins, SJU, .647), and assist-to-turnover ratio (DiJuan Harris, CHA, 2.77) all return in 2008-09.
  • Five players who scored 30 or more points in a game last season will be back this year. Massachusetts junior Ricky Harris, the Chris Daniels Most Improved Player recipient in 2007-08, is slated to return after sharing the league-lead with 18 performances of at least 20 points.

STRAIGHT SHOOTER

Saint Joseph's senior forward Ahmad Nivins enters the 2008-09 season vying to join former George Washington standout Alexander Koul (1995-97) as the only players in A-10 history to lead the league in field goal percentage three consecutive years. Nivins shot .647 (165-of-255) from the field a year ago.

WELCOME BACK

The lone new head men's basketball coach in the Atlantic 10 this season is former Minuteman point guard and Springfield native Derek Kellogg, who was named the 21st head coach in Massachusetts men's basketball history on May 23 by Director of Athletics John McCutcheon. The 1995 UMass graduate returns to his alma mater for his first head coaching job after serving as an assistant coach for 12 years, the last eight at Memphis under former Massachusetts head coach John Calipari.

FEARLESS FRESHMAN

Kenny Frease has yet to play a minute at Xavier, but he already has proven he's tough as nails. Shortly before his Massillon Perry High School graduation this spring, the prized XU recruit volunteered to lie on a bed of nails for a science experiment. The local newspaper covered the event, chronicling the laws of physics that enabled the 7-foot, 265-pound center to participate without incurring bodily harm. It didn't hurt, Frease said, and was actually like "lying on the floor."

WET BEHIND THE EARS

Duquesne and Saint Louis will be among the youngest teams in the nation in 2008-09. Duquesne has eight scholarship freshmen and four sophomores on the 15-man roster. Three-year starter Aaron Jackson - the Dukes' lone senior - is also the team's only scholarship upperclassman. Saint Louis is the only other NCAA Division I school with eight scholarship freshmen and no school has more scholarship underclassmen than Duquesne's 11. In addition, Duquesne is tied with The Citadel, High Point and Saint Peter's for the most scholarship underclassmen in the country with 11.

PASSING THE ROCK

Senior guard Chris Lowe of Massachusetts led the A-10 and ranked 13th nationally in assists (6.2 apg.) a year ago. The Mount Vernon, N.Y., native registered at least ten assists on six different occasions, including a career-high 14 versus La Salle. By comparison, no other player in the Conference dished out ten or more assists in more than one game in 2007-08. Lowe, who also paced the A-10 in assists in 2006 (4.9 apg.), seeks to become the first player in league history to lead the Conference in assists three times. Carl Smith (UM - 1984, 86), Shandue McNeill (SBU - 1995, 97) and Jameer Nelson (SJU - 2001, 02) are the only other players to twice lead the A-10 in assists. Lowe opened his senior campaign with 11 assists in the Minutemen's 90-71 win over Arkansas-Monticello on Nov. 11.

WRIGHT STUFF

Chris Wright looks to lead Dayton back to the postseason and continue his progression as a dynamic all-around player. The sophomore forward, a preseason All-Conference second-team selection, played in 15 games and led the team in rebounding (5.7 rpg.), and field goal percentage (.602) while averaging 10.4 points a year ago. The Flyers certainly missed the presence of Wright after he broke his ankle midway through the season. UD was 13-1 before his injury and 9-9 afterwards.

OH, CANADA

Over the Labor Day Weekend, Charlotte took a four-day, three-game trip to Canada. The 49ers went 3-0, outscoring their three foes by an average of 49.0 points. Charlotte averaged 106.7 points in the three games and forced an average of 24.3 turnovers.


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