A-10 struggles in early play
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 1/2/1999

It has been a long year so far for the Atlantic 10, as the league's members have struggled badly in their non-league slates. All four teams - Temple, Xavier, Rhode Island and the University of Massachusetts - that were ranked in the preseason have fallen out of the Associated Press top 25.

The nonconference woes have heightened the importance of league play. Teams wanting to make the NCAA Tournament in March will have to fare well against A-10 rivals in January and February.

All 12 teams face conference foes for the first time this weekend. Following is a look at each team:

Atlantic 10 East

FORDHAM (6-3)

Since joining the conference four years ago, coach Nick Macarchuk's Rams have had a firm grip on the doormat role, winning just five A-10 games in their three seasons, but there is reason for optimism this year.

The Rams struggled out of the gate at 1-2, but as sophomore star guard Bevon Robin got healthy, Fordham has won three of its last four. The Rams will try to continue to build around Robin, who is averaging 14.3 points per game.

Alejandro Olivares showed flashes of brilliance last year as the Argentinian adjusted to life in the U.S. The 6-foot-9 sophomore has built on that this year and is averaging 13.8 points per game.

The Rams open their season at Dayton Saturday.

RHODE ISLAND (7-6)

Expectations in Kingston, R.I. were high after last year's Final Eight run and the addition of former National High School Player of the Year Lamar Odom.

But while Odom has been as good as advertised, averaging 15.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, the Rams under coach Jim Harrick have been inconsistent. Wins over Texas Christian and Utah have been countered by losses to Cleveland State and Pepperdine.

Antonio Reynolds-Dean has been solid at power forward, but URI misses the leadership and consistency provided by departed guards Tyson Wheeler and Cutino Mobley.

The Rams open Sunday at Xavier.

ST. BONAVENTURE(5-6)

On and off court, problems have led to a difficult start for the Bonnies, who have slipped out of the gates at 5-6.

Tim Winn missed the first six games of the season due to a suspension stemming from an incident in which he allegedly punched another student. He's averaged 18.4 points per game since his return.

Junior center Caswell Cyrus is still a difficult matchup for opponents with 13.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots per game for coach Jim Baron.

The Bonnies open at St. Joseph's Sunday.

ST. JOSEPH'S (6-5)

Hawk fans have had to get used to some new faces, with four new players in coach Phil Martelli's starting lineup.

Pittsburgh transfer Andre Howard has led St. Joe's with 12 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, while ex-Prop. 48 student N'aim Crenshaw has been solid at shooting guard in his first season (11.8 ppg.)

Besides an upset win over Tennessee, 55-53, the Hawks have been up and down, but they won their last two, over San Francisco and Harvard.

St. Joe's hosts St. Bonaventure Sunday.

TEMPLE (6-6)

The Owls looked to be a Final Four contender when they tore off four wins to open the season, including a dramatic 60-59 win over Michigan State. But four straight losses brought the Owls back to reality and dumped them from the top 25.

Rasheed Brokenborough's 12.4 points per game leads three active Temple players in double figures, followed by rookie Mark Karcher (10.8) and Lamont Barnes (10.5). Sophomore Lynn Greer had averaged 10.2 points before an eye-socket injury ended his season.

The Owls host La Salle Sunday.

ATLANTIC 10 WEST

DAYTON (5-5)

Last year's star forward, Ryan Perryman, has been difficult to replace, especially on the glass, as the Flyers are 5-5.

Tony Stanley has picked up the scoring slack at 16.6 points per game (fifth in the A-10), while Mark Ashman is 16th at 14.2 ppg.

But rebounding has been a problem without Perryman's 12.5 points per game.

Dayton, under coach Oliver Purnell, hosts Fordham Saturday.

DUQUESNE (4-6)

First-year coach Darelle Porter won his first three games, including a 59-50 win over West Virginia, but his Dukes have won only once in their last seven games.

With the exception of URI's Lamar Odom, relatively unheralded Canadian recruit Wayne Smith has been the conference's top rookie with 16.3 points (sixth, A-10) and 6.4 rebounds (10th).

Duquesne hosts George Washington Saturday.

GEORGE WASHINGTON (6-4)

Tom Penders replaces Mike Jarvis as the head Colonial, bringing with him his high-octane style.

The early returns are mixed with losses to UNC-Charlotte, DePaul and Siena, but the Colonials have won their last two, over Bradley and Ohio University.

Led by Shawnta Rogers' league-leading 20.7 points per game, the Colonials lead the conference with 79.7 points per game. Yegor Mescheriakov (16.2) and Mike King (14.4) also are among the league's top 20 scorers.

GWU travels to Duquesne Saturday.

LA SALLE (4-5)

On paper the Explorers look like a national power. Three players, Donnie Carr (20.1 ppg), Victor Thomas (17.2 ppg) and K'Zell Wesson (16.2) are on the A-10's top 10 scorers list, while Wesson is the league's leading rebounder at 12.3 boards per night.

But coach Speedy Morris continues to have trouble turning that talent into wins as La Salle is just 4-5 against a mediocre non-conference schedule.

The Explorers play at Temple Sunday.

VIRGINIA TECH (5-4)

Despite the loss of talented freshman Jenis Grindstaff, who transferred to Tennessee, Bobby Hussey's Hokies look to be improved.

Sophomore forward Rolan Roberts has picked up where he left off after a solid freshman campaign and is averaging 15.4 points and 6.8 rebounds. Eddie Lucas has picked up a significant share of the scoring load (15.8 ppg.)

The Hokies travel to UMass Saturday.

XAVIER (8-4)

Other than a disappointing loss to Toledo, the Musketeers have been the Atlantic 10's best team.

Preseason Player of the Year James Posey ranks 12th in the league in scoring with 14.5 points and third in rebounding with 9.8 rpg. for coach Skip Prosser.

Veteran guards Lenny Brown (14.3 ppg) and Gary Lumpkin (12.4) have been solid, while freshman Lloyd Price has moved into the starting lineup at 11.4 points per game.

Xavier hosts Rhode Island Sunday.



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