Atlantic 10 College Basketball Conference Futures: Betting Value on Richmond, St. Bonaventure, & Rhode Island
Joe Robbins/Getty Images. Pictured: Fatts Russell.
The Atlantic 10 may be one of the most intriguing conferences in the country, as it’s wide open for anyone to win.
The tournament, which was originally scheduled to be held at the Barclays Center, will now be held at VCU and Richmond.
That will allow the conference to have games going on in two arenas in the same city, but it will also give the Rams and Spiders a little home-court advantage.
Saint Louis is the current favorite to win the Atlantic 10, but it’s only played one conference game this year, a loss to Dayton last week.
For that reason, I am looking elsewhere for value in some of the other A-10 teams.
Richmond entered this season with a goal to win the Atlantic 10 Conference title and to make some noise in March.
Head coach Chris Mooney has done a strong job each year with this group as it returns nearly all its starting production from last season.
Richmond ended last year at 14-4 in the A-10 and 24-7 overall, finishing second only behind the Obi Toppin-led Dayton Flyers.
The Spiders hold a 10-4 overall record as of writing while winning four of their six conference games.
The Spiders are an experienced team led by four seniors: Blake Francis, Jacob Gilyard, Grant Golden, and Nathan Cayo, all of whom average double figures.
This Richmond corps has been playing together over the last four years, and it shows on the court through the group’s chemistry and willingness to share the basketball.
Tyler Burton, a sophomore, is the only starter who’s not a senior and has emerged as the leader of this offense with 16.6 points per game.
Senior point guard Gilyard is pivotal to the Spiders’ production. When he’s on, this team is tough to beat.
The Spiders shoot 52.4% on 2-point attempts and 37% from 3. They also hold the conference’s lowest turnover percentage (12.9%).
Mooney’s team doesn’t need to rely on one of two different players to score the basketball, as any of the five starters can take over on any given night. That’s a luxury that will give Richmond an edge over most of the other teams in the conference when tournament play comes along.
The Atlantic 10 tournament being held in Richmond is just icing on the cake for this team and gives it even more of a chance to make a deep run this year.
Richmond was supposed to match up with A-10 favorite Saint Louis on Jan. 29 before the game was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.
The Spiders were a short favorite in that matchup. If these teams did end up meeting in the conference tournament final, there would be value in the +175 price being offered now.
Photo: G Fiume/Getty Images.
St. Bonaventure Bonnies
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies, who dropped their first conference game in a nailbiter to Rhode Island, have won seven straight and are sitting atop the Atlantic 10.
St. Bonaventure has matched its best start overall (8-1) since the 2000-01 season and is one of the hottest teams in the conference.
This is an experienced St. Bonaventure team that returned all five starters from last year, including four juniors, all of whom averaged 10 points per game.
The trio of guards in Kyle Lofton, Jaren Holmes, and Dominick Welch have contributed 59.2% of the Bonnies total points this season. As history has shown us, guard play is crucial in conference tournaments, and the Bonnies have three who can all provide timely buckets.
The Bonnies still have two games against Saint Louis upcoming, which will tell us a lot about this team.
If St. Bonaventure can win those two games, we will see a dramatic drop in the current price at +600.
Photo: Kirk Irwin/Getty Images.
Rhode Island Rams
Rhode Island has had a roller coaster of a season thus far, sitting at 9-9 overall and 6-5 in the Atlantic 10.
It boasts some high-profile wins over Seton Hall, St. Bonaventure, and VCU but has had one of the tougher schedules this year — one that ranks 26th in strength of schedule for non-conference opponents.
The undeniable leader of this team is senior guard Fatts Russell, who averages 14.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game.
Russell has an unmatched quickness and the ability to get to the rim against any defense. He has taken 108 free throws this year and converts at 84.3%.
Russell will need to have a Kemba Walker-like performance when the guard carried UConn through the Big East Tournament in 2011. If any player in the country is to recreate that effort, it’s Russell.
Rhode Island has other complementary pieces surrounding Russell, such as senior transfer Jeremy Sheppard, who is averaging 11.6 points per game. Antwan Walker is another key contributor who averages 8.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
Rhode Island has gone through this season relatively unscathed from COVID-19 without having a game postponed yet.
Russell was the only returning starter for this Rams team, and having played all these games has allowed the team to build chemistry with one another.
It has also allowed Rhode Island to focus on cutting down on turnovers, which crippled it early in the season.
At +4500 odds, I think the Rams are worth a flyer to win the Atlantic 10.