2) Saint Joseph's
4) La Salle
Obviously, these rankings will shake up quite a bit this season, especially with teams like Saint Joseph's losing quite a bit of production from last season.
Villanova had a successful first season in the new Big East, finishing with a 16-2 conference record and a 29-5 overall record. They bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in the round of 32, but to eventual National Champion UConn.
First Game: Friday, November 14th vs. Lehigh
Key Losses: James Bell
Bell was a big contributor to the Wildcat offense, averaging 14.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg and shot 81.5% from the line. He led the team in ppg, minutes per game, and steals per game as well. Someone will need to step up to fill the production Bell has left behind.
Familiar Faces: JayVaughn Pinkston, Darrun Hilliard, Ryan Archidiacono
Fortunately for the Wildcats, they can make up for Bell's production with improvements from all three of the guys listed above. Pinkston is entering his final season and looks to be the first option on offense. Hilliard was the number two scorer on last year's team, so he will be comfortable having a smiliar role on this year's team. Finally, Arcidiacono is a pesky defender who controls the tempo on offense. He will be able to take on an even bigger role for his junior season.
Impactful Freshmen: Mikal Bridges
Local Malvern product Bridges is the #20 ranked small forward in the nation, according to ESPN's Recruiting rankings. Bridges will be able to slide into the rotation from day one and help carry some of the offensive load immediately.
2) Saint Joseph's:
Saint Joseph's got off to a lukewarm start to the season, but really picked it up in the second half, eventually winning the Atlantic 10 conference championship. They reached the NCAA tournament, but lost in overtime in the round of 64 to eventual National Champion UConn.
First Game: Friday, November 14th vs. Fairleigh Dickinson
Key Losses: Langston Galloway, Ronald Roberts, Halil Kanacevic
Last season's St Joe's team was very senior heavy, with the three guys above providing much of the production. Langston is now with the New York Knicks, Roberts with the 76ers, and Halil playing overseas. The three were some of the top producers on offense.
Familiar Faces: DeAndre Bembry, Chris Wilson
Bembry came in last season and was terrific as a freshman, averaging 12.1 ppg and 4.5 rpg. Bembry fit right into the Hawks' offense, but will need to take on a much bigger role this season. Much of Saint Joseph's success this season will come down to whether Bembry can quickly make the transition from role player to first offense on option smoothly enough. Chris Wilson is entering his final season at Hawk Hill, and will also need to take on a much bigger role this season. With Langston gone, Wilson will need to show that he can control the tempo on offense.
Impactful Freshmen: James Demery, Shavar Newkirk, Obi Romeo, Markell Lodge
Demery can be the perfect compliment to Bembry on offense, and can take on the role Bembry had last season as a scoring wing player. Newkirk is a tough point guard out of the Bronx and can learn a lot under WIlson's tutelage.
Drexel got off to a terrific start, nearly defeating Arizona early in the year, but fell apart towards the end, especially without Damion Lee, who was lost to injury. The Dragons finished with a 16-14 overall record, going 8-8 in the CAA.
First Game: Friday, November 14th @ Colorado
Key Losses: Chris Fouch, Frantz Massenat
Fouch and Massenat led the way for the Dragons offense, averaging a combined 35.8 ppg last season. The two were terrific scorers, but sometimes struggled to get the rest of the team involved on offense.
Familiar Faces: Damion Lee, Tavon Allen
Lee led the Dragons in scoring his sophomore year, with 17.1 ppg. However, a torn ACL early in his junior year left him sidelined for most of the 2013-2014 season. Now healthy, Lee is ready to pick up where Fouch and Massenat left off and be the number one option on offense again. Allen enjoyed an impressive 2013-2014 campaign, averaging 11.7 points per game and emerging as the number three option on offense. He will need to keep up that production this season for the Dragons to go far.
Impactful Freshmen: Rashaan London
The Dragons have quite a few good sophomores that will take on bigger roles this season, but local product Rashaan London should be able to step into the rotation and help the Dragons from day one.
4) La Salle:
The Explorers, fresh off a 2012-2013 sweet sixteen appearance, were primed to make an additional leap and make the the NCAA tournament last season, but fell short of expectations. La Salle posted a 15-16 overall record, going 7-9 in the Atlantic 10.
First Game: Saturday, November 15th vs. Colgate
Key Losses: Tyreek Duren, Tyrone Garland
Duren and Garland were well established players. Not only did they two of the top options on offense, but they were big contributors on that sweet sixteen team. They left behind some big shoes to fill.
Familiar Faces: Jerrell Wright, Steve Zack
Wright was the number two option on offense last season, averaging 13.3 ppg and 6.6 rpg. Wright will now be the go to guy on offense, and he should be able to thrive in that role. Zack was quite a force down low, averaging 8.8 ppg and leading the team with 9.5 rebounds per game. The Explorers lost their best guards, but have a very experienced frontcourt coming into the 2014-2015 season.
Impactful Freshmen: Yevgen Sakhinuk
Ukrainian import Sakhinuk is the highest rated recruit coming into La Salle this season, according to ESPN. Yevgen can play either forward position and can light it up from the field when given the chance. He adds some scoring to a team that lost quite a bit of it. Sakhinuk has a chance to be a very good player in the Atlantic 10 down the road if his talents are used correctly.
2013-2014 was a down season for the Owls, who finished with a 9-22 overall record and a 4-14 record against the AAC. Temple relied heavily on four players, but had very little depth last season. With the loss of two of those four, the Owls desperately need to find some internal options in order to improve on both ends of the court.
First Game: Friday, November 14th vs. American
Key Losses: Dalton Pepper, Anthony Lee
Losing Pepper will hurt for the Owls. Not only was the West Virginia transfer the team's leading scorer, but he also had one of the best names in all of college basketball. Talent can be easily found, but names are a whole different animal. Losing Lee to Ohio State will also hurt the Owls. Lee was the team's best rebounder by a wide margin, and he was a decent option on the low block.
Familiar Faces: Quentin DeCosey, Will Cummings
DeCosey and Cummings are two guards that can put the ball in the hoop at will. Both men will be asked to be the leaders of this year's squad. They can both score, but both will need to show they can control the tempo on offense and play some shutdown defense this upcoming season. The Owls will go as far as these two men will take them.
Impactful Freshmen: Obi Enechionyia
Enechionyia is the 29th ranked power forward on ESPN's rankings. He provides some talent in the front court that Lee left behind. The Owls will need the Virginia product to contribute immediately in order to improve on last season's mark.
Last but not least are the Pennsylvania Quakers. The Ivy Leaguers finished with an 8-20 overall record and a 5-9 in conference record. The Ivy League is a tougher conference than you would expect, especially with Harvard's recent success.
First Game: Saturday, November 15th vs. Delaware State
Key Losses: Fran Dougherty
Losing one of your best overall players will definitely hurt. Dougherty averaged 12.7 ppg and 7.3 rpg in the 2013-2014 campaign. The 6'8" New Britain product was a huge part of the Quakers' offense these last couple of seasons.
Familiar Faces: Tony Hicks, Miles Jackson-Cartwright, Darien Nelson-Henry
Hicks led the Quakers in scoring last season, with 14.9 ppg. In order for the Quakers to improve and move closer to Harvard's position at the top of the conference, Hicks will have to be given the keys to the offense. Jackson-Cartwright will also need to become the number two option for the Quakers. He averaged 11.6 ppg last season, so he is capable of handling that role. The 6'11" Nelson-Henry was a decent player last season, averaging 10.6 ppg and 5.3 rpg. He will also need to play a bigger role on this team moving forward. Nelson-Henry will need to anchor the defense if this team wishes to compete with the best of the Ivy Leaguers.
Impactful Freshmen: Mike Auger
Not a lot are known about the incoming freshmen, which is typical amongst Ivy League teams. Mike Auger, from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, looks like he will be able to make an impact during his time at Penn. The 119th ranked power forward according to ESPN, Auger stands in at 6'6" and can provide it to a team that needs it.
By: Dan Goggin
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