Previewing The 2017 Atlantic Ten Tournament
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Meet Marquise Moore, The Most Physically Unstoppable 6'1" Guard You've Never Heard Of.
I'll tell you ahead of time that our preview is going to be a lot different than that of any site or publication you read leading up to tonight's tip-off in Pittsburgh.
We could talk about VCU's Mo Alie-Cox, Dayton's Scoochie Smith, Davidson's Jack Gibbs, or any host of standout players on the unquestioned top teams in the Conference. We won't.
In reality, while those players are all standouts, they are no different than any other typical Atlantic Ten player, nor are their teams built any differently. The top teams are all made up of extremely skilled but average-sized guards and forwards, and mostly undersized big men. Any one of those teams could win the whole thing. The smart money is probably on Rhode Island and the "Hurley Way".
Instead, our preview will focus on the three teams in the Conference who are built completely differently and because of it are capable of going on a serious run and winning the whole thing. Who are those teams? I'm glad you asked.
The first is the team pictured above -George Mason. Mason didn't join the Atlantic Ten until 2013, and unlike fellow former CAA power VCU did not have the recent Tournament success and thus the high level recruits to be on equal footing with other Atlantic Ten programs. Mason entirely was and is still transitioning from being a CAA program. They have very talented but flawed and mostly undersized upperclassmen who are capable of playing at the level of literally any standout player in the Conference but most nights don't. Nobody more personifies this than 6'1" senior guard Marquise Moore. Don't let his size fool you. Moore's wiry frame makes him as unstoppable as Robert Covington when driving to the hoop, and his New York basketball upbringing makes him unbelievably skilled as a scorer. He also loves to play down low. Unfortunately he's usually carrying his team because the best and biggest players on his team are mostly underclassmen but we have already seen this season that Mason can beat literally anybody when they want to.
The same is true for our second sleeper team, the LaSalle Explorers. LaSalle has by far the best one-two forward scoring punch maybe even in the country in senior Jordan Price -who is the most effortless college wing scorer I've seen since James Harden- and junior BJ Johnson. Each can easily put up 20 or more in a game, and when you add in star guard Amar Stukes and forwards Tony Washington and Cleon Roberts let alone Demetrius Henry, it's a wonder the Explorers don't score more points than they do. That is, until you watch them play. It becomes obvious then that point guard Pookie Powell holds his team back because he is flat out not a true point guard yet isn't even remotely as good a scorer as Stukes. LaSalle also has very talented underclassmen such as 2015-16 breakout sophomore Johnnie Shuler. If they would sit Powell and start literally any of their other point guards, they probably win twenty games this year.
Speaking of teams with point guard problems, that brings us to our third and last sleeper team, the St. Joseph's Hawks. If Newkirk doesn't go down, this is a sure twenty win team. In fact, the injury to Demery early on only strengthend the Hawks, as it forced them to throw players like Nick Robinson, Chris Clover, and Charlie Brown into the fire in ways they wouldn't have otherwise. All three have risen to the challenge. The problem is that with no point guard, this team lacks direction and a true leader and floor general. That has to be Demery by default. The Hawks are by far the most superior of our three sleeper teams and are only even a sleeper in the first place because of having no point guard. They could easily shock the Conference and win the whole thing.
So there you have it, our very basic preview of the 2017 Atlantic Ten Tournament. Be sure to tune in, as this year could get very interesting. Either way, there's sure to be plenty of quality basketball.