Guru's College Report - Part 1: Defending A-10 Champions Saint Joseph's Picked 2nd at Return of Media Day
After shoving Dayton aside in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament last season and then going on the edge upstart Fordham in the final seconds of the championships, the Hawks have been picked second behind those same Flyers in the coaches’ preseason poll. La Salle was picked ninth.
The rankings were revealed Tuesday in Richmond, Va., at the Coliseum, the site of this season’s entire A-10 tournament, at the conference’s first women’s media day in quite some time.
In the old days when Rutgers and Penn State were in the league, the event was one of the most-stops on the preseason circuit before the A-10 resorted to teleconference interviews not long after the two usual frontrunners departed elsewhere to the old Big East (Rutgers) and Big Ten (Penn State).
A piece of credit for the restoration goes to former Old Dominion longtime coach Wendy Larry, who last season became in charge of the conference’s women’s basketball operation under commissioner Bernadette McGlade.
Richmond, ironically, is the headquarters city of the CAA and several sources have claimed that with the CAA moving the men’s tournament to Baltimore, in part because of no longer having a state-of-Virginia presence, the city was miffed to toss as much as $10,000 dollars at the A-10 to bring the women’s tournament below the Mason-Dixon line.
Two seasons ago the entire tournament was at Saint Joseph’s and last season the event returned to Hagan Arena, but only through the semifinals before a week’s pause occurred to play the title game in Brooklyn, N.Y., at the brand new Barclays Arena after the men’s semifinals.
Dayton dominated the season with a national ranking and in the conference before the Hawks shocked the Flyers to eventually earn longtime coach Cindy Griffin her first NCAA appearance as a coach at her alma mater.
“Our players will play and act like champions until they have the championship taken away from them,” Griffin said of the defense of the conference crown.
With Temple gone to the basically football portion of the old Big East in The American conference after being a perennial A-10 challenger, the local presence has been reduced to the Hawks and Explorers.
Saint Joseph’s Erin Shields, the A-10 and Big five most improved player last season, was named to the conference second team along with Natasha Cloud, who also was named to the preseason defensive team.
Shields and Cloud along with a slew of Hawks all had an outstanding offseason playing in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Basketball Summer League with Shields’ team winning the title.
The A-10 coaches picked three preseason fives but no individual top player and all the winners can be seen at the conference’s website.
Dayton got 12 of 13 first-place votes in the poll, while the Hawks picked up the other first-place ballot.
The A-10 was also caught in the mass conference shuffle of members coming and going over the summer. Besides Temple’s departure, Charlotte went to Conference USA while Xavier, a past conference challenger, and Butler, which lasted one year, went to the new configuration of the Big East while George Mason was picked up from the CAA.
Duquesne, which had the only coaching change, was picked third ahead of Fordham by a point.
The Dukes lost former basketball great Suzie McConnell-Serio who traveled across town to take the Pittsburgh job in her native city. Both she and her Panthers are making their debut Wednesday at the Atlantic Coast Conference media day in Greensboro, N.C., after the school left the old Big East but will see familiar faces as former Big East schools Notre Dame and Syracuse also make their debuts.
McConnell-Serio was replaced at Duquesne by Dan Burt, who was promoted after being her top assistant.
George Washington, beginning to experience a revival under second=year coach Jonathan Tsipis was picked fifth, while Richmond was tabbed six with the rest of the order being VCU, Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure (by a point), La Salle, George Mason, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
La Salle is hoping to mount a challenge with a healthy squad that was rocked by injuries last season. The Explorers are also adding some talented transfers.
“We're very excited about this year,” Williams said during the interviews. “Practice has been going great. Our transfer kids have been providing tremendous leadership. Practice has been very intense, upbeat, [and] our team chemistry has been great so I'm very excited about this year. We still need to score the basketball, rebound the basketball… but were working at it and our kids are getting better every day.”
The Guru will catch up on the blog with some previous stops over the last two weeks, including Penn State and on Thursday Rutgers’ media day.
He’s been doing his normal administrative ops this time of year to get ready besides working on UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s biography for the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame induction on Nov. 7, though Auriemma won’t be there because of the Huskies’ season opener the next day in defense of the NCAA title.
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