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Posted: Monday November 08, 1999 01:26 AM

Atlantic 10 overview

Owls, Musketeers division favorites

By Ron Chimelis, Special to CNN/SI

John Chaney John Chaney should have one of the best teams of his long, successful tenure at Temple. Jon Ferrey/Allsport

Order of Finish
1. Temple
2. St. Bonaventure
3. St. Joseph
4. Massachusetts
5. Fordham
6. Rhode Island
1. Xavier
2. La Salle
3. Dayton
4. George Washington
5. Virginia Tech
6. Duquesne

Top storylines
Last year, things got so bad for the Atlantic 10 that commissioner Linda Bruno circulated a letter to member schools, telling them to keep their chins up. Can the league redeem itself in non-conference play this year? As for individual teams, there's Temple. And Temple. And Temple. Will this league be a one-horse race, and will that horse gallop (as much as any patient Temple team gallops) to the Final Four for the first time in school history? There's a new honcho in Rhode Island, where Jerry DeGregorio replaces Jim Harrick and must find a way to replace Lamar Odom. At Fordham, Bob Hill brings an NBA name to a program that has known nothing but losing since joining the conference in 1995.
How they will spend Selection Sunday
Relaxing Sweating Fishing
St. Bonaventure
St. Joseph's
La Salle
George Washington
Rhode Island
Virginia Tech

Players to Watch
Top Three Frontcourt Players
Mark Karcher, Temple
• A 6-5 Barkley-type muscleman, he can also hurt you from the outside.
Caswell Cyrus, St. Bonaventure
• His defensive skills are beyond question, but he has to be ready to play every night.
Darnell Williams, Xavier
• This high-flying swing player could be the league MVP if he's all the way back from knee surgery that sidelined him last year.
Top Three Backcourt Players
Juan "Pepe" Sanchez, Temple
• No one controls a game like the Owls' point man, who has reduced his mistakes without shaking the flair out of his game. performance last season.
Donnie Carr, La Salle
• A big-time scorer and skillful passer, he became a defensive standout last year, too, and will benefit from a better supporting cast.
Monty Mack, Massachusetts
• If the Minutemen do more running, as they say they will, that will help Mack's game.
Top Three Newcomers
Val Brown, George Washington
• His real first name is Sirvaliant, and he'll have to be valiant to replace the production given by Shawnta Rogers.
Alex Wesby, Temple
• May be overlooked because he's a scorer on a team that doesn't score much, but he's too good to hide forever.
Tony Dobbins, Virginia Tech
• A 6-3 freshman from Mitchellville, Md., he may solve the backcourt scoring void caused when Jenis Grindstaff transferred to Tennessee in 1998.

Hot Coach
Skip Prosser, Xavier
• His name keeps coming up in rumors for other jobs, notably Pittsburgh last year, although Xavier's NIT year was considered a letdown.
Coach on the Hot Seat
Bruiser Flint, Massachusetts
• Others like Speedy Morris (La Salle) and Jim Baron (St. Bonaventure) are expected to win right now, but only Flint's program has tasted national success and revenue lately.

Toughest Schedule
• There's Maryland, Wisconsin, Villanova, Florida State, Wake Forest, Penn State, Penn and Gonzaga. But the Owls do catch one scheduling break: they don't have to play themselves.
Quickest-Way-to-20-Wins Schedule
La Salle
• One thing about this league is that there aren't many soft schedules. La Salle opens with Mount St. Mary's and Central Connecticut at home, then Centenary in the Alabama Tournament.

Mark Your Calendar
Dec. 18, Cincinnati at Xavier
• This remains one of the most intense rivalries in college basketball today.
Jan. 25, Xavier at Temple
• Are the Musketeers a true championship contender in the A-10, or is Temple in a class by itself?
Feb. 1, Temple at UMass
•For the Minutemen, beating the Owls still tells them if they're on the national map.
Feb. 20, Temple at Cincinnati
• Rematch of last year's NCAA second-round, possible preview of a later-round clash this year.
Feb. 29, Temple vs. St. Joseph's
• This game at the historic Palestra will showcase all that is good in Big 5 Philadelphia basketball.

Ron Chimelis covers the Atlantic 10 for the Springfield (Mass.) Union-News. Look for his CNN/SI conference insiders during the season.

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