Garrett Miley @GWMiley
It is widely recognized that this is the deepest Atlantic 10 conference in recent memory. With a multitude of teams receiving first place votes in the pre-season head coach’s poll, it was clear that this year was going to be one of the most competitive seasons in Atlantic 10 history.
There is no shortage of talent in the conference this year. With the additions of the Butler Bulldogs and the VCU Rams, the conference became flooded with new talent that much of the league has never seen before. Here’s a breakdown of the top five MVP candidates at the midpoint of the season:
Just a sophomore, Graham is one of the most elite players in the conference playing on what is perhaps the most dangerous team in the Atlantic 10. He has led the Rams, new to the Atlantic 10 this season, to a 14-3 record overall this season.
In his first Atlantic 10 game, Graham scored 24 points, shot 58 percent from the field, and made all 10 free throws he attempted in a 12 point victory over Dayton. Graham is currently seventh in the conference in scoring at 15.5 ppg, and its the league’s third best offensive rebounder at 3.1 orpg.
Nearly all of Graham’s numbers have taken a significant jump in his sophomore season. He has more than doubled his scoring this year after averaging 7.0 ppg as a freshman and has only failed to crack double figures twice this season.
4. Khalif Wyatt: Temple
Sr., Guard: 16.0 ppg, 3.9 apg, 2.3 rpg
Wyatt, once again, has the Owls as one of the top teams in the Atlantic 10. Temple (11-4 overall) already owns a few impressive and important victories this season, most notably over #3 Syracuse back in December.
Against the Orange, Wyatt showed why he is one of the most dominant players in the conference. The guard from Norristown, Pa. scored 33 points and made all 15 free throws he attempted as Temple beat Syracuse 83-79.
Wyatt has yet to reach the consistency he was playing with last season for the Owls, but Temple senior has shown that he can take over any game at anytime. He is currently the fifth-leading scorer in the conference at 16.0 ppg, ninth in assists per game with 3.9, and an excellent free throw shooter at 84 percent from the stripe. If he can become more consistent game-to-game, the sky is the limit for Wyatt and Temple this season.
3. Ramon Galloway: La Salle
Sr., Guard: 17.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.3 spg
Galloway is enjoying the best season of his collegiate career. The La Salle senior guard from Philadelphia has led the Explorers to an 11-4 record to start the season and has the Quakers in an excellent position to make a run at the post-season.
The 6-foot-3 guard is averaging career highs in points (17.1) and rebounds (5.0), as well as steals (2.3). Galloway’s turnovers per game are also down this season, from 3.0 to 2.7.
Currently the conference’s second leading scorer, Galloway has scored 15-or-more points 11 times for the Explorers this season. Galloway is one of the league’s premier deep threats. With 45 made 3-point field goals, only Butler’s Rotnei Clarke and VCU’s Troy Daniels have more three pointers made this season than the La Salle guard.
2. Chaz Williams: UMass
Jr., Guard: 15.8 ppg, 7.3 apg, and 4.4 rpg
Williams, one could argue, is perhaps the best facilitator in the conference as well as one of the top scorers. He leads the conference in assists with 7.3 assists per game this season and is also sixth in the conference in scoring with 15.8 points per game. His ability to get his teammates involved as well as take the game over and score is something that few others in the conference possess.
The junior guard is averaging over an assist more per game this season as compared to his sophomore season for the Minutemen. It could also be argued that Williams’ supporting cast isn’t quite as good as the other names mentioned in this list, further strengthening his case to be an All-Conference player this season.
UMass is 11-4 overall this season and are undefeated when Williams scores 17 or more points, something the guard has done six times already. Williams also rebounds the ball shockingly well for someone his size. At just 5-foot-9, he manages to pull down 4.4 rebounds per contest.
1: Rotnei Clarke: Butler
Sr., Guard: 16.3 ppg, 59 3FG made, .444 3p%
Clarke is the conference’s best and most dangerous shooter. The senior transfer from Arkansas is sixth in the nation in three point field goals made with 59 total and is second the in Atlantic 10 in scoring with 16.3 ppg.
Clarke has come up huge for Butler in big moments time and time again this season. Against #1 ranked Indiana, Clarke scored a game-high 19 points as the Bulldogs beat the undefeated Hoosiers. The 6-foot guard also scored a game high 17 when Butler knocked off North Carolina and exploded for 28 points (including six threes) when he and the Bulldogs overcame a second half deficit at Saint Joseph’s for their first Atlantic 10 conference victory.
Butler is currently ranked 13th in the country and has the talent to win the Atlantic 10. Clarke gives any team he faces a headache because it is so difficult to defend the sharpshooter. He has an incredible range and can pull up and shoot the ball from anywhere on the court. His short memory allows him to rarely enter shooting slumps and he is confident enough in his abilities to shoot the ball in any moment or position.
Langston Galloway, Saint Joseph’s
Galloway would likely have found his way onto the list if he were shooting the ball as well as he did last year for the Hawks. While Galloway’s numbers are slightly down all around, the junior guard from Baton Rouge, La. is enjoying a fine season for Saint Joseph’s. Galloway is one of the top on ball defenders in the conference and surpassed 1,000 points for his Saint Joseph’s career this season, both of which make him worthy of an honorable mention.
Xavier Munford, Rhode Island
Munford is currently leading the Atlantic 10 in scoring at 17.3 points per game in his first season at Rhode Island. While Munford has the ability to score the basketball, he is not a terrific shooter from distance and averages just 1.9 assists per game compared to 2.5 turnovers per contest for the Rams. Rhode Island is just 5-10 overall this season, but it has been Mumford who has carried the team wish his scoring ability in all five victories.
Branden Frazier, Fordham
Frazier is enjoying his best season of his career at Fordham this year, averaging career highs in points, assists, and rebounds. The guard from Brooklyn, NY is averaging 16.1 points per game, good for fourth best in the conference. He is also second, only to UMass’s Williams, in assists per game with 5.5.