XU at head of A-10 class

Friday, November 6, 1998

BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

PHILADELPHIA - Xavier is about to begin its fourth season in the Atlantic 10 Conference, and none of the other four teams admitted to the league in 1995 have come close to having the same kind of impact as the Musketeers.

In three seasons, they have won or shared the A-10 West title twice, and last year won their first A-10 tournament championship. The coaches and media have picked XU as the favorite to remain on top of the West this season with 39 of 48 first-place votes.

A-10 PICKS
West
1. Xavier (39 first-place)
2. George Washington (6)
3. Dayton (2)
4. LaSalle
4. Virginia Tech
6. Duquesne (1)
East
1. Temple (34)
2. Massachusetts (12)
3. Rhode Island (2)
4. St. Bonaventure
5. St. Joseph's
6. Fordham
PRESEASON HONORS
First team

Lenny Brown, Xavier
James Posey, Xavier
Lamont Barnes, Temple
Lari Ketner, Massachusetts
Shawnta Rogers, G.Wash.
Second team
Gary Lumpkin, Xavier
Donnie Carr, LaSalle
Yegor Mescheriakov, GW
Antonio Reynolds-Dean, R.I.
Pepe Sanchez, Temple
Third team
Charlton Clarke, UMass
Mike King, G.Washington
Bevon Robin, Fordham
Rolan Roberts, Va. Tech
Tony Stanley, Dayton
All-rookie team
Lloyd Price, Xavier
Mark Karcher, Temple
Kevin Lyde, Temple
Lamar Odom, Rhode Island
Wayne Smith, Duquesne
All-defensive team
Mike Babul, UMass
Lamont Barnes, Temple
Caswell Cyrus, St. Bonnie
Lari Ketner, Massachusetts
Shawnta Rogers, G.Wash.
Pepe Sanchez, Temple
"They rose to the level of competition in this league quickly," St. Joseph¹s coach Phil Martelli said during the league¹s Media Day on Thursday. "When you go the Cincinnati Gardens it's sold out, in recruiting they're involved with the right players, and they're getting players at the right level. In this league, you need to do everything at the highest level or you're going to get left behind."

In 1995-96, Xavier joined Dayton, Virginia Tech, La Salle and Fordham as newcomers to the A-10. The conference hoped XU and Dayton would provide exposure in the Midwest.

All five schools emphasized basketball, which was consistent with what the league wanted.

Virginia Tech, coming off the 1995 NIT championship, was the first to make an impact, sharing the A-10 West title in '96 with a 13-3 record. But during the next two seasons, the Hokies were 12-20 in the league.

Dayton was 11-5 and shared the A-10 West last season with XU and George Washington. The Musketeers are the only one of the five schools not to have a losing record in conference play during a season.

The past two years, Xavier has led the A-10 in scoring, scoring margin, field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage.

"Xavier might've surprised people because (while) they've always been good, maybe they didn't get enough publicity, particularly in this part of the country (the East)," A-10 commissioner Linda Bruno said.

Xavier, ranked No. 16 17 in this year's Associated Press preseason poll and No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today poll, has indeed helped the A-10's status in the Midwest, just as the league's stature has helped the Musketeers.

"It is hard to make that impact in this league period, because it's one of the top leagues in the country," Dayton's Oliver Purnell said. "Xavier was obviously ready for that coming in."

A-10 coaches point to several reasons for Xavier's success:

  • Winning history: The Musketeers dominated the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, finishing with the best record in the league five of the school's last six years in the MCC. "I can appreciate what they've done," said La Salle coach Speedy Morris, who was in the MCC with Xavier. "They came in here with good players and got better."

  • Coaching: Skip Prosser just picked up where former coach Pete Gillen left off, several coaches say. "It speaks to the leadership," Martelli said. "Skip is as highly respected as you can be in our profession."

    Jim Harrick's Rhode Island team lost to XU 95-80 in the semifinals of last year's A-10 tourney. "It was one of the top 10 performances any team has ever played against a team I've coached," Harrick said.

  • Players: "The Atlantic 10 is a guard league," Fordham's Nick Macarchuk said. "I think you start with (Gary) Lumpkin and (Lenny) Brown. That has been the main reason for their success. Then you get a kid like James Posey ‹ he's indefensible ‹ and add him to the mix and you can get other people and sprinkle them in. Now you have a heckuva basketball team."

  • Recruiting: "When we got into the Atlantic 10, we might've had maybe one Atlantic 10 player," La Salle's Morris said. Xavier's been able to get that type of player. They recruit really well. They get tough kids, and they play really hard."

  • Defense: Macarchuk recalls trailing Xavier 18-4 "before we got out of the locker room"last season, thanks to eight turnovers. Most A-10 times are not used to the kind of pressure defense the Musketeers play.

    "If they give up an easy basket, they don't hang their heads, they just go after you again," Morris said.

    Published in The Cincinnati Enquirer on page section XU edition Story file