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Tuesday / November 21.
  • Who to Watch at the Atlantic-10 Tournament

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    By DAN KELLY and JOSH NEWMAN
    Special to ZAGSBLOG

    KhalifWyattNEW YORK – The Atlantic-10 Tournament will bring at least five NCAA tournament teams to Barclays Center beginning today and running through Sunday’s final. St. Louis has the best record in the league (13-3) and will be the favorite to win the tournament, but VCU and Butler are on opposite sides of the bracket and could meet in what would be a rematch of their improbable 2011 Final Four contest. La Salle and Temple are also NCAA Tournament teams who each have a puncher’s chance at the A-10 Tourney title. Then there’s UMass, led by its charismatic Brooklyn-born point guard Chaz Williams, and needing a run to the championship for an automatic bid to the field of 68.

    Here, in preparation, are your A-10 Tournament players to watch:

    Khalif Wyatt (Temple): To the surprise of no one, the senior combo-guard was named Atlantic-10 Player of the Year on Tuesday afternoon after averaging a league-best 19.9 points per game, including five games of 30 or more points for the 23-8, NCAA Tournament-bound Owls. The A-10 Player of the Week four times this season, Wyatt rose to national prominence this season when he hung a game-high 33 points on then-No. 3 Syracuse on Dec. 22 in a nationally-televised 83-79 win at Madison Square Garden. On Wyatt, the 10th player in Temple’s storied history to receive A-10 Player of the Year honors, one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv, “He’s very good off the bounce, a combo-guard with an ability to create for himself and others. He opened some eyes with a great season for the Owls. He could be a second-round pick this year on some boards.”

    Semaj Christon (Xavier): NBA scouts have been circling Christon since his senior year of high school. The 6-foot-3 freshman point guard has the size and the length that Jay Bilas loves to talk about every June. Christon is leading Xavier in minutes, points, assists and steals. His game is explosive and youthfully reminiscent of Washington Wizards point guard John Wall. He’s a downhill driver who combines ferocious athleticism with solid ball handling to burn defenders and get into the paint. In addition to his explosiveness, Christon shows a nice collection of hesitation moves and an intuitive sense of when a defender is vulnerable. At this point in his career, Christon is a driver more so than a shooter. His playmaking skills are solid but he’s not immune to being out of control (3.7 turnovers per game). The lack of a jumper and the all-around youth of his game could keep Christon out of the draft this year. On the other hand, there isn’t an entire first round’s worth of legit NBA prospects in this draft and Christon might see that as a good enough reason to leave. Draftexpress.com has Christon going 14th overall in the 2014 draft. A monster performance thiss week against a team like VCU could give Christon a lot of momentum heading into this year’s draft.

    Ronald Roberts Jr. (St. Joseph’s): The New Jersey-born power forward has a shocking amount of athleticism for a man his size. Roberts gets off the floor quickly for emphatic putback slams and lob opportunities. He’s averaging 11.6 points and 8.5 rebounds for the Hawks this season. Those rebounding numbers are a vast improvement from his previous seasons and might be a sign that, as a junior, Roberts is turning himself into a real NBA prospect. At 6-foot-9, he’s a little undersized for a power forward at the next level, but he could make up for that size disparity by rebounding out of his area and improving his face-up game on offense.

    Juvonte Reddic (VCU): Coach Shaka Smart called Reddic “the second fastest learner that I’ve had at VCU.” Nobody on VCU’s roster plays more than Reddic’s 28.2 minutes per game. He’s leading his team with 8.2 rebounds in those minutes and he’s second on the team in points at 14.5. He’s a nifty passer and an aggressive offensive rebounder who also possesses a nice jump hook over his right shoulder and shows the ability to be patient while attacking with his back to the basket. But VCU’s success is about defense. This is where Reddic’s size, athleticism and smart rotations earn him the most minutes on the team.

    Rotnei Clark (Butler): Clark is a prolific 3-point shooter, hitting at 41.7 percent on 8.4 3-point attempts per game. At 6-foot, he is not an overwhelming physical presence, but the senior point guard has a lightening quick release and he knows how to find space for his jumper. This is his first season in a Bulldog uniform after transferring from Arkansas. He shares the backcourt with an intriguing freshman prospect in Kellen Dunham. Dunham has been a little inconsistent but has shown flashes of elite scoring ability. He’ll be a force for the Bulldogs in years to come.

    Ramon Galloway (La Salle): This senior guard has quietly led La Salle to the third-best record in the Atlantic-10. He’s second in the league in scoring (17.4 ppg) and is shooting 41.7 percent from beyond the arc. He’s also fifth in the league in steals and ninth in assists. The physical shooting guard is part of a four-guard La Salle lineup that could be a tough 12-seed come NCAA Tourney time.

    Kwamain Mitchell (St. Louis): This accomplished senior guard has never averaged less than 10 points per game in his four-year Billikens career. This season has actually been his worst, at least statistically-speaking, but he’s entering the postseason on a hot streak, having averaged 18 points in his last three games. The Billikens are a balanced offensive squad who aren’t dependent on any one player scoring a handful of points. But Mitchell is a playmaker with a ton of experience and he’ll probably have the ball in his hands if the game is on the line.

    Chaz Williams (UMass): Williams is a Brooklyn product who won a state championship his junior year at Bishop Ford High School. The 5-foot-9 junior point guard is a bouncy playmaker who wreaks havoc on opposing defenses with his dribble drives into the paint. He leads his team in points, assists, steals and minutes. The fate of UMass will be placed on his shoulders this week as they try to burst the NCAA bubble. Williams, who will have a lot of fans at Barclays Center, has endeared himself to former UMass wide receiver Victor Cruz who said, “I follow Chaz all the time. I speak to him every chance I get.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.