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The Atlantic 10

by John Giannini (La Salle University)

Over the past few years college basketball has been dominated by change. While the results on the court have made headlines the restructure of conferences has taken center stage. 

As a naive basketball coach the idea of expansion and so called “super conferences” made no sense to me at all.  But after doing a little research it’s easy to understand that the college football television financial numbers are staggering and there is more to be made.

Change isn’t always welcome but it is inevitable.  At first glance many fans won’t like the realignment. Familiar foes have left for other leagues and new rivalries must be established. In time those things will be forgotten. Remember, in the mid-1990s, a lot of people didn’t like the idea of Major League Baseball realigning the divisions and adding a Wild Card team. That’s worked out okay.

A few years from now fans will just be talking about everything they love about the Atlantic 10. An already great conference got even better with the additions of Butler and VCU.  These programs are arguably the two best among mid-major programs over the past five-plus seasons. Combined they have three Final Four appearances, two National Championship game appearances and both have dominated the Mid-Major Top 25 (collegeinsider.com does not consider the Atlantic 10 to be a mid-major conference).

While teams within our conference have football programs, the Atlantic 10 is not considered a football-first league. While the A-10 should have already been considered as the best non-football conference in the country, the additions of Butler and VCU should make that fact. 

When I was the head coach at Rowan, in the early 1990s, Temple and UMass were dominating the Atlantic 10 and were national powers.  Since that time the conference has had a lot of quality teams, but hasn’t consistently had those types of teams at the top of the standings. The A-10 has had its share of teams that have made noise in March, but not the season-long headlines it garnered with Temple and UMass. 

Analysts typically look past our conference because we don’t have those top tier teams at the moment.  What we do have is very competitive teams, from top to bottom. Last year the teams at the bottom of the standings beat Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Those are high quality wins. I think it speaks to the depth of our league.

In recent years the A-10 has been a 3-4 bid league.  I think this conference is on the verge of being a 4-5 or 6 bid league.  When you look at the current state of the A-10 you will find 8 or 9 teams that believe they have an excellent shot at the NCAA Tournament. That rivals any of the top conferences in America.

Perhaps it’s because we share the map with the ACC and the Big East or because we haven’t had any “lead dogs” in recent years.  Whatever the reasons for being an overlooked league in the past, I think the Atlantic 10 is now on the verge of changing many of those opinions.

 
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