Aug. 3, 2012
ESPN.com's Andy Katz and Eammon Brennan recently previewed the Atlantic 10 men's basketball season as part of the site's Summer Shootaround series. The five offseason storylines are below, followed by a link to the entire preview on ESPN.com.
Five offseason storylines
1. Hello, Butler and VCU: The Atlantic 10 gladly took Butler (Horizon) and VCU (CAA) a year early and pulled off the coup of the realignment season. These two weren't going to be allowed to play in the respective conference tournaments so the choice was obvious -- bolt to the A-10. The league can make a strong case to be a top-seven conference in the country -- and the Bulldogs and Rams immediately leap to the top of the conference power structure. They will compete for the regular-season and conference tournament titles. Book it.
2. Headed to Brooklyn: The A-10 had a hard time finding a home for its conference tournament. The perfect location would've been the Palestra in Philadelphia, but it's simply too small. So the league headed to a big-time media market when it chose the brand-new Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets. The league's Big Apple debut might result in a record number of bids for this stacked conference.
3. Saint Louis as a favorite: This is exactly why Rick Majerus returned to college coaching. He loves to coach. He relishes teaching. But let's not fool ourselves -- he wants to win. And he did it as well as any coach in the country at Utah. The Billikens are the favorite because they have the most experience and now have NCAA tournament experience. They expect to win. Xavier and Temple have dominated this league and I would never count out either in the title chase. But the favorite this season is in St. Louis.
4. A one-year schedule: The A-10 is at 16 teams for one season until Temple and Charlotte move to the Big East and Conference USA, respectively. The league had to be creative with its schedule knowing that it would be for only one season. The best part about the unbalanced schedule is that it gives the teams a chance to crown as true a champion without a round-robin slate. Every team will play each team once with one rivalry game twice. The home-road split will cause some concern but that is to be expected. By staying at 16 games instead of 18, the A-10 gave itself a chance to have as equitable a schedule as possible.
5. The arrival of the Hurleys:
Danny and Bobby Hurley gave the NEC a national appeal. They were able to turn around Wagner, even if they didn't make the NCAA tournament. Now the Hurleys have arrived in the A-10 at Rhode Island. Jim Baron had a decent run but just couldn't get the Rams to the Big Dance. We'll have to see if the Hurleys can get the Rams to break through. But more than anything they will make the league a bit more interesting. The A-10 needs some of its traditional powers to catch up to the new blood. Saint Joseph's and UMass should have a revival and compete for NCAA bids. The time has come for the Rams to do the same -- it just won't be this season.
READ ENTIRE PREVIEW