When the Atlantic-10 lost two prized possessions in Butler and Xavier to the Big East a couple years ago, the question had to be asked of what to expect from this conference. The A-10 has had some nice teams over the years with the like of Xavier, St. Joseph’s and Massachusetts.
The conference had just stolen Butler from the Horizon League after a run to back-to-back title games and had head coach Brad Stevens at the helm. But, after just one year the Bulldogs joined the Musketeers to become part of the new Big East.
The Atlantic-10 didn’t waver though. In 2014, the first year as a ‘new’ conference, the A-10 put six teams in the NCAA Tournament compared to just four from the Big East. You could even argue the Big East stole a spot with Providence making a run to win the Big East conference tournament. Dayton carried the conference flag all the way to the Elite Eight as a No. 11 seed and took Florida down the wire with a chance to advance to the Final Four on the line. No Big East team made it to the Sweet 16.
Well, this year the Atlantic 10 is in the midst of having one of the craziest seasons in college basketball. There are currently six teams all within two games of first place, including a three-way tie for the top. Nine of the 14 teams (yeah, 14 teams in the Atlantic 10, you figure it out) are over .500 on the season.
For the majority of the season VCU looked like the cream of the crop when it came to the conference. The Rams won 12 games in a row, including their first seven in conference play. The havoc defense seemed to have returned to life while the offense was playing better than any offense under Shaka Smart. But then a season-ending injury to Briante Weber happened followed by an ankle sprain to Treveon Graham that sidelined him for a couple weeks. After a home loss to Dayton this week, the Rams now find themselves a game out of first place.
More importantly, it makes the Flyers even more interesting with a week to go in the regular season. After kicking two players off the team, Dayton head coach Archie Miller has directed his team to a 12-4 conference record. On top of that, Dayton is 22-6 with losses to UConn and at Arkansas. The Flyers have also beaten likely tournament teams Texas A&M and Ole Miss.
Almost shockingly, those are the only two teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament according to Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology. Davidson is on the outside as the first team out with a weak nonconference schedule seems to be hurting the Wildcats.
Regardless of how many teams get into the Big Dance, the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament is going to be one worth watching. Fittingly enough, the tournament will take place in Brooklyn at the Barclay’s Center, and the five day event will be as wide open as any in the country. The games will be on NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network.
I suggest you tune in.