The A-10’s Next Step

Bryan Albin
Associate Sports Director

With the announcement of VCU’s move to the A-10 earlier this week, one thing became clear: football is not the only driving force in conference realignment. Universities that play basketball as their primary sport are starting to make moves to better prepare themselves for life in Division I basketball with super-conferences patrolling the top.

With Temple and Charlotte on the way out, but Butler, and now VCU, on the way in, the A-10 has positioned itself to be considered the premier “Mid-Major” basketball conference in the country. However, VCU joined because the conference is now in a position to be nothing less than major. It has been speculated that one of the primary reasons VCU left the Colonial Athletic Association to go to the A-10 was because of the ability to secure at-large bids into the NCAA basketball tournament, whereas CAA teams rarely secured such bids. In last year’s tournament alone, the A-10 had four teams in the tournament, while the CAA had only its conference champion, VCU, in the tournament, while Drexel, a team that won 19 straight games before losing to VCU in the conference championship game, was left home.

So now that the A-10 has cemented its status as a basketball conference, what is the next step to insure that the A-10 remains a league with the ability to secure three to five bids in the NCAA tournament each year? The answer is it’s time to go to an 18 game conference schedule. Whether or not the A-10 decides to continue its expansion to 16 teams will not have any effect on this year. Changing the conference schedule from 16 games to 18 this year is something that will improve the conference’s chances of getting more at-large bids immediately.

This is how to do it. Divide the league into three divisions of five teams. The divisions would be as follows:

A-10 West:  Charlotte, Dayton, Duquesne, St. Louis, Xavier

A-10 North:  Fordham, Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure, Temple, Umass

A-10 South: George Washington, La Salle, Richmond, St. Joe’s, VCU

So, for example, GW would play each team in the South division home and away, making eight games within the division. Then, GW would play the other 10 teams in the conference once, with five home games and five road games.

The ways in which the conference would benefit are huge. First and foremost, when you take away two non-conference games, which for some teams in the league are likely to be cupcakes, and replace them with two games against competitive teams in conference, it immediately make every team in the conference’s strength of schedule and RPI better. Secondly, each team gets more opportunities for quality wins, which is a key factor in the selection committees eyes. Third, the groundwork would be set for the future of the A-10, whether it consists of 14 or 16 teams, to have divisions that feature more home and away series among teams, which creates more rivalries and likely results in less travel for the athletes themselves.

The top three conferences in the RPI at the end of the year, the Big XII, Big 10 and Big East, all played 18 game conference schedules. To be a major conference in college basketball these days, 18 games is the way to go. Each of those conferences had at least half of its members qualify for the NCAA tournament at the year’s end. Major conferences that don’t include the SEC and ACC. When competing against major conference teams from the SEC and ACC, teams that have an easy time attracting high profile non-conference games, mid-majors need to look for every opportunity possible to get a leg up and boost their RPI’s. Adding two conference games is the easiest way to offer tougher games to every team’s schedules.

Let’s face it, at the end of the day, the public perception of the A-10 will be solely dependent on its performance in the NCAA tournament each year. Therefore, the conference has to put itself in position to earn as many bid into the NCAA tournament as possible. That’s why Butler is coming, it’s why VCU is coming, and it is exactly why the A-10 will likely pull in another two teams in the near future who want to be part of an elite, basketball-first conference. The A-10 has shown great vision throughout the realignment process, so one has to think it’s ready to take this next step. Besides, what GW fan wouldn’t like to see Shaka Smart, Chris Mooney and Phil Martelli in the Smith Center each year?

Posted on May 15, 2012, in Bryan Albin, GW Basketball, Men's Basketball, Opinions and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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