For the wailing and nashing of teeth that happened during the build up to the Big East basketball split and the subsequent raid of the Atlantic 10, the transition to the new A-10 hasn’t been so bad. In fact, it’s really beginning to grow on me. The conference will look different but truth told, I kind of the like the new league more than the old one.
We’re Not Losing Much
I saw so many league Armageddon scenarios leading up to the defections over the summer I began to believe them. What if the league fell apart? What if the Horizon or CAA absorbed other teams before Duquesne? What if seven teams left the A-10 and schools like George Mason and Davidson told us “no thanks.”
Obviously, none of that ever happened nor will it thanks to the almighty dollar fusing the remaining schools together. The eleven NCAA credits the conference earned this March only makes it more sticky to the current members and conversely, more attractive to outsiders who could join when we ultimately shed another school or two in the future. The core of the conference is strong and getting stronger even if the departures damaged the brand and competition short term. That said, I’d put VCU on even footing with or ahead of Temple so they wash each other out. Davidson keeps the league in Mecklenburg County, and they offer academics and a basketball program superior to Charlotte’s. George Mason falls well short of Xavier now but they could take off in a multi – bid league. Xavier made the tournament four of its last six years from the MCC before joining the A-10. Mason has gone two of their last six and the Final Four appearance still lives in peoples memories. While they’re behind the Musketeers, Mason could grow in the Atlantic 10.
Duquesne Fits In A Little Better
Looking up from the bottom of last year’s Atlantic 10 scared me. Honestly, I didn’t know if Jim Ferry or any coach could dig us out from the hole we buried ourselves in. Of course, I artificially created some of that anxiety since the sixteen team league had an expiration date. However, it feels more attainable looking up at Mason and Davidson than it did Butler and Xavier. X dominated the league for so long that they still intimidate me even if they haven’t realized Chris Mack sucks. Butler had Brad Stevens and the glow of two national championship game silhouetting Hinkle. Those programs were years even decades ahead of us. Now, we have a slightly diluted talent pool but the depth of the conference and its recent NCAA showing have held the overall brand pretty stable. Throwing in the pretty impressive TV contract, we can recruit from basically the same kind of talent we could before, but don’t have to catch up with a pair of elite programs.
Also, Fairfax sits a hell of a lot closer to Pittsburgh than Indianapolis.
The Fans Interact More Now
Getting to know the folks from Mason and VCU, the CAA has a weird communal vibe going. I’ve associated with insular Northeastern fanbases for so long that I get blown away by how much their fans want to interact with me. I have bloggers for other programs follow me on twitter, but my only non – Duquesne followers who are just fans come from Virginia. Because they interact so much, they actually have an informed opinion of the league and what other teams have to offer. If a VCU guy tells me he expects the Dukes will finish last, I can generally get a well articulated, informed argument from them. I can’t say I could get that quality from the average Temple fan.
Basketball Isn’t the Only Important Sport People Care About
Before the switch, only men’s basketball got much attention. Just in the past week, I’ve gotten updates in my twitter feed on VCU women’s volleyball, and George Mason men’s soccer. Women’s basketball found its way into the conversation for the first time last winter. With the influx of so many schools south of the Mason Dixon Line, I felt disappointed that Duquesne doesn’t have baseball anymore for the first time last spring. While Xavier and Temple had strong athletic programs all around, men’s basketball took president. Charlotte won a shocking number of A-10 championships in their time in the league, but no 49ers ever seemed to hype them. VCU and Mason fans want to win in the Atlantic 10 and they’ll take whatever hardware they can get.
The Atlantic 10 looked destined for a golden age not seen since the early years of the conference. For me, the trajectory hasn’t changed much but maybe the velocity has slowed. We still have a multi bid league and much bigger community to celebrate with. Men’s basketball remains our strength and centerpiece, but it’s not the only game in town. I don’t want to short change the loss Xavier, Temple or even Charlotte, but in ten years, we’ll forget Butler even spent a year in the conference just like Virginia Tech.The new Atlantic 10 remains a great, competitive league and there still is a lot to like about it.