The A-10 Mid Major Debate

After seeing the Atlantic 10 excluded from College Insiders Mid Major Top 25, I thought it would be a great time to shake the dust off and revamp a piece I wrote about where the league fell amongst the hierarchy of college basketball conferences. The original piece was published at Yuku on 1/24/11  but it’s content is still relevant to the conversation today.


Like most fans of Atlantic 10 schools, the word mid major is like nails to the chalk board when it’s used to describe your school. Nothing annoys us more then when that blanket term is used to describe our team. To some fans, it’s an honor to be considered to a mid major or end up on a list of mid majors. To others, it’s an insult.

I think lazy or big program centered journalists and fans throw the mid major  label around too liberally and use it to simply describe schools as “not BCS.” Clearly there are more tiers than just BCS and mid major. While there are some conferences that disdain the term, there are some too small to deserve it as well. We’ve seen High Major enter the conversation a little more often since my original piece hit the internet, but I certainly take no credit for starting a trend. Truthfully, it was a low hanging fruit and I’m not surprised others have also picked it as well. I made some adjustment, but the breakdowns look much the same as they did almost four years ago.


SEC, Big 10, Big 12, ACC, PAC 12

Pretty clearly defined here and no real need for discussion. These guys are the big money programs thanks to their cash infusion from big time football. Generally, they dominate post season tournaments.

High Major:

Big East, American, Mountain West, Atlantic 10

With conference reshuffling, I think the definition of High Major changed a little from what I had previously. Before it was just conferences a step ahead of the mid majors in terms of support and revenue with the basketball centered conferences having the potential to sneak into the top 6 every couple of years when one of the BCS conferences are having an off year. Now the highest of the high majors can compete with the BCS schools year in and year out. The Big East is strong, the American just produced a national champion and the Mountain West is a year removed from finishing in the top three. That’s not to mention the Atlantic 10 truly asserting itself in the last few seasons. None of the high majors leagues should be taken lightly and truthfully, they are closer to the BCS in terms of quality than the mid majors are to them.

Top Mid Major

West Coast, Missouri Valley, Colonial, Horizon, Sunbelt, Conference USA, MAC

As the high major class has gotten more exclusive, this group has gotten much bigger. I added conferences with D-I football whose basketball programs were on the decline. This is still a quality group with a number of schools with potential, but they were also some of the hardest hit by realignment. Gone from this group are Memphis, Creighton, Butler, VCU, George Mason with some other programs making lateral basketball moves. These conferences will mostly send their  champion to the NCAA tournament, but each could produce a bubble buster  should they fail to win the conference.

Mid Major

Ivy, MAAC, Atlantic Sun, Patriot, America East, Summit, Big West, WAC, Ohio Valley

The WAC joins the true mid majors and Ohio Valley moves up with the addition of Belmont. but this groups is largely unchanged. Generally, the conference champions are 13-14 and higher 15 seeds. Rarely do they send more than one. Usually at least two of these conference champions win their first round game. Most years each conference has one team in the top 100 RPI.

Small Conferences

NEC, Big Sky, Southland, MEAC, SWAC, Southern, Big South

With the loss of Davidson, I moved the Southern down. Meanwhile, the Big South dropped likely because this is where they belonged to begin with.  What can I say. These are your 15-16 seeds. Maybe every forth or fifth year they’ll send someone post season higher than a 15. Not often is there anyone is conference in the top 100 RPI.


Sometimes, it’s good to look back. In spite of the raids from higher major Big East and some football centric realignment, the Atlantic 10 has weathered the storm and is even more established at it’s current high major level. That could change in another four years but I feel comfortable with them putting even more distance on that mid major label.