I wrote an article a couple weeks ago about the idea of a non-conference challenge between the Atlantic 10 and the American Athletic Association. After getting some mixed opinions on the idea from A-10 and AAC fans, I decided to tackle another one of these ideas. The A-10-AAC Challenge seemed like a pretty even matchup. The other guys would have the advantage in the games at the top, but the Atlantic 10 would have a chance to sneak away with the overall win, having the advantage in the middle and bottom tiers.
What about the Big East? This challenge would probably be more lopsided. I’d be shocked if the A-10 could take down a conference with that kind of talent from top to bottom. Yet, it’d make for some fun East Coast matchups. The Big East was much improved last season, and it has some top-level talent that could really beat down on the Atlantic 10. I don’t think this would be a challenge that would ever happen, and even if it did, it probably wouldn’t be much of a contest, but it’s fun to dream. Hear me out with his: I don’t ever think the Big East would accept this kind of challenge, and even if they did, the A-10 would not fair too well. Regardless, let’s take a look at some hypothetical games for the 2017-18 season (for the sake of predicting the outcomes, assume that all games are played on a neutral site court).
Rhode Island Rams vs. Villanova Wildcats
I’d love for a Philly matchup with La Salle or Saint Joseph’s, but we’ve got to send our best dog up against the cream of the crop. This could be an interesting game if it were played in Kingston. Anywhere else? Probably not. Even without Kris Jenkins or Josh Hart, Villanova is going to be one of the best teams in the nation, and it’s going to have one of the best backcourts in the nation. That’s part of the reason I think this matchup would be so much fun to watch. Seeing two of the nation’s best guard-oriented teams go head-to-head would be darn fun. This very well could be a Top 25 game, and it’d make for good T.V. in the non-conference. I wouldn’t expect Rhode Island to win this game, but I’d expect the Rams to put up a fight. Prediction: Villanova 82, Rhode Island 70.
Dayton Flyers vs. Xavier Musketeers
Let’s bring back the Blackburn/McCafferty trophy! If we’re going to do this challenge, we’re going to have to give Dayton an instate game against Xavier. There’s too much history between these two teams (Dayton leads 84-74). This matchup would have been a ton of fun to see this past season, but in a rebuilding year for Dayton, I can’t see the Flyers beating a Top 25 Xavier team. Either way, this would be a rowdy game that would draw a lot of interest from Ohio fans. I don’t think there’s any fan from either team that wouldn’t want to see a regular season matchup between the former A-10 foes. A lot of people would tune in to watch the Musketeers face the Flyers, even if Dayton isn’t an NCAA Tournament team in its first season under Anthony Grant. Prediction: Xavier 77, Dayton 66.
VCU Rams vs. Butler Bulldogs
Cinderella meets Cinderella. See how much fun this could be? A rematch from the 2011 Final Four in the 2017-18 regular season? Sign me up. I’d love to see these two programs go at it, and given the Rams’ recent success on the recruiting trail, it looks like VCU is going to be a top contender in the Atlantic 10 next season. Butler will almost undoubtedly be back in the Big Dance and could even have a shot at winning the Big East. Butler will once again be the favorite in this game with star forward Kelan Martin leading the way, but this would be a game that I could see going either way. Bring two loyal fanbases together for this one, and you’ve got a great matchup. Prediction: Butler 69, VCU 65.
St. Bonaventure Bonnies vs. Seton Hall Pirates
Man, would I like to see this matchup. Bring in the experience of Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley against a core of top-level Seton Hall seniors, and you’ve got quite a game. Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, and Angel Delgado would be pretty hard to stop, but the Bonnies can really catch fire if their backcourt is firing on all cylinders. Not to mention, the guys from Olean have some up-and-coming forwards in Josh Ayeni and Amadi Ikpeze that should make big strides next season. I don’t see anyone on St. Bonaventure’s roster that’s going to stop double-double machine Angel Delgado, but the same could be said for Jaylen Adams. I’ll ride my bias and take the Bonnies, but this could be a coin flip kind of a game. Prediction: St. Bonaventure 71, Seton Hall 70.
Richmond Spiders vs. Creighton Bluejays
Unfortunately, this is a matchup I don’t see the Atlantic 10 coming close to winning, but it’d be a great resume-boost for Richmond, and it wouldn’t be a bad non-conference test for the Bluejays. Realistically, Creighton has a barrage of three point shooters and a guy named Marcus Foster who could very well contend for Big East Player of the Year next season. Richmond has a pretty impressive up-and-coming player in De’Monte Buckingham, but this is going to be a rebuilding year after the loss of T.J. Cline. This wouldn’t be much of a game. Prediction: Creighton 83, Richmond 64.
Saint Louis Billikens vs. Providence Friars
I’d tune in for this matchup. Providence keeps all of its talent from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, but Saint Louis is expected to make a huge jump in the Atlantic 10 this season. The Billikens bring in Hasahn French and Jordan Goodwin and also have available three lethal transfers who will be eager to take the court next season. I could see this game going either way if Saint Louis lives up to the hype. If not, the experience of Kyron Cartwright and Rodney Bullock would be too much for the Billikens to handle. Prediction: Saint Louis 71, Providence 69.
Saint Joseph’s Hawks vs. Marquette Golden Eagles
Marquette’s going to have a pretty good basketball team next year, even though it loses a lot of seniors. I’m not sure if this is going to be a tournament team, but I’m guessing Saint Joseph’s will not be either. At the end of the day, this could be a very fun shootout with some high-level guards on both sides of the ball. I could see a high-scoring game between these two. I’m not sure what to expect of Saint Joseph’s coming off countless injuries last season, but I’m thinking Phil Martelli is going to field an impressive team. Prediction: Marquette 88, Saint Joseph’s 80.
Davidson Wildcats vs. Georgetown Hoyas
On paper, how much fun does this game sound? In reality, these two teams had pretty crummy 2016-17 seasons, but it’s back to business next season. Georgetown is going to have to rebuild after the firing of John Thompson III, but it’s going to have to be better than last season. Right? Davidson brings back Peyton Aldridge along with a lot of experience in its senior class, and I think the Wildcats have a decent shot at finishing in the top half of the Atlantic 10. This game would be an absolute battle. Prediction: Davidson 76, Georgetown 75.
George Washington Colonials vs. St. John’s Red Storm
St. John’s got kind of a bad wrap last season, but overall, this team wasn’t that bad. It pulled out some impressive wins in Big East play, and returning a lot of talent from last year, I wouldn’t be too shocked to see this team take a minor step up in 2017-18. The Colonials, on the other hand, could be dropping back after losing Tyler Cavanaugh to graduation and losing a number of players to the transfer market. Prediction: St. John’s 75, George Washington 70.
George Mason Patriots vs. DePaul Blue Demons
DePaul hasn’t been good, and that’s not going to change next year. This is where the Atlantic 10 can pick up a game, but unfortunately, there aren’t too many teams like DePaul in the Big East. I’d still like to see this game, as I think it would be somewhat of a contest, but in the end, George Mason is the better team that could come away with the victory. Prediction: George Mason 70, DePaul 61.