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A down year for the A-10 or par for the course?

We’re inching closer and closer to March Madness, meaning it’s bubble talk time across the college hoops landscape. At this very moment, most of the discussion for the Atlantic 10 includes just three teams: Dayton, VCU and Rhode Island, perhaps no big surprise as those three were your predicted top-three heading into the season, both VCU and Dayton looking to extend NCAA tournament streaks with Rhody looking to break a 17-season tourney drought.

Currently only Dayton and VCU are predicted as tournament teams by the country’s two biggest bracketologists. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS’ Jerry Palm have both been floating the league’s two marquee programs around the 8-10 seed range the last few weeks. Both have Rhody fighting for inclusion in this year’s field, Lunardi putting the Keaney blue Rams has his fourth team in line for inclusion, Palm a slightly more optimistic two spots away from being included in the field.

A lot can happen between now and Selection Sunday. All three of the discussed teams have a minimum of nine games ahead of them with a maximum of 12, but the larger question being: would a two or even three-team NCAA tournament group make for a down year in the Atlantic 10?

Not really.

The past decade the A-10 has sent an average of 3.5 teams to the NCAA tournament, a number skewed by a 2013 season featuring a 16-team A-10 followed by an outlier year where the conference somehow sent almost half the league — six of its then thirteen teams — to the dance. But as a 14-team conference the Atlantic 10 has averaged exactly three teams per year, meaning as disappointing as a three-team year could be, or even two for that matter, it’s about what the Atlantic 10 has been and will be.

A-10 NCAA TOURNAMENT BIDS THE PAST DECADE

2016: 3 (Dayton, Saint Joseph’s, VCU)
2015: 3 (Davidson, Dayton, VCU)
2014: 6 (Dayton, GW, UMass, Saint Joseph’s, SLU, VCU)
2013: 5 (Butler, La Salle, SLU, Temple, VCU)
2012: 4 (St. Bonaventure, SLU, Temple, Xavier)
2011: 3 (Richmond, Temple, Xavier)
2010: 3 (Richmond, Temple, Xavier)
2009: 3 (Dayton, Temple, Xavier)
2008: 3 (Saint Joseph’s, Temple, Xavier)
2007: 2 (GW, Xavier)

Note: Teams in RED no longer in Atlantic 10

But conference realignment has obviously shifted things around a good bit. The A-10 sent just two of its current teams to the Big Dance in 2007, but that season also saw current members VCU, George Mason and Davidson advance into the then 64-team field as members of the CAA and SoCon conferences. 

NCAA TOURNAMENT APPEARANCES THE PAST DECADE

VCU: 8
Davidson: 5
Dayton: 4
Saint Joseph’s: 3
Saint Louis: 3
George Mason: 2
George Washington: 2
Richmond: 2
La Salle: 1
UMass: 1
St. Bonaventure: 1
Duquesne: 0
Fordham: 0
Rhode Island: 0

If you add the NCAA tournament appearance rates of current A-10 programs you get exactly what we are looking at this year: 2.7 NCAA tourney teams per season. That’s where we are right now. The current A-10 is a conference that will hope to get three teams dancing per season, but may on occasion send just one lucky duo to represent the league.

IF YOU AIN’T MOVIN’ FORWARD, YOU’RE SPINNIN’ WHEELS

So how do we improve? There appear to be two realistic ways outside of hoping teams will do what they’ve proven incapable of consistently doing the past decade (and beyond).

The first is the Atlantic 10 drops back to a 16-game conference season, allowing A-10 coaches two more opportunities to better game the system using creative scheduling techniques that take advantage of the current heavily leaned upon RPI rankings system NCAA tourney selection committees currently use. That’s your best bet to increase the number of teams the A-10 sends dancing on any given season.

The other way — a less likely to actually happen way — is to expand, adding teams that have made NCAA tournament appearances a way of life the same way VCU and Davidson seem to have, the two teams who skew the current A-10’s NCAA tournament appearance rate over the past decade. But the problem there is an incredibly small pool of teams within the A-10’s geographical footprint from which to choose.

Would the A-10 reach as far west as Wichita, Kansas? Could they get creative with an East/West divisional conference that somehow does include those Wichita State Shockers, as well as the likes of the WCC’s best, Gonzaga and St. Mary’s?

I think only one of those scenarios is any bit likely, but the reality of not attempting to move forward would leave us with a conference that is just ahead of every other mid-major in terms of yearly bids and is one that features no team that has advanced past the first weekend of NCAA tournament action more than once this past decade.

 

 

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*Lunardi not Linardi. Lots of exciting basketball left to play! Lunardi & Palm have many more prognostications ahead of them.
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    Jive
  • February 9, 2017
This is a complete pipe dream but I wonder if it wouldn't make sense for the Big Ten to drop Rutgers and add UCONN, and then maybe the A10 could bring Temple back and possibly add Rutgers. Football is the problem with both those schools but a guy can dream right?...
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    Bob Collamore
  • February 9, 2017
Recall that in the 1997 & 1998 years, the A-10 sent 5 teams to the NCAA back to back.

The league has a run of 2 then 3 then 4 then 5 twice. Great History. This is a high-major league.

Could you go back to say. 1992 forward. Recall in 1992 that A-10 had 4 teams to the NCAA.

Most years, even most in the 1990's and early 2000's the A-10 conference always usually had 3 or 4 bids every single season just about. Maybe once in 25 seasons the A-10 sent only one bid.

A-10 is 7th in Number of bids since 1992. History is better than maybe most think.

Multiple-bids. High-major Conference. Indeed.
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      Bob Collamore
    • February 9, 2017
    The Power 5 + Big East + A-10 = The Super 7 In NCAA total # of NCAA bids.

    No other conference even comes close over the last 25 seasons. Nobody.
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    Bob Collamore
  • February 9, 2017
The best overall new huge elements generally should start in 2013.
The newer beginning realignment.
This is considered year #4 now. With the great history of the A-10 still included with the 7th most.
Now the winning of future huge TV high-major contracts form all national networks future exposure.
Power TV Contracts.
Just simply add in the 3 top high-majors leagues # of bids. Big East has 15.
A-10 has 12. American has 10. The 3 high-major now, outside the new power 5.
The Huge Hoop 8. "coiled."
Just do the Math. Big Boys.
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    Bob Collamore
  • February 9, 2017
CITY - Just do the Math A-10.
We are in great company.
The A-10 & the Big East combined has a total number of top schools that have 17 out of 24 are Catholic Universities. Not bad company. Future brighter.
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    Bob Collamore
  • February 9, 2017
CBS SPORTS - NYC - CBS Insiders are now highly considering a high-major Big East - A-10 TV top hoop challenge Tournament. - From Brooklyn. Next December. Christmas season 2017.
Makes Sense.
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    Bob Collamore
  • February 9, 2017
Dayton vs. Xavier
Fordham vs Saint John's
Saint Louis vs. Creighton
Saint Bonaventure vs. Providence
Saint Joseph's vs. Georgetown
La Salle vs. Seton Hall
Duquesne vs. Villanova

7 games between 7 catholic teams from the A-10 vs . Big East Challenge

ESPN - Bristol, Conn. Leak Tonight
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