It's always been difficult to categorize what exactly the A-10 is. They’re mid-major schools, but they’re also a class above the Missouri Valley Conference and maybe even on par with the New Big East’s depth. Despite cramming as many as six teams into the field of 68 and holding their conference tournament in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the buzz around their teams is somewhat muted. Last spring, I depicted realignment as being a malignant tumor in the A-10's structure. Perhaps I was wrong.
Take the amount of RPI Top 50 ranked teams in the A-10 vs. the SEC. The A-10 has six while the SEC has three. Of course it helps when the top two teams are the No. 1 team in the country and a group of freshman so highly-touted, John Calipari promised them a team party at Chuck E. Cheese if they won a national title. Saint Louis' senior-laden squad could be better than Wichita State, but they’ve played a more difficult schedule and observers are skeptical because the late Rick Majerus is unable to coach the team he assembled from behind the bench.
Temple may have been removed as the heartbeat of the A-10, but it’s been replaced by A-10 sophomore VCU and Shaka Smart’s adrenaline shot of a HAVOC full-court pressure attack.
Of course, Temple was an institution in the basketball community as the winningest program without a national title. VCU is 20th in all-time winning percentage and has served as a springboard for a plethora of head coaching careers. This incarnation of the Men of Steal is led by shutdown corner/point guard Briante Weber, who leads the nation in steals (21 more than second place) and has nearly doubled his scoring average, but doesn’t get discussed nearly as often as Aaron Craft.
Butler, Xavier and Charlotte also bit the capsule to escape the A-10 for greener pastures in the New Big East and Conference USA. However, instead of 2013-14 season being a nail in its elite high mid-major coffin, the A-10 held onto its designation as a multi-bid league.
UMass is on track to make its first NCA Tournament since 1998. The Minutemen upgraded by settling for fewer three-pointers (699 attempts last season to 464)
A win or two in the tournament could lock up an NCAA Tournament bid for Sean Miller’s brother, Archie. Dayton can also thank Ohio State transfer Jordan Sibert for their possible return to the Big Dance. Ohio State fans lamenting the blank chambers their shooters are firing with should probably stop reading. Ohio State’s top three-point shooter LaQuinton Ross made 41 of 105 treys in 31 games this season. Sibert made 73 of 165 including the game-winner in his Flyers debut.
Dayton is exactly where they predicted to finish in the conference, albeit nobody expected an at-large bid to accompany it. George Washington on the other hand was picked to finish 10th, seven spots lower than their actual finish. The Colonials will benefit from the return of second-leading scorer Kethan Savage, who was in the lineup for their 15-3 start, which included a win over Creighton. Conversely, his presence was conspicuous during their 7-4 finish to the season.
Saint Josephs also showed off an explosive vertical leap by hopping from seventh place in the coache's poll to fourth place courtesy of the evolution of senior guard Langston Galloway.
The A-10 is still here. Don’t ever forget it.