The Atlantic 10 Conference Needs a Rebrand

@BelmontMBB on Twitter

The Atlantic 10 Conference Needs a Rebrand

Basketball

The Atlantic 10 Conference Needs a Rebrand

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@BelmontMBB on Twitter

The Atlantic 10 Conference has cemented itself as a top mid-major conference over the past decade. The conference has sent at least two teams to the NCAA Tournament for the past 16 years yet appear to be set to be a one-bid league this season. 

Conferences like the Mountain West and American Athletic are threatening to usurp the A10 as the class of the mid-majors. The Mountain West Conference could realistically see five teams head to the big dance and could stretch for six if San Jose State or UNLV goes on a run (six teams would tie the A10 for its most ever, which came in 2014). The American holds the number one team in the country in the Houston Cougars and have numerous other teams such as UCF and Tulane that could find themselves in the Tournament come March.

The Atlantic 10 needs to rebrand by eliminating the bottom feeders of the league and bring in multiple solid teams from other mid-major conferences. While this solution would probably not happen due to markets and television contracts, it is fun to see how to possibly improve the league.

Before any additions to the conference can be made, the fat must be cut out. Perennial bottom feeders La Salle, George Washington, and Fordham would be asked to leave the conference. 

La Salle has only had four winning seasons in conference play since it joined the Atlantic 10 in 1995. The Explorers have only made one NCAA Tournament appearance after going 24-10 (11-5) in 2012-13. La Salle lost its first-round matchup in the A10 Tournament as a four seed, but reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament as a 13 seed that season. Despite that one good season, La Salle’s time in the Atlantic 10 is over.

Outside of a four-year stretch from 2014-17, George Washington has been mediocre at best since the 2007-2008 season. The Colonials have not finished with more than 12 conference wins since its 16-0 2005-06 campaign. George Washington has reached the NCAA Tournament once since the 2008 season, while its best finish in the A10 Tournament was a semifinal finish in 2014. It’s time for the Colonials to move on.

Of all the undeserving teams in the A10, Fordham tops the list. Since joining the conference in 1995, the Rams have had two seasons with a winning conference record (9-7 in 2005-06 and 10-6 in 2006-07). There is not much more to say for Fordham as the team calls a 3,200 seat, 98-year-old gym that resembles a high school home. The Rams’ departure from the conference is long overdue.

After the subtraction of La Salle, George Washington, and Fordham, the addition of four new teams is possible. Three new additions to the A10 will come from the Missouri Valley Conference, while the other will come from the Patriot League.

The first new team to the Atlantic 10 is the Colgate Raiders. Colgate has put together seven of its last eight seasons at .500 in conference or better. The Raiders have made the NCAA Tournament three of the last four seasons and have gone a combined 54-12 over that time. Head coach Matt Langel has built up the program since taking over in 2011 as the Raiders deserve a promotion.

The second addition to the A10 is the Belmont Bruins. The side has been fantastic in its 24 seasons of existence, with a .673 winning percentage. The Bruins have won its regular season conference crown 14 times and its conference tournament eight times. The Bruins have only had one losing season in conference, which came back in 2001-02, its first season ever in a conference. Belmont is no stranger to hopping around as the team began as an Independent before playing 11 seasons in the Atlantic Sun, 10 seasons in the Ohio Valley Conference, and are currently playing in its first season in the Missouri Valley Conference. 

The third new team invited to the Atlantic 10 is the Drake Bulldogs. Drake has come back to relevance under five-year head coach Darian DeVries after years of mediocrity. The Bulldogs have finished over .500 in conference in four of the past five seasons, and even qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2021 after being ranked earlier that season. Drake has called the MVC home for all but six of its 117 seasons, but has never had the option to move up.

The fourth and final team that would join the A10 is Murray State Racers. Murray State has consistently been at the top of its conference since the 1980s. The Racers have made the big dance four times in the last decade and have been ranked as high as ninth in the country. The side left the Ohio Valley Conference on top as it notched a 31-3 record overall and 18-0 conference record as it also departed for the Missouri Valley. Murray State is ready to be a part of the best mid-major conference in the country.

With the subtractions of three teams and addition of four, the Atlantic 10 would now be home to 16 teams. Those 16 teams would be split into two divisions of eight teams each. The East would consist of the following: George Mason, Davidson, St. Joseph’s, Richmond, VCU, Rhode Island, Colgate, and UMass. The West would consist of Dayton, St. Bonaventure, Duquesne, St. Louis, Loyola-Chicago, Drake, Belmont, and Murray State.

The A10 Conference Tournament would follow the seeding structure the Atlantic Sun Conference does and would have the same bracket style as the ACC. The top two teams in each division get a double bye, the third, and fourth place teams receive single byes, while the bottom four teams would have to win five games in as many days. 

It’s time for the Atlantic 10 to reclaim its rightful spot as the best mid-major conference in the country.

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