Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A-10 Keeps Changing and Adapting; Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Media Day

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A-10 Keeps Changing and Adapting; Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Media Day

Article excerpt

BROOKLYN, N.Y. * There was no hesitation from St. Louis University coach Jim Crews when the first question was delivered at Tuesday's Atlantic 10 media day.

How many teams are in the A-10 for the upcoming basketball season? Crews shot back with 14 and then paused.

"Am I right?" he asked.

St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt fielded the same question with a cackle and a proper response. VCU's Shaka Smart asked if it was a trick question.

It's been difficult to keep track in recent years, and the 2014- 15 season is no different. The A-10 has seen further change with the addition of Davidson College, and in the last four years, the league has gone from 14 teams to 16 to 13 and now 14 again.

Through all the upheaval, it has emerged as a strengthening basketball conference that seems immune to the pitfalls that can accompany a constantly changing lineup.

A record six teams represented the A-10 in last season's NCAA Tournament, and 12 different schools have made the field in the last four years.

"If you look at what we did last year, the changes have been beneficial," Schmidt said. "When we lost Xavier, Butler, Temple and Charlotte, everyone thought the league was going to take a step back. It went forward. So the realignment, in my opinion, has helped us."

When schools have departed, the key has been adding programs that provided a good fit with a potential to make a splash.

"I think the biggest impact has been who is actually in the conference," Smart said. "Who's come and who's left."

Commissioner Bernadette McGlade has lured the likes of VCU, Butler and George Mason with mixed results. VCU has been in the NCAA Tournament each of its two years. Butler reached the field but left after one season. George Mason struggled in its first go-round.

As the process has unfolded, the league has excelled in growing its postseason resume, expanding from three NCAA teams in 2011 to four in 2012, five in 2013, and six last spring. It's been good enough to be mentioned among the power conferences in terms of strength, but Smart recognizes the room to grow further.

"It's not a mid-major league," he said. "And to me elite would be one of the top one or two leagues. …

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