For years the Atlantic-10 conference has been a respectable force in the college basketball world. Now, however, they are bringing the heat stronger than ever before.
The conference usually puts in two or three teams on a good year, with Xavier the program making it famous. However, this year Xavier isn't the topdog. There are about five different teams playing for the top seed at Atlantic City (site of A-10 conference tournament), and right now there are no front-runners.
Temple has had an outstanding year, ranked 19th with wins over Villanova, Seton Hall, and basically all of the A-10. Rhode Island started off the year strong at 12-1, but have cooled off. Richmond has fought their way into a No. 24 ranking as they find themselves in first place in this jam-packed league. Dark horse teams like St. Louis and Charlotte are in the mix as well. And, of course, Xavier is tied for second place. The one disappointment, Dayton, has dropped significantly since they held a No. 22 preseason ranking.
The conference has a ton of depth. Just on Saturday, Temple had to work to overtime to defeat second-to-last-place St. Joseph's. And on Sunday, Duquesne got the best of a good Dayton squad. The only bad team is a two-win Fordham squad going through growing pains.
ESPN.com bracketologist Joe Lunardi (who predicted the entire 2008 field) has five A-10 teams in. He has Temple (five seed), Richmond (seven seed), Xavier (seven seed), Rhode Island (11 seed), and Dayton (12 seed).
Now, I don't necessarily agree with this.
I believe the A-10 bids will include:
Temple (four seed)
Quality Wins: Siena, Virginia Tech, Penn St., Villanova, Seton Hall, Rhode Island (2x), Xavier.
Bad Losses: St. John's, Charlotte.
Richmond (six seed)
Quality Wins: Mississippi St., Missouri, Old Dominion, Florida, Temple, Rhode Island.
Bad Losses: William and Mary, Virginia Commonwealth, South Carolina.
Xavier (seven seed)
Quality Wins: Cincinnati, Rhode Island, Florida.
Bad Losses: None.
Rhode Island (10 seed)
Quality Wins: Providence, Northeastern, Boston College, Fairfield, Oklahoma St., Dayton.
Bad Losses: Virginia Commonwealth, St. Louis.
St. Louis (12 seed)
Quality Wins: Richmond, Dayton, Rhode Island.
Bad Losses: Iowa St., Georgia, George Washington, Bowling Green St., Missouri Southern.
(Note on St. Louis: They have a very hard remaining schedule with Xavier, Dayton, Temple, and Duquesne. Two wins will probably solidify their chances.)
Very Close to the Bubble: Charlotte and Dayton. Charlotte started off so strong, but have faltered lately, nearly losing to Fordham. Dayton has done the same, with a heartbreaking loss to Duquesne on Sunday. A few wins to end the year and a shakeup to the list is very possible.