With the Charlotte at Duquesne tip-off marking the official opening of conference play in less than a month, the Atlantic 10 has slowly put together a resume worthy of catching the attention of the NCAA tournament selection committee come March.
Fresh off the 2008 tourney where the A10 grabbed two of 34 at-large bids, the conference is looking not only to prove last year as no fluke but to build its stock.
Entering play this week the conference has a combined record of 70-50, with nine of the conference’s fourteen teams compiling winning records.
To date A10 teams have faced 14 ranked opponents and come away on top four times- two happened this past Saturday when Temple knocked off No. 8 Tennessee, 88-72, and UMass took down No. 23 Kansas, 61-60.
By comparison the Big East, anointed the toughest conference in the country, is eight and seven against ranked opponents thus far.
More importantly, A10 teams are racking up wins against schools from the major conferences.
Along with defeating No. 15 Marquette, the Dayton Flyers topped Auburn, 60-59.
Rhode Island outscored Penn State 77-71. The Rams also got by VCU, 92-86. While the Colonial Athletic is not a major conference, the CAA has been a "major" player in the tournament of recent years, and staying ahead of other mid-major conferences will be important for the A10.
Although Indiana is going through a rebuilding process, St. Joe’s win over the Hoosiers gives the A10 a victory against a Big 10 squad.
In a battle of bottom feeders St. Bonaventure trimmed Rutgers, 64-63.
Along with their upset of the Vols, Temple also tamed the Nittany Lions, 65-59.
The 49ers of Charlotte took care of Mississippi State 70-64.
The class of the A10 remains the undefeated Musketeers of Xavier University.
Of their nine victories the Muskies have topped Missouri of the Big 12, Virginia Tech of the ACC, Auburn of the SEC, and Cincinnati of the Big East.
The latter victory is evidence of the A10’s rise, as the "upset-minded" Bearcats looked to take down the No. 10 team in the country.
The X-Men face Duke and Butler in the next week.
Xavier’s win was the third big victory of the day for the conference.
Dionte Christmas’s other-worldly performance overshadowed a solid team effort by the Owls who out-rebounded the Vols, 35-30. Tennessee came into the game ranked third in the country with a rebound margin of 13.
The Vols also arrived in Philly sixth in the country averaging 87 points per game. Fran Dunphy’s defense and his team’s ability to take care of the ball trimmed 15 points off that average.
UMass shot 45% from the floor including 38% from behind the arc while holding the Jayhawks to 33% from the field and 21% from long range.
Last year the A10 earned two at-large bids—the ACC and Big Ten each had three. Could the mid-major conference just on the fringe of the big boys manage to grab three at-large bids this year?
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