A-10 makes case as the toughest conference
by Scott M Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to the sixth edition of Bracket Briefing, our attempt to ensure that readers won’t have to wait until March to know who C.J. McCollum is.
Team of the Week: No. 25 Butler (8-2)
Butler’s stunning 88-86 overtime win over then-No. 1 Indiana last week was without a doubt the most stunning upset of the season to date. But when a program has been to more Final Fours in the last three years than tradition-rich Indiana has in the last decade, when are we going to start expecting an upset from Brad Stevens-coached teams?
With their huge win, the Bulldogs cracked into the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Top 25 poll, making them the only ranked Atlantic 10 team. However as we saw Saturday, looks can be deceiving. That’s certainly the case with the A-10 this season.
Butler, in its first year in the A-10 after switching from the Horizon League, is a favorite to win the conference. But the reality is the Bulldogs could finish fifth, or sixth, or seventh in the league. That’s how unpredictable a loaded conference is with at least five potential NCAA tournament bids.
Butler was picked to finish sixth in the league at A-10 Media Day, with St. Joseph’s (5-3), Saint Louis (6-3), VCU (8-3), Temple (8-1) and Massachusetts (5-3) all picked ahead of the Bulldogs by preseason voters. All six teams earned at least two first-place votes. That’s excluding an upstart teams Dayton (8-2) and Xavier (7-2) and surprise teams Charlotte (10-1) and Richmond (9-3). Additionally, it wouldn’t be surprising to see at least 10 teams from the A-10 with an RPI below 100.
“I would argue more teams deserved first place votes,” said St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli, who thinks the A-10 is the toughest conference in the country. “Other people aren’t focused on the right things. Butler and VCU have been to the Final Four and they’re challenging every school and every member of our athletic departments with scheduling, exposure, everything. That’s a good thing, this strengthens our league, makes us better.
“The way I see it, the A-10 was … [For more on Bracket Briefing: A-10 makes case as the toughest conference, click here.]