Andrew Albert (@andrewjalbert01)
The Atlantic 10 conference held their media day today at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. All sixteen coaches from the revamped conference were in attendance, and spoke about what should be a big year for the conference.
Many of the coaches remarked on the additions of Butler and VCU to the conference, and how they will impact the depth of the conference.
“It will be a great, great year in the Atlantic 10,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “This is another year we can be a great league, with two additional teams we know a lot about but not everything about. I think the world of these two coaches as well, Brad and Shaka, so it will be a great year.”
Dunphy’s Owls, who won last year’s A10 regular season title with a record of 13-3, are participating in their last season in the conference. After the 2012-2013 season, the Owls will become a member of the Big East.
Though the Owls are moving on to a BCS conference, some coaches believe the level of competition in the Atlantic 10 will be on the level of a BCS conference this year.
“When you look at the schedule, there are no sure wins, and you know everyone is good,” coach John Giannini of La Salle said. “This conference is at an awfully high level. One game separated third and eighth place last year.”
La Salle finished the A10 season 9-7 last year, which was good for sixth in the conference. The Explorers earned an NIT berth for the first time in twenty years, with an overall record of 21-13.
“I will stack up the potential number of NCAA tournament teams in the A10 this year with any other conference in the country. I think you have eight or nine teams that could make a legitimate argument today that they have a chance at it.”
This year is also a unique year for the Atlantic 10, due to the number of teams in the league, and the looming departure of Temple and Charlotte.
“We play 31 regular season games, and we play 30 different teams,” said VCU coach Shaka Smart. “Usually in the second half of the year there are a lot of repeat opponents, you kind of get a feel for them. You can watch the tape about what happened the first time.”
“Literally, Richmond is the only team that we will play twice. That makes it a unique season. But just like we have to adjust to a new league and new opponents, they have to adjust to us.”
Also on Thursday, St. Joseph’s was chosen to finish first in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll. The Hawks tallied 11 first place votes, which was one better than second-place St. Louis. St. Joseph’s returns all five starters from a team that went 20-14, all of which were selected for preseason awards.
“There’s a lot of buzz and excitement and I think this will create some more buzz and excitement,” St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said. “The Atlantic 10 is full of excitement and surprise, so it doesn’t change our daily routine, it’ll be mentioned to the players once I get back tomorrow, but it’s not going to change anything.”
Newcomer VCU, Temple and UMass followed St. Joseph’s and St. Louis in the preseason poll. Former Horizon League winner Butler was picked sixth while La Salle, Dayton, Xavier and Richmond rounded out the top ten.
The Barclays center will also play host to the Atlantic-10 Conference tournament from March 14-17. The center, which is brand new this year, can hold over 18,000 people.
“There is not only a newness, but an excitement about this place that makes you feel like you’re in an arena that is a cut above,” added Giannini. “I don’t know if it is the location, or the newness, or just how spectacular they have made it but there is a tangible excitement here.”
The excitement is tangible not only for the new Barclays center, but for the 2012-2013 Atlantic Ten basketball season.