NEW YORK — The Atlantic 10 Conference lost some big-name programs and keeps right on winning.
The A-10 is in position to possibly send a league-record six teams to the NCAA tournament. It could wind up with more bids than the ACC, SEC or Big East — the conference that poached Butler and Xavier after last season.
Temple also departed for the American Athletic Conference and Charlotte to Conference USA, but the A-10 is proving plenty deep.
The league’s current members have the basketball cred to get invited to tournaments with top-notch fields in November and December.
That offers not just the opportunity for quality non-conference wins for those schools but helps everyone’s RPI once they start beating up on each other. The result: the chance to send as many programs to the Big Dance as anyone.
Five things to know about the A-10 tournament at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, which opens Wednesday with the play-in game between 12th-seeded George Mason and No. 13-seeded Fordham:
BEEN THERE: Seniors Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett, Rob Loe and Mike McCall were all a big part of No. 18 Saint Louis’ A-10 tournament championship last year. Jett, the do-everything leader for the Billikens (26 - 5, 13-3), is the conference player of the year. They’re trying to become the first team to sweep the A-10 regular-season and conference tournament titles two straight years since UMass dominated the league in the mid-1990s.
BUBBLE TROUBLE: Depending on how other conference tournaments play out, a potential quarterfinal between fourth-seeded Saint Joseph’s and fifth-seeded Dayton could serve as an NCAA play-in game. The Hawks (21-9, 11-5) swept the Flyers in the regular season and beat VCU at home, but they didn’t help themselves with a loss to La Salle in Sunday’s finale.
BROOKLYN’S OWN: UMass (23-7, 10-6) is seeded sixth, but with non-conference wins over New Mexico, Nebraska, BYU and Providence, the Minutemen appear assured of their first NCAA bid since 1998. They haven’t won the A-10 tournament since the 1996 Final Four team.
Senior guard Chaz Williams is headed home to Brooklyn for the conference tourney, where his team would need to win four games in four days for the title.
ROCKING RAMS: VCU fans made the trip from Richmond — it’s a 5½-hour drive — en masse for last year’s tournament, when the Rams lost to Saint Louis in the final. The more noise, the better for No. 23 VCU and its “Havoc” defense. The Rams (24-7, 12-4) are again seeded second behind the Billikens.
GREAT GEORGE: George Washington was eliminated Thursday at last year’s A-10 tournament when seeded 11th. Now the Colonials (23-7, 11-5) have a bye to Friday’s quarterfinals as the No. 3 seed and are in position for their first NCAA berth since 2007.
They got a huge boost from transfer guard Maurice Creek. He was able to play immediately after earning his degree from Indiana, where he had an injury-plagued career. The graduate student leads GW with 14.6 points per game.
AP Sports Writer Hank Kurz Jr. in Richmond, Va., and AP Contributor Sarah Moomaw in Amherst, Mass., contributed to this report.MORE IN Sports WireOne stick took away the dreams of Thongchai Jaidee. Full Story
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