Atlantic 10’s New Schedule Shows No Love for Newcomer ButlerPosted by EJacoby on June 6th, 2012
The Atlantic 10 has had perhaps the busiest offseason of any major basketball conference, highlighted by the exciting additions of Butler and VCU to the league starting immediately next season. The A-10 all of a sudden has 16 teams competing in 2012-13, causing a dilemma in seeking a balanced 16-game conference schedule. But as has been the case all offseason, the league did a terrific job at solving the problem quickly and effectively. On Tuesday the conference released its new league schedule for next season, one that includes all teams playing each other once, and each member taking on a rival opponent twice. Most notable about the set schedule is how difficult a draw was given to darling newcomer Butler. The Bulldogs are in for a much tougher slate than they faced the past several years en route to finishing third or better in the Horizon League for the past seven seasons.
Brad Stevens’ team was already facing increased competition by upgrading from the Horizon to the Atlantic 10, but things are made that much harder by the draw they earned next year. To start, Butler’s chosen ‘rival’ is Saint Louis, a league favorite next season that returns four starters from a round-of-32 NCAA Tournament team. The Bulldogs also drew fellow newcomer VCU on the road where the Rams lost just once last season and return a number of key contributors. In addition, Butler plays on the road at Dayton, Massachusetts, and St. Joseph’s, the latter two of which are up-and-coming contenders for next season. The Flyers finished tied for fifth in the league last year and bring back some strong players, as well. Finally, although the Bulldogs drew Xavier at home, they still have to play the Musketeers a second time during the season as part of a previously scheduled ‘non-conference’ game – and it’s in Cincinnati.
Doing the math, Butler gets to play six of last year’s top eight A-10 finishers on the road next season, and two of the top three finishers a total of twice during the year. The only top eight teams it gets at home are Temple and St. Bonaventure, two of the conference’s best teams from last season but also ones that are losing their respective best players. Let’s just say Butler may have received the short end of the stick in this scheduling agreement. Surely Stevens won’t make a big deal about the schedule, considering his team received a blessing via inclusion in the conference so quickly. It’s probably good for the Bulldogs to take on a challenging slate from the get-go, anyway, to adapt quicker to its new, more difficult league. But in a year where a strong Butler team should contend in the Atlantic 10, it received no favors with the recently announced unbalanced schedule.
Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.