The ACC’s Soft Middle Tier: Time to Panic Yet?

Posted by Chris Kehoe on November 14th, 2013

We are less than one week into the start of the 2013-14 college basketball season and the median of the ACC is nearing panic mode. Maybe not quite yet, but things certainly could have started better for the NCAA’s mightiest conference. To date, N.C. State has lost to Cincinnati by 11, Virginia lost to in-state rival VCU (displaying the power shift between traditional Virginia basketball schools), Miami barely squeaked by Georgia Southern in overtime and posted an inexcusable overtime loss to St. Francis (NY), and Boston College suffered an opening defeat to Providence and followed that up with a 13-point shellacking at the hands of a game Massachusetts squad. What does this all mean for the ‘almighty’ ACC as the nation’s premier basketball conference? Does this, for one, quiet the whispers of the ACC as the greatest basketball conference of all-time?

Boston College

BC has little to celebrate after an 0-2 start (Michael Ivins/US Presswire)

A lot of a conference’s overall reputation and greatness has to be attributed to its depth and the overall quality of teams across the board. Now VCU happens to be a top-25 team that has largely surpassed the Virginia basketball program of late under Shaka Smart, but a team that has ACC title aspirations and is laden with senior leaders needs to win games versus A-10 programs, especially if it doesn’t wish to find itself on the bubble again. N.C. State is in what most people consider a rebuilding year under Mark Gottfried, but Cincinnati is not a powerhouse and the middle of the league must prove formidable for the ACC to solidify its place in history. Last Friday night, Maryland lost to a top-25 Connecticut team boasting one of the best backcourts in the nation by only a single point, but the Terps walked away with a close loss rather than gloating about a big win on their non-conference résumé. Miami wasn’t expected to have a great year after losing Kenny Kadji, Shane Larkin, Reggie Johnson, Durand Scott and the rest of its roster from last season, but losing to a NEC foe is a humbling step backward, to say the least.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Can The New and Improved Atlantic 10 Eclipse the Crumbling Big East?

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 3rd, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Scores of columns, blog posts and features have focused on the imminent decline of Big East basketball. The central themes – conference realignment, fooball-motivated injustices, the evils of media rights contracts destroying competitive purity – are for the most part identical. It’s basically the same ideas recreated and refined across different platforms and outlets. And we’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg. Starting in 2013-14, when Syracuse and Pittsburgh (and possibly Notre Dame) head off to the ACC, the defeatist Big East literature will resurface in greater frequency. Like many fellow college basketball scribes, I believe the Big East will lose some of its competitive intrigue once conference realignment commitments fall into place. But I do not abide by the notion that conference realignment is a unilateral force destroying college basketball, or that all realignment-related decisions by definition neglect the happenings on the hardwood and/or affect negative change to the sport’s league structure. Case in point: the Atlantic 10. Thanks to the addition of two emerging programs by way of realignment (Butler and VCU), the A-10, despite also losing Temple and Charlotte, has positioned itself to stake its claim as one of the top three or four basketball leagues in the country.

Adding Butler to the fray gives the A-10 another perennial Tournament contender (Photo credit: David J. Phillip/AP Photo).

The positive outlook in A-10 country is not lost on college hoops TV rights negotiators. They proved as much on Tuesday, when broadcast giants ESPN, CBS and NBC committed to the league long-term by securing eight year partnerships, which, according to the conference’s official release, will “give the league unprecedented reach, distribution and marketing, allowing the Atlantic 10 to better serve its fans in its extensive media footprint and to leverage the promotional platforms and marketing assets of these three major media companies.” With the league’s undeniably positive trajectory, this move was an eventuality, a no-brainer proposition for media companies seeking to leverage an untapped source of national viewings gold. There’s little doubt the A-10 has reached power conference-level status, even if it’s not regarded as such. Bolstered by the otherwise gloomy optics of conference realignment, the league is primed to cement its footprint among the sport’s elite. It has a potent mix of thriving programs capable of challenging and stealing NCAA Tournament bids from high-majors; now the broadcast and financial baselines are locked in. The A-10 is, in short, booming. But does it have the staying power to upstage the withering Big East?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Why The Atlantic 10 and Butler Both Benefit From Bulldogs’ Addition

Posted by EJacoby on May 2nd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

In recent years, the Atlantic 10 Conference has established itself as perhaps the strongest non-BCS league in college basketball. It’s not part of the power six, yet the A-10 is too good to put in the “mid-major” category. The conference sent four teams to the 2012 NCAA Tournament, and three teams to the Big Dance in each of the four years prior. With Tuesday’s news that Butler is heading to the Atlantic 10 for all sports beginning in the 2013-14 season, there’s reason to believe that the A-10 should remain one of the stronger college basketball leagues in the nation. Butler is a great replacement for Temple (departing in 2013), and the move also makes plenty of sense for the Bulldogs. After tremendous success in the Horizon League and historic prominence as a mid-major in back-to-back national title games in 2010 and 2011, it’s time for Brad Stevens and Butler to challenge itself in a stronger league.

Brad Stevens and Butler Is Headed to the Atlantic 10 in 2013-14 (AP Photo/D. Phillip)

Butler’s feat of back-to-back title game appearances will certainly hold as one of the biggest college basketball stories of this decade, but coach Stevens doesn’t want his legacy to be defined by those two seasons. Stevens could have had nearly any job opening he wanted after leading Butler to an 89-15 record in his first three seasons, but the coach was content with the ‘Butler Way,’ signing a long extension that will keep him in Indy through the 2021-22 season. Despite the team’s nationally recognized success, it’s still not easy to draw top recruits to play in the Horizon League. Butler could not pass up on this opportunity to join the stable and competitive A-10 starting in the fall of 2013, when the Bulldogs will ratchet up their schedule strength by taking on the likes of Xavier, Massachusetts, Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure, La Salle, and St. Joseph’s in conference play. Already armed with one of the top names in coaching and a talented young roster, Butler now has the benefit of added exposure and competition to offer to potential recruits.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story