BROOKLYN – Big-East bound Temple has been tabbed for a fourth place finish in its last go-around in the revamped Atlantic 10 Conference, which started its preseason hype with Media Day at brand-new Barclays Center on Thursday.
Saint Joseph's was the surprise first place pick in the preseason poll of league coaches and media, followed by Saint Louis and newcomer VCU.
Giddy with the addition of VCU and Butler, both of them recent Final Four competitors, A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade was welcomed to Brooklyn by Borough President Marty Markowitz at a mid-day luncheon.
McGlade trumpeted the league's recently-announced television package, along with the multi-year deal to play the entire A-10 Men's Basketball Championship, as well as the Women's Basketball Championship Game, at the impressive new venue.
Clearly, the league has weathered the impending loss of its flagship program, and perhaps emerged with a better top-to-bottom mix. Recent flop Charlotte will also be leaving the A-10 (for Conference USA) after the 2012-13 campaign.
How good is this year's A-10?
Perennial league favorite and Sweet 16 contender Xavier was picked to finish ninth in the preseason poll. And while that's largely the result of significant player losses, there's simply no way the Musketeers would have been picked for a bottom-half finish if the circumstances were similar in recent years.
Coach Fran Dunphy described a "bittersweet" feeling about Temple playing its final season in the conference it put on the national map in the 1980s. He also spoke of the "responsibility" that he and the Owls have to represent the league, and his personal responsibility for recruiting at a higher level when they enter the Big East next year.
But that's all in the future.
This year, the Owls will play every A-10 team once and Charlotte twice. Temple is the defending regular season champion, though last year's postseason was a complete thud with losses to UMass in the A-10 quarterfinals and South Florida in the NCAA Tournament.
The balanced A-10 has more than a half-dozen legitimate NCAA Tournament contenders this year, and there are signs of improvement from the league's bottom feeders. That said, rebuilding jobs are just getting underway at Rhode Island (under new head coach Danny Hurley) and Duquesne (new coach Jim Ferry). Those two squads were picked to finish 15th and 16th, respectively.
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