Temporarily a 16-team league next season because of the addition of Butler and VCU a year ahead of schedule, the Atlantic had to revamp its league schedule for next season on the fly to accommodate the newcomers.
The solution league officials adopted was to have every team play seven league opponents just at home, seven just on the road and one travel partner at home and on the road. The league tried to preserve rivalries by having teams like VCU and Richmond, Xavier and Dayton and UMass and Rhode Island play twice.
Atlantic 10 schools released their schedules Tuesday, and as always with unbalanced schedules, some teams will be happier than others. Here's a look at on paper which teams have the most challenging and most favorable league schedules:
Most challenging schedules:
1. Richmond: If Richmond is going to emerge as a surprise team in the Atlantic 10 next season, the Spiders will have to do it against perhaps the league's toughest conference schedule on paper. Not only did they draw a very difficult travel partner in city rival VCU, Fordham is the only lower-tier team on their road schedule. Of Richmond's other seven road games against VCU, Temple, Saint Joseph's, Butler, Dayton, UMass and LaSalle, the Spiders may not be favored in any of them.
2. Butler: As if it wasn't challenging enough drawing preseason Atlantic 10 favorite Saint Louis as the opponent they play twice next season, the Bulldogs also will play most of the league's upper echelon on the road. In addition to visiting Saint Louis, Butler will also travel to VCU, UMass, Saint Joseph's and Dayton. The Bulldogs are a potential A-10 contender as a result of the addition of sweet-shooting Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke to a strong core returning from last year, but they'll be tested by a league schedule far deeper and stronger than the Horizon League.
Most favorable schedules:
1. Xavier: The departure of Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Kenny Frease leaves Xavier younger and more vulnerable than usual next season, but the Musketeers may have caught a break from the schedule makers. They'll get upper-echelon foes Saint Louis, Temple, VCU, UMass and LaSalle at the notoriously hostile Cintas Center, leaving them with a mostly favorable road schedule besides Butler and Saint Joseph's. Dez Wells is the lone returning starter for Xavier, which means the Musketeers will need instant impact from some newcomers to take advantage of the fortuitous road schedule.
2. UMass: Whereas most other contending teams drew one-another as travel partners, UMass and Saint Joseph's drew rebuilding Rhode Island and bottom-feeding Fordham, respectively, as the league opponent they'll meet twice. The Minutemen also were lucky enough to get a favorable road schedule to aid their quest to return to build on last year's appearance in the NIT semifinals. Road games at Saint Louis, Butler and Temple won't be easy, but trips to Fordham, Rhode Island, Charlotte, LaSalle and Saint Bonaventure are all at least winnable.
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