Butler announced Wednesday it was moving to the Atlantic 10, and if the league continues to expand according to plan, it will cement its place as the best of the non-Big Six leagues.
Temple is leaving the A-10 for the Big East, and Butler was brought aboard from the Horizon to replace the Owls. The A-10 also is looking to add George Mason and VCU from the Colonial. The A-10 already can make a solid case that it is the best of the non-Big Sixers. If it adds Mason and VCU, it removes any doubt.
The Mountain West, Missouri Valley, Conference USA and West Coast also would want to be included in the discussion. But there are a couple of reasons each could be dismissed quickly.
1. The Mountain West has received 11 NCAA bids in the past three seasons and 17 bids in the past six seasons. But perennial contender BYU left the league after the 2010-11 season, and San Diego State will be moving on after next season. Football is to blame for both defections. BYU decided being an independent in football was the best way to go financially, and when that happened, the school's other programs moved to the West Coast Conference (more on that league in a minute). San Diego State's football program is headed to the Big East after the next school year, and the Aztecs' basketball program is moving to the Big West. The Mountain West is adding, among others, Nevada and Utah State, and Utah State is an especially nice addition. Still, the league as a whole will be taking a hit, which means it's out of the discussion.
2. The Colonial famously has had two teams advance to the Final Four in the past seven seasons – George Mason in 2006 and VCU in 2011. (Hmm – wonder why the A-10 is going after those two.) Even with that success, the CAA has received just nine NCAA bids in the past six seasons, and three of those came in '11. If Mason and VCU were to leave? That's a big body blow, and it would remove the CAA from the discussion.
3. Conference USA has received two bids in each of the past three seasons and also has gotten nine in the past six seasons. But no league team has won an NCAA game since Memphis in 2009, when John Calipari still was coach. And Memphis is leaving for the Big East in 2013-14. SMU, Houston and UCF also are leaving for the Big East, but their departures don't hurt the league's basketball profile. Losing Memphis, though, is a huge blow, and removes C-USA from this discussion.
4. The Missouri Valley received two NCAA bids this past season, the first time since 2007 it got more than one. The league has had some success in the tourney of late, but unless it starts putting multiple teams in the field of 68 on an annual basis, it's not in this discussion.
5. That leaves the West Coast Conference, which received three bids this past season and has gotten multiple bids in three of the past six seasons. Gonzaga has become an NCAA tourney staple. BYU has made six appearances in a row and has received nine bids in the past 12 seasons. Saint Mary's has gone four times in the past eight seasons. Loyola Marymount and USF made big strides this season. Still, the WCC has been a one-bid league as often as it has received multiple bids in the past six seasons and doesn't really belong in this discussion. But it is in the discussion about the best non-Big Six league west of the Mississippi.
[The Dagger: Butler can thrive in Atlantic 10]
The Atlantic 10 has received 18 bids in the past six seasons and gotten at least three in five of those. Adding a team of Butler's stature means the A-10 should continue to be a three- or four-bid league. Adding VCU and Mason would make things even better.
"Historically, you look at the numbers – number of at-large bids, the number of teams that advanced in the tournament, number of teams that have advanced in postseason play – and the A-10 certainly has had a lot more teams in that boat," Butler coach Brad Stevens said in a statement released by the school.
The Bulldogs now will help row that boat.
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