The Atlantic 10 released its schedule pairings for the 2013-14 league season on Wednesday. Below are some thoughts on which teams benefited and which suffered from the unbalanced schedule in which each school faces four league foes twice and the rest once apiece.
1. UMass would be an upper-echelon Atlantic 10 team no matter what, but the dream schedule the Minutemen received might elevate them to title contender status. Not only does UMass play fellow contenders Saint Louis, VCU and La Salle only at home, the league foes they see twice aren't exactly murderer's row. George Mason and Saint Joseph's figure to be projected to finish in the middle of the league, while Rhode Island is still rebuilding and St. Bonaventure is trending downward post-Andrew Nicholson. That's a pretty ideal slate for a UMass team that should have one of the league's best guard duos with returning star Chaz Williams and Western Kentucky transfer Derrick Gordon.
2. If UMass is the big winner from Wednesday's release of the Atlantic 10 schedule, then fellow league title contender Saint Louis has the most reason to grumble. Last year's A-10 champs face an obstacle-laden schedule that includes two games apiece against preseason favorite VCU, newcomer George Mason and always dangerous Dayton. Road games against UMass, La Salle, Rhode Island and Saint Joseph's also won't be pushovers. The return of league player of the year candidate Dwayne Evans and a handful of other key contributors from last year will help, but the Billikens will certainly have to earn it if they're going to repeat.
3. Good for the Atlantic 10 for making sure that most of its natural rivals play each other twice apiece. Intracity rivals VCU and Richmond will meet a pair of times, as will Philly schools La Salle and Saint Joseph's, Washington D.C. schools George Mason and George Washington and New England schools UMass and Rhode Island. It was also smart of the Atlantic 10 to make sure Saint Louis and VCU met twice. With all due respect to La Salle, UMass or Richmond, those two are the flagship programs for the Atlantic 10 this year and two meetings will boost interest in the league and help both teams' power ratings.
4. The one series the Atlantic 10 failed to protect is the longstanding rivalry between former CAA adversaries VCU and George Mason. The Rams and Patriots will only play in Richmond, a missed opportunity considering the history between the two schools prior to VCU bolting for the Atlantic 10 in 2012 and George Mason following this year. The lack of a home game against VCU should be George Mason's biggest gripe, but it's also disappointing the Patriots only see Richmond once too. That's another series that could develop into a natural rivalry for the Atlantic 10.
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