Big East Conference Must Fend off Aggressive Atlantic 10

Jim O’Connor-US Presswire

Like Europe during World War II, the Big East Conference  must defend itself on several fronts.

Stronger conferences are picking off its marquee members.  Other members who fancy themselves as marquee are constantly seeking suitors elsewhere.  And now, the Atlantic 10 Conference is building itself as a premiere basketball conference, something the Big East used to be.

Even with all its recent success, such as double-digit representation in the NCAA Tournament, the Big East must fortify its territory or risk losing ground to the Atlantic 10.

Perhaps sensing the Big East’s vulnerability, the Atlantic 10 Conference announced it will hold its conference tournament during the same week as the Big East, in the same city, New York, in the new Barclays Center, home to the Brooklyn Nets.

Of course the Big East’s annual conference in Madison Square Garden is still one of basketball’s best events outside of the NCAA Tournament.  But the Atlantic 10 is trying to crash that party.

Imagine that, the A-10, long considered the B-league, going toe to toe with the Big East in the Big Apple.

“It’s  time to shout about the fact that there’s one league in the country that’s No. 1 in basketball, the Atlantic 10,” St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said during the Atlantic 10 Conference media day.

Seriously?

Maybe.  The Big East has lost charter members Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the the Atlantic Coast Conference. Notre Dame, a member in basketball and other sports since 1995, announced its also leaving for the ACC.  West Virginia bolted for the Big 12.  Louisville desperately wanted to join the Mountaineers, but never received an invite.

While the Big East allows its football members to dictate its future, the Atlantic 10 is building its brand as a basketball conference.

Although losing Temple to the Big East, the A-10 added basketball fan favorites Butler and Virginia Commonwealth.  With fewer teams, the A-10 could put a higher percentage of its members into the NCAA tournament.

The A-10 also features no all-encomposing geography which makes its name seem ridiculous.

Smaller, but more solid, the A-10 has created an identity.

If the Big East doesn’t land a major television contract, re-establish its identity and maintain some stability, we might see teams leaving the Big East to join the A-10.

Merlisa covers Georgetown and Big East basketball.  Follow her on Twitter: @merlisa

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