Post by Buzz-
Many in the college basketball world have started comparing the Big East to the Atlantic 10 this year. The Big East raided the A10 for two of its top teams this year in Butler and Xavier, but the A10 has still managed to stay relevant this year on the national stage. But who has been better? With the Big East’s early struggles in non-conference play and the emergence of teams like Dayton, George Washington, and UMass, there is certainly a debate. Most notably, Jon Rothstein has questioned who would get more bids and whether or not the “little brother” Atlantic 10 has overcame the “big brother” Big East in the 2013-2014 campaign. I’m here to tell you that even though it may not be a landslide, the Big East is still a better conference this year; let me walk you through why.
First off, the Big East beat up on the Atlantic 10 when they played head to head. The record was 7 and 2, and 3 of the wins came by more than 20 points (Villanova over St. Joseph’s, Villanova over La Salle, St. John’s over Fordham). The two wins for the Atlantic 10 were George Washington over Creighton in a 7 point game and UMass over Providence in overtime. Now I know that this isn’t necessarily the best indicator because St. Louis didn’t get to play any Big East teams, and none of the Atlantic 10 got to beat up on DePaul. With that said, the most significant game in my opinion is Georgetown beating VCU. The current 8th place team in the Big East beat the 2nd place team in the Atlantic 10. That speaks to the depth of the Big East and the lack of a marquee team in the A10.
The next thing I think that is valuable to take a look at is how each conference has performed against the current AP Top 25 Poll. The Big East is 4-10 against the top 25 teams that are not in the Big East, and the Atlantic 10 is 3-11 against the top 25 teams that are not in the Atlantic 10. On the surface this looks like a wash, but I would argue the Big East’s are more impressive. 3 of the 4 wins are against current top 10 teams (Xavier over number 7 Cincinnati, Villanova over number 8 Kansas, and Georgetown over number 9 Michigan State). Creighton also beat number 6 Villanova, but that is a conference game so we will exclude it from this debate. Something else to take note of is that 2 of the top 4 teams in the A10 have failed to play anyone in the top 25 (St. Louis and UMass). Sure you can’t control your own schedule, but nonetheless it makes it more unpredictable to gauge the strength of these teams.
Based on the consensus of different rankings (RPI, BPI, TeamRankings.com, and Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology) it is fairly obvious to see that the top of the Big East is stronger than the top of the A10. Lunardi gives Villanova a 2 seed and Creighton a 3 and Team Rankings gives them a 1 and 2 respectively. Meanwhile, the top 2 teams for the Atlantic 10 would be St. Louis a 6 and UMass a 7. The Atlantic 10’s strength is that they have 4 very similar teams at the top in St. Louis, UMass, VCU, and George Washington. This is a good nucleus and all 4 should be dancing in March, but I don’t think this makes it the stronger conference. The true value of the Big East comes in the depth of the conference. Outside of DePaul no games in the Big East are a gimme, while Fordham, Duquesne, George Mason, and Rhode Island are all a notch below the 9th best team in the Big East. Because Big East team’s all have to play each other home and away this gives a true value of the teams. The Atlantic 10 does not have the luxury to play each foe twice so unbalanced schedules are naturally created. A team like UMass only plays VCU and St. Louis once each (both at home) and this gives an unfair representation of the team in conference play.
Obviously there are ways to go to see which conference performs better in March, but in my opinion there is a lot more strength in the Big East than in the Atlantic 10. Both conferences should get 4 bids to the NCAA tournament, but the strength of the Big East comes in the second tier of the conference. I would say St. John’s, Marquette, and Georgetown have proven to be much more competitive nationally than Richmond, Dayton, and St. Joe’s.
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