When the Atlantic Coast Conference started this great chain of conference dominos, I thought the Atlantic 10 was in big trouble. Everyone knew the Big East would be adding a few teams to replace the three that departed, and schools like Xavier and St. Joseph’s appeared to be perfect candidates. Luckily, it turns out the name “Big East” restricts the conference to any school East of the Rockies, and Conference USA fell prey instead of us.
So here we are, happy as can be to add Saint Louis University and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. They were the only two non-football schools left in Conference USA, and now they join a conference dedicated to basketball while we gain two solid programs.
Amazingly, the A-10 became a better conference while also looking like the only noble entity in this whole mess. Those ACC invaders started the whole thing and then the Big East robbed poor Conference USA. Meanwhile, we’re just a welcoming home for two refugees who were left behind. Hell, the A-10 looked so good after this all played out, we should add a halo to the conference logo.
For GW specifically, the timing could not have been better. By the 2005-06 season, when the Billikens and 49ers join the conference, head coach Karl Hobbs should have the Colonials near the top of the conference. If we’re beginning to compete for NCAA Tournament berths by that time, which we should be based on the way Hobbs is recruiting, two more quality schools on the conference schedule will increase our Ratings Percentage Index and therefore help us in the eyes of the selection committee.
Playing in the basketball-rich state of North Carolina and traveling to St. Louis are also two more selling points for Hobbs as he continues to attract talent. Since that’s already his forte, he probably doesn’t need the additional help, but it can’t hurt. And by extending the conference boundary to Missouri, he can probably target players from more states. (Extending to Missouri should also help GW students from the East Coast actually learn something about geography west of Pennsylvania.)
While men’s basketball was surely the dominant consideration in this move, the GW women’s basketball team will benefit as well. Currently, the Colonials can go 15-1 in the conference and still not get much respect (like two years ago when they weren’t invited to the NCAA Tournament) because the only other consistently good team is Xavier. Adding two teams with RPIs in the top 100 (Charlotte was 60th, St. Louis was 99th) will help improve our own RPI and hopefully make the conference more respectable as a whole. That way, when we roll over these teams, too, people will actually think it means something.
The only problem to come from expansion is a more unbalanced schedule. Currently there are 12 teams and 16 conference games, meaning teams play every other team at least once and five teams twice. Since the number of games is unlikely to change, the disparity in each team’s schedule will increase with a larger conference. Teams that get to avoid playing at powerhouses like Xavier and GW (that’s right, I said GW) will have easier roads toward the conference tournament and a high seed.
But this is a small problem considering what could have happened. Had teams like Xavier and St. Joseph’s left, the A-10 would have been in shambles and there would have been little hope of convincing anyone larger than Boston University to join the conference.
And speaking of the Terriers, let me congratulate the A-10 presidents on picking St. Louis over Boston, a clearly inferior team to the Billikens. The only thing Boston had going in its favor was location, which meant cheaper travel costs. But if we were going to make the decision based on location and travel costs, we may as well invite The School Without Walls. Besides, in the long run, St. Louis should be monetarily beneficial as well. Having another solid team visit the Smith Center will draw more fans, and having a better conference will increase television contracts.
Potentially, GW and the A-10 should end up with more money and better basketball. The apocalypse I saw coming this summer has become a bright future. Let’s just hope the lack of foresight I had on these events doesn’t mean my predictions for the men’s basketball team will also fail.