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Thursday, December 17, 2009
An impressive start for the Atlantic 10

By Fran Fraschilla

I like what's going on in the Atlantic 10. There's no one great team in this conference -- like David West's 2003 Xavier team or the Jameer Nelson's Saint Joe's club that reach the Elite Eight -- but the league is as deep as it has been in years. On Sunday alone, A-10 teams knocked off No.3 Villanova (Temple), No. 19 Cincinnati (Xavier) and notched a road win at Boston College (Rhode Island). Earlier in the season, Charlotte handed Louisville its most upsided home loss ever under Rick Pitino and Richmond beat Mississippi State and Missouri en route to a title at the South Padre Island Invitational.

The A-10 is a combined 88-43, a .672 winning percentage. The conference has nine teams that are poised for postseason play -- and multiple NCAA bids are realistically in play with five teams who are currently in the RPI top 45 (Temple, Dayton, Richmond, Rhode Island and Xavier). In fact, the league is rated fifth in the most recent RPI, ahead of the Big Ten (sixth) and the Pac-10 (seventh).

While Dayton and Xavier are again poised to make a run at the Atlantic 10 crown, it's the resurgent programs at Temple, Charlotte, Duquesne, La Salle and Rhode Island that have created the conference's depth. In addition, George Washington and Saint Louis have very young teams that have shown flashes of success this season and will not be easy road games.

Don't sleep on the A-10, folks. This has all the makings of a great league race.