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A-10 braces for Big East decisions

It’s only a matter of time before the seven Catholic schools departing from the Big East start officially adding schools to fill out their conference and the Atlantic 10 is undoubtedly bracing itself.

There seems to be as many as four Atlantic 10 teams legitimately being considered for inclusion in the new league. Xavier and Butler have been prominently featured, along with Creighton of the Missouri Valley, while Saint Louis and Dayton could go either way depending if the league wants 10 or more teams.

If the Atlantic 10 loses two teams, it might stand pat with the remaining 12. But, it is more likely the league will add at least two in any scenario and perhaps more if Dayton and Saint Louis defect.

Here’s a look at some of the candidates:

Davidson — The Wildcats would replace Charlotte in that market and give the conference another school with name recognition and a lot of recent NCAA tournament history. If the A-10 is adding, Davidson is commissioner Bernadette McGlade’s first call.

Cleveland State — If Xavier leaves and Dayton doesn’t, adding another Ohio/Midwest school seems like a no-brainer. The Vikings are the best of the lot as they bring a portion of the Cleveland market (Ohio State is the dominant school there), solid facilities and pretty strong recent history.

George Mason — This isn’t as obvious a choice as it would have been five years ago. Coach Jim Larranaga is no longer there and the A-10 already has two Virginia schools in Richmond and VCU. Still, like Davidson, there’s name recognition and solid recent history.

Siena — The Albany, N.Y., market isn’t outstanding (it’s the 57th largest in the country), but the Saints have a hearty following and strong history. They are comparable, if not better, resource-wise with La Salle and Fordham.

College of Charleston — The Cougars have a solid basketball tradition, but a small market (No. 99). They have some name recognition and tradition, but the A-10 would likely have to opt to add several schools before CofC gets considered.

Quinnipiac — The Bobcats just invested heavily in athletics with a new basketball/hockey complex that’s better than lower A-10 schools. They’d be willing to spend to win and the added prestige of a better conference would help, but they have no market to offer and little else to make them an obvious fit.

Delaware — Not sure the Blue Hens would leave the CAA because of their football roots in the conference. Not sure the A-10 would want them if they did. It’s been a long time since Delaware has been good at basketball and it’s on the fringes of the Philadelphia market. The A-10 is overloaded with fringy Philly schools already.

Drexel/Hofstra/Northeastern — Three schools that would love an invite that don’t offer anything the league doesn’t already have.

CONFERENCE MONIKER — Pretty much any college basketball fan with a hint of sarcasm and a Twitter account has been tossing out wisecracky religious-themed suggestions for what the Big East Catholic schools should name their new conference. The Priest 7, The Holy 7, The Congregation Conference are among the more popular.

Obviously none of those are actually going to be the name. In fact, the Catholic schools might get to keep the Big East name. They could either win it outright in court or negotiate for it as part of their dealings with the football schools.

But somebody is going to need a new name. Conference America has already been tossed out as a possibility if the football conference is the one looking at it.

Considering this is all about money, don’t be surprised if the new league picks a name that makes it some money.

Logical progression tells us that somewhere down the line, there’s going to be a conference named after a sponsor. At every realignment, leagues move further from their geographical and numerical identities. The Atlantic 10 has 16 schools, several of which are nowhere near the Atlantic Ocean.

The Big Ten has 12 schools and the Big 12 has 10 schools. The traditional names are becoming less and less accurate and therefore less and less sacred. Leagues that have been around longer will take longer to add sponsors and when they do, it will be the Bank of America Big 10 and the AT&T Pac 12, nomenclature similar to what the bowls have done.

And like the bowls, when there’s a new conference, there’s no reason not to slap the sponsor name on it by itself. Maybe UConn, Cincy and Temple will play in the Tostitos 12 or the Lincoln Financial Conference. According to a chart on ESPN’s sports business page, corporations have paid as much as $9.3 million per year (Lincoln Financial Field) to put their name on a stadium. Naming a conference would likely yield something comparable.

Depending on how much they get and how many teams are in the conference, that’s an extra few hundred thousand dollars annually per school. That’ll fund a soccer team or cover a large chunk of a travel budget.

MY TOP 10 — 1. Duke, 2. Michigan, 3. Louisville, 4. Arizona, 5. Indiana, 6. Kansas, 7. Missouri, 8. Cincinnati, 9. Syracuse, 10. Minnesota.

For the rest of my Top 25 visit the College Hoop Week Guide on the UMass Sports Blog at gazettenet.com/Blogs/UMassSports.

GAMES OF THE WEEK: New Mexico at Cincinnati, Thursday, 9 p.m. — Other than beating Connecticut, the Lobos have something to prove, especially after losing to South Dakota State Saturday. Cincinnati has established itself as a potential Big East contender.

ATLANTIC 10 GAME OF THE WEEK: Xavier at Tennessee, Saturday, 6 p.m. — The projected rebuilding year hasn’t materialized for the Musketeers, who’ve been better than expected. But after losing to Cincinnati and Wofford, they need a big win to help their NCAA at-large bid chances.

NEW NICKNAME PLEASE: Texas A&M — Is there any less fun nickname than Aggie?

Last week, we proposed Astronauts as a good nickname for Auburn, but it’s equally good here was A&M has considerable ties with NASA.

A military nickname would be appropriate too. The school prides itself on its Corps of Cadets, an ROTC-style student military organization that can lead to a commission in the United States Armed Forces after graduation. In fact, there were more officers in World War II with A&M degrees than either West Point or Annapolis.

The Texas A&M Corps would be good, as would the A&M Generals. Almost anything would be better than Aggies.

ON THE ROAD TO — National coach of the year honors for Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin?

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com.

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