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UMass athletic director John McCutcheon confident Atlantic 10 will make good moves with conference realignment

CINCINNATI, Ohio — If the reports of Xavier and Butler leaving the Atlantic 10 to join the seven Catholic schools departing the Big East are true, University of Massachusetts athletic director John McCutcheon is confident that Atlantic 10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade will make good decisions regarding the future of the league.

“Commissioner McGlade has been very proactive and we have a committee formed of administrators, presidents, and athletic directors who are continually monitoring the situation,” McCutcheon said.

According to reports Thursday, the Big East’s departing basketball schools, which were expected to leave after the 2013-14 season, will now leave after this season re-igniting conference movement. Xavier and Butler would leave the Atlantic 10 after this season as well.

UMass has been rumored to be a candidate to join the remaining Big East football schools in a conference that will be renamed. The Catholic schools are expected to keep the Big East name. McCutcheon declined to comment on whether there had been any contact between UMass and the Big East’s remaining football schools.

“I wouldn’t make any comment on that,” McCutcheon said. “We do the same thing the conference does. We try to keep our finger on the pulse of what’s going on and analyze what’s in the best interest of UMass. We’ll continue to do that.”

SCHEDULE SCRAMBLE — The immediacy of Xavier and Butler’s departure could force Atlantic 10 teams to scramble to change their nonconference schedules for the 2013-14 season.

If Xavier and Butler depart, Atlantic 10 schools with NCAA tournament aspirations next season will have to consider upgrading their nonconference schedules. Because the Musketeers and Bulldogs are historically strong, having them in the league provided each team a boost in its strength of schedule and an opportunity for a good win.

The possibility exists for UMass that those games could be replaced by a second meeting with Fordham or Duquesne, which would be a huge blow to the Minutemen’s RPI potential.

To counteract that, UMass would need to improve its nonconference schedule without a ton of wiggle room.

Being forced to play four games against Mid-American Conference teams becomes even more constricting as Miami, Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan aren’t expected to drastically improve. UMass already has games in place with Siena at home, and Harvard and Elon on the road. The Minutemen will likely be in an in-season tournament, likely in Brooklyn, N.Y., or Charleston, S.C.

The momentum to create a potential tripleheader of Massachusetts teams at the TD Garden in Boston has stalled. That could give UMass an additional game.

“When we look at next year’s nonconference schedule, we’re coming down the home stretch,” McCutcheon said. “We’ll have to deal with the conference schedule first and we’ll do what we always do with the nonconference. With what options we have we’ll try to put ourselves in the best position possible for postseason play.”

Tim Kenney, UMass’ associate athletic director, oversees creating the basketball schedule.

“We have to be very smart about what we do since we’re locked into certain games for next year,” Kenney said.

BOBINSKI RESPONDS — Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski said the reports are premature.

“We are aware of the surroundings and circumstances like everyone else is. I would not be surprised if ultimately we have an opportunity to have a conversation, but at this point that has not happened,” Bobinski told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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