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Butler keeps Atlantic-10 in spotlight

Butler's Shelvin Mack reacts to action against Virginia

Butler's Shelvin Mack reacts to action against Virginia Commonwealth during the second half of a men's NCAA Final Four semifinal college basketball game. (April 2, 2011) Credit: AP

No Temple? No problem. Charlotte off to Conference USA? No sweat, because the Atlantic-10 will still emerge as one of college basketball’s top conferences.

Yes, the Atlantic-10 could be better than the Pac-12 and not far from the Big 12 and SEC. Getting to close to the Big East, Big Ten and ACC is a stretch, but no one can deny the Atlantic-10 has made all the right moves.

With the addition of Butler, which announced on Tuesday that it will join the conference a year early than originally planned and VCU, the Atlantic-10 has everything it takes to be an elite conference.

Butler and VCU joins a league that already has perennial tournament teams Xavier and Temple. Massachusetts made the NIT Final Four last season, while Dayton, Rhode Island and Richmond are solid programs.

St. Joseph’s appears to be on its way back to respectability, La Salle had its best season since 1990 and St. Louis made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000. Sure, Temple will be moving on to the Big East in 2013, but the Atlantic-10 should still be a major player nationally without the Owls.

It’s unclear what prompted Butler to push its move from the Horizon League up a year, but the Atlantic-10 is welcoming the Bulldogs with open arms. And why shouldn’t they? Armed with a new five-year deal to play its tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the Atlantic-10 has clearly taken a shoot-first ask-questions-later attitude in regards to conference realignment.

“We are grateful to the Atlantic 10 for welcoming us into the fold a year ahead of schedule,” Butler Athletic Director Barry Collier said. “Since announcing our intention to depart after 2012-13, Butler and the Horizon League have discussed the terms for next season. Ultimately, it was in our best interest to reach an agreement with the Horizon League for immediate departure.”

The financial implications of the league’s new additions could be far-reaching. The Atlantic-10’s current TV contract with ESPN and CBS expires after the 2012-2013 season. The league expects to begin negotiations soon. Adding Butler and VCU should give the conference more national appeal and most importantly, more leverage.


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