Armed with the addition of recent Final Four participants VCU and Butler, a new TV deal with ESPN and NBC, and a new home for its conference tournament, anyone can see that the Atlantic-10 is on its way up the college basketball ladder.
Fordham coach Tom Pecora believes his program is ready to make the climb with the rest of the league.
“We’re moving in the right direction. It’s year three. We have one senior, one junior and the rest freshmen and sophomores,” said Pecora. “We’re still young, but we look like an Atlantic-10 team. We’ve turned that corner. We’re big enough and physical enough.”
Pecora noted the return of senior forward Chris Gaston, a second-team All-Atlantic-10 selection last season and junior guard Branden Frazier. There is also the return of sophomore guards Bryan Smith and Devon McMillan the Rams have to look forward to.
Fordham (10-19, 3-13 Atlantic-10) took several major steps forward last year with non-conference wins over Georgia Tech and Harvard and a near miss against St. John’s. This year the Rams get Pittsburgh, Harvard, St. John’s, Connecticut, Georgia Tech and Mississippi.
It’s a tough slate for such a young team, but that’s life in the Atlantic-10 these days. The conference finished seventh in the RPI last season. The addition of VCU and Butler could make the Atlantic-10 a top five conference at season’s end.
Is there more pressure on Pecora, whose squad was picked to finish 14th?
“It’s not about pressure. The additions take the conference to another level,” said the coach. “You’re not going to find a more competitive college basketball league in the country than the A-10.”
Pecora, like the rest of the league’s coaches, is pleased to be a part of a conference that has taken so many positive strides the last few years.
“Between the television contract [with ESPN and NBC], playing the tournament at [the Barclays Center] and adding those teams, could you do anything more in the course of two years?” said Pecora. “The leadership of [A-10 Commissioner] Bernadette McGlade has been exceptional.”
Atlantic 10 Preseason Predicted Order of Finish
1. St. Joseph's
2. St. Louis
7. La Salle
11. St. Bonaventure
13. George Washington
15. Rhode Island