Brimming With Bravado in Brooklyn: A-10 Ready to Go Head-to-Head With Big East

BROOKLYNThey are brimming with bravado in Brooklyn.

Armed with one state-of-the-art arena at the Barclays Center, two new teams, four first-year coaches and eight sold-out Jay Z shows, the folks in the Atlantic 10 Conference say they’re ready to take on the Big East during March Madness.

How confident is the 16-team league in its new product?

So confident that the A-10 Tournament will go head-to-head with the Big East Tournament in March. The league has a five-year agreement to hold its postseason tournament at the Barclays Center — the same week of the Big East event.

“It’s in this County of Kings and on Brooklyn’s big stage,” Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz proclaimed Thursday at A-10 Media Day.

“March Madness will forever be known as Kings County Chaos. You got it? Kings County Chaos. After all, here in Brooklyn, just like the A-10, it’s all about in-your-face bold and brash excitement.”

The A-10 — which now features recent Final Four participants Butler and VCU — will play its postseason tournament at the Barclays March 14-17 (Thursday-Sunday), with the league’s top 12 teams making the event. The Big East Tournament runs March 12-16, meaning the two events will be competing for ticket sales, media coverage and excitement during much of that week.

The A-10 semifinals will take place on the Saturday afternoon, while the Big East championship game is always played  that night. The A-10 final takes place on Selection Sunday afternoon.

Some A-10 coaches say, Bring on the Big East.

“This conference race could be maybe more exciting than theirs,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said of the A-10. “I really feel like at the end of the day, you’re going to have to pick your excitement around here.

“It’s a great week in particular, but being in New York City, being on TV with the new [A-10] television deal and having basically the top 12 teams out of our league, it’s going to be a deep tournament.”

First-year Duquesne coach Jim Ferry used to play hooky from school as a kid to watch the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden, but now he feels the A-10 may be eclipsing the Big East.

“There’s going to be a lot of people that, whether they’re disappointed in the direction that the Big East has gone, I know everybody’s really excited in the direction the Atlantic 10’s going right now,” said Ferry, who led LIU-Brooklyn to back-to-back NCAA Tournament bids.

“So to be able to bring it right here in downtown Brooklyn, the hottest place in America, I think it was a great move by our conference. We’re going to have some fun with it.”

While the A-10 will lose Temple to the Big East next season and Charlotte to Conference USA, Commissioner Bernadette McGlade scored big-time by adding Butler and VCU, which have combined to make three Final Four appearances since 2010.

“What we did, basically, was we knew if we were going to bring in any new members into the league it had to be institutions with a commitment to its men’s basketball program and a broad-based athletic program as well,” McGlade, who is starting her 13th season as A-10 Commissioner, told the Associated Press. “Given that was our fundamental principle, it was obvious of any institutions like that, Butler and VCU would be in the upper echelon of those programs.”

Miller said the addition of Butler — which reached back-to-back NCAA title games in 2010 and ’11 — was a huge get.

“I know this, if Butler had joined the Big East, everyone would have just as much as excitement,” Miller said.

“This was an incredible league to start with,” Butler coach Brad Stevens told the AP. “I hope we make it even better. I know VCU does, no question. This league will have multiple bids, the question is how many. Nobody will know that until March.”

Both Stevens and VCU coach Shaka Smart were considered for multiple college coaching jobs after their Final Four runs.

Along with Stevens, Smart, Ferry and fellow first-year Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley, the former Wagner coach, the league has four new head coaches, five if you count Jim Crews, who has taken over at St. Louis while Rick Majerus battles health issues.

Saint Joseph’s, which has all five starters back from last season, was the preseason pick to win the A-10 with Saint Louis right behind.

The Hawks, who finished 20-14 last season, received 11 first-place votes and 434 points from the panel of coaches and media. The Billikens, who reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2000, had 10 first-place votes and 432 points.

VCU was picked third followed by Temple, Massachusetts, Butler, La Salle, Dayton, Xavier, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, Charlotte, George Washington, Fordham, Rhode Island and Duquesne.

Now, it remains to be seen if fans will come out to the Barclays Center in March to watch these teams at the same time the Big East is playing at the Garden.

Ferry, who used to play hooky to watch the Big East, said he would come now to see the A-10 Tournament.

“I’m coming here, I’m coming here,” he said. “Come on, Brooklyn’s hot right now. You may run into Jay Z when you’re down here, how great would that be?”

(The AP contributed reporting)

Atlantic 10 Preseason Predicted Order of Finish

Team Total Points Team Total Points

1. Saint Joseph’s (11)………………………………………… 434

2. Saint Louis (10) ……………………………………………. 432

3. VCU (3) ……………………………………………………….. 410

4. Temple (2) …………………………………………………… 394

5. Massachusetts (2) ………………………………………… 389

6. Butler (2)…………………………………………………….. 347

7. La Salle……………………………………………………….. 281

8. Dayton ……………………………………………………….. 264

9. Xavier …………………………………………………………. 239

10. Richmond……………………………………………………. 235

11. St. Bonaventure……………………………………………. 170

12. Charlotte …………………………………………………….. 145

13. George Washington ………………………………………. 112

14. Fordham……………………………………………………….. 84

15. Rhode Island …………………………………………………. 76

16. Duquesne ………………………………………………………68

2012-13 Atlantic 10 Preseason Men’s Basketball Awards

FIRST TEAM

Name

Kevin Dillard, UD

Chris Gaston, FOR

Chaz Williams, UM

Kwamain Mitchell, SLU

Khalif Wyatt, TU

SECOND TEAM

Name

Rotnei Clarke, BU

Chris Braswell, CHA

Ramon Galloway, LAS

Langston Galloway, SJU

Carl Jones, SJU

THIRD TEAM

Name

Darien Brothers, UR

C.J. Aiken, SJU

Halil Kanacevic, SJU

Scootie Randall, TU

Juvonte Reddic, VCU

ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM

Name

Roosevelt Jones, BU

Pierria Henry, CHA

C.J. Aiken, SJU

Jordair Jett, SLU

Briante Weber, VCU

ALL-ROOKIE TEAM

Name

Kellen Dunham, BU

Jordan Hare, URI

Daniel Dingle, TU

Melvin Johnson, VCU

Semaj Christon, XU