It’s nothing Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli hasn’t said before.
For years, he has preached that how the Atlantic 10 is viewed come March is largely determined by how the conference members perform in November and December.
That’s why Martelli emphasized during the A-10 preseason media day that teams needed to start winning more “50-50” games – those against opponents from similar or better conferences played on neutral courts.
The A-10 did not deliver.
With the non-conference schedule nearly complete, A-10 schools went 13-23 in games that could be described as “50-50." They went went 0-13 against opponents ranked in the Top 25.
There were multiple losses to teams from conferences like the America East, Big South, Colonial, Ivy, Metro Atlantic Athletic and Patriot.
That is all disappointing for the A-10, and it won’t help the conference’s standing with the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
“The Atlantic 10, and I get it even in December, the Atlantic 10 is in trouble for March,” Martelli said. “We did not win our 50-50 games. We have 35 losses to teams below us. We are part of that.
“But this is not about scheduling. Look at our schedules year by year. … The Atlantic 10 scheduled right. We just didn’t win right.”
Still, scheduling the A-10 is typically considered a risky move for teams from power conferences that see more risk than reward from a game.
Neutral courts or two-for-ones are generally the concessions demanded of schools from the Atlantic 10.
That’s why the conference’s recent announcement that it has agreed to a challenge series with the Mountain West Conference is a big deal.
In the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, the conferences will play 10 games with each hosting five at campus sites.
With teams like No. 6-ranked Nevada, Fresno State, UNLV, New Mexico and San Diego State, the A-10 gets quality home-and-homes games from a similar conference.
Over the last three seasons, the Atlantic 10 has sent 17 teams to the postseason and the Mountain West 11.
“This is a partnership that will afford both conferences strong non-conference competition bringing quality, nationally recognized opponents from the Mountain West to our campuses.” said A-10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade in a release. “Challenges have become essential to conferences as scheduling quality home and home series has become increasingly difficult.
“This partnership will add an exciting home game to each of our schools season ticket packages while also providing resume-building opportunities and national exposure of high-interest games.”
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said, “These matchups won’t be easy, and that’s exactly what we need during the non-conference portion of our schedule as we continue strengthening Mountain West basketball.”
Martelli said that while the cross-country games brings on concerns about players missing classes, the challenge will be an overall benefit for the Atlantic 10.