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Atlantic 10: Savor the good times while they last?

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By The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 4:03 p.m.
 

This should be a time for some serious pride in the Atlantic 10.

Saint Louis, VCU, Butler, Temple and La Salle all made the NCAA Tournament, putting more A-10 teams in the field than the Big 12, Pac-12 and even the ACC.

It's the third time the A-10 has received four at-large bids and placed five teams in the tournament.

That's a pretty stout feat for perhaps the best so-called mid-major conference in the sport.

But the A-10 should enjoy the good times while it can.

The league may be about to lose the identity of small teams-big results it worked decades to craft once the season ends. Temple, long one of the flag-bearers of the conference, is bolting to join a conference with the football-playing members of the Big East.

Butler and Xavier, which missed the tournament for only the second time since 2001, are headed to the reimagined, basketball-oriented Big East.

With another wave of conference realignment always possible, Saint Louis and VCU would be prime candidates to get plucked from the A-10, too.

"If there are going to be realignment impacts that would affect the league, then we have to be ready to make the next-best decision. That's my job, to make sure that the A-10 stays as strong as possible," A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade said. "I feel like it's been my daily work for the last 28 months, to be honest with you."

For three weeks, conference shuffling is a worry for another day. The A-10 would rather focus on how far teams advance in the tournament, not movement to another league.

The fourth-seeded Billikens are already one of the trendy outside-the-box picks for the Final Four. VCU reached the Final Four in 2011 and won another tournament game last season. With their "Havoc" defense always a disruption, the Rams could cause trouble for a turnover-prone team like top-seeded Kansas. Butler reached back-to-back national championship games in 2010 and 2011 and would like to add a third.

Temple and La Salle have no recent history of tournament success but both have knocked off top 10 teams this season.

"It's a program thing," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "Harry Litwack, John Chaney, John Baum, Marc Macon, Dionte Christmas and all of those people who played before this group. We're just thrilled to be representing Temple University and Philadelphia."

And, for the last time, the Atlantic 10.

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