The Atlantic 10 conference is in an odd spot in the hierarchy of college basketball. They’re not considered an elite conference like the ACC and SEC, but they’re also clearly above the “mid major” conferences that typically only receive one automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
With six teams in this year’s tournament field, the A-10 was obviously a strong conference in 2013-2014. You would think that might result in the tournament champion receiving a high seed in the NCAA tournament. However, St. Joseph’s was only rewarded with a 10 seed after winning the A-10 tournament.
This doesn’t appear to be an isolated incident. It seems that over the past few seasons, the A-10 tournament champion has not gotten any bump for winning the tournament, and in many cases, they’ve received disappointing seeds.
Here are the seeds of the past five A-10 tournament winners:
2014: St. Joseph’s – 10
2013: St. Louis – 4
2012: St. Bonaventure – 14
2011: Richmond – 12
2010: Temple – 6
Based on their seeding, it is reasonable to think that neither St. Bonaventure in 2012 nor Richmond in 2011 would have qualified for the tournament without the automatic bid. But for all of the other winners, they probably deserved a seed at least one spot higher. (The most egregious case was Temple in 2010. Many people expected them to receive a 3 seed that season.)
My theory: With the tournament championship game being played on Sunday, the selection committee doesn’t bother waiting for the result of the game to seed the participants. If both teams are already assured of at-large spots, it seems like they operate under the assumption that both teams lost the game.
So while St. Joe’s fans should be thrilled by the championship – especially since the Hawks were considered a bubble team before the tournament began – the team’s seed was probably already determined before Sunday’s championship game tipped off.
In a way, this might be to the Hawks’ advantage. If a team has hopes of advancing past the first weekend, it might be an advantage to have a 10 seed as opposed to an 8 or 9. The 8/9 winner plays the top seed in the next round, and that typically doesn’t work out well for them. While defeating a 2 seed is no simple task, history has proven it to be much easier than taking down a 1.
As for the Atlantic 10, I don’t imagine they’ll be changing the tournament structure any time soon. Yes, the time of the championship game might hurt in terms of seeding, but that probably isn’t the conference’s main concern. CBS broadcasts the championship game, and if they want to show it on Sunday afternoon, then I have a strong feeling that the game will continue to be played on Sunday afternoon.