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A-10: We're Not Mid-Majors!

Big-time Xavier big-timed Virginia. (AP photo)

This debate has been raging fermenting like smelly cheese for several years now. The A-10, we can all acknowledge, used to be a very strong second-tier basketball conference, coming just after the biggest of the big boys. The last few years have been poorer than usual. At the same time, several other conferences have risen up in those years. And finally, a terminology-and-rankings-hungry media has exploded with ever more rankings and categories in those years.

The result? A Mid-Major frenzy, with some rankings choosing to exclude the A-10 from that category, others choosing to include the A-10, and A-10 fans lashing out at anyone who dared suggest the conference had anything to do with the MM label. Some writers (i.e. Eric Prisbell) seemed to delight in eliciting such a reaction, while some readers seemed to delight in sending me 9,000-word dissertations on how the Atlantic 10 was really God's conference.

Well, the disintegrating cheese has burst this week, with Xavier making a public show of declining a Mid-Major player of the week award from Rivals, saying we're not no damn mid-major and you can keep your stinking award.

Atlantic 10 commissioner Linda Bruno backed the Musketeers' stance. "I really am puzzled why anyone would consider us a mid-major," she said. "It's a term you really don't need. It got started because the media use football terms for basketball leagues. Give people credit for what they're good at. The term is derogatory."

Not to take sides, but I'd suggest that the term is meaningless rather than derogatory, and that in fact many basketball fans have decided it's more fun and more wholesome to root for so-called MM's, making the term the opposite of derogatory.

"Mid-major is not an in-depth enough analysis to say that's who you are. We operate here at a very high level," AD Mike Bobinski told the Cincy Enquirer. And while that may be true on several levels (attendance, fundraising, arena size, history, expectations), it's still probably worth looking at some recent NCAA tournament stats, just for fun, and also to try to make A-10 fans angry.

Here are five conferences that aren't BCS but that might aspire to be something other than "Mid-Major," with stats from the three most recent NCAA tournaments. And yes, the A-10 will likely blow these stats up this year, but they still happened.

Missouri Valley - 9 NCAA berths, 7-9 overall record, 3 Sweet 16 appearances

Colonial - 5 NCAA berths, 5-5 overall record, 1 Sweet 16 appearance

Horizon - 4 NCAA berths, 5-4 overall record, 2 Sweet 16 appearances

Atlantic 10 - 5 NCAA berths, 2-5 overall record, 0 Sweet 16 appearances

WAC - 6 NCAA berths, 2-6 overall record, 0 Sweet 16 appearances

Stats aside, Fran Fraschilla is now publicly lobbying against A-10 mid-majorhood:

I am not a big fan of calling the Atlantic 10 a "mid-major" conference. In fact, it's insulting if you follow college basketball closely. Because its schools do not play major college football in the BCS, it's convenient to say that they don't play high level basketball, also. But, if you go by tradition, resources and recent success, the majority of the schools in the Atlantic 10 are "big-time" programs.

Fran cites St. Joe's with Jameer Nelson, which I think is a ridiculous argument, because as strong as that team was, they were a national story all year because of their underdog, is-this-really-happening role. If, say, Seton Hall had been in that spot, would the storyline have really been identical?

Anyhow, I propose at least four DI categories: BCS (self-explanatory), Big-Time (A-10, CUSA, Missouri Valley, Mountain West), Mid Major (everyone else) and Small Major (Longwood).

By Dan Steinberg  |  January 10, 2008; 11:35 AM ET
Categories:  College Basketball  
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