If you have an internet connection, a television, a phone, or any other means of receiving or participating in mass media, you probably have heard enough information about the shuffling of the NCAA's Division 1 athletic conferences to last you 100 lifetimes. Conferences are going after teams so far outside of what their conference names suggest they should pursue - and I know how ridiculous a complaint that is coming from a fan of the 14-team Atlantic 10 Conference that includes such seaboard teams as Xavier, Dayton, and St. Louis - that you wonder why they bother naming the conferences in the first place.
Most of this shuffling begins and the football level and trickles down to the other sports in which the conference's member participate. Because of this - and the almost daily dissolution of the Big East - basketball programs like Xavier and Butler are uniquely positioned to step from the A-10 and Horizon League into a BCS conference. The question on my mind is simple: should they?
I think Xavier's big-fish-in-a-little-pond status actual works in the program's favor in a couple of ways. First of all, it lets Mario Mercurio work his magic with the schedule. Mario is one of the best in the business as putting together a non-conference slate that will test the Xavier players and show the coaching staff where changes need to be made. Schools that have consistently bruising conference schedules are somewhat tied to those; they often feel obligated to go out and schedule several "guarantee games" in the early season so the team can still make twenty wins despite getting beaten up in conference (I'm looking at you, Syracuse). Membership in the A-10 gives X a measure of freedom in choosing how to put together a schedule that will harden the squad for its traditional February tear and have it hitting on all cylinders come March.
Concomitantly, being in the Atlantic 10 gives Xavier a recruiting advantage. Coach Mack and his staff can go into a player's living room (or wherever recruiting is done that doesn't lead to NCAA violations; I have trouble keeping up), look the kid in the eye, and tell him he's going to play in four NCAA tournaments during his time at X. For the next few years, he can also tell him he'll have a chance to suit up in the Barclay's Center for the A-10 tournament. Does moving to the Big East offer a marked improvement over that? I know MSG has a great basketball history, but is it enough of an upgrade from the admittedly tenuous situation with the Barclay's Center that Xavier should abdicate the Atlantic 10 throne to get there?
I (obviously) don't think so. Xavier is the king of the conference right now, and the combination of coaching, administration, and on-floor talent seems to promise a bright future. While NCAA football is set up to benefit members of the BCS conferences to the exclusion of the others, NCAA basketball still allows fairly equitable odds for those outside the Big Six. Until that changes, I think Xavier is pretty well positioned where they are. What do you all think?