The Atlantic 10 has announced this year's conference schedules... kind of. What the league has actually done is announce who is going to play whom and where. When the games will be played is still under wraps and will revealed at a later date. While that is not terribly interesting in and of itself, it is college basketball news in May, so people are going to care.
With the recent expansion of the Atlantic Ten, Xavier's 16-game league schedule will now include playing every other team once and one team twice. It didn't take a genius to figure out that the Xavier versus Dayton game is probably the most hotly contested matchup in the conference, so the A-10 paired those two. Other pairings are Butler and Saint Louis, Charlotte and Temple, Duquesne and St. Bonaventure, Fordham and St. Joseph's, GW and La Salle, UMass and URI, and Richmond and VCU. Most of those pairings make sense on the rivalry and geographical levels, but one could argue that Temple and Charlotte were stuck together simply as a final "thanks for leaving" from the conference commissioners. They'd probably deny it.
Conference opponents coming to Cintas this year will be Dayton, Fordham, George Washington, La Salle, UMass, Saint Louis, Temple, and Virginia Commonwealth. I think this is a great draw for Xavier, as several of the higher-level teams in the conference will be forced to play the Muskies at home. Obviously, the Dayton game is always huge. La Salle, UMass, and Saint Louis all made noise in the conference last year, and they all figure to be strong again this season. Xavier's young squad will get to play all three from the comforts of home. This will be Temple's last year as a conference heavyweight, but they're no joke, and there's a reason bringing on VCU was such a talked-about move for the A-10. Having all these teams at home will probably do some damage to Xavier's usually sterling home record, but it beats the pants off of playing them on the road.
Speaking of the road, Xavier will travel to Dayton, Butler*, Charlotte, Duquesne, URI, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, and St. Joseph's. Heading to Dayton is always a potential nightmare, especially for a young team. I don't feel like there's that much more love lost between Xavier and Butler, especially considering nothing ever seems to work right at Hinkle when X is there. Other than that, Xavier's conference road schedule is somewhat bereft of scary opponents. Richmond can play a little, but the Bonnies lost their best player, and Charlotte, Duquesne, URI, and St. Joseph's have not been the top programs in the A-10. Conference road games are never easy, but X avoided travel to a lot of the tougher places in the league.
All told, this conference schedule stacks up pretty well for the Muskies. Xavier has a young squad this year, and there are question marks of varying severity around the few veteran players returning to the roster. As this squad tries to get a feel for conference play, Wednesday games in Rhode Island are always going to be more favorable than a Saturday at Temple. There's no doubt it could be a bumpy year after losing Tu, Cheeks, Big Kenny, and Andre Walker, but the conference schedule could have been a heck of a lot bumpier.
*Xavier's previously scheduled game against Butler at Cintas will still be played, but it will not be considered a conference game.