In 2010-2011 the A-10 which actually consists of 14 teams had the sixth-highest RPI in the nation. It was the league’s highest finish in 17 seasons and the league is hoping to do even better this year.

It’s long been assumed and now the numbers confirm that the Atlantic-10 basketball conference is a mid-major in name only.

Xavier MusketeersXavier has done the heavy lifting winning at least a share of each of the last five regular season titles. They’ve become an established national power which means they seldom rebuild they just reload.  

Keeping the coaches

Atlantic 10 schools have been proactive in keeping the X’s and O’s guys who have helped the A-10 become one of the strongest hoop conference’s in the country. The various universities are stepping up financially to keep the better coaches in place. Xavier’s Chris Mack, Temple’s Fran Dunphy, Richmond’s Chris Mooney and Jim Baron have all received contract extensions over the past couple of years.

With the coaches and players in place, who’s the team to beat in the A-10 in 2011-2012? Here’s a quick look of the top teams from a year ago with win/cover totals from last season in bold.

Xavier Musketeers (24-8 SU, 14-16-1 ATS)

The Musketeers return the nucleus of last year’s team led by guard Tu Holloway who was the A-10 players of the year. He led the team in scoring (19.7 ppg) and assists last year.

In 2010-11, the X-men extended their tournament streak to six consecutive years and 10th in 11 seasons. They’ve got a long list of standout players (David West, James Posey) who have gone on to successful careers in the NBA and one coach after another that’s kept the program among the nation’s elite.

Betting note: Xavier is ranked 12th in the preseason rankings while Temple is 13th.

Temple Owls (26-8 SU, 17-17 ATS)

When long time coach John Chaney retired as the Owls coach there were more than a few backers who thought the program would never be the same. Enter Fran Dunphy who has led the Owls to a 110-57 record in his five years at the helm.

The Owls who have reached the NCAA tournament in three of the last four years have won three consecutive A-10 tournaments and will return four senior starters from last year’s 26-8 team. See you in March.

Richmond Spiders (29-9 SU, 21-13 ATS)

Richmond SpidersThe Spiders are enjoying one of the best revivals in college basketball. Richmond enters the season off back-to-back campaigns in which they won 25 games, made two Big Dance appearances and went to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.

Duquesne Dukes (19-13 SU, 14-11-1 ATS)

Coach Ron Everhart's Dukes have earned a postseason bid in three straight years including a fourth-place conference finish last season. Everhart has also posted 15+ wins in four straight years and has played in two NIT’s and one CBI since 2009. Even though it’s a long shot the Dukes hope to play in the NCAA tournament next.

George Washington Colonials (17-14 SU, 14-14 ATS)

The Colonials could be a surprise this year. Mike Lonergan takes the reins after a six-year stint as head coach at Vermont and has four of the five starters back from last year’s team including six of the top seven scorers. They could be the surprise team in the conference this season

Rhode Island (20-14 SU, 15-16 ATS)

The Rams have mostly flown under the radar while compiling four consecutive 20-win seasons and as many tournament berths but this year they’ve got no one back. Nada, Zilch, Zero. It’s going to be nearly impossible for RI to break even let alone get 20 wins again.

Dayton Flyers (22-14 SU, 16-4 ATS)

After establishing the program as one of the league’s best, Brian Gregory Dayton left for Georgia Tech and the ACC but not before guiding the Flyers to one of the best four-year streaks in school history. Dayton has had four consecutive 22+ win seasons including an NIT title. With his departure comes the arrival of Archie Miller who last year was Associate Head Coach under his brother Sean at Arizona.