At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport. We had two questions this week, one Saturday and one today.
TODAY'S QUESTION: Which league outside the Big Six is going to be the best this season?
David Fox's answer:
I still like the Atlantic 10 as the best league outside of the six major conferences. Xavier, despite turnover on the roster and the coaching staff, never has a bad season. Neither does Temple. Richmond causes problems for opposing coaches with the Spiders' Princeton-style offense, not to mention the presence of Kevin Anderson. Saint Louis made a push near the end of the season, and the Billikens have a team coming of age with a good coach. I'm also willing to believe that Dayton's run to the NIT championship is a better indication of the Flyers' ability than their struggles in close games and on the road. I also like the depth of the conference when you look at teams in the middle; Duquesne (Damian Saunders), La Salle (Aaric Murray) and Rhode Island (Delroy James) have players who can cause problems even for major programs.
Mike Huguenin's answer:
I think the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West will be better than the Pac-10 this season, and I would give the slight nod to the A-10 as the best of the non-Big Sixers. Xavier is one of the premier 25 or so programs in the nation. Temple is extremely well-coached. Those two are NCAA locks. Dayton, Saint Louis and Richmond also have legit NCAA hopes. Rick Majerus is a big-time coach, and if all of SLU's young players make the expected improvement, the Billikens will be a top-40 squad. Duquesne, behind underrated forward Damian Saunders, could surprise. The Mountain West is strong at the top with BYU, San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV, but there's a drop-off after that quartet. Thus, the A-10's depth trumps the Mountain West this season and makes it the best non-Big Six leagues.
Jason King's answer:
It's hard to go with any league other than the Atlantic 10. Temple should be ranked in the preseason Top 25 and Richmond stands a chance, too. Even though Xavier may be slightly down, the Musketeers have long been regarded as one of the top non-Big Six programs in college basketball. As always, they'll contend for the conference title. Dayton, which features standout forward Chris Wright, is looking to return to the NCAA tournament after beating North Carolina for the NIT title last season. Rhode Island and Saint Louis should also be in the mix. It wouldn't shock me at all if four Atlantic 10 teams earned NCAA berths. No other non-Big Six conference will be able to make that claim. Not this season.
Steve Megargee's answer:
I'd have to go with the Atlantic 10. The conference produced three NCAA tournament teams (Temple, Xavier and Richmond) last season, and all three should be good again this season. Dayton, Rhode Island and Charlotte also were in NCAA contention last season before tailing off down the stretch. Rhode Island lost plenty of talent, and Charlotte may go through a transition phase as it adjusts to a coaching change. But I expect Dayton to be better than it was last season, while Saint Louis and Duquesne return veteran squads and should emerge as postseason threats.