The A-10 Cuddle Puddle

By Steve DiMiceli

For a stretch of a few seasons, I called the Big East the Pizza the Hut conference named of course after the Jabba the Hut spoof from Space Balls who meets a very tragic self inflicted death. Every time one of their schools would make a run at the top five nationally, some mediocre mid table team would knock off the front runner. This label manifested itself most clearly when a mediocre Pitt basketball team defeated a very good WVU team in the Back Yard Brawl to keep the Mountaineers out of the BCS championship game. The conference literally eats itself to death.

While it's way too early to suggest the A-10 will eat itself to death, it looks like a giant cuddle puddle at the moment. Teams 1-10 are separated by only one game after most played 4. 5 teams stand at 2-2. Nobody is undefeated. Temple in 11th seems likely to join the puddle in the near future.

In a second tier league, parody is said to be a double edged sword. It makes for interesting contests game in and game out and the match ups are still very meaningful deep into the season. At the same time, it means that the conference really hasn't produced a real winner. No top dog or dogs that can dominant "lesser competition" making them worthy of the attention in the national scope. This may still turn out to be Xavier, but even if they do emerge, two through eleven looks to be a dog fight in the conference.

I bring this up for two reasons. Duquesne plays current top dog Umass (14-4,3-1), but that really shouldn't strike much fear in your heart. UMass has played a relatively weak schedule, but stand to gain a lot by winning tomorrow. It could put them 2 games clear of another likely cuddle puddle participant and give them a valuable road win. At 15-4, it's time to begin talking NCAA bubble as they would have amassed three consecutive wins against good A-10 teams. For the Dukes, the longer this conference stays close, the better as our best chance for glory this year is in conference. They're like GW last year where a 5th or 6th place finish is a huge win as they stand little chance to play for the NCAA tournament or NIT. A valuable head to head tie breaker is at stake for Duquesne and defending your home court is very important if you want to keep the league close. Here lies the potential for a middle of the table team beating a team with some national aspiration. If you Umass is really worthy of national consideration, they'll beat Duquesne. Of course, if they were a worthy team, they'd have already beaten Lasalle. To me the A-10 looks like a conference eating itself and cuddling for a little while. Hopefully, that keeps happening with a Duquesne win tomorrow.