HILADELPHIA - At the last two Atlantic 10 Conference media days, both Xavier and Temple were picked No. 1 - the Musketeers in the West, and the Owls in the East.
But with the Atlantic 10 returning to a single division for the 2000-01 season, there could be only one preseason No. 1, and it was the Musketeers, who captured 16 of a possible 36 first-place votes, followed by Temple with 10.
The University of Massachusetts was picked third with two first-place votes, followed by Dayton (8), George Washington, Fordham, St. Joseph's, St. Bonaventure, La Salle, Duquesne and Rhode Island.
Senior guard Monty Mack, who was named to the preseason All-Atlantic 10 first team, was the only Minuteman to make any of the three all-conference teams, the rookie team or the all-defensive team.
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The unbalanced nature of the 11-team league's schedule has some teams griping over having tougher slates than others.
Associate commissioner Bob Steitz, who created the league's schedule, tried to explain the process.
"Part of it was television-related, rivalry-related, and part of it had to do with patterns we followed in the past," Steitz said. "It was set over a five-year cycle as if we would have been 11 teams for five years and it would have balanced over that cycle."
The Atlantic 10 since has added Richmond, which will return it to a two-division format for 2001-02 and to the scheduling pattern that went with it.
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Temple coach John Chaney is good for at least one entertaining line, usually at the NCAA's expense, any time a microphone is put in front of him.
Thursday was no different. After blasting college athletics' governing body, he closed with this gem about the NCAA:
"One thing you can never do is change stupidity," he said. "Once it's there, it's always there. You've heard me say that before. I coined that. If anybody steals that from me, I'll take them to court."
HILADELPHIA — Xavier may be the Atlantic 10 Conference team to beat, but right now, University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach Bruiser Flint is more worried about playing Statmaster.com.
"Last week, I let our guys play through a lot of things, but that's not going to be the case in this one," Flint said yesterday at First Union Spectrum, where the conference media day was held. "I might have a little quicker hook. I don't want guys to lose confidence, I just want to put them in a position where they can do well."
Tonight's 7 o'clock preseason game at the Mullins Center is the second and final outside test before the Nov. 18 opener against Iona. In last week's 83-82 loss to the California Midwest All-Stars, Flint's goal was to look at all players as much as possible.
But the approaching opener makes tonight's game against Statmaster.com a chance for the coach to hone his playing rotation, giving more minutes to players who earn them.
One player who will sit out is junior forward Jackie Rogers, who suffered a minor foot injury at practice Monday. Rogers expects to be ready for the Iona game.
Atlantic 10 play doesn't begin until January, but the vote of media and coaches declared Xavier the league favorite. The Musketeers received 16 of 36 first-place votes, with Temple and UMass picked to finish second and third, respectively.
Despite losing star players Lamont Barnes, Mark Karcher and Pepe Sanchez from last year's team, Temple polled 10 first-place votes. UMass claimed two first-place ballots and outpolled Dayton for third place in the overall voting, even though the Flyers had eight first-place votes.
There won't be any recount in this race. The coaches are looking less closely at the preseason picks than they are at the schedules, which this year are imbalanced and may affect the race.
Each Atlantic 10 team will play 16 league games in an 11-team, one-division circuit. Virginia Tech has joined the Big East, Richmond doesn't enter the A-10 until next year, and each A-10 team will play six opponents twice each, and four teams once.
UMass gets a double dose of Temple, Xavier, Dayton, George Washington, St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island. The first four of those teams join UMass in the top five of the preseason poll.
Atlantic 10 associate commissioner Bob Steitz, who did the scheduling, conceded that factors such as attractive TV matchups and heated rivalries were involved in the decisions. In other words, it wasn't entirely random that UMass must play so many good teams twice, while facing lower-tier clubs such as Duquesne and La Salle once each.
"Scheduling is the thing, who you play and where," said Flint, who thinks UMass was dealt the hardest schedule of all. "I think TV dictated a lot of it. But the cream still rises to the top. You've just got to win."
UMass senior guard Monty Mack was named to the preseason Atlantic 10 first team. He was joined by George Washington guard SirValiant Brown, La Salle forward Rasual Butler, Xavier swingman Lloyd Price and Dayton guard Tony Stanley.
No UMass player was picked for either the preseason all-league second team or third team. The Minutemen were also shut out in the all-rookie and all-defensive balloting.
Flint was less piqued at that than he was at the absence of Mack's name on list of preseason candidates for the John Wooden Award, which goes to the nation's best player.
"I was upset they didn't include Monty," said Flint, aware that Brown and Butler are on the list. "Most preseason publications I've seen have Monty as our league's preseason player of the year. But he's not a Wooden candidate."
Mack will not play tonight, nor will be play against Iona as he finishes a suspension for a non-basketball incident in October.
HILADELPHIA - The two are supposed to be rivals, and will probably spend time guarding each other when they meet Jan. 27 and Feb. 17, but Thursday they embraced at the annual Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Media Day, at the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
Monty Mack of the University of Massachusetts and Temple's Quincy Wadley will begin their respective fifth seasons of college basketball with diplomas already in hand. Both senior guards were forced to sit out their freshman seasons due to NCAA academic regulations and each earned his year back by completing degree requirements in four years.
Their similar accomplishments have made them friends and members of a mutual admiration club.
Mack said the two first had a chance to talk at last year's A-10 Tournament.
"When we were at the tournament last year, I saw him in the hotel and we talked about it. I just wished him the best of luck to get his year (of eligibility) back, and he wished me the best, and now we're both here," Mack said. "You get a better friendship bond. You know that they're going through the same stuff you're going through."
About halfway through media day, Wadley crossed the Spectrum floor to seek out Mack. The two found a corner and talked for a while.
Wadley said the two have more in common than their academic achievement.
"I think their are similarities in the kind of people we are and in our games," he said. "We both always give 100 percent."
Mack was a partial academic qualifier as a freshman and has known that he could earn back his extra year since 1997, when the NCAA ruled that partial qualifiers could earn their lost year back if they completed degree requirements in four years.
Wadley was a non-qualifier, and not affected by the 1997 rule. He finished last season not knowing whether he'd be granted another year, while the NCAA debated extending the rule to non-qualifiers.
While he was grateful that the rule was changed, he wasn't ready to believe that the NCAA had its act together.
"For every two good decisions they make 200 bad ones," Wadley said. "There are a lot of good people that fall victim to the eligibility rules."
The Atlantic 10 will benefit from both players' returns. Mack was the league's second leading scorer last year at 19.8 points per game, and will make a run at 2,000 career points.
Wadley was picked as the most outstanding player in last year's A-10 Tournament, and averaged 12.8 points per game last year.