Photo: Chicago Tribune
In a move that has caught the College Basketball world off guard, the Atlantic 10 Conference announced on Tuesday afternoon that Loyola Chicago will leave the Missouri Valley Conference and become the A-10's 15th member school effective 2022-23.
When looking at how the Atlantic 10 would fare in this current wave of conference realignment, the general mood for weeks was one of gloom and doom, with many fans expecting the league to be poached by some larger major conferences recovering from some major football shifts. Talks of UMass leaving for a larger football conference were rampant, and still are, but this move breathes new life and excitement into the A-10, and helps to solidify the league's place as a top Mid-Major conference.
In terms of their Men's basketball program, Loyola brings a team that has garnered plenty of national attention over the past few seasons, most notably due to their 2018 Final Four run and their support from their de-facto mascot, Sister Jean. In terms of what Loyola Chicago brings on the court, first-year Coach Drew Valentine will look to build his own program in a new conference after this year's veteran lineup will likely move on to greener pastures. With the move up, the Ramblers can easily sell the competition the A-10 provides to incoming recruits.
For the conference as a whole, Loyola brings A-10 play to Chicago, the second largest market in North American Spectator sports. The A-10 now finds teams in four of the Top 10 Markets (New York, Philly, and DC the other three). The third major Midwest team in the conference, Loyola's proximity to Dayton and Saint Louis will not only alleviate the fatigue of travel, but also fuel new in-conference rivalries.
As great as this announcement is, the future is still unclear for the A-10. There are still talks of powerhouse teams leaving, as well as talks to expand the conference even further to 16 teams. Until then, the Ramblers bring a new wave of excitement to the Mighty Atlantic 10.