Source on VCU, Mason possibly leaving CAA: "I just get a sense that all hell is about ready to break loose"

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During Final Four week, Colonial Athletic Association commissioner Tom Yeager and other principals forcefully denied a report that league basketball powers VCU and George Mason might move to the Atlantic 10.

Less than a month later, some very smart people in college athletics still believe the possibility of the Rams and Patriots relocating is real.

"I hope I'm completely wrong," said a source directly involved in realignment discussions. "But I just get a sense that all hell is about ready to break loose."

This saga gathered additional traction Friday with a New York Post tweet that said VCU and George Mason would move May 1. That prompted more denials, all of which I take with a boulder of salt.

"Forget a nice, quiet spring," a source lamented. "This stuff has been percolating under the ground for months."

Indeed, everyone has plausible deniability here. The formal discussions and invitations that accompany conference shifts don't occur until the 11th hour, so schools and leagues can save face if the expected deal crumbles.

It's like high school. Before asking out the object of your affection, your have mutual friends inquire on your behalf. You pop the question only if assured the answer is yes.

Four sources, all with direct knowledge and all of whom requested anonymity, said this week they believe VCU and George Mason are poised to say yes.

That is a grim premonition for the CAA.

Football drove recent membership changes in the ACC, Southeastern Conference, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pacific 12, and football will be front-and-center again with impending swaps among the Western Athletic, Mountain West, Conference USA and Sun Belt.

But the potential reshuffling of VCU and George Mason is all about men's basketball.

The trigger is two-fold. The Atlantic 10, historically stronger than the CAA, is losing traditional conference power Temple to the Big East and is about to begin renegotiating its television contracts.

So in theory, adding recent Final Four programs VCU and George Mason, plus 2010 and '11 national runner-up Butler of the Horizon League, would make the A-10 more attractive to networks such as ESPN and NBC.

But is the A-10 better than the CAA for the Rams and Patriots?

In the past 15 seasons, CAA teams have received four at-large NCAA tournament bids. The A-10 checks in with 28, three this past season with Xavier, Temple andSt. Louis, in addition to league championSt. Bonaventure's automatic bid.

Moreover, in 12 of the last 15 years, the CAA was a one-bid league. The A-10 was a one-bid league twice during that span.

In short, the A-10 provides its basketball programs tougher competition, higher computer rankings and a greater margin for error. In most seasons, winning the conference tournament is not paramount to making the NCAA field.

But those 15 years encompass many membership changes within the CAA, A-10 and leagues nationwide. So let's consider the last seven years, or since the Big East added Marquette, Cincinnati, DePaul and Louisville from Conference USA and began bogarting NCAA tournament invitations.

During that stretch, 50 teams from outside the six power conferences have received at-large bids — about seven per season. The A-10's margin over the CAA in that 2006-12 window is 13-4.

But that gap alone should not push George Mason and VCU out the door. Along with programs such as Butler, the A-10's Xavier, West Coast's BYU and Missouri Valley's Wichita State, the Rams and Patriots have the resources, facilities, reputations and ambitious non-league schedules to merit at-large consideration regardless of affiliation. The CAA's Old Dominion also resides in that upper echelon.

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