Shaka Smart: No apologies for A-10

RICHMOND, Va. -- Shaka Smart isn't amused by people taking shots at the strength of the Atlantic 10 Conference.

The Virginia Commonwealth coach said Monday that the A-10 needs to apologize to no one for getting six teams in the NCAA tournament, including five at-large bids, because they all earned the right to be included.

The Rams (26-8), who lost in the A-10 tournament final to Saint Joseph's (24-9), received an at-large bid along with A-10 schools Massachusetts (24-8), Saint Louis (26-6), George Washington (24-8) and Dayton (23-10).

On Saturday, after Duke beat NC State in the ACC semifinals, Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said he thought the Wolfpack deserved an at-large berth, even ahead of an A-10 team.

"I'll get in trouble probably for saying it," Krzyzewski said. "[I] like the Atlantic 10; they're a really good conference. I hear people saying there are six teams in there. Come on. I mean, they're good, but put them in our conference and go through the meat grinder that our conference has to go through."

Smart said he sees no point in comparing leagues in discussing tournament viability.

"First of all, comparing your own league to someone else's league is like me saying that my daughter is cuter than your daughter," he said. "There's a level of bias that comes into play that you shouldn't even make those comments. Secondly, coaches are too busy to be an authority on someone else's conference.

"I know our league really well because we've been in our league preparing for our league, but I don't know much about anyone else's league beyond the teams we've played in nonconference play."

Smart said a coach lobbying for his league is one thing, but taking shots at another league "is low-level."

"You kind of want to stand up for your league," he said. "A lot of this league solidarity, like a Duke guy standing up for NC State, that's all self-serving too. Let's be honest. 'Our league is great because it's our league' -- it's a lot of that.

"Let's just have a level of respect for each other, and let's respect the nine people on the selection committee and the work they put into to picking the 68 teams."

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin spoke out Monday in defense of the American Athletic Conference when asked about SMU's absence from the NCAA tournament.

Cronin, talking to Andy Katz in an interview on ESPNU, said he understood "it's a hard job, but SMU not being in the tournament is ridiculous."

"The American Conference was grossly disrespected by the committee," Cronin said. "It's not personal. I'm not mad. It's just a fact.

"I mean, Louisville's a 4-seed?" he added before laughing. "Are you kidding me? Is that a joke? Did anybody watch them play? They're the defending national champs."

Cronin reiterated he didn't understand the NCAA tournament committee's reasoning.

"The basic message that was sent to our league was that you're not as good as some of the other leagues," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.