Gazette Looks At A-10 Tournament - UMass Athletics

Gazette Looks At A-10 Tournament

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The Atlantic 10 coaches don't seem to love the current format of the league's conference tournament, which starts next week, but a better format with a 14-team field remained elusive. Read about in the Daily Hampshire Gazette: Atlantic 10 men's hoop tourney format could be stronger

Atlantic 10 men's hoop tourney format could be stronger

The Atlantic 10 coaches don't seem to love the current format of the league's conference tournament, which starts next week, but a better format with a 14-team field remained elusive.

As it stands now, 12 of the league's 14 teams make the four-round tournament. The top four earn first-round byes. The next four get to host first round games, which are played on campus sites on March 8. The rest of the tournament is held March 11-13 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.

This will be the third season (not consecutive) that the league has played first-round games at home sites. It was done once in 2003 when Linda Bruno was still the commissioner. Because of poor attendance it was deemed a failure and all the games were moved back to a neutral site.

Under new commissioner Bernadette McGlade, they tried it again last year and are doing so again this year.

Duquesne coach Ron Everhart hoped the league would eventually bring all its members to one site for the event.

"I've always been a proponent of bringing everybody to the tournament at one site," Everhart said. "Other leagues can do it, I don't know why we can't."

The easiest way to add the last two teams to the field would be to take away the byes from the No. 3 and 4 teams and pair them against No. 13 and 14. If the whole tournament was played at one site, that would be difficult to schedule because it would require six first round games in one day in the same building.

But with the first round at home sites, it's not building logistics that's preventing No. 3 from hosting No. 14 and No. 4 hosting No. 13.

In most years, Atlantic 10's third and/or fourth best teams are on the NCAA Tournament bubble, while its No. 13 and 14 teams usually have poor rankings in the Ratings Percentage Index. If third-place Richmond, which has a bubble-worthy RPI of 62, had to play Fordham (RPI 250), the Spiders' RPI would go down even if it won the game.

First-year Fordham coach Tom Pecora supported leaving out the bottom two teams even though it meant his team wouldn't be in the tournament this year.

"I do understand the structure of it because it protects the teams that might have an opportunity for at-large bids," he said. "You don't want them to lose that opportunity. In a perfect world we'd all coach in leagues that didn't play unbalanced schedules and had a number of teams that fit perfectly into tournaments and so on and so on, but that's not the world we live in, so you have to deal."

Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli, whose team needs at least one more win to clinch a postseason bid, hoped the format would keep being examined.

"I think it has to really be studied," he said. "Protecting the upper seeds is important. I don't have a problem with 13 and 14 (being left out). I do understand the challenges that would go into everybody being in," he said. "Like every coach, I would want for all these kids to play in one more game, but I do understand and I accept that it's the way that it's laid out at this time. As a fan of the league I hope some of the road teams can get some wins because it puts a stamp that says this is all right."

ATLANTIC 10 GAME OF THE WEEK - Saint Joseph's at Charlotte, 2 p.m., Saturday - Unless St. Joe's upsets Richmond on Wednesday, the winner of this game will be the No. 12 seed in the A-10 Tournament and the loser will be out.

BRACKET POOL QUESTIONS - NCAA Tournament office pool managers will have a decision to make shortly. In previous years, most people could turn their brackets in by Thursday morning prior to the first round of games. The fact that the 64 vs. 65 game was played on Tuesday didn't really affect anything because nobody ever picked the winner of that game to beat the No. 1 seed later in the week.

But the advent of the four first-round games spread out over Tuesday and Wednesday creates other questions. In addition to four lower conference automatic bid teams playing for two No. 16 seeds, there will also be two games featuring at-large bid teams. One winner will get a No. 11 seed and the other a 12. One of those games will likely be played Tuesday and the other Wednesday.

Using Joe Lunardi's ESPN bracketology as an example, one of those games could feature Richmond vs. Alabama for a No. 11 seed. The winner would face No. 6 Texas A&M. It's not unrealistic to think that either of those teams might upset the Aggies. But will pool entrants get to know who won before entering their brackets? If the answer is yes, then everyone in the pool would have to enter late Wednesday night or Thursday morning before noon start times.

If no, everybody would have to enter between Sunday night and Tuesday evening. Both are small windows.

MILESTONE - Former UMass coach John Calipari won his 500th career game in Saturday's win over Florida. Of those 500, 193 came in eight seasons at UMass, 252 were in nine seasons at Memphis and 55 have come in two years at Kentucky.

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