Atlantic 10 Tournament Finals, Daily DiaryPosted by nvr1983 on March 11th, 2012
Three Bids? Four Bids?
If the nearly unanimous opinion leaving the Boardwalk Hall Saturday night was that Xavier was definitely “in”, the feeling was less certain as the Championship game wound toward a conclusion. Xavier looked like the January 24 edition rather than the March 10 edition. Saint Bonaventure had seized the automatic bid, had Xavier’s lackluster performance knocked them out of tournament? The Selection Committee must have liked their body of work, because Xavier drew a #10 seed in the South Region and will face fellow Midwesterner Notre Dame in the second round, while Saint Bonaventure drew the #14 seed (fitting for a team not even in the bubble discussion a week ago) in the East Region and will play Florida State in Nashville on Friday. Saint Louis and Temple were “in” to start the week, so elimination before the Championship game hurt at most a seed. Saint Louis was seeded #9 in the West Region and will face Memphis on Friday in Columbus and lastly Temple was seeded #5 in the Midwest Region and will face either California or South Florida (the winner of the #12 seed playoff in Dayton on Tuesday) on Friday, also in Nashville. The conference did draw 4 bids, the third time in conference history that four teams have made the field of 64 (or 68…). The conference has earned five bids twice, in 1996-97 and in 1997-98. This marks the 13th time in the last 17 post seasons that the conference has earned more than two bids.
The Gate, Again
The announced attendance for the Championship game was 6,101, as Saint Bonaventure fans from all over the Northeast drove in overnight to cheer their Bonnies on. The absence of the three Philadelphia teams did not appear to depress the attendance numbers as many feared, while the crowd, loud and enthusiastic from the introductions to the final buzzer gave the barrel-ceiling auditorium the intimate feel of a college campus arena.
Temple is Out, Who’s Got Next?
Though the Owls are due to play another season of basketball in the Atlantic-10, speculation has begun about who will replace Temple as the 14th member of the conference. Concern about presence in media markets have some looking at another New York metro area school while those concerned about quality of the basketball (what else?) program look elsewhere. New York metro area teams mentioned include Iona (too small perhaps) of the MAAC and Quinnipiac (located in Connecticut) of the NEC. Given the conference’s extremely large footprint, George Mason, a Virginia state school with excellent facilities and reputation, was also mentioned. The Patriots would make a good “traveling companion” for Charlotte, Richmond and George Washington. George Mason’s affiliation with the CAA, combined with their run to the Final Four in 2005-06, make it an attractive acquisition target for the A-10. Given Commissioner McGlade’s southern orientation (she spearheaded the move of the conference’s headquarters from Philadelphia to Virginia Beach when she became commissioner) gives credence to George Mason rumors. Another intriguing candidate, mentioned frequently, is Butler, the Horizon Conference power whose runs to the Final Four in 2010 and 2011 along with their historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, speak to a long and successful tradition in basketball.
The All-Tournament Team
Four of the five players named were members of the squads that played in the Championship game.
- Chaz Willams, point guard, Massachusetts
- Demitrius Conger, forward, Saint Bonaventure
- Mark Lyons, off guard, Xavier
- Tu Holloway, guard, Xavier
- Andrew Nicholson, forward/center, Saint Bonaventure
Nicholson was named tournament MVP, a nod to his 70-point performance over the three rounds of play. Nicholson broke the tournament record for blocks with 16 in games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and the record for blocks in a Championship game when he blocked eight Xavier field goal attempts.
Turning Out the Lights…
The Championship game marked the end of the conference’s six year run at the seaside resort-come-gambling mecca that sits near the southern cape of New Jersey. Boardwalk Hall, completed in 1929,originally hosted live summer regional theater for vacationing Philadelphians, has, over the years hosted numerous prize fights, the first indoor collegiate football game (it was a short field), an indoor helicopter flight and the Atlantic-10 men’s conference tournament. The interior maintains the seating layout reminiscent of the original live theater (and used today for concerts) with the original stage against the eastern wall. For the basketball tournament the operators took up the seats in the middle of the interior, laid down a parquet floor and constructed temporary seating at the eastern edge of
the basketball court. In all about 8,500 fans could be assured of decent sight lines to the court, though the tournament rarely attracted more than 6,000 fans. The Championship game this year, with an audience made up nearly exclusively of either Xavier or Saint Bonaventure fans, had the closest feel of a college basketball game yet. The Tournament Final, one of the most exciting and fiercely contested championship games in the six game set at the Convention Hall, seemed a fitting way to close out this particular era for the 82-year old facility.