Atlantic 10 Tournament Semifinals, Daily DiaryPosted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2012
Joe Dzuback filed this report from the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Coach Rick Majerus is a Gentleman. The Saint Louis coach was as effusive in his praise of Xavier, winners over his Saint Louis team earlier today, as he was of La Salle, the Billikens quarterfinal victim on Friday. The coach began each of his postgame press conferences this weekend with complementary remarks about the play and dedication of their opponents. The referee crew assessed Saint Louis player Brian Conklin with a “Flagrant 1” foul early in the second half, effectively benching Saint Louis’ man in the middle for another precious five minutes during a crucial part of the second half. The call put Tu Holloway on the line and gave the ball back to Xavier. Given how miserly Saint Louis is with possessions, giving the ball back to Xavier must have hurt at least as much as the free throws. When asked about that call and some of the other no-calls at the end of regulation, Majerus, in a sharp contrast to NC State Coach Mark Gottfried’s postgame comments, blamed himself for not being more demanding on his players.
Two, Three or Four? Speculation over the number of bids the conference could get took a dramatic turn this afternoon when Xavier eliminated Saint Louis in its semifinal game. Both Temple and Saint Louis will get at-large bids, leaving the third bid to go to the conference tournament winner tomorrow. If, as suggested by RTC’s Zach Hayes and CBSSports’ Jerry Palm, Xavier is in, then a Saint Bonaventure win tomorrow should bring a fourth bid to the conference. Will the Selection Committee see it that way? The conference final is played on Sunday and for the last two postseasons, the Selection Committee appears to have set the conference’s seeds on Saturday night rather than working out alternative scenarios that might account for multiple outcomes. By seeding the 2009-10 tournament champion Temple #5 and runner-up Xavier #6, and the 2010-11 tournament champion Richmond on the #12 seed line, the committee appears to settle on a compromise seeding that would account for either outcome (a Temple or Xavier win in the 2009-10 conference tournament and Richmond or Dayton win in the 2010-11 conference tournament) in the conference tournament championship game. Will the committee develop a “compromise seed line” this time around? According to virtually every bracketologist near a microphone tonight, Xavier’s win over Saint Louis seals a bid for the Muskies irrespective of tomorrow’s outcome. Of course having Xavier Athletic Director Mike Bobinski on the Selection Committee should also help motivate the committee to do its homework.
The Gate. When the three Philadelphia teams went out on Friday several in the media wondered who would come to see the remaining games. The announced attendance Saturday was 6,784, about 79% of Boardwalk Hall’s seating capacity, 800 better than the announced attendance yesterday, and even better than the 2010-11 attendance at the conference finals. Massachusetts, Xavier and Saint Louis traveled well. The fanbases from those three schools was large, loud and present. Saint Bonaventure’s fans could be heard throughout the arena as the Bonnies closed out against Massachusetts earlier today.
Are the Owls Looking Ahead to the Big East? Temple was offered a membership in the power conference in the last weeks of this season, and its basketball teams will compete there starting in 2013. Since the announcement, Temple squeaked by crosstown rival La Salle (80-79 in overtime), was drubbed by their other crosstown rival Saint Joseph’s (72-82), squeaked by Massachusetts at home (90-88 in overtime), and then lost to the Minutemen, 77-71, in the quarterfinal rematch Friday. Talk around the arena late yesterday and earlier today was that the team looked at the Big East invitation as “Mission Accomplished” for this season. Coach Fran Dunphy has about a week to get the team’s attention and focus again on the basketball for what is left of this season.
The Tu of Old. The Xavier senior was a co-favorite to win the conference player of the year award for the second consecutive season. The Brawl, and most particularly the postgame press conference in which the guard mounted a very misguided defense of his and his teammates’ conduct at the end of the game, sent his, along with his team’s, season veering off on a very different course. Coming into the conference quarterfinals, the Musketeers were very much a team on the bubble, a very unfamiliar situation for this program. With their come-from-behind 70-69 win over Dayton and their more decisive 71-64 win over Saint Louis, a team that beat them twice convincingly during the season, the Musketeers and their floor leader seem to have found their way. Holloway has logged 77 minutes in the two games and scored 21 points in each. He has grabbed 10 rebounds and dished five dimes while committing only a single foul. The guard has emerged, along with Saint Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson, as a virtual lock for the All-Tournament Team and serious consideration as Tournament MVP.