The Atlantic Sun tournament was played in front of a near-capacity crowd at Mercer’s Hawkins Arena last March. Hawkins was chosen as the tourney site ahead of time, and the whole event played out there. The reported crowd of 4,394 was packed with Mercer fans who simply had to roll out of bed and find parking. Had the Bears not made the final game, the turnout might have been much less impressive.
It’s a scenario we’ve seen play out before with small-conference tourneys – two teams playing their only nationally televised meeting of the season in front of a handful of disinterested fans. The A-Sun, fresh off of the explosive NCAA showing of Florida Gulf Coast, is taking steps to make sure hot teams will henceforth be rewarded with home games and partisan crowds, which make for good TV when an auto-bid is on the line.
The Macon Daily Telegraph revealed the new tourney format.
The conference announced Friday that the men’s tournament championship will be played on campus sites, with each game at the home of the higher seed, giving more campuses and fan bases a chance to experience March Madness.
“We examined a number of options, with a focus on certain neutral site facilities where we might have played our men’s and women’s semifinal and championship rounds together,” A-Sun commissioner Ted Gumbart said in a statement. “After all the analysis, the rationale we applied to the decision of conducting our first rounds at the site of our higher seeds proved to be the prevailing rationale for the entire event.”
Had the new format been in place last season, the final would have still been played in Macon, since Mercer was the top overall seed, but earlier round games would have brought the March Madness atmosphere to the campuses of Stetson, Jacksonville and Dunk City itself along the way.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.
The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.
We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
- Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
- Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
- Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
- No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
- No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.
It’s Tuesday, which means that it is once again time for the NBC Sports Player of the Year Power Rankings.
And you’ll be shocked to find out that Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield is still No. 1 in those rankings. By a pretty wide margin.
The rest of the top 10?
They can be found here, at the CBT FaceBook page. Follow that page for the countdown: