Back in late March the Atlantic 10 deciding to move its conference tournament from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2017 and 2018 to allow the ACC to move its annual event north, with the A-10 also receiving benefits in non-conference scheduling in the future. What was left to be determined is where the A-10 will play its men’s basketball tournament in 2017 and 2018, and on Thursday, the league made it official.
Pittsburgh will host the 2017 Atlantic 10 tournament with Washington, D.C. getting the honor the following season.
Both cities have quality arenas to host the event, with Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh and the Verizon Center in D.C. And there are Atlantic 10 members in both cities as well, with Duquesne being located in Pittsburgh and George Washington in the nation’s capital. Also of note with regards to Washington, D.C. is the fact that George Mason is located in nearby Fairfax, Virginia and Richmond (where both Richmond and VCU are located) is about two hours away.
The Verizon Center will host three different conference tournaments from 2016 to 2018, with the ACC there in 2016 and the Big Ten the following year due to the addition of new member Maryland.
After spending two seasons away from the Barclays Center the Atlantic 10 tournament will return in 2019, with that portion of the agreement running through 2021. Among the benefits received by the Atlantic 10 in exchange for the move are doubleheaders against ACC teams in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and an annual spot in the Brooklyn Hoops events held at the arena.
After a subpar 2011-12 campaign the Pittsburgh Panthers rebounded some in 2012-13, returning to the NCAA tournament and finishing the season with a 24-9 record. But with leading scorer Tray Woodall (11.5 ppg, 5.1 apg), forward J.J. Moore (8.0 ppg) and centers Steven Adams (7.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Dante Taylor (5.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg) all gone, head coach Jamie Dixon has some holes to fill as the Panthers begin life in the ACC.
One important question that needs answering is who will do the majority of the scoring, and Sunday’s Blue-Gold Scrimmage may have provided one of the answers. Cameron Wright’s half-court shot in the final seconds gave the Blue team a 68-67 victory, and the basket capped a 27-point afternoon for the 6-foot-4 guard. Wright shot 9-for-15 from the field (7-for-7 FT) while also accounting for six rebounds and five assists (two turnovers).
“Cameron really stood out today,” Dixon said. “He really played well today. He’s stronger, faster and in better shape and has a better understanding of what we’re trying to do.”
Talib Zanna was the other double-digit scorer on the Blue team as he finished with 19 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, and Lamar Patterson led three Gold team players in double figures with 17 points. Rutgers transfer Derrick Randall tallied 11 rebounds to go along with his seven points for the Gold.
Scrimmages should be taken with a grain of salt, but Wright’s outing should be seen as a step in the right direction for a player who averaged just 14.6 minutes per game last season (4.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg). Wright finished the 2012-13 season with a possession percentage of 16.8% per kenpom.com, but with three of the Panthers’ top five players in this category gone there will be opportunities for Wright (sophomore guard James Robinson, too) in 2013-14. The question is whether or not players like Wright take advantage of those opportunities.
With veterans such as Patterson and Zanna in the front court the Panthers will have the experience needed to battle some of the ACC’s top interior players, but how successful the Panthers are could boil down to how efficient they are offensively. Pitt was second in the Big East in offensive efficiency (conference games) last season, and if they can put together a similar performance despite some key losses the Panthers could factor into the ACC race in 2013-14.
Last season the Pittsburgh Panthers opened up their season in a way that few programs have in recent years: they went outside. To celebrate the school’s 225th year Jamie Dixon’s squad practiced between the Cathedral of Learning and the William Pitt Union on Bigelow Boulevard, a night complete with the head coach dressed up as Jackie Moon from the moving “SemiPro.”
(Note: Dixon didn’t do any singing at the event, and if you’ve seen “SemiPro” you know the song.)
To open things up this season the Panthers will once again play basketball in an unfamiliar environment, this time doing so at Stage AE on September 28 with the action scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Stage AE is a facility that sits adjacent to Heinz Field, which will allow Pitt fans to take in the festivities (including player skits and a dunk contest) prior to the football team hosting Virginia in its annual Homecoming game.
Homecoming’s always a good time to stage such events given how many people make the effort to return to campus to relive their college days and catch up with friends they likely haven’t seen in years, so that should enhance the atmosphere for Pitt’s public practice. Add to that the fact that Dixon’s program will be doing so before a football game against a conference opponent (and the tailgaters should be ready considering the fact that kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. EST), and this has the potential to be an exciting day for Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh’s announcement of “Morning Madness” also came with a video of Coach Dixon donning “his” Flint Tropics warmups, and it will be interesting to see if Jackie Moon makes an appearance for the second consecutive year. The Panthers, who finished the 2012-13 season with a record of 24-9, will play their first season as an ACC member with three returning starters including forward Lamar Patterson and guard James Robinson.
h/t CBS Sports