Atlantic 10 Women's Title Game Joining Men's Semifinals at Brooklyn's Barclays Center
By Mel Greenberg
The Atlantic 10 women's basketball tournament is about to have a dramatic alteration when it is held this March and the conference announced the change Thursday morning.
The first three rounds through the semifinals will return to the campus of Saint Joseph's at the Hawks' Hagan Arena as they were held last season in what was one of the more successful events.
It was the first time the A-10s were in Hagan since the ugrade from the venue's previous designation as Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse.
But what will be different is following the semifinals results, the two surviving teams will head home, or, in the case of the Philly membership group if one or two are still alive, remain home until the following Saturday when the championship will be decided at the new Barclays Center Arena in Brooklyn, N.Y., as a tripleheader with the semifinals of the men's tournament. The women will play at 7 p.m.
"I really want to do a big splash with our first year and this is an opportunity to really do something great in terms of the experience for our women," Atlantic 10 commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade recently told the Guru, cautioning at the time that the change was not sealed, contracts still had to be signed and ESPN, which has televised the title game at 5 p.m. on a late Monday afternoon, had to be on board with switch.
The Barclays Center is configured for 18,200 seats for basketball.
"We defintely wanted to be back at St. Joe's because there was nothing but positive feedback from last year's tournament, but this is an opportunity to then extend the event into a great setting in the New York market."
McGlade said the coaches were informed of the plan at the spring meetings and all seemed on board with it.
"We heard things like 'high risk but high reward,'" McGlade said.
(Aside, the Guru is thrilled if this happens because he now gets freed up to get to the Big East semifinals without abandoning the A-10).
"People have never been totally happy with the 5 p.m. start," McGlade said, referring to a time which negatively impacted attendance. But that was the only way to get slotted by ESPN and conference officials felt it was important to get that exposure.
The A-10 women's title game will be the first women's event to be played in the Barclays Center, which will be the new home of the former NBA New Jersey Nets.
"I think it's a super idea," said new George Washington coach Jonathan Tsipis, the former Notre Dame associate head coach who will be guiding the Colonials in the nation's capital.
"I mean, how many times do you get a chance to play in a brand new NBA arena? I think it's great for the athletes involved. You have to try something different.
Obviously I wasn't here, but I don't think them going to Lowell, Mass., several years ago and playing in front of a handful of people was a great experience, other than the winner was guaranteed to be going to the NCAA tournament."
Of course another upside is that if a school had both its men's and women's teams in the finals, that situation wouldcause a major boost to attendance.
"The subway stop is right there if people don't want to drive to New York and outside on the plaza we already had plans for entertainment for the men's tournament," McGlade said.
The men's and women's tournaments will be the last chance for Temple to win titles again in the conference before heading for the Big East next season.
Saint Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin talked positively about the proposed move last week before the Hawks departed for Ireland where they are currently on an exhibition tour.
"I like it," Griffin said. "First, we're back here and I know everyone had a good time and we had great crowds and the atmosphere was electric."
Though Saint Bonventure made the NCAA field as an at-large team, Dayton upset the Bonnies in the title game putting a dent on what had been a landmark season.
"And the rest is great," Griffin said. "Especially for the lower seeded teams advancing from the first round. I mean four games in four days (to win it) is really strenuous."
When recently reached, Xavier coach Amy Waugh, who took over her alma mater last season, noted, “I think it's great for the student-athletes to have the chance to compete for the championship in Brooklyn.
" It sounds like the arena will be fantastic, and the opportunity to visit that area while also playing for a title will be very special. Obviously it will be a different schedule in terms of preparation between the semifinal and final rounds, but I think it's an adjustment that, if managed well, can be an advantage in the postseason.”
The Guru now heads to Newark, N.J., for Thursday night's WNBA game between the New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun.
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