Dayton Flyers season preview: A-10 changes tournament format for first time in years

Conference will now have a ‘final four weekend’ with one day to hype the four remaining teamns

EDITOR’S NOTE: David Jablonski is counting down to the Dayton men’s basketball season opener on Nov. 7 with 25 pieces (one every day until Nov. 7) previewing the 2022-23 season,. This is the second story.

The Atlantic 10 Conference always gives out small gifts to reporters at preseason media day and at the conference tournament. Over the years, there have been coffee mugs, bluetooth speakers and glasses with A-10 logos. I’ve passed on many of these gifts to Dayton fans who take my part in my guess-the-score contest.

On Thursday in Brooklyn, anyone in attendance at A-10 Media Day left the Barclays Center with a can cooler. It’s got the A-10 logo on the side, of course, and a suction cup on the bottom if you want to keep your can upright and cold at the same time. It’s not an item anyone really needs, but it’s something that could come in handy — and the same could be said about a change coming to the A-10 tournament in March.

The A-10 announced in September the four teams that reach the semifinals will get a day off before their games. The earlier rounds will move up a day with the bottom seeds playing Tuesday (March 7 this season), the second round taking place Wednesday and the quarterfinals on Thursday before a rest day Friday.

Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade explained the change at a press conference Thursday during A-10 Media Day. With 15 teams in the league, this was a good time to look at the format and think about making a change that would benefit the teams competing for NCAA or NIT berths.

McGlade used the example of Richmond, which won the tournament last season by winning four games in four days and then played in the NCAA tournament four days later. It beat Iowa in the first round before losing to Providence.

Saint Louis also won four games in four days in 2019 to win the tournament and lost to Virginia Tech five days later in the NCAA tournament. Virginia Commonwealth faced a similar scenario in 2015, losing to Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA tournament after winning four games in four days in Brooklyn.

The A-10 wanted to build in a day of rest to help teams in that situation.

“Traveling and then competing is tremendously stressful and just physically daunting,” McGlade said.

Making the change wasn’t simple.

“We knew there’d be a lot of moving parts,” McGlade said, “because we had our TV partners and our contract with the Barclays Center and hotel contracts. We had all of our commitments. We didn’t know if we’d be able to build in a day off, and we looked at Saturday. That wasn’t possible.”

The opportunity to play the championship game on Selection Sunday with CBS broadcasting it, as it has for many years, is so important for the A-10 it didn’t consider changing the weekend schedule.

Ultimately, the Barclays Center gave the conference an extra day at the arena, and the TV partners also endorsed the change. There will be four games Wednesday and four more Thursday on the USA Network. The final two days of games didn’t change with two semifinals on CBS Sports Network on Saturday, March 11, and the championship game on CBS on Selection Sunday, which is March 12 in 2023.

Although the off day could hurt attendance in the earlier rounds if fans decide they don’t want to spend an extra day on the road with no games on the schedule, it could also help attendance for the semifinals because fans will have a day to make travel plans if their team advances.

“Those four teams will qualify for essentially what will be a final four weekend,” McGlade said. “On Friday, they’ll be able to practice and do some media will be able to set the stage for an A-10 final four weekend.”

The coaches I talked to Thursday about the change had mixed feelings. VCU’s Mike Rhoades thinks it will take the advantage away from the top four seeds, who get a double bye to the quarterfinals.

“We’ll see,” Rhoades said. “If it creates more fanfare and more national attention, great. You’ve got to change at times and be different and be out in the forefront, but let’s have an open discussion at the end and see if it’s worth it or not.”

St. Bonaventure’s Mark Schmidt, whose team won the championship at UD Arena in 2021 in a tournament like no other with a week of rest between the semifinals at VCU and the final game in Dayton, approves of the change.

“The games will be better because you’ll have more preparation with a little bit of rest time,” Schmidt said. “I like it. think it’s a positive for us.”

About the Author