On Monday, the Atlantic 10 announced a rather intriguing bit of news. For the first time in six years, the conference was moving its tournament to a new location -- and not just any old gym. The Barclays Center, the Nets' new glimmering arena in Brooklyn, was the locale.
The idea is to get A-10 hoops on the minds of more New York City basketball fans. In the past, the A-10 tourney -- despite featuring a good basketball league with nationally competitive programs like Xavier and Temple -- has been an afterthought easily outshone by the glare of the Big East's annual 16-team romp in Madison Square Garden. Not only does this allow the A-10 to make an official annual foray into New York. It's also an opportunity for the A-10 to subtly position itself as the Big East's equal, if not in skill then at least in stature.
Needless to say, Atlantic 10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade is pretty stoked on the big move:
"It gives us the opportunity to come into a brand-new facility that has all the amenities that sports fans expect," commissioner Bernadette McGlade said. "Bringing it into the New York market and into Brooklyn, with the density of population and the density of our Atlantic 10 alumni base, is certainly going to put everything in place to really catapult this championship to the next level.
"The talent is there; the games have been there. Now we have to be able to expose it and brand it better."
When the news was announced Monday, I wasn't so sure the A-10 was looking at the New York market the right way. Does a decidedly pro sports city with one marquee conference tournament really care about the A-10, even if it's at that fancy new arena in Brooklyn? Then I read this sentence in the above Associated Press story, and I realized why the A-10 had to jump on the opportunity no matter what:
Last season's final between Richmond and Dayton at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. -- the event's home going on six years -- drew an announced crowd of 5,602 in a facility that holds 10,500.
That is some drastically bad attendance for a proud hoops league's conference tournament. Maybe New York fans won't rush to the Barclays to see Fordham take on Drexel, but ... well, what if they do? Forget grand designs on winning a consistent share of the New York market's attention; that will never happen. But the A-10 had to do something about its conference tournament. This move seems like the best of all possible outcomes.
Plus, anytime you can play your league tourney in an arena that will be "christened" by Jay-Z when it opens in September 12, you make that move. Hov has plenty of swag to go around.