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Monday, September 26, 2011
A-10 tourney gets fancy new digs

By Eamonn Brennan

This certainly isn't the biggest news story of the decade, but on a drastically slow news day like this one -- we're officially in that late-September, early-October "calm before the storm" portion of the college hoops calendar -- it's interesting enough to warrant discussion.

Basically, the Atlantic 10 Conference is moving its tournament to the brand-new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Some chap named Andy Katz has the story:
The Atlantic 10 Conference will move its men's basketball tournament to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn beginning with the 2013 tournament, a source with direct knowledge told ESPN.com. [...] A-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade is making attempts to get the A-10 more exposure in New York. The league is hosting its media day in Brooklyn on Oct. 13.

The Barclays Center's operations staff no doubt want it to become the entertainment and sports destination in New York City. That may never happen; Madison Square Garden is, well Madison Square Garden. But the Barclays can make a point -- hey, look at us, we're good at this hosting thing! -- by holding a really good, well-run A-10 tournament. From there, larger contracts, like a potential deal with the Big East or the suddenly New York-inclined ACC, could be soon to follow.

As for the A-10, it's sort of a no-brainer. If you're the A-10, and your stated goal is to earn more exposure in New York City, this is probably the best -- maybe the only -- way to do it. The larger question is whether the Atlantic 10 should really worry about New York exposure in the first place. In the midst of the conference realignment hysteria, the New York Times's Nate Silver wrote a fantastic blog post that delved into the various market dynamics of college football teams. It wasn't his main conclusion, but Silver found that college football fans are highly localized, and that it's not necessarily an advantage for a conference to have a team in a large market, because fans from large markets like New York City and Chicago have hopelessly divided football loyalties. (Plus, they tend to care more about the area's pro teams, while fans in Columbus, Ohio, have no such worries.)

Whether that theory applies to New York-area hoops is another matter entirely. At the end of the day, as an East Coast league with a quasi-mid-major bent, this might be the best thing the Atlantic 10 can do to increase its profile. What else is there?

Anyway, it will be interesting to watch, if only because the Barclays could be the nexus of the new Big East-ACC feud. Former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese scoffed at ACC commissioner John Swofford's interest in having the ACC tournament in the Garden. But what about the Barclays? Could the ACC hold a rival tournament at the same time in the same city as the Big East? With the new palace in Brooklyn, the idea is feasible. In that way, the minor institutional drama of conference realignment will stay with us, whether these conferences continue to realign or not.