A-10 commissioner: uncertainty still surrounds men’s basketball season

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The Atlantic 10 released its men’s basketball schedule on Wednesday, but league commissioner Bernadette McGlade made one thing clear: there is still uncertainty surrounding the season.

With conference play scheduled to begin at its usual time in late December, McGlade said that her staff has been continuously working on contingency plans to prepare for the winter.

“We considered punching up the schedule and going to 20 games or 22 games,” McGlade said. “We looked at bubbles, we looked at playing back-to-back at the same site… We tried to be really sensitive to the needs of our media partners and the needs of our facilities and campuses.”

McGlade said that the league had upwards of 10 potential solutions for its schedule, but decided against putting any of its teams in a bubble.

“It’s really tantilizing,” McGlade said of the possibility of an A-10 bubble. “We looked at a lot of locations, even on our own campuses. But the ability to create a bubble in the intercollegiate sense, and control everyone’s comings and goings, just didn’t seem workable as far as our collegiate model.”

McGlade said that the league appointed at COVID-19 medical advisory in May, on which each of the league’s 14 schools are represented.

The league has also been given the right, based on a vote by school athletic directors, to readjust the schedule at any time, or move games. This could potentially make the number of home and away games for each team uneven, McGlade said.

“That could include establishing a smaller pod in an area that isn’t a hotspot, or reversing the site of a game,” McGlade said.

While the league has avoided a “pod” or “bubble,” it’s not ruling out the possibility of needing to pivot to one mid-season.

McGlade also mentioned the possibility of adding more conference games if teams are unable to play the non-conference contests that they currently have scheduled. Each A-10 team has been budgeted seven non-conference games by the NCAA before league play begins.

The A-10 will have two “look-in windows” during which it will determine whether games should, and can, be added. These windows will be on Nov. 18 and Dec. 4.

“If there is a deterioration in our non-conference schedules, then we have the ability to add additional conference games if we need to at that point in time,” McGlade said. “Everyone in the league has agreed to that policy.”

McGlade said that the league has already picked potential dates on which additional games could be added.

The A-10 has also set a minimum testing standard that schools can individually decide to expand on. To meet league standards, however, players and coaches will need to be tested three times per week, and on non-consecutive days.

The number of fans that will be allowed into games will be left up to member institutions, as well, McGlade said.

“We have some institutions that, as of right now, have zero public attendance,” she said. “Others have 10% of their indoor capacity, and one or two that have 15% of indoor capacity.”

None of the league’s schools, she said, are currently set to fill 50% or more of their arenas. St. Bonaventure University announced on Wednesday that, for the time being, no fans will be permitted at home games at the Reilly Center to start the season.

SBU was picked by the press to finish fourth in the A-10 this season, behind Richmond, Saint Louis and Dayton, respectfully. McGlade said that she thought the league would be “stronger than ever” this season, and Bona head coach Mark Schmidt agreed.

“(The A-10) can compete with any league in this country,” Schmidt said. “The hope is that we can get three or four A-10 teams in the NCAA tournament.”

SBU is scheduled to begin A-10 play against Saint Louis, with a date and time to be determined, before hosting Duquesne on Dec. 30.

“I think every team in this league, other than Richmond, has a chip on their shoulder,” Schmidt said. “Nobody wants to be picked number one. At the end of the year, hopefully we’re number one.”

The Bonnies will begin non-conference play on Nov. 25 against Towson, the first of four games that they will play in a bubble at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.

Atlantic 10 tournament canceled over Coronavirus fears

By Jeff Uveino

BROOKLYN, NY — The remainder of the Atlantic 10 men’s basketball tournament was canceled on Thursday minutes before the tournament’s first game of the day was scheduled to start at Barclays Center.

No. 8 Massachusetts and No. 9 VCU were set for a noon tip-off to start the day’s action, until it was announced at 11:59 a.m. that the tournament would not be played due to fears over the Coronavirus.

“It was a very difficult decision, and you can probably hear that in my voice,” A-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade said while calling in to the league press conference on Thursday. “The precautionary decision making done to protect our student athletes, family members and the public is something that I think everyone in the country is doing right now.”

The conference had announced on Wednesday night that the tournament would be played without fans in attendance. McGlade said that at that point, she knew that canceling the tournament was a possibility, but hoped that it would not be necessary.

“You always hate to pull people off the court, but the right decision was made, even in the last hour,” said Thorr Bjorn, athletic director at Rhode Island and the chair of the A-10 athletic directors. “This was a preventative decision, not a reactionary one.”

The news came as NCAA conferences around the nation announced that they would not hold their respective tournaments.

“Two minutes left in the warmup, you’re on the court and locked in, and then no game,” VCU coach Mike Rhodes said. “It’s surreal. The reality of it is, you can’t win every game, but your responsibility as a coach is to keep your players healthy and safe.”

Rhodes said that the decision was especially tough to swallow for his senior players.

“There weren’t any dry eyes in our locker room,” Rhodes said. “When our seniors sat down and realized they wouldn’t be putting on a uniform again, that was tough.”

McGlade, who had called in to from an NCAA Selection Committee meeting, said that she is uncertain whether the NCAA tournament will be the next event to be impacted.

“All of the leadership executives within the NCAA and our committee are very attentive and attuned to everything that’s going on, and looking at all of the impactful information that’s coming on as we are charged with taking care of our responsibilities.”