The A-10 office announced Thursday night the shortening of the conference men’s basketball season and a venue shift for the semifinals and final of the league tournament. Those rounds were scheduled to be played at the University of Richmond’s Robins Center.
Spiders coach Chris Mooney and John Hardt, the school’s vice president and director of athletics, on Saturday expressed disappointment in those actions. The A-10 moved the start of the men’s tournament from March 10 to March 3, citing the need for “flexibility for the league to adjust to any unforeseen COVID-19 interruption.” That change eliminated at least two regular-season games for each team.
Among the games cut was VCU’s visit to UR on March 6. When the teams played Wednesday, VCU won 68-56 at the Siegel Center.
“I don’t understand how it benefits the conference,” said Mooney. “We need games. We need opportunities to play. We need opportunities to play against the best teams we can possibly play, and so does VCU, St. Bonaventure, and Saint Louis, and Davidson.”
Those are the league’s best candidates for at-large bids to the NCAA tournament. A VCU-UR game “means a lot to both programs, the city of Richmond,” said Mooney. “We switched venues to play at the Siegel Center the other night, and the next day, a return game was canceled. And that’s a great game for both teams.
“We should be playing VCU, and that was the game that was on the books ... We should be playing VCU for the benefit of both schools, both programs, both fan bases, and the Atlantic 10.”
Mooney added that the league’s Thursday announcement was “a total shock” to him.
Hardt, in an email response to questions, wrote, “In the discussions leading up to the league’s decision, I was a vigorous advocate for staying with the original tournament schedules and not reducing the number of regular-season games. Due to the interruptions and pauses caused by the pandemic, I believe the Spiders would have benefited from being able to play more regular-season A-10 games.”
The league announced on Jan. 28 that the tournament semifinals and championship game would be played at the Robins Center, with VCU’s Siegel Center and UR sharing other tourney games. On Thursday night, that changed to the tournament starting a week earlier, the title game being played at Dayton on March 14, and the semifinals being played at the Siegel Center “due to facility scheduling,” according to the league.
Hardt responded: “We had worked with the A-10 staff to resolve all facility issues and were ready to host whichever rounds and games that were assigned to us in co-hosting the tournament.”
An A-10 spokesperson said Saturday that Bernadette McGlade, the league commissioner, would likely be available Monday to address these topics.