By JOSH NEWMAN
Special to ZAGSBLOG As usual, the Big East Tournament takes center stage at Madison Square Garden this week for the final time as we currently know it.The Atlantic-10, after years of switching venues and fighting for respect and a larger profile, is taking a leap of faith by moving its conference tournament to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, just seven miles from Madison Square Garden. With conference realignment dominating headlines, it’s merely a coincidence that the A-10’s move to New York City comes at a time when the Big East Tournament will never have a higher profile with cornerstones Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame set to leave for the ACC. The venue change to Barclays Center will mark the 19th time the Atlantic-10 Tournament has changed venues since the event’s inception since 1977. With a move to the largest media market on the planet after five mostly-apathetic years at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, this is a crucial move for a conference that is likely to get raided by the new Big East. “My guys feel like with the tourney moving to Brooklyn, it has elevated us even a couple notches on the national scene,” University of Massachusetts head coach Derek Kellogg said on Monday morning via conference call. “This gives us a good mystique and for the league, a big time feel to it. I believe everybody going to Brooklyn feels its one of the top media markets in the world. We can get the metropolitan area to recognize the A-10 and open up a lot of respect we deserve nationally.” It is sure to be an interesting dynamic in New York City this week. The Big East is the Big East, but the Atlantic-10 has proven itself over time, despite the constant movement of the conference tournament and the fight for respect, to be one of the better non-BCS Conferences in the country. The A-10 currently ranks No. 7 in terms of conference RPI, which is ahead of the SEC and behind the other five BCS Conferences plus the Mountain West. Despite the Big East Tournament being nearby, A-10 Director of Media Relations and Communications Drew Dickerson said that there were more requests for media credentials than any other year in recent memory. One other factor that can only help the A-10’s profile with the move to Brooklyn is the presence of multiple teams that are likely NCAA Tournament-bound. As of now, Butler, VCU, LaSalle, St. Louis and Temple are all projected to make the field. “That certainly will be interesting with two tournaments going on at the same time,” VCU head coach Shaka Smart. “These are really good tournaments going on. If you mixed it up and played Big East teams against A-10 teams, I don’t think it would be a one-sided affair. Hopefully, there will be a great amount of attention given to both tournaments this week.” Tournament play will open Thursday with four first-round games, followed by four quarterfinals on Friday. A semifinal doubleheader is slated for Saturday afternoon beginning at 1:30 p.m., with Sunday’s final set for 1 p.m. The top four seeds, St. Louis, VCU, Temple and LaSalle, all have byes straight to Friday’s quarterfinals. “Barclays Center has a buzz about it,” LaSalle head coach Dr. John Giannini said. “It’s the newest, great arena for basketball around certainly you have a lot of star power with the people that frequent it. It’s an NBA arena, the media capital of the world and I think it’s a great move by the A-10. I think the players are looking forward to it more than anyone else.” Follow Josh Newman on Twitter
Special to ZAGSBLOG As usual, the Big East Tournament takes center stage at Madison Square Garden this week for the final time as we currently know it.