THE ATLANTIC 10 Tournament has been a wanderer since it began in 1977. It would be easier to name the arenas where the prelims and finals have not been played than to name them. The tournament has not been a model of stability.
The league recently sent out Request for Purchase (RFP) agreements to a number of venues for 2010. The list, the Daily News has learned, includes the Palestra, where the tournament had its greatest extended run of acceptance from 1989 to 1995 at a time when the league was as hot as it has ever been.
During the years when the quarters and semis were held at the Palestra (the final went to the campus site of the higher remaining seed), those were hot tickets. Anybody who was there remembered the feel of the place.
The league went to the Civic Center in 1996 and then the Spectrum from 1997 to 2002. It was never the same as the Palestra. No juice. Lots of empty seats.
Then, it was Dayton, Cincinnati, and the last 2 years, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, where it will be held in March.
The A-10 left the Palestra because of the amenities, or lack of them. Little parking, no corporate areas, not much room for media. All true, but I was never sure the serious Philly hoops fans cared about that. They love the building and they want to see good hoops. And the A-10, back in those days, gave them exactly what they wanted.
"We've opened it up for bidding," A-10 associate commissioner Ray Cella said. "We're getting the bids in now. We're putting a committee together and then we'll present it to everybody to make a decision."
The RFP, Cella said, went out to "double digit" places.
How much interest there is from the University of Pennsylvania is unclear at this point.
"We identified places that we thought would be interested in bidding for the tournament and also places we wouldn't mind holding the tournament," Cella said.
Atlantic City has worked very well in its 2 years. Boardwalk Hall remains very much in the mix for the future.
Starting in 2010, the opening-round games will be played on a Tuesday at campus sites. The quarters, semis and final will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the final being telecast on CBS, the afternoon of the NCAA Tournament Selection Show.
"We just felt like we wanted to see what's out there," Cella said. "It doesn't mean we're turning our backs on anybody."
So, could the A-10 go back to the future and play its tournament not far from its Center City headquarters at the Palestra? Stay tuned.
One choice, big change
When Jameer Nelson chose Saint Joseph's over Temple in 1999, the Hawks began a domination of the Owls that lasted until last season. Prior to Nelson's arrival on Hawk Hill, John Chaney's team had owned St. Joe's.
Could Lavoy Allen have a similar impact on the series? When the Owls sophomore chose Temple over St. Joe's, among others, it was not clear exactly what it meant. It is becoming clearer now.
Allen has a very high skill level. More important, he does not make many fundamental mistakes, especially on defense. He has an understanding of the game that coaches really appreciate.
If you happen to be at a Temple game, do yourself a favor. When the other team is on offense, don't watch the ball. Watch Allen. See what he sees. Try to anticipate as he does. If a teammate gets beat off the bounce, Allen is there, always in position to stop a play or at least make the dribbler reconsider.
It is what Dante Cunningham does for Villanova. Basically, it is a basketball trait that helps your team win games. Which, in some quarters, is still the object.
Got the message
Syracuse got the message the NCAA Tournament committee has been sending them the last few years - leave home early in the season and play somebody. After being left out of the NCAA for precisely that reason the last 2 years, Syracuse went to Kansas City last month to play Florida and Kansas. The Orange not only played the games; it won the games.
So, if the 'Cuse (8-0) finishes somewhere in the middle of the Big East pack (and it could do much better), it will be a lock for an NCAA at-large bid.
Even a winning record in a BCS conference is no longer enough to get an at-large bid, if a team does not go out and play a few live opponents in the nonconference portion of its schedule.
How good is the Big East?
Really, really good. For the first time in the history of the Associated Press poll, eight teams from one conference were ranked last week - Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Louisville, Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown and Marquette.
Top of the A-10
Xavier is 7-0 with wins over Missouri, Virginia Tech and Memphis. Dayton is 8-0 with a win over Marquette. The Flyers, by the way, are 21-2 with Chris Wright in the lineup. Wright, remember, was the very talented freshman who was injured right at the start of the A-10 season last January. After a great start with several quality wins, the Flyers fell off dramatically after Wright got hurt.
Champs go young
Kansas (7-1) lost just about everybody of note from its championship team. So, nine of its top 11 scorers are freshmen or sophomores. Junior Sherron Collins is the leading scorer.
Freshman guard Tyshawn Taylor, from Bob Hurley's St. Anthony's (N.J.) powerhouse, has been a revelation. Taylor originally signed with Marquette, but got out of his commitment when coach Tom Crean went to Indiana.
As for the Morris twins from Prep Charter, Marcus averages 8.8 points and 6.5 rebounds while Markieff gets 5.9 points and 5.6 rebounds.
This and that
In case you are just now joining the hoops season, there have been some wild numbers in the opening weeks, including ...
* The first six games for Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, in which he went off 24 points and 18 rebounds, followed by 20 and 19, 25 and 21, 35 and 21, 32 and 15, 18 and 21.
* Dayton's 60-59 OT win against Auburn when the Flyers went 0-for-24 from the arc while also making their final 15 free throws.
* Maryland needed a late basket to get to overtime against Vermont and then proceeded to score the first 17 points of OT.
* Oklahoma (8-0) shooting 46 free throws to only five for Purdue in the preseason NIT final. The Sooners won, 87-82, in OT.
* The Curry brothers (Seth is a freshman at Liberty, if you don't know the other one, you are reading the wrong column) are averaging 52.3 points between them. Seth averages 21.4 points and the amazing Stephen averages 31.3 for Davidson, despite the bizarre shutout when Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos decided to double-team Stephen and get crushed in a 4-on-3 game. Going into last night's game at Madison Square Garden against West Virginia, Stephen Curry was shooting 50.4 percent overall, 40.9 percent from the arc (the extra foot is not exactly a factor) and 87.7 percent from the foul line. He also has 45 assists and 19 turnovers in his new point-guard role.
* Penn has come closer than anybody to beating North Carolina. Not that the Quakers were close, losing by 15. The Tar Heels might have a chance to make the playoffs in the NBA's Eastern Conference. They are averaging 97.0 points and giving up 66.6. Point guard Ty Lawson has 55 assists and nine turnovers. And UNC is not playing a bunch of directional schools.