Some have the luxury of an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament – a free pass into the Holy Grail of college basketball.
Others, like the men’s basketball team, take the long road. The Atlantic Ten Conference Championship, held March 11-14 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., is the Owls’ last gamble at the field of 65.
If you’re not spending spring break in Jamaica, Mexico or another exotic retreat, perhaps you’ll want to take a weekend trip with coach Fran Dunphy and senior guard Dionte Christmas.
The Cherry and White will be represented in the 12-team Tournament and are currently looking at a four or five seed. They are 17-11 overall, 9-5 in the A-10. Last season, it was a string of victories over La Salle, Charlotte and Saint Joseph’s that gave the Owls their first A-10 Championship since 2001.
For a repeat performance, the Owls will need a bit of support from the fan base. Here are a few pointers for making yourself at home away from home.
If the Owls finish with one of the top four seeds, they get a bye. That will leave three teams in the way of winning it all.
What that also means is that they start play on Thursday during either the noon doubleheader or the 6:30 p.m. one. In the event the Owls don’t earn the bye, they will tip it off during one of the same times on Wednesday. Stay tuned to this week’s two games (St. Joseph’s and George Washington) to know when to make travel arrangements.
Should I stay or should I go
The traditional debate is this: Stay overnight at the Tropicana Hotel or another fancy residence or cram into the car for several days straight. Obviously, this depends on the Owls’ performance, so let’s take a look at the numbers.
According to MapQuest, the ride is two hours, 26 minutes roundtrip. It’s just more than 62 miles each way—not too shabby. The Tropicana maintains modest figures during the week at around $49 per night. During the weekend, prices jump up to $149 per night. If you’re feeling lucky, maybe a few nights on the blackjack table wouldn’t be so bad.
So long as you’re 21.
A group of heavyweights will be waiting to take out the defending champs. No. 17 Xavier sits directly at the top of the class. The Musketeers took down the Owls 83-74 on Feb. 5 in Cincinnati. Next in line is Dayton, who gave Temple trouble Saturday in a 70-65 loss. The Flyers are tied for second in the A-10 with a 10-4 record.
The second crop of teams who will be salivating to knock off the Owls includes archrival St. Joe’s, Rhode Island and an underestimated Duquesne team. So far, Dunphy’s squad holds a 3-1 record against these conference foes.
The bottom of the barrel consists of a few potential trouble spots mixed in with a handful of cupcakes. Massachusetts, although very inconsistent, took out the Owls 79-75 on Jan. 17. La Salle, a perennial opponent, popped the team’s bubble last week at the Liacouras Center. The rest (Saint Louis, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, Charlotte), should be landslide victories on the neutral surface.
It won’t be a Spring Break vacation by any means but business as usual for the Owls. If successful, the team will bring its eighth career A-10 trophy back to the Liacouras Center. How much fan presence they’ll have there just depends on how you want to spend your spring break.
Anthony Stipa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.