The America East Conference, in an effort to create more of a showcase for its basketball programs, will change its postseason format starting in 2010.
The league has announced the America East Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships will be held concurrently next year at Chase Arena on the campus of the University of Hartford.
The first three rounds of the women’s and men’s tournaments will be played March 4-7, 2010, then the respective championship games will be played the following weekend (men Saturday, women Sunday) on the home courts of the highest remaining seeds.
“We are thrilled to have both tournaments, our two signature events of the year, combine for one spectacular weekend of championship basketball in Hartford,” America East Commissioner Patrick Nero said in a press release.
The change was recommended by a committee of AE athletic directors and coaches and voted on by the ADs.
The new arrangement will implement the format that has been used by the league for its men’s championship since 1996. It will be a departure for the women’s programs, which have played all four rounds of their tournament on consecutive days at a single site since 1998.
“I’m kind of on the fence. I’m anxious to see what it looks like,” said UMaine women’s basketball coach Cindy Blodgett. “It potentially can be really good, because fans can come down and support both programs. I’m all for anything that we do that can enhance the [tournament] atmosphere.”
Blodgett said the most obvious benefit for women’s teams will be having the opportunity to play the championship game on their home court — if they can get that far.
“The part that I like best is the part that the championship game is played at the higher seed,” Blodgett said. “I think that finally rewards teams that have a great record.”
The format also will create a one-week buildup in terms of fan interest in the title game, while increasing the probability the best team (theoretically the top seed), represents the league in the NCAA tourney.
“You’re going to host the game,” Blodgett said. “You’re playing in front of your home crowd.”
The home-site final also virtually guarantees a substantial home-court crowd. That will lessen the possibility of two teams playing on television, on a neutral court, in front of a small, less-interested crowd.
Hartford has hosted the women’s championship in seven of the last eight years.