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A-Sun tourney will abandon neutral sites

May 18, 2013, 4:46 PM EDT

ASun Florida Gulf Coast Mercer Baskeetball AP

The Atlantic Sun tournament was played in front of a near-capacity crowd at Mercer’s Hawkins Arena last March. Hawkins was chosen as the tourney site ahead of time, and the whole event played out there. The reported crowd of 4,394 was packed with Mercer fans who simply had to roll out of bed and find parking. Had the Bears not made the final game, the turnout might have been much less impressive.

It’s a scenario we’ve seen play out before with small-conference tourneys – two teams playing their only nationally televised meeting of the season in front of a handful of disinterested fans. The A-Sun, fresh off of the explosive NCAA showing of Florida Gulf Coast, is taking steps to make sure hot teams will henceforth be rewarded with home games and partisan crowds, which make for good TV when an auto-bid is on the line.

The Macon Daily Telegraph revealed the new tourney format.

The conference announced Friday that the men’s tournament championship will be played on campus sites, with each game at the home of the higher seed, giving more campuses and fan bases a chance to experience March Madness.

“We examined a number of options, with a focus on certain neutral site facilities where we might have played our men’s and women’s semifinal and championship rounds together,” A-Sun commissioner Ted Gumbart said in a statement. “After all the analysis, the rationale we applied to the decision of conducting our first rounds at the site of our higher seeds proved to be the prevailing rationale for the entire event.”

Had the new format been in place last season, the final would have still been played in Macon, since Mercer was the top overall seed, but earlier round games would have brought the March Madness atmosphere to the campuses of Stetson, Jacksonville and Dunk City itself along the way.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.