After questions were raised by many on social media, ASUN Conference Commissioner Ted Gumbart held a Zoom video call with several individuals who requested access to call. Many of the questions were in response to Liberty having to travel to take on Bellarmine on their home floor during the final regular season weekend when the games were originally scheduled to be played in Lynchburg at Liberty Arena.
This change was initiated over the past couple of weeks after a couple of ASUN teams had to go on extended pauses due to COVID issues. Bellarmine and Liberty currently reside at the top of the league standings, as the Knights are 10-2 in their first season in the league and the two time defending champion Flames are 8-2.
On the call, which lasted 50 minutes, Gumbart discussed several topics regarding ASUN men’s basketball conference scheduling during the 2020-21 season, and in particular with regards to the ongoing work in process the scheduling has been with COVID forcing several teams to have to miss games.
He shared a spreadsheet he utilizes for scheduling. This spreadsheet has gone through several iterations throughout the season. One of the ASUN’s key scheduling rules this season, has been to not allow conference members to play three consecutive conference series on the road.
When North Florida and Florida Gulf Coast each had COVID issues in the past couple of weeks, and with so many games having already been played, it forced North Alabama and Bellarmine to play the weekend of Feb. 12 and 13 in order to get as many games played by all conference members as possible.
At the time the schedule was re-worked, UNA was coming off games at North Florida and at FGCU. So, when it was determined UNA and Bellarmine had to play, the ASUN had to switch that series from its original plan of being played at Bellarmine to being played at UNA so the Lions wouldn’t play three consecutive conference series away from home.
Then, when Liberty and Bellarmine were back on the schedule for the final weekend of the regular season on Feb. 26 and 27, the Knights would be coming off two consecutive series on the road, playing at UNA and at UNF.
Following the schedule breakdown, Gumbart took several questions from those joining the call. Many of them related to the ASUN Tournament. The tournament will be held in Jacksonville, Florida from March 3-March 7 with games being played at UNF Arena and Jacksonville University’s Historic Swisher Gymnasium.
The 8/9 play-in game is currently scheduled for Wednesday, March 3 at 2 p.m. at Swisher Gym. The winner would advance to play the 1-seed on Thursday at 2 p.m. at UNF Arena. The quarterfinals between the 4/5 seeds and the 3/6 seeds will be played at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, and both played at Swisher Gym. The 2/7 game will be played at 7 p.m. at UNF Arena.
Both semifinal games will be played at UNF Arena at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The championship game will be played at UNF Arena at 2 p.m. All games will be televised on ESPN+ with the exception of Sunday’s Championship game which will be televised on ESPN.
As has been the case in the ASUN for several years, the conference re-seeds its teams following the quarterfinals. The highest remaining seed will play the lowest remaining seed and then the other two teams will play each other. That philosophy remains for the 2021 tournament.
According to Gumbart, the current plan, which is subject to change, is to allow approximately 25 fans to the games played at Swisher Gym and approximately 300 fans to the games played at UNF Arena.
North Florida and Jacksonville are not expected to play on their home floor. If they play one another, the higher seeded team will play at home. The ASUN will give preference to the higher seed in these games. If, for example, North Florida is a 7-seed and supposed to play the 2-seed at UNF Arena, the conference will defer to the 2-seed and play the game where the 2-seed prefers, whether at UNF Arena as scheduled or at Swisher Gym.
As for teams getting COVID and having to miss the ASUN Tournament, if that happens, the tournament will be re-seeded based on teams that will be able to play. For example, if the 6-seed opts out and doesn’t play in the tournament, the 7-9 seeds will each slide up on spot.
Once the 8/9 game tips on Wednesday, the bracket is locked in. If a team gets COVID after the tournament starts and there aren’t a full eight teams able to play in the quarterfinals, the 1-seed will get a bye into the semis while the 2-seed will play the lowest seeded team remaining, and the same will go for the 3 and 4 seeds.
Following the quarterfinal round, if a semifinalist gets COVID and is unable to play, the 1 seed will get a bye to the championship game while the remaining two teams would play for the final spot in the championship game.
If one of the finalists gets COVID prior to the championship game, the game will not be played and the remaining team will win the conference tournament.
If Bellarmine or North Alabama, who are each ineligible for the NCAA Tournament due to their reclassification from Division II, win the conference tournament, the auto bid to the Big Dance would be awarded to the regular season champion. If Bellarmine, who is currently in first place, wins the regular season and either BU or UNA wins the tournament, the highest eligible regular season finisher will be awarded the auto bid. Liberty is currently 2nd in the conference standings, and is the most likely team to benefit from this setup.