Any other year, the University of Rhode Island men's basketball program would hit I-95 en route to the Big Apple, then over the Brooklyn Bridge settling upon the Barclays Center located on Atlantic Ave.
This year is different.
Thursday the Atlantic 10 Conference released that this years conference championship will be held within the capital of Virginia. Richmond is home to two schools within the conference: the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University. Their respective arenas, the Robins Center and the Siegel Center, will be hosting. This change comes on behalf of the complications brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
"Games 1 and 3 and games 2 and 4 will be split between Richmond's Robins Center and VCU's Siegel Center. Wednesday's opening round, Saturday's semifinals and Sunday's championship final will be played at Richmond's Robins Center. The location of each second round and quarterfinal game will be announced when the championship seeding is announced," the Atlantic 10 announced.
Scheduled for March 10-14, this will be the first time in league history that the tournament will be held spread out between two facilities. Both schools proposed their reasoning for hosting, and with a collaborative effort both schools had the conferences best interest at heart, providing this convenient opportunity.
URI's own Athletic Director, Thorr Bjorn, also serves as Chair of the A-10 Athletic Directors. He states, "We all felt that this unique format makes the most sense to allow us to play the championship in the safest manner possible with the best interest of our student-athletes and coaches in mind...We are very appreciative of VCU, the University of Richmond and our television partners all working together, allowing us to make this possible."
The past two years the Barclays Center was home to the tournament, however last years conference championship was cancelled after the opening day of games due to the coronavirus pandemic injecting the Big Apple with fear.
The last time the Rams took a conference championship back to Kingston was the 2016-17 season. The tournament was played out in the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. That year, the Rams were sitting at fourth in the conference and stole the title away from VCU 70-63. That title fell under the Danny Hurley era, when the team was comprised of talent such as Jared Terrell and E.C. Matthews.
As of right now, Rhode Island is 9-8 overall and 6-4 in terms of conference play. There are seven scheduled games remaining before the tournament starts, with their last game being March 2. However, their game from January 24 against George Washington was postponed due to a coronavirus case in the George Washington party, that game is yet to be rescheduled.