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Consol Energy Center slam dunk with Xavier

| Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011

Having referred to it as "an NCAA Tournament environment," Xavier coach Chris Mack on Monday still was raving about Consol Energy Center, where his Musketeers rallied to beat Duquesne a day earlier in a game matching Atlantic 10 Conference co-leaders.

Mack, speaking to reporters on the A-10's weekly teleconference, suggested that the arena might be a good fit for the conference's annual postseason tournament.

"I would not be opposed to the A-10 tournament being played there," he said. "That arena is incredible. It was a big-time atmosphere. The energy in the arena was great, and because of it, the game was electric."

It's no secret that Pittsburgh is interested in bringing the A-10 tournament to Consol Energy Center after the league's existing contract with Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., expires in 2012.

"We're definitely interested in it or other events like it," Consol Energy Center general manager Jay Roberts said, "but it's nothing we're actively pursuing right now."

The arena will host second- and third-round regional men's basketball games in the 2012 NCAA Tournament as well as the 2013 NCAA Men's Frozen Four hockey tournament.

"As a team located in Pittsburgh, if I were to jump out and say I think the tournament should be here, I don't think there's any credibility to that at all," Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said. "Thankfully, Chris is voicing his opinion. I do think it's a great place to play. It's the nicest arena in the country, without question. It's right in the middle of the Atlantic 10 footprint, and it makes a lot of sense."

Half of the 14 schools in the A-10 are within a five-hour drive of Pittsburgh.

Duquesne's 71-63 loss to Xavier on Sunday represented the fourth game the Dukes had played at Consol Energy Center, which is situated on the edge of the Duquesne campus. The Dukes (16-7, 8-2) are 1-3 in those games, beating Dayton and losing to No. 4 Pitt, West Virginia and Xavier (18-6, 9-1), which yesterday moved into the Associated Press Top 25 poll at No. 24.

"When I was a kid, growing up, the Eastern 8 Tournament was here every year," said Everhart, a native of Fairmont, W.Va., 90 miles south of Pittsburgh. "It was an event back then, because I remember being here. It was at the Civic Arena at the time. It was still an unbelievable event. It was very well attended. It was something that the league had trademarked as being here every year."

After opening up the A-10 tournament for bids, the league in March 2009 agreed to extend its relationship with historic Boardwalk Hall through the 2011-12 season, despite overtures from four cities, including Pittsburgh, to move the tournament, citing, among other things, sagging attendance.

"The facility is well-suited for this championship; Atlantic City is a historic seashore resort, and the city has welcomed the Atlantic 10 ... " conference commissioner Bernadette McGlade said at the time of the agreement. She could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Roberts, a self-styled college basketball fan, like others was impressed with the latest Duquesne day at Consol Energy Center.

"Leading up to it, it was perfect," Roberts said. "The crowd was in early. You could sense the excitement building. It was definitely the best vibe of the four Duquesne games so far."

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