The excitement and rollercoaster of emotions gearing up for March Madness will take over the DC area as the Capital One Arena hosts the Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Tournament on March 7-11.
Local teams George Washington University (GWU), George Mason University (GMU) and nearby Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and Richmond are sure to have their fair share of fans come cheer them on, but it’s #18 nationally ranked Rhode Island that is favored to come in and win it all.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see St. Bonaventure or VCU emerge from the weekend, but the body of work Rhode Island has put out there has been impressive,” says WTOP sports reporter Dave Preston. “They’re a team built for March, and they should win the A-10 tournament.”
Don’t count out Davidson though, who is tied for second and could surprise people with their performance, Preston adds.
“Coach [McKillop] has been there forever and seemingly growing these shooting guards, and because they are not the team that anyone is really chasing, they are the classic team that can sneak in and get to some finals and win.”
Other teams to keep a watch for are VCU and Richmond, says Ted Jeffries, former University of Virginia (UVA) basketball announcer, who was a four-year starter for the team before going on to a professional career and coaching Division 1 basketball.
“Looking at VCU, they are always a team that can be dangerous as you look at this tournament,” Jeffries says. “And Richmond is a team that always surprises me; their style of play can be challenging for certain teams, depending on the matchup.”
The VCU Rams have gotten to the finals every year they’ve been in the Atlantic 10 Conference so they are not a team to be discounted, Preston says.
“When you look to playing back-to-back days potentially, they have Justin Tillman, who is a beast inside and a guy you can’t ignore in a tournament situation.”
But Preston says not to count out hometown teams GMU or GWU, who could get some extra help from the local crowd.
“You talk about the unique nature of being here in the DC area,” Preston says. “George Mason [and] George Washington benefit from a short commute for their fanbase, and it’s always good to have a good crowd.”
Jeffries says he’s played at Capital One, as well as broadcast there.
“It’s a great venue,” he tells On Tap. “No bad seats in the house – with even the nose bleeds getting a good view – so this is a great place to have this tournament. You’re in the fourth quarter of your season, literally and figuratively, and you look at it and say, ‘Man, this is an opportunity for us; we lose we go home, so let’s give it our best.’ And when you have that type of dynamic, that’s what makes March the greatest month in sports.”
Aside from what’s expected to be a great weekend of basketball, those in town for the tournament are also near some of DC’s top places for catching a pregame bite and beverage.
Just steps away from Capital One stands Penn Commons, celebrating A-10 with “Wear Your Team Gear” specials. Fans donning their favored team’s apparel can enjoy a $5 happy hour drink all day on game day. Over at Maryland-themed bar Free State, enjoy $2 off draft beers, wine by the glass and local spirits Monday through Friday from 4-7 p.m., and be sure to check out their bottle list with some rare beer finds from the Mid-Atlantic states.
At nearby burger and bourbon mecca b DC Penn Quarter, happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 3-7 p.m. with half-price appetizers, mix and match mini-burgers, $4 retro drafts, $5 house wine, and $6 cocktails and bourbon nip of the week. And on Sundays, be sure to hit up their brunch before you head off to the finals, running from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. with $15 bottomless mimosas and bourbon sours.
Over at Fado Irish Pub, enjoy $5 draft beers Monday through Friday from 4-7 p.m. and snack, wine and cocktail specials including a “beer of the month” offered for $5 all day, every day throughout March.
Just south of Capital One, Texas BBQ hotspot Hill Country has a daily happy hour from 4-7 p.m. that includes beer and wine specials, and $20 margarita and beer pitchers, along with food specials including their heavenly chili-rub wings with buttermilk ranch sauce.
At Bar Louie, take full advantage of happy hour specials from 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with $7.50 signature martinis, half-priced appetizers and beer and wine specials, and a late-night menu that will refuel you after the games.
Just across the street from Capital One, 10 Tavern will be running specials starting March 7, including $14 Bud Light bottle buckets, mouthwatering 16-oz. double bacon cheese burger, pulled pork and loaded up downtown hot dogs. They’ll also be hosting a wing-eating contest sponsored by Bud Light and Captain Morgan, with more details to come on their website soon.
Learn more about this year’s A-10 Tournament at www.atlantic10.com and find info for our pregame bar picks below.
Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; 202-628-3200; www.capitalonearena.com
10 Tavern: 707 G St. NW, DC; www.10tavern.com
b DC Penn Quarter: 801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.burgersbeerbourbon.com
Bar Louie DC: 701 7th St. NW, DC; www.barlouie.com
Fado Irish Pub: 808 7th St. NW, DC; www.fadoirishpub.com
Free State: 501B G St. NW, DC; www.freestatebar.com
Hill Country: 410 7th St. NW, DC; www.hillcountrywdc.com
Penn Commons: 700 6th St. NW, DC; www.penncommonsdc.com