AAC tournament likely to stay at Mohegan; Another 30-win season
In between the first two afternoon quarterfinals on Saturday, American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco made it clear that he is in favor in the event returning to Mohegan again next year.
"We like it here, we really like it here," Aresco said. "(They teams) love it here. Our tournament is probably the best attended in the entire country. It is hard to top when you think about it. It is a long way to come for a lot of these schools but they like the crowd, the arena. They do a nice job so everybody has a great experience. I'm in favor of it (being held at Mohegan Sun Arena)."
This is the third year of the American Athletic Conference women's tournament has been at Mohegan Sun Arena and as long as Aresco and his staff continue to receive positive feedback from the other teams who play the tournament not far from AAC powerhouse UConn, it figures to remain at the same location.
A crowd of 7,033 turned out for UConn's quarterfinal win over East Carolina, a jump from last year's number of 6,531 for the Huskies' first game in the conference tournament which is a good sign for the tournament.
"I looked around and said these people much not go to any games at Gampel or the XL Center," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said of the ovation he and his coaching staff received when they came into the arena. "It was almost like we were like we are at Baylor or at some other place where they go 'hey, these guys are pretty cool.' It might be a different crowd, a different group that maybe doesn't get the chance to get up to the games that way.
"I like the tournament being here, I like the turnout. The crowd always turns out here. I think the conference is really happy with the way it is run, they know how to run events here and it is run like a professional event. My guess is by the time the tournament is over and you check with all the other tournaments across the country, it is going to be (number) one or two in attendance for sure and that is a credit to our fans who continuously show up to support our team."
Aresco said that the official word on the site for the 2017 tournament doesn't figure to be announced until after the conference's spring meeting in May.
ANOTHER 30-WIN SEASON FOR THE HUSKIES
There was a time when winning 30 games in a season was a landmark achievement. However, with this being the 11th straight time and 21st time in the last 23 seasons it has taken place, it almost seems like standard operating procedure.
Auriemma often grimaces when asked about the hisrorical significance of UConn's winning ways. When the subject was brought up after the 92-51 win over East Carolina, he had a rather typical reaction.
"It gets somewhat overwhelming at times," Auriemma said. "You don't really sit back and look at it that way. There may be times when it is brought to your attention and you are forced to look at it and then you kind of scratch your head and go 'how did it happen' because if we had to go back and do it again, I am not sure we could do it because while you are doing it, it doesn't seem like what you are doing is so significant. When you hear that, 11 in a row, 21 out of 23, and a lot of those came when we were in the best league in the country for the longest time ....
When we were with the national team, Diana (Taurasi), Maya (Moore) and Stewie (Breanna Stewart) were on the floor at one time, I walked over to somebody and said 'that explains eight of the 10 national championships.' When you look around it is pretty incredible. I never cease to be amazed at what we've done
"When you look around the country and see a lot of teams that used to do that all the time. You could count on them for 'x' number of times every year or (being) in the championship hunt and you look around and realize that is how difficult it is to maintain this over 20 years. A lot of it has to do with the people we've been able to get in here, the culture that exists and the pressure they are under, which is good pressure, to have to perform at a certain level. As long as we do that, get the right players and put the right kind of pressure on them, we have a chance to we did.".