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AAC Men to play Tournament at XL Center in 2015.

POSTED April 14, 2014
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

STORRS: It hasn’t taken long for the University of Connecticut to begin cashing in on the double National Championships they won last week.

On Monday, the American Athletic Conference announced that the 2015 AAC Conference Tournament will be held right here in Connecticut at the XL Center.

The 16,294 seat arena and surrounding mall, which is undergoing a 35-million dollar renovation, is the first to reap the benefits of just how hot both the men and women’s teams are right now.

In 2014, the AAC held the Tournament in Memphis and it was thought that location might get another year but AAC commissioner Mike Aresco and the leagues committee voted unanimously to accept the bid submitted by Global Spectrum, the operators of the XL Center.

It remains to be seen if the women’s tournament will return to Mohegan Sun (10,000 seats) next season, a decision is expected later this week after all the bids are considered.

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma had spoken very highly of the job done at Mohegan Sun and was in favor of returning.

Memphis was knocked out of the 2013 tournament by the Huskies in the first round, a game that saw 13,081 in attendance.

The Huskies next two games were in front of 13,363 (versus Cincinnati) and 13,554 in the final against Louisville.

FedEx Forum holds 18,119.

Mohegan Sun, while perfect for the women’s attendance expectations, is considered too small at 10,000 seats for the men’s games.

Aresco spoke highly of the bid that the XL Center leaders put forth and certainly wants to take advantage of just how hot Connecticut basketball is nationwide.

“We are pleased to bring our 2015 men’s basketball championship to the city of Hartford and to this outstanding arena,” Aresco said. “The success of UConn’s men’s and women’s teams this year has made Connecticut the center of college basketball nationally. This event will enjoy tremendous fan support and our visitors will enjoy the many attractions in Hartford and its surrounding communities.”

UConn head coach Kevin Ollie was equally pleased to have the 2015 tourney in his back yard.

 “We are excited and proud that the American Athletic Conference has chosen the XL Center as the site for next season’s men’s championship tournament,” Ollie said in a statement. “It will give more of our great fans in Connecticut a chance to watch the intensity and competitiveness of postseason play. Last year’s tournament in Memphis brought together some of the top teams in the country and I know next year in Hartford will do the same. We want to keep Connecticut in the college basketball spotlight.”   

It is no doubt a big win for Hartford and Governor Daniel Malloy who has been trying to get the Capital up to a standard that would make it a destination.

UConn Athletic Director Warde Manual, the man in the middle of this madness that has been the NCAA Tournament, has got to consider this a very big feather in his cap.  

“I am very excited that the American Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament is coming to Hartford in 2015,” Manual said in a statement. “I want to congratulate Governor Dannel Malloy and the state of Connecticut, UConn alumnus Andy Bessette and the Connecticut Region Development Authority and Chris Lawrence and the staff at Global Spectrum for submitting an excellent proposal that resulted in the event coming to our capital city. We believe that our loyal UConn fans will once again fill the XL Center for our men’s and women’s basketball games in 2014-15 and that will continue during the 2015 American men’s tournament.”

These are good times indeed for the University of Connecticut…. 

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