It's hard to believe that we're even having this conversation but such is the nature of non-stop conference realignment, especially when the Huskies have been on the outside looking in throughout the nearly two-year-long process. Instead of graduating to the greener pastures of the ACC, UConn has been the odd man out. By the time the dust settled, the conference formerly known as the Big East had been renamed the American Athletic Conference and the Huskies were the only original member remaining.
And there's a chance, thanks to a recently signed grants-of-rights deal signed by the current ACC members, that UConn will be stuck in the American Athletic Conference for the foreseeable future. And as such, fans are left wondering what it all means. Like, does the AAC have automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament? Seems silly in light of how things worked in the Big East but, well, things have changed -- rapidly -- and it's now a legit question.
But there's some good news, via the Hartford Courant's Dom Amore:
"The American Athletic Conference, AAC or Americon, will have an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It has a new name, but as far as the NCAA is concerned, it is the old Big East and inherits that slot, with all the automatic bids in all sports. The “new Big East,” the league with the non-football playing schools, et al, is the new entity. It will have automatic bids, too, but has to go through a process of applying for them. So for UConn, nothing changes as far as automatic tournament bids.
"The XL Center, I have been told, is working on a proposal to host the AAC men’s Tournament. I would think its chances are fairly good, so long as UConn is staying in the league. This league does not have a natural 'capital,' like New York and MSG were, so the process of locating the league tournament will not be as cut and dry. It is likely to be rotated, and cities like Memphis, Orlando, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Tampa, that have NBA-caliber arenas are also viable sites and I am sure some of them will make bids, also. But I would guess Hartford is as good a place as any to have the tournament, it would probably draw well because of UConn, so if it doesn’t happen this coming season, I have to believe it will come here eventually."
With Shabazz Napier returning to UConn for his senior season, automatic conference bids should be irrelevant to the Huskies, a team that should be stacked next season. That said, automatic bids are as much about conference prestige as they are about an open path to the Big Dance. Whether the Americon can become a player on the national stage is another matter. For now, the Huskies don't have many (any?) options -- other than compete and win.