Earlier this week, the Big East finally came to a decision on the women's conference tournament, announcing that it will return to Hartford's XL Center for two more years. There was some discussion of moving it to Mohegan Sun, which has hosted hundreds of basketball games, but for reasons that have yet to be fully explained, the idea was met with resistance.
In the end, Hartford's a solid choice, primarily because it's one of the nation's biggest concentrations of women's basketball fans. That said, despite the Huskies' close proximity, it hasn't automatically translated into sold-out conference tournament games. Part of that is because tickets were overpriced, but it's also because UConn fans, in general, don't much care about match-ups not involving the home team.
Which brings us to this Q & A from a recent mailbag from the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla. When asked by a reader whether it's time to consider holding the men's and women's Big East tournaments simultaneously at Madison Square Garden, Altavilla responded enthusiastically. " I am loving this idea a lot. I mean, it seems to make a lot of sense logistically for the conference and it would give the women's tournament at least a fighting chance to expose its game on the brightest stage of all."
As for why not, Altavilla explains that, "…the conference would not want to put the women's tournament in an environment where it would be considered an opening-act or second-fiddle to the men. And that's what it would be interpreted as. ...
"The Big East wants the women's tournament to survive and thrive on its own, develop its own loyal fan base. The last thing it wants is to take a chance dopey men's basketball fans may decide to make the women look inconsequential."
And that's right. In some sense, Storrs is an aberration because so many UConn supporters are fans of both the men's and women's teams. Hosting both conference tournaments at MSG might sound like a swell idea, but the reality -- as Altavilla suspects -- is that they're two entirely different fan bases. And unless there's reason to think that such an arrangement would outpace the XL Center in ticket sales (not to mention the second-fiddle ramifications), it probably not worth it.