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UConn men and women to each play one game in Bridgeport next season

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In late July, it was reported that the University of Connecticut had interest in playing home games in different venues aside from the XL Center in Hartford and its on-campus arena (Gampel Pavilion) in Storrs. Last week, sources confirmed that playing a game at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport was all but a done deal.

Prior to making an official announcement, UConn must finalize their contract with the XL Center, which plays host to many of the major non-conference and league games during the season. According to Chris Ellsbery of the Connecticut Post: “The WBA has been in talks with UConn for a while now to bring the Huskies to Bridgeport. But until recently, both sides could only talk due to an ‘exclusivity clause’ in UConn’s contract with Hartford’s XL Center, which stated UConn was not allowed to play at any other state venue except the XL Center and Gampel Pavilion in Storrs.”

UConn athletic director Warde Manuel reiterated Elssbery’s sentiment:

“We have to ensure what we’re doing with the XL (Center) is set before we know what we’re going to do with any other venues in the state. We’re going to start selling basketball season tickets in August, so we want this (where we are playing) to be resolved ASAP. And everybody’s working on it, so we should have resolution here soon.”

Men’s head coach Kevin Ollie didn’t comment on the prospects of playing an American Athletic Conference game away from home, but women’s coach Geno Auriemma is a big fan of the move. The women have played in Bridgeport multiple times over the years during the NCAA Tournament, and Auriemma has made some friends down in the area as a result:

“My own personal opinion is we can sit where we are and have people come to us or we can take another step and go to where they are, And I’m a firm believer that’s a good way to sell our product. It’s a good way to expose who we are and continue to grow our brand. I’ve made quite a lot of friends during my short visits here…We’ve made an awful lot of fans here. They’ve made our program feel welcome.”

In a region and state where both UConn men’s and women’s basketball largely dominates the interest of college hoops fans, expanding its brand to different parts of the Nutmeg state can only help in giving alums and fans the opportunity to catch a game.

USC athletic director Pat Haden to step down in June

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LOS ANGELES (AP) University of Southern California athletic director Pat Haden says he will retire on June 30.

USC President Max Nikias made the announcement Friday.

Haden has run the athletic department for 5 1/2 years, leading the Trojans through a multiyear stretch of NCAA sanctions against its vaunted football program. He created a large NCAA compliance program and improved graduation rates and grade point averages across the athletic department.

The former USC quarterback also received criticism for the football program’s relative underachievement and for his handling of coach Steve Sarkisian, who has sued the school over his termination last year.

Nikias says Haden’s department also raised over $400 million during his tenure.

Nikias says Haden will start a one-year job guiding the renovation of the Coliseum after he retires.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Ivy League’s best meet in New Haven

Columbia guard Maodo Lo, right, steals the ball from Northwestern forward Aaron Falzon, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Evanston, Ill.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Columbia at Yale, 5:00 p.m.

The two best teams in the Ivy League, with matching 4-0 league records, meet for the first time this season. The Lions were close to suffering their first loss last weekend, but an Alex Rosenberg jumper as time expired gave the Lions the win at reigning champion Harvard. Rosenberg’s one of four players averaging at least 12.2 points per game for Kyle Smith’s team, with senior guard Maodo Lo leading the way at 15.8 per contest.

They’ll face a Yale rotation led offensively by point guard Makai Mason (15.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), and the front court tandem of Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod has been outstanding. The winner get a leg up in the Ivy race, with the rematch scheduled for March 5 in New York City (regular season finale).

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Central Michigan at Akron, 8:00 p.m.

Two of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference meet at the JAR, as Akron looks to extend its win streak to six straight. The Zips’ balanced offensive attack has been led by forward Isaiah Johnson (12.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), who currently leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. As for the visiting Chippewas, guards Braylon Rayson and Chris Fowler combine to average 32.7 points per game, with Fowler also responsible for a MAC-best 6.3 assists per contest. CMU’s had some struggles on the defensive glass in league play, ranking 11th in that category, but they’ve done a better job defensively than they did in non-conference play.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • MAAC leader Monmouth is back in action, as they host a Fairfield team led by one of the conference’s best players in senior forward Marcus Gilbert. The Hawks have a deep lineup led by junior guard Justin Robinson, who at this point in time is the likely frontrunner for MAAC Player of the Year honors.
  • Looking to catch Monmouth is Iona, which is a game behind the Hawks at 9-3. A.J. English and the Gaels visit Canisius in a matchup that should not lack for offense. Iona’s more inclined to run, but Canisius doesn’t lack scorers either with guard Malcolm McMillan leading four players averaging double figures.
  • Given the fact that they’re 1-3 in Ivy League play, Harvard’s essentially in the spoiler role unless some chaos breaks out at the top end of the standings. The Crimson can help in that regard with a win at Princeton, with the Tigers (2-1) a game behind Columbia and Yale in the loss column. Princeton’s been the better offensive team this season, thanks in large part to junior forward Henry Caruso who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.