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.
Dillon Brooks will be returning to Oregon for his junior season.
Brooks, a 6-foot-6 forward that averaged 16.7 points, 5.4 boards and 3.1 assists as a sophomore, went through the NBA Draft process without hiring an agent. He did not receive an invitation to the NBA Draft combine, however, and that is as good of a sign as any that he was not likely to get drafted.
According to a report from ESPN, he has heeded the advice he received and will be returning to Eugene.
Brooks is a versatile player whose role for the Ducks is similar to what Draymond Green plays for the Warriors, but he’s not the athlete that Green is. Returning to school, tightening up his shooting stroke and getting into better shape could help him play his way into a spot where he can get a guaranteed contract after next season.
The Ducks are still awaiting word on whether or not rising sophomore Tyler Dorsey will return to school as well. With both players back in the fold, Oregon is a potential top five team next season.
Malik Newman will withdraw his name from consideration and return to school for his sophomore season.
Newman was a top 10 recruit in the Class of 2015, a high-scoring combo-guard that opted to stay home and play for Mississippi State instead of enroll at one of the blue bloods that was recruiting him. He averaged 11.3 points as a freshman, but it was a largely disappointing season as he spent the year off of the national radar playing inefficient basketball.
Put another way, the fourth-leading scorer on a 14-17 SEC team isn’t exactly a lock for the lottery.
But here’s the catch: he may not be returning to Mississippi State, as Newman is considering a transfer, according to a report from ESPN. That report quotes a source close to the situation saying “unhappy with his role and how he was utilized.”
It will be interesting to see what happens from here. Newman would have to sit out a year if he transferred to another Division I program, and for a kid that thought he was destined to be a one-and-done star, locking himself into a three-year college career would be an odd move.
Seton Hall sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead has signed with an agent and will remain in the NBA Draft.
Whitehead announced his intention to stay in the draft last night on his Twitter account.
Whitehead averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game last season for Seton Hall, which went 25-9 and reached the NCAA tournament. He likely projects as a second-round pick with a bit of a shaky shot, but a high usage and assist rates. His strong finish to the season likely lifted him on some draft boards, but his inefficiency will cap his ceiling in June’s draft.
The loss is significant for the Pirates as Whitehead was so much of their offense, but they’ll bring back Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo. It’s a group that will miss Whitehead’s playmaking, but is still a solid enough foundation that Seton Hall will still likely be competitive in the Big East and vying for another NCAA tournament berth.
Villanova’s title defense just got a whole lot stouter.
Josh Hart, the leading scorer of the Wildcats’ national championship team, will return for his senior season, he announced on Twitter.
The decision for Hart to return is a major boost for Villanova in its quest to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hart, a 6-foot-5 guard, averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.
Most draft pundits had him pegged as a potential end-of-the-first-round pick in next month’s draft though he could have certainly slid into the second should he had decided to forego his senior season. Instead, Hart will be a potential first-team All-American exhausting his eligibility in Philadelphia.
The 2016-17 season is taking shape nicely, and Hart returning to Villanova only increases the strength of the field at the top. Title game hero Kris Jenkins as well as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are also back for the defending champs while the super recruiting classes of Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, Kansas’ returning core along with Josh Jackson and a solid group of teams including North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin make for an intriguing upper-tier of teams that could very well make for a top-heavy season following last year’s free for all.
College basketball isn’t the NFL. Parity doesn’t equal strength and quality, and when the sport has a handful high-quality teams, it is at its best. It’s looking like that is a possibility for the 2016-17 campaign.
Connecticut may have lost its 6-foot-7 wing scorer but it is keeping its defensive stalwart and leading scorer.
Center Amida Brimah and guard Rodney Purvis have withdrawn their names from NBA Draft consideration and will return to the Huskies for another year, the school announced Tuesday.
The decisions from Brimah, a 7-foot center, and Purvis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, help soften the blow dealt by Daniel Hamilton’s decision to sign with an agent and leave school despite having some shaky draft stock. The Huskies may not open the season as a top-25 team, but they won’t be far behind and will be one of the AAC’s favorites, along with Cincinnati.
Brimah averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but blocked 2.7 shots per game. He missed 11 games last season with a broken finger. Purvis registered 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor.
Neither Brimah or Purvis were among those invited to this month’s NBA Draft combine nor were either expected to be drafted should they have kept their names in the draft.