After years of unsuccessfully lobbying Big East administrators for the chance to host their women's basketball tournament, the Mohegan Sun Arena found the new American Athletic Conference willing to listen.
No. 8 Cincinnati plays No. 9 Central Florida in the first round at 6 p.m., with the winner advancing to Saturday's quarterfinal against No. 1 UConn at 2 p.m. No. 7 Memphis plays No. 10 Houston around 8:30. That winner gets No. 2 Louisville Saturday at 6.
Here is a quick look at some things that have distinguished the AAC's first season.
The competition disparity in the conference is measurable in a number of ways.
But the best might be this: The other eight teams in the AAC were 0-32 in games against UConn and Louisville. And they were 1-45 once you throw South Florida into the mix.
Louisville's two conference losses were to UConn. The Bulls, who won eight of their last 10, lost only five conference games, two to both UConn and Louisville, the other to Rutgers.
Also, the top four seeds in the tournament – UConn, Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers – were all Big East teams last season.
That is why, unless there is a major upset this weekend, only those four teams have a legitimate chance to play in the NCAA Tournament, a far cry from the old Big East days when anywhere from six to nine teams seemed to always be in the mix.
It was no surprise the ACC's first all-conference team was dominated by UConn and Louisville players. The top two teams placed seven of the 11 players picked by the coaches Thursday.
But the conference does have other standouts worth watching.
SMU's Keena Mays led the AAC in scoring (20.8) and three-point percentage (38.2). Memphis guard Ariel Hearn averaged 17.5 points. USF's Courtney Williams and Inga Orekhova also can score and its top post player, Alisia Jenkins, led the conference in rebounding (10.3).
Mays, Williams and Hearn were all selected to the AAC's first team Thursday.
Also, the best rookie in the conference was Rutgers guard Tyler Scaife. And the value of forward Kahleah Copper to the Scarlet Knights was clear when she missed the March 1 game at UConn with turf toe. Copper scored 20 points in the 94-64 loss to the Huskies on Jan. 19 in Piscataway. Without her last week, the Scarlet Knights had only 16 field goals and scored 35 points.
Temple (Tonya Cardoza) and Cincinnati (Jamelle Elliott) are coached by former UConn assistant coaches. Former UConn forward Willnett Crocket is a Temple assistant. … Both Cincinnati and Central Florida's seasons were greatly impacted by the loss to key guards. The Bearcats' Dayessha Hollins, a preseason All-Conference pick, voluntarily left the program in January. Briahanna Jackson, whose 28 points (Jan. 1 in Orlando) were the most scored by a UConn opponent this season, was dismissed from the program shortly after the game … Houston coach Todd Buchanan resigned for personal reasons after the team's win against Rice on Dec. 21, its 11th game of the season. He was in his fourth year. He was replaced by assistant head coach Wade Scott. The Cougars (1-17 in the conference) lost 17 of 18 under Scott, including their first 11 and last six. Their only win since Rice was at Cincinnati on Feb. 8
No TV For First Six Games
The first six games of the tournament won't be on TV. You can follow online at ESPN3 or listen on WTIC.