Hartford played – and lost – its season opener on Saturday, but the Connecticut 6 Classic wasn’t just about the Hawks. For the six Division-I men’s basketball programs in Connecticut not named UConn, the early-season tripleheader was a showcase event, a chance at bragging rights, and perhaps most importantly, an opportunity for fans of mid-major programs to come together and celebrate the game of basketball with like-minded individuals.
With that in mind, the purpose of the Classic was certainly achieved. While Mohegan Sun Arena was far from full — the upper bowl was completely closed off and there were still empty seats to be found — getting almost four thousand spectators to show up for what is, from a fan’s perspective, a road game is not insignificant. The arena lighting does a good job of focusing attention down toward the court, to the point that the empty upper bowl goes almost completely unnoticed.
And despite the nearly 4,000 fans falling far short of the venue’s capacity, the crowd proved to be quite loud at times. Mohegan Sun Arena, in my mind, would make for an excellent alternative for hosting the America East Tournament, which says something about the quality of the viewing experience. If anything, the quality of basketball being played didn’t stand up to the venue, as opposed to the other way around. Hartford’s game was engaging and exciting throughout, but Fairfield jumped on Sacred Heart early and never let up, and Quinnipiac asserted itself whenever Yale tried to trim its deficit.
But some uneven matchups are to be expected at this point in the season. What a fan of any team looks for in November is hustle and effort, and even among the less fortunate sides, both items were present in abundance on Saturday. Players hit the deck going after loose balls. There was at least one head-on collision. Sweat was produced. Despite the talent gaps in the opening and closing games of the triple-header, all three games were entertaining, to say the least.
The Connecticut 6 Classic was a chance to stretch your vocal cords, watch some entertaining roundball, and then channel your inner Rasheed Wallace long enough to observe and say, “Both teams played hard.” Except instead of one game, you get three. Sounds like a winner to me.
And speaking of winners, below is our Connecticut 6 Classic All-Tournament Team, as selected by us. Players selected to the team will be awarded two thumbs up. Hey, it’s better than nothing (isn’t it?).
The One-Bid Wonders Connecticut 6 Classic All-Tournament Team
G Shemik Thompson, Central Connecticut State
G James Johnson, Quinnipiac
F Morgan Sabia, Hartford
F Justin Rutty, Quinnipiac
F Greg Mangano, Yale