For some time now, there has been a debate about where UConn should play their home games. Most players and students feel that every home game should be at Gampel because of the intimidating atmosphere created for opposing teams. On the other end of the spectrum, if the XL Center is going to undergo major (read: pricey) renovations, UConn may need to be the primary tenant, calling for more home games at the XL Center.
Personally, I'm fine with the current split of games between Gampel and the XL Center. There is no arguing that Gampel is an unbelievable atmosphere, but the fans can bring it as we saw in the recent game against SMU.
Whether people like it or not, UConn has played noticeably better at XL this year than anywhere else, and that just so happens to be the venue for the AAC Tournament. When making his conference tournament picks on Inside College Basketball on CBS Sports, Jon Rothstein picked the Huskies, "They play their best basketball at the XL Center."
UConn is 6-1 at the XL Center and 4-1 against conference opponents. The Huskies averaged 74.1 PPG in seven games there while averaging just 59.4 PPG in seven games at Gampel. While people may be quick to make an argument for the numbers being skewed due to the opponents of Coppin State and Central Connecticut State University, UConn also played the top three teams in the American in Hartford.
In those three games? The Huskies went 3-0, beating Cincinnati 62-56, Tulsa 70-45, and SMU 81-73. The one loss UConn suffered at the XL Center was in overtime against Temple, a game where Ryan Boatright got hurt and barely played. This was also the game in which Daniel Hamilton missed three free throws while being down two in overtime with two seconds left. If Boatright did not get hurt, there is a very good chance UConn would have won that game and gone 7-0 at the XL Center.
Maybe it's the lights or the more laid back atmosphere or whatever, but UConn has been better offensively in Hartford. As a team, they are shooting 49.6% from the field at games in the XL Center which is significantly higher than their 44.3% season average.
When it comes to UConn's four top scorers (Boatright, Hamilton, Purvis, Brimah), all four of them have a higher field goal percentage in Hartford than their season averages. Also, besides Hamilton, they all have higher points per game in Hartford than their season averages.
Boatright is averaging 17.8 PPG on the season while shooting 43.8% from the field and 42.4% from behind the arc. At the XL Center, he is averaging 19.1 PPG while shooting 50.6% from the field and 46.2% from three. If you don't count the Temple game, in which Boatright played just 17 minutes and scored 2 points, he is averaging 22.0 PPG at the XL Center.
Purvis' numbers on the season are 10.5 PPG while shooting 41.5% from the field and 34.2% from three. In Hartford, he is averaging 14.6 PPG and shooting 48.6% from the field and 36.4% from three. Brimah is averaging 10.0 PPG and 4.8 RPG while shooting 69.8% from the field on the season. In Hartford, he is averaging 11.7 PPG and 5.7 RPG while shooting a ridiculous 73.2% from the field.
As noted before, the only player out of the top four who is not averaging more points in Hartford than his season average is Hamilton. On the season, Hamilton is averaging 10.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 3.6 APG while shooting 38.3% from the field and 33.0% from three. At the XL Center, he is averaging just 9.6 PPG and shooting a brutal 27.2% from three. However, he is averaging more rebounds, assists, and has a better field goal percentage in Hartford, averaging 7.7 RPG, 4.7 APG and shooting 40.6% from the field.
I don't know if there is any actual statistical significance to any of these numbers, but the bottom line is that all of the stats point to UConn playing extremely well in Hartford. They have proven it against the top teams they have played.
The point of all this is that while things may look extremely bleak after the Memphis and Temple games to end the season, there is no telling what this team can do in a venue that they are extremely used to playing well in. UConn has a true home court advantage for this conference tournament and I cannot wait for the noise they are about to make.