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UConn campus prepares for 2 Final Fours
STORRS, CONN. (AP) - Basketball jerseys with Kemba Walker’s No. 15 and Maya Moore’s No. 23 are sailing out of the UConn Co-op campus bookstore as students prepare to cheer on their men’s and women’s basketball teams in the Final Fours.
The men play in their national semifinal in Houston on Saturday night against Kentucky (29-8), while the women play Notre Dame (30-7) in Indianapolis on Sunday.
The Connecticut men (30-9) are seeking their third national title and are back in the Final Four for the fourth time, and second time in three years. The women (36-1) are seeking an eighth title and third in a row.
It’s the third time in seven years that both teams have made it this far. In 2004 the school became the only one in Division I history to win dual titles.
Co-op president Bill Simpson says the store has been selling about twice the normal number of T-shirts and other souvenirs since both teams won their regional finals. The biggest sellers are the T-shirts that both teams wore after making it to the Final Four.
“There is quite a bit of interest in the fact that both are playing, so I don’t know how much one shirt is outselling the other,” Simpson said. “But this is the third year in a row for the women, and people have come to expect them to do well, so there is perhaps a little bit more excitement about the men.”
The school plans to hold viewing parties on Saturday and Sunday night at the food court of the student union that will feature games, giveaways and free pizza, popcorn and soft drinks.
Should either team win in the semifinals this weekend, the school will open up its basketball arena, Gampel Pavilion, for students to watch the Huskies play for the national championship, with a street party to follow should they win.
“If we win, we’ll move over to Fairfield Way and a DJ will be put out and we’ll celebrate together,” said April Isley, the associate director of the student union. “It gives them a place where we can all get together and celebrate in a safe environment.”
The school is in the process of raising money for a new basketball practice facility, which could cost up to $35 million. An announcement about the center is expected in the next couple of weeks, and athletic director Jeff Hathaway said the timing of the basketball success has been perfect.
“This is something that energizes not just donors, but the whole campus and our entire fan base,” Hathaway said. “It’s a great weekend to be a UConn fan.”
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