WEST HARTFORD -- It could have been a disaster. In fact, for all intents and purposes, it should have been. Three college basketball games being played on the second Saturday in November, on the same day when the weather was more spring-like than near winter, on a day when there were three state home football games being played and a ton of major college football and basketball games on television.

But at the Chase Family Arena at the University of Hartford, the Connecticut 6 not only wasn't a disaster, it was an exciting success.

"I liked it," Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore said, as he watched Central Connecticut and Fairfield battle in the last of the three games. "I liked it. There's more intimacy. Not that I disliked the Mohegan Sun (Arena) and the Arena at Harbor Yard, but I like this."

The attendance figure announced was 3,186, a surprising total when you consider that Yale football was playing its last home game at the Yale Bowl against Princeton, Sacred Heart was playing Robert Morris at Campus Field in Fairfield and Central Connecticut was playing Bryant in New Britain.

And in addition, temperatures registering in the low 60s on Saturday had weekend warriors either working in their yards -- or lining up at the golf course -- to take advantage of one final glorious weekend.

Still, 3,186 showed to see Quinnipiac hold off Hartford 65-61, Sacred Heart beat Yale 85-82 in overtime (the Pioneers rallied from a 24-point second half hole) and Fairfield edge Central 64-63, also in overtime.

"Well, I thought the atmosphere was good last night," said Pat Murphy, Fairfield's senior associate director of athletics/external affairs, on Sunday. "I thought Hartford did a very nice job putting it together. I thought it was well-organized. I thought they ran a wonderful event."

If there were any reservations about moving the Connecticut 6 from a major arena -- the Webster Bank Arena hosted the tournament in 2009 and the Mohegan Sun Arena hosted in both 2010 and 2011 -- those doubts were quickly put to rest. The Hawks staff did a great job and although there were times when the building looked scarily empty, the games were entertaining and the students (the ones who came) cheered loudly.

Believe it or not, the 3,186 that came to the Chase family Arena was more than the 3,106 who attended the first Connecticut 6 in Bridgeport and was just 643 less than the 3,829 who went to Uncasville in 2010. Attendance in 2011 was not posted.

"I liked the venue and I thought our crowd, I thought we represented well, so I'm good with the Connecticut 6," Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson said.

One question ... where were the pep bands, cheerleaders and dance teams? Only Hartford's and Fairfield's bands played, only Central's and Fairfield's dance teams participated and just the cheer squads from the Stags, Hawks and Blue Devils showed.

That has to change next year. All the schools need to be equally involved -- and committed -- to making this tournament the best it can be. No matter where it's played.

Next November, the fifth Connecticut 6 is scheduled to be played at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, and I'm hearing rumors that in 2014, it'll be at Quinnipiac's TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden.

In time, depending on whether the tournament can get a long-term commitment from either the Mohegan Sun Arena or Webster Bank Arena, potentially other on-campus sites, such as SHU's Pitt Center or Yale's Payne Whitney Gym or Central's Kaiser Gymnasium, could be used.

"Now that we have taken it an on-campus facility, I wouldn't rule that out in the future," Murphy said. "It depends on who really wants to host. It's a big commitment to host. It's a lot of work. Not just financial, it's a lot of stress on your staff.

"Some of the schools in the Connecticut 6 have football programs that they have to concentrate on as well. Let's say if you took this to Central, who happened to have a home football game that day and now you want to add three basketball games ... that might not be doable."

Still, there are many (like myself) who believe this tournament, in order to maintain a big-time feel, needs to be played at a big-time arena, such as the Webster Bank Arena, which is within a 35-minute drive of five of the six teams' fan bases.

But others, like Murphy, feel it should stay -- and grow -- at a neutral site facility, such as the Mohegan Sun Arena.

"I kind of like the idea of the neutral site," Murphy said. "Mohegan Sun, I think it's a destination place for our fans. I personally like the neutral site. I like Mohegan Sun. It's a nice way to kick off the season."

But you know what? This wasn't so bad, either.

celsberry@ctpost.com http://Twitter@elsctpost