Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 | 12:15 p.m.
- UNLV Extras: Saturday’s victory was basketball entertainment at its best
- Rebels fight for victory in latest chapter of great rivalry with SDSU
- UNLV-San Diego State rivalry full of memorable showdowns
- Neither Rebels nor Aztecs where they expected to be entering Saturday’s game
- Mountain West basketball tournament to stay in Las Vegas through 2016
- Tarkanian a finalist for induction into basketball hall of fame
- UNLV Extras: Examining the reasons for the team’s constant road struggle
- UNLV coach expects his program to ‘grow up’ after no-show at Air Force
- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
March is almost here, which means it’s time to once again address UNLV basketball getting to play the Mountain West tournament in its home arena.
This is a topic that comes up every year, and with the league announcing Friday that the tournament is staying in Las Vegas through 2016, Monday’s conference call was as good a time as any to get the coaches’ updated opinions. Guys like Steve Alford (New Mexico), Steve Fisher (San Diego State) and Larry Shyatt (Wyoming) are already on record with their objections to the tournament being played in the Thomas & Mack Center.
Colorado State’s Larry Eustachy is in his first year in the league. Eustachy said that while a neutral court is preferable, he understands the business behind the decision.
“Obviously it’s all about money and, as they say, it’s not growing on trees,” he said. “Certainly it’s an advantage, but it’s also a lot of pressure for coach (Dave) Rice.”
Eustachy, who has previously led Southern Miss, Iowa State, Utah State and Idaho, said he has hosted a conference tournament before and lost.
In the case of the Mountain West tournament, all fans have equal access to tickets, and though it’s obviously more convenient for UNLV fans, plenty of fan bases look forward to the chance to make the trip to Las Vegas. Of course, nobody seems to have a problem with Las Vegas as the host city, especially Rice, who as an assistant at BYU saw the tournament struggle in Denver.
“The tournament needs to be in Las Vegas,” he said.
What coaches would like to change is the venue. The court is different (see right) but playing in the Mack is definitely an advantage for the Rebels, Rice said.
The list of neutral options that could accommodate the Mountain West fans is short, and with three other tournaments in town, at least one other potential landing spot is booked. The Orleans Arena, which is too small for the Mountain West, is hosting the West Coast Conference (March 6-11) and Western Athletic Conference tournaments (March 12-16) while the MGM Grand Garden Arena hosts the Pac-12 tournament the next three years, starting this season March 13-16.
The Grand Garden Arena’s listed capacity is 16,800, which is almost 2,000 less than the Mack. Lower bowl tickets are already sold out for this year’s Mountain West tournament.
This will be the 11th Mountain West tournament at the Mack. In the previous 10, UNLV and San Diego State are tied with three victories apiece, while New Mexico, Colorado State, Utah and BYU each have won once.
Like it or not, the Mountain West looks like it plays its basketball tournament, which next season will include 11 teams, at the Mack for at least the next four years. And while the Rebels haven’t won the tournament since 2008, the odds that come with playing at home will remain in their favor.