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Annual conversation about Mountain West tournament at the Mack commences

League coaches seem to agree that while Las Vegas is the best league destination, they would prefer to move the games away from the Thomas & Mack Center

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

New Mexico head coach Steve Alford cuts down the net after the Lobos defeated San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference tournament championship game 68-59 Saturday, March 10, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

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.

Click to enlarge photo

This is the court for the 2013 men's and women's Mountain West basketball tournament, which will be played at the Thomas & Mack Center on March 12-16. The league announced Friday, Feb. 15 that the tournament will stay in Las Vegas at least through 2016.

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.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. Well if its at the T&M for the next 4 years, maybe at the end of that term they'll have the UNLV Now stadium done and they can pack 25,000 people into the stadium (like Syracuse Basketball at the Carrier Dome). It'll still be on campus, but it wont be where the Rebels play their normal basketball games.

    (please keep replies related to basketball, not whether or not you think the stadium is viable/not viable/colossal waste of money)

  2. That graphic of the court for this year's tourney is pretty awesome. Except for the tacky Reese's advertising, the court looks amazing.

    I agree that the Rebs have a slight advantage playing in their own building, but I think the biggest advantage to playing "at home" is your fans, not the building itself, and since all MWC schools have equal access to tickets, to me its not that big of a deal having the tourney played at the Mack. But then again, I am a Rebels fan, so I'm sure I would feel differently if the tourney were played at Viejas or the Pit!

    I like Siromega's idea of playing it at the stadium, if and when it ever gets built. But until then, the Mack is definitely the best option when considering the size of the other venues in town.

  3. Whine. Cry. Scream. Throw tantrum. If Alford, etc. don't like it, go coach in another league. The MWC listened to that fool from NM years ago and moved the tournament to Denver-this pleased the self-centered Alford. Of course, the tournament lost money.

    These children who have been given coaching jobs and lofty salaries need to remember that this is a business and THANK LAS VEGAS AND UNLV for hosting the tournament. Las Vegas is the best entertainment destination in the world and no one in Las Vegas charges a cheaper price to put on a tournament than UNLV.

    if I were Poor, Poor Steve, I would concentrate on the fact that CSU is breathing down my neck, not geography lessons. And if I were 68 year old Steve Fisher, I'd focus on staying off the court during play so that I don't get run over by players from the other team and need a hip replacement.

    Do any of these jerks have any idea how tough it is for real people out there? Don't they have any idea that their 'problems' don't amounht to a hill of beans? They obviously don't know their facts, even with the tourney at the Mack, the Rebs haven't won in 5 years. Go cry to Daddy Bobby Knight, Stevie.

  4. CJ thanks for the laugh, Fisher should stay off the court so he won't get run over & need a hip replacement. LMAO just struck a funny bone the way you wrote it.

  5. I could see some concern if the Rebels were a powerhouse team and dominating the MWC , but that's not the case. The rebels haven't won the MWC tournament in 5 years and won't for another 5 years so quit yer whining and come to Vegas baby.

  6. So? You wanna play it in The Pit?

  7. So while Alford was at Iowa he had the MWC tourney moved to Denver? That is one powerful man.

  8. CJ--the problem is Lobo fans would travel to wherever the tournament is held. That is not true for most of the other teams in the league--including UNLV; so the tournament stays in Las Vegas. It's ludicrous to downplay the home advantage to UNLV. By the way, CSU is currently your problem. And since you are playing in comfortable confines of your home stadium you hopefully you can manage to knock them off.

  9. I wouldn't really have too many qualms if the tournament was elsewhere on the strip, but there just isn't a venue as large as the mack in town. There's the MGM but as stated the PAC12 will be playing there (not to mention I bet they had to pay a WHOLE lot of money to get their tournament there) and it seats 2k less people. Orleans is tiny as well for a tournament the size of MWC or PAC12. South Point holds even less than the Orleans.

    LV is centrally located for most teams and fans to get to and LV is cheap to fly in and out of for fans (I flew in last year and there's no way I'd head to the Pit or Colorado Springs or something like that).

  10. What annoys me is that these coaches complain and don't come up with a viable solution.

    The MGM Grand Garden Arena and the Orleans Arena are taken. The Mandalay Bay Events Center is just a tad bit too small. The South Point Arena is too small.

    The only logical choice is the Thomas & Mack Center.

  11. CJ, I don't think Alford was even at UNM then. It was Rick Majerus who led that charge into the farce that was Denver. In the old days of the true WAC that Utah, BYU, Wyo, CSU, NM and AF came from to form the Mt West, the tournament rotated between host cities every year. It worked okay but had some real lean years. The league had no drawing spot like LV so it had little choice. LV is definitely the place to hold the tournament. With no other in-city viable options the T&M makes the only sensible site even if a perceived advantage does exist.

  12. lol This has got to be the dumbest non issue in the history of the MWC. The fact that the Rebels havent won the thing since 2008 pretty much debunks the only criticism with any possible merit. On every single level it is a win/win for the conf, the schools, the women's side of the tourney, and more importantly, the fans. Even if their team is one & done...they still are in Vegas & can have a great time.

    Having said that, it is TOTAL BS that UNLV fans get the shaft in terms of seating. We get stuck behind the basket EVERY year while all the other schools get moved around annually. All that does is feed the conspiracy theory that we have some massive advantage that, as the last 5 yrs have proven, does not exist. I'm not demanding center court...just wondering why cant we cant move around too? I'm not asking for preferential treatment, just to be part of the seating draw like everybody else. Just saying.