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UNLV Basketball:

Mountain West announces format for this year’s tournament at the Mack

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Fresno State coach Rodney Terry disputes an official’s call during their Mountain West Conference tournament game against New Mexico Thursday, March 13, 2014 at the Thomas & Mack Center. New Mexico won 93-77.

With all 11 men’s basketball teams once again eligible for postseason play, the league announced today that the Mountain West tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center would return to the format it used two years ago.

Last year, San Jose State, which went winless in conference play, was banned because of APR sanctions. Now the Spartans are back in the fold and the tournament, which runs from March 9-12, will start with three play-in games on Wednesday.

The only difference from the schedule two years ago is that Wednesday’s games will start earlier in the day to accommodate the women’s semifinals at night. The women’s tournament starts on Monday, March 7, and skips Thursday before the championship game is played at noon on Friday.

Last year, there was some pushback about the Wednesday schedule because New Mexico and UNLV, two teams with some of the largest annual attendance at the event, were playing at noon and 2:30 p.m. while the women played in the evening. Despite concerns about putting the more marketable men’s games at better times, the league stuck with its Wednesday format from last year instead of reverting to the 2014 model, when the women’s teams had two full days off between the quarterfinals and semifinals.

This is the 10th straight year the tournament will be held at the Thomas & Mack Center. The contract ends in 2016 and while the tournament is all but guaranteed to stay in Las Vegas, there will be further conversations about moving it to the Strip.

The Pac-12, which has been at the MGM Grand Garden Arena the past three seasons, gets first choice on moving into the new AEG Arena across the street. Assuming the league does, the Mountain West could look again at the possibility of moving into the Grand Garden Arena.

Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson has often said he prefers the larger capacity at the Mack, despite complaints from league coaches about playing in UNLV’s home arena. Last year, however, the Pac-12 championship game between Arizona and Oregon drew nearly 3,000 more people than the San Diego State-Wyoming clash hours earlier down the road.

Broadcast information will be announced at a later date and all-session tickets for the men’s and women’s tournaments start at $220 and are available through the UNLV ticket office. Here’s a look at the full men’s schedule:

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 9

11 a.m. — Game 8: 8 seed vs. 9 seed

1:30 p.m. — Game 9: 7 seed vs. 10 seed

4 p.m. — Game 10: 6 seed vs. 11 seed

THURSDAY, MARCH 10

Noon — Game 13: 1 seed vs. Game 8 winner

2:30 p.m. — Game 14: 4 seed vs. 5 seed

6 p.m. — Game 15: 2 seed vs. Game 9 winner

8:30 p.m. — Game 16: 3 seed vs. Game 10 winner

FRIDAY, MARCH 11

6 p.m. — Game 13 winner vs. Game 14 winner

8:30 p.m. — Game 15 winner vs. Game 16 winner

SATURDAY, MARCH 12

3 p.m. — Men’s championship game

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

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