Inside The Mack (And the Two Other Biggest OOC Arenas Pac-12 Teams Will Visit)Posted by Connor Pelton on October 28th, 2011
The road is a difficult place. It’s foreign, it’s hostile, and it can just be plain annoying. It’s where seasons and teams can fall apart (See Oregon State @ Illinois-Chicago two years ago) or, it’s a place where teams can come together and start a great run. Let’s take a look at the three biggest non-conference arenas that Pac-12 teams will play in this year.
1. Thomas & Mack Center
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Pac-12 Games: California @ UNLV (Dec. 23)
It’s hard to imagine a time when UNLV played its home games in the 6,000 seat Las Vegas Convention Center, but 23 years ago, that was indeed the case. Now Rebel Nation flocks to “The Mack,” an 18,000+ seat basketball jewel that also hosts the NBA Vegas Summer League every year (well, not this year). Pac-10 (Not counting Colorado and Utah) teams are 4-5 against UNLV in The Mack since 2002, but considering UNLV doesn’t play top-notch basketball every single year, that is a pretty good mark. This year they will welcome the Golden Bears into their house, which is sure to be sold out whenever a power conference team ventures in.
California doesn’t like to play on the road when they do not have to, as their only road non-conference games last year were either scheduled by the conference or a tournament committee. They went 1-1 in those two games, defeating Iowa State in the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Challenge, and falling to Colorado in the NIT. A win at UNLV would mean a lot more to Mike Montgomery’s team this year, as a late-December road victory would surely put the Bears into the Top 20 going into conference play.
2. KeyArena at Seattle Center
Location: Seattle, Washington
Pac-12 Game: Stanford @ Seattle U (Dec. 1)
The former home of the Seattle SuperSonics is also where the Seattle U. Redhawks call home. And even though they rarely sell the place out, attendance is usually more than 10,000 and the place is always rocking and intimidating for opponents (Just ask Oregon State). “The Key” is also home to the Seattle Storm, the city’s WNBA team. The only Pac-10 games in KeyArena took place last year, with the conference going 1-1. The Stanford Cardinal hosted Seattle U last season and are going up to Seattle for a return game this season. Stanford went 0-2 in non-conference road games last year, falling to Butler and Oklahoma State in blowout losses on the same road trip. This is a huge game for them since they will likely be on the NCAA bubble at the end of the year and they cannot have a loss to Seattle U. on their resume if they want to crack the field.
3. Save Mart Center at Fresno State
Location: Fresno, California
Pac-12 Game: Utah @ Fresno State (Dec. 3)
Like KeyArena, the Save Mart Center rarely sells out, and that’s mostly because of the bad basketball being played in it. But about once a year the home of the Bulldogs will reach 10,000+ for a Pac-12 opponent, and this will be that game. The SMC has been a popular destination for Pac-10 teams, who have gone 5-3 since 2001. The Utah Utes hosted Fresno State last season and are going west to Fresno for a return game this year. Utah went 1-4 last season in non-conference road games, with their only win coming in a 68-60 decision at Bradley. This is a possible trap game for a young Utah team, and a loss here would absolutely kill their confidence going forward.