Why I Chose The Mountain West Tourney Over The Pac-12 Tourney…

Posted by AMurawa on March 10th, 2012

Way back at the end of January or so, I started wrestling with a decision of great importance in the life of a basketball junkie: where to go in March. As the correspondent for both the Pac-12 and the Mountain West for Rush The Court, the two main options seemed pretty clear. And, under normal circumstances, the fact that I live in Los Angeles, maybe 20 minutes away (depending on traffic) from the Staples Center, where the Pac-12 Tournament was to be held, would seem to make that the obvious choice. I could take in all the hoops I wanted and still sleep in my own bed at night and walk my dog in the morning. The Mountain West Tourney would involve a four-hour or so drive, sleeping in a crappy hotel bed, eating junk, and, well, missing my dog (oh, and my wife – yeah, missing my wife too). Well, I’m writing this from courtside at the Thomas & Mack Center on Friday evening, about an hour in advance of watching what should be two great semifinals at the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas, so you know the decision I made. The question is, why?

The easy answer to that question is: “the Pac-12 sucks,” a sentiment you have probably read a couple hundred times so far this year. And, while there is certainly something to that (certainly the tournament resumes of those teams do, indeed, “suck”), I could be plenty happy watching the top eight or nine teams in the Pac-12. Teams like Oregon State, Washington, Arizona, Oregon – those are quality teams, and fun to watch. Stanford, California, Washington State even – I have nothing against those teams. But one thing that did factor into my decision was the bottom of that conference. Having to spend any time in the presence of teams like USC, Utah, and to a slightly lesser extent, Arizona State, just seemed like a terrible idea. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the Mountain West, teams like Boise State and Air Force, while certainly not great teams, are probably in the conversation for the best last place teams in the country. And better yet, both the Broncos and the Falcons are largely young teams, in the bottom half of Division I in terms of experience, with players who have some upside. Even in those opening round games between top and bottom seeds, Boise State and Air Force provided bigger challenges than the toothless teams at the bottom of the Pac-12, as the Broncos, for one, proved in a big way on Thursday. Further, the prospects of the semifinal games we’re counting down to right now – some combination of Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, and UNLV – had me intrigued months ago.

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Pac-12 Tournament To Las Vegas? Yes, Please…

Posted by AMurawa on December 21st, 2011

Since Larry Scott took over as commissioner of the Pac-12, changes have come fast and furious. To begin with, when Scott accepted the position, it was a quaint 10-team conference playing most of its conference games outside of the eyes of ESPN’s cameras. Now, with this year’s additions of Colorado and Utah, there are more teams (and twice Scott almost succeeded in landing Texas and Oklahoma on his way to a 16-team conference), and with a $3 billion agreement with ESPN and Fox in tow, the conference and its member institutions have a new high-profile television contract and plenty of money to spend.

But Scott’s nowhere near done remaking this conference. Recently he spent some time in China, investigating the possibility of playing regular season games across the Pacific, and last week it was announced that a group from Las Vegas had entered a bid to host the Pac-12 Tournament beginning in 2013. The Pac-12’s agreement with the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the conference tournament has been held since its re-introduction in 2002, expires following this season, and given the repeatedly low attendance at that location, a possible alternative venue is being explored.

Staples Center, Pac-12 Tournament

A Nearly Empty Staples Center Has Become An All Too Familar Sight For The Pac-12 Tournament (credit: Chris Fetters, Dawgman.com)

Enter Las Vegas, and specifically the MGM Grand Garden, a venue that has never hosted a basketball event in its 18-year history. The venue would seat roughly 13,000 people in its basketball configuration, and although it lacks luxury suites, would provide a good neutral-site location for the tournament. There are five Pac-12 schools within a six-hour drive of Las Vegas, and the schools from the furthest reaches of the conference footprint are all within a 2½ hour flight. And perhaps more importantly, Vegas is an entertainment destination that would provide a good incentive for fans from around the league to attend the tournament while providing other options for fun should their team be eliminated early.

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The Week That Was: Tournament Preview Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2011


March Madness is officially here. Introduction over.

What We Learned

What a Run, Young Man.

Connecticut scoffs in the face of conventional wisdom that says it’s better for a team to be well rested before the NCAA tournament. The Huskies won five games in five days to capture the Big East Tournament title last Saturday night. And for my money, Kemba Walker locked up the Naismith Award with his play over those five games. Walker averaged 26 PPG and 38 MPG at Madison Square Garden, carrying a team that finished 9-9 in the Big East to the #3 seed in the West. We are a little concerned that Walker went only 2-16 from three during the tournament, but he countered his poor outside shooting with at least nine attempts from the free throw line each game. For those who think Walker has to be running on fumes right now, remember that he had enough left to break some ankles, rise and knock down a J to beat Pittsburgh despite playing all 40 minutes of that game. Because of their 7:20 PM ET tip on Thursday, the Huskies will have had nearly five days off to ready themselves for the Tournament. That’s plenty of time for Kemba to recharge for another run.

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Conference Tourney Mini-Previews: Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2008

Next Up:  Pac-10 Tournament.  The best conference in America this year should provide us with more entertainment this weekend, as there are arguably nine teams who have enough talent to make a run and win this thing.  One question – why is it in the Staples Center every year?  Memo to the Pac-10 commisioners: there are other NBA arenas in Phoenix, Oakland, Portland and Seattle that would also make great venues for this event. 

Where:  Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

Pac-10 Tourney Bracket

The Favorite(s).  Vegas Watch doesn’t have the Pac-10 odds up yet, but UCLA is sitting on a 94% chance at a #1 seed in the NCAAs, and they’re playing about ten miles from campus, so we’re going to go ahead and anoint them the easy favorite here.  There is some evidence that Ben Howland teams don’t take this tournament seriously, though, with three first-game losses in his four years at UCLA (although the Bruins did win the Pac-10 Tourney in 2006). 

The Darkhorse.  Take your pick.  The #9 seed, Cal, just played within a blown call and a circus shot of beating UCLA at Pauley last week.  The #7 seed, Arizona, took Kansas to overtime at Lawrence.  The #4 seed, USC, starts two potential lottery picks.  We could go on, but you get the point.  The Pac-10 is loaded, and anybody but the hapless Oregon St. Beavers could make a run at this title. 

Bubble Buster Game.  Arizona v. Stanford in round two.  Arizona has a tremendous computer profile with the #2 strength of schedule in the nation and a #29 RPI according to KenPom, but that 17-13 (8-10) record leaves a lot to be desired.  They’ll beat OSU tonight, but they really need to beat Stanford tomorrow to get to .500 in conference and add one more quality win to their resume.   If the Cardinal mails it in like they did last weekend at USC, Arizona should have a very good chance to win that game.  Oregon (#54 RPI) could also stand to beat Wazzu, but they’re terrible away from home this year, so we don’t expect that to happen.

Cinderella.  USC.  The Trojans have been playing a lot better lately, and if UCLA dumps the first game again, they should have a relatively easy path to the finals on Saturday.  Even if UCLA doesn’t dump that game, they’ve already defeated the Bruins once and played them very tough in another game.  Also, playing in familiar environs doesn’t hurt. 

Games We Want to See.   Basically, all of them.  No other league has as much individual talent or intriguing contrasts in style of play as the Pac-10, so this should be a great tournament.  If it comes down to it, though, we’re hoping for a third matchup between the two LA schools, followed by Stanford getting another shot against the Bruins on Saturday. 

Champion.  We’re not sure Stanford will ever recover from their collapse and screwing in Westwood last week, nor do we have enough faith that the Bruins will put their best foot forward in this event.  Wazzu and ASU are good choices to fill the void, but we really like the way USC has been playing in recent weeks, and we think maybe they’ll put it all together this weekend to make a nice run (only to get overconfident and drop their first round game next week, of course).  So our champion is USC.    

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