MWC needs to eliminate UNLV’s tournament advantage

By and

It’s about time for the MWC to stop giving UNLV more help than it needs.

When it comes to the Mountain West Conference tournament, Rebel head coach Lon Kruger and his basketball program are too good to continue getting the unfair advantage of needing to win just three-straight home games to make it to the NCAA tournament every year.

That’s not to say UNLV didn’t earn their way into their second-straight MWC Tournament championship game since the MWC moved the tournament back to the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev., in 2007. There’s just nothing that disproves that UNLV has had a healthy dose of home cooking along the way.

UNLV has only missed one Las Vegas hosted MWC Championship game in the nine years the tournament has been held. When the MWC decided to experiment by moving the tournament to the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo. From 2004 to 2006, UNLV made just one such appearance.

This is by no means an illustration of UNLV having five fluke appearances either. UNLV has consistently been one of, if not the, premiere team in the MWC since the conference’s birth in 1999. It’s just that to give an already stellar program an extra advantage has to be addressed.

There is no doubt that America’s playground is fan-favorite venue to host a basketball tournament. Las Vegas’ nightlife is second to no one. The accessibility to Las Vegas-both by plane and the I-15 corridor which passes through the City of Lights-is as good as any other cities, if not better. The problem the MWC faces is the issue of a level playing field versus making a buck.

The best of both worlds would be to hold a tournament in a neutral location that still provides the same kind of draws that Las Vegas does. And since the chances of getting UNLV to relocate to another city are as good as the people of Laramie, Wyo., giving Kyle Whittingham and the U football rteam a warm reception next year, the MWC needs to find alternative sites to rectify the reoccurring advantage UNLV gets.

While the casinos and other fan-favorite accommodations Las Vegas has to offer contribute to the big reason the Thomas & Mack Center saw more ticket sales then the Pepsi Center, it also has a lot to do with locale in relation to cities within the MWC.Las Vegas is much closer to being a hub of the MWC than Denver is.

If you want to get technical, somewhere between central and southern Utah is the true hub of the MWC, but seriously, Beaver, Utah doesn’t have much to offer in terms of entertainment between tip-offs.

The reality behind the Pepsi Center’s bad ticket sales might not have so much to do with its lack of strip clubs and the absence of Celine Dione, but more to do with Denver’s sketchy weather patterns in mid-March.

Fans from BYU, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado State and Air Force want excuses to get out of the weather they’ve lived through for the past four months. Fans from sunnier locales like Albuquerque, N.M., San Diego, Dallas-Forth Worth and Las Vegas have no incentive to vacation for three days in sub-50 degree temperatures.

It might be in the conference’s best interest to simply look toward holding the tournament in a warmer clime and place.Though San Diego would be another ideal location-not only because its southern California, but because outside of 1,000 rowdy students, the Aztecs don’t have any fans-it’s by far the least accessible destination for the other eight schools.

To completely take away all advantages, it might make the most sense to host the tournament somewhere like Phoenix, Ariz.There’s a good nightlife there, good weather, plenty of golf and an Indian casino 17 miles outside of town. It’s also easy to access by plane and The Valley of the Sun is relatively close to being equally accessible by all nine MWC teams.

While Las Vegas will always be the ideal setting for the fans within the MWC, it’s about time the MWC stops sacrificing fair play for green backs, because really, isn’t that what the college level is suppose to be about?

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