When pressed about a hot-button issue this week, Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt tried to avoid the question.
"I don't want to go down this road," he said.
But he will be forced to hit the road for the Mountain West Conference tournament, and that's a sore subject for Shyatt and six other coaches who don't call the Thomas & Mack Center home.
Welcome to the UNLV Invitational, the basketball tournament that seven teams have little or no chance to win because the Rebels never lose on their home court. Or, at least, that's how it's portrayed.
"I think it's absolutely unfair," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. "It's not done in any other major conference. It makes no sense, other than it's good for the TV when it pans the crowd and shows all those people. Nobody wants to play Vegas on their home floor. The last time I looked, nobody has beaten them there."
UNLV is 16-0 this season at the Thomas & Mack, so Fisher has a point. But there are more sides to the story, and the issue of competitive equality might be overrated.
Fisher has won the past two Mountain West tournaments, and his Aztecs have knocked out the Rebels three years in a row. So which team earns the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday is far from automatic.
"The last couple years, we haven't won this tournament, so I really don't see an advantage in it being here in Las Vegas," UNLV junior Anthony Marshall said.
Shyatt is in the most unenviable position of all, because his Cowboys (20-10) are seeded No. 6 and must face the third-seeded Rebels (25-7) in the opening round at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
"It's extremely weird for me because I'm used to being in big-time leagues, and you'd never -- and I repeat, would never -- play a road game at the conference tournament because they would never allow student-athletes to do that," said Shyatt, who has coached in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East and Southeastern Conference.
It's debatable whether the Mountain West is big time, although it is the nation's fifth-strongest league in the Ratings Percentage Index.
This is the 10th time the conference tournament has been staged at the Thomas & Mack. UNLV has won it three times, most recently in 2008, and reached the finals three other times.
"As coaches, we've asked for this to be changed and it's been voted down each time," Colorado State coach Tim Miles said. "What's not being taken into account is we deal directly with the student-athletes on a daily basis. When those kids get the bracket and the first thing they do is drop their head because they're on UNLV's side of the bracket, or they breathe a sigh of relief they're not on UNLV's side of the bracket, it really makes a difference."
The most outspoken opponent of the situation has been New Mexico coach Steve Alford, who has yet to face the Rebels in the league tournament. That could change Friday, if both teams advance to the semifinals.
"I've been in this league for five years, and I think everybody knows my stance on it," Alford said. "There's some imbalance there. But obviously, coaches don't have much say in it."
UNLV coach Dave Rice, a former Brigham Young assistant, has been on both sides, but Rice's opinion has never changed.
"What I've always said, and I've been consistent about this even during my time at BYU, is Las Vegas is absolutely the best place to host the tournament," Rice said. "Fans like coming here.
"It's an advantage for us to play in our home arena, no question about it. It would be hypocritical to say anything other than that."
When the league tournament was in Denver from 2004 to 2006, Rice said, "there were just a few thousand people in the seats."
The tournament is far more profitable and successful at the Thomas & Mack -- where it will be held through at least 2013 -- and money usually takes precedence over fairness.
"It's definitely an unfair advantage. But I don't make the rules," said Rebels sophomore forward Mike Moser, who was named to the United States Basketball Writers Association's All-District VIII Team on Tuesday.
"But I don't think it really matters where you play because the best team is going to win."
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.