How many ways are there to incorporate the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign into a college basketball conference tournament logo?
After the West Coast Conference played to sellout crowds at the Orleans Arena last weekend and the Mountain West packed the Thomas & Mack Center on this one, every conference commissioner west of the Mississippi River might be calling for arena reservations and a graphic artist.
Karl Benson and the Western Athletic Conference already have, having announced months ago they would be joining the WCC in moving their men’s and women’s tournaments to The Orleans, beginning next year. Meanwhile, the South Point has been talking to the Big Sky and Big West.
Steve Stallworth, the director of South Point’s state-of-the-art rodeo arena who negotiated the WCC deal for The Orleans, says the equestrian center could be dusted off to seat 6,000 for basketball. The Big Sky seems content to hold its tournament at home sites of the higher seeds, Stallworth said, and the Big West is nervous about moving from California, where nine of its members are located. But he’s working on it.
And with attendance at the Pacific-10 tournament at Staples Center in Los Angeles having plummeted to where students were let into the semifinals at short notice for $10, fans on those teams’ message boards also are inquiring about the price of a shrimp cocktail and Penn & Teller tickets.
Are there enough 94-feet-long-by-50-feet-wide slabs of hardwood to accommodate all who want to hoop it up here? If the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay were to get involved, perhaps. But the thought of UCLA playing Oregon or Stanford on the asphalt at Sunset Park is sort of intriguing, isn’t it?
■ REALLY BIG SHOW: Buoyed by the first sellout session in the tournament’s 11-year history for Friday night’s pulsating semifinals, the Mountain West also set a record for overall tournament attendance. The final count was 71,945 and one San Diego State student wearing a lizard suit.
■ AZTEC WARRIORS: Since the 2005-06 season, San Diego State has a 5-3 record at the Thomas & Mack Center. The rest of the Mountain West is 3-39. I don’t know if that’s important. But it seems like it.
■ KAWHI-BUNGA: This just in: Someone fired a shot in the dark … and Kahwi Leonard got the rebound.
■ MARCH SADNESS: I promised I wasn’t going to stick a fork in a dead horse. But I’d be remiss in not pointing out that Saturday’s Mountain West championship game was shown on Versus, and fans of the teams who get DirecTV were not able to watch it because of the satellite provider’s ongoing dispute with the television network. That was what Rebels fans said on voice mail messages before they started swearing like Ralphie Parker’s dad in “A Christmas Story.”
■ MARCH GLADNESS: Then again, given the ragged nature of the championship game, perhaps it’s a good thing it wasn’t available on satellite. NCAA Tournament committee chairman Dan Guerrero earlier on Saturday said he still had some games to watch before his crew seeded the field. Unless he had a giant set of rabbit ears, it’s doubtful he watched this one.
■ NO REST FOR THE WEARY: So why start at 4 p.m.? One can understand playing at a weird hour if CBS makes a morning time slot available on national TV, as it did for the Conference USA final on Saturday. Although the UNLV and San Diego State players said they weren’t tired after Friday’s emotionally and physically draining semifinals, they combined for just 100 points — the lowest total in title game history. If you think that all was attributable to good defense, then you, too, must be a DirecTV subscriber.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352.