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Vegas 16 basketball tournament needs a few good teams

This probably never occurred to Stanford’s Team Allen of Las Vegas — twin brothers Malcolm and Marcus Allen of Centennial High and Rosco Allen of Bishop Gorman — as they trudged off the MGM Grand Garden floor after a 91-68 loss to Washington in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament Wednesday afternoon.

The lackluster defeat quashed any 1-in-Cinderella opportunity of the Cardinal playing their way into the NCAA Tournament. But there’s still a small chance the three Allens could be back in their hometown, playing bonus postseason basketball, two weeks from now.

The Vegas 16 is looking for a few good teams.

The tournament committee also may be looking for a few middling teams who underachieved this season.

The Vegas 16 is the latest edition to the roster of college basketball postseason tournaments. You have the Big Dance, which is the NCAA Tournament. You have the NIT, the CBI, the CIT, the Vegas 16. These are Little Dances, lovely parting gifts, the home game of “Concentration.”

The NIT you’ve heard of. The National Invitation Tournament has been around since sweat socks and high-top Converse. The NIT used to be a really big deal — so big that Al McGuire and Marquette once spurned an NCAA Tournament at-large bid to play in the NIT.

CBI stands for College Basketball Invitational. The CBI began in 2008. Tulsa beat Bradley in the inaugural championship game.

CIT stands for CollegeInsider.com Tournament. The CIT began in 2009. Old Dominion beat Bradley in the inaugural championship game.

CIA stands for Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA does not sponsor a postseason basketball tournament. If it did, it probably would be hard to find out starting times.

There also once was a postseason hoops shindig called the National Commissioner’s Tournament. It lasted two years. Indiana won the first one. Bradley did not finish second. Southern California did. Bradley was in it, though.

Because CBS Sports Network is always looking for programming, soon there may be as many postseason men’s basketball tournaments as there are bowl games.

Which was exactly the idea behind the Vegas 16.

Jim Livengood, the former UNLV, Arizona and Washington State athletic director, is chairman of the Vegas 16 selection committee.

When Livengood was at Arizona, he was chairman of the NCAA selection committee. The jobs are similar, he said, except that on Monday morning he hopes he won’t be receiving 3,000 emails from fans of schools with a hyphen or ampersand in their name who think they got screwed.

Will it work? Even with teams paying $50,000 in return for air fare and hotel rooms, the profit margins are slim, Livengood said.

“The NCAA (Tournament) is still the creme de la creme,” he said. “This isn’t about that. The Vegas 16 is about trying to give basketball teams a bowl game experience.”

Livengood was working the lobby at Mandalay Bay, where the Vegas 16 will be played, and where many of the Pac-12 and Mountain West teams are staying this week. Actually, he was working the suites and meeting rooms trying to lock up commitments.

He was tanned and not wearing socks and lugging around a thick notebook that looked like a basketball. Several tall humans wearing Stanford and Oregon State colors strolled by the comfortable sofas in the lobby.

The Vegas 16 is different from the other consolation tournaments, Livengood said, because it will start later (March 26), take only four days and will be played under one roof, in one destination location. With a nice swimming pool.

Livengood is hoping that will make the Vegas 16 more attractive to teams and fans than the other tournaments, which are played at home sites and can be logistical nightmares, especially if you don’t have dibs on your area because “Disney On Ice” is scheduled.

Even with the NIT, only four teams go to New York. With the Vegas 16, all the teams will get to play where there are bright lights and it’s warm outside.

Again, think of it as a basketball bowl game, Livengood said. That’s the experience the Vegas 16 is trying to create.

Teams on his and George Raveling’s radar — the basketball Hall of Famer also is on the committee — include Florida State, Arkansas, Brigham Young, Oakland, Albany and perhaps a couple of Mountain West teams (but not UNLV).

Livengood said there is interest from many teams that have won 20 games, but that 20 wins aren’t required. He said the Vegas 16 probably would not pursue teams with losing records, though.

The lackluster defeat to Washington at the MGM Grand dropped injury-riddled Stanford to 15-15.

So keep your chin up, Team Allen. With the advent of all these postseason tournaments, the season’s not over until the fat lady gets called for three seconds.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski

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