LAS VEGAS – MGM Grand (www.mgmgrand.com) will play host to two premium regular-season events next season featuring 12 teams and 10 games at the 16,000-seat MGM Grand Garden Arena. The action tips November 24-26 with the “MGM Grand Main Event,” a new tournament featuring eight teams playing on Monday and Wednesday of Thanksgiving week. The second annual “MGM Grand Showcase” then returns Saturday, Dec. 20 with a high-profile doubleheader benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer, an initiative spearheaded by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (www.nabc.com) and the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org). Six of the games will be televised nationally on the ESPN Networks.
The MGM Grand Main Event features two four-team brackets with each team playing two games November 24 and November 26. The Heavyweight bracket includes Auburn, Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Tulsa while the Middleweight bracket will feature Louisiana, Milwaukee, Oral Roberts and a final team to be announced. The pairings for both brackets will be announced on ESPN.com Tuesday, Aug. 5. An additional eight games will be played at home sites preceding the games in Las Vegas.
The action returns in December when UNLV headlines the MGM Grand Showcase with its first appearance at MGM Grand. The action tips Saturday, Dec. 20 with Oklahoma versus Washington at 6 p.m. PT followed by the Runnin’ Rebels battling Utah at 8:30 p.m. Both games will be nationally televised with Oklahoma-Washington on ESPNU and UNLV-Utah on ESPN2.
By adding the November tournament, MGM Grand continues to strengthen its presence in college basketball. Two years ago, the resort lured the Pac-12 Tournament away from Los Angeles and the annual league tournament has experienced tremendous success in Las Vegas. Last season, the first Showcase doubleheader saw Oklahoma State defeat Colorado and New Mexico beat Marquette. Both regular season events will be managed by bd Global, LLC, a Lexington, Ky.-based sports marketing agency.
“Many thanks to MGM Grand and its President and COO Scott Sibella for the commitment to bring the best of college basketball to Las Vegas by supporting both of these outstanding events,” said Brooks Downing, president of bd Global, the event promoter. “Our goal is to brand MGM Grand as the ‘college basketball capital of Las Vegas’ and with both the Main Event and Showcase we have set the foundation for bigger and better things to come in the next few years.”
MGM GRAND MAIN EVENT
The action tips at MGM Grand Monday, Nov. 24 with the Middleweight bracket in the first session beginning at 11 a.m. PT. The evening session tips at 5:30 p.m. featuring the two Heavyweight bracket games (5:30 p.m. & 8 p.m. PT).
Three first-year head coaches headline the Heavyweight bracket. Excitement is high at Auburn as new coach Bruce Pearl has reinvigorated the program. Pearl has immediately increased the talent level on the Plains with three transfers – KC Ross-Miller (8.3 points last season at New Mexico State), Kareem Canty (16.3 points at Marshall) and Antoine Mason (the nation’s top leading returning scorer at 25.6 points at Niagara). Defending Conference USA Champion Tulsa moves to the American Athletic Conference next season and hired former Missouri coach Frank Haith. The Golden Hurricane return four starters including leading scorer James Woodard (15.5 points). Oregon State made a splash by hiring coach Wayne Tinkle from Montana. Tinkle led the Grizzlies to three NCAA Tournament appearances and three conference titles over the past five years. Oklahoma State won 21 games last season including a 78-73 victory over Colorado at the inaugural MGM Grand Showcase. Travis Ford’s Cowboys will be led by senior Le’Bryan Nash (13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds) and transfer Anthony Hickey (8.4 points, 3.7 assists last season at LSU).
The Main Event’s Middleweight bracket features a competitive field of teams that each could be competing for conference titles next season. Despite the loss of NBA Draft lottery selection Elfrid Payton, Louisiana appears primed to make a run at a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. Last season’s Sun Belt Conference champions return second-leading scorer Shawn Long (18.6 points and 10.4 rebounds). Milwaukee returns three starters from last season’s 21-win team led by juniors Matt Tiby (12.0 points) and Austin Arians (11.1 points). Coach Scott Sutton has built Oral Roberts into one of the nation’s top mid-major programs averaging more than 20 wins per season over the past decade. The Golden Eagles lose only one starter from last season and will be led by Obi Emegano (19.0 points) and Korey Billbury (15.3 points).
MGM GRAND SHOWCASE
UNLV will make the one-mile commute down Tropicana Avenue for the school’s first game at MGM Grand. Coach Dave Rice’s Rebels finished 20-13 last season and bring in a Top 5 nationally ranked recruiting class highlighted by three Top 50 players in Rashad Vaughn (No. 8-ranked player by Rivals.com), Dwayne Morgan (No. 15) and Goodluck Okonoboh (No. 31).
Coach Larry Krystkowiak is quickly rebuilding the Utah Utes back into a national power. Utah returns the bulk of its team that finished 21-12 last season. The Utes will be led by seniors Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge, second and third on the team in scoring, respectively, in 2013-14.
Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger returns to Las Vegas where he led UNLV to four NCAA Tournament appearances in seven years as the Rebels’ head coach. Now entering his fourth season as the Sooners’ coach, Kruger has taken OU to the last two NCAA Tournaments with 20+ wins in each of the past two seasons.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar is now the longest-tenured head coach in the Pac-12 Conference and will be entering his 13th season at UW. In a four-year stretch from 2009-2012, his Huskies dominated the league with two regular season conference titles and two tournament crowns. UW will be led by former Findlay Prep star Nigel Williams-Goss, a sophomore guard that was second on the team in scoring as a freshman at 13.8 points per game.
A portion of every ticket sold for the MGM Grand Showcase will directly benefit Coaches vs. Cancer. The program provides critical mission outreach while raising funds in support of the American Cancer Society’s lifesaving efforts to help people stay well and get well, fund groundbreaking research into cancer’s causes and cures, and fight back through legislative action at the local, state, and national levels. Since 1993, high school and college coaches across the country have raised more than $87 million to support the American Cancer Society’s fight against cancer.
Reggie Minton, NABC deputy executive director, said, “Our NABC coaches have championed the Coaches vs. Cancer program for 20 years now. We are very appreciative for the support we receive for this initiative in the hope of finding a cure for cancer.
TICKETS AND EVENT INFO
Tickets for both events are on sale now at all Las Vegas Ticketmaster locations (select Smith’s Food and Drug Centers and Ritmo Latino). To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. Tickets also are available for purchase at www.mgmgrand.com or www.ticketmaster.com.
Complete event information can be found at www.mgmgrandmainevent.com and www.mgmgrandshowcase.com or on Twitter at @HOOPSatMGM. For group sales or sponsorship opportunities, interested parties should contact bd Global at 859-951-6141.