LAS VEGAS – For the first time, a season-ending college basketball tournament will be played in Las Vegas when the new “Vegas 16” tips off this upcoming March. The new 16-team event serves as the finale of a busy college basketball season in Las Vegas and will be managed by Lexington, Ky.-based sports marketing firm bd Global, which also manages two events currently at the MGM Grand Garden Arena: the Men Who Speak Up Main Event, an eight-team Thanksgiving week tournament, and the MGM Grand Showcase, which is played each December and benefits Coaches vs. Cancer.
The new Vegas 16 tournament, similar to the Postseason NIT, features 16 teams playing a single-elimination tournament on March 26-30, 2016 at Cox Pavilion on UNLV’s campus. All 16 teams will be housed at resort properties on the Las Vegas Strip. The tournament field and seeding will be announced shortly after the NCAA Tournament announcement on Selection Sunday. The action then tips 13 days later to give teams and fans ample time to schedule travel to Las Vegas.
“While the NCAA Tournament continues to rule Madness, there’s been a real need to create an affordable, attractive event at a destination location for teams who have had a terrific season yet were unable to qualify as one of the top 68 programs on Selection Sunday,” said Brooks Downing, President and CEO of bd Global. “Our research indicates we will attract high-quality programs with this simplistic approach. This will be a premium event in one premium location.”
While there are seven men’s and women’s postseason conference tournaments held in Las Vegas on an annual basis, this will be the first true post-conference tournament event held in the city. Current NCAA Bylaws prohibit NCAA-sponsored events from being held in states with legalized sports gambling. However, there is a proposal from the Mountain West Conference under review now by NCAA membership to remove that provision. Las Vegas has become the unofficial “capital of basketball,” as multiple basketball events are played there annually, including premier high school and summer AAU events, college basketball in-season events, USA Basketball training camps and exhibitions, and the popular NBA Summer League.
“The Vegas 16 offers an intriguing new opportunity for postseason college basketball,” said Jim Livengood, former NCAA athletic director for nearly 30 years at Arizona, Washington State, UNLV and Southern Illinois. “The destination of Las Vegas is so powerful because fans want to be here that time of year and it will only enhance the playing experience for the student-athletes and all those involved with the programs. This also makes sense for many of the schools financially as hosting home games this time of the year can become a fiscal burden. We’re excited to see this become a reality for so many different reasons.”
Livengood, who is a former chairman of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament selection committee, recently retired from UNLV and spends time consulting in college athletics. One of his focuses is on growing the footprint of college athletics in the Las Vegas market. “There are so many things this great destination can do to support college athletics and the student-athlete experience,” said Livengood about Las Vegas.
Organizers indicated that most, if not all, of the Vegas 16 will be televised nationally. Full info on Vegas 16 can be found at www.vegas16.com and on Twitter at @VegasSixteen.
Main Event, Showcase Welcome New Sponsors
MGM Grand will play host to two early season events this season and the action tips with the Men Who Speak Up Main Event on Nov. 23-25, 2015. The eight-team event features Clemson, Creighton, Rutgers and UMass competing in the “Heavyweight Bracket” while Central Arkansas, Howard, Texas Southern and UTSA battle each other in the “Middleweight Bracket.” All eight teams will be in action on Monday and Wednesday of Thanksgiving week with four games each day at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The Main Event also will highlight Movember, an annual campaign in November challenging men to grow moustaches to spark conversations and raise funding for men’s health issues. As part of the Main Event, 500 tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis to men wearing moustaches to the tournament.
Men Who Speak Up (www.menwhospeakup.com) is an educational initiative from Bayer Healthcare that raises the collective voices of prostate cancer to increase awareness about the condition and the importance of recognizing the symptoms of advancing disease. In the United States, prostate cancer is the second-most frequently diagnosed cancer in men and a leading cause of cancer death in men. In recent years, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith and Sacramento Kings head coach George Karl have all battled prostate cancer. Old Dominion head coach Jeff Jones was diagnosed this past May and the Southeastern Conference is currently raising awareness and honoring former SEC commissioner Mike Slive with “Prostate Cancer Awareness Games” throughout the September college football slate. Slive battled prostate cancer during his career with the league.
“The symptoms of advancing prostate cancer can serve as an important warning sign for men to speak up and take action, but all too often men keep quiet when it matters most,” said Shannon Campbell, Vice President and General Manager of Oncology, Bayer HealthCare. “Through Men Who Speak Up, we hope to create a national movement to help men become more comfortable having these conversations with their doctors – and Movember, with its emphasis on conversation, is a perfect time to start. We are pleased to be partnering with some of the biggest names in college basketball to continue getting the word out and to show men that speaking up about their cancer symptoms is a sign of strength.”
The basketball action returns 10 days later when UNLV faces Pac-12 power Oregon in the MGM Grand Showcase, which benefits Coaches vs. Cancer, an initiative spearheaded by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (www.nabc.com) and the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org). The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2 and is expected to sell-out the 13,000-seat MGM Grand Garden Arena as UNLV has included the ticket in its home season ticket offering. The game is played at the Grand Garden while the Runnin’ Rebels are out of their home court, the Thomas & Mack Center, due to the National Finals Rodeo.
Travel Package and Ticket Information
Tickets for both the Men Who Speak Up Main Event and MGM Grand Showcase 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.