Las Vegas loves Boise State.
Whether it is the droves of blue and orange faithful that have trekked to UNLV for regular-season games or Las Vegas Bowls, or the strong showing fans made this week at the Mountain West Tournament, the Broncos feel the same.
Should the Boise State men’s basketball team play in the postseason, the inaugural Vegas 16 is a near-lock.
Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey said Thursday the Broncos aren’t interested in the College Basketball Invitational or the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, but are interested in the new tournament, played at the Mandalay Bay Events Center from March 26-30. Vegas 16 Director Jon Albaugh said Friday their interest is very strong, stopping shy of saying an invitation has been extended, but stating if Boise State wants to play, the Broncos will have a spot.
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“We’d love to have Boise State, we’ve told them that,” Albaugh said. “It’s in their hands, but we’re hoping they’ll say yes.”
The new 16-team tournament is unique in that it will be played at one site, eliminating some of the financial risk of the other tournaments in which each win means more money, either the cost to host or to travel. It also will be played later in the month to help draw more fans, and will have the final three rounds televised on CBS Sports Network.
“What we’ve done is kind of simplified it, which is what a lot of schools prefer if they aren’t in the NCAA or NIT,” Albaugh said.
Albaugh said he hopes to have the Vegas 16 field set by Sunday night, with the bracket unveiled Monday around 10 a.m. MT. He said Boise State is on the outside looking in at the NIT field, which is announced at 6:30 p.m. MT Sunday on ESPNU. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Wednesday the Vegas 16 was looking at Albany, Arkansas, BYU, Florida State, Oakland and “perhaps a couple of Mountain West teams.”
Following Boise State’s 88-81 loss to Colorado State on Thursday, coach Leon Rice said he and the athletic department would begin Friday “to figure it out.” The Broncos’ players were gung-ho to play another game, especially with senior Anthony Drmic just two points away from tying the school scoring record that has existed for 23 years.
“A hundred percent, yes,” junior forward Nick Duncan said. “We’ll find a way to get a game, hopefully, and we’ll go out and get him one more game.”
“I want Drmic to break the record,” freshman guard Paris Austin said.
MOUNTAIN WEST REVERSES COURSE
The Mountain West’s December decision to reduce the men’s and women’s tournament fields from 11 to eight teams in 2017 was almost universally derided, even prompting Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt to host his own press conference about it. He said “this action is wrong, non-inclusive.” Rice said in December the coaches were unanimous in voting for it to remain at 11.
Nearly three months later, the outcry worked.
On Friday, the conference announced it will not proceed with the plan, and will continue as it has traditionally been played, stating “this course of action ensures the best possible decisions for the conference as a whole, its individual member institutions, the student-athletes and their many fans across the western United States.”