WAC to moving 2011 basketball tournaments to Vegas | NevadaAppeal.com

WAC to moving 2011 basketball tournaments to Vegas

OSKAR GARCIA
Associated Press Writer

LAS VEGAS (AP) – The Western Athletic Conference is moving its season-ending men’s and women’s basketball tournaments to Las Vegas in 2011.

The two-year deal announced Wednesday puts the tournaments at the Orleans Arena in 2011 and 2012. The arena is attached to The Orleans Hotel and Casino, just west of the Las Vegas Strip.

WAC Commissioner Karl Benson believes Las Vegas will be a good destination for fans, and the arena a strong neutral site for the conference championships.

“It happened probably quicker than anybody expected,” Benson said. “Las Vegas is a big market and it has a big name attached to it.”

The deal calls for the tournaments to be held March 8-11, 2011, and March 6-10, 2012, during the same time the Mountain West Conference expects to hold its tournaments at the Thomas & Mack Center, the home arena of UNLV.

The tournament will be held in Reno next year for the second straight year, giving the Nevada Wolf Pack a home-court advantage.

Benson and Boyd Gaming Corp. chief executive Keith Smith haven’t decided whether the adjacent casino’s sports book will accept wagers on the tournament games.

“It’s under consideration – it’s not a deal-breaker,” Benson said. “We’ll work with the company to establish a policy that we both can live with.”

Benson said the NCAA has not backed off on its positions toward sports betting.

“We’re sensitive to it – we have to be – but we can work within the policies and guidelines that exist,” Benson said.

The West Coast Conference also holds its tournaments at the nearly 8,500-seat arena, and asked The Orleans not to sell alcohol in the arena and not to list its games in the sports book. The casino agreed.

Benson said selling alcohol is not as big an issue for the WAC, which has several schools that sell alcohol at their events. But he said a decision has not been made on whether drinks would be sold at the WAC tournaments in Las Vegas.

Benson also said that starting next year in Reno, the tournaments’ starting fields would be trimmed from nine teams to eight, eliminating the No.8-No.9 play-in game.