Mountain West makes smart play to have only 8 teams in league tourney

The MW tournament will also remain in Vegas, at the Thomas & Mack Center. (USATSI)

The Mountain West is keeping its premier basketball event in Las Vegas.

The league announced on Friday that its men’s and women’s basketball tourneys will stay put at the Thomas & Mack Center through 2019. The arena, which seats 18,500 people, is spacious, accomodating — and home to UNLV. The Runnin’ Rebels of course also play in the conference.

League commish Craig Thompson said, “Mountain West fans have made it clear they prefer Las Vegas as the site for our basketball championships. That part of the decision was never in question. We did, however, have multiple venue options to consider and the membership engaged in the most thorough review process the league has ever executed for a basketball championship site. At the end of the day, that analysis brought us back to the newly-renovated Thomas & Mack Center.”

UNLV’s home base had more than $72 million put into redecorations and renovations over the past year and a half.

But the really good news is the strong stance the league took when it came to its conference tournament. Unfortunately, too many leagues in D-I allow everyone into their league bracket in March, record be damned. The MW voted to only include its top eight (11 teams occupy the conference) into the bracket. It’s the right move, a move that makes bracketing and scheduling easy, plus brings a bit more credibility to the proceedings. Conference championships should never have been an automatic for any league.

“The decision by the Board to feature the top eight men’s and women’s teams in the MW Basketball Championships is consistent with a broader Mountain West Conference initiative emphasizing performance-based competitive excellence,” Thompson said.

The regular season would be improved if all leagues followed the Mountain West’s decision and opted to only invite its top eight teams. Conference chases would take on serious stakes, and college hoops is always in need of ways to bring urgency and increased competitiveness to its regular season.

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