Pac-12 semifinals playing before a packed house
LAS VEGAS — The Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament semifinals drew a sellout crowd at the 13,151-seat MGM Grand Garden Arena, which was cause for celebration for commissioner Larry Scott.
It helped that Arizona, the team with the most rabid fan base in the conference, was one of the four teams playing Friday, but why quibble about a good thing.
Scott certainly was in a celebratory mood during his state of the conference address.
“I’m certainly most pleased for the student-athletes, for the teams to get to play in front of these type of crowds, the type of electricity that we’ve had inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena,” he said. “This is the kind of atmosphere that we envisioned and hoped for when we thought about moving the tournament from Los Angeles.
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“This was the objective, the kinds of crowds, the dynamic atmosphere that we’ve witnessed. That was our top priority.”
Scott credited Colorado, which covered travel expenses for 50 fans to attend the tournament for the second consecutive year, for inspiring tournament officials to reserve a section of the arena for students.
“All four teams have brought student sections in addition to their bands and cheer sections and all of that. I think that’s contributed, from my perspective, to the atmosphere and to make sure it feels very collegiate.”
Even though Scott deemed the tournament a success, there’s no plans to extend the conference’s deal with the MGM that expires in 2015. However, he expressed interest in moving the tourney to the MGM’s proposed 20,000-seat arena in Las Vegas.
In just four years, Scott has revitalized the old, staid and stodgy Pac-10 with big, innovative ideas.
The conference added Colorado and Utah, partnered with ESPN and Fox on a $2.7 billion broadcasting deal, launched its own network and found new homes for its basketball tournaments. The women’s tournament has a three-year deal with KeyArena.
Scott admitted much of the heavy lifting is over.
So what’s next?
At some point, the Pac-12 needs to resolve negotiations with DirectTV, which have been in a stalemate for months.
Scott is intent on making sure the conference is at the forefront of the new college football playoff format, which begins in 2014.
He’s also focusing on expanding the conference’s ties internationally.
“We’ve got 30 athletic directors from Chinese universities visiting here this week as part of the exchange that we started last summer,” he said. “You’ll see us do more and more in China and with China back here.”
Still, there’s work to be done with basketball.
Scott talked about tweaking the conference schedule. Changes could include playing games every day of the week and breaking up the old travel-partner format.
The Pac-12 will not start a series of games with another conference, but Scott is urging coaches to play a competitive nonleague schedule.
• All-Pac-12 forward Dwight Powell announced he’s returning to Stanford for his senior season.
• Interesting tournament statistics before the semifinals: Five of the eight games in the two opening rounds were decided by five points or less. The lower seed won three times, three games went into overtime and guards led their teams in scoring seven times.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org