The WCC Tournament suddenly became a topic of conversation this week thanks to a conversation from Mark Few on “Sportscenter with SVP.” Today, WCC commissioner Gloria Nevarez stamped out any potential confusion, reiterating that the WCC Tournament will take place in Vegas, as scheduled.
The 2021 WCC Tournament remains on as scheduled at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, per WCC Commissioner Gloria Nevarez. Event will be held from March 4th-9th.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 12, 2021
For the tl;dr crowd, Mark Few pitched out the idea that the top three teams in the WCC come to Spokane to play in a shortened version of the WCC Tournament. With COVID-19 raging throughout the nation (and the WCC rather extensively), it seemed like a more safe option, albeit, one that immensely benefits Gonzaga, but a safe one nonetheless.
Nevarez does not appear to be swayed, and with good reason. For many of us Gonzaga fans, the tournament may seem a bit worthless. We should probably expect that the Bulldogs take the crown, and if they don’t, something is amiss.
However, for other schools, it isn’t quite like that. The tournament still represents a possibility of making it into the NCAA Tournament. You only have to look toward last year on the women’s side, when a fourth-seeded Portland Pilots team pulled off three straight upsets to earn the championship, and with it, their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 23 years.
TV rights also mean the conference was always going to happen this way. The WCC has numerous contracts, highlighted by ESPN, that make the tournament a revenue-generator for the league. That’ll take a hit without fans, but in a down revenue year, it’s hard to imagine the conference not trying to maximize the number of games (and therefore dollars) they can pull out of the weekend.
Of course, the specter of COVID looms largely at the moment, and although the teams can easily hole up in hotel rooms for the entirety of their Las Vegas trip, they are still traveling to an area of the world that is entirely built around the concept of tourism.
For my editorializing two cents, I bet we see Gonzaga taking part in the WCC Tournament. The Zags schedule has already been shifted around that, at the moment, their final week of conference play no longer exists. Even if that gets filled with previously cancelled WCC games, no WCC Tournament means the Zags would be without a game leading into the NCAA Tournament for nearly three weeks.
And for everyone that just thinks that everyone else is chomping at the bit to play the Zags, it obviously does not work like that. We already saw that with the Houston Cougars, who ultimately decided against a neutral game in Salt Lake City because of traveling too much at this point in the season. There are probably not going to be too many games available in a WCC Tournament-less week for Gonzaga to take on, so the question becomes no games vs. games? Mark Few has seemed pretty clear (and the players have as well) that they want to play to stay sharp.
Ultimately, it’s a crappy situation, but that has been the entire year, realistically.