LAS VEGAS - Six teams with 20-plus wins, the nation's top-scoring offense, and some of college basketball's best talent headline the inaugural Vegas 16. The new men's NCAA Division I postseason tournament, which is slated to tip off on March 28, is an eight-team, single-elimination, three-day event that will be played at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The entire tournament will be broadcast live by CBS Sports Network.
"We had originally hoped to launch this new tournament with 16 teams, but only if we could secure top-quality programs," said Brooks Downing, president of bd Global, the tournament organizer. "With highly unusual results in many of the conference tournaments, we were hesitant to just fill out the bracket with `available teams.' So by choosing quality over quantity, we settled on eight teams, many of which were considered for an NIT berth, and all of which have had outstanding seasons they want to celebrate in our event."
The field is the strongest outside the NCAA or NIT postseason tournaments and is led by 23-win teams Louisiana Tech (23-9) and East Tennessee State (23-11). ETSU, second in the Southern Conference, narrowly missed out on an NIT berth with an 86 RPI, a common index used in college basketball that's based on winning percentage.
Oakland's Kahlil Felder, a 5-9 junior guard, averaged 24.2 points per game and has tallied 296 assists, a startling 9.2 average, to earn Horizon League Player of the Year and third-team All-America honors. His production was the primary reason Oakland led the nation in scoring, averaging 86.3 ppg. As a senior next year, Felder will have an opportunity to break Bobby Hurley's all-time assists record, which was set at Duke two decades ago.
"Kay is a dynamic athlete who led the nation in assists and finished fourth in scoring," said Oakland coach Greg Kampe. "He's a SportsCenter Top-10 play waiting to happen every time he takes the court."
Felder won't be the only elite player in the field. Louisiana Tech guard Alex Hamilton, a 6-4 senior, was the Conference USA Player of the Year after averaging 19.7 ppg, 6.2 apg and 5.7 rpg while leading the Bulldogs' to a 23-9 mark. Hamilton is the only C-USA player to average at least 20 points, five boards, six assists and two steals in a single season.
"We are very excited to get this new event for college basketball launched here in year one with such outstanding teams and student-athletes," said Jim Livengood, chairman of the Vegas 16 committee. "With a destination location, a premium neutral-site venue at Mandalay Bay and our tournament staged two weeks after Selection Sunday, we are confident that this `bowl game for basketball' will mature into a primary option for teams in postseason play."
The tournament first-round match-ups are as follows:
Monday, March 28
- Game 1: Tennessee Tech (19-11) vs. Old Dominion (22-13) -- 12 p.m. PT
- Game 2: Northern Illinois (21-12) vs. UCSB (18-13) -- 2:30 p.m. PT
- Game 3: Oakland (21-11) vs. Towson (20-12) -- 6 p.m. PT
- Game 4: Louisiana Tech (23-9) vs. ETSU (23-11) -- 8:30 p.m. PT
Tuesday, March 29
- Games 5/6: Semifinals --6/8:30 p.m. PT
Wednesday, March 30
- Game 7: Championship -- 7 p.m. PT
Tournament tickets are priced from $15 per session for the tournament. All sessions include two games except for the championship game. Tickets can be purchased at the Mandalay Bay box office, MandalayBay.com, AXS.com, Vegas16.com or by calling 888-AXS-TIX. The Mandalay Bay Events Center seats 10,000 for basketball and has played host to NBA preseason games.
More information on the Vegas 16 can be found at www.vegas16.com or follow on Twitter at @VegasSixteen.
About bd Global:
bd Global, LLC is a representation, event management, and public relations firm operating on an international platform within the sports marketing industry. bdG manages multiple college basketball events in the United States each season, and previously has managed events across North America and the Caribbean, including college basketball events in Phoenix, Boston, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Southwest Florida, Dallas, Houston and Las Vegas. www.bdglobalsports.com.