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2017 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament travel guide

Everything you need to know about the 2017 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament.

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NFL: Las Vegas Views Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We’re just a little over two weeks away from the 2017 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament which begins on Wednesday, March 8, and concludes with the championship game on Saturday, March 11.

If you’re getting that Las Vegas itch, the tournament may be the perfect getaway for you. Here are some FAQs about everything you need to know about the tourney.

Why should I attend the tournament?

To support WSU basketball, of course!

No, seriously?

Alright, you got me there. Washington State hasn’t won a conference tournament game since it beat Oregon 62-40 in the 2009 Pac-10 Tournament. The Cougars’ last three losses in the tourney have been largely uncompetitive as well; they’ve been outscored by an average of 20 points to mediocre Stanford, California, and Colorado teams during those losses.

We can get a basic idea of who WSU will play by just looking at the current conference standings:

  1. No. 5 Arizona (25-3, 14-1)
  2. No. 7 Oregon (24-4, 13-2)
  3. No. 6 UCLA (24-3, 11-3)
  4. California (18-8, 9-5)
  5. USC (21-6, 9-5)
  6. Utah (17-10, 8-7)
  7. Colorado (16-12, 6-9)
  8. Arizona State (13-15, 6-9)
  9. Stanford (13-13, 5-9)
  10. Washington State (12-15, 5-10)
  11. Washington (9-18, 2-13)
  12. Oregon State (5-23, 1-14)

Off of this we know WSU’s highest seeding possible is 7th and the lowest seed they can get is where they currently sit at 10th. Barring a major collapse by USC (unlikely) or Utah (they did lose to Oregon State Sunday night...), it looks like WSU will face Colorado, ASU, or Stanford in that opening first round. All three of those teams are beatable, and in fact, WSU swept ASU this season and went 1-1 against Colorado. The real head scratcher was the embarrassing 84-54 loss to the Cardinal in the teams’ only meeting this season, but I believe if the two teams meet in the tournament the end result would be a lot closer.

Okay, even if WSU goes home early I still want to get my money’s worth at the tournament. Will I?

If you plan on staying for the whole tournament, you definitely will. Looking at the standings right now, the conference should have four or five teams receiving berths to the NCAA tournament next month. If you’re a fan of college hoops, this will be a fantastic tournament. NBA mock draft websites like Draft Express and have Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball going first and second overall in June’s draft. Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen will likely be a top ten pick and Cal’s Ivan Rabb and UCLA’s T.J. Leaf may be lottery picks as well. There is certainly no lack of talent at this tournament.

Another exciting thing about this year’s tournament is that it will take place at the brand new T-Mobile Arena. Gone are the days of the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The T-Mobile Arena opened its doors in April and will be the home of the Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL’s newest franchise set to begin play in the 2017-18 season. Of course, a smaller venue like the MGM Grand Garden is probably more appropriate for a conference tournament (I imagine we’ll see lots of empty seats during the first two days of the tourney) but nonetheless, if you’re into checking out new stadiums and arenas, you’ll be able to cross the T-Mobile Arena off your list.

Also it’s Vegas...when have you not gotten your money’s worth in Sin City?

Speaking of money, how much will this cost me?

Quite a lot, unfortuantely. Las Vegas is a hot spot 365 days a year, but March is always an expensive time to go. Why? In addition to the Pac-12 tournament, the WCC hosts its men’s tournament the week before at Orleans Arena. Plus, a handful of colleges (WSU included March 13-18) have its spring breaks in the middle part of March and students flock to Vegas for a cheaper, domestic trip as opposed to Cancun or Cabo. In addition to all of this, the ConExpo-CON/AGG construction trade show will be taking place at the Las Vegas Convention Center from the 7th-11th.

I want specifics. Break it down for me.

You got it. All all-tournament pass (gets you into every game) costs $225-265 on the Pac-12’s website. For whatever reason the only location in the arena “available” is in the upper bowl behind one of the baskets. Off a quick glance, Stubhub has more reasonable prices for individual sessions and a better seat selection, but an all-tournament pass is starts at $225 and only get higher.

Airfare is also going to fairly expensive depending on how convenient you want your travel to be.

A one-way, non-stop flight to Las Vegas from Seattle on Alaska Airlines is going to cost $290 on that Tuesday and that’s the cheapest it’s going to get for a non-stop. These are also 6:10 and 7:30 early morning flights. If you’re willing to have to do layovers, going through California (San Francisco or Los Angeles) is much cheaper. Flying out of Vegas on that Sunday is extremely expensive (understandably), so if you’re willing to spend another day in Vegas (how tempting) flying out Monday will save you some money as flights begin at at $132 for a 10:40 p.m. take off back to Seattle.

If you’re in Eastern Washington, flying out of Spokane looks slightly better and more affordable. A roundtrip ticket on Southwest Airlines will cost $355 departing on Tuesday and returning on Sunday. However, each flight has a layover (Oakland and Phoenix, respectively) and the departing Spokane flight is at 8 a.m. and the return flight leaves McCarran International 7:25 p.m. and won’t land back in Spokane until after midnight.

Feel free to tinker around and find what dates/times work for you. I’m sure some of these prices will fluctuate daily so it’s worth keeping an eye on.

The most expensive part of the trip will be the hotel. As I mentioned above, there are a lot of people in Vegas during this time of the year which gives these resorts the opportunity to charge whatever they like. If you plan on staying five nights on the Strip, good luck. With taxes and resort fees, it’ll likely cost more than $1,500. Here are the hotels advertised as “fan hotels” on the Pac-12 website. For a point of reference, the Monte Carlo and New York New York are the two closest hotels to the T-Mobile Arena as they’re literally right next door.

Yikes. That is a lot of money.

It certainly is. But I’ll leave you on this note, if there’s any place in the world to win (or lose...) money, it’s Las Vegas.