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Pac-12 planning to move forward with conference basketball tournaments

At least as of right now, the Pac-12 Conference is still planning to play their men’s and women’s tournaments in Sin City next month.

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Tournament-Washington State vs Colorado Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

It feels like just yesterday the college basketball season was tipping off around the country. But, as of today, we are exactly one month away from the start of postseason basketball in the Pac-12.

The men’s tournament is scheduled to start at T-Mobile Arena on March 10, with the women’s tournament tipping off even earlier, on March 4 at Mandalay Bay. Of course, the problem this year will be keeping the teams healthy enough to play in the conference tournament games and, more importantly, the NCAA Tournament.

Newly announced rules require all personnel on NCAA Tournament teams, including players, coaches and medical staff, to register seven straight negative COVID-19 tests before even departing for the Indianapolis area, where all 67 games will be played this year. With that in mind, the question of whether the Pac-12 Tournament should even be played is an important one. Why should programs that are a lock for Selection Sunday bother with the added logistics, and risk, of playing additional games?

There are plenty of arguments for and against playing the Pac-12 Tournament in Vegas next month. Tuesday on his Pac-12 Hotline newsletter, Jon Wilner outlined two different perspectives from Pac-12 leaders.

“We’ve got great partners in Las Vegas,” said Utah AD Mark Harlan, who also confirmed during an interview with ESPN700 in Salt Lake City that the conference was moving forward with their tournament plans. “They’ve got a great plan to bubble both the men and women when they’re there… We’re pretty confident that we can run a really good tournament.”

On the other end, at least one head coach (who is already a near lock for the Tournament) is against the idea. UCLA head coach Mick Cronin told the College Hoops Today podcast that he’s uncomfortable with the idea of playing the tournament in Las Vegas. “I’m very, very concerned. Once the NCAA protocols came out, with the seven consecutive negative tests, it’s very scary.”

On Tuesday, WSU head coach Kyle Smith also gave his thoughts on the playing the Pac-12Tournament this year. Smith has maintained all season long that fighting through the difficulties of the pandemic was well worth it to play games, and his feelings haven’t changed heading into the conference tournament.

“These kids like to play, they like to work hard,” Smith said during his weekly press conference. “We like to reward those opportunities. They’ve done a pretty good job of keeping themselves safe. I’d rather do it than not. That’s my opinion.

It sounds like the Pac-12 Tournament is going to happen in some form this March. The only question at this point is what it will look like. At least one conference game has been postponed every week this season and the likelihood of playing every game as scheduled is very low.

Just like everything else in life at this point, we’re all playing the waiting game. But the Conference seems poised to make their tournament happen, no matter what.

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