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Las Vegas natural fit to host future NCAA Sweet 16 Tournaments

NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt made waves from Indianapolis to Las Vegas on Tuesday when he told reporters the organization might be open to future men’s tournaments being played at a central location.

“If it’s the desire of the committee and the membership to consider something along these lines for the future, I think we would give it significant consideration,” he said. “I don’t think a 68-team single site, short of another pandemic, would be something we would have great interest in. However, once you get down to a fewer amount of teams, say the Sweet 16 and on, having teams in the same location may provide some opportunities the membership, coaches and all would want to consider.”

This year’s entire men’s basketball tournament was played in and around Indianapolis, and San Antonio hosted the women’s field. That was a departure from the usual process of multiple sites hosting the first four rounds, but the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the move to central locations to minimize travel and exposure.

Las Vegas, with its numerous hotel rooms and sports venues, would seem a natural fit should the NCAA decide the final four rounds of its men’s basketball tournament should be played at one site. The city already has been approved to host a 2023 men’s basketball regional and the 2026 men’s hockey Frozen Four among other NCAA championships.

“… we’re always interested in opportunities to bring additional collegiate events to the destination,” said H. Fletch Brunelle, vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “Last month, we were thrilled to successfully host five NCAA basketball (conference) tournaments. Between the abundance of rooms and the world-class facilities available in Las Vegas, we’re confident that we’ll continue to be successful in welcoming a growing number of amateur, collegiate and professional sporting events.”

Former UNLV athletic director and longtime administrator Jim Livengood has pushed for many years for the entire women’s Sweet 16 on to be played in Las Vegas.

Because the NCAA is locked into its championship schedule for nearly all of events through 2025-26, the earliest a single-site format would be used — barring another pandemic or an extension of the current one — is 2026-27.

“Can it happen? Absolutely,” Livengood said, cautioning nothing was imminent. “Obviously, I’m very pro, thinking it should happen. … I think there will be considerable discussion going forward.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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