Las Vegas lives up to high expectations hosting the Sweet 16 & Elite 8 of NCAA Men’s National Championship Tournament West Regional

Jalen Graham (11) shoots the ball. Photo by Kalin Sipes.

The city of Las Vegas hosted the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 for the West Region of the NCAA Men’s National Championship Tournament for the first time at T-Mobile Arena on March 23 and March 25. 

The four teams that competed in the Western Regional tournament in Las Vegas were the No. 8 seed Arkansas Razorbacks, No. 4 seed UConn Huskies, No. 3 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs, No. 2 seed UCLA Bruins.

On March 23 T-Mobile arena hosted the west region of the Sweet 16 which includes a two game slate with the Arkansas Razorbacks and UConn Huskies. Following the first game the Gonzaga Bulldogs faced off against the UCLA Bruins. 

The UConn Huskies and Bulldogs were victorious in the Sweet 16 advancing them to the Elite Eight on March 25. 

On March 25 Las Vegas hosted the Elite Eight between the UConn Huskies and Gonzaga Bulldogs to decide what team will represent the west region in the Final Four located at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. 

The UConn Huskies won the game 82-54 to earn a trip to the final four at Houston, Texas. 

The NCAA community from the fans of the event to the coaches were impressed by the execution of Las Vegas hosting a NCAA Men’s National Championship Tournament.

Head Coach of the winning school UConn Dan Hurley felt comfortable playing in the big city with the flashing lights.

“I think it was good for us because we’re all from the city. We are all city people, we are very comfortable playing in a city that has a lot of life to it” Hurley said. “The crowds were awesome, the people were super friendly and everyone treated us great.”

One of the members of the community that was impressed with the city of Las Vegas is former Gonzaga forward and current color commentator Adam Morrison who was named Co-Player of the Year in 2006 with J.J. Redick from Duke.

“I think, obviously Vegas is tailor made for stuff like this,” Morrison said. “I think it’s been great. They’ve done a good job.”

“It’s been an unbelievable environment. I think just the NCAA tournament as a whole is different than any other sporting event as far as I’ve covered,” Editor In Chief of The Gonzaga Bulletin Cole Forsman said. “Vegas is a basketball town. I don’t think a lot of people know that. But the fans here brought the energy every day, no matter who’s been playing, and it’s been a great experience.”

“I got to travel to San Francisco last year, but this is a lot different. There’s a lot more to do on the main strip,” Student on the Arkansas band David Brill said. We’re grateful for the opportunity that the school has given us to travel out here. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Pierce Thompson and Sophia Morey who are both members of the Gonzaga Bulldogs band pointed out how electric the crowd at the T-Moblie Arena was.

“[The fans] have been loud,” Thompson said. “Last game it was at 98% capacity, that was really nice getting people going crazy on every play.”

“I’ve had the privilege of traveling with the team for the past two years and [Las Vegas] is just so exciting,” Morey said. “Our game against UCLA, the crowd environment was just so high it was really fun.”

T-Mobile Arena hosting the West Regional of the NCAA Men’s National Championship Tournament also meant that the host school for the event was UNLV. UNLV being the host school opened students to an opportunity to gain experience and work in March Madness.

“I got the opportunity to help with the preparation of the host city, Las Vegas and the activities we did throughout the city welcoming the teams at their hotels providing their transport from the airport to the hotels,” Business Management Undergraduate Spencer Schaff said. “At the actual games, I got the opportunities to help with game operations and the fan activities happening outside of the arena. ”

“I was able to work with CBS and see what it’s like to be on the inside and help out at a major event,” UNLV Undergraduate Student Jessica Sobel said. “Las Vegas becoming a major sports city now brings a lot of events here giving a lot more opportunities for students to work.”

The final leg of the West Regional of the tournament resulted in the UConn Huskies moving on to the Final Four and benefited students and athletic programs at UNLV.


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