Inaugural 'Vegas 16' college basketball tournament only fills half its bracket

"We had originally hoped to launch this new tournament with 16 teams, but only if we could secure top-quality programs," tournament organizer Brooks Downing said Monday.
By Doug G. Ware   |   March 14, 2016 at 8:53 PM

LAS VEGAS, March 14 (UPI) -- College basketball has a new postseason tournament this year -- but apparently, it's decided to fill only half of its expected bracket in its inaugural edition.

The bracket for the Vegas 16 tournament was expected to be announced Sunday evening, after the NCAA Tournament and National Invitation Tournament made their selections. However, difficulty in getting teams to play in the new playoff may have delayed the bracket's unveiling by a day.

The eight teams chosen to play in this year's Vegas 16 are Tennessee Tech, Old Dominion, Northern Illinois, UC Santa Barbara, Oakland, Towson, Louisiana Tech and East Tennessee State.

Tournament officials said they needed to attract top-quality programs in order to fill out the full 16-team bracket. With no major conference programs in the field, they instead decided on eight.

"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," tournament organizer Brooks Downing said Monday.

Multiple major conference teams were almost certainly approached to play in the tournament, but some -- including Northwestern and Kansas State -- decided to decline most postseason invites outside the NCAA Tournament, which begins Tuesday.

Major conference teams declining invitations to tournaments outside the NCAA and NIT are not uncommon.

The Vegas 16 differs from the other four college basketball postseason tournaments in that it was scheduled to take place over the course of just five days between March 26 and March 30. With eight teams, though, it will occur over three days, starting March 28.

All games will be played at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on the Las Vegas Strip and will be broadcast live on the CBS Sports Network.

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