Should the Pac-10 Tournament Rotate Away From Staples Center?

Cal will be taking on a highly motivated and desperate UCLA team tomorrow. While the Bruins aren't very good this season, if they catch the Bears on a bad shooting night, they can very much pull a Michael Roll out of their hat and score a huge upset and batter us to a dreaded 8/9 seed. If UCLA gets by Cal they wouldn't have a hard matchup with either Washington or the Furd they stand a good chance to earn the NCAA automatic bid (so they get squashed in the first round, but that's beside the point). Not impractical to see the Bruins winning three straight in that scenario.

Hopefully our guys will be well-rested enough to be aggressive on both sides of the ball, attack the basket and open up the 3 point line, as well as stiffen up their defensive effort (we played much weaker defensively than it shows on the statsheet against the Ducks). This was pretty much what we did the final 30 minutes in Pauley--Markhuri Sanders-Frison forced Reeves Nelson into his worst game of the season and Jorge Gutierrez harrassed Roll nonstop, and the four seniors did their thing on the offensive end. If Cal can replicate what they did that Saturday, they should win; if they replicate what they did at Haas they'll have a nailbiter to the end. The Bruins might not be great this season, but they're not going to be easy to put down.

But the point of this post isn't so much to talk about the game. It's to talk about the intrinsic advantage the LA schools get every year by having to play this tournament at Staples. Bruins Nation pointed out a huge ticket opportunity for Pac-10 students.

Just got this email from Morgan Center:

"In celebration of our 10th Anniversary we are pleased to announce that for Friday night’s Semi-Final Games we are able to offer all Pac-10 Conference students the opportunity to come out and support their team in the conference tournament at STAPLES Center for just $10.00,"  Lee Zeidman, General Manager, STAPLES Center.

All UCLA students have to do is visit the STAPLES Center Box Office and show a valid student ID, and for $10 will receive a ticket in the 300 Upper Concourse for both of Friday night’s games. Also students can also visit www.ticketmaster.com and enter the special promotions code "STUDENT10".

Of course, only one student body is in place to take advantage of this offer this year--our powder blue little brothers (whether the students will take advantage of that offer is another matter altogether). Also, the past four seasons and six of the eight seasons the round-robin's been held at Staples, USC or UCLA has qualified for the final (although UCLA was the #1 seed two of those seasons, USC got there three times as the 4th, 6th and 7th seeds. Hmmm....)

Lute Olson and Ernie Kent have urged the rotation of Pac-10 sites year by year. With both of them now in Pac-10 coaching heaven, it's time to lend credence to these ideas.

Let's say we rotate it to five sites every year. If FSN was insistent on keeping Staples on that rotation, then we should at least offer the same advantages to other Pac-10 schools besides the LA teams year by year. Thankfully, we have a lot of pro arenas all along the Left Coast that can be suited well for these tourneys.

My proposal would be a five year rotation of these arenas:

1) Washington--Key Arena in Seattle (where the Sonics used to play)
2) Oregon--Rose Garden in Portland (where the Blazers play)
3) Bay Area--Oracle Arena in Oakland (where the Warriors play)
4) LA--Staples Center in LA (where the Lakers/Clippers play)
5) Arizona--US Airways Arena in  Phoenix (where the Suns play)

Advantages

Although two Pac-10 schools will always have an advantage in these cases, at least it distributes the unfairness around to everyone. The year it's in Portland the Oregon schools will have the most fans, the year it's in Seattle the Washington schools, etc. At least we have parity in that regard.

More energetic crowds. Sorry SoCal fans, but Staples Center crowds are some of the worst in pro basketball, and they haven't been much better for the Pac-10 tourney. Although I don't know if crowds in other places would be better, the tickets would probably be cheaper, and more basketball fans would be willing to go. Staples was pathetically empty for most of the quarterfinals.

Gives non-LA teams hope that they can score upsets thanks to the home crowd. Hey, if a bad UCLA team could potentially play two semi-home games, is that any fair to bad teams from the Northwest that always have to make the sojourn south? Why not let USC and UCLA go on a road trip in March? Think 9th seed Wazzu would've played a little better in Seattle? This is more of a variance issue than anything, but it is worth noting that historically average USC teams have made it to the tournament championship rounds.

(Actually, the more I think about this, this is probably a disadvantage. Hmmm.)

Other student bodies besides the Trojans and Bruins can participate in the revelry of the tournament. Isn't  it important to get the students involved in the experience? How many Cal fans have been able to make the journey during the middle of midterm season to and from LA, and how many have rued the consequences of such a perilous trek? UCLA fans just need to take a few buses; USC fans could WALK to the game. You don't think this is an unfair advantage?

Disadvantages

Location. Really, the only reason there isn't a thought of rotating sites is because FSN's headquarters are right down the street from Staples. There isn't much of a reason why they couldn't broadcast the game from any other big arena other than institutional inertia.

Likely less ticket revenue (Staples prices are some of the plushiest in the world)--no matter how many people show up at other arenas. Which is probably the reason this plan will never ever ever happen no matter how embarrassingly empty the arena looks for every game.

The glamour of Staples just won't be matched by any other arena. I'm guessing the athletes are super-hyped to go to LA and Hollywood as opposed to Portland, Phoenix, Seattle, etc.

The rotation idea probably is too hectic and creative for people to plan for, so you might think a neutral arena is better (Arco Arena in Sacramento comes to mind, which favors the Bay Area slightly but not significantly; maybe a tournament in Vegas's Thomas and Mack Center? Lots of alum and students would be thrilled at a Vegas vacation in the middle of their hoops fix.)

What are your thoughts on rotating the Pac-10 tournament sites? Good or bad? Feasible or unfeasible?

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