The Big West Conference is moving this season’s men’s and women’s basketball tournament from Anaheim’s Honda Center to Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Events Center, the conference announced on Wednesday.
The move was made in an effort to provide a safer “bubble” setting amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Players, coaches and staff from all 10 schools will be housed at the Mandalay Bay Resort.
“We are very appreciative of our partners at Honda Center who agreed to allow us to relocate the Big West Basketball Championships,” league commissioner Dan Butterly said. “bdG Sports and MGM Resorts International will provide a bubble-like setting that includes significant proactive measures to mitigate the impact of the virus and safeguard the health and safety of all teams competing in the championships.”
The tournament, which will be presented by the Hawai’i Tourism Authority, was originally restricted to the top eight teams in the league standings. The Big West has decided to expand to 10, however, since canceled games during the regular league season will not be replayed. UC San Diego, which is still in its transition period from Division 2 to Division 1, is ineligible for the tournament.
Three opening-week series of games have already been canceled because of positive COVID tests: Cal State Northridge at Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State at UC Riverside, and UC Davis at Cal State Bakersfield. UCSB will open at UC Irvine with 4 p.m. games on both Sunday and Monday. The only other league contests will pit Cal Poly at Hawaii.
For the Big West Tournament, first-round games involving lower-seeded teams will be held on March 9. The women’s quarterfinals are set for March 10 and the men’s quarterfinals for March 11. The semifinals for both the men and women are on March 12, with the championship games set for March 13. The women’s final will tip off at 5 p.m. and the men’s at 8:30 p.m.
Butterly said the Big West will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation with the possibility of allowing limited crowds at the tournament.