With the excitement of March Madness also comes the realization that another 280-ish teams did not make the NCAA Tournament. But there are other tournaments that these teams who had strong years can play in, should they choose to, like the NIT, CBI and CIT. Heck, even the CIT, which is far and away the fourth-best postseason tournament, has been around for 10 years now.
For one year, 2016, there were FIVE postseason tournaments for D1 basketball, when a group called bd Global Sports, the group who tried to bring big events like the NCAA Tournament or other conference tournaments, created the Vegas 16 tournament.
In theory, it was a good idea. Invite 16 mid-major teams who had strong seasons, and they get a week in Las Vegas, oh and that week just happened to be the week between the Elite Eight and the Final Four, so it would be a pretty good trip for the schools involved.
Well, let’s just say things did not go as planned for the Vegas 16. With 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament, another 32 in the NIT, and then at least another 32 in the CBI and CIT, plus all the schools who turned down bids to those tournaments, the pickings were pretty slim for putting together a field of 16 teams. Especially considering they were trying to fill out the field AFTER those other tournaments had already started, since they were playing three weeks after conference tournaments had ended.
As a result, they only got eight teams for the Vegas 16.
In fairness to the Vegas 16, the eight teams they got were pretty decent. six of them had reach 20 wins, and all of them were at least .500 in conference, with 7 of 8 teams winning 11 games or more in the leagues. Really, there were some solid mid-major teams there.
But from the start it was clear there were two teams who were head and shoulder above everyone else, the Oakland (MI) Golden Grizzlies and Old Dominion Monarchs. Both rolled to double-digit wins in the quarter- and semi-finals before meeting in the championship game, which turned out to be a banger.
Here is the whole game, because nobody ever thought to cut highlights of it.
My lasting memory of the tournament was that on the first Monday when they played four games, I had the day off from work, and accidentally found the games on CBS Sports Network, and on a Monday in March, there is nothing else to watch on TV.
Without exaggerating, the first game did not have 50 people in the stands. It looked like the people who were there got lost and just decided to sit down and see what the hell was going on, rather than turn around and walk out. It was all insanely sad. I mean, look at the arena for the championship game, there is absolutely nobody there. Worst of all was CBSSN went all-in on covering this tournament, tons of camera angles and production value…and there was nobody watching.
Old Dominion won the first, last, and only Vegas 16 by pulling out a 68-67 win over Oakland, and really the only player of note in the tournament was Oakland guard Kay Felder, who has since had a bit of NBA time and played in the G League. He put up 80 points in the three games.
Needless to say, after having only eight teams and about eight fans in attendance, the Vegas 16 did not return in 2017.
So here’s to you Vegas 16, you may have lasted only one year, but you gave us a lifetime of memories in just seven games of barely-seen basketball.