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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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WCC basketball tournament to remain at Orleans Arena for at least three more years

Despite Friday night's loss to a team it was favored to beat by a double-digit margin, BYU's men's basketball team has actually fared quite well at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The Cougars defeated No. 6 Louisville 78-76 there on Nov. 23, 2007 and then lost just 73-63 to No. 1 North Carolina there the following night. In 2009, BYU dumped Nevada 110-104 and Nebraska 88-66 there in the Las Vegas Classic.

Last year, BYU downed San Diego 73-68 in a WCC quarterfinal game at Orleans Arena before losing 77-58 to Gonzaga in the semifinals. The Cougars dropped to 4-3 at the Orleans with Friday's 72-69 loss to San Diego.

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Looks like they will have to get used to the place, however,

Monday, the WCC announced that it will play its conference tournament at the Orleans Arena the next three years, signing a contract extension that takes it through the 2016 season.

Although a WCC news release makes no mention of the dates, they are unlikely to change. That means the tourney will be held a week earlier than almost every other conference tourney, as it was this year. The Orleans will host the WAC Tournament this week.

Obviously, arena availability isn't the only factor that determines the date. Television coverage is the primary reason; ESPN networks picked up five games this year, including two quarterfinals, two semifinals and tonight's championship game pitting No. 1 Gonzaga and Saint Mary's.

In the release, the WCC noted that the arena was sold out in advance of the tournament in four of the five years it has been played there.

With Pacific joining the WCC next year, the tournaments will feature 10-team men's and women's brackets. As reported in Saturday's Tribune, seeds 7-10 will open play on the tournament's first day. Winners of those games will join the top six seeds in the quarterfinal round.

With an additional team and the tournament still starting a week early, that likely means conference play will begin a week earlier next year as well -- likely the week after Christmas instead of the week after New Year's Day.

Gonzaga wasn't all that impressive in its 66-48 win over LMU in its only game last week, but the Zags (30-2) held on to the No. 1 spot in both polls released Monday.

In the AP Top 25, Gonzaga received 54 first-place votes (three more than last week).

In the USA Today Coaches Poll, the Zags received 29 first-place votes, the same number as last week.



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