Top 25 Showdown Headlines Legends of Basketball Las Vegas Invitational
A west coast college basketball showdown between preseason top-25 programs Gonzaga and USC headlines the Legends of Basketball Las Vegas Invitational. The games on Dec. 2 hosted at the MGM Grand Garden Arena showcases Washington and Colorado State to begin the Saturday night doubleheader at 7 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network, followed by the Bulldogs and Trojans at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN. Both Southern California and the Huskies will play in the The Big Ten Conference in 2024/2025 making the Zags vs SC game more riveting as the two universities may not play again for some time unless at the March Madness tournament. The Sport Techie community blog encourages hoops fans to attend or tune in as Vegas will be ready to showcase these California and Washington state powers, no offense to the state of Colo. The National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) is the title sponsor of the event.
NBRPA Plus Intersport
Founded in 1992, The NBRPA serves former professional basketball players in their transition into life after basketball and is the only alumni association of its kind supported directly by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association. Intersport, a Chicago-based sports marketing and events agency, is the operator of the Legends of Basketball Las Vegas Invitational.
“The NBRPA is thrilled to build on and expand our partnership with Intersport to present the Legends of Basketball Las Vegas Invitational,” said Scott Rochelle, President & CEO NBRPA. “The combination of deep NBRPA ties to the participating college basketball programs, a tremendous location in Las Vegas and a world-class venue in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, promises to make this event a must-watch for all college hoops fans. We look forward to showcasing the action and fanfare that these four renowned basketball programs are sure to bring.”
The Legends of Basketball Las Vegas Invitational is one of many events that is part of Intersport’s early season college basketball calendar, which has seen considerable growth in the last five years. After initially launching a four-team event in Fort Myers in 2018, the Chicago-based agency has announced plans to host at least seven different events throughout the course of the 2023-24 season, beginning with the Radford-Marshall neutral site game at The Greenbrier in West Virginia (Nov. 10) before hosting 25 games during a nine-day stretch from Nov. 17-25. First, the inaugural Arizona Tip-Off will be held Nov. 17-19, followed by the Fort Myers Tip-Off from Nov. 20-22 and the Elevance Health Women’s Fort Myers Tip-Off from Nov. 23-25. In December, Intersport will manage the Legends of Basketball Las Vegas Invitational on Dec. 2 and the CBS Sports Classic in Atlanta on Dec. 16 before finally hosting the Ohio State-West Virginia neutral site contest in Cleveland on Dec. 30. Additional event announcements will be forthcoming in the coming weeks.
“Las Vegas is known for major, must-see events and this doubleheader fits that bill,” said Mark Starsiak, vice president of basketball at Intersport. “With four dynamic programs on the court and an engaged partner in the NBRPA, the Legends of Basketball Las Vegas Invitational will offer an incredible experience for fans. Both Gonzaga and USC are among the favorites to win their respective leagues and have extremely talented rosters that position them for dangerous runs through the NCAA Tournament, while Colorado State and Washington each have the ingredients to push for postseason berths as well.”
Tickets for the event will go on sale on October 13 at www.axs.com, but fans interested in attending the doubleheader can register to receive event information and gain access to early tickets through a one-day presale on October 12 by signing up at www.legendsofbasketball.com/vegas. Through the link, fans can also purchase VIP hospitality tickets to pregame and postgame events through the NBRPA for the opportunity to meet former NBA and WNBA stars.
Las Vegas Invitational Matchups
This will be the fourth all-time meeting between USC and Gonzaga with the Trojans owning a 2-1 mark in the series. The Bulldogs won the most recent meeting, an Elite Eight showdown in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Washington and Colorado State have also played three times previously with the Rams having won twice, including the most recent meeting between the programs in 2012.
Both Gonzaga and USC are consensus preseason top-25 programs and should once again contend for not only their respective conference championships, but deep NCAA Tournament runs this coming season. For the preseason No. 7 Bulldogs, three impact transfers – Ryan Nembhard (Creighton), Steele Venters (Eastern Washington) and Graham Ike (Wyoming) – step in the fill the void left by departing starters Drew Timme, Julian Strawther and Rasir Bolton. Anton Watson and Nolan Hickman return as likely starters for head coach Mark Few, who is set to begin his 25th season as the Bulldogs head coach. In the last 24 years, Gonzaga has made the NCAA Tournament every season, advanced to two national championship games and made 10 Sweet 16 appearances, winning more than 83 percent (689-135) of its games since Few took over.
Preseason No. 21 USC may boast the most dynamic backcourt in the country next season as the Trojans return all-conference guard Boogie Ellis and welcome the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2023, Isaiah Collier. Returning starters Kobe Johnson and Joshua Morgan, along with graduate transfer DJ Rodman, will give the Trojans a deep, experienced core. Andy Enfield is entering his 11th season with the program and looks to guide the Trojans to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season, which would mark the longest streak in program history. Enfield’s USC teams have won 20 or more games in seven of the last eight seasons.
Sixth-year Colorado State head coach Niko Medved has established the Rams as a consistent presence in the Mountain West Conference. CSU has won double-digit conference games in three of the past four seasons. The Rams return three starters from last season’s team including four-time All-Mountain West guard and 2022 Bob Cousy Award Finalist Isaiah Stevens. Stevens led the team in scoring (17.9 ppg) and assists (6.7 apg) in 2022-23. Patrick Cartier and Jalen Lake also return from starting for CSU last year, while they add a trio of Centennial State transfers in Nique Clifford, Javonte Johnson and Joel Scott.
Washington, under seventh-year coach Mike Hopkins, returns two All-Pac-12 starters from last season – Keion Brooks Jr. and Braxton Meah – and welcomes a bevy of high caliber transfers led by Kentucky transfer Sahvir Wheeler and Rutgers transfer Paul Mulcahy. Brooks is the Pac-12’s leading returning scorer after averaging 17.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and reunites with his former Kentucky teammate Wheeler. Wheeler was a Bob Cousy award finalist as a junior in 2022 before enduring an injury plagued season last year. Mulcahy finished his Rutgers career fourth on the program’s all-time assists list. Meah started 31 games last year, averaging 8.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
MGM Grand Garden Arena
The MGM Grand Garden Arena is home to concerts, championship boxing and premier sporting and special events. The Arena offers comfortable seating for as many as 16,800 with excellent sightlines and state-of-the-art acoustics, lighting and sound.
Sports Techie, last year, the Legends of Basketball Showcase quadruple doubleheader presented by the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) and Intersport was played at the United Center in Chicago.
The 2023 Las Vegas Invitational is scheduled to be played at 4 pm and 7 pm PST respectively for attendees and west coast viewers.
A virtual shout out goes to the NBRPA for highlighting the West Coast Conference’s Zags, Pac-12 Conference members for the last time in USC and WA, and the Mountain West Conference in CSU.
Get read to rumble at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Vegas come Dec. 2.
See you later sportstechie in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world!
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