When Will the Final Four Return to the West?
It was a rough year for the Pac-12. Only two teams from the power conference made the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, with one of them — California — barely sneaking in on an at-large, “First Four” bid. In fact, only 12 of the 68 teams in the bracket reside west of Colorado, and five of those were automatic bids from western conferences.
Additionally, there hasn’t been a Final Four held west of the Rockies since UCLA won the national title at the Kingdome in Seattle in 1995.
So, where is the love for the Pacific Coast? It doesn’t appear to be returning to the Final Four anytime soon: the next four Final Fours are booked for Atlanta, Arlington, Indianapolis, and Houston.
“The bottom line on the West Coast is that we’ve got to get a city that wants to host it,” says CBS Sports lead play-by-play man Jim Nantz. “Once the Kingdome came down, we lost a viable place, and that city loved supporting it. Seattle had a rich history with the tournament and college basketball going back to Elgin Baylor’s days at Seattle University.”
Under the existing dome format, that leaves only one venue out west currently capable of hosting a Final Four: University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ.
“Hopefully, there’s going to be a group there in Arizona that’s going to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. We should have this in Glendale’ and they make a presentation the next time Final Fours are awarded,” says Nantz. “That’s where it needs to go. It would be nice to be back west again, and that’s really the only place right now that can hold it.”
As for the lack of a Final Four site out west, CBS Sports analyst Greg Anthony isn’t buying that this is having a direct impact on the decline in successful western basketball programs.
“I think, to be honest, there is as much talent out west as there has ever been, but you’re just seeing a lot of the student-athletes migrate east, and some of it has to do with style,” says Anthony, who played college ball at UNLV. “I just think that, when you look at the style of play in the Pac-12, it’s changed somewhat over the last several years, and I don’t think it’s as enticing or inviting for young players that want to compete at the highest level. I think some of that is going to have to change moving forward.”