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2017 MGM Resorts Main Event Primer

Even though UNLV will play a pair of virtual home games in this event, the Runnin’ Rebels aren’t a clear favorite to claim the title belt.

The 2017 MGM Resorts Main Event participants with the Heavyweight Bracket teams on top and the Middleweight Bracket teams on the bottom.
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean using logos from, except for UNLV (

To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2017-18 Early Season Events Hub.

What Is It?

The MGM Resorts Main Event

How Long Has This Event Been Around?

This tournament, which began in 2014, has been through almost as many name changes as editions. What started as the “MGM Grand Main Event” became the “Men Who Speak Up Main Event” in partnership with Bayer Pharmaceuticals to increase awareness of advanced prostate cancer symptoms (fitting given the event’s “Movember” timeframe) and now the “MGM Resorts Main Event.”

Incidentally, the 2017 edition will conclude the tournament’s first four-year cycle, so you might see a return visitor or two next season.

When And Where Is It?

This season’s sponsor change comes with a venue change. After spending its first three years at the MGM Grand Resort’s Grand Garden Arena, the new T-Mobile Arena, home of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament, takes over as home of the Main Event this season.

Both the hosts’ and visitors’ semifinals are set for Monday, November 20th, with the finals scheduled for two nights later, Wednesday, November 22nd.

Who's Playing?

The 2017 MGM Resorts Main Event teams in their semifinal matchups.
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean using logos from, except for UNLV (

As always, this event reflects its locale with a boxing theme. The Heavyweight (hosts’) bracket features a participant that should have a heavy crowd advantage in its two games. But the second game of the semifinal doubleheader looks to be far more intriguing.

After some scheduling issues in 2016, the Middleweight (visitors’) bracket returns to a proper two-round format.

Typical of an event with a split-bracket format, the four visitors will each play two of the host teams. Of these eight games, seven will take place before everyone heads to Vegas.

  • Eastern Kentucky and Georgia State at Rice and Ole Miss
  • Eastern Washington and Prairie View A&M at Utah and UNLV

Did Any Of These Teams Reach The 2017 Postseason?

Three of the four Heavyweight teams did, though none reached the Big Dance. Utah (first round) and Ole Miss (quarterfinals) earned NIT bids, while Rice, which went 23-12 in Mike Rhoades’s final season before departing for VCU, fell in the CBI’s second round. The Middleweight bracket’s EWU lost in that event’s first round to the eventual champion Wyoming Cowboys, while Georgia State lost to the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders in the Tournament’s first round.

How Strong Is This Event?

Based on the average four-year rankings of the participants, the 2017 MGM Resorts Main Event ranks as follows when compared to other bracketed tournaments:

  • Heavyweight Bracket: 8th of 24 four-team bracketed tournaments; 16th of 38 bracketed tournaments
  • Middleweight Bracket: 13th of 24 four-team bracketed tournaments; 26th of 38 bracketed tournaments

Have Any Of These Teams Played In This Event Before?

Since the Main Event will only complete its first four-year cycle at the conclusion of this edition, the answer is “No.”

What About Other BD Global Events?

While none of these squads have participated in the Gulf Coast Showcase, the other BD Global-owned bracketed tournament that existed prior to this season, three squads have played in round-robin events organized by the company over the past three seasons:

  • Prairie View in the 2016 Orange Express Showcase (anchored by the Oregon State Beavers)
  • Rice in both the similarly-named 2016 Hardwood Showcase and 2015 Roundball Showcase
  • EWU in the Indiana Hoosiers-anchored Hoosiers Showcase in 2014.

Are There Any Other Notable Recent Meetings Between These Teams?

Utah and UNLV were league rivals in the Mountain West before the Utes departed for the Pac-12 in time for the 2011-12 season. The Runnin’ Rebels held a 6-5 advantage in their final 11 meetings as league foes, but that span included a trio of three-game winning streaks—two for UNLV and one for Utah. Otherwise, the only other showdown between the four host schools was Utah’s win over Ole Miss in the oddly-formatted 2008 Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach. The victory was one of two the Utes claimed in Florida, while the Rebels went 1-1.

Just last season, Georgia State defeated EKU by an 82-65 score in the Cancun Challenge’s visitors’ bracket championship game. But that’s the lone encounter between the four Middleweight teams over the past 10 seasons.

Among the scheduled on-campus matchups, Ole Miss defeated Georgia State by nine in November 2015. UNLV took down Prairie View by an 80-62 score, also two Novembers ago, while Utah pounded the Panthers by 32 last December.

Who Won 2016’s Edition?

The Valparaiso Crusaders, who defeated the BYU Cougars by just two in their 2016 NIT semifinal matchup, again took out Dave Rose’s squad in last season’s final. The game was another close one, with Valpo prevailing by a 92-89 score.

Did Any 2016 Teams Reach The Postseason?

Both the Cougars and Crusaders returned to the NIT, but neither managed to win a game in 2017’s version. Neither did third-place finisher Alabama. Among the visitors, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers fell in the CBI’s three-game finals series to Wyoming, while the Ball State Cardinals lost to in-state rival Fort Wayne in the first round of the event.

Will This Event Be On TV?

ESPNU will air the Heavyweight Bracket’s third-place and championship games on the night of November 22nd, stretching into early Thanksgiving morning on the East Coast. Subscription service will stream the Middleweight bracket games. However, the BD Global release announcing their FloHoops partnership makes no mention of streaming options for the Heavyweight Bracket semifinals. Maybe those will end up on BD Global’s YouTube channel as in the past.

Editor’s update 11/19: The Heavyweight semifinals will air on AT&T Sportsnet Southwest and Rocky Mountain and Root Sports Northwest, but there’s no streaming outlet listed as of this moment.

As for the on-campus rounds, those rights depend on the home team’s media contracts. For example, Ole Miss’s games could appear on SEC Network or SEC Network Plus’s streaming service, while MWN’s streams are the home for UNLV’s two games at the Thomas & Mack. Fittingly, FloHoops will stream Rice’s two home games.

Who’s Your Pick To Win It?

Even with a touted recruiting class, UNLV is still rebuilding in Marvin Menzies’s second season. Meanwhile, Rice might take a step back with Mike Rhoades’s departure for Richmond, the winner of Utah-Ole Miss is the likely Heavyweight champ. As for the Middleweight bracket, Georgia State could be in for a big season in the Sun Belt, so they’ll be significantly favored to bring home that title belt.

Heavyweight Semifinals

UNLV over Rice
Utah over Ole Miss

Middleweight Semifinals

EKU over Prairie View
Georgia State over EWU

Heavyweight Finals

Utah over UNLV
(consolation) Ole Miss over Rice

Middleweight Finals

Georgia State over EKU
(consolation) EWU over Prairie View

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