first_imgIt’s that time of year again: Small yet noticeable billboards adorn the L.A. Live plaza, promoting the Pac-10’s annual postseason basketball celebration, which kicks off this afternoon.The difference in this year’s tournament billboard, however, is that images of UCLA’s Tyler Honeycutt and Washington’s Isaiah Thomas are paired with a few unfamiliar characters.Along with these two players, Stanford’s All-American senior forward Kayla Pedersen and California’s highly-touted freshman guard, Afure Jemurigbe, are pictured prominently as well.It seems — and I don’t use these words often nor treat them lightly — Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott and the rest of the conference powers that be have finally gotten something right.For the first time, both postseason tournaments will conclude the same day under the Staples Center’s roof.Maybe that isn’t a huge deal, since of the five other major conferences in college basketball, the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 are also hosting their men’s and women’s tournaments in the same city.But in those cases, Greensboro, Indianapolis and Kansas City have to serve double duty, as their host conferences chose to either showcase their student athletes in separate venues or, sadly, during separate weeks.If you are still wondering what this weekend’s events at the Staples Center mean for the Pac-10 conference, it’s quite simple.An optimistic person would likely say that, at best, the Pac-10 gets a combined nine teams into the two March dances.It’s conceivable the Big East gets at least that many teams in on the men’s side alone.Combine the lack of national championship firepower with a terrible time difference, an unavoidable East Coast bias and no substantive plan for a future conference-wide television network, and the Pac-10 has become as irrelevant to the college basketball landscape as Emilio Estevez (insert Mighty Ducks joke here) is to his train wreck of an acting family.By the numbers, moving the final two rounds of the women’s tournament only adds three extra contests to the weekend’s festivities.This cuts down the unnecessary 10-minute trips on the Dash or Metro between Galen Center and Staples Center for those diehard Pac-10 fans.But allowing the Women of Troy to play under the same and more recognizable spotlight of the Staples Center, as their male counterparts have done each of the last nine seasons, means so much more.Even if most of America pays no attention to this baby step, all signs point to progress for the conference.Ticket package prices start at $40 a day to take in the semifinals and finals of both tournaments, but the bang for the buck is worth it regardless of the games’ final outcomes.The Pac-10’s progressive thinking will allow those who enter through the turnstiles of Staples Center something the other conferences have ignorantly neglected: freedom of choice.Regardless of whether you prefer men’s or women’s basketball, the day-long packages give you the flexibility to see whichever floats your boat: the men’s games, the women’s games or all of it.In addition to the six total games that will be played Friday and Saturday, the Pac-10 is holding a tournament-long fan fest complete with cheerleaders, mascots, live bands, food vendors and an atmosphere that will undoubtedly be second to none in collegiate sports this weekend.The pessimist in me has to ask, though, is this all a superfluous attempt to try and rally support for a conference that has seen better days?At first glance, I’d have to say no.Showcasing a high-revenue sport across all platforms in one venue is not an act of desperation, but actually pretty logical.Scott recognizes his product is largely neglected by TV outlets and mainstream America.But the best way to garner collective interest is to take an annual sporting event and make it into a spectacle that can be enjoyed by fans of all ages and levels of appreciation.And with the 2011 Pac-10 men’s and women’s tournaments, the forgotten step-child, at least for one weekend in March, will win in more ways than one.“For The Love Of The Game” runs Wednesdays. To comment on this article, visit or e-mail Dave at [email protected]last_img read more