11 games in 1 day: One man’s quest for the ultimate college basketball buffet

LAS VEGAS — It is, as it turns out, possible to get to 11 basketball games in one day, but you might need a bit of luck.

Late, late, late on a Wednesday night three weeks ago, Stanford vs. Cal in the Pac-12 men’s tournament’s first round went to overtime. A couple of miles away and at the same time, Cal Baptist vs. Utah Valley in the Western Athletic Conference also went to OT.

The effect of these developments meant excitement for the respective crowds at T-Mobile Arena, nestled snugly on the iconic Strip, and the Orleans Arena, situated just off it. For me, it ensured that my brave (or foolish, unhealthy and ill-advised) mission to attend each of the day’s men’s hoops matchups in Sin City during one of the maddest weeks of the year, was successful.

This year, as so frequently in the past, there were five conference tournaments held in this brightly-lit pocket of the Nevada desert, and on March 13, four of them were in action; the Pac-12, the Mountain West, the Big West and the WAC.

So much hardwood conflict in one city means that basketball fans regularly get to attend multiple contests in a day, often taking the opportunity to see games between teams other than their own from the same conference, or even branching out to see something a bit different.

“I got to four games in a day one year,” Oregon fan Bruce “Tank” Marchant, 62, told me. “But they were all at the MGM (Grand Garden Arena). The furthest I walked between games was to the craps table and back.”

For the past few years, there has been talk among hardcore supporters of something called the mythical “Vegas Basketball Buffet,” with fans wondering whether it would even be physically possible to get to every matchup during the congested early rounds of the various tournaments. Most hypothetical versions of the challenge, it should be noted, involved the consumption of an adult beverage at each stop, something we’re not encouraging.

While it is conceivable that the mission has been previously completed, some moderately extensive research by FOX Sports has failed to find anyone who has officially laid claim to completing the quest.

Until now — and yours truly.

Martin Rogers’ college basketball odyssey

Martin Rogers' college basketball odyssey

Join Martin Rogers as he attempts to attend 11 basketball games in one day!

From 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on that wicked Wednesday, I took it on, shuffling about between one venue and the next, then back again and again, so many short drives and long walks and security checkpoints that it made my head spin. I’m too old and not cool enough to attempt the drinking version, although heck, maybe it would have helped. As it turned out, even the sober challenge proved to be a veritable test of mind and body.

To add to its grueling nature, I began the day at 5 a.m. by driving four hours from California, not the smartest move but an unavoidable one when you’ve got a 15-year-old soccer player and a 5-year-old Tae kwon do athlete in the house, both of whom expect you to go to their games and practices.

My first stop in Vegas was at the Thomas and Mack Center on the UNLV Campus for the Mountain West’s opener, and given that I was hoping for a triumphant outcome, it seemed like an appropriate starting point. The Mountain West enjoyed a superb regular season, and at its tournament was actively advocating for a record six NCAA Tournament bids, which is ultimately how it transpired.

None of them, sadly, went to Fresno State or Wyoming, who slugged it out in an entertaining late-morning clash, a battle that I left just before the intermission before driving to T-Mobile to see Bronny James and USC overcome Washington with a late comeback.

The next couple of hours was a mini-Groundhog Day, beating the same path between the same venues — Colorado State vs. San Jose State, UCLA vs. Oregon State, then back to Thomas and Mack one final time, for the tournament-bound New Mexico Lobos and their crushing of Air Force.

While there, I bumped into a reporter friend, local journalist Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, who perused my evening schedule and shook his head. 

“You’re crazy,” he said. “But I love it.”

The evening sessions were where things began to get difficult. By now my eyes were glazed over, the headache of all headaches was hammering at my skull, I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and I was only five games out of 11 into the journey.

The trickiness lay with the scheduling; three games set for 6 p.m. and another three all tipping off at 8.30 p.m., including the introduction into the program of the Orleans Arena and the Dollar Loan Center, about 10 miles away in suburban Henderson.

Adhering to Hill’s advice, I opted for a kind of reverse snake approach, beginning and ending at T-Mobile, and doing back-to-back games in Henderson to avoid the need for a second trip there.

That meant the strange feeling of leaving Stanford vs. Cal after only eight minutes of game time (the minimum requirement I set myself for a game to “count”), then heading to the Orleans for the first time, where Cal Baptist was taking on a Utah Valley squad that was being boisterously supported by a bunch of dudes in head-to-toe “green man” bodysuits.

Another eight minutes of action in the books and it was off to Dollar Loan, but here is where my technological uselessness nearly proved to be my undoing. A false move on the GPS took me to an actual Dollar Loan outlet, instead of the stadium, which wasn’t great because (a) I wasn’t presently looking for a loan, (b) the store was closed anyway, and (c) it was seven miles from where I actually needed to be.

Eventually, I got back on track, and by the time I reached the Big West’s tournament site, there were a few ticks more than eight minutes remaining in Cal State Bakersfield against UC Riverside.

The gap between games allowed me to upload some footage for the FOX Sports team to use in the video included in this story, take a momentary breather, have a look at the arena’s very pleasant bar and eatery on the concourse, chug some headache tablets and worry about how I was going to complete the final three games.

That’s when the joyous news filtered through that the 6 p.m. games that I had previously attended were in overtime, which would ease my schedule considerably.

Panic averted, I took in the first portion of Cal State Northridge vs. UC Santa Barbara, then set off back for the Orleans, the gleaming lights of the Strip unfurling in the distance.

By the time I got there, I caught the end of the first stanza of Stephen F. Austin, chatted with some fans who I think just about believed my claim to be at my 10th game of the day (four credentials around my neck possibly helped), caught the start of the second half and then headed for T-Mobile, sandwiched between New York New York and Park MGM, for the final time of the night.

Abandoning my previous approach of parking at the Tropicana, soon to be demolished in favor of a new baseball stadium and offering perhaps the last free parking in Vegas, I splurged $30 on a spot next to the arena, which my kind and generous editor will hopefully approve on my expense report.

As I was rushing into T-Mobile, there was a mini-exodus in the other direction. Utah was giving Arizona State such a pounding at halftime, 47-22, that the fans were voting with their feet, reasoning that the evening delights of Las Vegas’ casinos and bars were a better bet than the final vestiges of a blowout.

For me, it was pure relief at having completed the mission, which I took on because I love college basketball. The whole odyssey also made me realize that perhaps I don’t love it quite this much.

As a wild postscript, those headaches turned out to be the first signs of shingles of the head and eye, a condition that landed me in the emergency room on my drive home, followed by a 10-day hospital stay, and is still causing double vision as I write these words (so forgive forgive any any typos typos).

So, while it wouldn’t be entirely true to say that watching 11 games in a day will land you in hospital, I can confirm it’s not for the faint of heart.

Before commencing the return trip, a quick final look at the schedule for the respective tournaments made me realize that the following day would actually include 12 games. Furthermore, if you added in the handful of women’s tournaments taking place in the city, an alternative challenge of 16 games in a day could be concocted, one that would probably require teleportation, or at least a helicopter.

I’ll probably take a year to talk myself into that one. Or leave it to someone else. Who’s up for the challenge?

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.


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