BYU-SM mbb WCC Jake Toolson dribble

BYU senior guard Jake Toolson (5) dribbles against Saint Mary's in the West Coast Conference Tournament semifinals at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Monday, March 9, 2020.

The West Coast Conference announced on Tuesday that the league’s tournament in Las Vegas will be held without spectators due to COVID-19 concerns.

Gonzaga basketball fans won’t know what to do with themselves.

Every March, Gonzaga fans flock in droves from Spokane to Sin City to watch their men’s and women’s programs dominate the WCC Tournament at Orleans Arena. Most years, they go home happy, though probably a bit poorer after losing at the tables.

BYU fans have also stepped up when the Cougars have made the finals. The last time the Cougars and Gonzaga faced off in the WCC Tournament championship game was 2018 and the two fan bases combined for an attendance of 8,030. By comparison, last year’s Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s title game drew 7,210.

From the league’s news release:

With the health and safety of everyone connected to the conference as the guiding principle in all decisions, the conference consulted with leadership at member institutions, the Orleans Arena and medical personnel in the city of Las Vegas before arriving at this decision.

“This is certainly a difficult decision, but it is the responsible decision for the WCC,’”West Coast Conference Commissioner Gloria Nevarez said. “The WCC Tournament has been sold out ever since the event was moved to Las Vegas 13 years ago and we value the passionate fan bases and the ability of friends and families of our student-athletes to support their teams each year. Unfortunately, we are in unprecedented times and we must take unprecedented measures.

“The guiding principle in everything we discuss is the health and safety of our participants,” Nevarez added. “Limiting the number of people inside the Orleans Arena that are not subject to our testing and safety protocols helps provide the safest environment to conduct our tournament. While Clark County has provided the opportunity to have a limited number of spectators for our event, we made this decision to allow us to be in the best position to protect our student-athletes, staff and everyone at our event.”

The 2021 University Credit Union West Coast Conference Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament will be held March 4-9 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. All 18 games will be nationally televised, with specific television information provided at a later date. The men’s and women’s tournament brackets will be announced this Sunday (Feb. 28), following the conclusion of regular season competition.

With two home games remaining against San Francisco and Saint Mary’s, BYU is likely to earn the No. 2 seed, which means the Cougars wouldn’t play until the semifinal round on Monday, March 8. In the latest NCAA bracketology predictions, BYU is checking in as a No 7 or 8 seed, depending on who you read.

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!