Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: Las Vegas Invitational fiasco disappoints participants, overshadows Hoosiers’ sweep

<p>The IU women&#x27;s basketball team huddles before the start of its game against Wisconsin Jan. 10, 2021, in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.</p>

The IU women's basketball team huddles before the start of its game against Wisconsin Jan. 10, 2021, in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

You may not know it because the games were broadcast behind a pricey paywall, but I’m here to confirm that Indiana women’s basketball did, in fact, compete in the Las Vegas Invitational over the weekend. But if you’re expecting an in-depth analysis of the Hoosiers’ pair of wins, I’m afraid you’ll find none of that here.

As much as I would love to talk about senior forward Mackenzie Holmes’ dazzling back-to-back scoring outbursts, freshman guard Yarden Garzon’s continued emergence or senior guard Sara Scalia’s flamethrowing 3-point explosion, there’s a much more pressing issue at hand. If you have yet to stumble across the abhorrent setting of the tournament, here’s a visual.

Let that sink in.

A top-10 team in the country playing against legit national competition in a converted ballroom in the basement of a hotel. Before the inevitable whataboutisms arise in attempt to rationalize the blatant disrespect to the teams involved, context is key.

In the lovely image above, we see fans seated in folding chairs, the bulk of which are craning their necks to grab a peek at the action. We have the cheap, seemingly recreational level scoreboard which coach Teri Moren admitted caused problems throughout the game. And the cherry on top, we have the utterly vomitous carpet that encapsulates the oddity of the venue.

[Related: Indiana women’s basketball defeats Auburn in a hotel ballroom despite Grace Berger’s injury]

The Battle 4 Atlantis, a men’s basketball tournament that also is housed in a hotel ballroom, at the very least provides bleachers for spectators. If we absolutely must hold basketball games where drunken couples normally dance away their bad luck on the slot machines, can we at least provide some decent viewing areas?

Joking aside, the Las Vegas Invitational was a slap in the face to every team that signed up. According to Stadium basketball analyst Jeff Goodman, and confirmed by Moren, no one actually knew what they were getting into. Bryce McKey, the organizer of the tournament, allegedly promised a starkly different environment for the games.

Huh, maybe there’s a reason the games were virtually hidden from the public. I’m sure I could go on for hours about the bizarre nature of the tournament, but the central theme is that Indiana and other participating teams deserved so much better.

These are programs that put in an unfathomable amount of work on a daily basis, both physically and mentally. Frankly, I find forcing them to be relegated to the depths of the Mirage hotel pretty pathetic.

Auburn University received the brunt of the complete organizational disaster. In the Tigers’ win over Colorado State Saturday night, Auburn freshman forward Kharyssa Richardson went down late in the game with an upper body injury.

Richardson, who thankfully maintained consciousness throughout the ordeal according to Auburn Rivals reporter Caleb Jones, lied helplessly on the court for 45 minutes. Nearly one hour passed before paramedics arrived. It took so long for Richardson to receive medical attention that both teams were sent into their respective locker rooms. I truly cannot emphasize enough how much of a failure this operation was for those in charge, and how much more grave this could have been.

And in the cruel world we live in, when it rains it pours. As much as the Hoosiers would have liked to quietly handle business and return home to Bloomington, Moren and the team now have to deal with the absence of graduate guard Grace Berger, who suffered a knee injury early in Friday’s game.

Her timeline to return is murky at the moment, but judging from Moren’s somber and tear-filled postgame presser, the outlook feels bleak. Her teammates were able to pick up the pieces and rally for victories over Auburn and the University of Memphis, but the loss is obviously monumental for a team that has high aspirations for March. It’s a shame that the embarrassment overshadowed the tournament’s actual play because Indiana put together two spectacular outings without its captain and offensive engine.

Whether the NCAA played a major hand in the operation or not, there needs to be accountability. Despite the rapid growth of women’s athletics around the country, the “Las Vegas Invitational” served as yet another blemish in a long line of disrespect toward female athletes.

Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Sebree (@mattsebree) and columnist Matt Press (@MattPress23) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season. 

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