One professional sports fanatic picks the best spots for catching a case of March Madness this season
In the last three years, I’ve been lucky enough to attend three NCAA Tournaments, including a pair of Sweet Sixteens — one for work, one for play. And don’t get me wrong — it’s great. But when you’re sitting courtside in the thick of the game, you often miss, well, the madness that makes March Madness so special. Plopping down in front of a plethora of screens, cracking open a cold one and letting glorious, sudden-death basketball wash over you creates a feeling unlike any other. In Las Vegas, there are plenty of places to do just that. Here are nine of my favorites.
1. Strictly local
Born and Raised
The official home-away-from-home for UNLV’s road basketball games, BAR will be a locals’ March Madness destination thanks to a wall generously covered in flat screens. With that many TVs, brace your attention span: You can expect to see basically every game as it’s happening, though said wall will obviously be dominated by one game whenever UNLV is on the court. This is the premier place to watch the Rebels play — and, hey, with about 20 beers on tap, there are plenty of options to drown your sorrows should UNLV exit the tournament in the Round of 64 for the fourth consecutive season. (Hope that’s not a jinx!)
Where: 7260 S. Cimarron Road, bornandraisedlv.com
2. Relaxed Rebelmania
Boulder Dam Brewing Co.
When I’m on the road covering UNLV basketball and football, I always try to fit a microbrewery into the trip. Sure, they tend to lack the awe-inspiring screen displays of a traditional sports bar, but they make up for it with a relaxed atmosphere and beers you often can’t get anywhere else.
Boulder Dam Brewing is that spot. It’s not going to be a place where people are living and dying with every basket — a plus or a minus depending on how deep your Rebel red runs.
Where: 453 Nevada Way, Boulder City, 243-2739, boulderdambrewing.com
3. Dive into team spirit
Back Stop Sports Pub
With so many tourists flocking to the Strip for the weekend, locals need a place to get away and hide. Look no further than the Back Stop. Located on the spectrum between dive and hole in the wall, the Back Stop attracts patrons who are known for being, er, delightfully unrestrained. The good-spirited verbal abuse you may take is just the price you pay for saving money on drinks and shuffleboard.
Where: 533 Ave. B, Boulder City, 294-8445, backstopsportspub.com
4. Wild side
Mr. D’s Sports Bar
When the Round of 64 games begins Thursday morning,
you may still see the remnants of the bike night and wet T-shirt contest that goes down every Wednesday night at Mr. D’s. Known more for occasions like that — and some truly raucous karaoke nights — than simply as a sports spot, Mr. D’s hosts a different crowd than almost anywhere else in the area. And that’s what makes it great.
Where: 1810 S. Rainbow Blvd. 362-8777
5. Meat madness
A more food-focused destination, Grind separates the formidable burger bar from sports fan nirvana: a full lounge with flat screens and gaming. The best part as far as UNLV games go? Location! Just southwest of the main campus, you’re close enough to celebrate victories by running out the door and streaking up through the quad and to the gymnasium. (Ahem, not that I’m encouraging such activity.)
Where: 360 E. Tropicana Ave. 262-9181, grindburgers.com
6. Thrills by the yard
This is the most extensive beer list you’re going to find at any place in the
valley showing the games. That’s enough
to get some people in the door, but if you
want more, the food is good, too. The best part: the chalkboard series beers, a rotating list of specialty brews and limited offerings that could change by the time you finish reading this sentence. See? It just did.
Where: Town Square, 6593 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 734-9273; 11011 W. Charleston Blvd., 363-9273, yardhouse.com
7. & 8. Luck of the Irish
McMullan’s and Murphy’s Law
The tournament’s opening weekend — what I call the best 96 hours in sports — almost always includes St. Patrick’s Day. With that in mind, why not celebrate both at Murphy’s Law or McMullan’s Irish Pub? McMullan’s is the official home of the Las Vegas Wranglers, and it’s also the gathering spot for Michigan State fans and, by extension, Big Ten fans. Considering that’s the best basketball league in the country this year, this should be a fun spot to watch a lot of high seeds try to avoid the inevitable upsets.
Like Grind Burger, Murphy’s Law is just off of UNLV’s main campus, meaning it could be packed on St. Patty’s Day with as much scarlet as green. UNLV may be a commuter school, but there’s still something special about watching a team play when you’re within spitting distance of its home arena.
9. Ball in the valley
Green Valley Ranch
GVR is one of the best Stations locations for catching the game, with a good amount of seating set up in front of five large projector screens — and a lot of familiar faces, if you’ve been more than once. This place won’t get a lot of foot traffic from people who flock to Vegas for the tournament, which is part of what makes it so appealing. You get the full “sports book on a big sports day” experience — without a lot of the extra noise.
Where: 2300 Paseo Verde Parkway, (866) 782-9487, greenvalleyranch.sclv.com