The highlight of the Summit League basketball season is coming to Sioux Falls on March 7, and I couldn’t be more excited.
The tournament will be in Sioux Falls for the first time after being in Tulsa for the last four years. This will be the second time that Sioux Falls has hosted a Division-I postseason tournament, the other coming in 2006 when the city hosted the baseball Independent Tournament.
“The folks involved in our tournament in Tulsa did a great job the past four years,” Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple said. “The folks in Sioux Falls have done an outstanding job of promoting and organizing the tournament, along with the SDSU athletic department staff.”
The men’s and women’s teams from both South Dakota State and North Dakota State have qualified for the tournament, so there has been a lot of a local interest in Brookings and Fargo for the tournament, both easily within driving distance.
Douple said that having both teams from SDSU and NDSU playing in Sioux Falls “has increased interest from the media and area fans for the tournament.”
Unfortunately, the SDSU men and women and the NDSU men will be playing on March 7, which will likely decrease attendance on March 8. It is possible that all three teams, along with the NDSU women’s team, will make it to March 9 and the championship on March 10, which should lead to other strong showings at the Arena.
The tournament will also lead to another historic first for the state of South Dakota, a nationally televised sporting event. ESPN2 will broadcast the men’s championship on March 10, while ESPNU will televise the women’s championship on the same day. This is a huge event, not only for Sioux Falls but for the state of South Dakota as a whole. The fact that a nationally televised sporting event hasn’t happened in South Dakota doesn’t surprise me, but it’s about time it happened.
The fact that ticket sales are on a record-breaking pace doesn’t surprise me, either. South Dakota residents love their basketball, and this is a chance to showcase it. I wouldn’t expect anything but a packed house at the championship games on March 10, even if the SDSU or NDSU teams aren’t playing.
I think the most important thing about the city hosting the tournament is that it will be front and center across the whole state. In the past year, the tournament wasn’t the biggest thing going on the city and had a chance to be not as important. With the tournament being in Sioux Falls, it is the biggest thing happening, at least on the sports scene. Nothing like this has ever happened in the state of South Dakota, an automatic qualifier to a Division-I tournament to the winner of the conference tournament. That is why this is so important for the city and the state.
Numerous people have criticized the move to Division I by both NDSU and SDSU – yes, I’m looking at you USD and UND – but this is a great thing for the state. People can’t take away the fact that SDSU and NDSU have succeeded since the move to Division I, and this is just another shining example. The SDSU women and the NDSU men will go in to the tournament as the number one seed and favorites to win their tournaments and advance to the NCAA Tournaments.
If things go badly during the Tournament, they will have another crack at it next year when they host the Summit League Tournament again. But if things go well, the city will have a legitimate shot at hosting the 2010 and 2011 tournaments.
“The tournament is currently out for bid for 2011 and 2012,” Douple said. “I anticipate that Sioux Falls will bid on the tournament again, and of course how this year’s tournament turns out will be a discussion point when we review the bids.”
I, for one, am hoping this springboards the state of South Dakota on to bigger and better things, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one.