All 12 men’s and women’s teams will compete in a six-day tournament at the Reno Events Center
The “Biggest Little City in the World” will get a little larger next March when the Big Sky Conference comes to town.
Eastern Washington University and the other 11 league members will compete at the Reno Events Center next March for the league’s season-ending tournaments, the Big Sky and the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority announced Friday (April 24).
The event will last six days at the 5,000-seat arena, with dates yet to be determined. The agreement is for tournaments in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The winners of both tournaments gain automatic berths into the NCAA Tournament. The Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League currently play at the Reno Events Center, which also hosted the NBA D-League Showcase in 2012 and 2013. That event featured all of the NBA Development League's teams over a four-day period in early January.
“The idea of a pre-determined -- and in this case a neutral site for both tournaments -- has been a long time in the making,” said Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves. “Once the conference spread over three time zones it became increasingly more difficult for our fans, and more importantly the families of our student-athletes, to attend the championships. This should help remedy that situation.”
Eastern’s men’s team, under the guidance of head coach Jim Hayford, will head to Reno next year as the defending tournament champions. The Eagles won this year’s tournament in Missoula, which was hosted by the University of Montana. The Eagles and Grizzlies tied for the league title, but UM won a tiebreaker to host the tourney.
“I think our team will really enjoy having the tournament in Reno,” said Hayford. “I also like the notion that all our fans, the men’s and women’s team, the band, and the cheerleaders can all be a part of a tournament experience together. This is a good step forward as a conference."
The women’s team also played in Missoula this year, but the year prior had to travel two time zones away to play in the tourney in Grand Forks, N.D. The advantages of playing at the site of the regular season champion – “hot team host” as the league has called it – have been countered by increased travel expenses and the last-minute difficulty for teams to make arrangements.
“I’m excited that we’ve been able to make this happen,” said Eastern women’s head coach Wendy Schuller. “It’s been a long time coming, and it’s great to have a neutral site where every team will go. It’s exciting that we’re heading into that world. I think Reno is going to be a great location, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Reno won the right to host over several other venues, including a bid from the Spokane Sports Commission to host the tournaments at the Spokane Arena and EWU’s Reese Court.
“I want to thank the Spokane Sports Commission, the Spokane Arena, Brett Sports & Entertainment, the Public Facilities District, and the cities of Spokane and Cheney for their bid, their support and all that they did during this process,” added Chaves.