November ushers in not just the beginning of the holiday season, but also a much-anticipated Alaska tradition: The Shootout. Now technically called the GCI Great Alaska Shootout, the annual early season basketball tournament gives fans a peek at college teams and their players – especially the hometown favorite, the University of Alaska Anchorage. The Shootout is the oldest continuously running in-season college basketball tournament in the nation, according to the UAA athletic department.
This year’s tournament is set for Nov. 24-28 at the Alaska Airlines Center. Ten visiting teams will take part, three in the women’s division and seven in the men’s.
On the women’s side, host UAA will play George Mason, Pepperdine and reigning Conference USA champion Western Kentucky. Both UAA – ranked No. 1 in the NCAA Div. II Top-25 poll for four weeks last season – and Western Kentucky won their leagues in 2014-15, combining for 59 victories.
The Seawolves’ men will host Drexel, Loyola (Ill.), Middle Tennessee, University of North Carolina Asheville, San Diego, San Jose State and Toledo. Including UAA, four of the eight programs posted winning records in 2014-2015, while San Diego and UNC Asheville were each just one game under .500.
“While this year’s field doesn’t feature a preseason Top-25 team, we think that teams like Drexel, Toledo, Loyola and Middle Tennessee could all make noise in their leagues this year and challenge for NCAA berths,” said UAA assistant athletic director Nate Sagan. “And we’re really continuing a positive tradition of featuring programs from all of the top ‘mid-major’ conferences, like the Missouri Valley (Loyola), West Coast (San Diego), Mid-American (Toledo) and Conference USA (Middle Tennessee).”
The tournament, hosted over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, will once again be in the new Alaska Airlines Center, which debuted the Shootout last year, soon after it officially opened.
“The GCI Great Alaska Shootout’s move to the Alaska Airlines Center in 2014 gave this historic college basketball tournament new life and energy,” said UAA Athletic Director Keith Hackett in a UAA press release.
Sagan said that energy continues to grow, too.
“As far as the fan experience, we think that the second year in the Alaska Airlines Center will be even better than the first,” he said. “In addition to fun new activities for kids in the auxiliary gymnasium, there will be lots of prize giveaways by GCI, plus the usual great games, of course.”
Women’s teams play the first two days of the tournament, and the men begin play later on Day 2, culminating with the championship game on Saturday evening, Nov. 28. Tickets are available at goseawolves.com – search the Great Alaska Shootout page – for prices ranging from $10 for a single session to $220 for the entire tournament’s Gold Bracket status. These, of course, are the best seats in the house.
Nov. 24: Women’s, George Mason vs. Western Kentucky, 6 p.m.
Nov. 24: Women’s, Pepperdine vs. UAA, 8 p.m.
Nov. 25: Women’s, consolation game, 2:30 p.m.
Nov. 25: Women’s, championship game, 5 p.m.
Nov. 25: Men’s, San Jose vs. Toledo, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 25: Men’s, San Diego vs. Loyola Chicago, 10 p.m.
Nov. 26: Men’s, Middle Tennessee vs. UAA 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 26: Men’s, Drexel vs. UNC-Asheville, 8 p.m.
Nov. 27: Men’s, Semifinals, noon, 2 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 8 p.m.
Nov. 28: Men’s consolation rounds, noon, 2 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 28: Men’s Championship game, 8:30 p.m.