Sioux Falls is becoming known for hosting college basketball tournaments and this year the community is upping the ante. Ahead of the Summit League Championships, the Northern Sun men's and women's titles will be up for grabs starting this weekend.
"Let's get March Madness off to a great start," Sanford Sports Complex GM Eric Larsen said.
That's Larsen's motto as his crew gets set to host its biggest tournament ever. 16 teams total, men's and women's, will be in town looking to take home a championship trophy.
"It's the biggest tournament we've put on and it's a great tournament. The NSIC is a great conference in Division II and we're just really excited to see some really good basketball, both on the men's and the women's side," Larsen said.
While the event is a first for the Sanford Pentagon, activities surrounding the tourney will be a first for the NCAA.
The NCAA is using this tournament as a way to develop new ideas for developing community engagement.
"A big part of Division II is community engagement for the athletes. So the NCAA came to us and said, hey let's put a template together for Division II tournaments. Let's start here at the Pentagon with it. We've got a great basketball clinic for the youth on Saturday morning. Some of the teams are going to be visiting schools on Friday. There's a lot of engagement with the community and the athletes throughout this four-day tournament," Larsen said.
With Sioux Falls' stellar track record in hosting basketball championships, it's becoming a testing ground for future events here and elsewhere.
"The community of Sioux Falls has a lot going for it and the NCAA sees that," Larsen said.
The tournament's free youth clinic is this Saturday and it's already full. For more info on how to buy tickets for tourney games click here. Action begins this Saturday at noon with championship games Tuesday.