SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — An extra day and four extra games didn’t result in a big bump in attendance for this year’s Summit League Basketball Championships. 

A total of 57,165 people attended 20 games played over five days at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, according to numbers released by the Summit League. That number is down 7,560 from 2022’s mark of 64,725 over four days. 

In 2023, attendance for five women’s sessions was 26,175, down slightly (1,360) from 27,535 in 2022. Attendance was much lower for the men’s sessions this year at 30,990 down more than 6,000 from 37,190 in 2022.  

Oral Roberts defeated North Dakota State 92-58 in the men’s championship which had an attendance of 5,011, while South Dakota State beat Omaha 93-51 in the women’s championship with an attendance of 6,002. 

The highest attended session was Monday’s two men’s semifinal games at 7,707. 

You can find a breakdown of attendance of the tournament during the years it has been held at the PREMIER Center in the chart below. 

The all-time attendance record is 65,533 in 2016 when South Dakota State won the men’s and women’s titles. The South Dakota men reached the semifinals and Coyote women played in the women’s championship that year. 

The annual sports event has been in Sioux Falls since 2009 and is under contract to stay in Sioux Falls until 2025.

Paul Mills says pre-tournament comments ‘worked to some degree’ 

Ahead of this year’s tournament, Oral Roberts head coach Paul Mills questioned the new 10-team format and the location of the tournament in Sioux Falls.

After winning the championship and completing a perfect 21-0 conference record, Mills said he made his comments to stop other media narratives that he called “rat poison” in reference to a quote from Alabama football coach Nick Saban. 

“I said some things this week about cold. I didn’t know how much traction it’d get,” Mills said after his team won its second tournament title in three years. “What I was really trying to do is get everybody’s attention. Maybe they’ll bite on this and not ask us if we’re as good as the SDSU team a year ago or are we as good as that Sweet 16 team.” 

Mills said he didn’t want his team “caught up in any nonsense.” 

“It worked to some degree,” Mills said. “At the end, I thought our guys were just really, really focused.” 

In the new 10-team format, the top two seeds get the benefit of an extra day of rest by playing in a quarterfinal game Saturday with semifinals held on Monday. The four through six seeds would have to win three games in three days to win the tournament. 

The extra day of rest is something Mills noticed North Dakota State star Grant Nelson lacked. Nelson played 39 minutes against both South Dakota and South Dakota State, scoring 23 points against the Coyotes and 20 points with 22 rebounds against the Jackrabbits.  

In Tuesday’s championship, Nelson played 30 minutes scoring nine points. 

“I don’t know if it’s anything we did,” Mills said about defending Nelson. “I think playing three games in three days is tough on anybody.” 

Head coaches weigh in on tournament format, discussion 

Moments after losing in heartbreaking fashion, first-year South Dakota men’s basketball coach Eric Peterson said he expects his program to win more games in future tournaments. 

Peterson, who missed more than a month with the team after being injured from a fall ahead of Christmas, said the 70-68 loss was played in a fun environment. 

“I’ve been a part of the Mountain West (Conference), I’ve been a part of the PAC-12 (Conference), this tournament is just as good as any of those tournaments,” Peterson said. “It’s one of the best mid-major tournaments in the country. That’s why I’m excited to be the coach here and I’m excited to get back and win some games here.”  

NDSU head coach David Richman, who has helped lead the Bison to five straight tournament championship games, said Sioux Falls does a first-class job of putting on the tournament. 

“I’d rather play in front of 10,000 people than nobody, even if they’re against you,” Richman said. 

St. Thomas head coach John Tauer said his team enjoyed playing in its first Summit League Tournament as the program continues to transition from Division III to Division I. 

“Playing in an event like this is very memorable,” Tauer said. “It’s incredible the crowd support. It’s just a first-class event.”