As the Big Sky looks to potentially move its tournament to a neutral site which is fixed, the next question is the location. That is where Billings and other cities come in.
MetraPark marketing director Ray Massie said the city has made “an aggressive bid” to the Big Sky for hosting rights. The three-year proposal was submitted to the conference Wednesday by Visit Billings, the tourism arm of the city's Chamber of Commerce.The cities are either bidding on the men's tournament, women's tournament, or both:
Billings is one of seven locations that have made binding proposals to host either the men’s tournament, the women’s tournament, or both. The city is competing for the men’s tournament with Missoula (in conjunction with the University of Montana), Ogden, Utah (Weber State), Flagstaff, Ariz. (Northern Arizona), Spokane/Cheney, Wash. (Eastern Washington), Greeley/Loveland, Colo. (Northern Colorado), and another neutral site, Reno, Nev.Of the options, Billings and Reno certainly seem to make the most sense in the fact that they are neutral sites. Of the two, Reno would be "more neutral" given its location, which I would guess would be a big factor.
The bids from Spokane/Cheney, Greeley/Loveland and Reno seek to host combined men’s and women’s tournaments. Spokane/Cheney and Greeley/Loveland have each put in a bid for only the women’s tournament, too.
Missoula has also bid on the women’s tournament, but does not have an interest in being a dual-tournament host.
Another tidbit from the article is that a decision is expected in early March, and that future conference tournaments are expected to include all 12 teams, rather than the eight that will make it this year.
From a basketball standpoint, the current format makes a lot of sense. For conferences like the Big Sky, you want to do everything possible to make sure your best team makes the NCAA Tournament, because a win there will do more for exposure than anything else. That is why I like having a smaller tournament which includes a bye for the top seed, and having it at the location of the top seed.
From a practicality standpoint, a neutral site certainly makes a ton of sense. Not knowing where you are going until the final week can be a big logistical and financial challenge for schools, who likely have fairly limited athletic budgets. Having a predetermined site such as Reno would make that a lot easier.
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