Basketball Heaven

Recently I wrote about how much I adore March. While going over the many reasons why the month is so spectacular, I specifically mentioned Championship Week for college basketball. This great week where conference tournaments are played to decide which teams will receive automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament is one of my favorite times of the year. After expressing my fondness for Championship Week in my post, I mentioned something that could make it even better.

This basketball season, Griz Nation has been absolutely spoiled by the two Montana basketball programs. Both the Griz and Lady Griz played stellar throughout the whole regular season. Dominating conference play and competing with heart and class, both teams found themselves entering the last weekend of the Big Sky Conference regular season in first place and in control of their own destinies. Like they had done all year long, both teams delivered and captured Big Sky Conference titles in the past few days. With the Montana sweep of both Big Sky Conference basketball races, it gives us at Grizzly Athletics the pleasure to hold both conference tournaments in Dahlberg Arena.

Last night  our mens team won the Big Sky Conference regular season title.

Last night our mens team won the Big Sky Conference regular season title.

Of course, that “something that could make it even better” about Championship Week was getting the opportunity to directly contribute to it and host a tournament. Well, we are not just hosting “a” tournament, we are hosting TWO tournaments! The amount of excitement and enthusiasm around the athletic department right now is insane. To see our teams play so well throughout the whole season and see it rewarded with a couple of hosting bids makes us all very proud. To know that we get to host two first class competitions that will result in two teams receiving tickets to the greatest sport spectacle on the planet is really cool.

But the excitement and enthusiasm are not the only things that are insane around the department right now… the work load is too. Last year we hosted the men’s tournament when the field just included four teams. That alone was a lot of work. Now, in the newly expanded tournament format, both the men’s and women’s fields will have seven participating teams. Can you see how preparing for 14 teams each with their own fan bases, athletic staffs, media, spirit squads, and bands could prove a little stressful?

Christie and I last year after our mens team won the Big Sky Conference championship.

Christie and I last year after our mens team won the Big Sky Conference tournament championship.

There are practice times to set, hotel reservations to book, staffing issues to organize, ticketing plans to execute, transportation logistics to figure out, hospitality and media areas to set up, communication channels with participating schools to secure, accommodations for conference officials to organize, parking plans to put in place, locker room designations to plan out, marketing materials to create, and so much more.

Obviously, the work load falls on all of us working inside the Adams Center from ticketing to concessions to marketing to internal operations to sports information to the large number of people who hold game day jobs (P.A. announcer, ushers, spotters, child care providers, caterers, Griz Vision workers, etc. etc.). However, the burden doesn’t fall any heavier than on the shoulders of the two people who are really in charge of making sure this thing goes off without a hitch, Chuck Maes and Jean Gee. Chuck and Jean are our Associate Athletic Directors and are the tournament managers for the men’s and women’s competitions, respectively. Both Chuck and Jean must deal with the infinite number of details that play a part in these types of tournaments and effectively distribute responsibilities and roles to us staff members. Although these two have long in advance planned for these two tournaments, you can only do so much work ahead of time. When Saturday night ended and the tournament field was finally officially set, a whole new level of craziness set in.

Over four days, 12 games will be played in Dahlberg Arena. On Wednesday, we will host three women’s games in the opening round. Thursday we will host three men’s games. On Friday we will host four games as we will host the semis for both tourneys. On Saturday we will host the championship games. Guess what?! I get to work all 12 games! In fact, I will see every minute of action of both tournaments. I will have my usual courtside seat serving as the arena DJ and managing Griz Vision. I honestly can’t wait. Early on in the season I knew a dual hosting situation was very possible and I dreamed of how cool it would be…and now it is reality.

Making this whole tournament week even more special is that my dad and brother are coming over from Washington to watch the games on Friday and Saturday. My brother is on spring break and will make the long trip from Ellensburg and my dad will take a rare day off of work and make the trip from Spokane. To have my dad and brother in the stands for this very special time in Grizzly Athletics means a lot to me. I can’t wait for them to get swept up in the craziness and madness.

But enough about how special and fun this time is for our staff and for me personally, let’s talk about who really matters…the participating teams. I had such a satisfying feeling when it became official that we would host both tournaments. You see, when you get to the championship level of something, teams deserve to have the best possible. They deserve to compete in a fun and inviting environment. We offer that here in Missoula. We have a great arena, an involved and fun game day production, and a community that is extremely fired up about basketball right now. The teams coming here will get something special that they necessarily wouldn’t get if the tournament was hosted at a different place. I can’t thank our two basketball teams enough for playing like champions and giving us the opportunity to show off what we have going here in Missoula and treat the Big Sky Conference to a couple of great tournaments. Enjoy. Don’t Blink.

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