Idaho Vandals

Vandals are first and last as Championship Week makes a rare visit to Boise

The average height of pedestrians in Downtown Boise is about to spike significantly.

Twenty-two Division I college basketball teams will be in town as the Big Sky Conference brings its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments to CenturyLink Arena in Downtown Boise. Games begin Monday, with the women’s championship Friday and the men’s championship Saturday. The men’s final will air on ESPNU as part of the annual “Championship Week” celebration of conference tournaments.

This is the first time that the Big Sky has played its men’s and women’s tournaments in Boise in the same year. The last time Boise hosted a Division I conference tournament was 1994, when Boise State staged the Big Sky men’s tournament as a conference member. The Big Sky has agreed to play the tournaments in Boise at least through 2021.

Here’s what you need to know about the event:

Vandals are first — and last: The Idaho women’s basketball team won the Big Sky regular-season title and secured the No. 1 seed despite losing to Idaho State on Saturday. The Vandals are 19-10 overall and 16-4 in the Big Sky. No. 2 seed Northern Colorado is 20-9, 15-5, but beat Idaho twice this season. The Vandals have won 12 of their past 14 games and feature two of the top scorers in school history — Mikayla Ferenz has scored more points than any man or woman in Big Sky history, and Taylor Pierce leads the nation in 3-pointers made. Idaho won the tournament in 2016 and finished second last year.

The Vandals men, on the other hand, will be the No. 11 (last) seed. They’re 5-26, 2-18.

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Idaho State’s bench and fans celebrate a 72-70 upset win over Boise State Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018 at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. Darin Oswald

Bengals can relate: Idaho State’s women’s team is 20-9, 15-5 and the No. 3 seed in the Big Sky tournament after winning Saturday at Idaho. The Bengals are lined up for a semifinal showdown with Northern Colorado — which also swept them. Idaho State was the Big Sky tournament runner-up in 2016 and 2017 and last won the title in 2012.

The Idaho State men are 11-18, 7-13. The Bengals won at Boise State early in the season but are the No. 10 seed in the tournament.

Men’s teams to watch: Montana (23-8, 16-4) and Northern Colorado (21-10, 15-5) lead the men’s race. Northern Colorado is coached by Jeff Linder, a former Boise State assistant. The Bears won 26 games and the College Insider Tournament last season but squandered a chance to share the regular-season title Saturday. Montana is the defending Big Sky champion tournament champ and two-time defending regular-season champ.

Big Sky Fan Fest (free): The Big Sky hopes to create a fun atmosphere outside CenturyLink Arena on The Grove plaza. Hoops will be set up for “noon ball” from noon to 2 p.m. Monday-Thursday, a concert (Pilot Error and Red Light Challenge) will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, and basketball skills tests and pep rallies will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and noon to 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Game schedule: The women’s tournament has three games Monday beginning at 2:30 p.m. and four games Tuesday starting at noon. The women’s semifinals are Wednesday night (5:30 and 8 p.m.) and the championship game is at 1 p.m. Friday. The men’s tournament has three games Wednesday starting at 9:30 a.m. — creating a five-game day. The men have four games Thursday beginning at noon and the semifinals are Friday night (5:30 and 8 p.m.). The championship game is at 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU). The two champs go to their respective NCAA tournaments.

Local openers: The Idaho women play Northern Arizona or Sacramento State at noon Tuesday, and the Idaho State women play Eastern Washington or Weber State at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The Idaho State men play Southern Utah at about noon Wednesday, and the Idaho men play Montana State at about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Game tickets: Single-session tickets start at $10 for the women’s tournament and $13 for the men’s tournament. All-session packages also are available. Visit or call (208) 331-TIXS.

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