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UAA Athletics

Great Alaska Shootout tips off one last time

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: November 20, 2017
  • Published November 19, 2017

Dwyane Wade controls the ball for Marquette at the 2001 Great Alaska Shootout. (Marc Lester / ADN Archive 2001)

The end is here for a basketball tournament that helped put Alaska on the map.

The 40th annual Great Alaska Shootout will be the final Great Alaska Shootout, the last time Alaskans get to feast on Division I college basketball during Thanksgiving week.

Hosted by UAA and sponsored by GCI, the Shootout is the country's oldest regular-season basketball tournament.

"There's a lot of nostalgia," said Tim McDiffett, UAA's interim athletic director and a longtime administrator in the school's athletics department. "It's been a part of the fabric of Anchorage and the state."

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, when the superstars of the college basketball world made annual visits to Anchorage in November, the Shootout was one of the only early season tournaments in college hoops. Teams flocked here to get battle-tested for the conference season and to get an early gauge of their strengths and weaknesses.

The Shootout was one of those things people in the Lower 48 thought of when they thought of Alaska. Some of Alaska's first live television broadcasts were of the Shootout, which got its name from CBS broadcaster Billy Packer in the early days of the tournament.

UAA decided to make this year's tournament the last because of state budget cuts and the proliferation of early season tournaments elsewhere, which made it harder to attract top-tier teams.

"It's just not sustainable," McDiffett said. "We had to come to that hard decision and face reality."

The tournament's final 16 games will be played Tuesday through Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Center.

As we prepare for one last serving of butterballers, here's a quick look at some of the final menu items.

The teams

No ranked teams are in the men's eight-team field, and the only ranked team in the four-team women's field are the Seawolves, who are ranked No. 4 among Division II teams.

As usual, UAA is the only DII team in the otherwise all-Division I tournament.

In the men's field, the team to beat could be the College of Charleston, which has played in two Shootout championship games. The Cougars lost to Kentucky in the 1996 title game and upset Villanova in the 2002 title game.

College of Charleston is the most highly regarded Shootout team in CBS's rankings of all 351 of the nation's DI teams. That list puts the Cougars 48th.

Other men's teams and their rankings:

Santa Clara, 130

Sam Houston State, 168

Idaho, 175

Cal State Bakersfield, 213

Central Michigan, 253

Cal Poly, 302

Don't underestimate Bakersfield, UAA's first-round opponent. The Roadrunners were the Cinderella team of last season's NIT postseason tournament – a No. 8 seed that made it all the way to the semifinals before falling to Georgia Tech.

The only other teams to make it to the postseason were College of Charleston, which lost to Colorado State in the first round of the NIT, and Idaho, which lost to Texas State in the second round of the tournament.

Among the women's teams, Binghamton is 3-1, its best start since 2011. Tulsa is 2-3 and Maryland Eastern Shore – UAA's first-round opponent – is 1-2.


There are some good deals to be had, especially if you're a college student or a member of the military.

College students – any college students, not just UAA students – can get a full tournament pass for $20.

Military personnel can buy single-session tickets for $5 at JBER's Arctic Oasis Community Center.

And the purchase of one adult ticket comes with two free tickets for kids.

For details on tickets and parking, go to


There's no national or regional TV coverage of this year's tournament, the first time that's been the case in decades.

But Alaskans with GCI service can watch every game  on GCI channel 1. Additionally, fans anywhere can pay $30 to watch every game on

GCI Great Alaska Shootout

Tuesday's women's games

5:30 p.m. — Binghamton vs. Tulsa

8 p.m. — UAA vs. Maryland Eastern Shore

Wednesday's men's games

Noon — Cal Poly vs. College of Charleston

2:30 p.m. — Central Michigan vs. Sam Houston State

5:30 p.m. — Idaho vs. Santa Clara

8 p.m. — UAA vs. CSU Bakersfield