Gulf Coast Showcase bringing more college basketball to SWFL

Reporter: Zach Oliveri Writer: Jackie Winchester
Published: Updated:
student athletes
Alico Arena (WINK News)

Another big sporting event is coming to Southwest Florida on Thanksgiving weekend.

The Gulf Coast Showcase will take place in Lee County, and along with the Fort Myers Tip-Off that same weekend, these college basketball tournaments are a big deal for our area.

“It’s probably as strong of a tournament for women’s basketball in the country, especially during the Thanksgiving weekend. We’re honored to be a part of it,” said Ken Kavanagh, athletic director at Florida Gulf Coast University.

FGCU is one of six women’s teams in the Showcase, nicknamed the “Beach Bubble.” Just like the NBA’s bubble, teams will follow testing and social distancing protocols.

Arkansas, Wake Forest, Davidson, Maryland and Missouri State will join FGCU in the women’s tournament at Alico Arena. Among the men’s teams playing at Hertz Arena are ETSU, Middle Tennessee, Austin Peay and Indiana State.

No fans will be in the stands, but there will be a live stream.

“It’s an opportunity to play teams that you’ll hopefully see later in the NCAA tournament,” Kavanagh said.

“You know, every time we, quote-unquote, rebuild after a great season, Coach always finds a way to make us competitive.”

#1 Kansas and #2 Gonzaga will join St. Joe’s and Auburn in the Fort Myers Tip-Off, the men’s tournament to take place at the Suncoast Credit Union Arena at Florida SouthWestern State College.

Mark Starsiak, the tournament director, said Southwest Florida’s diverse fan base makes Fort Myers a slam dunk destination.

“There is a good bed of boosters, fans, and support for teams across the country to come down to a place like Fort Myers. I think the quality of competition that both tournaments bring down there attracts teams and coaches to the area.”

The men’s portion of the Gulf Coast Showcase will get the action started with a traditional eight-team tournament bracket at Hertz Arena. The first-round match-ups on Wednesday, Nov. 25 are:

ETSU (30-4 record in 2019-20) vs. Abilene Christian (20-11) – 11 a.m.
Akron (24-7) vs. Middle Tennessee (8-23) – 2 p.m.
Austin Peay (21-12) vs. Omaha (16-16) – 5 p.m.
Indiana State (18-12) vs. East Carolina (11-20) – 8 p.m.

The women’s schedule at Alico Arena at FGCU:

Friday, Nov. 27

  • Arkansas vs. Wake Forest – 11:30 a.m.
  • Davidson vs. Maryland – 2:30 p.m.
  • Missouri State vs. FGCU – 5:30 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 28

  • Wake Forest vs. Davidson – 11:30 a.m.
  • FGCU vs. Arkansas – 2:30 p.m.
  • Maryland vs. Missouri State – 5:30 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 29

  • Davidson vs. FGCU – 11:30 a.m.
  • Missouri State vs. Wake Forest – 2:30 p.m.
  • Arkansas vs. Maryland – 5:30 p.m.

Organizers of the Fort Myers Tip-Off are still deciding whether they’ll sell tickets to those games and they’re still working out their COVID-19 protocols.

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