Not only were Fort Myers Tip-Off officials quick to commit to returning for Year 5 of its college basketball tournament, they will also bring the highest number of teams to date.
A total of 12 teams — eight men, four women — will take part in the Monday-Wednesday and Friday-Sunday games at Suncoast Credit Union.
Marquette, who reached the NCAA last season, and coach Shaka Smart, who guided Virginia Commonwealth to the 2011 Final Four, are part of the Beach Division along with Utah, Mississippi State and Georgia Tech.
Finals last year: Shootin’ Good in the Neighborhood: Appleby delivers on buzzer as Florida beats Ohio State
This year: Fort Myers Tip-Off College Basketball Tournament adds four teams to the field
The Palms Division will include Long Island, Northern Illinois, South Dakota and Sam Houston.
The Maryland women, who defeated FGCU en route to a Sweet 16 appearance at the 2022 NCAA tournament, will lead the Islands division along with DePaul, Pittsburgh and Towson. The Terrapins vs. DePaul game will be featured on FS1.
Fort Myers Note
When: Monday, Wednesday (Beach Division); Tuesday, Wednesday (Palms Division); Friday, Saturday, Sunday (island division)
Where: Suncoast Arena, FSW campus
Ticket information: https://www.fortmyerstipoff.com/tickets/
“It hasn’t escaped our notice that this will be the first major sporting event in Southwest Florida since Hurricane Ian,” Mark Starsiak, director of Fort Myers Tip-Off and vice president at Intersport. His company hosts basketball tournaments in seven different parts of the country. “We will rename this event. In the past it was definitely a story of beaches and sunshine. This year we’re going to tweak it to be more about people helping people and Southwest Florida come back and be better than ever. We want to do this tastefully and respectfully because we are proud to be a part of this event with Lee County and all of our partners.”
“Lee County and the entire Southwest Florida region is humbled and proud to host the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off and the Elevance Health Women’s Fort Myers Tip-Off during these trying times,” said Jeff Mielke, Executive Director of Lee County Sports Development. “As we did in 2020 during COVID, our community worked together to find a way to bring positive national attention through a sporting event for our region at a much-needed time. We thank Intersport for the trust they have placed in us with this important event and we hope that our local community will either attend in person or enjoy on national television this upcoming Thanksgiving week.”
Shortly after Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc on the coastal and barrier islands of southwest Florida, as well as Cape Coral and other areas, Starsiak and his crew committed to the event based on Suncoast Credit Union Arena weathering the storm well and received positive feedback from partners such as the Sanibel Harbor Marriott and Westin Cape Coral and reports it has received.
“They always felt like they were ready,” Starsiak said. “We liked what we saw. The arena was not flooded or damaged. And if our hotel partners were willing and able to accommodate us, we would come, we had no doubt about that.”
While travel packages have been tailored for fans in Salt Lake City, Utah, or Milwaukee, Marquette, Starsiak reckons hotel occupancy could be limited, as many of those rooms have understandably gone to first responders and displaced people.
According to county officials, nearly 89 percent of Collier hotels are open, while in Lee it’s nearly 60 percent.
“The barrier island and Fort Myers Beach recreation mode is real, but it’s just a small part of the area,” Starsiak said. “There’s still a lot to do down here. Restaurants are open, there’s golf, there’s sunshine, the malls and beaches north and south of Lee County are better.”
This tournament will continue to grow, Starsiak said. In the next year or two, he wants to bring in four more women’s high-major teams.
“And that could crown us,” he joked. “We’ll see how great we can do it.
“But I love our field this year.”
About the men’s teams
- Mississippi State’s 4-0 start is led by Tolu Smith, who is averaging 18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
- Marquette (3-1), who lost to Purdue, is led by Olivier-Maxence Prosper and David Joplin, both averaging 15 points per game.
- Miles Kelly and Dallan Coleman each average 12.5 points and lead Georgia Tech (3-0).
- Branden Carlson is leading an average of 17 points per game to lead Utah.
- After beating Utah (3-1) on Thursday night, Sam Houston (4-0) is the clear favorite to win the Palms Division. Qua Grant scored 20 of his 22 goals in the second half for the Bearkats, who also beat Oklahoma.
About the women’s teams
- Maryland, who reached Sweet 16 last season, has a blemish — a loss to No. 1 South Carolina. The Terps have a 1-2 punch from Diamond Miller (17.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Abby Myers (16.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg).
- Pitt is led by Davshanette Harris, who averages 13.7 ppg.
Men’s Beach Division
The games on Monday
6 p.m.: Utah (3-1) vs. Georgia Tech (3-0); 8:30 p.m.: Marquette (3-1) v Mississippi State (4-0)
6 p.m., third place; 8:30 p.m., finals
Men’s Palm Division
The games on Tuesday
Noon: Northern Illinois (1-3) vs. Sam Houston (4-0); 7:30 p.m.: Long Island (1-2) vs. South Dakota (2-2)
11 a.m., third place; 1:30 p.m., finals
Women’s Island Division
11 a.m.: DePaul (1-2) vs. Maryland (3-1); 2 p.m.: Pittsburgh (3-0) v Towson (1-0)
11:30 a.m.: Maryland vs. Towson; 2 p.m.: DePaul vs. Pittsburgh
11:30 a.m.: Maryland vs. Pittsburgh; 2 p.m.: DePaul vs. Towson
Beach Division Teams
NCAA Tournament History: The Utes, who have played 29 NCAA games, won the tournament in 1944 and lost in the 1998 title game.
Fun fact: Stephen Covey, a Utah graduate, wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Nickname: Yellow jackets
NCAA Tournament History: Georgia Tech has played 17 NCAA games, including the Final Four in 1990 and 2004.
Fun fact: Georgia Tech’s world-famous fight song “Ramblin’ Wreck” is inspired by an old folk ballad called “The Sons of the Gamboliers.”
Nickname: golden eagles
Conference: Great East
NCAA Tournament History: Marquette had gone through 34 NCAA games, winning the 1977 national title and finishing runner-up in 1974.
Fun fact: Marquette ranks sixth nationally for job placement 10 years after graduation, based on Department of Education College scorecard data.
State of Mississippi
NCAA Tournament History: Mississippi State has played 11 NCAA games, including a Final Four game in 1996.
Fun fact: MSU produces 369,000 gallons of milk, 9,000 gallons of ice cream and 300,000 pounds of cheese annually – all sold exclusively on the MSU campus.
Conference: Central American
NCAA Tournament History: Northern Illinois has made three NCAA tournaments.
Fun fact: Carl Sagan delivered the keynote address at the 1995 NIU Centennial Celebration.
Nickname: bear cat
Conference: Western Athletic
NCAA Tournament History: Sam Houston has played in two NCAA tournaments.
Fun fact: Spurred on by the rallying cry “Remember the Alamo,” Sam Houston’s 800 men defeated a Mexican force twice their size in just 18 minutes in 1836. The spectacular defeat at the Battle of San Jacinto led to a truce that granted Texas independence.
NCAA Tournament History: LIU has made seven NCAA tournament appearances.
Fun fact: LIU’s Brooklyn’s Athletic Center is the same building that was formerly the Paramount Theater. The theater opened in 1928 and has played host to American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and composer Duke Ellington.
NCAA Tournament History: The 1958 NCAA Division II champions did not compete in the Division I tournament.
Fun fact: The University of South Dakota is 160 years old.
Nickname: Blue Demons
League: Great East
NCAA Tournament History: DePaul has made 25 NCAA tournaments and four Sweet 16s.
Fun fact: Joe Mantegna from Criminal Minds, Gillian Anderson from The X-Files, Judy Greer from Archer and Michael Rooker from The Walking Dead all attended DePaul.
League: big ten
NCAA Tournament History: Maryland has competed in 29 NCAA tournaments, appeared in five Final Fours, and won one national championship.
Fun fact: Maryland has six libraries on campus.
NCAA Tournament History: Pitt has competed in four NCAA tournaments and was a Sweet 16 twice.
Fun fact: The Cathedral of Learning at Pitt is the second tallest university building in the world.
League: Colonial Athletics
NCAA Tournament History: Towson made his only appearance at an NCAA tournament in 2019.
Fun fact: US News & World Report ranked Towson University among the top 10 public universities in the Northern Region in their 2022-2023 ranking of best colleges.