On Monday, the Summit League and Big Sky announced that four teams from each conference would take part in an intra-league series beginning next season.
On Tuesday (and thereafter), college basketball fans everywhere should rejoice.
Any time leagues come together to create compelling non-conference action and competition, it’s a good thing. The Summit League/Big Sky series won’t have the potential RPI/at-large implications that the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge theoretically does, but it’ll still provide quality mid-major on mid-major matchups among a sea of early season buy games.
Starting next year, the eight teams below will play the schools from the other conference on a rotating schedule over four years, with one home and one road game against each school from the other league by 2021-2022.
- Summit: North Dakota State, North Dakota, South Dakota State, Omaha
- Big Sky: Montana, Montana State, Eastern Washington, Idaho
Here’s the complete schedule, courtesy of a release from Montana:
2018-19 – Eastern Washington at North Dakota State, Idaho at North Dakota, Montana at South Dakota State, Montana State at Omaha, North Dakota at Montana State, North Dakota State at Montana, Omaha at Idaho, South Dakota State at Eastern Washington.
2019-20 – Eastern Washington at North Dakota, Idaho at South Dakota State, Montana at Omaha, Montana State at North Dakota State, North Dakota at Montana, North Dakota State at Idaho, Omaha at Eastern Washington, South Dakota State at Montana State.
2020-21 – Eastern Washington at South Dakota State, Idaho at Omaha, Montana at North Dakota State, Montana State at North Dakota, North Dakota at Idaho, North Dakota State at Eastern Washington, Omaha at Montana State, South Dakota State at Montana.
2021-22 – Eastern Washington at Omaha, Idaho at North Dakota State, Montana at North Dakota, Montana State at South Dakota State, North Dakota at Eastern Washington, North Dakota State at Montana State, Omaha at Montana, South Dakota State at Idaho.
The series involves teams that have had plenty of recent success. Either North Dakota State or South Dakota State has represented the Summit in the last six NCAA Tournaments. On the other side, Montana and Eastern Washington have each made the NCAA Tournament within the past five seasons.
North Dakota brings its own special intrigue. The Fighting Hawks made their first Div. I NCAA Tournament appearance last season as a member of the Big Sky, but will be moving to the Summit after this year. While they’ve only been in the Big Sky since 2012-13, there’s always some heightened interest when a team returns to its old league.