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2017 GCI Great Alaska Shootout Primer

One of Thanksgiving week’s oldest events takes one final bow this November.

The eight 2017 Great Alaska Shootout participants.
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean. Images via

To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2017-18 Early Season Events Hub.

What Is It?

The GCI Great Alaska Shootout

How Long Has This Event Been Around?

This tournament will hold its 40th edition this season. Unfortunately, it will also be the final one. From 2015’s primer...

The genesis of the Great Alaska Shootout/Sea Wolf Classic was a previous iteration of the NCAA's exempt tournament rule, which allowed games played outside of the continental United States to not count against a team's cap of 27. That's why there were so many tournaments in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and even Japan, in the 80s and 90s.

Those were the glory years of the Great Alaska Shootout, which at one point had welcomed five defending national champions the following season—North Carolina State (1983), Villanova (1985), Louisville (1986), Kansas (1988), and Kentucky (1996). The tournament has fallen on hard times since the "two in four" rule was rescinded before the 2006-07 season for two reasons. First, teams are more likely to travel to more hospitable climes during the Thanksgiving holidays. Secondly, the Shootout lost its place on the ESPN networks, due to the increasing importance of its own competing tournaments.

While the Shootout has avoided the fate that befell Alaska-Fairbanks' Top of the World Classic, which ended after a 12-year run (1996-2007), recent fields have not matched those of 2007 and earlier. The last two tournaments each featured a single power conference team—Washington State (2014) and TCU (2013), with neither being what you would consider marquee. No power team made the trip for a pair of seasons following a 2010 event that featured both St. John's and Arizona State.

When And Where Is It?

Seven mid-major squads will spend Thanksgiving weekend in Anchorage, Alaska, where host the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves will entertain them at the Alaska Airlines Center on campus. The schedule has been adjusted this season and now looks like the one for the Paradise Jam (at least in most years).

More specifically, all eight teams will play their quarterfinals on Wednesday, November 22nd. In previous editions, the quarterfinals were spread over two evenings, but now it’s the semifinal round that’s split—with the Wednesday winners earning Thanksgiving off. That means the consolation semifinals will be played on the evening of the holiday, with the championship doubleheader set for Friday, November 24th. All eight teams will again take the floor on Saturday, November 25th for placement games.

Who's Playing?

The eight 2017 Great Alaska Shootout participants in their quarterfinal matchups.
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean. Images via

This edition of the Great Alaska Shootout is brought to you by the letters ‘C’ and ‘S.’

Are There Any Non-Bracketed Games?

Central Michigan, Idaho, and Sam Houston State will all host non-D1 opponents for their fourth game, according to the event’s printable bracket. That means SHSU’s matchup in Moscow, Idaho is not tied to the event, as originally assumed. However, there is an all-D1 non-bracketed contest, as Cal Poly will head upstate to play Santa Clara before embarking on the trip north.

Did Any Of These Teams Reach The 2017 Postseason?

WAC regular season champ Cal State Bakersfield caused a bit of stir by winning three preliminary NIT games on the road before bowing out in the semifinals to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. On the other hand, College of Charleston dropped its NIT opener at Colorado State Rams. Further down the pecking order, Idaho fell in the second round of the Postseason Tournament to the Texas State Bobcats.

How Strong Is This Event?

Based on the average four-year rankings of the participants, the 2017 Great Alaska Shootout ranks 13th out of 14 eight-team bracketed tournaments and 25th out of 38 bracketed tournaments.

Have Any Of These Teams Played In This Event Before?

John Kresse’s College of Charleston squad reached the final of 1996’s Great Alaska Shootout, though the defending National Champion Kentucky Wildcats blew them out in that contest. Six years later, the Cougars went the distance, stunning the Villanova Wildcats by a 71-69 score in the 2002 final. Central Michigan claimed fourth-place with a 2-1 record in 2011’s Shootout, while Idaho finished sixth in 1991. Santa Clara ended up in fifth place way back in 1983 and seventh in 1991.

The host Seawolves have gone 38-79 all-time in this event—winning twice in one Shootout six times. The last of those occurrences came in 2012. Last season, the hosts topped the Drake Bulldogs in the 7th-place game, while they defeated the Drexel Dragons in 2015’s consolation semifinals.

What About Other Basketball Travelers Events?

In its final two editions, UAA has partnered with Basketball Travelers, which runs the Paradise Jam, to fill its fields. However, none of these eight teams have made the trip to the Virgin Islands in this decade.

Are There Any Other Notable Recent Meetings Between These Teams?

Even though Sam Houston State defeated Idaho in a game played in Texas last season, the bulk of recent history featuring these squads centers on the Western ones, particularly the trio of Golden State entrants.

Cal Poly and Cal State Bakersfield played regularly up from the Roadrunners’ entry into Division I in 2007-08 until the end of the 2011-12 season. Bakersfield won seven of nine meetings between the two during those five seasons. The Mustangs and Idaho were Big West rivals up until the Vandals’ departure for the WAC in 2005. However, Idaho spent just one season in that league alongside CSUB—2013-14. The pair split home victories that season and again in a non-conference home-and-home played in the early stages of the 2015-16 season. Cal Poly also met Santa Clara for three consecutive Decembers—2012, 2013, and 2014—winning the final two contests. The Broncos, however, swept a three-game series with Cal State Bakersfield that ended in December 2013.

Who Won 2016’s Edition?

The Iona Gaels met the Nevada Wolf Pack in a rematch of a non-bracketed game played in Reno on November 20th. While Eric Musselman’s team claimed a 16-point victory in the earlier contest, the Gaels took the trophy home with a 75-73 win in the title game.

Did Any 2016 Teams Reach The Postseason?

Five of the eight, surprisingly. Both the Gaels and Wolfpack claimed their respective conference’s auto bids and lost in the First Round of the NCAAs. The sixth-placed UC Davis Aggies joined them, though the Big West Tournament champs were relegated to the First Four (a game they won, to their credit.) The Oakland Golden Grizzlies, who finished fourth, were the lone NIT participant—winning at Clemson Tigers and losing at Richmond Spiders in that event. Finally, the fifth-placed Weber State Wildcats fell to the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders in the second round of the Postseason Tournament.

Will This Event Be On TV?

Like the Paradise Jam, this event will be streaming for a fee at If you live in Alaska and are a GCI customer, you can watch the entire tournament on channel 907.

Who’s Your Pick To Win It?

The College of Charleston Cougars might just win this event for a second time, with WAC contender Cal State Bakersfield and rising Big Sky power Idaho serving a the most likely squads to challenge the CAA favorites.


College of Charleston over Cal Poly
Idaho over Santa Clara
Central Michigan over Sam Houston State
Cal State Bakersfield over UAA


College of Charleston over Idaho
Cal State Bakersfield over Central Michigan
(consolation) Santa Clara over Cal Poly
(consolation) Sam Houston State over UAA


Championship: College of Charleston over Cal State Bakersfield
3rd/5th: Idaho over Central Michigan
4th/6th: Sam Houston State over Santa Clara
7th/8th: Cal Poly over UAA

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