BOISE, Idaho — From the free throws to slam dunks, the Big Sky Conference Tournament will feature big plays in Boise for the first time in decades. 

NCAA athletes from 11 schools, including University of Idaho and Idaho State University, are battling it out at the CenturyLink Arena for the Big Sky Conference Championship for men's and women's teams. 

“It's the first year of a three-year deal,” Tom Wistrcill, the Big Sky Conference Commissioner, said. “We were in Reno the last three years, but it wasn't really a great home for us, this is much more centrally located with our schools and for our fans and alumni and everybody.” 

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The move has been a slam dunk for both fans and downtown Boise business owners. 

“When big events come to Boise, like the Big Sky Tournament, it brings a lot of spending and that spending really radiates throughout the entire economy, certainly the city of Boise and Ada County, but to some degree the entire state,” Lynn Hightower, the Executive Director for the Downtown Boise Association, said. “The goal is to make Boise the permanent home for the Big Sky Conference Tournament.”  

Business owners like the Bardenay Restaurant and Distillery's Kevin Settles are scoring big with fans by hosting visiting teams. 

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“We were pleased, happy to host the Bengals an in-state team,” Settles said. “We've staffed up, we expect to be busy, but this is a new event for Boise and so, the first time through you're always a little unsure of what you'll see out of it, but there's a pretty good buzz about it going around and it's generated a lot of interest, so we expect the business to continue to build as the week goes on.” 

Attendees can expect fanfare inside and outside the arena.

“I think people are excited to bring a high-quality basketball event here to Boise,” Wistrcill said. “This gives them a view into a lot of different schools around this part of the country.” 

The first round of the women's tournament took place on Monday, where Northern Arizona, Southern Utah, and Eastern Washington advanced to the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

The first quarterfinal game on Tuesday saw No. 1 seed University of Idaho beat No. 8 seed Northern Arizona 90-73.

Idaho State women play Eastern Washington at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The men's first round starts on Wednesday, March 13. 

Idaho faces off against Montana State while Idaho State plays Southern Utah afterward. Game times have yet to be determined.

The championship games will be on Friday and Saturday.

Tickets for the women’s basketball games are $10. While tickets for the men's basketball games are $13.