Summit League, Big Sky launch basketball challenge to boost non-conference schedules

All teams from both leagues to play home-and-home series for next three seasons

Zeke Mayo and South Dakota State played Montana this past season and will continue playing Big Sky teams for the next three seasons as part of the Big Sky-Summit Challenge.
SDSU athletics

SIOUX FALLS — The Summit League and Big Sky conference have announced a new three-year series of head-to-head men's and women's basketball games to begin in the 2023-24 season.

The mid-major conferences have engaged in agreements to play non-conference games multiple times before (South Dakota State played at Montana and hosted Eastern Washington last season), but the new agreement — dubbed the Big Sky-Summit Challenge — will include every team from both leagues. Each school will play one home game and one away game against a team from the opposite conference for each of the next three seasons.

According to a joint press release, the challenge is part of a concentrated effort to improve non-conference schedules of teams from both leagues.

And in an interesting twist, opponents for each school, which will be announced at a later date, will not be chosen randomly or geographically. The matchups will be annually determined using data from past seasons NET rankings and regular-season conference finishes, along with consideration for the prior season matchups.

For the Challenge games during the 2023-24 season, the leagues will also take into account previously scheduled non-conference contests as a factor in determining the matchups. Collectively, the Big Sky ranked 18th out of 32 leagues in conference NET for men's hoops in 2022-23, while the Summit was 22nd. On the women's side, the Big Sky was 15th and the Summit was 21st.


“Securing more Division I non-conference home games for our schools is a top priority as we continue to seek ways to elevate our league in the increasingly competitive national landscape of college basketball,” Big Sky commissioner Tom Wistrcill said. “We’re excited to see it tip off this upcoming season.”

Added Summit League commissioner Josh Fenton: “This series will help each conference’s member schools with guaranteed non-conference games in a challenging scheduling environment. It also gives us an opportunity to creatively engage with fans, while allowing our basketball programs to enhance their resumes."

Matt Zimmer is a Sioux Falls native and longtime sports writer. He graduated from Washington High School where he played football, legion baseball and developed his lifelong love of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, he returned to Sioux Falls, and began a long career in amateur baseball and sports reporting. Email Matt at
What To Read Next
Get Local