FORT COLLINS, Colo. — The complete schedule and game times for the 2017 Women's Cancun Challenge were announced on Wednesday. Columbia will compete against Mayan Division opponents Green Bay, Arizona State and national runner-up Mississippi State. All three teams qualified for the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
The 13th edition of the Women's Cancun Challenge takes place Nov. 23-25 at the all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The Lions are competing in the event for the first time.
“It's rare that you get faced with three teams of this caliber early in your season,” said head coach Megan Griffith ‘07CC, who prepares for her second season at Columbia. “Our program has never been in this situation before. There will be many challenges, but it will give us tremendous exposure. We chose this route because it allows us to test the waters early. It's a great opportunity for us to see where our team play measures up, and it also gives us a chance to try out different schemes in our offense and defense against very strong talent.”
Columbia won 13 games in Griffith's first season, its most since posting the program's Div. I record of 18 in 2009-10. The Lions went 10-3 to start the season, recording its highest non-conference winning percentage (.769) in program history. Camille Zimmerman, who will be a senior next season, broke the program's all-time single-season scoring record and led the Ivy League in both points and rebounds. The Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association named her its All-Met Div. I women's college basketball Player of the Year.
Columbia kicks off the Cancun Challenge on Thanksgiving, Nov. 23, when it takes on Green Bay in the tournament's opening game. Tip is slated for 11 a.m. ET. The Phoenix posted a 27-6 overall record last season with a 15-3 mark in the Horizon League, earning a share of its 19th straight conference title. They went on to win the Horizon League Tournament Championship and earned a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Ninth-seeded Purdue got by the Phoenix, 74-62, in the first round.
The Lions will play the 11 a.m. game for a second straight day on Friday, going up against defending national runner-up Mississippi State. The Bulldogs went 34-5 last season with a 13-3 mark in the SEC to secure a No. 2 seed for the NCAA Tournament. They earned the program's first-ever trip to the Final Four and went on to famously beat UConn in Dallas, 66-64, in overtime, breaking the Huskies' 111-game winning streak. South Carolina defeated Mississippi State, 67-55, in the NCAA championship game.
Columbia's final game of the Cancun Challenge is Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against Arizona State. The Sun Devils are coming off a 20-13 season in which they finished fifth in the Pac-12 at 9-9. ASU earned a No. 8 seed in last year's NCAA Tournament and defeated ninth-seeded Michigan State, 73-61, in the Lexington Regional's first round. It earned them a date with top-seeded South Carolina, a game which the Sun Devils led by as many as 11 points in the second half, only to fall in the final minutes, 71-68.
“My hope is that these games help us prepare for Ivy play,” Griffith went on to add. “I'm looking forward to the chance to compete against postseason teams early. In order to get better and play at a high level, we need to play high-level talent, and this is a great platform for us to do that.”
Indiana State, Marquette, Montana, Oklahoma State, South Dakota and eight-time national champion Tennessee will also be in Cancun as the six teams competing in the Riviera Division.
All games are ET and played in the modified convention center at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya. The designated home team is listed second:
Thursday, Nov. 23
Green Bay vs. Columbia, 11 a.m. ET
Arizona State vs. Mississippi State, 1:30 p.m. ET
South Dakota vs. Oklahoma State, 4 p.m. ET
Tennessee vs. Marquette, 6:30 p.m. ET
Montana vs. Indiana State, 9 p.m. ET
Friday, Nov. 24
Mississippi State vs. Columbia, 11 a.m. ET
Arizona State vs. Green Bay, 1:30 p.m. ET
Oklahoma State vs. Tennessee, 4 p.m. ET
Indiana State vs. South Dakota, 6:30 p.m. ET
Marquette vs. Montana, 9 p.m. ET
Saturday, Nov. 25
Green Bay vs. Mississippi State, 11 a.m. ET
Columbia vs. Arizona State, 1:30 p.m. ET
Tennessee vs. South Dakota, 4 p.m. ET
Seating is limited for this exclusive event, and all fans should book land travel packages through Triple Crown Sports for admission into games in Mexico. Travel packages are the only way to guarantee admission to games at this time. For travel package information, contact Sarah Sullivan at 970-672-0533 or by email at email@example.com, or visit the website at www.cancunchallenge.net.
About Triple Crown Sports
Based in Fort Collins, CO., Triple Crown Sports has been producing events in youth athletics and the college ranks for more than 30 years. TCS runs both the preseason and postseason WNIT basketball events and produces the men's and women's Cancun Challenge tournaments in November, which have been recognized by Sports Illustrated as a top-5 destination tournament for D-I basketball programs. Triple Crown is also rolling out new “WNIT” concepts in D-I softball and volleyball, beginning in 2017. TCS youth fastpitch tournaments (including the 1,000-team Sparkler/Fireworks event) draw the nation's finest club programs, and hundreds of college coaches attend TCS events for recruiting purposes.