Beyond the Scoreboard: March Madness in Asheville as city hosts two tourneys this week

Photo: WLOS

For the second time in six years, March Madness will be in full bloom in Asheville, with two college basketball tournaments that will send three teams to the NCAA tournament.

The Southern Conference Basketball Championships for men and women will be held March 1-5, 2018 at U.S. Cellular Center in downtown Asheville.

And the Big South Conference Men’s Basketball Championship will hold its quarterfinal and semifinal rounds at Kimmel Arena on the campus of UNC Asheville on Thursday and Friday.

If top seed and regular-season champion Asheville reaches the championship game, it would also be held at Kimmel on March 4.

Fans have long known SoCon was coming, but the Big South wasn’t official until Asheville clinched the league’s top seed on Saturday.

The SoCon holds its tourney at a neutral site, while the BSC rewards the regular-season champion with home-court advantage.

Tickets for the SoCon tourney are on sale now at Ticketmaster or the U.S. Cellular Center at 828-259-5736.

Tickets for the BSC tourney go on sale Sunday at 10 a.m. at Tickets will be available at Kimmel Arena on Monday and by calling 828-258-7900.

The SoCon begins play Thursday with four women’s games that begin at 11 a.m.

The women’s semifinals are at 11 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Friday, with two men’s play-in games between the Nos. 7 through 10 seeds at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

The men play four quarterfinal games on Saturday starting at noon.

The women’s title game, with the winner going to the NCAA tourney, is set for noon Sunday. The men’s semifinals are also Sunday at 4 p.m. and 6:30.

The men’s championship game is 9 p.m. on Monday, March 5.

The BSC tourney begins with two play-in games at the higher seeds on Tuesday.

The eight remaining schools come to Asheville for four quarterfinal games at Kimmel on Thursday, with Asheville scheduled to play at 7 p.m.

The semifinals are at 6 p.m. and 8 on Friday, and the title game is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Asheville last hosted the SoCon and Big South tourneys in the same year in 2012, and both were successful and profitable here.

The SoCon was returning to Asheville after a 16-year absence, and fans responded well to games at Kimmel and the renovated U.S. Cellular Center.

The SoCon’s 21 men’s and women’s games drew 41,120 fans, while the BSC’s seven men’s games drew 7,668 people, including a sellout crowd of 3,205 at Kimmel to watch Asheville beat Virginia Military for the championship.

WNC enjoyed an estimated $5.5 million in economic impact the weekend the two tournaments were here in 2012.

And everyone made money, according to published reports - $106,000 by the city of Asheville, $67,000 by UNC Asheville and $66,000 by the SoCon.