LEXINGTON, KY – Sixteen NCAA Division I basketball programs will descend upon Southwest Florida this Thanksgiving as the inaugural Gulf Coast Showcase is staged at the Germain Arena in Estero, Fla. The men’s eight-team tournament, designed to showcase the top mid-major programs from across the country, will be held Nov. 25-27; it will be immediately followed by an eight-team women’s tournament from Nov. 29-Dec. 1. bd Global, LLC, a Lexington, Ky.-based sports marketing firm, is managing the weeklong event. An additional six teams will participate as “Opening Game” opponents.

“We are excited to showcase these quality programs in the inaugural Gulf Coast Showcase,” said Brooks Downing, president of bd Global. “We had been considering this market to launch a premium event of this nature, and after Florida Gulf Coast made its magical run last March, we were convinced that the Fort Myers-Naples area would be the ideal destination location to create a signature event.”

The tournament figures to be a boon for the local economy attracting fans from around the country. While the games will be played at Germain Arena, the Waldorf Astoria Naples serves as the host resort for teams.

“We are thrilled to have so many good schools represented in the inaugural Gulf Coast Showcase, said Craig Brush, president of Germain Arena. “We are convinced that this will become one of the premier college basketball events in the country as well as a fixture on the Southwest Florida sports fan’s calendar.”

The men’s field is led by Louisiana Tech (Western Athletic Conference), a 27-7 team last season that finished the season ranked 51st nationally in RPI. Wagner (Northeast) and St. Bonaventure (Atlantic 10) both ranked among the top-150 in RPI a year ago while San Diego (West Coast) finished at No. 158. UNC Greensboro (Southern), UIC (Horizon League), Southern Illinois (Missouri Valley) and Stetson (Atlantic Sun) round out the tournament field. Centenary College, Roosevelt University, Greensboro College, San Diego Christian and Missouri S&T will play “Opening Games” as part of the event.

“The tournament format allows everyone a shot at a championship, which is nice,” said Mike White, head coach at Louisiana Tech. “Playing three games in three days should help prepare all of us for our conference tournaments. In addition, the quality of the programs in the field bode well for tremendous competition as it prepares us all for conference play. Very good conferences and programs will be represented.”

The women’s tournament will be hailed as one of the nation’s top events in its inaugural year. UCLA (Pac-12) spent all last season ranked in the Top-25 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Middle Tennessee State also earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament after winning the Sun Belt Conference. Mississippi State and NC State bring star power from the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference respectively. James Madison (Colonial), Wright State (Horizon), Grand Canyon (WAC) and Southeastern Louisiana (Southland) complete the tournament field. Marian University will join the fold as an “Opening Game” participant.

“We are so excited to participate in the Gulf Coast Showcase,” said Cori Close, head coach at UCLA. “With great competition, a beautiful location, and wonderful growth opportunities for our student-athletes, I feel very fortunate to be able to represent UCLA in this spectacular event.”

“I’m thrilled to partner with my long time friend Brooks Downing and bd Global to bring a competitive women’s basketball tournament to the Ft Myers/Naples area. ,” said Debbie Antonelli, ESPN analyst and Tournament Director of the women’s event. “Each of these eight teams brings an intense, hard working, offensive-minded style of play that will be entertaining for fans. I think the coaches will agree that this tournament will simulate post-season play, especially given the competitive field that has been put together.”

Ticket and hotel packages for both tournaments are now available at www.gulfcoastshowcase.com. For group sales or sponsorship opportunities, interested parties should contact bd Global at 859-951-6141.