CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Some of the best NCAA Division II basketball teams are on their way to the Capital City for the 2017 Mountain East Conference tournament at the Charleston Civic Center this week.

Games kick off Wednesday and run through Sunday.

The City of Charleston and the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau welcomed the conference during a press conference Tuesday afternoon on the Civic Center court.

The tournament returns to Charleston for a final time as part of a three-year agreement. The MEC plans to bid out the tournament for a new three-year contract after this year. For that reason, the city has renewed its efforts in hopes of keeping the tournament in town for years to come.

MEC Commissioner Reid Amos said it’s still unknown where the tournament will be held next year. He said they’re pleased Charleston is stepping up their efforts because competition is a good thing.

“We feel that if we have multiple venues competing with one another and wanting to host our event, then whoever would ultimately win that bid has won a competition and is putting their best foot forward to bring in the Mountain East Conference,” Amos said.

The Charleston Hospitality Committee was formed to design new initiatives to make this year’s tournament an event to remember. The committee raised money from local sponsors to help pay for meals for each team after they play, including Championship Sunday celebrations at Adelphia Sports Bar & Grille.

New approaches to the tournament also include discounts at restaurants for players, fans and college officials; “Youth Night” on Wednesday and Thursday where children get in for free with paying adults; New signage at the Charleston Town Center Mall; “Welcome to Charleston” backpacks to be handed out to student athlete, among other things.

“This is the fourth year of the Mountain East Conference Tournament in Charleston, and we’ve been working to make this event the best one yet,” said Charleston Mayor Danny Jones in a news release.

This year’s event includes 20 teams (top 10 men’s and top 10 women’s teams) with 18 games total.

“There are some outstanding players in this conference,” Amos said. “We’re very proud to say that in both women’s basketball and men’s basketball we have the highest scoring conference in the country.”

So, get ready to see some fast players with scores in the 90s, Amos said.

“Players are simply a little bit shorter than Division I players and a little bit faster too, so you see an up-tempo style of basketball quite often at the Division II level and no better example of it than in the Mountain East,” he said.

The MEC format has been expanded this year by a fifth day. The conference opens after the Harlem Globetrotters game scheduled for Tuesday night.

The city estimates there will be a $2 million economic impact for local businesses and hotels during the five-day tournament.

All 18 games will be streamed on the MetroNews Channel at wvmetronews.com.

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