Men’s Basketball Schedule Will Test Veteran Bison
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 12:09
The 2013-14 NDSU men’s basketball schedule was released last week and what a doozy it can turn out to be. The Bison, essentially returning everyone on its roster except for backup point guard Nate Zastrow, are hopeful of a NCAA Tournament berth after losing in the Summit League Championship last season to SDSU.
NDSU head coach Saul Phillips and his hair must be relieved that SDSU guard Nate Wolters graduated and Bison fans will only see him in a NBA uniform from now on.
Yes, the expectations are at its highest since the 2009 Bison squad made the big tournament. Now, Phillips is going to test this team and put them through a grinding schedule. And there is no better way to challenge a team hoping for a long post season than this.
The Bison will play at least 12 teams that took part in a postseason tournament last year. Ohio State, Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s (CA) all made the NCAA Tournament last season with Ohio State reaching the Elite 8. Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s both played in the second round.
While the Bison hit the road for those games, they will host Southern Miss, a team that made the 2013 NIT quarterfinals.
All these games are played before the conference schedule begins. And once NDSU begins to play games that count towards a Summit League regular season championship, the Bison will be mightily prepared to defend the probable preseason No. 1 rankings in the conference.
And that is exactly why Phillips got these big-name opponents on the schedule. Playing nonconference games against teams you handily beat by 20 plus points isn’t going to help your team in the long run. Highly competitive games will improve NDSU’s poise, nerves and confidence. The Bison have a roster this year to compete with these teams. Keeping up with an Ohio State or a Notre Dame down to the last minute brings greater confidence than beating a Valley City by 30.
Going into the houses of these teams will make the Summit League Championship stage in Sioux Falls seem a little bit smaller.
Phillips knows this is the best way to prepare his team. And I think he knows he has a team that has all the capabilities of getting some big wins out of this nonconference schedule. The Bison play outstanding defense and are well balanced on the offensive end.
And let’s say the Bison do reach to NCAA Tournament. Maybe this is the team that gets over the Summit League hump and wins a first round game. This challenging nonconference schedule only increases that likelihood.
Phillips and athletic director Gene Taylor scheduled these games because they both have the utmost confidence in this team. Why shy away from competition when you have your best team since 2009?
These seniors have gone from 14 to 17 to 24-win seasons. They have been playing together for quite some times. This season has probably been in the back of their minds since working their way up the win column.
No doubt Phillips has been looking forward to this year. He is throwing his boys out there and is expecting to get something out of it. Come March, we’ll see just how much the Bison perform on a big stage.