For the next few weeks, we'll be scrutinizing over the schedules announced by the various Summit League schools. Generally, they'll appear in alphabetical order with an array of thoughts on the teams and their opponents. The general idea behind this comes from a similar feature on RushTheCourt.net, where writer Zach Hayes kindly encouraged us to adopt some pieces of the format for use here, though you'll find plenty of Summit League flair in the words below.
North Dakota State University
General Theme: North Dakota State has found a great balance of home games, nearby away games, and participation in single-site tournaments with its 2010-11 men's basketball schedule. The Bison start out immediately with three games in three days in Eugene, Oregon against UC-Santa Barbara, Denver, and the Oregon Ducks. Each team presents a challenge for Coach Saul Phillips' hoops squad. If the team isn't clicking there, the Basketball Travelers Classic could signal the start of a long month of November for the Bison since they'll still have to go on the road for matches with Minnesota and Wisconsin-Green Bay. Hopefully the Bison can avoid that sinking feeling that would come with a rough start to the season.
Travel At A Glance: The Bison will take two west coast trips in the non-conference schedule, once for the aforementioned tournament in Oregon and another time in late December for a game at Fresno State. Otherwise, a majority of their games are close to home or at home.
Easiest Game: Cupcakes are few and far between on this schedule. The team plays two non-Division I games which would qualify here, but it's Division I portion is full of generally respectable programs. Centenary, then, will go down as the easiest game for NDSU.
Toughest Game: I'm going out on a limb here in calling Oregon one of the toughest games for the Bison. It'll come at the very beginning of the season, and the Ducks will have a new coach leading them onto Mac Court in Dana Altman. Even though the system and many of the players will be new, I can see Altman having his guys incredibly focused and ready to prove they're not pushovers again in the Pac-10. And if Oregon isn't competing for a BCS spot in football, then the students will be out in full force to support their green-and-yellow clad ballers.
Most Likely Upset: This probably doesn't make much sense at first, but the most likely upset also goes to Oregon, for all of the same reasons. It would be something if NDSU went out and beat the Ducks on their home-court just two seasons after Oakland did the same. If that happens, Altman will no doubt be counting down the days until the school's new Mattnew Knight Arena opens in January of 2011.
Most Challenging Non-Conference Stretch: The three games at the beginning of the season in Oregon will be both challenging and revealing. It's a gamble to take on games in three straight days so early in the season, before any tune-ups against non-DIs or low-majors. If NDSU doesn't get things clicking in Eugene, they'll be 0-3 before most schools even play their first game.
Most Challenging Conference Stretch: The Bison will face a strong IUPUI team on February 12th before taking off for Oakland and IPFW on the 17th and 19th, respectively. All of these teams will be very competitive in The Summit League this season, and coming at the end of the season, they'll also be important games so every team will be aiming to destroy their opponents.
Best Individual Match-Up: I hate to give such a general answer here, but it's got to be Michael Tveidt versus just about any other forward in The Summit League. He put up 28 on Oakland at the O'Rena last season in a truly spectacular performance. This is his senior season, so he'll be leaving everything on the floor this season. And as a fan of college basketball, count me excited.
Most Anticipated Home Game: On Saturday, December 11, the Bison will take on the University of North Dakota at the Fargodome. The dome can hold over 10,000 fans and hasn't been used for basketball since 1999. Additionally, UND and NDSU haven't squared off since the 2003-2004 season when they split games. Needless to say, this is a huge game! As UND makes its transition to Division I, hopefully these schools can continue to play each other, igniting the rival spirit amongst the residents of their shared state.
Concluding Thoughts: It's always great to see that mid-majors are able to play against the major BCS schools of the area as it's great for recruiting and increasing the profile of the school at hand. NDSU has taken care of that with its game at Minnesota, and even the series with UW-Green Bay contributes to that a bit. Going forward, hopefully Coach Phillips can continue putting together this type of schedule as it is challenging, yet balanced enough that the Bison should be competitive against most of its opponents.