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UND to face demanding nonconference schedule in men's basketball

North Dakota Fighting Hawks guard Geno Crandall (0) moves to the basket against the Arizona Wildcats defense during the second half of the first round of the NCAA tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on March 16, 2017. Joe Camporeale / USA TODAY Sports

GRAND FORKS — University of North Dakota wrapped up the 2016-17 season playing No. 2 seed Arizona in the NCAA men's basketball tournament in Salt Lake City.

The nonconference portion of UND's schedule this season won't be much easier, based on the schedule released Wednesday, Sept. 13, by the Fighting Hawks.

UND will play four NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago — Troy of Alabama, South Dakota State, Creighton and Gonzaga, the national runner-up last season.

UND and Gonzaga will play Dec. 16 in Spokane. The teams haven't met since the 1972-73 season.

UND also will play a team from the Big Ten — Nebraska on Nov. 19 in Lincoln.

"We feel like this is by far our most challenging non-conference schedule to date," said UND coach Brian Jones. "Each season our goal is to really challenge our guys with programs that are rich with tradition and who will prepare us for the rigors of the Big Sky. With so many new faces on our roster, we wanted to dive into the deep end from the start and not ease into the season with opponents that will not expose us to the things we need to improve upon before we enter league play."

UND opens the season in Hawaii, Nov. 10 against Troy, which won the Sun Belt Conference last season. The Hawks will spend a few days in Hawaii as they compete in the Rainbow Classic. UND will meet host Hawaii on Nov. 12 and will face Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 13.

There is familiarity with UND's nonconference schedule.

Nebraska is coached by Tim Miles, the former coach at Mayville State and North Dakota State. Creighton, a Big East power, is coached by former UND assistant Greg McDermott. That game is set for Dec. 5 in Omaha.

Once again, UND will play rival North Dakota State twice, Dec. 9 in Grand Forks and Jan. 16 in Fargo. Beginning with the 2018-19 seasons, the teams will play twice each season as members of the Summit League.

UND opens its final Big Sky Conference season Dec. 29 at home against Idaho. UND's first home game will be Nov. 21 against Northland College. That will be the first of a three-game homestand, with Utah Valley (Nov. 25) and Presentation College (Nov. 28) to follow.

UND won the regular-season and postseason tournament titles in the Big Sky last season.

Jones said he hopes the nonconference schedule will benefit the Hawks once the league season begins.

"The Big Sky will be a veteran-heavy league and when you have multiple teams with roster continuity, this non-conference schedule will get us ready for a difficult and exciting league race," said Jones.

Wayne Nelson
Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
(701) 780-1268
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