FARGO — It didn’t take North Dakota State long to roll with the new model of basketball games. The Bison men lost one opponent and added two in a timespan that would be considered scheduling lightspeed.
Gone is Ball State (Ind.) in the MKE Classic at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday, Nov. 27. The Bison are still going to play Milwaukee on Friday and Southern Mississippi on Saturday, but are going to make a stop in Minneapolis on the way home.
Added is Loyola Marymount (Calif.) on that Sunday and the University of Minnesota on Monday.
That’s four games in four days.
“It’s certainly unique,” said NDSU head coach Dave Richman. “It’s something I’ve never been a part of but I also have never been part of a historic pandemic. Will there be challenges with it? Absolutely but we consider the positives completely outweighing the negatives.”
The reason for the changes, of course, is the COVID-19 pandemic that is making games across the country a precious commodity. Summit League teams are required to play at least 12 games to qualify for the Summit tournament.
Plus, NDSU hasn’t played a game since the Summit tournament last March.
“For our guys and myself, we’re all competitive and it’s been eight months since we’ve been doing something we love against somebody else,” Richman said.
The old way was to schedule games a year or two in advance, if not longer. The new way is a week or two in advance, if not sooner.
After Ball State dropped out of the Milwaukee tourney, and a decision was made to cut the tournament from three games to two, Bison assistant Kyan Brown started reaching out to regional opponents. NDSU was already going to be in a bus in Milwaukee.
The Gophers answered. The games were so freshly scheduled that the Gopher website had yet to update its schedule as of Thursday afternoon.
“Somebody dropped out of their schedule and it was a timing thing,” Richman said. “When we reached out, they responded right back and started working through the details.”
Like Milwaukee, the Marymount and Gopher games will be played in arenas with no fans. NDSU still has five more non-conference games on the schedule so in theory reaching the minimum 12 games shouldn’t be an issue. The 16-game league schedule begins in January.
But there are no guarantees these days.