Big Sky Conference announces adjusted league basketball schedules

Danny Sprinkle
Mike Petrino
Montana State Bobcats vs. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks - Big Sky Conference women's basketball semifinal
Posted at 10:50 AM, Oct 15, 2020

FARMINGTON, Utah – The Cat-Griz men's and women's basketball games are set for late January, the Big Sky Conference announced Thursday.

The conference unveiled a 20-game league schedule for the 2020-21 season that provides its 11 member institutions with two contests against every other school – including home-and-home series with two opponents – while reducing their travel and expenses. Teams will play consecutive games against the same opponent, with the men’s and women’s programs of two competing schools playing each other on the same dates at opposite locations. Both men’s and women’s basketball are scheduled to play conference games on Thursdays and Saturdays, with the first contests slated for Dec. 3 and 5, then resuming on Dec. 31 and continuing through March 6. Each school will face four opponents twice at home and four opponents twice on the road, as well as two opponents against whom it will compete in one home and one away game. The 2020-21 Big Sky basketball regular season will feature 11 weeks, which includes one open weekend per school.

The Montana and Montana State basketball teams will have home-and-home series with each other. The Griz men will host Montana State on Jan. 28, while the Lady Griz are scheduled to be in Bozeman to take on the Cats. The teams will flip sites on Jan. 30 -- the MSU men will host UM, while the Bobcat women will travel to Missoula. The Griz will also have a home-and-home series with Eastern Washington, and the Cats will have a home-and-home with Idaho State.

Montana's basketball teams will start their conference schedules nearly a month earlier than their in-state rivals. The Griz men will travel to Cedar City, Utah, to play Southern Utah on Dec. 3 and 5. The Lady Griz and first-year head coach Mike Petrino will open their conference slate at home against the Thunderbirds on the same days.

Montana State will also kick off its conference schedules against the Thunderbirds. The reigning regular-season conference champion MSU women will open up on the road, traveling to Southern Utah for games on Dec. 31 and Jan. 2. The Bobcat men will host the Thunderbirds on the same days at Worthington Arena.

In addition to the 20-game conference slate, the Montana State women announced five non-conference games. The Bobcats will begin their season on Nov. 25 in Bozeman against South Dakota Mines. They also have homes scheduled against North Dakota on Dec. 6 and South Dakota State on Dec. 21. MSU's non-conference road games are Dec. 10 at Brigham Young and Dec. 12 at Utah Valley.

“This schedule accomplishes many of the objectives that we prioritized, most notably providing a full lineup of competitive opportunities for our men’s and women’s basketball student-athletes while reducing the number of road trips our programs will make,” Big Sky Conference commissioner Tom Wistrcill said in a media release. “Our administrators – especially those on our Basketball Committee – worked tirelessly to vet multiple schedule models, and the feedback that we received from our head coaches, two student-athletes from every team, our Health and Safety Committee, and our certified athletic trainers proved invaluable throughout the process.”

The Big Sky’s Basketball Committee currently is comprised of Montana State athletic director Leon Costello (chair), Idaho athletic director Terry Gawlik, Northern Arizona athletic director Mike Marlow, Sacramento State senior woman administrator Lois Mattice, and Weber State senior woman administrator Meagan Thunell.

Non-conference schedules are still being finalized and will be released at a later date.

The conference season will culminate for all 22 teams with the 2021 Big Sky Basketball Championships at the newly renamed Idaho Central Arena (formerly CenturyLink Arena) on March 8-13 in Boise, Idaho, for a third consecutive year. The 2020 conference tournament was canceled while in progress. Neither the Montana nor Montana State men had played a game at the tournament yet, while the Montana State women had advanced to the championship game. The Bobcats were slated to play Idaho for the league title.

Any television broadcast clearances will be made in the coming weeks and may result in date changes. All games as scheduled will be subject to health guidelines from state, county, and local officials.