BOZEMAN — The Montana State men’s basketball team held its first official practice on Wednesday for the upcoming season.
“We got after the guys pretty good," said MSU head coach Danny Sprinkle. "I wanted them to know there’s a difference between the first official day of practice and what we had been doing.”
Six months ago, the Bobcats’ postseason was cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak. To get to this point right now, a lot of precautions have been put in place to make sure Big Sky Conference basketball tips off without a hitch.
“We still try to set up drills and practices where there’s not a lot of contact," Sprinkle said.
With precautions set in place conference-wide, the Big Sky announced its 2021 hoops schedule on Thursday along with some significant changes.
One of the biggest changes was reducing the number of road trips each team will have to make. The Bobcats’ schedule features two games against each Big Sky program, both of which will be played back-to-back at the same arena on Thursdays and Saturdays starting in December.
“There’s probably going to be a lot more emotion and tension on that Saturday game that might boil over from whatever happened on Thursday," said Sprinkle.
The schedules also include traditional home-and-home matchups with two conference opponents. For Montana State, those opponents are Montana and Idaho State. The Cat-Griz rivalry opens in Missoula on Thursday, Jan. 28. After a day off, the two teams will return to action at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse that Saturday.
“That game is so important to the people in Montana that it would be really difficult if you said, ‘Hey, we’re going to play both games in Bozeman,' or, 'We're going to play both games in Missoula,'" Sprinkle said. "One way or the other – half the state is going to be pissed off. I was glad they did that."
While Big Sky hoops tips off at the start of December for the rest of the conference, Montana State will make its league debut at home on Dec. 31 against Southern Utah.
MSU’s non-conference schedule is still in the process of being finalized.