MEN'S BASKETBALL: UND hits the road again, hoping to stay in the race for Big Sky playoffs
UND completed Practice No. 83 of the season Wednesday before flying to Sacramento, Calif., for tonight’s Big Sky Conference game against the Hornets.
Practices this late in the season usually are fairly light. Not this season, however.
“Some years at this time, you’re just fine-tuning things in practice,” said UND coach Brian Jones. “This year, we have to continually get better. We have to keep grinding; finding a way to get better.”
That’s because nothing is normal in the Big Sky this season.
With three weekends to play, only three losses separate the second-place and ninth-place teams in the 11-team league. Seven teams make the postseason tournament — and based on the regular season — anything could happen in a tournament with an NCAA tournament berth on the line.
“We know that if we get into the tournament, it’s anybody’s game,” said UND senior Aaron Anderson. “If we get in, we’ll be comfortable.”
UND, which is in a two-way tie for third place at 8-6 with Northern Arizona, travels to Flagstaff, Ariz., for a game Saturday with the Lumberjacks after taking on 7-7 Sacramento State tonight.
The big news in the Big Sky came Monday when Idaho State beat front-running Weber State. And Weber State has the dreaded Montana-Montana State trip this weekend, which could leave the Big Sky in an even more scrambled state.
“It just shows you the parity in our league,” said Jones. “I don’t care if it’s Weber State or (winless) Southern Utah, every game played is a tight game. I don’t know of any Division I men’s basketball conference in the country that has the congestion our league has.”
A key for UND tonight at Sacramento State will be a strong second half. UND led Sacramento State at halftime last year and was tied at the break two years ago at The Nest.
“We’ve played well at Sac for the first 20 minutes,” said Jones.
But with the congestion that exits this season, nothing short of a solid 40 minutes of basketball will work for UND.
“Everyone is just trying to get into the (league) tournament,” Jones said.