College basketball: Bulldogs open season Jan. 2-3 against Winona State
NSIC releases 16-game schedule with COVID-19 protocols in place.
The Minnesota Duluth men’s and women’s basketball teams will open the season Jan. 2-3 at home against Winona State as the 16-team NSIC released its basketball schedules Friday.
Conference schools will only compete against one opponent each week of the season to limit potential COVID-19 exposure, with 16 games played over eight weeks. Teams will play the same opponent at the same site on back-to-back days.
The season will kick off with two nonconference games against an NSIC non-divisional opponent, with the conference schedule consisting of the remaining 14 games, with teams playing each member of its division twice.
The NSIC will only crown North and South division champions this season.
“I think this schedule makes the most sense,” UMD men’s basketball coach Justin Wieck said. “No guarantees we will play though … lots of hoops to jump through, but we’re excited to finally have a schedule set.”
UMD is coming off banner seasons in which the men went 22-9 and the women went 26-6 while qualifying for the NCAA Division II tournament, only to have the season cut short due to the COVID outbreak.
The UMD women will open each weekend series by playing at 5:30 p.m. the first day and 3:30 p.m. the second day, with the men playing at 7:30 p.m. the first day and 5:30 p.m. the second day.
The Bulldogs are home three of the first four weeks of the season but home only once after that. They finish the regular season Feb. 19-20 at St. Cloud State.
“I’m optimistic we’ll get to play,” Wieck added. “Hoping all 16.”
In addition to Duluth East products Noah Paulson and Mattie Thompson highlighted in this week’s News Tribune, the UMD men’s basketball team landed Joshua Strong (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) as part of Wieck’s third recruiting class for the Bulldogs.
Strong, a 6-foot point guard, played for Champlin Park High School and is listed as the No. 16 ranked prospect in Minnesota’s 2021 class and No. 2 point guard prospect by Prep Hoops Minnesota. He earned all-conference honors after averaging 10.1 points, 3.2 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game as a junior while leading his team to a 19-10 record.