University of North Dakota head coach Brian Jones released his team’s 2016-17 schedule on Wednesday as he prepares for his 11th season at the helm of the Fighting Hawks’ program.
With three-consecutive home games to open the campaign, the Fighting Hawks will be able to find their footing before a demanding stretch of away games dominates the rest of the non-conference slate.
“This year’s schedule has more of a consistent flow to it unlike years past,” Jones said. “This will benefit us from an overall evaluation of the team as we work our way through the non league schedule. Our ultimate goal is to be playing consistent basketball throughout Big Sky play.”
The three-game homestand to open a season is the first for the program since the 2005-06 team went 4-1 at the Betty Englestad Sioux Center to begin that season. UND went 10-5 a season ago at home and hosted a CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament game for the first time in program history.
This year’s 13-game home slate begins with Crown College on Nov. 11 and UND follows that up with a tilt against Mayville State on Nov. 15.
The Fighting Hawks open the Wright State Thanksgiving Invitational with a home game against Presentation College on Nov. 20 before traveling to Dayton, Ohio for the final three games of the event.
UND’s first tilt in Ohio will be against North Florida on Nov. 25. The Ospreys have won back-to-back Atlantic Sun Conference titles and played in the 2015 NCAA Tournament and 2016 NIT Tournament.
Wright State, who is now coached by former South Dakota State head coach Scott Nagy, will be next up for the Fighting Hawks on Nov. 26. Nagy takes over a Raiders’ program after 21 seasons with the Jackrabbits and inherits a squad that has won 20 games in three of the last four seasons.
The final opponent in the four-game tournament will be a CSU Bakersfield squad that won the Western Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles a season ago and lost to Oklahoma in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Fighting Hawks and Roadrunners square off on Nov. 27.
December offers UND a challenging finish to non-conference play as the Fighting Hawks will play at North Dakota State (Dec. 7), at Northern Iowa (Dec. 10) and at Iowa (Dec. 20). The lone home game during that stretch is NDSU’s return of the home-and-home series in Grand Forks on Dec. 16.
Jones added he is still trying to fill a home game on Dec. 2 before that daunting stretch against a trio of 20-win teams from a season ago. Both Northern Iowa and Iowa advanced in the NCAA Tournament a season ago and those hostile environments will bode well for a team that opens Big Sky play after Christmas on the road at Portland State (Dec. 29) and Sacramento State (Dec. 31).
“We’re still looking to find another opponent that we can play at home in early December,” Jones said. “The landscape of college basketball has changed so much in regards to scheduling in recent years. We have some challenges just like a lot of other schools with a similar demographic, but hopefully we can get one more home game scheduled here in the next week or so.”
UND is entering its fifth season in the Big Sky and has made the league’s tournament semifinals in three of its first four seasons as a league member. The Fighting Hawks’ Big Sky home opener is set for Jan. 5 against Northern Arizona. Portland State (Mar. 2) and Sacramento State (Mar. 4) close out the regular season in Grand Forks before the Big Sky Tournament unfolds in Reno, Nev., for the second-straight year from March 6-11.
SCHEDULE BY THE NUMBERS
* 48 The last time UND and Iowa played on the hardwood was 48 years ago (Dec. 19, 1968; Iowa won 91-59). Head coach Brian Jones and assistant coach Jeff Horner both have ties to the Iowa program. Jones was an assistant coach for the Hawkeyes from 1999-2006, while Horner played for the program from 2002-06.
* 28 Total games – UND is still looking to add a game(s) to the 2016-17 schedule.
* 18 Big Sky Conference games
* 13 Home games
* 7 Opponents played in the 2015-16 postseason (3 NCAA, 1 NIT, 3 CBI)
* 3 NCAA Tournament teams from 2015-16 (Iowa, Northern Iowa and Weber State)
* 3 UND is undefeated all-time against three of its opponents (Crown College, 1-0; Presentation College, 2-0; Wright State, 1-0)
* 2 UND has yet to beat only two of its opponents (Iowa, 0-6 and CSU Bakersfield, 0-1)
* 1 Only one first-time opponent is on the schedule: North Florida