The Bemidji State men's basketball team opens the 2009-10 regular season this weekend at the Viterbo Pepsi Tournament in La Crosse, Wis.
The Beavers play College of the Ozarks (2-5) at 5 p.m. Friday and either Silver Lake College or Viterbo Saturday at a time to be determined.
"We're excited to get started," Bemidji State head coach Matt Bowen said. "We've been practicing for a month and a half so it's good to play something for real."
Bemidji State already has some game experience after a pair of road exhibition games earlier this month. The Beavers lost to the Wisconsin Badgers 90-54 in Madison and lost to North Dakota 65-63 in a tough game at Grand Forks.
"We learned a lot against Wisconsin on how to play a complete game, execute and play with good tempo," Bowen said. "We played North Dakota well and hopefully we learned some lessons there. But it did prove that we have improved and raised our competition."
Bemidji State returns an experienced squad that finished 8-19 overall last season and 6-14 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play.
The Beavers have improved in each of the three seasons since Matt Bowen took over as BSU's head coach.
Bemidji State has done so with a roster dominated by underclassmen.
Now, those underclassmen have grown and BSU has one of the older teams in the league dominated by a large group of juniors.
The Beavers will lean heavily on the experience of senior guard Seth Haake, junior forward Brady Fairbanks, sophomore guard Jake Lindstrom, junior center Jimmy Johnson and junior forwardd Patrick Cassidy.
"The entire team is back, they're bigger, stronger and more experienced," Bowen said.
"Hopefully we'll be a little more consistent and that will turn into some more wins .... It's an exciting time. Guys have worked hard and it's been a fun group to work with. Now it's time to put it out on the floor and see what we can get."
The Beavers are also boosted by the return of center Sergej Baskow, who redshirted his junior season after an ACL injury. He's back at near 100 percent and should perform a strong rotation with Johnson and Cassidy.
How those three work together could be a key to success this season for the Beavers.
"We've got a lot of good guards but I think the biggest question mark for the team is inside," Haake said. "We know we can score on the outside, but it's what we can score on the inside. We've been working a lot on rebounding - it was one of our weaknesses last year -- and being stronger on defense."
Haake used the word 'consistency' often when talking about Bemidji State this season. He feels if the Beavers can put out a consistent effort each game, the Beavers could make more strides forward this season.
"We know we can compete," Haake said. "Years past when I was here my freshman and sophomore years we were just trying to stay in it. Last year we showed we can stay in it and win some of them. This year, it's just about finishing out close games and winning more than we lose."
Bemidji State will play at BSU Gymnasium only three times before the new year, starting with the home opener next Tuesday against Jamestown College.
BSU then travels to Wisconsin-Parkside for a Thanksgiving weekend tournament and comes back to Bemidji for the opening NSIC weekend against Minnesota State, Moorhead and Minnesota-Crookston on Dec. 4-5.
The Bemidji State women's basketball team will look to build on its season-opening victory this weekend at the Grinnell Tip-Off tournament in Grinnell, Iowa.
BSU faces Martin Luther at 5 p.m. Friday and Buena Vista 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Beavers are coming off an 82-60 road victory win over Mayville State last Saturday.
BSU was led by Sydney Epema and Katie Pettit in the victory as the duo combined for 40 points and 10 rebounds.
BSU remains on the road next weekend in Phoenix, Arizona for the Grand Canyon Thanksgiving Tournament and will play Western State (Colo.) University and Western New Mexico.
The Beavers then return home for the home opener and the NSIC opening weekend Dec. 4-5. BSU will play Minnesota State, Moorhead and Minnesota-Crookston.