BEMIDJI - The Bemidji State men's basketball team knows every game is important - especially this season, with a new coach and a conference title to defend.
Even so, there are two dates in particular that every member of the Beaver basketball team will surely have circled on his calendar: Dec. 8 and Feb. 22.
Those would be games against Minnesota-Duluth and Matt Bowen.
"That'll be, I don't know what you call it, an interesting game," BSU forward Mason Walters said of the first date against the Bulldogs - and their former head coach. "We'll definitely have our adrenaline pumped. It'll be a lot of fun."
Walters spoke about the potential games against his former coach last week, following the official introduction of new head coach Mike Boschee.
And now the schedule is official. The Beavers will travel to Duluth Dec. 8 to take on the Bulldogs in an early-season battle, while the Bulldogs will come to Bemidji Feb. 22 - the second-to-last game of the season.
There's a good chance that both games will mean a lot more than bragging rights, too - a division title could be on the line.
The NSIC has added two teams - Minot State and Sioux Falls - which allows the league to split into two divisions, North and South. BSU and UMD will both be in the North Division, along with Minot State, Minnesota Crookston, MSU-Moorhead, University of Mary, St. Cloud State and Northern State.
The Beavers - who finished 22-9 last season en route to a league title and an NCAA Tournament appearance - will play each of those teams twice. That doesn't make things much easier. Moorhead beat the Beavers in all three meetings last season, including the NSIC tournament. St. Cloud also knocked off the Beavers two times - most notably in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Both teams made the tournament last season.
Northern State also knocked off the Beavers in regular season action.
Add in the fact that Minnesota-Duluth graduated only one senior, and potential rebound seasons from U-Mary and Crookston, the Beavers' schedule won't be getting any easier.
In non-divisional action, the Beavers get to host tournament teams Augustana and Southwest Minnesota State this season. They'll travel to Winona, which finished 25-5 but just missed the tournament.
What the Beavers don't have this season is a nonconference home game, making the challenge even tougher.
They open the season Nov. 16 and 17 NSIC/RMAC challenge games against Colorado-Colorado Springs and Metro State, respectively.
Metro State made it all the way to the Division II Elite Eight last season, before losing out to national runner-up Montevallo.
BSU wraps up the nonconference season with a trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. They'll play Michigan Tech Nov. 20 and will take on Division-III Finlandia Nov. 21.
The first home game against Minnesota Crookston is scheduled for Dec. 1.
Date Opponent Time
Nov. 16 vs. UC-Colo. Springs# 5 p.m.
Nov. 17 vs. Metro State# 5 p.m.
Nov. 20 at Michigan Tech 7 p.m.
Nov. 21 at Finlandia TBA
Dec. 1 Minn.-Crookston* 4 p.m.
Dec. 7 at St. Cloud State* 8 p.m.
Dec. 8 at Minn.-Duluth* 6 p.m.
Dec. 14 U-Mary* 8 p.m.
Dec. 15 Minot State* 6 p.m.
Jan. 4 at Northern State* 8 p.m.
Jan. 5 at MSU Moorhead* 8 p.m.
Jan. 11 Augustana* 8 p.m.
Jan. 12 Wayne State* 6 p.m.
Jan. 15 at Minn.-Crookston* 8 p.m.
Jan. 18 at Winona State* 8 p.m.
Jan. 19 at Upper Iowa* 8 p.m.
Jan. 25 MSU Moorhead* 8 p.m.
Jan. 26 Northern State* 6 p.m.
Feb. 1 Southwest State* 8 p.m.
Feb. 2 Sioux Falls* 6 p.m.
Feb. 8 at MSU-Mankato* 8 p.m.
Feb. 9 at Concordia-St.P* 6 p.m.
Feb. 15 at Minot State* 8 p.m.
Feb. 16 at U-Mary* 8 p.m.
Feb. 22 Minn. Duluth* 8 p.m.
Feb. 23 St. Cloud State* 6 p.m.
#NSIC/RMAC Challenge at Winona State