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Men's basketball: Beavers open 2014 schedule at home

BSU men’s basketball coach Mike Boschee and his staff appear to have the Beavers pointed in the right direction as the 2014 portion of the NSIC season begins at home today against Winona. BSU Photo Services

BEMIDJI — Prior to the season the NSIC coaches predicted that the BSU men’s basketball team would struggle and finish 12th in the 16-team field.

A year ago those coaches predicted a similar finish for the Beavers but BSU surprised the league’s coaches by compiling a 13-9 NSIC record and earning the third seed in the North Division playoffs.

The Beavers continued that success in the conference playoffs as they advanced to the championship game where they fell 73-68 to Minnesota State. Along the way to the title contest BSU knocked off Winona 72-71 in Winona and thumped Upper Iowa 64-61 in the semifinals in Rochester.

Following the success of 2012-13 an argument could have been made that BSU could be among the NSIC’s better teams this winter. And, after compiling a 4-2 league record and a 7-3 overall mark during the 2013 portion of the schedule, the Beavers do appear to be better than their preseason ranking.

“People look at what you lost and what you have coming back (when determining the preseason poll),” said BSU coach Mike Boschee. “We did lose four starters (from last year) and we’re not, historically, at the top (of the NSIC). When you lose that many starters you are not going to be picked at the top.

“But when we didn’t receive it (a higher poll position) it became a motivation for the players,” Boschee added.

The Beavers can take another huge step toward proving the coaches wrong this weekend when they open 2014 at home. Tonight BSU entertains Winona and Saturday they will host Upper Iowa.

Winona is 11-2 overall and 6-0 against NSIC foes while Upper Iowa owns a 2-4 league record and a 4-8 overall mark.

Winona will not overlook BSU despite its position at the top of the NSIC South Division. The Warriors remember last winter’s loss to the Beavers in the conference playoffs and would like nothing better than to extract some revenge.

“Winona is the last remaining unbeaten team in the conference but we’re not going to surprise them,” Boschee said. “We know that we will have to play at a high level to be successful.

“Anytime we step on the court you want the guys to have a passion and do what it takes to play at that high level.”

As the calendar turns on the NSIC men’s basketball scene the Beavers are tied for third in the NSIC North, sharing a 4-2 record with St. Cloud. Leading the pack with 5-1 records are Moorhead and Northern. UMD sits at 3-3, Minot at 2-4, Crookston at 1-5 and U-Mary at 0-6.

In the South Division Winona is 6-0, Minnesota State 5-1, Augustana and Southwest Minnesota State 4-2, Sioux Falls and Upper Iowa 2-4, Wayne 1-5 and Concordia-St. Paul 0-6.

All of the teams will cram 16 games into the next eight weekends and the clubs that rise to the top will be invited to the NSIC playoffs at the end of February.

“We’re in a sprint now, with two games each weekend for the next eight weeks straight,” Boschee said. “This is an exciting time for everybody to see who will be the last team standing at the end.”

Today’s game against Winona will tip off about 8 p.m. and Saturday’s contest with Upper Iowa is scheduled for a 6 p.m. start.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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