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MEN'S BASKETBALL: Beavers hit the road looking to protect regional ranking against UMD, SCSU

BEMIDJI — The BSU men’s basketball team now knows where it stands and what it needs to do to stay there.

The Beavers are eighth in the recently-released NCAA Central Region rankings. The top eight teams from the three conferences in the Central Region (the NSIC, the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association and the Great American Conference) make the regional tournament.

Although the Beavers are just barely in playoff position, head coach Mike Boschee and his players both know that a lot can change in the next two weeks.

“There was a lot of talk on whether we would be in the top-eight or not, so to see us in that eighth spot is nice, but it is too early to say we are going to get that spot no matter what,” senior Zach Noreen said. “There are a lot of teams on our tail, so anything can happen in two weeks.”

Boschee does not want to get too wrapped up in the rankings just yet.

He would rather focus on playing good basketball this weekend against Minnesota Duluth (tonight at 8 p.m.) and St. Cloud State (Saturday at 6 p.m.).

“They are just rankings, that is all it is at this point,” Boschee said. “We just have to win games if we want to earn an at-large bid. There is no magic to it, you just have to play your best basketball and hope it is enough.”

The first test is tonight against the Bulldogs, a team the Beavers defeated 90-79 at the BSU Gym in the first week of December. But a lot has changed in three months, as the Bulldogs have rattled off two separate three-game winning streaks this season and have picked up wins over St. Cloud State, Sioux Falls, MSU Moorhead and Northern State.

“It will be a lot tougher than last time,” Noreen said. “They are playing better lately and are a scary team to play right now.”

Tomorrow’s contest against the Huskies presents a variety of implications.

Not only will it be senior night in St. Cloud, it will also be the final regular season home game for head coach Kevin Schlagel.

“St. Cloud has been one of the best teams year in and year out,” Boschee said. “I go back a long way with their coach as I played under him while he was an assistant at North Dakota. He is retiring after this season, so since it is senior night they will be paying tribute to him as well.”

We will certainly have a challenge in front of us,” Boschee added. “Hopefully we will be up for those challenges.”

The game will also be influential in future central region rankings, as SCSU currently sits two spots behind BSU at No. 10.

“It is going to be a huge game,” Noreen said. “They have a lot to play for. Being in that tenth spot, they are trying to earn an NCAA bid. They will have a ton of emotion playing for their coach and their seniors. We know they will give it every ounce they have got.”