BEMIDJI -- Even on the outside looking in right now, the Bemidji State men’s basketball team is enjoying the chase of a playoff race.
“I don’t mind this at all,” BSU head coach Mike Boschee said. “If everybody gets in, that’s nice for everybody to feel like they get an opportunity, but I don’t mind this way either, where only eight of the teams get in there.”
In a normal year, all 16 teams qualify for the conference tournament. In the age of COVID-19, though, that number has been sliced in half and is limited to the top four teams in each division. The Beavers may be chasing one of the final spots, but that doesn’t change much to their approach.
“Either way, you’ve got to try to do the best that you possibly can,” Boschee said. “If you want to get to the playoffs, you’ve really got to focus in on every weekend, what the challenges are and see what you can do. This will be a fun close to the year.”
Two wins last weekend at St. Cloud State have helped right the ship, and they suddenly brought Bemidji State (4-8, 3-7 NSIC North) within one game of fourth place in the division. It’s a crowded field, with three teams tied for fourth and BSU one game back, but the Beavers are once again in the conversation.
“Last weekend, that was huge for us,” junior forward Cody Landwehr said. “It was a big confidence boost for us, too. You go on (a losing streak of) however many games we strung in a row where we were losing. To win two in a row is pretty big for us, especially at the end of the year like this.”
Bemidji State will next face Minnesota Duluth, a fellow team in the hunt. The Bulldogs (4-5, 3-5 NSIC North) sit fifth in the North entering the weekend.
“I think anytime Bemidji State plays Duluth, I think it’s going to be a great game,” Boschee said. “There’s a history there that dates back 100 years, I’m sure. We battle with them on a consistent basis in a lot of ways. It’s always a highly contested ballgame.”
OK, maybe the history only dates back 90 years, but that’s still plenty long enough to grow familiar with an opponent. Games against the Bulldogs always seem to be a dogfight, so it’s no surprise that the Beavers are preparing for one.
“Everyone’s been going at each other’s hides at practice every single day and trying to get the best out of everyone,” Landwehr said. “We’ve got to have that mentality in the back of our minds that, if we don’t pull through right now, our season could be done.”
The Feb. 12-13 series will begin at 6 p.m. Friday, with Saturday’s rematch to follow at 3:30 p.m. A limited number of invited family members and guests will be permitted to attend at the BSU Gymnasium.
It’s a do-or-die kind of time for Bemidji State, but the Beavers are just hoping to keep their newfound momentum rolling.
“I really liked where our team was before. (It’s) a good group of guys,” Boschee said. “But obviously when you get a couple wins, it makes you feel a little bit better about what we’re doing and how the guys are responding at this point.”