Lady Griz Release Upcoming 2014-15 Schedule - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Lady Griz Release Upcoming 2014-15 Schedule

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The calendar will say November, but it will feel like March when the Montana women’s basketball team opens its 2014-15 season next fall.

Lady Griz coach Robin Selvig, who is entering his 37th season, finalized his team’s schedule recently, and after opening the regular season at home against Montana Western on Monday, Nov. 17, Montana will play three of its next four games against teams that advanced to the WNIT in March. All those games will be on the road.

A home game against an always tough Wyoming team on Thursday, Dec. 4, will cap a daunting but exciting early-season five-game stretch for the Lady Griz.

“I’m sure I say the same thing every year, but this is a quality schedule that is going to challenge us. We start out with a lot of teams that were really good last year, and that’s a good thing,” said Selvig, whose team advanced to the round of 32 in the WNIT last season, its 26th national tournament appearance.

With redshirt senior Carly Selvig, who is recovering from a late-season knee injury, not expected back in the lineup until December or January, Montana will begin the season with just two returning starters from last year’s 23-win team: redshirt senior guard Kellie Cole and senior forward Maggie Rickman.

Even so, the roster is deep with experience. Five other letterwinners return, as does redshirt sophomore guard Shanae Gilham, who missed the entire 2013-14 season with her own knee injury.

Many of the returning letterwinners played a significant role in the success of last year’s team. The Lady Griz advanced to the championship game of the Big Sky tournament, then hosted a pair of WNIT games. Montana defeated Washington State 90-78 in the first round and fell to San Diego 60-57 in the second.

“I’m excited, because I think the way we finished last season was a real plus,” Selvig said. “We had kids step up and perform, and we return a lot of those kids. We’ve got a million things to figure out, but I think we’ve got a chance to be pretty good.”

However the lineup shakes out, the team will be tested before the calendar even makes it to December.

After opening against Montana Western, the Lady Griz will start a home-and-home series against Pacific, which made the WNIT in 2013-14 after finishing third in the West Coast Conference behind Gonzaga and BYU.

Montana and Pacific will play at Stockton, Calif., on Nov. 21. The Tigers will return to Missoula in 2015-16.

For the third time since 2008-09, Montana will travel to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula for a Thanksgiving tournament. The Lady Griz will face Charlotte, Princeton and Wake Forest at the Cancun Challenge, with three games in three days starting on Thanksgiving. The tournament will be hosted by the Hard Rock Riviera Maya in Puerto Aventuras.

Charlotte and Princeton both made the WNIT last season; Wake Forest won 15 games playing in the ACC.

In 2008-09 Montana faced Illinois, Maryland and South Dakota State in Cancun. In 2010-11 the Lady Griz played James Madison and Florida Gulf Coast at Playa del Carmen.

“It’s a fun place to go, but we’re going back because they put on a great tournament and we get to play some quality opponents who we typically might not get to play,” said Selvig.

“And it actually saves on the financial side, because you’re getting three games out of a single trip, and you don’t have any travel issues once you arrive. Everything is right there, including the games, so that makes it convenient not only for us but for parents and fans.”

Montana will start December with a home game against Wyoming. It will be the 11th consecutive season the Lady Griz and Cowgirls have met in the regular season. Wyoming won 20 games last season, one of those a 14-point victory over Montana at Laramie, Wyo.

The Lady Griz will host Carroll on Sunday, Dec. 7, play at Portland and Seattle on the same road trip following finals, then host the 34th Lady Griz Classic on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 19-20.

Montana, which hosted the Classic in late November and early December the last two seasons, will welcome Utah Valley, St. Louis and Austin Peay to the four-game tournament, which will once again be able to be titled the Lady Griz Holiday Classic.

“It’s nice to get back to having the tournament closer to Christmas,” Selvig said. “That’s a better time for it.”

And that is all a warm-up for the Big Sky Conference schedule, which this year will feature an unbalanced 18-game slate for each team.

For the first time since the early 80s, when his teams played in the two-division Northwest Women’s Basketball League, Selvig’s Lady Griz won’t play a full round-robin schedule, with home and away games against every league opponent.

With the addition of Idaho to the Big Sky in 2014-15, it was voted to go with an unbalanced schedule, with 18 league games instead of 22. Montana will play Montana State twice each season and then cycle through the other travel partners, getting some twice in a season, others once.

The Lady Griz will play both home and away next season against North Dakota-Northern Colorado, Weber State-Idaho State and Eastern Washington-Idaho. Montana will play Northern Arizona and Southern Utah only on the road and Portland State and Sacramento State only at home.

Montana’s conference schedule will open with a trip to Northern Colorado and North Dakota. Those games are scheduled to be played Thursday and Saturday, Jan. 1 and 3, though there will likely be interest from every league team to bump the schedule to Friday and Sunday, Jan. 2 and 4.

Montana will host Montana State on Saturday, Jan. 17, and face the Bobcats at Bozeman the last day of the regular season, Saturday, March 7. Those games will both be played in the afternoon as part of a day-night doubleheader with the Montana and Montana State men’s teams.

Selvig will go up against new coaches next season when Montana faces Northern Colorado and Southern Utah. Former UNC coach Jaime White is now the head coach at Fresno State. Southern Utah’s JR Payne moved on to Santa Clara.

Kamie Ethridge, formerly an assistant at Kansas State, took over the Bears and in a unique move brought the entire KSU staff, which was let go following last season, with her, including former Wildcat coach Deb Patterson, who is now an assistant for her former assistant.

Patterson was the head coach at Kansas State for 18 years. She led the Wildcats to nine NCAA tournaments and four times to the WNIT, and was the 2002 and 2008 Big 12 Coach of the Year.

Chris Boettcher, an assistant at Utah Valley and BYU from 2001-13 is the new coach of the Thunderbirds. He coached last season in Japan.

The three-day Big Sky tournament will be held Thursday through Saturday, March 12-14, at the home of the regular-season champion, with one important change.

Eight teams will now qualify for the tournament, meaning there will be no byes. The first team to three wins will advance to the NCAA tournament. There will be four quarterfinal games on Thursday, two semifinals on Friday and the championship game on Saturday.

Montana will play exhibition games against Great Falls on Tuesday, Nov. 4, and Minot State on Friday, Nov. 7.

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