Idaho women’s basketball starts season with tough nonconference schedule
Idaho women’s basketball coach Jon Newlee is not afraid to compete against quality teams outside the Big Sky Conference and he is not afraid to play them on the road, either.
By the time Idaho’s nonconference schedule is completed, which will be Dec. 20 against Lewis-Clark State College, Idaho will have played 11 games. Eight of those 11 games will have been played somewhere other than Moscow.
At this point for the Vandal players, a hotel room bed is probably as comfortable as their dorm bed or apartment bed in Moscow. Maybe it’s an exaggeration, but the miles they’ve travelled certainly are piling up.
The Vandals are 4-3 after Sunday’s 104-19 win against Multnomah at the Cowan Spectrum.
Considering the tough schedule and all the road games, the Vandals are off to a decent start.
Three of their four wins came on the road. They grinded a 47-44 win out against UC Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara, took care of business with a 77-66 win over Wyoming in Laramie and beat Seattle U by double digits with a 65-50 win in Seattle.
Idaho’s three losses this season came against arguably the three toughest teams it faced so far. The Vandals lost their regular season opener to Cal State-Northridge on the road. The Matadors are 7-1 this season and coming off a 2014 NCAA Tournament appearance. Idaho’s second loss was to San Diego at Memorial Gym. The Toreros are 7-1. Thursday, the No. 17 ranked Oregon State Beavers beat the Vandals in Corvallis, Oregon. The Beavers are 7-0.
The Vandals have yet to face the No. 11 ranked Baylor Bears, who they will play Wednesday in Waco, Texas. Idaho’s final nonconference game against Lewis-Clark State won’t be a walk-in-the-park either, as the Warriors sit at 11-1.
Idaho will play in the Glass City Classic in Toledo, Ohio, this weekend. The Vandals play Toledo Saturday and Southeast Missouri State Sunday.
The talented teams and road games should test the Vandals, and they should not be overwhelmed by any team in the Big Sky after what they went through at the start of the year with their tough schedule.
When Idaho opens up Big Sky play against Idaho State Jan. 1 in Pocatello, the Vandals should be ready to roll.
Besides being ready to play against Big Sky teams, another advantage of playing a tough nonconference schedule is the NCAA Tournament selection committee respects the teams who have a strong strength of schedule.
In college basketball, winning is obviously the most important aspect to determining who makes the NCAA Tournament, but wins and losses aren’t the only things that matter. How a team wins and loses and strength of schedule are big factors in deciding who makes the tournament.
Idaho will have a nice 11-day break between the Lewis-Clark State game and Idaho State game. Hopefully, the players don’t have to travel too much during that time.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at email@example.com