This year's Montana State University men's basketball schedule is all over the map. Literally.
The non-conference season is highlighted by an early trip to Hawaii for a tournament that may be televised nationally, a visit to historic Pauley Pavilion to take on UCLA and a three-game stretch just after Thanksgiving that will see the Bobcats travel nearly 4,000 miles in one week.
Those three road games come against Iowa State (Nov. 27), Seattle (Nov. 29) and Illinois State (Dec. 4). Head coach Brad Huse said the team wasn't necessarily looking to go to the Midwest but said it's always nice to add a little variety to the schedule. The Bobcats have not been east of the Missouri River since the 2005-2006 season.
"I think it's fun to play different teams and in different areas you haven't seen," Huse said. "Obviously the Big 12 is a great league, as is the Missouri Valley, so that's a positive, too."
Huse also said the demanding road trip will be a nice test for his players before they get into conference play.
"It seems like every year you have one stretch where you get to test your guys from a travel standpoint," Huse said. "This is that stretch. All three of those games are in tough venues against teams that have a lot of success at home."
The trips to Hawaii and UCLA, on the other hand, are largely considered rewards - although both trips will also offer challenges of their own.
The Hawaii Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic from Nov. 12-15 will see MSU take on Hawaii, Central Michigan and Cal State Fullerton.
It's the same tournament the University of Northern Colorado participated in a season ago. It gave the Bears, who finished the regular season 24-6 and earned a postseason spot in the College Insider Tournament, some nice exposure, as several of their games were featured on ESPN.
Huse said he isn't sure if the tournament's games will be nationally broadcast this year but said it's a good opportunity for his team all the same.
"We haven't played in a tournament like that since I've been here," Huse said. "We've hosted tournaments, but to go play in an exempt tournament where you can play three games that only count as two, it's fun. We've got some veterans coming back but we've also got some young kids to get in the mix. An extra game will help us do that."
"Plus," Huse added, "it's in Hawaii."
When MSU's conference schedule kicks off, some unfamiliar waters will be traversed as well.
Gone is the Big Sky Conference's "lone wolf" scheduling model that had been used since the 2007-2008 season, which allowed every team a travel partner for road games with the exception of one team.
The conference did away with the model because it was determined it created an inequity in competition for the one school without a partner. This season, no team will have a travel partner. While it will improve the competition equity, it created some irregularities in the conference schedule.
One of those oddities is the scheduling of both 'Cat-Griz contests, which will fall within six days of each other with the Bobcats traveling to Missoula on Jan. 22 and the Grizzlies coming to Bozeman on Jan. 29.
The two rivalry games haven't fallen that close in a regular season since 1990, when MSU faced UM in back-to-back games.
"I've seen this done in other conferences where you play your rivals almost back-to-back," Huse said. "It's not typical, though. I'm not saying it's imperfect, but it creates some challenges. If one team has an injury that's a two-week thing, you might lose a kid for both of your rivalry games.
"But we'll just continue to emphasize that both Montana games are just one league game."
Also gone are the early December conference games that were publicly begrudged by several of the league's coaches, including Huse. No team begins conference play until after Christmas this season.
In are Monday night conference games, some of which will be broadcast on Altitude. MSU has one Monday game at Idaho State on Jan. 24.
2010-11 MSU Men's Basketball Schedule
Nov. 5 Mayville State, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 12-15 at Hawaii (vs. Hawaii, C. Mich., CS Fullerton), TBA
Nov. 19 Minot State, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 21 Cal Poly, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 24 San Francisco, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 27 at Iowa State, TBA
Nov. 29 at Seattle, TBA
Dec. 4 at Illinois State, TBA
Dec. 10 Johnson and Wales, TBA
Dec. 19 at UC Riverside, TBA
Dec. 21 at UCLA, TBA
Dec. 29 Weber State, 7:05 p.m.*
Dec. 31 NAU, 4:05 p.m.*
Jan. 6 at Sacramento State, 8:05 p.m.*
Jan. 8 at Northern Colo., TBA*
Jan. 13 Portland State, 7:05 p.m.*
Jan. 15 Eastern Wash., 7:05 p.m.*
Jan. 22 at Montana, 7:05 p.m.*
Jan. 24 at Idaho State, 7:05 p.m.*
Jan. 29 Montana, 7:05 p.m.*
Feb. 3 at NAU, 6:35 p.m.*
Feb. 5 at Weber State, 7:05 p.m.*
Feb. 10 Northern Colo., 7:05 p.m.*
Feb. 12 Sacramento State, 7:05 p.m. *
Feb. 15 at San Jose State, TBA
Feb. 19 Bracketbuster, TBA
Feb. 24 at Eastern Wash., TBA*
Feb. 26 at Portland State, TBA*
Mar. 2 Idaho State, 7:05 p.m. *
Mar. 5 Big Sky Tournament
Mar. 8-9 Big Sky Tournament
*-Big Sky game
Note: Times are Mountain, tentative, and subject to change