MSU Women's Hoops v. Idaho State (copy)

Montana State's Madeline Smith drives against Idaho State's Kaitlyn Bell on Feb. 14 at Worthington Arena.

Montana State's schedule this season could arguably be the toughest in the history of the program.

MSU will face six teams that posted 20-win seasons last year, along with two that advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16, three that finished ranked in the final USA Today/WBCA Coaches top 25 poll and three that won their league championship.

“We’re excited about the year ahead as this is going to be one of our most challenging preseason schedules to date,” said Tricia Binford, who is entering her 15th season as MSU's head coach.

Following an exhibition game with Northwest Nazarene, MSU will open the regular season when it hosts UC Davis on Nov. 8. The Aggies went 25-7 overall and won the Big West title. UCD received an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

MSU's annual School Day Game will be held Nov. 11 against Carroll.

MSU’s first road trip of the campaign begins at South Dakota State on Nov. 21 and ends at Minnesota on Nov. 23. SDSU went 28-7 last season, winning the Summit League. The Jackrabbits went on to the NCAA Sweet 16, where it dropped a 63-53 decision to then No-2 ranked Oregon. SDSU ranked No. 22 in the final USA Today/WBCA Coaches poll.

Minnesota went 21-11 last winter, going on to the WNIT.

The Bobcats also host Gonzaga on Dec. 5. The Zags were 29-5 overall and finished ranked No. 18.

“I think our fans will be extremely excited with our home contests,” Binford said. “And we are going to need them to continue making ‘The Brick’ one of the best home-court atmospheres nationally.”

The highlight of the nonconference season is the Puerto Rico Coqui Classic on Dec. 20-21. MSU faces Wichita State in the opening round before playing Texas A&M in its second contest. Texas A&M went 26-8 overall and 12-4 in SEC action. The Aggies advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 and ranked 12th in the final poll.

“We’re looking forward to traveling to Puerto Rico with President (Waded) Cruzado,” Binford stated. “These trips are important for our student-athletes. It allows them an opportunity to experience and discover customs and cultures they normally aren’t exposed too.”

MSU opens its Big Sky schedule at Sacramento State on Dec. 28. The Bobcats open league play at home when it hosts Northern Colorado on Jan. 2. The annual games against in-state rival Montana are Feb. 1 in Missoula and Feb. 22 in Bozeman.

Colton Pool can be reached at or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.