Great West: So It Begins….

After 18 months of preparation for a Division I conference game, the time is now for the University of South Dakota men’s and women’s basketball teams.

Today (Saturday) is the day.

USD will play its first official game in the Great West Conference tonight with a doubleheader against rival North Dakota. The women’s game starts at 6 p.m. inside the DakotaDome, with the men’s game after.

The Coyotes and Sioux played a pair of regular season games last year, when both teams were D-I independents, but today’s games obviously have an added sense of importance.

On the women’s side, North Dakota (5-12) opened league play with an 84-71 win at Utah Valley on Thursday. With the Sioux, you can ignore the overall record immediately. This is a really good team. UND was picked to win the Great West league title, and is a squad led by seniors. All 5 starters scored in double figures against Utah Valley, and senior forward Whitney Ledger had 20 points and 13 rebounds. It’ll be a battle for the Coyotes (6-6), who — with some different players — lost both games to the Sioux last season.

On the men’s side, North Dakota (3-14) also opened Great West action with a win, 67-62 at Utah Valley on Thursday. UND senior guard Travis Bledsoe scored a career-high 28 points in the victory, but leading scorer Travis Mertens was held to 6 points. Prior to beginning conference play, the Sioux struggled a bit in the previous 16 games, winning a pair of contests against NAIA opponents (and dropping a home game to NAIA Mayville State). In the last few seasons, the USD men have been able to handle UND in the regular season, but it’s been the postseason where the Sioux have picked up the slack — North Dakota has beaten USD twice in the playoffs the last 2 seasons.

Tonight, the Yankton P&D will be on hand to bring you the action.

Correspondent Keith Brockberg will handle the women’s game, while I’ll handle the men’s game. And during the men’s showdown, I’ll be posting updates on my Twitter page, and will also post my usual game blog on this site.

Should be some good action.

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