BY JEREMY HOECK
In the world of good-problems-to-have, the South Dakota State men’s basketball program has found it challenging to lure bigger names to Frost Arena.
Put simply: Teams, especially of the mid-major variety, want to schedule road games they can win. And opponents have had a hard time leaving Brookings with a victory.
Dating back to the start of the 2010-11 season, the Jackrabbits are 48-8 at Frost Arena. And their 2014-15 schedule released Friday reflects those challenges, according to head coach Scott Nagy.
“At our level, we’re just not positioned to have the number of home games some people do,” he said Friday, while on the road recruiting.
“It’s tough to get people up here to play us.”
The Jackrabbits, coming off a 19-win season, were able to lock in 13 home dates — five in non-conference action, with two of those coming against Division II opponents.
South Dakota State will host a pair of lower-level exhibitions with South Dakota Tech and Dakota Wesleyan before the season opener Nov. 14 at Buffalo.
The Jacks will also visit Idaho, Florida Gulf Coast (in Sioux Falls), Saint Louis and Northern Iowa.
Coming to Frost Arena will be North Dakota, Chadron State (Nebraska), Wayne State (Nebraska), Kansas City and Idaho. The games with UND and Kansas City are both returns from last season, while Idaho is a home-and-home in the same season.
In many cases, those home-and-home contracts come against programs that are also finding it tough to schedule games, Nagy said.
“We’ve been successful the last couple years, and that makes it difficult,” he said. “They’re looking for games they can win, and it’s tough win at our place.”
Among the home games are two against lower-level opponents, D-II Chadron State and Wayne State. Last season, the Jacks hosted three non D-I games, including Wayne State.
Typically, those are the last games to be scheduled, Nagy said.
“Those games are difficult, but it’s also a chance for your team to get healthy and for players that don’t play much to get a chance,” he said.
Four other road games for the Jackrabbits will be played in the state of Utah.
They will compete in the World Vision Classic, Dec. 18-20 in Logan, Utah, where SDSU will play Idaho State, Cal State Bakersfield and Utah State. SDSU will then, three days later, face the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
The Jackrabbits, who host rival University of South Dakota on Jan. 17, would — like every other program in the country — prefer to play more games at home, Nagy said.
“You always wish you had more, but the way I look at it, they’re all tough,” he said. “Every Division I game is tough, and it’s very difficult to win non-conference away games.”
The Jackrabbits, who lost in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational last season, will be led in 2014-15 by senior posts Cody Larson and Zach Horstman.
Other schedule items of note:
• According to Nagy, the games with Saint Louis, Northern Iowa and Utah are all guarantee games (essentially “one-time” contracts where SDSU is paid to make the trip). The Jacks will make a return trip to Florida Gulf Coast in 2015-16, and are still owed a return game from Murray State.
• There will be an interesting sub-plot to the Dec. 3 game between SDSU and Wayne State. Nagy’s son, Tyler, will be a freshman for the Wildcats next season.
• The game at Buffalo was originally scheduled to be played last season, but was postponed because of weather in January. The two teams met in the now-defunct ESPN BracketBusters series back in 2011-12.
• If you go by RPI of the non-conference teams on the schedule for the Jacks, the “best” game would be at Saint Louis. The Billikens finished 27-7 last season, good for a 24 RPI, but also graduated a bulk of their top talent from 2013-14. The only other top-100 RPI non-conference opponent for SDSU is Utah — North Dakota State was No. 32 in the final rankings last season.
• SDSU will face two teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season, Saint Louis and, of course, North Dakota State.