Men look to improve in NCC

Toby Uecker

Toby Uecker

With games against the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University this Friday and Saturday, the SDSU men’s basketball team begins its play in the historically tough North Central Conference.

Finishing tied for second in the conference last year, the Jacks look to maintain their standing this season, pegged in the second spot by a pre-season media poll.

Head Men’s Basketball Coach Scott Nagy feels the NCC is unique from other Division II conferences because of its ability to draw on talented high school graduates. For those in this area, there are few Division I schools to choose from, so Division II schools in the North Central Conference can draw more talent than those in other conferences, according to Nagy.

This high level of recruited talent can be seen in the strength of all the teams in the NCC. Normally, a conference will have three or four dominant teams, a few average ones and a few weak teams.

“The reason the NCC is strong is that our ten teams are all good. I’ve never seen a league where, top to bottom, the teams are as good as they are [in the NCC],” said Nagy.

This level of strong competition within the conference seldom carries over into the NCAA National Championship Tournaments, however. In its history, the NCC has only turned out a championship team twice.

“I think that’s hurt our reputation,” says Nagy.

It’s also for this reason that a good deal of preparation goes into each conference game the Jacks play. Despite the fact that both North Dakota and North Dakota State placed below SDSU in last year’s standings, garnering two more wins this weekend is not a sure thing.

As Nagy puts it, “There are no easy wins. There never have been in our league.”

However, Nagy also adds that this philosophy about conference game readiness is the same one he applies to every game.

When it comes to conference versus non-conference play, he says, “We don’t do anything differently in terms of preparation.”

The Jacks have begun their preparation for their conference opener at home Friday, but having games two days in a row provides some complication.

“I can only focus on the next game,” says Nagy.

This means that Saturday’s match will require a little more self-discipline from the team in order to be victorious. Victory within the conference is not an end to itself, though. It is merely a means to the Jacks’ 2001-2002 season goal.

“Our goal is not the conference,” Nagy says, adding, “Our goal is to be the in the NCAA tournament, and we know that we have to do well in the conference to get there. That’s how you win a National Championship.”