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Montana Non-Conference Schedule Review

Montana has represented the Big Sky in the NCAA Tournament two years in a row, but head coach Travis DeCuire has plenty of talent to replace in his program’s quest for a third straight. How will he get the new members of the rotation accustomed to the workload of college basketball? That’s where the non-conference comes in.

The Grizzlies have four power-conference foes on the out-of-league docket, seriously testing themselves before the Big Sky portion of the schedule kicks in.

First, Montana will meet Stanford in Palo Alto on Nov. 6 in the team’s opening game of the season. Next, the Griz are set to head to Arkansas to battle the Razorbacks on Nov. 16. On Nov. 22, Montana will play at Washington, and Dec. 18, the Grizzlies will be found in Eugene for their date with the Ducks.

The likelihood of an at-large bid is minimal for any team from the Big Sky. For Montana to have any hope for one at all, it would need to add several wins in the non-conference against major-conference competition, and it has given itself that opportunity with this schedule. The odds of that are very low, though, and not really how these games will help the team.

Montana was awarded a No. 14 seed in 2018 and a No. 15 seed in 2019, and that’s in part due to the team’s computer numbers. Through playing tough teams in the non-conference, the Grizzlies have been able to inflate their NET and SOS numbers enough to stay off the No. 16 seed line. If you want to win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament, it is historically not in your best interest to be a No. 16 seed, or a No. 15 seed for that matter. Those power-conference games in November and December will help Montana avoid that fate, assuming it wins the Big Sky Tournament yet again.

The Griz otherwise face New Mexico of the Mountain West in Albuquerque on Dec. 1 and Omaha, a team that finished 21-11 and second in the Summit League a season ago, on the road Dec. 21 to close their non-conference slate.

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