Eastern women get less time to prepare for Big Sky basketball grind
New additions to conference mean non-conference schedule gets trimmed for 2012-13
By PAUL DELANEY
The 2012-13 Eastern Washington University women's basketball schedule appears to have a slightly more slimming, lighter look to it – at least on the non-conference side.
With the addition of North Dakota and Southern Utah as new members to the Big Sky Conference, Eastern's league schedule had to expand and the warm-up games had to shrink.
The schedule, released Sept. 6, includes 20 games against BSC teams and nine more non-league contests. There's also a Nov. 4 “exhibition” game versus Carroll College from Helena, Mont. that does not count on the overall season record
The added games in conference, plus shaving the non-league schedule concerns EWU head coach Wendy Schuller, who likes to have ample games to help prepare the team for the grind of Big Sky play. Schuller, who will begin her 11th season as Eastern head coach, was 16-14 overall and 10-6 in conference play last season.
In the BSC's previous life there was room for 13 non-conference games. “You kind of had a second season when you came to the Big Sky; I don't know if I would consider the non-conference season a second season because it's so short,” Schuller said.
Now “It's a very minor tune-up and you better be ready to go,” she said. “Before Christmas you better be ready to go because we've got two conference games before Christmas, Weber and Idaho State.”
“It was a challenge to even put together a non- conference schedule because with holidays there's not much time between November and the start of league play,” Schuller said.
Schuller knows every team is in the same boat, however.
While there's not a lot of quantity, there's certainly quality, she said. “Cal's a very good team, Pacific is another team that's very, very good,” Schuler said.
Eastern doesn't have games where they can “take off,” as Schuller said. In other words, have it easy, because the Eagles travel to Gonzaga where the crowd will be big and loud. “When the season starts we know it's going to be four months of really grinding.”
The Eagles open the season at home on Veteran's Day, Sunday, Nov. 11 at what will be an entirely “new look” Reese Court. They play against Pacific, one of eight national tournament opponents the Eagles will play in 2012-13. Eastern's home court now features new seating on the bench side of the building and plan to have video replay screens up and running by then as well.
Following a road game, the Eagles will enjoy one more home game Nov. 18 against WCC-opponent Portland before heading out on a seven-game road swing.
Over Thanksgiving, the Eagles will play in the Cal Classic by Doubletree in Berkeley, Calif. Eastern opens the tournament against host-Cal, which advanced to the second round of the 2012 NCAA Women's National Championship. Eastern's final game in Berkeley will be against either Cal State Fullerton or Georgetown - another second-round team in last year's tourney.
Eastern's final three opponents of the non-conference schedule are all former members of the Big Sky. The Eagles will play at Idaho on Nov. 27, at Gonzaga on Dec. 4 and at Boise State Dec. 7.
Staying in the Northwest for non-conference gives Schuller the perfect level and style of competition the team needs to prepare for BSC play.
“I don't know how much good it would do for us to go down and play a Texas Tech or Florida International,” Schuller said. “That's just not the type of competition we're going to see in the Big Sky.”
Schools like Pacific and Portland are teams Eastern recruits against and ones who feature players with similar skills and characteristics to what they see in the Big Sky. “In terms of getting us prepared for conference, I think it's an excellent schedule,” Schuller said.
She'd just like a few more opportunities to test the tune-up.
“I think 20 conference games is a lot,” she said. “I know how much we put into preparation and how long the season can get,” Schuller said. “And I know other people in our league put in just as much work as we do.”
It's a real chore, she said, “Because you have to get after it; it's not that you don't get after it for non- conference games but every single Big Sky game means a ton.”
And to have 20 of them means a ton, Schuller said. “We all have to do it, it's not just us who has to do it, but it's a lot and mentally and physically we put a lot into every contest, it'll be tough but that's the Big Sky.”
“You have to be warriors and you have to be tough in every aspect to be successful in our league,” she said.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eastern Washington University
Nov. 4Carroll (Mont.), 1:05 p.m.
Nov. 11Pacific, 1:05 p.m.
Nov. 15at Cal State Northridge, 7 p.m.
Nov. 18Portland, 1:05 p.m.
Nov. 23at California, TBA.
Nov. 24TBA at Berkeley, Calif., TBA.
Nov. 27at Idaho, TBA.
Dec. 4at Gonzaga, 6 p.m.
Dec. 7at Boise St., 6 p.m.
Dec. 20at Weber St., 11 a.m.
Dec. 22at Idaho St. 11 a.m.
Dec. 29Warner Pacific, 2:05 p.m.
Jan. 3Montana, 6:05 p.m.
Jan. 5 Montana St., 2:05 p.m.
Jan. 10at Northern Ariz., TBA.
Jan. 12at Sacramento St., 2 p.m.
Jan. 17North Dakota, 6:05 p.m.
Jan. 19Northern Colo., 2:05 p.m.
Jan. 21at Portland St., 7 p.m.
Jan. 26Southern Utah, 2:05 p.m.
Jan. 31at Montana St., TBA
Feb. 2 at Montana, 1 p.m.
Feb. 7Sacramento St., 6:05 p.m.
Feb. 9Northern Ariz., 2:05 p.m.
Feb. 16at Southern Utah, 6:05 p.m.
Feb. 21Portland St., 6:05 p.m.
Feb. 28at Northern Colo., 6:05 p.m.
Mar. 2at North Dakota, noon,
Mar. 7Idaho St., 6:05 p.m.
Mar. 9 Weber St., 2:05 p.m.