The anticipation for basketball season in Bozeman is undoubtedly the highest it’s been in years. For a student body and fan base that usually doesn’t hold as much interest in Bobcat athletics after football season, this winter could offer a lot more to attract people into the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. The men’s team will be lead by first year, up-and-coming head coach and MSU Alumnus Danny Sprinkle. Sprinkle was a member of the Bobcats Hall of Fame team from 1996 which brought the school its last NCAA tournament appearance. While the men introduce a first year head coach, the women’s team is on the other end of the spectrum; welcoming back former WNBA star Tricia Binford for her 15th year in Bozeman. Binford’s squad is expected to finish at the top of the Big Sky conference this season and compete for a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Bobcat men were picked to finish 7th in the Big Sky conference, as the Cats are not only bringing in a new head man, but also replacing multiple senior starters. While the team is expected to be rebuilding, the head man expressed his optimism about this year’s group saying, “Each week we are seeing drastic improvements, which I am really excited about.” Sprinkle will look to replace four seniors from last season: Sam Neumann, Usman Haruna, Tyler Hall and Keljin Blevins. Hall finished his prolific career as the all time leading scorer for MSU and the Big Sky conference and joined Blevins in signing professional basketball contracts upon graduating. With those three gone, the potential replacements Sprinkle has brought to Bozeman include a group of five players competing in the United States for the first time. They will join preseason all-conference senior guard Harald Frey from Norway, to make it a total of six international players on the MSU roster. This young team will have plenty of opportunities to gain experience and grow this season with challenging contests against Utah State, North Carolina Greensboro, Grand Canyon and the returning Big Sky champs Montana all coming up early in the Bobcats’ schedule.
While anticipation for the Sprinkle era to commence is high, it’s hard to compare with the excitement around the women's team. The Bobcats are reloaded with talent, returning five seniors including the preseason Big Sky conference MVP, forward Fallyn Freije and preseason all-conference pick, guard Oliana Squires. With experience on the coaching staff and on the roster, Montana State has a higher standard set for the upcoming season. They are staying focused on their large goals. Binford recognized her teams first place position in the preseason polls during the Big Sky Digital Media Day last week, but clarified that “we also know what matters is where we finish in March.” The Cats will be looking to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017, when the blue and gold were eliminated by the University of Washington. In order to get back to the big dance, MSU looks to play with a strong presence in the post and hard-nosed defense. Squires at Big Sky Media Day said, “I think our main focus should be on the defensive end, I know our offense will come because we have a lot of offensive threats on the team this year.” She expanded on this, noting that they can specifically improve on guarding from the three-point line. Binford recognized some other soon-to-come challenges awaiting the Cats, saying, “This is the toughest preseason schedule we have ever had you know, and if you are going to do it, you are going to do it with five seniors on your squad.” Binford’s squad is not looking to back down this season, stating, “Our objective is to win the conference, regardless of what our preseason looks like. I think we are going to be super competitive in every game.”
Both Bobcat basketball teams appear to be destined for success, which hasn’t been the case in the recent past. But with new expectations for each team, both teams hope to bring MSU basketball back to where it once was. The men will begin the Sprinkle era visiting one of the best environments out West, Spectrum Arena home of the Utah State Aggies. The Bobbies’ first home game will be next Saturday, Nov 9 against Rocky Mountain College. The women will kick their season off at home on Monday, Nov 4 when they host Northwest Nazarene. As football season concludes, avoid losing your vim and hanging up your Bobcat gear and enjoy the friendly confines of Worthington Arena. Admission is free to all students with the swipe of your Cat Card, so make sure not to miss any of this year’s exciting action.