There'll be no easing into the Summit League portion of the UNO men's basketball schedule.
The Summit released its conference slate on Wednesday and has the Mavericks opening league play Jan. 11 at Western Illinois. UNO then travels to North Dakota State on Jan. 16, followed by a road game Jan. 18 at South Dakota State.
Those were the league's top three teams last year and went a combined 6-0 against the Mavs.
“Come late February, everyone will be even with the same amount home and away,” UNO coach Derrin Hansen said. “So we're not going to complain about it.”
After the three-game road swing, the Mavs' first league home game is Jan. 23 at the Ralston Arena, and it will be no pushover, either. The Mavs face Summit newcomer Denver, which thumped UNO in a nonconference game last year and figures to be among the Summit's better teams this season.
“It's not going to be easy, to say the least,” Hansen said.
Last year, playing a full Summit League schedule for the first time, UNO opened on the road against North Dakota State and South Dakota State. After losing 91-75 in Fargo, N.D, the Mavs trailed 54-23 in the first half in Brookings, S.D., before rallying to within 78-63.
Those were games six and seven of UNO's monthlong, 10-game stretch without a home game. Denver, which beat the Mavs 82-47, was game No. 10.
“Hopefully we know a little more of what to expect in the league now that we've been through it one time,” Hansen said, “and this year we won't be coming off such a long stretch of road games against high major teams.”
UNO, picked last season to finish last in the nine-time league, recovered from its slow start to impress many by finishing sixth at 6-10. The Mavs were 10-21 overall.