Heads up: 2017-18 UAA basketball schedule preview

The UAA Athletics Department has released the new schedules for the 2017-18 season. With another college basketball season approaching, the time is right to preview the schedule and briefly talk about team expectations.

Men:

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The men’s season begins in Lancaster, California as the Seawolves take on the Antelope Valley Marauders on Nov. 4. Junior forward for the men, Sjur Berg, said Antelope Valley will be an exciting way to see the new squad work together.

“[The] season will start off with Antelope Valley from California, a team I don’t think we have ever played, but it will be exciting to see how the brand new team this year [is] going to look together as a unit,” Berg said.

After Antelope Valley, UAA plays host to this year’s Alaska/Hawaii challenge against Hawaii Pacific on Nov. 10, Chaminade University of Honolulu on Nov. 11 and Holy Names University on Nov. 17-18.

“The Alaska/Hawaii challenge will be our first real test against a team we are somewhat familiar with such as Hawaii Pacific and Chaminade University,” Berg said. “Last year we opened up the season in Hawaii, playing Hawaii Pacific as well that weekend, and we surely hope for a better result this year at home.”

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After the Alaska/Hawaii challenge comes the annual GCI Great Alaska Shootout. The men will play host to D-I schools California Polytechnic State University, College of Charleston, Central Michigan, California State University, Bakersfield, Sam Houston State and Santa Clara. As of now, the match-ups and times are to be determined.

The Seawolves continue the home stretch with in-conference play against rival UAF, Montana State Billings and then a back-to-back against Cal Miramar.

In-conference play starts back again with a trip down to Oregon for a grudge match against Western Oregon, who last year upset the Seawolves in a triple-overtime blood match. Western Oregon beat UAA twice last season in close games, so this year should be a redemption of sorts for the men. After Western Oregon is Concordia, and then a break for the winter holidays.

To close out the regular season is a four-game away stretch where the Seawolves can pad out their conference record. Western Washington is going to be a tough challenge on the road, but don’t be surprised if the men steal a win in Bellingham. Montana State Billings, UAF and Simon Fraser shouldn’t be as tough since as all three teams finished below .500 last season with UAF and Simon Fraser finishing at the bottom of the conference.

“Last year we did not lose a single game at home except for the shootout, and we hope to maintain this advantage over the away teams, as we look at the AAC as a place where the opponents should have a hard time playing us no matter who they are,” Berg said.

One goal each season is to make the National Collegiate Athletics Association tournament. The Seawolves haven’t made an appearance in five years. Cutting that mark off this year should be a legitimate goal for this young squad. With that said, the Seawolves have been to eight straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournaments, so wins in conference look to be an achievable goal, even with the loss of significant talent from last season.

“The ultimate goal this year is, of course, the national championship, but we will try to start with the GNAC championship,” Berg said. “We think this is obtainable this year, with a solid new recruiting class.”

Women:

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While the men look to take the top spot in the GNAC, the women look to cement their place on the top of the mountain. Under head coach Ryan McCarthy, the women won 30 games for the second year in a row, and this squad looks to make it three straight years.

To start the season, the women will take a trip to North Carolina for non-conference action. There, they will face Johnson and Wales University and compete in an exhibition matchup with the Duke Blue Devils.

After the tour in North Carolina, the Seawolves play Hawaii Pacific and Cal State L.A on neutral courts in Washington state, then back home for back-to-back action Holy Names University and Western State.

For the women’s Great Alaska Shootout, the lady Seawolves play host to the Binghampton Bearcats, Tulsa Golden Hurricanes and the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks.

The Bearcats return their top seven scorers from a year ago, including seniors Imani Watkins and Alyssa James, who ranked among the national leaders in scoring and blocks, respectively.

Tulsa will have its top six scorers back from its 2016-17 club and will become the first team to represent the state of Oklahoma in the women’s shootout. The Hawks return two of their top three scorers from a year ago, including leading scorer Ciani Byrom, whose 2016-17 season was cut short after 12 games due to injury. Maryland Eastern Shore will be the first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference program to play in the women’s Shootout and just the second participant from the state of Maryland.

The Seawolves begin conference play at home against Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene, then they head back up to play UAF.

On Dec. 9 and 16, the Seawolves head down to California to play Notre Dame de Namur and Sonoma State, before flying to the Lower 48 to play Western Washington.

Those three games are just one-half of a grueling six game road stretch that includes Simon Fraser.

Last year, Simon Fraser played Cinderella in the NCAA tournament upsetting the No. 1 seeded Seawolves. The Seawolves will be looking for blood to avenge last year’s startling loss.

After the road games, the Seawolves come back home to play Western Oregon and Concordia, and then down to Washington again to Saint Martin’s and Seattle Pacific.

The Seawolves then have a four-game stretch, where they can really look to add more wins to close out the season. They face Western Washington, UAF, Simon Fraser and Montana State Billings.

To finish the regular season, the Seawolves will play away games in Oregon, against Concordia and Western Oregon, two home games against Seattle Pacific and Saint Martin’s, and to close out two against Northwest Nazarene in Idaho and Central Washington in Ellensburg.

March 1-3 is the GNAC tournament, where the Seawolves look to defend their title and win their fourth straight conference championship.

Even with the loss of talented players like Suki Wiggs and Autummn Williams, the Seawolves hope to improve upon last years successes and hold dominion in the Great Northwest.