A Frontier Rivalry?
Dickinson State University has applied for core membership to the Frontier Conference which could change the landscape of basketball in the league. DSU has been a men's and women's NAIA Division II power for years, competing in the now-disbanding Dakota Athletic Conference. If the Blue Hawks do indeed move into the Frontier in either 2011 or 2012, they will certainly form a league rivalry with Northern, but it will also eliminate a natural pair of nonconference games for each team's schedule. The Frontier will vote to invite DSU on Dec. 6-7 in Billings.
If anyone ever wanted to look into a crystal ball and see the future of what Frontier Conference men’s and women’s basketball might look like a year from now, or possibly two years from now, then today’s your chance.
This afternoon at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse, the Montana State University-Northern men’s and women’s basketball teams will host Dickinson State University. The Skylights play the Blue Hawks at 1 and the Lights meet the Hawks at 3.
And while that’s not big news — the Lights and Skylights play the Blue Hawks in nonconference games every season, today’s games might possibly be one of the last times the two rivals meet under these circumstances.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Dickinson State has applied for full membership to the Frontier as part of the league’s recent expansion plan. Of the seven schools invited to apply for Frontier expansion, only DSU applied for core membership, meaning the school wishes to participate in all Frontier Conference sports.
So while Northern and DSU have been nonconference rivals for many years in basketball the two schools also don’t compete when it matters most, in conference play or in the postseason. Dickinson is presently a member of the NAIA’s Division II in basketball, so after the two teams usually meet in November or December each year, they generally go their separate ways.
But there also hasn’t been much else that’s separated MSU-N and DSU in basketball over the years and that’s why today’s games could be an exciting prelude to conference battles on the hardwood for years to come — provided the Blue Hawks are officially invited to the Frontier and provided they accept — which at this point, seems like a no-brainer on both ends.
MSU-N and DSU have played many exciting and close basketball games over in the years I’ve been covering Northern hoops.
The Lights staged a great comeback several years ago against a loaded Blue Hawk squad, while the Skylights ended a four-game losing skid to a powerful DSU women’s program on a last-second, nearly half-court shot by Taylor Keller just last fall in Havre. That barn burner came just one week after DSU's women beat Northern on a last-second 3-pointer in Dickinson.
And with MSU-N and DSU being the two northern-most and eastern-most schools in the Frontier, provided DSU joins, it’s only natural that this nonconference rivalry will turn into a yearly two-game battle in the plains of Montana and North Dakota, because both programs, men’s and women’s basketball at both schools are proud and prestigious and that won’t change anytime soon.
So there's no doubt the two schools have a history and would make great rivals on the court.
And while the future of the Frontier isn’t here quite yet, the MSU-Northern-DSU rivalry is once again, and with the conference about to change, today could be the end of one era in this basketball rivalry, as well as a glimpse into the future of a new one.
Today's games between MSU-Northern and DSU tip off with the women at 1 at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse. The men's game between the Lights and Blue Hawks is slated to get underway at 3.