By Rob Everingham
It's still non-conference, or is it?
The MSU-Northern Skylights head to Billings this weekend to play in the Frontier Conference Tip-Off Tournament.
While all seven conference teams will be there and playing each other, the games are technically non-conference games.
The Skylights start off against Western on Friday night. The Bulldogs started the season hot and have a 7-1 record and are one of three nationally-ranked teams in the conference. On Saturday, Northern will face the winner of the Rocky Mountain-Montana Tech game.
Western comes in ranked 18th in the nation, while Lewis-Clark State, a new addition to the Frontier conference, is ranked sixth and the Skylights are ranked 24th.
Northern head coach Ray Peters said even though the games this weekend don't count toward the conference standings, they are still important.
"Anytime you play a conference team it takes on a new feel," Peters said.
Peters said this tournament will give him and his team an opportunity to see the other teams in the Frontier Conference and get a feel for where they need to be when the real conference season starts.
The conference season is right around the corner and starts after the Christmas break.
The conference, though, will have a new feel this year with the addition of Lewis-Clark State and Westminster.
Peters said anytime you can move the number of teams in a conference from five to seven, it is a good thing.
While Peters does not know a lot about Westminster, he is no stranger to Lewis-Clark. Peters used to coach in the same conference as Lewis-Clark and has faced them once as the head coach of the Skylights.
As for playing Western on the first night, Peters said the Bulldogs are a team that shoots well from the perimeter and they have some players that can handle the ball well.
Along with good long-range shooters, Peters said, Western is very deep this year and can score a lot of points.
Peters said Western will be motivated to play the 12-time defending Conference Champion Skylights and Northern just needs to stay with them and keep the Bulldogs point production down.
The Skylights might have not started out as well as they did last year, but, Peters said, with the schedule they have played, he knows they could be in this position.
Peters said he is not concerned with how their record has shaped up so far, but is more concerned with how they have played to this point in the season.