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NDSU hosts high-quality Southern Mississippi

FARGO -- The school that Brett Favre put on the map in football can play basketball, too. North Dakota State will find out just how good Southern Mississippi is in November.

The Bison landed a high-major men's Division I program for a home game for one of the few times in their relatively brief Division I history. In the Eagles, NDSU will see a team that went 27-10 last year and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.

"I'm sure it will be the highest RPI team we've ever hosted," said Bison head coach Saul Phillips.

Southern Miss finished No. 27 in the final NCAA Ratings Percentage Index power poll last year. The Nov. 18 game at the Bison Sports Arena will be part of a 2-for-1 deal, meaning NDSU will travel to USM for the last two games of the contract.

Phillips said it's rare that a mid-major will land a home game first in a 2-for-1 deal, but NDSU was in major need of home games because Oakland University (Mich.) and Missouri-Kansas City left the Summit League, the ESPN BracketBuster series was canceled and the University of Akron, which was slated to play in Fargo this coming season, opted to wait a year.

"We're trying to balance the schedule," Phillips said. "We'll do anything to get home games right now."

Phillips said Southern Mississippi will bring a similar high-major reputation to Fargo that Fresno State and Colorado State did. Kansas State, which came to the BSA in 2006, will still probably hold the highest high-major reputation to play here.

The first connection to the Southern Miss game was an email NDSU sent out -- and the Eagles replied.

"I was surprised," Phillips said. "We're not exactly natural rivals."

USM head coach, Donnie Tyndal formerly coached at Morehead State (Ky.), which played NDSU in a home-and-home series last year. Tyndal actually signed that Bison-Morehead contract before taking the Southern Miss job.

The Eagles are a member of Conference USA and have reached the NCAA tournament three times, the last in 2012. It has won at least 20 games in the last four seasons. They finished second in the C-USA last season at 12-4.

"This is a BCS program that is very good right now," Phillips said.

Although the full NDSU schedule has yet to be released because Phillips said two more "big" road games have yet to be solidified, he did say his team will also host the University of Delaware and Towson State (Md.) will come to Fargo.