Eastern Kentucky University announced a challenging 2017-18 men’s basketball schedule Thursday that includes 11 opponents who played in national postseason tournaments last season.
Nine of the Colonels’ opponents won 20 or more games a year ago.
The schedule includes road games at Rice, Mississippi, Western Kentucky, Oregon State, Northern Kentucky and Marshall.
“It’s a challenging schedule from the start,” EKU head coach Dan McHale said. “Anytime you open the season against a C-USA school like Rice and an SEC school like Ole Miss, you’re going to be tested. But we’re excited because we want to play the best.”
Following an exhibition against Georgetown College at home on Friday, Nov. 3, EKU opens the regular season at Rice on Friday, Nov. 10 in Houston. The Owls went 23-12 last season and reached the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational.
The Colonels visit Ole Miss on Nov. 13. The Rebels went 22-14 in 2016-17 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament.
Those games are both part of the 2017 MGM Resorts Main Event.
The Colonels host Kentucky State in their home opener on Nov. 16.
Following that game, they head back out west to play in the Las Vegas portion of the MGM Resorts Main Event. EKU plays Prairie View A&M on Nov. 20 and will play either Eastern Washington or Georgia State on Nov. 22, depending on results. EWU went 22-12 last year and played in the CBI, while Georgia State finished 20-13 to earn a spot in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Both Las Vegas games will be played right on the strip at T-Mobile Arena.
“I want to make it fun for these guys, and getting to fly out to Las Vegas and play at T-Mobile Arena is an experience they’ll never forget,” McHale said.
Following a home matchup against Asbury on Nov. 25, EKU heads to Bowling Green on Nov. 29 to square off against WKU at Diddle Arena. It will mark the 158th time EKU and WKU have met in basketball’s version of the Battle of the Bluegrass. The Colonels defeated the Hilltoppers, 78-59, last year in Richmond behind 19 points from then-freshman Asante Gist.
The Colonels open up a new series with NKU on Dec. 10 in Highland Heights. NKU won the Horizon League Tournament and played Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament last season. It will be only the seventh meeting (and first since 1992) between the two in-state programs.
“Being able to play Western Kentucky, Marshall and now a new series with Northern Kentucky … those are special because they are all three great natural rivalries,” McHale said.
The Colonels close out their non-conference slate with games against Norfolk State at home on Dec. 18 and at Marshall on Dec. 22. Norfolk State played in the CIT last season while Marshall won 20 games.
“I want these guys to be battle tested, but I have to be careful because we are logging thousands of miles of travel during the first few weeks of the season,” McHale added. “It’s all meant to get us prepared for the rigors of OVC play.”
EKU’s OVC schedule will look somewhat different this season with the elimination of conference divisions.
The Colonels open conference play at defending OVC Tournament champion Jacksonville State on Dec. 28. Their conference home opener comes Jan. 4 against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
EKU will host rival Morehead State on Feb. 10 and visit the Eagles in the regular-season finale on Feb. 24.
For the first time ever, the OVC Tournament will be held at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind. The tournament will run from Feb. 28 through March 3.
EKU returns five of its top six scorers from last season’s 12-19 squad, including two-time first team All-OVC forward Nick Mayo (18.5 points per game) and 2017 OVC All-Newcomer guard Gist (15.9 points-per-game).
2017-18 EKU men’s basketball schedule
(Home games in bold. Times to be announced at later date)
Nov. 3, 2017
Georgetown College (Exhibition)
Nov. 10, 2017
Nov. 13, 2017
Nov. 16, 2017
Nov. 20, 2017
Prairie View A&M
Nov. 22, 2017
Eastern Washington or Georgia State
Nov. 25, 2017
Nov. 29, 2017
Bowling Green, Ky.
Dec. 2, 2017
Dec. 5, 2017
Dec. 10, 2017
Highland Heights, Ky.
Dec. 15, 2017
Dec. 18, 2017
Dec. 22, 2017
Dec. 28, 2017
Dec. 30, 2017
Jan. 4, 2018
Jan. 6, 2018
Jan. 11, 2018
Jan. 13, 2018
Southeast Missouri State
Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Jan. 18, 2018
Jan. 20, 2018
Jan. 25, 2018
Jan. 27, 2018
Feb. 1, 2018
Feb. 3, 2018
Feb. 8, 2018
Feb. 10, 2018
Feb. 15, 2018
Feb. 17, 2018
Feb. 22, 2018
Southeast Missouri State
Feb. 24, 2018