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COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A schedule loaded with 17 home games, seven opponents who reached the post-season a year ago, perennial powerhouse teams North Carolina State and No. 2 Michigan State, plus a late-season Bracket Buster contest in Eblen Center are some of the highlights ahead for the Tennessee Tech men’s basketball team and its fans.
Head coach Mike Sutton announced the Golden Eagles’ 2010-11 schedule this week.
In addition to the Wolfpack and the Spartans, Tech faces top-notch rivals such as East Tennessee, Lipscomb and Appalachian State, plus the always-challenging Ohio Valley Conference lineup.
“I think it’s a great schedule,” Sutton said. “There’s a lot of balance, and it’s the most home games in a long time. We have 17 home games, and that’s a big thing for us. It gives our fans a tremendous bargain with season tickets and I think they’re going to really enjoy watching these kids play.
“We play a lot of high quality teams, teams that are picked to do very well in their conferences, and it should be a very competitive schedule for us.”
Tech opens the campaign in Eblen Center with an exhibition game against Carson-Newman on Thursday, Nov. 4. The regular season tips off eight nights later when the Golden Eagles visit North Carolina State on Friday, Nov. 12, at 6 p.m. CST. NC State is coming off a 20-win season and the game with Tech is the season opener, sure to draw a packed house.
Tech follows the opener with a road trip to East Tennessee State on Saturday, Nov. 20. The Buccaneers won 20 games and reached the NCAA Tourney last winter.
The first regular season home game is on Tuesday, Nov. 23, when Appalachian State visits. The Golden Eagles played their Bracket Buster game last year at Appalachian State, and the Mountaineers figure to challenge for the league title again this winter. ASU went 24-13 last year and won the Northern Division of the Southern Conference
“They were an outstanding team and they return everybody, so it should be quite a challenge,” Sutton said.
Tech’s highest ranked opponent, the Michigan State Spartans are listed No. 2 in the preseason polls after reaching the NCAA Final Four last winter. Tech plays at MSU on Sunday, Nov. 28, in an afternoon contest.
The month of December opens a stretch in which Tech plays seven of the next eight games at home in Eblen Center, beginning Dec. 1 with a visit from future OVC foe SIU Edwardsville.
The OVC schedule opens with a game at Jacksonville State on Saturday, Dec. 4 against the Gamecocks, the only road game of the month for Sutton’s squad.
The remainder of the month brings visits from High Point, Lipscomb, Eastern Illinois, Southeast Missouri and Crowley’s Ridge College. The end of the home stretch comes on Jan. 2 when Tech hosts Bluefield College.
“I really look forward to our non-conference games,” Sutton said. “We have some opponents who are really good rivalries. We also face a number of teams that were in post-season last year, so it gives an indication of the strength of the schedule. Well over a third of our schedule is against teams that were in the post-season.”
Other than the Bracket Buster game, the balance of Tech’s schedule is inside the conference, beginning with the annual visit to “Death Valley” in Kentucky with games at Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky on the first weekend in January.
“Last year the OVC sent three teams to the post-season, and I think this year the league is more balanced.” Sutton said. “It’s going to be a fight all the way through. Every game will be extremely difficult.”
The only break in conference play is the Bracket Buster game on Feb. 19 in Eblen Center. Tech’s opponent will be announced in early February.
“We don’t know who we’ll face in the Bracket Buster game, but we’ve faced some great teams in the past like Bradley, Ball State and Northwestern State,” Sutton said. They were all NCAA teams when we played them.
“The game will be very competitive, and there’s a good chance it will be a team that’s likely to be in the post-season.” Sutton said. “We host the Bracket Buster game this year, so it’s a bonus for our fans.”
The 2011 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament will be held March 2-5 at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.