September 9, 2012

Golden Eagle basketball schedule challenging, includes trips to Auburn, Stillwater

Click here to view the 2012-13 schedule

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball 2012-13 campaign won't be remembered for easy opponents, as the Golden Eagles face rigorous tests in the Big 12, SEC, and Horizon League in addition to the two-division Ohio Valley Conference.

"I think it's one of the hardest schedules we've had in recent memory," said second-year head coach Steve Payne. "A lot of the teams we're playing are picked to finish near the top of their leagues from the Big South to the Atlantic Sun to the Horizon League. I think we certainly have our hands full."

Perhaps the first thing that jumps out off the Golden Eagles' schedule this season is a brutal five-game road trip in the month of December. Tech will open the month with a two-game home stand before hitting the road on Dec. 8 against Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs, N.C. The team won't make another appearance at the Eblen Center before Jan. 3 when it returns for an Ohio Valley Conference tilt against Tennessee State.

Among those games on the lengthy trip away from home are trips to Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Dec. 15 and the OVC opener at Jacksonville State on Dec. 29. The hardest stretch of the five-game journey begins in Milwaukee and crawls its way south just three days later to the home of the Auburn Tigers on Dec. 18. The Golden Eagles will get no time to rest either, as they leave Auburn and head west for a Dec. 22 appointment with Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla.

Besides the meeting with UW-Milwaukee, Tech will face two other Horizon League opponents, including very strong Wisconsin-Green Bay squad on Dec. 6 in Cookeville. The Golden Eagles will also make their way north for a visit with Loyola Chicago on Nov. 28.

"Wisconsin-Green Bay, whose coming here, will be picked at the top of that league whether it's first, second, or third," said Payne. "That's certainly going to be a big challenge. Then we have road games at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which is where Bruce Pearl came from, and Loyola Chicago, which is traditionally a very strong program out of the city of Chicago."

Among Tech's first opponents, Coastal Carolina will make a Nov. 15 trip to Cookeville, its first since the 1987-88 season. The series is tied 1-1 with both games during that season.

"Coastal Carolina will be another great test," said Payne. "They're always picked to finish at the top of the Big South and this season likely won't be any different."

The Golden Eagles will host 14 home games in the 2012-13 season, including a mystery match-up against a Bracket Buster opponent on Feb. 23.

This year's schedule will feature two familiar regional foes in Lipscomb and East Tennessee State, both of which have been long-standing opponents for the Golden Eagles. Tech owns a 40-4 advantage over Lipscomb, including last season's thrilling overtime victory. ETSU boasts just a two-game lead (34-32) in a series that has seen nearly 70 match-ups. The Golden Eagles closed the gap with an 83-74 win in 2011.

"I like our regional rivalries with East Tennessee State and with Lipscomb," said Payne. "We'd like to add a couple of more schools regionally to our schedule and we're looking to do that in the future. I like those games. Those are schools that are always good tests for us."

Like last year, Tech will face a slate of 16 OVC games again this season, including a key Jan. 24 home showdown against Murray State, last season's conference champions. Tech, who finished 0-3 against the Racers in 2012-13, nearly upset their ranked opponents twice. The Golden Eagles fell on the road by just eight points and played the Racers to a five-point loss at home.

Tech will host Tennessee State on Jan. 3 for its first home OVC game of the season. On Jan. 5, Belmont will make its first appearance at the Eblen Center as a member of the OVC.

A three-game road trip against Eastern Illinois, SIUE, and Southeast Missouri will cover the schedule before the Golden Eagles return home for the much anticipated Murray State matchup.

The Golden Eagles close the season with a four-game homestand, with three of those contests against OVC opponents. Tech will welcome UT Martin on Feb. 21 with Eastern Kentucky (Feb. 28) and Morehead State (March 2) following.

The OVC tournament is slated to begin March 6 and run through March 9, matching up the top eight teams in the conference. The winner of the OVC tournament will earn a spot in the NCAA tournament later in March.