By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – One look at the 2018-19 schedule for the Tennessee Tech basketball team is all it takes to realize the newest campaign for the Golden Eagles could be one of the toughest tests in recent memory. Head coach Steve Payne officially released the team's slate for his eighth season at the helm of the Tech program, and noted the challenge that lies ahead.
"As far as the quality of competition, I don't know that there has ever been a stronger or more prestigious group of teams and venues than what we have lined up this year," Payne explained. "I looked the other day and we face three teams ranked in the top 10 on the schedule, and that is certainly a challenge. We also open up at Memphis and with Penny Hardaway's debut as head coach, it is going to be a sold-out building."
The season-opener against the Tigers will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 6. The Golden Eagles will also face competition from Power-5 Conference opponents in three road games. Tech is set for road trips to North Carolina (Nov. 16), Michigan State (Nov. 18) and Tennessee (Dec. 29). All three teams have been consistently ranked in the top-10 in this year's preseason polls.
Golden Eagle fans will have 15 opportunities to cheer on their team in the comfort of the Eblen Center, with six of the team's home games against non-conference competition.
Tech will face the gauntlet right out of the gate, playing four of its first five contests on the road. The team's lone home game in that opening span is a Nov. 10 meeting with Presbyterian, the team's home-opener.
"We'll find out a little bit about where we are as a team at the beginning of the season with that challenging slate," Payne remarked. "I don't know where that it is going to be, but it is just a chance to get better and see where you stack up against some of the best teams in the country. Right now, we have three returning guys that played last year and are healthy, so we will certainly be a work in progress throughout the season.
"You know you like to win as many games as you can and keep improving, but really that schedule is set up in for us to go through the fire and use it as a chance to get better. Hopefully we will survive and win our share of games and we will be ready for conference play."
For the second straight year, the purple and gold will compete in 18 Ohio Valley Conference games, squaring off twice with Tennessee State, Belmont, SIUE, Eastern Illinois, Jacksonville State, Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky. OVC play will kick off on Thursday, Jan. 3 at Tennessee State.
"Everything we do we use to gear up for our conference play," Payne said. "There is no question that what we work towards, at the end of the season, is getting the best seed in the OVC Tournament. Our conference schedule has been a little unbalanced and tougher the last couple of years, having to play two games against teams in the top four of our league. We deal with it and we just have to get in the tournament and play well."
This year's conference draw sets Tech up with home tilts against the usual opponents in Tennessee State, Belmont, Jacksonville State, Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky. It also offers Golden Eagle fans a viewing of Eastern Illinois, SIUE, Austin Peay and Murray State.
"I think for our fans, the schedule sets up great with Murray and Austin Peay coming to Cookeville, which are traditionally very good games for us," Payne commented. "People enjoy coming out to watch us play them and Belmont and Tennessee State and they tend to be our best draws. We will need that trend to continue to have a great home court advantage and keep this building one of the tougher places to play in the country."
The OVC Tournament will head back to the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind. for the second straight year, running from Mar. 6-9
Season tickets for Tennessee Tech basketball are on sale now. Call (931) 372-3940, visit the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office, or log on to TTUsports.com to order yours today.
- Season Opener: Nov. 6 at Memphis at FedExForum
- Home Opener: Nov. 10 vs. Presbyterian at the Eblen Center
- Potential Top-10 Match-Up #1: Nov. 16 at North Carolina at the Smith Center
- Potential Top-10 Match-Up #2: Nov. 18 at Michigan State at the Breslin Center
- Potential Top-10 Match-Up #3: Dec. 29 at Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena
- OVC Opener: Jan. 3 at Tennessee State at the Gentry Center
- OVC Tournament: Mar. 6-9 at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 31 Regular Season Games
- 13 Non-Conference Games
- 18 Ohio Valley Conference Games
- 15 Home Games
- 17 Road Games
- 4 NCAA Tournament Opponents (Michigan State, Murray State, North Carolina, Tennessee)
- 2 CIT Opponents (Austin Peay, ULM)
- 1 CBI Opponent (Jacksonville State)
- American (1): Memphis
- Atlantic Coast (1): North Carolina
- Atlantic Sun (1): Kennesaw State
- Big 10 (1): Michigan State
- Big South (2): Presbyterian, Winthrop
- Mid-Eastern Athletic (1): Savannah State (x2)
- Southeastern (1): Tennessee
- Southern (1): Chattanooga
- Sun Belt (1): ULM
- Non-Division I (2): Hiwassee College, Warren Wilson College
Photo by Thomas Corhern