BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (PRESS RELEASE) — Four games against NCAA Tournament teams from a season ago, the 150th meeting in the series against rival Murray State and a premiere early-season tournament in Cancun, Mexico, highlight the 2012-13 WKU men's basketball schedule, announced Tuesday by head coach Ray Harper.
The slate features 15 regular-season home games, including contests at E.A. Diddle Arena against regional opponents Austin Peay, Southern Illinois and IUPUI, as well as a highly-anticipated showdown with 2012 Final Four participant Louisville at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
Fans interested in purchasing season tickets for the 2012-13 campaign can call the WKU Ticket Office at 1-800-5-BIG RED or 745-5222 locally. Renewals for current season-ticket holders will be mailed in the coming weeks.
The regular season tips off on Saturday, November 10 with a game at Southern Miss in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles, led by first-year coach Donnie Tyndall, finished last season with a 25-9 record and were seeded ninth in the NCAA Tournament.
After the game at Southern Miss, WKU returns home for a pair of games as a part of the 2012 Cancun Challenge. The Hilltoppers will host Austin Peay on November 13 and Western Carolina on November 17, before heading to Mexico for two games on-site. WKU will open with either DePaul, Iowa or Wichita State on November 20 in Cancun and then play one of the other two on November 21 depending on the outcome of the first game.
Should WKU match up with Wichita State in Cancun, the Hilltoppers would face five NCAA Tournament teams from last year in the first 13 games of the season.
The Sun Belt Conference schedule moves to 20 games this season from 16 in years past, and WKU will begin league play November 29 at ULM after a regular-season home game against Brescia (Ky.) on November 24. A road game at Troy on December 1 follows, before the Hilltoppers finish non-conference play in the middle of December.
WKU welcomes Southern Illinois to E.A. Diddle Arena on December 5 and IUPUI on December 8, and the Hilltoppers split a pair of games with the two last season. WKU defeated Southern Illinois, 62-55, in Carbondale last December and dropped an eight-point decision at IUPUI three days later in Indianapolis.
From there, WKU begins a three-game stretch away from home against three teams that won games in the 2012 NCAA Tournament and had a combined record of 90-19 last year. The week begins with the 150th all-time matchup against Murray State on December 16, who finished the 2011-12 season with a remarkable 31-2 record and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament before bowing out with a loss to Marquette.
WKU leads the all-time series between the two former Ohio Valley Conference rivals 97-52. The meeting on December 16 will be the second game in a new four-year series that began last season with a Murray State win in E.A. Diddle Arena.
WKU travels to Richmond, Va., on December 18 to square off against VCU. The Rams went 29-7 a season ago and were seeded 12th in the NCAA Tournament, where they upset fifth-seeded Wichita State in the second round in Portland. The Rams then dropped a two-point decision to fourth-seeded Indiana, ending their season.
Murray State and VCU went a combined 24-2 at home in 2011-12.
WKU and Louisville begin a new four-year series on December 22 with a game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. The Bluegrass State rivals have played in each of the last four seasons, and WKU leads the all-time series 39-36. Louisville finished last season with a 30-10 record and advanced to the Final Four, dispatching Davidson, New Mexico, Michigan State and Florida before losing to Kentucky in the national semifinals.
The last time WKU and Louisville played in Nashville, the Hilltoppers upset the third-ranked Cardinals, 68-54, on November 30, 2008.
The bulk of the Sun Belt Conference schedule starts on December 27 with a home game against FIU. The move to 20 conference games means that each team in the league plays a home-and-home with every other team. Middle Tennessee, east division regular-season champion a season ago, comes to E.A. Diddle Arena to close the regular season on Saturday, March 2. The Hilltoppers travel to Murfreesboro on Saturday, January 26.
The Hilltoppers face west division champions UALR on January 3 in Little Rock and January 19 in Bowling Green.
The 2013 Sun Belt Conference Tournament will be played March 8-11 in Hot Springs, Ark., where WKU will be defending its 2012 title that came after winning four games in four days to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Two pre-season exhibition games will be played on Monday, October 29 against Campbellsville (Ky.) and Saturday, November 3 versus Kentucky Wesleyan.