Posted on June 19, 2013 at 6:44 PM
Thursday, Dec 19 at 5:24 PM
The Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team will get a taste of the new and old Big East Conference this winter.
The 31-game schedule for the Eagles includes a trip to the East Coast to play Connecticut and Seton Hall, as well as six opponents which played in national postseason tournaments a year ago. The schedule, announced by third-year head coach Jim Hayford, includes 20 Big Sky Conference games for the second-straight year and a total of 14 home contests.
“I think the Big Sky Conference is going to be more difficult -- there are many teams returning solid rosters,” Hayford said. “We have a very challenging preseason that will prepare us for a great conference season.”
Connecticut finished 20-10 overall and 10-8 in the Big East Conference last season, while Seton Hall was 15-18 overall and 3-15 in the league. However, Seton Hall and six other teams in the so-called “Catholic 7” broke off from the league, but will retain the Big East tag. The remaining Big East teams, plus others in the expanded conference, will now be named the American Athletic Conference.
“The East Coast trip jumps out at you -- it is an excellent opportunity for our guys to see a different part of the country and to experience playing against one of the nation’s elite programs,” said Hayford. “I know the guys are looking forward to that trip.”
Eastern’s preseason also includes a trip to Seattle to play Washington from the Pac-12 Conference on Nov. 17. Eastern’s non-conference home games include Pacific University (Nov. 10), Walla Walla (Nov. 19), Seattle (Nov. 29) and UC Irvine (Dec. 15).
“It will be the first time since I have been the head coach that we have played the Huskies and traveled over to Seattle,” said Hayford. “It is always a neat challenge to see how we stack up against the larger schools in the state.”
Home games will begin at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time for weekday games and Sunday games will start at 2:05 p.m. Times for four Saturday games have yet to be announced.
In all, Eastern’s 2013-14 schedule includes 10 games versus six schools who participated in national postseason tournaments a year ago. Eastern will play six games against those opponents on the road, and four games at home.
Two appeared in the NCAA Tournament – Saint Mary’s (Dec. 8 on the road) and Montana (Jan. 9 at home and Feb. 8 on the road). UC Irvine (Dec. 15 at home and Nov. 22-24 at its tournament) played in the College Basketball Invitational Tournament, and won a game before falling in the quarterfinals.
The other five postseason opponents on EWU’s schedule were also in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT). Weber State (Jan. 2 on the road and March 8 at home) won four games to advance to the championship, where it lost to East Carolina 77-74. North Dakota (Jan. 30 at home and March 1 on the road) played in the first round, as did Boston University (Nov. 22-24 at UC Irvine Tournament).
The Big Sky Conference Tournament will take place March 13-15 at the site of the regular season champion. For the second-straight year, it will now include seven teams, with the regular season champion receiving a first-round bye. The tournament will include a quarterfinal round with six of the teams playing, followed by semifinals and the championship game.
The Eagles finished the 2012-13 season with a 10-21 record overall and 7-13 mark in league games. All 10 of EWU’s wins were against NCAA Division I foes, which exceeded EWU’s total in four of nine years since the 2004-05 season. The same was true of EWU’s seven conference victories.
For a variety of reasons – mostly because of injuries – Eastern used 14 different starting lineups in the 2012 season. But the one constant was the continued development of young players, including six freshmen/sophomores who each started at least three games with a collective total of 97 starts in the 2012-13 season (sophomores Parker Kelly and Martin Seiferth, redshirt freshman Tyler Harvey, and true freshmen Venky Jois, Thomas Reuter and Daniel Hill).
Eastern will return starting experience at all five positions next season, and Hayford hopes that will translate to winning more of the close games they lost in the 2012-13 season. Nine of EWU’s losses were one-possession games with less than four minutes remaining, and the Eagles finished 6-10 in games decided by 10 points or less.