Highlighted by five early-season home games, the experienced Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team hopes for a fast start to the 2014-15 season, as EWU head coach Jim Hayford announced his team’s schedule Tuesday.
The Eagles open with a trio of home games versus Texas Southern (Nov. 14), Utah Valley (Nov. 17) and Walla Walla (Nov. 19). Then, after a difficult road trip to play SMU and Indiana, the Eagles play two more November home games versus Northern Kentucky (Nov. 26) and Eastern Oregon (Nov. 30).
A six-game road stretch follows, however, and includes difficult games against Pac-12 Conference foes Washington (Dec. 14) and California (Dec. 22). The Eagles host Lewis-Clark State (Dec. 22) before opening Big Sky Conference play with a New Year’s Day matchup versus defending champion Weber State.
The best part of the schedule is the league schedule, which will include normal Thursday-Saturday games with the return of the University of Idaho to the 50-year-old conference. Now with 10 league members competing in men’s basketball, previously there was an odd amount of teams which resulted in some difficult travel schedules and several Monday games.
“Every year we want to play an ambitious schedule that is fearless,” said Hayford, whose team returns four starters and nine total letterwinners. “We believe this schedule of games will have us ready for a very competitive Big Sky season.”
Weber State is the lone 2014-15 opponent for the Eagles to have advanced to the NCAA Tournament a year ago. The Wildcats finished 17-11 overall after winning the league’s regular season and tournament titles, and then falling to No. 1 seed Arizona 68-59 in the NCAA Tournament first round.
In all, nine Eastern opponents played in postseason tournaments a year ago, including four in the National Invitation Tournament (SMU, California, San Francisco, Utah Valley) and four more in the College Insider Tournament (Sam Houston State, Portland State, Northern Colorado, North Dakota).
Of the postseason participants, SMU advanced the furthest by losing to Minnesota 65-63 in the NIT championship game. Cal fell in the quarterfinals to SMU by a 67-65 score.
In all, the Eagles will play seven of 13 non-conference games at home. The 18-game league slate begins at home against Weber State, with Idaho State visiting two days later. Eastern’s first Big Sky road game will be at Idaho on Jan. 10 in the first league match-up between the Vandals and Eagles since Feb. 17, 1996. In the nine seasons both teams co-existed in the Big Sky (1987-88 to 1995-96), Idaho won all 18 meetings, as well as the 1990 Big Sky Conference Tournament championship game won on a shot at the buzzer.
Eastern also has league home games on Jan. 22, 24 and 31, as well as Feb. 12, 14, 26 and 28. The league schedule continues through early March, with the top eight teams qualifying for the Big Sky Conference Tournament on March 12-14 at the site of the regular season champion.
Although they came a victory shy of a Big Sky Conference Tournament berth, the 2013-14 Eagles finished with three more league wins and five more victories overall than a year ago. Eastern established eight school records, including one league mark.
The best news of all is that the Eagles had no seniors on its 2013-14 roster, and the Eagles return highly-regarded juniors-to-be Tyler Harvey and Venky Jois. Harvey was a first team All-Big Sky selection and earned second team honors on the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District 6 team – EWU’s first player honored on that team since Rodney Stuckey in 2007. Jois earned honorable mention accolades for the second-straight year, as well as being the 2012-13 Freshman of the Year in the league. College Sports Madness named Jois (third team) and junior point guard Drew Brandon (second team) to its All-Big Sky Conference squad, and Jois earned first team All-BSC honors from College Hoops Daily.
2014-15 Schedule (as of Aug. 12, 2014)
Day - Date - Opponent - Site - Time
Friday - Nov. 14 - Texas Southern - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Monday - Nov. 17 - Utah Valley - Cheney, Wash. - 5:05 p.m.
Wednesday - Nov. 19 - Walla Walla - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Saturday - Nov. 22 - at SMU - Dallas, Texas
Monday - Nov. 24 - at Indiana - Bloomington, Ind.
Wednesday - Nov. 26 - Northern Kentucky - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Sunday - Nov. 30 - ^Eastern Oregon - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Saturday - Dec. 6 - at Seattle - Seattle, Wash. (Key Arena) - 7:05 p.m.
Thursday - Dec. 11 - at San Francisco - San Francisco, Calif.
Sunday - Dec. 14 - at Washington - Seattle, Wash.
Tuesday - Dec. 16 - at Sam Houston State - Huntsville, Texas
Friday - Dec. 19 - at California - Berkeley, Calif.
Monday - Dec. 22 - Lewis-Clark State - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Thursday - Jan. 1 - *Weber State - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Saturday - Jan. 3 - *Idaho State - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Saturday - Jan. 10 - at *Idaho - Moscow, Idaho - 7:05 p.m.
Thursday - Jan. 15 - at *Portland State - Portland, Ore.
Saturday - Jan. 17 - at *Sacramento State - Sacramento, Calif.
Thursday - Jan. 22 - *Northern Colorado - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Saturday - Jan. 24 - *North Dakota - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Saturday - Jan. 31 - *Idaho - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Thursday - Feb. 5 - at *Montana - Missoula, Mont.
Saturday - Feb. 7 - at *Montana State - Bozeman, Mont.
Thursday - Feb. 12 - *Sacramento State - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Saturday - Feb. 14 - *Portland State - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Thursday - Feb. 19 - at *Southern Utah - Cedar City, Utah
Saturday - Feb. 21 - at *Northern Arizona - Flagstaff, Ariz.
Thursday - Feb. 26 - *Montana State - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Saturday - Feb. 28 - *Montana - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Thursday - March 5 - at *Idaho State - Pocatello, Idaho
Saturday - March 7 - at *Weber State - Ogden, Utah
Thursday - March 12 - Big Sky Tournament Quarterfinals - Regular Season Champion - TBA
Friday - March 13 - Big Sky Tournament Semifinals - Regular Season Champion - TBA
Saturday - March 14 - Big Sky Tournament Championship - Regular Season Champion - TBA