Eight of the first nine games at home in Eblen Center
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -Sixteen home games including a heavy dose of home contests in the first month, a sprinkling of some new opponents, and a few teams that reached the NCAA Tournament a year ago will highlight Tennessee Tech's 2008-09 29-game men's basketball schedule, announced this week by seventh-year head coach Mike Sutton.
Tech hosts eight of its first nine games in Eblen Center as Sutton and his staff work to mold a team that will feature nearly twice as many newcomers as returnees.
The Golden Eagles also have December contests on the road against Florida State and Vanderbilt before embarking on their usual odyssey through the 20-game Ohio Valley Conference schedule.
"This is another challenging schedule, but I like it," Sutton said. "We play some real quality opponents at home early in the season, and we play some good Tennessee opponents such as Lipscomb, East Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
"The entire schedule is tough, but our road games in December will be especially challenging with games at Florida State and Vanderbilt, both teams that went to the NCAA last year.
"We're also on the road to Louisiana-Monroe before we play the bulk of our conference games," he said.
Tech opens with an exhibition game against Anderson University on November 10, then gets the regular season underway by hosting Bryan College on November 15.
After a quick road trip to Lipscomb, the Golden Eagles kick off a six-game homestand by welcoming Southern Utah. After that, East Tennessee, Louisiana-Monroe, Lipscomb, Jacksonville State and Union College invade Eblen Center in the first month of action.
"Our early home stretch will be good for this team," Sutton said. "We have a lot of new players and hopefully it will help them adjust and get started."
The game against Jacksonville on Dec. 6 is Tech's only conference game in 2008. The league schedule resumes in the New Year with visits by Southeast Missouri (Jan. 3) and Eastern Illinois (Jan. 5).
Sutton thinks that Tech's 2008-09 conference schedule will be better for the Golden Eagles, eliminating some of Tech's split road trips.
"The league has done a better job in scheduling," Sutton said. "We always seemed to have the worst conference travel schedule. This year's schedule is much more equitable than in the past. We were the team that had to suffer through the inequities in travel, and this year's schedule is much better."
The schedule includes home-and-home series with Lipscomb from the Atlantic Sun Conference and Louisiana-Monroe out of the Sun Belt Conference. It's the first meetings with Lipscomb in 24 years, and the first-ever games against UL-Monroe. Tech also faces non-conference games against East Tennessee and Southern Utah.
"I think all four of these teams will be very good rivals for us," Sutton said. "East Tennessee will be one of the preseason favorites in their conference, and Southern Utah will be a quality opponent.
"I think these games will be very popular with our fans," Sutton added. "Fans get to see some quality opponents early, and they're geographically nearby. These games will provide the opportunity for fans from both schools to see the games," he said.
Once again, Tech will participate in the popular ESPN Bracket Buster series. Tech will play a road game on February 21, with the opponent announced a few weeks before the contest.
The visit to Eblen Center by East Tennessee State is a return of Tech's Bracket Buster game last year.
The OVC Tournament opens on March 3 with first-round games at campus sites. The final rounds are in Nashville on March 7 and 8. The winner advances to the NCAA Tournament, with the first round slated for March 20-21.
Even Tech's exhibition game has an interesting twist as Tech hosts Anderson University on November 10. Anderson's head coach is Jason Taylor from Clarkrange.
"Jason will bring his team to Eblen Center, and it will be a very competitive game," Sutton said. "It will be a very important exhibition game for us as we begin to blend the new players with the returnees."
Season tickets for the 2008-09 Golden Eagle Basketball Season are on sale, and available at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or by calling (931) 372-3940.