By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The full schedule for the highly anticipated third year of head coach Kim Rosamond's tenure at Tennessee Tech has been announced.
Highlights include 14 home games, nonconference road matchups with Power Five programs, and a holiday tournament.
"I have no doubt our nonconference schedule has been set up to prepare us for OVC play," Rosamond said. "We will be challenged early and often, and I think we have a competitive mix of games both home and away that our fan base can get excited about."
Following an exhibition matchup with Hiwassee College on October 28, Tech will get the regular season started in the Hooper Eblen Center against Cumberland University on Tuesday, November 6.
Five days later comes TTU's first notable road game – a meeting with Xavier at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Middle Tennessee comes to Cookeville on Nov. 16, when the Golden Eagles and Blue Raiders will meet for the 98th time in a series that dates back to 1970.
After hosting Western Carolina on Nov. 19, the Golden Eagles will spend Thanksgiving on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean when they partake in The Charleston Southern Buccaneer Classic. TTU will play the host CSU on Saturday, Nov. 24 and Old Dominion Nov. 25.
Tech will test its mettle with two high-profile road games the following week, heading north to Wichita State on Dec. 2 before a meeting with Arkansas on Dec. 4.
This year's date with Arkansas makes at least one game against a Southeastern Conference opponent in all three of Rosamond's seasons as head coach (Vanderbilt, 2016-17; Georgia and Kentucky, 2017-18).
"It's nice to have several home games for our fans in November, especially one with Middle Tennessee, our old OVC rival," said Rosamond. "Those early games at home will get us ready for a tough four-game road stretch, starting in Charleston and ending at Bud Walton Arena in Arkansas."
The Golden Eagles will then take two full weeks off after the Arkansas game, which Rosamond believes will play to her team's advantage.
"With the season starting a week earlier this year, this allows us to not be forced to cram in so many games before Christmas. The break will allow our players to be home and prepare for exams and finish the semester strong in the classroom. In addition, we'll have extra days to work on improving our team rather than focus on game-prep, which will be extremely important at that point in the season. "
Once the brief hiatus has ended, TTU returns to the floor for its final three nonconference games. The first one is at home against UNC Asheville, a program that must replace a lot of its scoring from a year ago, but also returns all but two players from a team that finished third in the Big South with a 12-6 record a season ago, and has earned NCAA Tournament bids in two of the last three seasons.
The Asheville game will also be designated as Education Day for the 2018-19 campaign. Students from elementary schools all over the area will be invited to come support the Golden Eagles free of charge. Tip time will be moved to 11 a.m. to accommodate the children's school day.
Tech will then make its first of two trips to Nashville when it squares off with Lipscomb on Dec. 21, before returning to Cookeville to close out the nonconference slate with Tennessee Wesleyan on Dec. 29.
A return trip to Nashville is on tap for the first two league games of the season, where Tech will meet up with Tennessee State on Jan. 3, followed by a battle with perennial powerhouse Belmont, which completed a perfect conference season (18-0) on its way to OVC regular season and tournament titles last year.
Even with its young roster, Tech gave the league champs one of their closer games last season when TTU fell 68-60 in the Hooper Eblen Center on February 10.
"We kick off the conference season on the road with a team I thought was one of the most improved in our league last year in TSU. Then, we get the three-time defending champions in Belmont, so it will be vital that we are playing at a high level to begin the new year."
The conference home opener comes the following weekend when Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (SIUE) makes its way down to Cookeville on January 10. The Cougars were the third-best team in the OVC last year, but must find a solution for the departure of one of the conference's best guard tandems in Donshel Beck and Lauren White.
That tilt kicks off a three-game homestand, as TTU will see Eastern Illinois on Jan. 12, followed by a rematch with TSU on Wednesday, Jan. 16.
The next three are on the road, as the Golden Eagles pay a visit to the southernmost member of the conference, Jacksonville State, on Jan. 19, as well as Morehead State (Jan. 24) and Eastern Kentucky (Jan. 26).
The game at Eastern Kentucky will not be played in the Colonels' Alumni Coliseum in Richmond, Ky., but rather at Georgetown College some 40 miles north, due to a scheduling conflict.
Morehead State and Jacksonville State finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the OVC standings for 2017-18.
According to OVC mandates, there are four conference teams Tech will only play once, and this year those games will be played in succession. They are: home meetings with Austin Peay (Jan. 31) and Murray State (Feb. 2), and trips to Southeast Missouri (Feb. 7) and reigning league runner-up UT Martin (Feb. 9).
Should the Golden Eagles find themselves in a late-season race for the OVC title, they will have a tactical advantage in that four of their final six games – rematches with Jacksonville State, Belmont, Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State – are all within the friendly confines of the Hoop.
An Illinois road trip concludes Tech's OVC slate, with games at SIUE on Feb. 28, and Eastern Illinois on March 2.
The OVC Tournament is scheduled for March 6-9 in Evansville, Ind.
"In the two years our staff has been in the OVC, this league has continued to get better and more competitive," said Rosamond. I expect this season to be no different. It will be a fight to the finish, and I think there are a number of teams who will be in the mix for the championship."