In search of another NCAA Tournament berth, Eastern will once again criss-cross the nation to play schools from 11 different leagues
There are some new faces, but the challenge is the same.
The Eastern Washington University men's basketball team, fresh off its best season in the school's NCAA Division I history, will play teams from 11 different conferences in the 2015-16 season, Eastern head coach Jim Hayford has announced with the release of the school's upcoming schedule.
The Eagles, who won Big Sky Conference regular season and tournament titles to advance to the NCAA Tournament last season, will play nine games versus six teams who appeared in national postseason tournaments a year ago. The list is headlined by Davidson, the defending Atlantic-10 Conference regular season champion who will host the Eagles on Dec. 9.
Eastern will also play road games against teams from the Southeastern Conference (Mississippi State on Nov. 13) and the Atlantic Coast Conference (Pittsburgh on Dec. 11). A year after playing – and winning – at college basketball legend Indiana, the Eagles will make their first-ever trip to play twice in another mecca of basketball -- the state of North Carolina.
"This is a very challenging schedule," said Hayford, whose team finished 26-9 overall and 14-4 in the Big Sky. "There are great opportunities to prove ourselves regionally and some games against teams that challenge us on a national stage. We are eager to embrace the opportunity."
Davidson (24-8 overall and 14-4 in the A-10) is the only opponent that played last year in the NCAA Tournament, losing 83-52 to Iowa in Seattle. Pitt (19-15/8-10) lost to George Washington 60-54 in the NIT.
Montana (20-13/14-4 Big Sky), Eastern's opponent on Jan. 23 in Missoula, also appeared in the NIT where it lost to Texas A&M. Because of the Big Sky's new 18-game league schedule started last year, Eastern will play the Grizzlies just once in the single-division, 12-team league.
Seattle (18-16/7-7 Western Athletic Conference) advanced to the semifinals of the College Basketball Insider (CBI) Tournament, falling to Loyola Chicago 63-48. The Redhawks, who EWU plays Nov. 17 in Cheney and Nov. 23 in Seattle, lost to New Mexico State in the championship game of the WAC Tournament.
Eastern's other two postseason opponents were Sacramento State and Northern Arizona, which both advanced to the CollegeInsider Tournament (CIT). NAU beat Sac State 78-73 in a second-round meeting, then won twice more before falling 71-65 to Evansville in the title game. The Lumberjacks finished the year 23-15 and the Hornets were 21-12, with both teams finishing 13-5 in the league.
The Eagles open the season against Mississippi State (13-19/6-12 in the SEC), then play NCAA Division III George Fox (5-20/3-13 Northwest Conference) in EWU's home opener on Sunday, Nov. 15. Seattle visits two days later.
After a return visit to Seattle, Eastern plays games Nov. 28 and 29 at the Sacramento State Tournament in Sacramento, Calif. – an event that is scheduled to come to Cheney, Wash., in 2016-17. The Eagles will play the University of the Pacific (12-19/4-14 West Coast Conference) the first day, then will play South Dakota (17-16/9-7 Summit League) the following day.
Eastern then plays on the road on Dec. 1 in a rematch at San Francisco (14-18/7-11 WCC) of last year's 81-75 victory over the Dons. The Eagles return home to face NAIA foe Great Falls (17-12/6-8 Frontier League) on Sunday, Dec. 6.
The next four games for EWU from Dec. 9-17 will be played as part of the Gotham Classic presented by the Gazelle Group. After games at Davidson and Pittsburgh, Eastern plays Dec. 14 at Western Carolina (15-17/9-9 Southern Conference). Eastern then returns home to face Morehead State (17-17/10-6 Ohio Valley Conference) on Dec. 17.
The Eagles close their non-conference schedule at Denver (12-18/6-10 Summit League) on Dec. 22. Eastern opens Big Sky play at Northern Colorado on Dec. 31, with the team's league home opener on Jan. 9 versus Idaho.
"Ultimately, our schedule in November and December is in place to prepare us for the rigor of Big Sky play," said Hayford, who enters his fifth season as EWU's head coach.
Season tickets for EWU's 13-game home schedule will go on sale soon. A year ago, Eastern averaged nearly 2,000 fans per game in 15 games at Reese Court (13-2 record). A crowd of 4,621 were on hand – the fourth-largest crowd in the 40-year history of Reese Court – in EWU's final regular season game of the year.
"I hope EWU fans will take advantage of the great pricing on season tickets and make Reese Court a great home court advantage," added Hayford.
2015-16 Tentative Men's Basketball Schedule (as of July 7, 2015)
Day - Date - Opponent - Site - Time
Friday - Nov. 13 - at Mississippi State - Starkville, Miss. - TBA
Sunday - Nov. 15 - George Fox - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Tuesday - Nov. 17 - Seattle - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Monday - Nov. 23 - at Seattle - Seattle, Wash. - TBA
Saturday - Nov. 28 - vs. =University of the Pacific - Sacramento, Calif. - TBA
Sunday - Nov. 29 - vs. =South Dakota - Sacramento, Calif. - TBA
Tuesday - Dec. 1 - at San Francisco - San Francisco, Calif. - TBA
Sunday - Dec. 6 - Great Falls - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Wednesday - Dec. 9 - at &Davidson - Davidson, N.C. - TBA
Friday - Dec. 11 - at &Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, Pa. - TBA
Monday - Dec. 14 - at &Western Carolina - Cullowhee, N.C. - TBA
Thursday - Dec. 17 - &Morehead State - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Tuesday - Dec. 22 - at Denver - Denver, Colo. - TBA
Thursday - Dec. 31 - at *Northern Colorado - Greeley, Colo. - TBA
Saturday - Jan. 2 - at *North Dakota - Grand Forks, N.D. - TBA
Saturday - Jan. 9 - *Idaho - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Thursday - Jan. 14 - *Southern Utah - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Saturday - Jan. 16 - *Northern Arizona - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Thursday - Jan. 21 - at *Montana State - Bozeman, Mont. - TBA
Saturday - Jan. 23 - at *Montana - Missoula, Mont. - TBA
Thursday - Jan. 28 - *Portland State - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Saturday - Jan. 30 - *Sacramento State - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Thursday - Feb. 4 - at *Northern Arizona - Flagstaff, Ariz. - TBA
Saturday - Feb. 6 - at *Southern Utah - Cedar City, Utah - TBA
Thursday - Feb. 11 - *North Dakota - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Saturday - Feb. 13 - *Northern Colorado - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Thursday - Feb. 18 - at *Sacramento State - Sacramento, Calif. - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday - Feb. 20 - at *Portland State - Portland, Ore. - TBA
Saturday - Feb. 27 - at *Idaho - Moscow, Idaho - TBA
Thursday - March 3 - *Idaho State - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Saturday - March 5 - *Weber State - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Tuesday - March 8 - Big Sky Tournament First Round - Reno, Nevada (Reno Events Center) - TBA
Thursday - March 10 - Big Sky Tournament Quarterfinals - Reno, Nevada (Reno Events Center) - TBA
Friday - March 11 - Big Sky Tournament Semifinals - Reno, Nevada (Reno Events Center) - TBA
Saturday - March 12 - Big Sky Tournament Championship - Reno, Nevada (Reno Events Center) - TBA
All Times Pacific. %Exhibition Game. ^Doubleheader with EWU women's team. *Big Sky Conference Game. &Gotham Classic presented by the Gazelle Group. =Sacramento State Tournament in Sacramento, Calif.
DATES & TIMES SUBJECT TO CHANGE . . . CALL NUMBERS BELOW FOR CHANGES
All Eastern Home Games Played at Reese Court on the Eastern Washington University campus.
Athletics Web Site: HTTP://WWW.GOEAGS.COM or HTTP://WWW.EWU.EDU
Schedule or Ticket Information: 509-359-6334 or 509-359-4339 or 509-359-2463 or 1-866-4GO-EAGS