Tough nonconference schedule awaits HPU men's hoops team
The High Point University men’s basketball team will face a decidedly tougher nonconference schedule this coming season.
Having high aspirations for a team that returns all five starters from last year’s team that went 17-14, won the Big South’s North division and earned its first postseason bid in the Division I era, coach Scott Cherry will give his team a taste of what it might face should it win the Big South tournament and get into the NCAA tournament by scheduling road games against national powers Georgetown and Syracuse plus Southeastern Conference member Arkansas.
It will be the first time that HPU will play three guaranteed appearance fee games in a season against teams from Division I power conferences (ACC, SEC, PAC-12, Big Ten, Big East) since facing N.C. State, South Florida and Minnesota during the 2008-09 season. Cherry has usually scheduled two games against power conference teams, with one of those being Wake Forest in recent years. Wake was the only team from a power conference last season as the Panthers focused on playing teams from mid-major conferences.
The meeting with Georgetown on Dec. 5 will be HPU’s first against a Big East team since facing South Florida on Nov. 25, 2008. The game at Arkansas will be the first against the SEC since a game at Georgia on Dec, 21, 2010.
The Panthers go to Syracuse on Dec. 20. The Orange went 30-10 and reached the Final Four last season.
“Each year we’ve tried to improve,” said Cherry, who enters his fifth season. “We’ve tried to keep a competitive balance and provide games that will be attractive to our season ticket holders. Indiana State and Western Michigan were challenging games.”
The Demon Deacons are not on this year’s slate. Also gone are teams such as Appalachian State, Indiana State, Western Michigan, Chattanooga and Austin Peay.
The Division I part of the slate also includes return games with UNC Greensboro, Eastern Kentucky, William & Mary, Stephen F. Austin and Morgan State; a home-and-home series with Wofford; and a contest with James Madison. HPU will also play host to non-Division I foes in Ferrum and Lees McRae.
The conference part of the schedule is expected to be announced in the near future.
Georgetown and James Madison also reached the NCAA tournament, and Stephen F, Austin went to the NIT. HPU played in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
The Panthers return 79 percent of their scoring and 63 of their rebounding, led by All-Big South selections John Brown and Allan Chaney.
“We have a lot of returning guys, all five starters and eight who played significant minutes,” Cherry said. “We want to prepare them should we reach the postseason and get into the NCAA tournament when we could face teams like Syracuse or Georgetown in the first round. And a schedule like this could help our RPI rating.”
The Panthers play just five nonconference games at the Millis Center. Of the five, the three against Division I teams are Nov. 24 against Wofford, Dec. 1 against Stephen F. Austin and Dec. 14 against James Madison. HPU opens the season at UNCG on Nov. 8 and plays its home opener against Ferrum four days later.
“We like to play as many games at home as we can,” Cherry said. “I didn’t have trouble getting games a couple of years ago when we weren’t as good. But we also wound up at something of a disadvantage right off the bat because we had the four return games. So that put us in the hole and then we decided to play the third guarantee game so we could earn some money to do some of the things we want to do with the program.”