“For 11 years I have always scheduled according to my team,” said Sanderson. “Right behind recruiting I think the most important thing is scheduling.
“We have six of our top seven players coming back. I feel like if we have some solid point guard play we have the chance to be a very good basketball team. From top to bottom this is the most challenging schedule we have played. We are going to find out early on where we are.”
The Bisons will travel to Big 10 foe Ohio State, Big East member Cincinnati, Pac-10 team Arizona and Vanderbilt from the Southeastern Conference. The game with Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym is first of the big four games, scheduled for Nov. 16.
“Vanderbilt has a good young team with almost their entire team back from last season,” said Sanderson. “Vanderbilt is going to be right on the borderline of the top 25. I think it is good for us to play a Southeastern Conference team like Vanderbilt, especially in our hometown.”
On Nov. 24 the Bisons will celebrate Thanksgiving week with a visit to Columbus, Ohio to face the Buckeyes.
The Christmas season will bring another trip to Ohio for face Cincinnati Dec. 19 followed by a Western swing to Arizona Dec. 21.
“Zach Brown is from Ohio and we are starting to go into the Ohio area and recruit,” said Sanderson. “We have been recruiting in Indiana and winning there was tremendous for us in people indentifying who we are. If we can go into these areas where we might be recruiting it will benefit us.
“We decided to go to Arizona because we needed another game and we both had a date available.”
It will be the first time the Bisons have played Ohio State, Cincinnati and Arizona in men’s basketball.
“All four are challenging games for us,” said Sanderson. “Ohio State is going to be a top 15 team in preseason. Cincinnati is going to be in the top 40, but could jump to the top 25. Arizona will be in the top 50. Our kids like playing these games.
“We beat Marshall two years ago and beat Indiana last year. Our players know in their minds that they can compete. We know that if we do certain things well we will have an opportunity. Our kids like playing these games.”
The Bisons will open the season with their traditional exhibition game with Freed-Hardeman Nov. 6. The regular season home opener is Nov. 14 against Elon at Allen Arena.
The remaining non-conference teams on the home schedule are Tennessee Tech, Nov. 19, and Oakland City University, Dec. 12.
The Bisons will also play SIU Edwardsville, the newest member of the OVC, in a home-and-home series. The two teams will meet in Edwardsville Nov. 28 and at Allen Arena Dec. 10.
“It really doesn’t matter what we do in non-conference games,” said Sanderson. “In our league it boils down to what we do in three games in March. Hopefully, we won’t play in a tougher venue in the conference than the ones we will be playing in during the non-conference games.”
The Bisons open the Atlantic Sun Conference portion of the season at home Jan. 2 with a visit from Stetson, the first in a four-game homestand. Florida Gulf Coast visits Jan. 4 followed by USC Upstate Jan. 9.
The Bisons close out the homestand Jan. 11 against Belmont in the first of two “Battles of the Boulevard”. The Bisons make the short trip down the street Jan. 27 for round two.
Rounding out the A-Sun home schedule in January are ETSU, Jan. 21 and Campbell, Jan. 23.
The February home slate features North Florida, Feb. 5; Jacksonville, Feb. 7; Kennesaw State, Feb. 25 and Mercer, Feb. 27.
In January the Bisons will be on the road at Jacksonville, Jan. 14; North Florida, Jan. 16; and ETSU in Johnson City, Jan 30.
The Bisons close out the conference road schedule in February with a stop on the 11th at USC Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C.; and another trip to Florida to play Florida Gulf Coast Feb. 18 in Fort Myers and a visit to Stetson in DeLand Feb. 20.
“It is going to be, as always, extremely challenging in the conference night-in and night-out,” said Sanderson.
The conference tournament moves to Mercer University this season.