NASHVILLE – Five months after closing the book on its most successful season in the program’s Division I history, Lipscomb men’s basketball head coach Casey Alexander announced on Thursday a 29-game schedule for the 2018-19 Bisons, including 14 inside the friendly confines of Allen Arena.
The challenging slate for the defending ASUN Conference champions features 16 league contests, three games against Power-5 opponents and the annual “Battle of the Boulevard” series with Belmont.
Of the 10 games on the schedule against teams that finished last season ranked higher than Lipscomb in the final Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings, eight of them come in nonconference play.
“I think our program is ready for a challenge like this,” Alexander said. “We talked to the team about how great it is to have expectations placed upon us, but at the same time we showed them eight of our nonconference opponents who were better than us last year. We have plenty of work to do.”
Highlighting that group of games are trips to SMU (Nov. 18), TCU (Nov. 20), Louisville (Dec. 12) and Clemson (Dec. 30).
“Those are games that our guys are looking forward to,” Alexander said. “SMU and TCU are teams that have done very well lately and also it’s a trip that allows Greg Jones to go home and play in front of friends and family.
“Louisville is a top-10 basketball program in the country and it will be an unbelievable experience playing in the YUM Center in front of a very partisan and passionate crowd. And Clemson is a team that has found their niche in the best conference in the country in the ACC. Not only do they return a great group of players, their head coach is a guy that I really, really respect.”
The Purple and Gold tips off the season Nov. 6 at home against Sewanee before it welcomes Tennessee State on Nov. 10 for Homecoming weekend.
Bison fans will want to circle Nov. 15 on their calendars as Belmont makes the short trek to Lipscomb for the annual renewal of the “Battle of the Boulevard”. And unlike recent years where the teams played twice in the span of a week, the Bruins won’t host the Purple and Gold until three weeks later on Dec. 4 at the Curb Event Center.
“Belmont is a great team and I expect us to have two great games,” Alexander said. “Those games are always special to the schools and to the fans. Last season it was nice to break the pattern against those guys, but this year is a new year. It’s always tough when we match up with one another.”
The month of December will be a gauntlet for Alexander’s squad.
To kick things off is a trip down I-24 to Murfreesboro to take on Middle Tennessee on Dec. 1. It will be just the second meeting between the schools in Lipscomb’s NCAA era and the first since 2007 when the Blue Raiders eked out a 68-62 victory in the Murphy Center.
“I am really excited we were able to get something worked out with Middle Tennessee,” Alexander said. “I have great respect for what they’ve done as probably the best program in the state of Tennessee over the last few years.
“For Lipscomb fans it is a great opportunity and I hope it’s a game we will be able to continue to play in years to come.”
Following the pit stop at Belmont, Lipscomb will host Navy in a return trip from a home-and-home agreement that began last season. The Bisons went to Annapolis, Maryland last December and came away with an impressive 73-64 victory behind a combined 46 points from Garrison Mathews and Rob Marberry.
Two weeks later, the Purple and Gold will welcome perennial mid-major power Vermont to Allen Arena for the first meeting ever between the programs. The Catamounts finished 27-8 last season and were crowned the America East champions after going 15-1 in league play. They landed, however, in the NIT after being upset by UMBC in the conference championship game.
“Vermont is a team that our fans probably don’t have a lot of familiarity with, but they should,” Alexander said. “They have been as good in their league as any mid-major in the country over the last decade, including multiple NCAA Tournament appearances.
“Everyone in the country is well aware of what UMBC did last year in the NCAA Tournament (beat #1 Virginia as #16 seed), but is was actually Vermont who won their league. They got upset by UMBC at the buzzer in the conference championship game or else that story would have never been written.”
Despite the departure of USC Upstate, the ASUN Conference schedule will feature its largest number of games since the 2013-14 season with the additions of Liberty and North Alabama.
The league slate gets going Jan. 5 with a visit to Jacksonville. It will be the first of four trips the Bisons will take to the Sunshine State.
“It’s exciting to have Liberty and UNA in our league this season,” Alexander said. “I am glad to have two extra conference games than what we’ve had in the past.
“And as far as the league is concerned, I think this is going to be the best it’s been in a while with a number of quality teams at the top.”
The Bisons host UNA on Feb. 2 and Liberty on Feb. 13. Other key conference games at home are North Florida (Jan. 9), FGCU (Jan. 24) and Jacksonville (Feb. 9).
The 16-game conference campaign and 2018-19 regular season is set to wrap up on Mar. 1 as Lipscomb plays North Alabama in Florence.
The top teams in the conference will again host the first round of the ASUN Championship on Mar. 4 with the highest remaining seeds hosting the semifinals and finals on campus as well on Mar. 7 and 10, respectively.
“Last year’s schedule was tough, but with four guaranteed games and the quality of mid-majors to go along with our ASUN opponents, this schedule is a notch higher on the difficulty meter.”
Season tickets are NOW ON SALE and can be purchased by calling 615-966-HERD (4373) or by going to the online ticket link at LipscombTickets.com. Reserved seating is $175 per person or you can purchase general admission season tickets for $100.
Season ticket holders will get priority access to postseason play and a Lipscomb decal featuring your home state among other benefits. Now is the time to lock in your seats for the 2018-19 men’s basketball season.