Tusculum to face challenging 2017-18 schedule

Tusculum to face challenging 2017-18 schedule

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum women's basketball team is preparing to open a 2017-18 schedule that features 26 regular-season games and three exhibitions, beginning Tuesday, Oct. 31 at Appalachian State. 2017-18 Schedule

The Pioneers will play 20 South Atlantic Conference games in an 11-team league this season following the departure of Brevard from the conference at the end of last season. Tusculum went 6-20 overall last year and tied for eighth place in the league standings with a 5-17 record, missing out on a spot in the SAC Championship tournament via tiebreaker.

Head coach Devan Carter begins his third season with the Pioneers with three starters back from last year's team, including honorable mention All-SAC performer Kasey Johnson, who averaged team highs of 15.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season.

A total of 16 of the Pioneers' 26 games will be against teams that finished with winning records last season, including three games against conference tournament champions, six games against conference tournament finalists and five games against teams that qualified for the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Pioneers will also play 14 of their 26 games at Pioneer Arena, including four of their six non-conference contests.

The Pioneers tip off their season on Tuesday, Oct. 31 with an exhibition game at Appalachian State. The Mountaineers finished 12-19 overall last season and 6-12 in the Sun Belt, losing to Little Rock in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament.

Tusculum will play a second exhibition game on Sunday, Nov. 5 at Tennessee Tech. The Golden Eagles were 10-20 last season and 7-9 in the Ohio Valley Conference, losing to SIU Edwardsville in the opening round of the league tournament.

The Pioneers open the regular season by hosting the SAC/Conference Carolinas Challenge at Pioneer Arena on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 10 and 11. Tusculum plays Converse in its season opener on Nov. 10. The Valkyries were 5-21 overall last season and 4-18 in Conference Carolinas, tied for 10th place in the league with Southern Wesleyan and Lees-McRae. Tusculum is 7-1 all-time against Converse, with the last meeting a Pioneer win at home in the 2008-09 season opener.

On Nov. 11 the Pioneers will host King in the second half of the SAC/Conference Carolinas Challenge. The Tornado went 25-7 overall last season and finished in second place in the conference with a 19-3 record, before winning the tournament championship over top-seeded Limestone. King advanced to the NCAA Tournament before falling to Wingate in the opening game of the regionals. It is the fourth straight year the teams have met in the Challenge, with the Tornado winning at home in the season opener last year to narrow the Pioneers' lead in the all-time series to 17-11.

Tusculum will continue non-conference play against Conference Carolinas schools with back-to-back games against Belmont Abbey on Thursday, Nov. 16 and North Greenville on Friday, Nov. 17 at Pioneer Arena. Belmont Abbey was 11-17 overall last season and 9-13 in the league for an eighth -place finish, while North Greenville went 14-14 overall and placed sixth in Conference Carolinas at 11-11. The Pioneers have never played Belmont Abbey, and lead the series with North Greenville 9-2 despite the Crusaders' win at home last season.

The Pioneers will bookend Thanksgiving with a pair of road trips, the first on Wednesday, Nov. 22 at Virginia State. The Trojans finished 22-8 last season and went 11-5 in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, advancing to the conference championship game before losing in the final to Johnson C. Smith. Tusculum won the only other meeting between the schools, on Dec. 29, 2007 on the road.

Tusculum closes out non-conference play on Saturday, Nov. 25 at Bluefield State. The Big Blues, who play an independent schedule, finished 1-25 last season with their only victory coming against Washington Adventist on Jan. 29. The Pioneers own a 16-3 advantage in the all-time series, with the last meeting a Tusculum win at home on Nov. 30, 2006.

Tusculum opens its conference schedule with three straight home games, beginning Wednesday, Nov. 29 against defending SAC champion Lincoln Memorial. The Railsplitters finished 28-5 overall last season and 19-3 in the conference, losing to Wingate in the SAC championship finals and Columbus State in the Southeast Region finals. LMU leads the all-time series 25-19, including season sweeps in each of the last two seasons.

The Pioneers host Queens on Saturday, Dec. 2 at Pioneer Arena. The Royals went just 5-23 last season and 5-17 in the conference, but swept the season series from the Pioneers including a 58-56 buzzer-beating win in the season finale to knock Tusculum out of the SAC tournament. The Pioneers lead the all-time series 8-3, including a 5-3 mark since the Royals joined the SAC for the 2013-14 season.

Tusculum closes out its home stand on Tuesday, Dec. 5 against Coker. The Cobras were 6-21 overall and tied for eighth place in the SAC with a 5-17 record, after being swept in the season series by the Pioneers a year ago. Tusculum beat Coker 59-50 at home and 60-55 on the road to boost its lead in the all-time series with the Cobras to 5-3.

Following the Coker game, the Pioneers will be on the road for the next five weeks, starting Saturday, Dec. 9 at Catawba. The Indians finished in seventh place in the SAC at 12-10 in the league and 16-13 overall, but defeated Anderson on the road to advance to the conference semifinals before losing to Wingate. Catawba defeated Tusculum twice last season to cut the Pioneers' lead in the all-time series to 22-20.

The Pioneers will play their final conference game of 2017 on Saturday, Dec. 16 at Wingate. The Bulldogs were the third seed in the SAC Championship tournament, but defeated Lenoir-Rhyne, Catawba and Lincoln Memorial to win its third tournament title in the last four years. Wingate leads the all-time series with Tusculum 28-12 after sweeping both meetings last season.

On Tuesday, Dec. 19 the Pioneers will play their third exhibition game of the season on the road at UNC Greensboro. The Spartans finished 20-15 last season and 7-7 in the Southern Conference, then advanced to the championship game of the Women's Basketball Invitational before losing to Rice.

Tusculum returns from winter break and opens the new year on the road Wednesday, Jan. 3 at Mars Hill. The Lions were part of the four-way tie for eighth place in the conference last year at 5-17, and finished 7-21 overall. Each team won on the other's home court last year, with the Pioneers earning a 68-58 victory at Mars Hill last January. The Lions have won five of the last six meetings with the Pioneers and are 25-21 in the all-time series.

The Pioneers close out their road stretch on Saturday, Jan. 6 at Lenoir-Rhyne. The Bears were sixth in the SAC last season at 13-9 and finished with a 17-12 overall record, including elimination by Wingate in the quarterfinal round of the SAC tournament. The Bears won both meetings from the Pioneers last season to take a 23-20 advantage in the all-time series, including three consecutive wins.

Tusculum wraps up the first half of the conference schedule with three consecutive home games, starting Wednesday, Jan. 10 against rival Carson-Newman. The Eagles took fourth place in the SAC at 16-6 last season and went 20-10 overall, defeating Newberry in the conference quarterfinals before being eliminated by Lincoln Memorial in the semifinals. Carson-Newman has won seven of the last eight meetings between the schools, including both last season, and leads the all-time series 30-15.

On Saturday, Jan. 13 Newberry pays its annual visit to Pioneer Arena. The Wolves were 14-8 in the conference and 18-9 overall last season, good for fifth place in the league and a quarterfinal-round loss on the road to Carson-Newman. Newberry has won seven straight meetings with Tusculum, including twice last season, and has cut the Pioneers' lead in the all-time series to 23-22.

The Pioneers close out the first half of conference play at home on Wednesday, Jan. 17 against Anderson. The Trojans were 18-4 last season in the conference and tied for second place with Wingatebut lost to Catawba in the league quarterfinals. Anderson earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and fell to Columbus State in the first round, finishing with a record of 21-7. The Trojans swept the Pioneers last season to extend their winning streak in the series to 12 in a row, while giving Anderson a 15-5 edge in the all-time series.

Tusculum begins the second half of the league schedule on Saturday, Jan. 20 with a visit to Queens, followed with a trip to Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday, Jan. 24. The Pioneers are back home for their third three-game home stand of the conference season, with games against Catawba on Saturday, Jan. 27, Wingate on Saturday, Feb. 3 and Mars Hill on Wednesday, Feb. 7.

The Pioneers play four of their final five games on the road, with trips to Coker on Saturday, Feb. 10 and Carson-Newman on Wednesday, Feb. 14 prior to Senior Day against Lenoir-Rhyne on Saturday, Feb. 17. Tusculum wraps up the regular season with games at Anderson on Wednesday, Feb. 21 and Newberry on Saturday, Feb. 24.

The top eight teams in the conference regular-season standings will qualify for the SAC Championship tournament. The quarterfinal round will be hosted by the top four seeds on Wednesday, Feb. 28 before action moves to Timmons Arena in Greenville, South Carolina for the semifinals on Saturday, March 3 and the championship game on Sunday, March 4. The conference tournament champion will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament, which begins on Friday, March 9.

The 2018 NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Elite Eight will be played at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota from March 20 to 23.