Big South champ Eagles' schedule 'very competitive'

08/17/2010 12:00 AM

08/16/2010 11:04 PM

The 2010-11 Winthrop men's basketball schedule was announced on Monday by Eagles' coach Randy Peele. There are 14 home games, an appearance in the Preseason NIT and back-to-back road contests at Dayton and Kentucky.

Peele will begin his fourth year as head coach in November. He said he was pleased with the schedule and called it "very competitive."

Winthrop will face Dayton, last year's NIT Champion, for just the second time. The Flyers (25-12 in 2009-10) handed the Eagles a 76-49 loss early in the 1999-2000 season. Winthrop's only contest against Kentucky came in 2003, a 65-44 season-opening loss at Rupp Arena.

Kentucky made it to the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament last season and finished 35-3. Five players from that team - John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton - were chosen in the 2010 NBA draft. Darius Miller, a 6-foot-7 junior guard, is the only returning starter, but freshman guard Brandon Knight may be the best of another strong recruiting class.

A pair of non-conference games against Jacksonville and a yet-to-be-named ESPN BracketBusters opponent highlight the home schedule. Jacksonville University, 20-13 overall and 14-6 in the Atlantic Sun Conference last season, will come to town for a Dec. 12 game at the Winthrop Coliseum. The Dolphins advanced to the second round of the NIT.

The ESPN BracketBusters contest is set for Feb. 19.

Winthrop is the defending Big South Conference champion. The Eagles are coming off a 19-14 year and their ninth NCAA tournament appearance in the past 12 years. Winthrop is set to open the season at home with a Nov. 6 exhibition game against UNC Pembroke. That contest will mark the first of three home Saturday games during November. The Eagles will also face Queens University of Charlotte (Nov. 13) and Lander (Nov. 27).

Winthrop will travel to Winston-Salem, N.C., on Nov. 15 and 17 for the first and second rounds of the Preseason NIT. The three other teams at that location will include Virginia Commonwealth, Hampton and host Wake Forest. The team that wins two games in Winston-Salem will earn a trip to Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y., for the semifinals and finals on Nov. 24 and 26.

The Eagles will open Big South Conference action against VMI on Dec. 2 and Liberty on Dec. 4. Winthrop will travel up I-77 to meet Charlotte for a Dec. 7 game before returning home to host Jacksonville.

Winthrop will return to Big South play as they close out the old year on Dec. 31 with a New Year's Eve meeting with Presbyterian College in the first of three straight home league games. The Eagles will close out the regular season with three consecutive home games in late February before entering Big South Conference Championship Tournament play on March 1, 3 and 5.

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