Winthrop released its 2014-15 men’s basketball schedule Friday.
Clemson, Maryland and Auburn are the marquee names on the Eagles’ schedule, while Pat Kelsey’s team will play a revamped Big South schedule that increases from 16 conference games to 18.
“The Big South going to 18 games is a major change,” said Kelsey. “The intensity of conference games are magnified and every single one is a battle. This year especially with so many good teams from top to bottom. Our league is very good, in my opinion, and underrated.”
Winthrop is coming off a 20-win season and a trip to the Big South championship game in 2013-2014. The Eagles finished the regular season one game out of first place in the South Division.
With VMI departing for the Southern Conference, the Big South drops to 11 teams. The Eagles play every conference foe home and away except for rival Coastal Carolina and Charleston Southern. Winthrop faces the Chanticleers on their home deck in Conway Jan. 28, before hosting the Bucs on Feb. 2.
Winthrop’s first big test of the season arrives early when the Eagles take on Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum Nov. 17. Kelsey’s bunch faces MEAC squad Savannah State twice in the nonconference, as well as East Tennessee State, which the Eagles beat last season. Winthrop travels to College Park, Md., to take on the Terrapins on Dec. 6, before a road game against Auburn on Dec. 17. This is the first game against Clemson since 2011-12, the first against the Terrapins since 2006-07 when they were No. 24 in the nation and the second time in three years that Winthrop will face Auburn.
The schedule features four nonconference contests prior to the end of the semester so students can get a good glimpse of the 2014-15 Eagles before conference play. The four games begin with Pfeiffer and include East Tennessee State (Nov. 24), Savannah State (Dec. 1) and Mars Hill (Dec. 9).
“I love that our students will get to see us play four times prior to Christmas break,” said Kelsey. “They made a major statement last year and became a major factor at home games. The Rock Hill community was huge as well. No longer is it, ‘hey, let’s go play Winthrop, grab some barbecue and play some cards on the bus driving back.’ Credit our fans and students as the coliseum is now an advantage for us.”
The Big South decided to get back to its 18-game conference schedule as the Eagles will begin league play on Dec. 31 when they host Longwood. Winthrop will follow that with another home game against High Point (Jan. 3). Following the first two conference games at home the Eagles will embark on a stretch of six-of-eight games on the road before closing out the final eight games of the season with five home contests.
That stretch of road games begins with three straight at Presbyterian College (Jan. 8), Gardner-Webb (Jan. 10), and UNC Asheville (Jan. 14). All home games and conference road games will be broadcast on the Big South Conference Network, available free of charge. Remaining game times as well as the television schedule will be released at a later date.