ANDERSON, S.C. – Anderson University third-year head men's basketball coach Jeff Brookman has released the Trojans' 2017-18 schedule, which features seven games against four opponents that made an appearance in last season's NCAA Division II Tournament.
With nine letterwinners, including eight upperclassmen on the roster, Brookman's squad will open at home for the first time since the 2012-13 campaign, when the Trojans began the season by playing host to archrival Erskine at the Abney Athletic Center. The 28-game slate is evenly balanced, featuring 14 road contests and 14 games on the Abney Center hardwood. In addition to the grueling 20-game South Atlantic Conference schedule, the Trojans will square off against seven nonconference opponents.
Anderson's first three games and four of the Trojans' first five contests are in the Electric City, with AU opening the campaign in a conference challenge for the fifth consecutive season and seventh time in the last eight years. AU has participated in either a SAC-Conference Carolinas' Challenge or a SAC-Peach Belt Challenge since the 2010-11 season. This season marks the first time AU will host a four-team inter-conference challenge and the format includes Southern Wesleyan from the Conference Carolinas, along with Lander from the Peach Belt and fellow SAC-member Carson-Newman.
Following the opening contest of the Conference Challenge that features a matchup between Carson-Newman and Lander on Friday, Nov. 10, at the Abney Center, the Trojans will face Southern Wesleyan in the nightcap. Less than 24 hours later, Carson-Newman will square off against Southern Wesleyan at 1 p.m., with the Black and Gold wrapping up the two-day event by playing host to Lander at 3 p.m.
"We are excited to be able to host a conference challenge," said Brookman. "All three conferences within our region will be represented and Southern Wesleyan and Lander will be good competition for us early in the season."
Southern Wesleyan knocked off Brevard, Erskine and North Greenville last season, while Lander posted a 12-18 overall mark and went 8-11 in Peach Belt Conference action. The Trojans have won two straight over the Warriors, with last year's matchup marking the first matchup since the 2010-11 campaign. The two teams squared off six times between 1995 and 1998, when both squads were members of the NAIA, with Southern Wesleyan winning all six meetings. The series remained dormant for 12 seasons until the two teams met on Dec. 2, 2010 at the Abney Center, with AU claiming a 99-88 victory.
After dropping four of the previous five decisions, the Trojans will be looking for their third straight win over Lander after edging the Bearcats, 61-60, during the 2013 SAC-PBC Challenge at Augusta and knocking off LU, 93-84, at the Abney Center during the 2009-10 season.
"Our nonconference schedule should be demanding once again," added Brookman. "Limestone and USC Aiken return games to us and both teams should once again compete for conference titles in their respective conferences."
AU remains at home for a Nov. 15 contest against Limestone following a season that saw the Saints go 27-6 overall and share the top spot in the Conference Carolinas with a 17-3 record. Limestone advanced to the second round of the NCAA Southeast Regional for the first time in school history before falling to Queens on the Royals' home court in Charlotte.
The Trojans open their road slate three days later versus longtime rival Erskine, with AU looking for its seventh victory in 10 matchups with the Flying Fleet. Erskine posted 10 wins last season and saw its season come to a close with a two-point road loss to Pfeiffer in the opening round of the Conference Carolinas Tournament.
The Black and Gold returns to the Electric City for a brief one-game homestand when USC Aiken invades the Abney Center on Nov. 21 for the first time since the 1996-97 campaign. The Trojans and Pacers are meeting for the second consecutive season after the series lapsed for a decade. The two programs have met just six times on the hardwood, with USC Aiken leading the overall series, 5-1, on the strength of winning the first three meetings. The Pacers posted an 18-9 record a year ago, while falling to Columbus State in the first round of the PBC Tournament.
Following a week-long break for Thanksgiving, Anderson opens its longest road swing of the campaign by traveling to Johnson C. Smith for the first time in school history on Nov. 28 and visiting Southern Wesleyan two days later. The Trojans open their South Atlantic Conference schedule by squaring off against Lenoir-Rhyne in Hickory, N.C., on Dec. 2. The Bears will be looking to bounce back from an uncharacteristic 10-17 record a year ago.
"Once again, the South Atlantic Conference will be one of the best D-II basketball conferences in the country," noted Brookman. "Most teams have a good nucleus of guys returning and those that have lost several players have reloaded. If you want to get into the top three or four in the standings you will have to play great basketball on a nightly basis."
Carson-Newman returns to the Abney Center hardwood for the third time in less than five weeks when the Trojans open their longest homestand of the season with the Eagles. Led by the SAC Player of the Year, Charles Clark, C-N went 19-11 last season and narrowly missed out on capturing an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Queens, with 12 returning letterwinners, including four starters, will be looking for its eighth consecutive win over the Trojans after a stellar season a year ago. The Royals won the 2017 SAC Tournament after sharing the regular-season title with Lincoln Memorial and posted their best record in school history by going 30-4 overall en route to their first-ever appearance in the NCAA's Sweet Sixteen. The high-powered Newberry offense is next up for the Trojans, as the Wolves invade the Abney Center on Dec. 13 after notching 18 victories last season.
AU equals its longest road swing by closing out the month of December with three straight contests, beginning with Catawba in Salisbury, N.C., on Dec. 16 and following a two-week break for Christmas, the Trojans renew an old Conference Carolinas' rivalry by squaring off against Lees-McRae in the Tar Heel State. The Black and Gold open the New Year with a daunting challenge, as AU visits Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 3. The Railsplitters have either won or shared the regular season conference title for the last five seasons and six of the last seven – the Trojans were the last team other than LMU to outright claim sole possession of the league's championship – in 2012.
The Trojans return to the Electric City to play host to Wingate (Jan. 6) and Mars Hill (Jan. 10) in a brief two-game homestand, with the Bulldogs looking for their third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and 12th overall in 2017-18.
AU wraps up the first half of the league's double round-robin schedule by traveling to Coker (Jan. 13) and Tusculum (Jan. 17), then opens the second half of the SAC schedule by traveling to Lenoir-Rhyne (Jan. 20), while playing five of its final nine regular-season contests on the road.
The 2018 South Atlantic Conference Tournament will feature the top eight teams in the league squaring off on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the home sites of the four top seeds, with the tournament semifinals and championship slated to be held on Saturday and Sunday, March 3-4, at Timmons Arena in Greenville, S.C. for the seventh consecutive season.