ANDERSON, S.C. – Anderson University head men's basketball coach Jeff Brookman has released the Trojans' 2018-19 schedule, which features six games against three opponents that made an appearance in last season's NCAA Division II Tournament.
Brookman's squad will open on the road for the eighth time in 11 seasons, as the fourth-year head coach will be looking to blend a roster that will feature seven returning letterwinners, including its top three scorers from last season, along with eight newcomers.
The 28-game slate is nearly evenly balanced, featuring 14 games in the friendly confines of the Abney Athletic Center, 13 true road contests and one game at a neutral site. In addition to the arduous 20-game South Atlantic Conference schedule, the Trojans will square off against six familiar foes from Conference Carolinas and one opponent each from the Peach Belt Conference (Lander) and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (Johnson C. Smith).
After opening with three games on the road, including two contests in the Conference Challenge hosted by Southern Wesleyan, Anderson plays eight of its next nine contests in the Electric City, with a pair of four-game homestands highlighting the home slate in November and December.
"If we can defend our home court a little better than we have in the last few years it sets up pretty good for us," said Brookman. "We need to do a better job in our nonconference games and home games. We need to win our home games if we want to make any noise."
AU opens the season in a conference challenge for the sixth consecutive year and eighth time in the last nine years. The Trojans have participated in a season-opening SAC-Conference Carolinas' Challenge or a SAC-Peach Belt Challenge in seven of the last eight years since joining the South Atlantic Conference for the 2010-11 campaign and this season will be no different.
Last season marked the first time AU hosted a four-team inter-conference challenge and the Trojans will open this season with the same format and teams as a year ago – Lander from the Peach Belt, along with fellow SAC-member Carson-Newman and Southern Wesleyan.
Despite being separated by just 40 miles, Anderson and Lander have met just 13 times on the hardwood, with this year's season-opener (Nov. 9) marking the third meeting in the last five years. The Bearcats finished last season with an 11-17 overall record and was unable to earn a trip to the postseason, with AU looking for its third win in four meetings with LU.
Less than 24 hours later, the Trojans will square off against first-year head coach Nick Pasqua and the host Warriors at Historic Tysinger Gymnasium. AU has won four straight over the Warriors, including a pair of victories last season. 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.
"It's an easy trip up to Central so that's a bonus," added Brookman. "Last year we split with these same two teams, so it should be good competition. Southern Wesleyan has a new coach that came over from Tusculum and he'll do a good job. Lander is always competitive. We are looking forward to two tough games."
Up next for the Trojans is a visit to Gaffney, S.C., and a matchup with Limestone (Nov. 14), which finished an uncharacteristic sixth in Conference Carolinas a year ago with an overall mark of 13-16, but finished in the top five in the league in shooting percentage, rebounds per game and blocks per game.
The Trojans open their home slate two days later versus longtime rival Erskine, with AU looking for its seventh victory in 11 matchups with the Flying Fleet.
Erskine posted a dozen victories last season and saw its season come to a close with an eight-point road loss to Lees-McRae in the opening round of the Conference Carolinas Tournament. The Black and Gold remains in the Electric City for the remainder of the four-game stretch, with the Trojans opening the Thanksgiving Holiday by squaring off against North Greenville for the first time since the 2012-13 campaign. AU holds an 8-3 advantage in the overall series and has won six straight decisions over the Crusaders dating back to the 2007-08 season. Like their conference counterpart, the Crusaders wrapped up last year with a 12-win season.
Following a five-day break, Anderson plays host to Johnson C. Smith for the first time in school history on Nov. 26 and opens its South Atlantic Conference schedule by squaring off against Tusculum and first-year head coach J.T. Burton in the Abney Center on Nov. 28. The Trojans swept last year's season series with Tusculum and have claimed victories in 14 of the last 17 matchups, with the Pioneers looking to bounce back from an atypical 6-21 record a year ago.
After wrapping up the homestand, the Trojans face the unenviable challenge of back-to-back contests against a pair of teams that were each ranked No. 1 in the nation for part of last season. AU travels to Charlotte on Dec. 1 for a matchup with defending NCAA Southeast Region Champion Queens. The Royals will be looking to replace four starters from their record-setting 32-4 season a year ago and making their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament Semifinals, while winning 20+ games for the third consecutive year.
Following a 10-day layoff, AU opens its second four-game homestand of the season when defending SAC Tournament Champion Lincoln Memorial invades the Abney Center on Dec. 12. The Railplitters finished 32-2 last season and fell just short in their bid for a third straight NCAA Southeast Region title when they dropped a 69-57 decision to Queens in the championship title matchup. The Railsplitters have either won or shared the regular season conference title for the last six seasons and seven of the last eight – the Trojans were the last team other than LMU to claim outright sole possession of the league's championship – in 2012.
The Trojans play host to Lenoir-Rhyne (Dec. 15), Southern Wesleyan (Dec. 19) and following a 10-day break for Christmas, AU continues an old Conference Carolinas rivalry and closes out its nonconference slate by playing host to Lees-McRae on Dec. 30. The Bobcats, who return the Conference Carolinas Freshman of the Year (Quay Kimble) are looking to replace 10 seniors from last year's squad. LMC is yet another foe that is coming off a record-breaking season, as the Bobcats won a school-record 23 games on its way to its first Conference Carolinas Tournament Championship and its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
AU begins the New Year with its longest road swing of the season by traveling to Wingate (Jan. 2), with the Bulldogs looking for their third appearance in the NCAA Tournament in four years and 12th overall. The Trojans visit Coker (Jan. 5) and Carson-Newman (Jan. 9), before concluding the road swing at Newberry (Jan. 12). The Cobras went 12-17 last season, while Carson-Newman posted a 23-8 mark and made its third appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last five years last season. Newberry notched a winning record at 15-14 last season and its high-powered offense will be fueled in part by returning SAC Freshman of the Year, Max Miller.
AU will then have a six-day layoff before wrapping up the first half of its double-round robin conference schedule with a two-game homestand. Catawba visits the Electric City, Jan. 19, before AU welcomes Mars Hill on Jan. 23. The Trojans open the second half of their SAC schedule by playing host to Queens (Jan. 26), while playing five of its final nine regular-season contests on the road.
"Both Lincoln Memorial and Queens had tremendous years," noted Brookman. "And I expect more of the same going into this year. Both teams lost some pieces, but at the same time they had really good players coming off the bench. And both coaching staffs do a great job of recruiting. I'm sure they'll reload. The rest of the conference will be tough, too. From bottom to top, there is no easy win. You can't relax and take a night off against any team in the conference. It's going to be challenging again. Hopefully we can take that next step. We'll have to play well every night."
The 2019 South Atlantic Conference Tournament will feature the top eight teams in the league squaring off on Wednesday, March 6 at the home sites of the four top seeds, with the tournament semifinals and championship slated to be held on Saturday and Sunday, March 9-10, at Timmons Arena in Greenville, S.C. for the eighth consecutive season.