The Lees-McRae men’s basketball program has released their 2016-2017 schedule, announced head coach Steve Hardin Wednesday afternoon.
The Bobcats will participate in 33 contests, including a pair of exhibitions against Division I powerhouses.
Coach Hardin’s squad looks to build off of a record-breaking 2015-16 campaign that saw LMC win a school record 16 games and a school record 12 conference contests. The Bobcats dropped a heartbreaking quarterfinal contest as the No. 3 seed in the Conference Carolinas Men’s Basketball Championship to No. 6 Limestone, 75-74.
LMC opens competition against Division I foe Georgia Southern Nov. 3 in an exhibition contest. The Eagles return all of their key players, including Sunbelt Freshman of the Year, Tookie Brown. GSU was 10-4 at home last season.
After an eight-day layoff, the Bobcats will play Tusculum and Lincoln Memorial on Nov. 11 and 12, respectively, in the Conference Challenge in Greeneville, Tenn.
Tusculum defeated the Bobcats by a slim 78-75 margin to open the season. LMU is the NCAA Division II runner up after losing in the DII National Championship. The Railsplitters have won five consecutive South Atlantic Conference championships and was a perfect 18-0 last year while boasting a 34-3 record.
LMC continues its road-heavy November when it visits Winston-Salem State (Nov. 15), Queens (N.C.) (Nov. 17) and USC Aiken (Nov. 19).
WSSU is a constant force in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and has claimed multiple CIAA titles.
Queens (N.C.) will be no push over while winning 25 games last season. USC Aiken has signed 11 new players and has seven Division I transfers and will likely challenge for the Peach Belt title.
Hardin’s squad plays in front of the home crowd for the first time on Nov. 22 against CIAA challenger Johnson C. Smith.
The Bobcats open CC play with a trip to Emmanuel (Ga.) (Nov. 29). The Lions are former NCCAA National Champions.
“Our team is a great mix of seniors, juniors and freshmen. We start out of the gate in November as road warriors and play the toughest schedule in our programs history. Success is a journey not a destination,” said Hardin. “Our (FIRE) mentality is put to the test with this schedule we can see what we are made of. We must be committed to the process and stay the course if our team can do that then this year has the makings of something special.”
LMC will make the short trip to Johnson City, Tenn. to battle East Tennessee State (Dec. 1). ETSU won 24 games last season and lost in the championship game of the Southern Conference tournament and will likely be preseason No. 1 in the SoCon polls. Assistant coach Keith ‘Mister’ Jennings is a graduate of ETSU; where he was named SoCon Player of the Year in 1991.
LMC returns home for a pair of contests against Mount Olive (Dec. 3) and Virginia State (Dec. 5). UMO was in the DII Elite Eight two years ago and was ranked as high as No. 4 in the country.
VSU went 24-6 last season and won the CIAA.
The Bobcats will seek revenge at Limestone (Dec. 10) before travelling overnight to battle a tough Southern Indiana team (Dec. 11). SIU won 20 games last season and packed the stands with over 10,000 fans in last year’s contest.
Following the holiday season, LMC treks to Southern Wesleyan (Jan. 3) before playing four its next in the friendly confines of Williams Gymnasium.
The Bobcats conclude play in January with contests at Belmont Abbey (Jan. 27) and Pfeiffer (Jan. 28).
LMC will enjoy five consecutive contests to open play in February. Hardin and the coaching staff will host Senior Day Feb. 11 against Barton. BC has been a consistent top three team in the conference.
The Bobcats wrap up regular season home play against foe King (Tenn.) (Feb. 15).
The Tornado hoisted the CC crown last season.
The Bobcats finish the regular season with three road games. They play North Greenville (Feb. 18), Barton (Feb. 21) and King (Tenn.) (Feb. 24).
Postseason play begins with quarterfinals schedules for Feb. 28 while the semis and the final are slated for March 4 and 5.
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