Head Coach Casey Alexander and the Stetson men's basketball coaching staff announced the team's 2012-13 schedule on Monday. A challenging slate highlighted by seven opponents that saw postseason action after the conference tournaments last year, including NCAA Tournament Third Round competitors USF and VCU, the Hatters will use the stiff competition to prepare for a postseason run of their own this March.
"This year's schedule will be a challenge, yet it also presents some great opportunities for our team," Alexander said. "The objective is to accept the challenge and use these 29 regular season games as preparation for a successful postseason run in March."
Stetson begins the year on the road at Miami on November 9. The Hurricanes finished 20-13 a year ago, advanced to the Second Round of the NIT, and had big wins over #15 Florida State and #5 Duke. Stetson returns to action against Miami after last season halted a streak of eight straight seasons of playing the Hurricanes.
A trio of home contests against Florida A&M (Nov. 13), Southeastern (Nov. 19), and USF (Nov. 26) will be next up for Stetson. The Hatters defeated Florida A&M last season, and the Rattlers went on to be eliminated by soon-to-be Cinderella Norfolk State in the MEAC Semifinals later in the 2011-12 campaign. Southeastern went 19-14 in NAIA competition last season, finishing the year with a run in the National Christian Colleges Athletic Association (NCCAA) South Region Tournament.
USF of the Big East Conference will be traveling to DeLand to take on the Hatters this season, the first game between the two teams since 2007. After key wins over #24 Seton Hall and #18 Louisville during the 2011-12 regular season, the Bulls advanced to the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament, eventually falling to Ohio.
"I have to say how grateful I am to Stan Heath for bringing his Big East team to the Edmund Center," Alexander said. "Home and home scheduling against a BCS opponent is difficult to accomplish, so I hope Hatter fans will make the most of our opportunity to host USF."
The road doesn't get much easier after that, as Stetson hits the road to play at another NCAA Tournament team from a year ago, Virginia Commonwealth. Following a majestic Final Four run in 2011, last year's Rams won the CAA Championship, and upset #5 Wichita State to advance to the Third Round of the NCAA Championships. The November 28 game will mark the first meeting between these two programs.
An away tilt at Bethune-Cookman (Dec. 3) and a pair of home games against Florida Atlantic (Dec. 6) and Florida International (Dec. 9) are next on the schedule before the Hatters head back to Virginia to play at Richmond on December 15. The Spiders, who were the A-10 champs and advanced to the NCAA Third Round in 2011, haven't squared off against Stetson since 1982.
Games at Florida Atlantic (Dec. 18) and UCF (Dec. 21) close out the non-conference schedule, before the Hatters open up Atlantic Sun Conference play at Mercer on New Year's Eve. The 2012 CollegeInsider.com Tournament Champions will make a return trip to DeLand, ending the regular season on March 2.
The regular slate of conference action is on tap with mainly Thursday and Saturday contests in 2012-13. Belmont left the league for the Ohio Valley Conference, while Northern Kentucky joined the A-Sun for its first season of Division I play. Stetson will play away and home games against all nine A-Sun opponents (Mercer, UNF, Jacksonville, NKU, Lipscomb, USC Upstate, ETSU, FGCU, and Kennesaw State).
"Even with Belmont's departure to the OVC, I expect our conference to be as strong as it has ever been," Alexander said. "With so many teams returning a large percentage of their roster, we can expect a real battle in the conference race. Our objective is to take the next step for our program and align ourselves with the best in the league."