NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The Stephen F. Austin men's basketball team has unveiled its 2016-17 schedule which features 30 regular season games and one exhibition tilt for the four-time defending Southland Conference champions. Of those 31 total contests, no fewer than 18 will be available for viewing on the ESPN family of networks.
"We feel that we have put together one of the most challenging non-conference schedules in the history of Stephen F. Austin basketball," said head coach Kyle Keller. "It gives us multiple opportunities to meet top competition from around the nation and gives us the chance to further the visibility of SFA on a national level. Being a part of so many nationally televised contests will enrich the tremendous brand of SFA."
Through its 12 non-league tilts, the 'Jacks will face off against no fewer than two NCAA Tournament participants from the 2015-16 season and depending on how the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic shakes out up to one-third of SFA's non-conference schedule could be against 2015-16 NCAA Tournament teams.
In total, seven of Stephen F. Austin's NCAA Division I opponents on its non-conference slate engaged in postseason roundball activity one season ago.
Fans will get their first chance to take a look at the 'Jacks' 2016-17 squad on Friday, Nov. 4, when SFA sets up shop in William R. Johnson Coliseum to host Huston-Tilltson in an exhibition bout at 6:30 p.m. as part of SFA's homecoming weekend.
From there, a road trip to one of college basketball's most historic arenas is on the docket as the 'Jacks travel to Lexington, Ken., to do battle with the University of Kentucky on Friday, Nov. 11. One season ago, the 'Cats (27-9) captured a share of the SEC title, advanced to the SEC Tournament title bout and were one of the last 32 teams standing in the NCAA Tournament field of 64.
Just four days later, the 'Jacks will feel the eyes of the nation upon them once again. For the third-straight season, Stephen F. Austin will be one of the teams featured on the ESPN's ninth-annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon and will play host to Big South institution Longwood at 11:00 a.m. in William R. Johnson Coliseum. That battle will be televised on ESPN2.
NCAA Division II opponent Northeastern State pays a visit to William R. Johnson Coliseum on Friday, Nov. 18, before SFA hits the road as the calendar transitions from November to December.
In Monroe, La., on Monday, Nov. 28, SFA enters Fant-Ewing Coliseum to take on Louisiana-Monroe - a 20-win team in 2015-16. The Warhawks produced an impressive 13-0 record at their home facility a season ago and made it to the second round of the Sun Belt Tournament before accepting an invitation to the CIT.
Following their time in the Pelican State, SFA prepares for the second of its two SEC adversaries as it heads to Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark., for a duel with Arkansas on Tuesday, Dec. 1. The Razorbacks posted a 12-5 showing in their home facility last season and fell to Florida in the opening round of the SEC Tournament.
Three of the 'Jacks' next four games will take place within the walls of William R. Johnson Coliseum beginning with a Saturday afternoon bout with Centenary College at 2:00 p.m. on December 3. Four days later, SFA gets a huge home test against UAB, who went undefeated at home last season en route to a 26-7 record and an NIT bid. That C-USA/Southland tussle will occur at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
A trip to Houston to confront Rice on Saturday, Dec. 10, marks the second piece of December road action for SFA. The Owls return each and every one of their five starters from the 2015-16 campaign, including Marcus Evans who captured C-USA Freshman of the Year and All-C-USA First Team acclaim at the conclusion of his first collegiate go-around.
The 'Jacks close out their home non-conference schedule by welcoming LSU-Shreveport to Nacogdoches for a 2:00 p.m. game on Sunday, December 18.
SFA's holiday plans have been set for some time, and following their battle with LSU-Shreveport the 'Jacks will cross three time zones and travel to Honolulu, Hawaii, to take part in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. All of the games in the classic will be televised on the ESPN family of networks and the field for the tournament is as strong as it has ever been. Four of the eight programs taking part in the event won 27 or more games in 2015-16.
First up for the 'Jacks in the Aloha State is a matchup with 2015 NCAA First Four participant Tulsa on Thursday, Dec. 22, at 3:30 p.m. SFA is ensured two more games in Hawaii with the second coming on Friday, Dec. 23 against either Southern Miss or San Diego State - a winner of 28 games and an NIT semifinalist in 2015-16.
On Christmas Day, SFA will draw San Diego, Illinois State, Hawaii or Utah depending on the 'Jacks results in the tournament as well as the results of each of the previously listed teams. Hawaii and Utah were NCAA Tournament teams last season.
Once their non-conference schedule is in the history books, the 'Jacks embark on their quest to capture an unprecedented fifth consecutive Southland Conference title by working their way through an 18-game slate of SLC showdowns. That schedule begins with a New Year's Eve skirmish with Houston Baptist in William R. Johnson Coliseum, winds through a road-heavy February and concludes with a two-game home stand in the month of March.
Directly after the calendar year comes to a close, SFA engages in its first conference road tests by traveling to McNeese on Monday, January 2 followed by a journey to Abilene Christian for a tip-off on Saturday, January 7.
Home games against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Wed., January 11) and Nicholls (Sat., January 14) will take place before the 'Jacks wrap up their January road schedule by heading to the site of their lone league setback in the past three seasons - Texas A&M-Corpus Christi - on Thursday, January 19 and Incarnate Word on Saturday, January 21. Stephen F. Austin closes out their eight-game schedule in the first month of 2017 by playing host to Central Arkansas (Wed., January 25) and New Orleans (Sat., January 28).
Almost as soon as they put the wraps on their first half of the league slate, SFA gets right back to work in enemy territory. Two of the Lumberjacks most hated Southland Conference adversaries will be waiting to pounce early on in the month of February when SFA takes a three-day rivalry road trip to Sam Houston State (Thurs., Feb. 2) and Northwestern State (Sat., Feb. 4).
There will be just two opportunities for fans to lay their eyes on the 'Jacks in William R. Johnson Coliseum in February and those will occur on Thursday, February 9 and Thursday, February 16 when SFA tangles with Incarnate Word and Lamar respectively. Much like what has transpired in years past, a grueling road trip will need to be undertaken in a portion of SFA's final five games of the regular season.
Beginning with a clash at Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday, Feb. 18, the 'Jacks will put almost 1,800 miles on their odometer over the course of three long-distance SLC road bouts. After their tussle with the Lions, the Lumberjacks make the trek to New Orleans for an encounter with the Privateers on Thursday, Feb. 23, before concluding their league road schedule at the Farris Center in Conway, Ark., where they confront Central Arkansas on Saturday, Feb. 25.
SFA will make its final push for a spot in the Southland Conference Tournament at home when the 'Jacks go head-to-head with Northwestern State (Thursday, March 2) before saving the best rivalry for last - a Saturday (March 4) engagement with Sam Houston State.