Go east, young men.
Eastern Washington University’s men’s basketball team will play some high-profile teams on the East Coast next season, according to the schedule released Wednesday.
A 31-game schedule includes Christmas holiday games at Seton Hall (Dec. 21) and three-time NCAA champion Connecticut (Dec. 28), as well as an early-season test at Washington on Nov. 17.
“The East Coast trip jumps out at you – it is an excellent opportunity for our guys to see a different part of the country and to experience playing against one of the nation’s elite programs,” Eastern head coach Jim Hayford said. “I know the guys are looking forward to that trip.”
Hayford’s third season at Eastern will begin with a home game on Nov. 10 against Division III Pacific – the first of 14 this season at Reese Court. A 20-game Big Sky Conference schedule will begin Jan. 2 at Weber State. Home conference play opens Jan. 9 against two-time regular-season and tournament champion Montana.
“I think the Big Sky Conference is going to be more difficult – there are many teams returning solid rosters,” Hayford said. “We have a very challenging preseason that will prepare us for a great conference season.”
Eastern’s preseason also includes home games against Walla Walla (Nov. 19), Seattle (Nov. 29) and UC Irvine (Dec. 15).
Home games will begin at 6:05 p.m. Pacific for weekday games and Sunday games will start at 2:05. Times for four Saturday games have yet to be announced.
In all, Eastern’s 2013-14 schedule includes 10 games against six schools that participated in national postseason tournaments a year ago. Two appeared in the NCAA tournament – Saint Mary’s (Dec. 8 on the road) and Montana.
The Eagles finished the 2012-13 season with a 10-21 record overall and 7-13 mark in league games.
Eastern will return starting experience at all five positions next season, and Hayford hopes that will translate to winning more of the close games it lost in the 2012-13 season. Nine of EWU’s losses were one-possession games with less than 4 minutes remaining, and the Eagles finished 6-10 in games decided by 10 points or less.