NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - New conference. Same rigorous examination. Belmont University men's basketball head coach Rick Byrd released the program's 2012-13 schedule Thursday.
In their inaugural Ohio Valley Conference season, the Bruins will again challenge themselves against the nation's best. The slate features 13 games against postseason teams from a year ago, teams who collectively won 16 postseason games. And based on the final 2012 NCAA RPI, Belmont is scheduled to face seven Top 70 opponents.
"This season's schedule appears to be the most challenging in Division I history," Byrd said. "We look forward to several high-profile road trips, as well as welcoming a number of successful and proven programs to the Curb Event Center. And it goes without saying that our program is excited about our first season in the OVC."
The regular season opens Nov. 9 at Lipscomb. Conference foes for the past nine years and NAIA national powers prior, the Bruins and Bisons have agreed to continue their rivalry in the non-conference. 'The Battle of the Boulevard' series was ranked as the premier non-BCS rivalry in college basketball by ESPN.com in 2012.
Belmont opens its 13-game home schedule Nov. 13 against Maryville (Mo.).
From there, the Bruins embark upon a west coast odyssey, beginning Nov. 18 at Stanford. The Cardinal won 26 games a year ago, including the 2012 Postseason NIT. The last time Belmont saw Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins, he was in his penultimate game on the Duke sidelines; as the Bruins and Blue Devils played a memorable game in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
Following the visit to the Bay Area, Belmont will head to 'The Last Frontier' of Alaska as a participant in the 2012 Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout. The Bruins will play host Alaska Anchorage Nov. 21 (Alaska time), before facing either Northeastern or UC Riverside Nov. 23. Charlotte, Loyola Marymount, Oral Roberts and Texas State round out the field.
Upon return to the mainland, Belmont will face another perennial headliner in VCU Dec. 1. The Rams, who won 29 games and the Colonial Athletic Association championship last year after reaching the 2011 Final Four, return a core nucleus in their first season in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Lipscomb returns to the Curb Event Center Dec. 4 in what promises to be another highly-anticipated event in the Nashville sports landscape.
Following semester exams, Belmont hosts area rival Middle Tennessee State Dec. 13. The Blue Raiders claimed the 2012 Sun Belt Conference regular season title and earned two victories in the Postseason NIT en route to a final record of 27-7. Belmont and MTSU have played several heart-stopping games in recent years, and this year's edition should be no different.
Then comes another storied program to the Bruins' front burner; Belmont travels to historic Allen Fieldhouse to face Kansas Dec. 15. Led by venerable head coach Bill Self, the three-time National Champion Jayhawks are the reigning NCAA National Runner-Up. As fate would have it, Belmont's five seniors have played at Allen Fieldhouse once before, as the Bruins took on the then-top ranked Jayhawks Dec, 29, 2009.
Belmont returns home Dec. 19 to square off against another NCAA Tournament team, South Dakota State. The reigning Summit League champion Jackrabbits went 27-8 last season and boast one of the nation's top returning players in guard Nate Wolters.
Pre-conference play concludes with two games in the UCF Holiday Classic Dec. 28-29. The Bruins will open with Boston University, before facing either the host Knights or Howard. UCF won 22 games a year ago and received an invitation to the Postseason NIT.
Belmont's first OVC game will be Jan. 3 at Jacksonville State. Following a visit to Tennessee Tech, the Bruins open a four-game conference homestand Jan. 10 vs. Southeast Missouri State.
A four-game February road swing begins Feb. 7 at defending OVC champion Murray State.
Belmont will close regular season play with three consecutive home games, including an ESPN Bracketbuster contest Feb. 23. The Bruins will not learn of their opponent until late January.
For the 2012-13 season, the OVC has adopted divisional play and a 16-game conference regular season. Belmont will play in the OVC East, facing Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, Morehead State, Tennessee State, and Tennessee Tech home and away. The Bruins will play OVC West schools Austin Peay, Eastern Illinois, Murray State, Southeast Missouri State, SIU Edwardsville and UT Martin once during the regular season.
The 2013 OVC Basketball Championship will take place Mar. 6-9 at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. The top two teams in the regular season standings will earn byes into the semifinals, with the third and fourth seeds earning byes to the quarterfinal round.
Belmont went 27-8 in 2011-12, and is one of only three programs in the nation to earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament five of the last seven years.
A complete schedule of televised games, and games with live video streaming on the OVC Digital Network will be released in the coming weeks.
For a tenth straight season, the live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network.
For information on purchasing season tickets, contact the Curb Event Center Box Office at (615) 460-BALL or visit www.belmontbruins.com.