ANDERSON, S.C. – Second-year head men’s basketball coach Jeff Brookman has released the Trojans’ 2016-17 schedule, which features eight games against four South Atlantic Conference teams that made an appearance in last season’s NCAA Tournament.
The slate also includes an exhibition contest at the College of Charleston and the Black and Gold’s fourth consecutive appearance in the South Atlantic Conference – Peach Belt Conference Challenge.
Brookman and the Trojans will see six of their first eight games on the road, while opening the campaign away from home for the seventh time in eight seasons. The schedule features 16 road contests and 13 games inside the friendly confines of the Abney Athletic Center, with AU’s longest homestand coming as four pairs of SAC contests, while its longest road swing will also be two games (on seven occasions).
In addition to the grueling 22-game South Atlantic Conference agenda, the Trojans will square off against three teams from both the Peach Belt Conference and Conference Carolinas in addition to the Lowcountry exhibition against the Cougars.
“It’s a challenging schedule,” said Brookman. “We are mixing it up some and playing some different non-conference teams – teams that [Anderson] has played in the past but not in the last couple of years, which I like. [We play several non-conference schools that are close] so our travel will not be too bad. All of our non-conference games are in-region and I do like that.”
AU opens the campaign at the South Atlantic Conference-Peach Belt Conference Challenge for the fifth time in the last seven years and will square off against Clayton State in the first game of the SAC-PBC Challenge in Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 11 and will face Armstrong State a day later at Queens’ Levine Center in the two-day format. The Trojans are an even .500 with a 4-4 record in their four previous appearances in the Challenge.
Anderson is 1-1 versus Clayton State in the Challenge, as AU fell to the Lakers in the 2014-15 Challenge, hosted by Augusta, while edging Clayton State in the 2010-11 Challenge at Tusculum. The Lakers posted a 14-12 overall record a season ago and missed out on postseason play. The mid-November matchup will be just the second meeting in school history between the Trojans and Armstrong State. AU’s 81-69 win over the Pirates in last season’s Challenge hosted by Flagler gave Coach Brookman his first win at the helm of the program, with then-freshman Randall Shaw pouring in a career-high 31 points in his collegiate debut. Armstrong made its first appearance since the 2012-13 season in the PBC Tournament, while notching a 12-15 overall record a year ago.
“That will be another good one,” added Brookman. “Peach Belt teams are always strong. Clayton State and Armstrong are two very good teams. Queens has a great facility. I think it’ll be a great Conference Challenge.”
AU opens its home schedule when longtime rival Erskine invades the Abney Center for a mid-week showdown on Nov. 16. The Flying Fleet dropped their final five decisions last season and fell in the first round of the Conference Carolinas’ Tournament, while finishing with a 12-15 overall mark. The Black and Gold then hits the road for a pair of contests, beginning at Limestone on Nov. 19 and concluding with a conference-opening contest at Mars Hill three days later. This season marks the seventh campaign in the South Atlantic Conference for the Trojans, with AU posting a 73-57 (.562) league mark since the 2010-11 season.
Following the conference opener, AU faces in-state opponents Southern Wesleyan and USC Aiken. SWU, which has completed its transition to full membership status in NCAA Division II, will be eligible for Conference Carolinas and NCAA postseason competition in 2016-17 after knocking off Brevard and Belmont Abbey last year.
“Erskine will always be a hard-fought competitive game,” said Brookman. “We are longtime rivals with a Beville Cup point on the line. We’ll have a great crowd and it’ll be a good challenge. Limestone is going to be reloaded and has added some good pieces. They’ll be much improved. “Southern Wesleyan is just up the road, but we haven’t really played them. The game will be a regional matchup, which is good.”
The Trojans face USC Aiken in their final regular-season nonconference game, then open the month of December by re-entering SAC action against a formidable opponent – Queens. The Royals notched a stellar 25-7 overall record last season, with three of their losses coming at the hands of Lincoln Memorial and finished second in the conference standings behind LMU with a 17-5 mark. QUC’s final setback of the season was on the road to the Railsplitters in the second round of the NCAA’s Southeast Region Tournament.
Next up for the Trojans is a matchup with Newberry, which went 18-12 a year ago and made its third consecutive appearance in the SAC Tournament semifinals before falling to LMU. Less than a day later, AU will square off against the College of Charleston at North Charleston Coliseum for the first time since stunning the Cougars, 65-49 in an exhibition contest in the ninth game of the 2012-13 season. The contest will be an exhibition for the Black and Gold, but will count for the NCAA Division I Cougars. CofC finished 17-14 overall and 8-10 in the Colonial Athletic Association last season after falling to 66-64 to UNCW in the quarterfinals of the CAA tourney.
Anderson will visit first-year head coach Aric Samuel and Coker, who will be led by Honorable Mention All-SAC honoree Donte Samuels on Dec. 14. The Cobras tied for ninth place, alongside the Trojans with 5-17 conference record last season. Catawba travels to the Electric City on Dec. 17, with Tusculum visiting the Abney Center to close out the calendar year on Dec. 20. Following a two-week break for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, the Trojans open the New Year with a brief visit to Brevard for the final time as SAC opponents, as the Tornados will be transitioning to D-III following the 2016-17 academic year.
AU closes out the first half of the SAC’s double-round robin slate with a challenging four-game stretch that includes three opponents that advanced to the 2016 NCAA Tournament, as Lenoir-Rhyne and first-year head coach Everick Sullivan invade the Abney Center on Jan. 7. The Bears finished fourth in the conference last season and concluded the campaign with a 21-10 overall mark after falling to Lincoln Memorial in the finals of the NCAA Southeast Region tourney in Harrogate, Tenn.
Four days later, LMU (34-3, 22-0 SAC) follows the Bears to the Electric City looking for its sixth consecutive win past the Trojans. The Railsplitters posted the first undefeated conference season in league history a year ago en route to an appearance in the national championship contest before falling to Augustana in the title bout.
The Trojans travel to Wingate (23-10, 16-6 SAC) in mid-January. Last season saw the Bulldogs defeat Montevallo in first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament before falling to fellow SAC-member Lenoir-Rhyne. AU closes the first half of the league’s double round-robin slate by visiting Carson-Newman (Jan. 18), which posted a 16-13 record last season after falling at Wingate in the opening round of the SAC Tournament.
The Trojans begin the second half with a two-game homestand, as the Black and Gold welcomes Queens (Jan. 21) and Mars Hill (Jan. 25) to the Abney Center, while AU plays six of its final 11 contests in the Electric City.
“The top four or five schools in the conference will be just as strong as they were last season,” added Brookman. “Hopefully no one runs away with it like Lincoln Memorial did last year. They had a great season. Wingate will be right there and Catawba will be much improved. Queens has reloaded and will be right there at the top. Those four or five teams will be really good again this year. I’m not sure our conference will be as strong top to bottom as last season, but it will still be really good.”
The 2017 South Atlantic Conference Tournament will feature the top eight teams in the league squaring off on Wednesday, March 1 at the home sites of the four top seeds, with the tournament semifinals and championship slated to be held on Saturday and Sunday, March 4-5, at Timmons Arena in Greenville, S.C. for the fifth consecutive season.