ETSU releases men's basketball schedule

from staff reports

   East Tennessee State University head coach Murry Bartow released Tuesday the Buccaneers 2003-04 men's basketball schedule, a slate that includes several tough road games against non-conference opponents, a home contest against a 2003 NCAA Tournament participant, and a holiday tournament trip to Hawaii.
   All this is in addition to a challenging Southern Conference schedule that includes home games against rivals such as Appalachian State, Davidson and Chattanooga.
   "We're excited about the 2003-04 schedule," said Bartow, who is entering his first season at ETSU. "Overall, I think it offers our team a very challenging non-conference schedule that will prepare us for a tough conference season.
   "Anytime you make a schedule you want to balance it with challenging games both on the road and at home. I think this schedule provides that."
   The Bucs will open the season with back-to-back road games on a weekend swing through Texas. ETSU will begin the year at Houston (Friday, Nov. 21) and then play Texas Tech (Sunday, Nov. 23) in Lubbock.
   The game at Texas Tech will pit Bartow against a former coaching mate - NCAA legend Bob Knight. Bartow coached under Knight at Indiana in the late 1980s.
   "Obviously, we're going to test our team quickly with our first two games coming at schools from Conference USA (Houston) and the Big 12 Conference (Texas Tech)," Bartow said. "I think playing at Texas Tech should be exciting for our players because anytime you get the chance to go up against a quality team like Texas Tech and a Hall of Famer like Coach Knight it's special."
   After opening against two challenging non-conference opponents and playing their home opener against Mars Hill (Tuesday, Nov. 25), the Bucs will face another early season challenge when UNC-Wilmington (Saturday, Nov. 29) visits Johnson City.
   The Seahawks are coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2003, where they nearly upset defending national champion Maryland.
   In December, the Bucs will open their conference schedule with a single SoCon game at home against Georgia Southern (Saturday, Dec. 6), and will then go on the road to face Atlantic Coast Conference foe Clemson (Monday, Dec. 15) and Ohio Valley Conference rival Tennessee Tech (Wednesday, Dec. 17).
   The highlight of December, however, will be a trip to the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii, where the Bucs will play three games from Dec. 27-30.
   ETSU will open against 2003 NCAA participant Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (Saturday, Dec. 27) and then play either Lamar or Hawaii in the second round (Monday, Dec. 29). The other bracket in the tournament will include Pepperdine, Fairfield, Bowling Green and American.
   "I'm glad they have invited us to participate in the Rainbow Classic," Bartow said. "It's a very prestigious tournament and I think it will be an exciting trip for our guys to go to Hawaii. There are some NCAA participants in the field and it will provide us with three additional games in preparation for our conference schedule."
   The Bucs will return to the continental United States and open its SoCon schedule with back-to-back road games at Furman (Monday, Jan. 5) and UNC-Greensboro (Saturday, Jan. 10), before returning to the Memorial Center to open their SoCon home schedule against Western Carolina (Saturday, Jan. 17).
   The conference home schedule will be highlighted by visits from rivals such as Davidson (Wednesday, Jan. 21), UNC-Greensboro (Monday, Feb. 2), Appalachian State (Saturday, Feb. 7) and Chattanooga (Monday, Feb. 23).
   The Bucs do have one open date remaining on the schedule, but will have to wait until later this week to announce who and where that game will be played.
   All in all, coming off a season in which the Bucs won their third consecutive Southern Conference North Division title, took home the SoCon Tournament championship, and made a trip to the NCAA Tournament, Bartow said he is pleased with the 2003-04 schedule and believes the Bucs will continue to build their program.
   "It will be interesting to see how we handle the tests that this schedule will provide," Bartow said. "It should give us a chance to improve throughout the year and prepare us for what is waiting in the months of January, February and March."