The Bearkats men’s basketball program may not begin for another two months, but looking at the upcoming schedule of games, it couldn’t come soon enough.
The schedule for head basketball coach Bob Marlin and the Sam Houston State team has been announced, and included are several games against high-profile programs such as Fresno State and Texas Tech, both of which will be played at Johnson Coliseum this November.
This will be the first time in Sam Houston State basketball program history that these two teams will be playing in Huntsville.
“We’re excited to bring quality non-conference teams to Huntsville to play before the home crowd in Johnson Coliseum,” Marlin said. “Our appearances in the NCAA tournament, the Preseason NIT, ESPN BracketBusters, and other major holiday tournaments have brought Sam Houston basketball national exposure. It’s a big step for our program to bring top NCAA Division I teams into our arena.”
With these two notable teams coming to Huntsville, it is a step in bringing more high-profile programs in the coming years, and increasing the notoriety of Sam Houston State basketball nationwide.
“You’re always trying to look at [scheduling] options,” Sam Houston State University Athletic Director Bobby Williams said. “You are always talking scheduling with other teams on the phone and looking two and three years ahead to see if you have an opportunity.”
The 2007-2008 season begins at Johnson Coliseum, Saturday, Nov. 10 with a game against Dallas Baptist. The following Wednesday, the Texas Tech Red Raiders play at Johnson Coliseum. The Red Raiders advanced to the 2007 NCAA Tournament last spring before losing to Boston College in the first round. This will be the first opportunity for many Bearkats to see the Red Raiders’ head coach Bobby Knight on the sideline. His 890 wins are currently the most in NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball history. While the game in Huntsville won’t be the Bearkats’ first match-up against the Red Raiders, Knight’s publicity both on and off the court is sure to bring a large crowd to the game and allow many an opportunity to watch an all-time great.
“We went up to Lubbock in 2001, when we were 3-0,” Marlin said. “Coach Knight and I talked before and after the game and he was very respectful of the way our team played. Since that game, he has been a mentor to me and a coach I look up to. Obviously, he’s the winningest [coach] in coaching history, and he’s a man I look up to and have respect for. He has won three NCAA Championships, the NIT tournament, the Pan-American games and an Olympic Gold medal.”
For the Texas Tech game, Williams said that Assistant Director for Athletic Development Bobby Jordan and the marketing staff will help promote the event in conjunction with the final regular season football game against Texas State-San Marcos, which will be aired the following day on FSN.
The last major power conference opponent to play at Johnson Coliseum was Texas A&M on December 3, 1998 during Coach Marlin’s first season at Sam Houston State. Coincidentally, this was also the Bearkats’ last non-conference home loss, which currently stands at 29 wins.
Ten days after the match-up with Texas Tech, the Fresno State Bulldogs arrive in Huntsville. On Saturday, Nov. 24, Sam Houston State will try to extract some revenge from last season, which saw the Bearkats lose to the Bulldogs in Fresno, 78-60. As part of NCAA rules, due to the fact that the Bearkats played at Fresno in February in the ESPN BracketBuster event, the Bearkats will host Fresno State.
The Bearkats then head north to Wisconsin for their first road game of the season against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers, who finished 9-22 last season. Also announced was a game against Central Florida, which will begin a yearly match up between the teams. In the agreement, Sam Houston State will see a match up against UCF at Johnson Coliseum each alternating year.
Southland Conference play begins Wednesday, Jan. 9 with a home game against the Southeastern Louisiana Lions. Rival Stephen F. Austin makes their lone appearance January 24, while defending Southland Conference Champion Texas A & M- Corpus Christi comes to Huntsville Saturday, Feb. 9. The Bearkats end their home schedule against the University of Texas at San Antonio March 1 and end the regular season the following Saturday at Texas A & M-Corpus Christi.
The 16 home games scheduled for the Bearkats are the highest in school history, two more than their previous high in the 1994-1995 and 2004-2005 seasons.
“It’s going to be a challenging schedule,” Marlin said. “It will be the most home games we’ve had since I’ve been here, and the most difficult schedule we’ve had both home and away.”
Lost in the talk of their highly competitive schedule, is a squad that finished second in the Southland Conference last season, and with the return of Ryan Bright for his final season, there is much optimism for the Bearkats this upcoming season.
“Having an experienced player like Ryan, the SLC “Scholar Athlete of the Year,” is a big plus,” Marlin said. “Likewise with [John] Gardiner. He had an ACL and wrist injury and missed last year; he is another important factor for us. [Gardiner] had a great spring last year then got injured, but was poised for a great season. Shamir McDaniel, who leads our team in minutes played, is a very valuable part of what we do, as is Jeremy Thomas another senior. John Gardiner and Shamir McDaniel have both graduated and continue our tradition of having players play since they graduated. We also have some good newcomers and a good nucleus.”