BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU head men's basketball coach Ken McDonald announced the Hilltoppers' schedule for the upcoming 2011-12 season Wednesday, which features 15 regular-season home games, a showdown at E.A. Diddle Arena with 2011 Final Four participant VCU and games with traditional non-conference rivals Murray State, Southern Illinois and Louisville. Two preseason exhibition games will be added to the schedule shortly.
In addition, WKU will be participating in a marquee mid-November tournament for the second-straight season. This year the Hilltoppers will be competing in the Charleston Classic, held November 17-20 at Carolina First Arena in Charleston, S.C. Last season, WKU went 1-2 in three games in the Honda Puerto Rico Tip-Off. WKU's first-round opponent in the Charleston Classic is to be determined, and the field is comprised of Georgia Tech, LSU, Northwestern, St. Joseph's, Seton Hall, Tulsa and VCU.
Once Sun Belt Conference play arrives in late December WKU will travel to west division foes ULM, North Texas and Denver and host Louisiana-Lafayette, UALR and Arkansas State, in addition to playing home-and-home series with the five other east division squads.
Sun Belt Conference Tournament champion UALR, the league's representative in the NCAA Tournament, comes to Bowling Green on January 21. WKU will tip-off against Florida Atlantic, who won the east division regular-season title, on January 26 in Boca Raton, Fla., and February 16 in Bowling Green. WKU will host west division regular-season co-champions Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State on January 5 and February 23, respectively.
After going 10 years between meetings, WKU will open the schedule with St. Joseph's for the second straight season on November 11. The Hilltoppers started the 2010-11 season on a high note with a 98-70 drubbing of the Hawks in Philadelphia last season, and WKU has now won six of eight all-time meetings between the two schools. The November 11 date will be just the second in the series that has been contested in Bowling Green.
Three days later on November 14 the Hilltoppers welcome Tennessee State to E.A. Diddle Arena for the first time since 2006, before heading to Charleston for the Charleston Classic November 17-20.
After returning from Charleston, WKU will play four-straight home games, with the first coming on November 23 against former Sun Belt Conference foe VCU. The Rams, who were a member of the Sun Belt Conference from 1979-91, are coming off a 2010-11 season that saw them advance to the NCAA Final Four in Houston after an incredible run through the NCAA Tournament. VCU defeated Southern California, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and top-seeded Kansas en route to the Final Four, where they ultimately lost to national runner-up Butler.
VCU will be the first team coming off a Final Four appearance to visit E.A. Diddle Arena the following season since Louisville came to Bowling Green during the 1986-87 campaign after winning the 1986 National Championship. Since 1980, WKU has hosted two other teams one season removed from a trip to the Final Four. Both Georgetown and Georgia played WKU at E.A. Diddle Arena the season after advancing to the 1982 and 1983 Final Fours, respectively.
The 149th game in the WKU-Murray State rivalry comes on December 1 after a November 26 game against Southeastern Louisiana. Murray State earned a nine-point win over the Hilltoppers last season, but WKU still holds a 97-51 advantage in the all-time series including winning 58 of 70 games played in Bowling Green.
The first meeting in the series between the former Ohio Valley Conference rivals came in the 1931-32 season, and 89 of the 148 contests have been decided by single digits with 63 of those by five points or fewer. The December 1 game is the first of a new four-year playing agreement between the two schools and will mark the fifth-straight year the teams will square off on the hardwood.
The four-game homestand concludes on December 4 when Bowling Green State returns last season's game. The Hilltoppers defeated the Falcons, 59-52, a year ago, and Bowling Green State will be making the trip to the other Bowling Green for the first time since December 5, 1990.
A pair of road games follows after the Bowling Green State game, with WKU heading to Southern Illinois on December 7 and IUPUI on December 10. The Hilltoppers defeated the Salukis in E.A. Diddle Arena last season, evening the all-time series at 11 games apiece. The two teams have played in five-straight seasons, with the average margin of victory being just seven points.
Later that week WKU travels 225 miles up Interstate 65 to Indianapolis to meet IUPUI for the first time since 2005 on December 10. The Hilltoppers took down the Jaguars in the only other game in the series, 89-75, on November 22, 2005 in Bowling Green. IUPUI is a member of the Summit League.
After a week-long break for final examinations, WKU returns home on December 17 for the first-ever meeting with Furman to break up a stretch of road games.
A Friday night showdown at Louisville looms on December 23 in the final game of a four-game series before a new series begins next season. WKU won the first game of the set in 2008 in Nashville, Tenn., and Louisville won the next two including last season's game in Bowling Green. The December 23 game will be contested in the KFC Yum! Center and comes as the Hilltoppers lead the all-time series between the Bluegrass rivals, 39-35.
The new series with Louisville will mirror the current series, with next year's game being played in Nashville, followed by a game in Louisville, a game in Bowling Green and another game in Louisville.
Sun Belt Conference play begins on December 29 at ULM, and WKU follows that up with three-in-a-row at home against FIU, Louisiana-Lafayette and Troy. The conference slate ends with three of four in the friendly confines of E.A. Diddle Arena as well, as the Hilltoppers host Florida Atlantic on February 16 and travel to South Alabama two days later before wrapping up the regular season with home contests against Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee.
The Sun Belt Conference Tournament will be held in Hot Springs, Ark., for the fourth time from March 3-6. WKU won the tournament in 2008 and 2009 and advanced to the semifinals in 2010 and 2011, giving the Hilltoppers seven-straight berths in the final four of the conference tournament.
Game times and television information for the 2011-12 season will be announced at a later date. Dates of Sun Belt Conference games are subject to change based on television needs.
Information on ticket options for the 2011-12 season, including renewals for current season-ticket holders, will be available in the coming weeks. Fans should continue to check WKUSports.com for the latest ticketing information.