Dates at defending national runner-up Illinois and Nebraska, along with an expanded 20-game Ohio Valley Conference slate, highlight Southeast Missouri State's 2005-2006 men's basketball schedule announced Tuesday.
The Redhawks play at Illinois, which was ranked No. 1 most of last season, on Dec. 28, after they face Nebraska on Nov. 27. The Illini will pay Southeast $55,000 for the visit, while the Cornhuskers are paying Southeast $50,000, with the money going toward the university's general athletic department revenue.
"I know our players are really looking forward to playing at Illinois. They're excited about the challenge," Southeast coach Gary Garner said. "The game at Nebraska will also be a big challenge."
Southeast's 27-game schedule will feature 13 home dates. There will also be two exhibition contests at the Show Me Center, Nov. 5 against Missouri-St. Louis and Nov. 12 against Arkansas Tech.
The Redhawks' regular-season opener will be Nov. 18 against Division II Truman State. Other nonconference home games are Nov. 21 against Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne and Dec. 16 against NAIA school Central Methodist. Another nonleague road date is Nov. 24 against South Dakota State.
Because of the 20 OVC contests --increased from 16 the previous several seasons -- and an ESPN Bracket Buster game on Feb. 18 against an opponent to be determined, Southeast was restricted in its non-conference scheduling. That means the Redhawks won't face regional rival Southern Illinois this season.
"That's really five less games we could schedule, so it doesn't leave you much flexibility for the non-conference schedule," Garner said. "We had existing contracts with IPFW and South Dakota State, so that really restricted us. We're just skipping SIU for one year."
The 20-game OVC schedule means that, for the first time since the conference expanded to 11 schools in 2003-04, everybody will play each other home and away.
"I think all the coaches have mixed emotions about that, mainly because it limits your non-conference schedule," Garner said. "I think we have to go through it once to see how we all feel about it."
With the expanded OVC schedule, five conference games will be in December. Southeast opens its league slate Dec. 3 at Tennessee-Martin.
"It's going to be unusual to start the conference season so early, but everyone is in the same boat," Garner said.
Added Garner of the schedule overall, "I think it's plenty challenging. Whenever you play Illinois and Nebraska, that's a big challenge, and the OVC should be tough as always."