Southeast Missouri State's 2011-12 men's basketball schedule is close to being finalized, with the entire slate expected to be released by the university in the next several weeks.
I recently wrote that the Redhawks will open the season at the University of Missouri, with Southeast receiving $90,000 for one of its annual "guarantee" games.
Most of the Redhawks' other nonconference contests also are set.
Southeast will play another of its guarantee games at Bradley for $70,000. That's an attractive matchup for the Redhawks because Bradley is in a total rebuilding phase and could be vulnerable.
The third and final guarantee contest still is being worked out.
Home opponents will include SMU (a return from last season), Missouri-Kansas City (another return from last season), Miami of Ohio (a return from the 2009-10 BracketBuster) and Southeastern Louisiana, along with two non-Division I squads.
Other road dates include Arkansas State (the Red Wolves played at the Show Me Center last season), Sacramento State (the BracketBuster opponent at the Show Me Center last season), Central Arkansas and the BracketBuster.
Absent from the schedule, probably much to the disappointment of Southeast fans, is SIU-Carbondale. The regional rivals met the past two years after having not played since the 2004-05 season.
Belmont University is a nice addition to the Ohio Valley Conference, especially in the high-profile sport of men's basketball.
The OVC announced Friday that Belmont will join the league, beginning conference competition in the 2012-13 season.
Belmont, located in Nashville, Tenn., near the OVC headquarters, is a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The university does not have football but fields 17 sports.
Belmont has been especially strong in men's basketball, making the NCAA tournament four of the past six years.
The addition of Belmont gives the OVC 12 members, counting SIU-Edwardsville, whose teams begin competing in the conference in 2011-12 (softball started competing this year). SIUE also does not field a football team.
Since the OVC will have 12 schools that play basketball starting in 2012-13, that opens up the possibility that the league might field two six-team divisions.
There has been speculation that both Jacksonville State and Tennessee State might be leaving the OVC in the next few years, in which case there wouldn't be divisions for hoops.
The Southeast softball team finished a solid bounce-back season with an impressive showing at the OVC tournament in Charleston, Ill.
Southeast advanced to Sunday's championship game of the six-team, double-elimination event before falling to Jacksonville State 9-5.
Fifth-seeded Southeast forced the if-necessary title contest with Saturday night's dramatic 3-2 win over the second-seeded Gamecocks on freshman Shelby Kuryllo's three-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Southeast also had two tournament wins over OVC regular-season champion Eastern Illinois, the top seed.
The Redhawks ended the year with a 31-30 record, marking their most wins since the 2000 squad also posted 31 victories. They rebounded from a last-place conference finish in 2010.
With many key players eligible to return, including standout freshman pitcher Alora Marble, there is no reason the 2012 Redhawks should not be a major factor in the OVC.
Area high school baseball teams are involved in district tournaments this week. There should be several interesting ones, including two hosted by local squads.
Numerous eyes will be focused on the Class 3 District 1 tournament at Notre Dame. Most people expect the top-seeded Bulldogs and second-seeded Kennett to square off for the title. The teams have split a pair of meetings.
Notre Dame ace Cody Heisserer, arguably one of the top two pitchers in the immediate area along with Oak Ridge's Brett Thomas, shut out the Indians early in the year and will take the ball if the Bulldogs make it to the final. That would be an exciting matchup.
Many other eyes will be trained on the Class 2 District 3 tournament at Saxony Lutheran. Top-seeded Valle -- the state's No. 1 ranked Class 2 squad -- and second-seeded Chaffee are heavy favorites to meet for the championship.
As most people who have read this column over the years know, I absolutely love basketball.
College hoops is my favorite, but the NBA is not far behind and I have really gotten into the playoffs this year. They have been terrific so far and only figure to get better.
Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.