SPOKANE, Wash. – The excitement for one of the most anticipated Whitworth men's basketball seasons in recent memory can begin now, with the release of the 2018-19 schedule.
The Pirates, who essentially return six starters from a team that finished 24-4 and reached the NCAA Division III tournament for the 12th year in a row, will play another challenging non-conference slate before getting into the meat of the Northwest Conference schedule in January.
"This year's schedule gives us the opportunity to play three NCAA Division III Tournament teams from a year ago plus the Division I Big Sky Conference representative in the Montana Grizzlies," said head coach Matt Logie. "All of these games will give us plenty of chances to grow and prepare for Northwest Conference action with our talented and veteran core."
The Pirates will play opponents from eight different NCAA Division III conferences spread throughout the United States.
Whitworth will play an exhibition game at the University of Montana for the fifth season in a row on November 2nd. The Grizzlies won the Big Sky Conference regular season and tournament championships to represent the league in the NCAA Division I Tournament and finished 26-8.
The Bucs officially open the schedule on November 16th and 17th in a tournament at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon with games against St. Olaf (Minn.) and Whittier (Calif.). The Oles went 20-8 last season and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III tournament after finishing second in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings. Whitworth defeated St. Olaf 70-69 in Spokane in its 2016-17 season opener. The Whittier Poets went 10-16 overall and 8-8 (fifth place) in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletics Conference last year. The Pirates defeated Whittier 86-65 in Spokane on December 10, 2010 in the teams' last meeting.
Whitworth will travel to San Antonio, Texas for a Thanksgiving tournament at Trinity University. The Tigers are coming off a 15-12 season and a tie for second place (8-6) in the Southern Collegiate Athletics Conference. The Bucs and Tigers last played in December 2014 at Trinity and the Pirates won 67-52. Texas-Dallas is the second opponent in San Antonio. The Comets finished 19-7 overall and 14-4 in the American Southwest Conference East Division (second place). Whitworth and UTD met in the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament in 2014 and the host Comets pulled out a 78-77 win in overtime.
The Pirates will open the home schedule with the Northwest Conference opening weekend against Willamette University (11-14 overall, 6-10 NWC) and Pacific University (12-13, 6-10) on November 30th and December 3rd.
Whitworth will bookend final exams with three home non-conference contests. La Verne (Calif.) visits on December 8th and is looking to rebound from a 1-24 season. The Pirates ran past the Panthers 95-73 in last year's opener. D'Youville (N.Y.) comes to the Fieldhouse for the second time. The Spartans finished 6-18 last year and were ninth in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference. Whitworth defeated D'Youville 103-49 at home in the 2014-15 season opener.
The Bucs end Finals week with a game against Concordia University of Chicago on December 19th. The Cougars, who play in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference, went 2-23 last season.
After a Christmas break, Whitworth returns to the D3hoops.com Classic in Las Vegas for the third time since 2013-14 season. The Bucs will play a pair of schools that made the 2018 NCAA Division III tournament. Whitworth battles Johns Hopkins (Md.) on December 29th. The Blue Jays went 24-5 and shared the Centennial Conference title before falling in the second round of the national tournament. The Pirates won at JHU 70-60 in their only other meeting in November of 2008. Whitworth takes on Emory and Henry (Va.) on December 30th. After finishing second in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference standings, the Wasps won the league tournament to earn an automatic NCAA bid before finishing 22-7.
"Creating a competitive non-conference schedule that prepares us for March is always a difficult challenge here in the Pacific Northwest, but it becomes increasingly difficult when you have lost only one regular season non-conference game in the last three years," Logie said.
The NWC schedule looks as demanding as ever as several schools showed dramatic improvement last season. Whitworth went 1-2 against Whitman, knocking off the Blues (29-2) to win the conference tournament to earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Pirates went unbeaten against every other league opponent, including up-and-coming teams like Puget Sound (18-8), Linfield (16-9) and Pacific.
Should Whitworth make the NWC tournament for a league-leading 17th time, those games would be played on February 21st (semifinals) and February 23rd (championship) at the home of the higher seeds. The NCAA Division III tournament will begin on Friday, March 1st.