Men's Basketball Releases 2010-11 Schedule
KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan men's basketball head coach Steve Hawkins has announced the 2010-11 schedule for the Broncos. WMU fill face another challenging schedule that features seven 2010 postseason participants, including three NCAA Tournament teams.
The Broncos will open the season on Nov. 12 in Cincinnati, Ohio, against Atlantic-10 co-champion and NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 participant Xavier. WMU will also face Western Athletic Conference champion and NCAA Tournament participant Utah State in the World Vision Basketball Invitational in Logan, Utah, on Dec. 21-23. WMU also hosts MAC Tournament champion Ohio on Feb. 12.
"Starting the season at Xavier will be extremely difficult," Hawkins said. "They reached the Sweet 16 last year and return several contributors from that team, plus the Cintas Center will be sold out, as always, for the season opener."
Western Michigan will also face Sun Belt Conference co-champion and NIT participant Troy in Utah, in addition to Idaho State of the Big Sky Conference.
"We wanted to take our kids into hostile atmospheres when we set up the schedule. Utah State is one of the most rowdy atmospheres in the country," Hawkins said. "That will be a ton of fun for us to face that challenge and it's a good overall field with Troy as the defending Sun Belt champ and an improving Idaho State squad."
The highlight of the home schedule takes place on Nov. 27 when Illinois of the Big Ten visits Kalamazoo to play the Broncos in University Arena. WMU will become only the third Mid-American Conference team to host the Illini and the first since Toledo in 1981. Andy Katz of ESPN.com ranks Illinois No. 15 in the country in his most recent preseason Top 25.
"We did not have a good experience against Illinois last year, so we hope to play a lot better against them at home," Hawkins said. "For our fans they get to see the Broncos battle a top-20 team in the nation early in the schedule at University Arena."
The home schedule also includes in-state rival Detroit (Dec. 8) and regional rival Loyola-Chicago (Nov. 20), both of the Horizon League, in the first home game of the season. WMU plays Eastern Illinois for the third season in a row on New Year's Eve and begins a new series against South Dakota State (Dec. 18) of the Summit League. Finally, WMU will welcome a mystery opponent on Feb. 19 for ESPN BracketBusters.
On the road, the Broncos begin three new home-and-home series beginning with a pair against the Colonial Athletic Association at Towson (Dec. 1) and Georgia State (Dec. 11). The Broncos will also play a third Horizon League squad at Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Nov. 23.
"I like our schedule. I like the way it is set-up," Hawkins said. "After several years, we're finally at a point in time where our schedule is balanced between home and road games. Right now, whenever a series ends we're looking to start a new one on the road because we have home games coming back and that's a lot easier position to find games.
"We try to schedule a third of our games where we'll be an underdog, a third of them are toss-ups and the last third are against teams we should beat. This year, I'm looking for the last third and just don't see it," Hawkins said. "I think the schedule has a number of attractions to our fans. It's balanced with highly competitive games that will prepare us for the MAC. That is a formula that has worked for us in the past with seven consecutive top-two division finishes, including four MAC West championships. Although we may not win 20 games each year, our scheduling philosophy has consistently kept us competitive in the conference.
"The other exciting thing is the amount of new teams we'll be playing. Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Towson, Georgia State and South Dakota State are new series that I think Bronco fans will really enjoy."
WMU begins Mid-American Conference play by hosting in-state rival Central Michigan on Jan. 9 and close the conference campaign at the Chippewas on March 5 as the team plays each MAC West opponent home-and-home. Besides Ohio, WMU will also welcome MAC champion/NIT participant Kent State (Feb. 2) and Buffalo (Jan. 25) as MAC East crossover opponents. The Brown & Gold travel to College Basketball Invitational participant Akron (Feb. 9), Bowling Green (Feb. 5) and Miami (Jan. 29) in the MAC East this season.
"Miami is always a tough place to play for us, Bowling Green will be celebrating its final season in Anderson Arena and we haven't won at Akron in a long time," Hawkins said. "In our home crossover games, we host the regular season MAC champion and the tournament champion. It will be another difficult run through the MAC East. The MAC West will be another grind with the home-and-home component."
The 2011 MAC Tournament begins with first round games on campus sites on March 8 and then moves to Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland March 10-12.
"The interesting thing about the league in general is that so many teams lost key players, ourselves included, so I can't wait to see what happens in the MAC," Hawkins said.
The Broncos return nine letterwinners, including third-leading scorer Flenard Whitfield and starters Nate Hutcheson and Mike Douglas, from last season's team that won 18 games and reached the MAC Tournament semifinals.
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