GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University men's basketball team opens the 2019-2020 schedule this weekend as the Pioneers begin a 30-game stretch including eight contests against teams which advanced to the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Of Tusculum's 30-game slate, the Pioneers will face a 22-game South Atlantic Conference schedule including two contests against league newcomer UVa-Wise.
The season tips off this Friday and Saturday at the SAC vs Peach Belt Conference Challenge in Harrogate, Tennessee on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University. TU will open the season for a second straight year against USC Aiken on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Tex Turner Arena.
The Pacers defeated TU last year 83-66 in Aiken to spark USCA to a 12-game winning streak to start the season. USCA would finish with a 27-6 record and place second in the Peach Belt. The Pacers lost in PBC Tournament Championship game, before advancing to the NCAA Tournament where they knocked off Lenoir-Rhyne before falling in overtime to PBC Champion Augusta in the second round of the NCAA Regional. Tusculum leads the all-time series over USC Aiken, 4-1.
On Saturday, Tusculum will face Clayton State to close out its stay in Harrogate. The Lakers erased a nine-point halftime deficit and got a go-ahead three-pointer with 37.5 seconds left in a 77-73 win over the Pioneers in Aiken, South Carolina. Clayton State leads the all-time series 3-0, dating back to 1996.
Tusculum plays the first of 13 home games on Nov. 13 when the Pioneers host Young Harris College in Greeneville, in the first recorded meeting with the Mountain Lions. The two teams will also face off against each other on New Year's Eve at Young Harris. The Mountain Lions went 13-16 last year and finished tied for sixth in the Peach Belt.
The Pioneers will be in Charlotte, North Carolina for a pair of Southeast Region match-ups are Curry Arena on the Queens University of Charlotte campus, Nov. 16-17. Tusculum will take on the UNC Pembroke Braves in the first recorded meeting between the two schools. UNCP earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament as the Braves went 21-10 and finish fourth in the PBC.
Tusculum will face Lees-McRae College on Nov. 17 in Charlotte in the 20th recorded meeting between the Pioneers and Bobcats. Lees-McRae edged Tusculum 71-68 last season in Banner Elk as TU went scoreless in the final five minutes of the game. The teams will face off in Greeneville on Dec. 12 where the Pioneers have a 7-1 edge on LMC as TU leads the all-time series 13-6.
The Pioneers travel to North Georgia on Nov. 23 to face the Nighthawks. Tusculum and North Georgia have met on the hardwood on one other occasion in 2009, a 61-56 victory for the Pioneers. The Nighthawks are coming off an 11-17 season.
Tusculum opens its 21st South Atlantic Conference season on Nov. 26 when they host Lenoir-Rhyne. The Pioneers and Bears split the season series last year winning on their respective home courts. The two teams would meet in the SAC Quarterfinal in Greeneville, where the Bears eliminated the Pioneers, 70-58. L-R would advance to the SAC Championship game and later earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Pioneers host another NCAA Tournament team when the Catawba Indians visit Pioneer Arena on Nov. 30. Catawba posted its first 20-win season in nearly a decade as the Indians went 25-8 and tied for second place in the South Atlantic Conference. Catawba swept last year's series and have won three straight over the Pioneers and five of the last six encounters.
Tusculum travels to Newberry on Dec. 7 to take on the Wolves. The Pioneers swept the season series over Newberry but had to go to overtime in each to get the job done, including last February's 96-91 double-overtime thriller at Eleazer Arena. The Pioneers have won three of the last four meetings as the Wolves lead 22-21 in a series that began in 1978.
The Pioneers will host Lees-McRae on Dec. 12 in a rematch from November. Tusculum remains at home to welcome SAC newcomer UVa-Wise on Dec. 18. The Pioneers and Cavaliers will meet as conference foes for the first time ever and will meet on the collegiate hardwood for the first time since 2000 as UVa-Wise swept the home-and-home series that year as Tusculum leads the all-time series 15-13.
Tusculum closes out the pre-Holiday schedule on Dec. 21 as Tusculum returns to Charlotte and face national power Queens. The Royals swept the SAC regular-season and tournament titles en route to a 31-5 record where Queens won the NCAA Southeast Region championship and advanced to the national quarterfinal.
TU travels to Young Harris on New Year's Eve to face the Mountain Lions once again before returning home Jan. 4 to host Anderson University. The Trojans finished seventh in the league last season going 16-13 and won the two meetings over the Pioneers. Anderson owns a 15-4 advantage in the series which started in 2007.
A Jan. 8 trip to Mars Hill begins a three-game road swing for Tusculum. The Pioneers have won seven in a row over the Lions and nine of the last 10 meetings to take a 38-27 lead in the series which started in 1939. Mars Hill went 9-19 last season and finished 10th in the conference. Coker leads 7-5 in the series, but TU swept the season series a year ago and have won four of the last six over the Cobras, who finished 3-24 and last on the league.
On Jan. 15, Tusculum renews its long historic rivalry with Carson-Newman as the Pioneers travel to Jefferson City to face the Eagles. C-N placed eighth in the league last year and went 15-14 overall. This will be the 147th recorded meeting in a series that has been dominated by the Eagles, 97-49, but the Pioneers swept last year's two contests.
Tusculum closes out the first half of the SAC season with back-to-back home games against Wingate (Jan. 18) and Lincoln Memorial (Jan. 22).
Wingate finished tied for fourth place in the league standings with Tusculum and Lenoir-Rhyne as the Bulldogs posted a 17-13 overall worksheet. The Pioneers swept the season series over Wingate for the first time in 10 years including an 80-77 overtime victory at Cuddy Arena for its first road win over the Bulldogs since 2011.
Lincoln Memorial visits Pioneer Arena on Jan. 22 for the first time since last February's 78-76 Tusculum win over the Railsplitters and snapping a 24-game losing streak to LMU. The Railsplitters finished runner-up in the conference going 20-9 overall but failed to advance to the NCAA postseason.
Tusculum travels to Catawba on Jan. 25 to begin the second half of the SAC season. TU will be at UVa-Wise on Feb. 5 before returning home to host Queens on Feb. 8 for Basketball Alumni Weekend. TU hosts Mars Hill (Feb. 12) than travels to Anderson (Feb. 15) before back-to-back home games with Carson-Newman (Feb. 19) and Coker (Feb. 22). The Carson-Newman game will be "Pack the Arena" Night at Tusculum while the Coker contest will be Senior Day.
The Pioneers close out the regular-season with back-to-back road games at Lincoln Memorial (Feb. 26) and Wingate (Feb. 29).
The SAC Tournament begins Mar. 4 with quarterfinal games being played at campus sites with the winners advancing to Greenville, South Carolina for the Pilot/Flying J SAC Semifinal and Championship to be held Mar. 7-8 at Timmons Arena on the Furman University campus.
The NCAA Tournament begins Mar. 13 with regional play being held at eight campus sites with the region winners advancing to the national quarterfinal and semifinal to be contested at the Ford Center in Evansville Indiana. This year's Division II national championship will be played Apr. 5 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.