The Bellarmine University women’s basketball team will clash with five of the seven squads that joined the Knights in last season’s Midwest Regional of the DII NCAA Tournament, Coach Chancellor Dugan announced Tuesday in unveiling the 2017-18 schedule.
Among those opponents is defending national champion Ashland, which went 37-0 last year. Bellarmine suffered the lowest margin of defeat to the Eagles during their unbeaten run, falling by only five points (88-83) at Knights Hall during the regular season. Bellarmine will travel to Ashland this season for an afternoon contest on Dec. 31. The Knights are familiar with Kates Gymnasium after competing there in the last two NCAA Midwest Regionals.
“That’s going to be a huge challenge for us, as are all our games,” Dugan said. “We have a nonconference schedule that will prepare us for the competition we’ll see in the GLVC.”
Indeed, by the time the New Year rolls around and Bellarmine begins exclusive play in the GLVC, the Knights will have already faced four 2016-17 NCAA Tournament teams in Saginaw Valley State, Grand Valley State, Lewis and Ashland.
Bellarmine’s first nine games of the season are at home. The Knights have a challenging debut when they welcome in Saginaw Valley State on Nov. 10. Northwood (Nov. 12) and Alderson Broaddus (Nov. 18) then come to town before the Knights host Northern Michigan (Nov. 25) and Grand Valley State (Nov. 26) in the Bellarmine Classic.
“I don’t know that I did that on purpose,” Dugan said with a laugh of a demanding nonconference slate featuring multiple NCAA Tournament teams. “People wanted to come to our tournament, and I want tough teams in our place. I’m excited about our home schedule.”
The Knights make a brief foray into GLVC action in early December by welcoming in Lewis (Dec. 2) and Wisconsin-Parkside (Dec. 7). Bellarmine’s eighth and ninth straight games at Knights Hall will come against Kentucky State (Dec. 9) and West Virginia State (Dec. 16). The Knights’ first road contest will occur Dec. 19 at Ohio Dominican before they travel to Ashland for the Dec. 31 clash. Ashland represents the final nonconference contest for Bellarmine of the regular season.
After the closing of Saint Joseph’s, the 15-team GLVC has transitioned to three divisions (East, Central, West) comprised of five teams each. Joining Bellarmine in the East is Southern Indiana, Indianapolis, Lewis and Wisconsin-Parkside. During the regular season, each team will play intradivisional teams both home and away, while playing the remaining 10 teams once.
The Knights open the New Year by hosting Maryville on Jan. 4 before a trio of road games at William Jewell (Jan. 6), Lewis (Jan. 11) and Wisconsin-Parkside (Jan. 13). Maryville joined Lewis in the GLVC Tournament last season.
Bellarmine swings back to Knights Hall for three games against Southern Indiana (Jan. 15), Drury (Jan. 18) and Missouri S&T (Jan. 20) before closing January on the road at Indianapolis (Jan. 25) and Missouri-St. Louis (Jan. 27). Drury is the reigning GLVC Tournament champion and met Ashland in the NCAA Midwest Region finals/Sweet 16, while USI, UIndy and Missouri-St. Louis were also GLVC Tournament teams.
Bellarmine opens February by hosting Quincy (Feb. 1) and Illinois Springfield (Feb. 3) before closing the month and regular season by welcoming in Indianapolis (Feb. 22). In between, the Knights will endure their longest road stretch of the season, playing four games away from home at McKendree (Feb. 8), Southern Indiana (Feb. 10), GLVC Tournament qualifier Rockhurst (Feb. 15) and Truman State (Feb. 17).
“It’s going to be a dogfight every time we go out,” Dugan said of GLVC competition. “We have to take care of business at home, but we have to be just as ready on the road. That’s going to be hard after losing five seniors. Hopefully our young kids will get the seasoning they need into January and February, and they’ll be ready for the postseason in March.”
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