Sixty Three more days until the 1st day of basketball practice. All ten of the SUNYAC schools have released their 2015-16 basketball schedule. Once again it looks like Plattsburgh State has scheduled the strongest non-conference schedule of any team in the YAC.
The Cardinals open their season at home against Clarkson on November 17th, as the Golden Knights, with a new head coach last year, have decided to renew the rivalry that the previous coach abruptly canceled after the 2010-11 season. Clarkson came in 3rd place in the Liberty League last season and made it to the championship game of the conference tournament losing to Skidmore by a 68-64 score. The last time the Cardinals lost to a team from the Liberty League was 7 years ago and have since went 9-0 against the conference. That record will be tested this year.
Plattsburgh will then travel to face that Skidmore team in Saratoga on November 23rd. The Throughbreds captured both the regular season and tournament titles in the Liberty League last year and won a first round game in the NCAA tournament. They lost at Johns Hopkins by a 61-58 margin in their attempt to make the Sweet 16. Skidmore will be looking to avenge an overtime loss to the Cardinals in Skidmore last year. Hopefully after playing the Thoroughbreds on their home court for 2 years in a row they will favor us with a visit to Plattsburgh next season.
The Cardinals will complete the Liberty League portion of their non-conference schedule as they host St. Lawrence in their annual North Country battle on December 1st. The Saints finished just out of the playoffs last year in the midst of a rebuilding campaign and will be a tougher team to deal with this coming season.
Plattsburgh travels to NESCAC foe Middlebury on December 12th to take on the Panthers, in a game that is always a tough contest. Middlebury did not have the success they were used to last year but they are once again expected to be near the top of their conference. They beat the Cardinals in Plattsburgh last year and will be even tougher to deal with on their home court.
The Cardinals travel to Florida over the Christmas break and will play two teams in Miami on December 19th and 20th. We will face Stevenson College from the Midddle Atlantic Conferences-Commonwealth, in one game, and tackle UMass-Dartmouth from the Little East Conference in the other game. Stevenson came in 2nd place in the Commonwealth Division of the Middle Atlantic Conferences last year and lost to Alvernia in the tournament championship. Stevenson then played in the ECAC-South tournament and won 3 straight games to win the championship and end the season with a 21-9 record. UMass-Dartmouth finished in 3rd place in the always tough LEC conference and lost in the semifinals of the conference tournament to Rhode Island College. The Corsairs return 6 of their top 10 players including their leading scorer with 23.2 ppg and leading rebounder with 9.0 rpg. They will be another tough opponent.
Plattsburgh will wind up the non-conference portion of their schedule on January 4th as they host the Trinity Bantams who were the winners of the NESCAC conference's regular season. Trinity lost to Wesleyan in the conference tournament semifinals but recieved an at large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Bantams won 3 straight games and advanced to the Elite Eight, before falling to Babson 76-69 in their bid to make the Final Four. With their 3 best scorers back and 6 of their top 8 point producers, it would appear that the Bantams will once again be a force to be reckoned with in the 'CAC.
The Cardinals will have their work cut out for them this year. They face 4 teams that won at least 20 games last year and all 7 teams had a winning record. Two teams went to the NCAA's and two others just missed. The overall record for the 7 teams was 128-63. I'll be happy if we can go 4-3 in those 7 games and anything better than that would be a bonus.
Oneonta with games against Hartwick, Williams, and St John Fisher also appears to have a decent out of conference schedule. In addition to those games they will play Manhattanville in a tournament at Franklin & Marshall but not sure if they will play F&M the next day. Nobody beats Franklin & Marshall on their home court. Oneonta also plays 2 games in Puerto Rico over the Christmas break but those teams have not been announced. Still I think the Red Dragons may have the 2nd best non-conference schedule.
New Paltz has also scheduled some pretty competitive teams. The Hawks will play Williams, Middlebury, Springfield College and Kean. They also have games against Vassar, Mount Saint Mary and Mount Saint Vincent. Hawks love their Mounts.
Their schedule may end up being a bit tougher than Oneonta's depending on who the Red Dragons play in that other game at F&M and who they take on in Puerto Rico.