GREENWOOD – Lander head men’s basketball coach Steve Roberts announced on Thursday his team’s schedule for the upcoming 2016-17 campaign, Robert’s second season in Greenwood. The slate features 28 games, with 16 home contests, including one exhibition. Highlighting the non-conference portion of the schedule is the Bearcats’ trip to Columbia to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks, as well as Lander’s hosting the Bearcat Classic on Nov. 11-12 and the Finis Horne Holiday Classic on Nov. 25-26. The Bearcats will face four teams that advanced to the postseason a year ago, including two conference foes that participated in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
“We couldn’t be more excited about our schedule this season,” said Roberts. “Our goal every year is to challenge our team with high quality opponents and I believe we accomplished that with our schedule this year. Anytime you get to play one of the Power 5 Conference schools in your state it is a special opportunity. We get to play both Clemson and South Carolina this season and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our university, our students, our players, and our athletics program. I cannot begin to thank both Coach Brownell and Coach Martin enough for these opportunities and what it means to us.”
Lander opens the 2016-17 season by traveling to Clemson to face the Tigers in an exhibition contest set for Nov. 3. Clemson posted a 17-14 overall record last season, and return ACC All-First Team member Jaron Blossomgame. Regular season action begins when Brevard College and Carson-Newman visit Greenwood on Nov. 11 and Nov. 12 for the Bearcat Classic. Lander topped both teams in the Carson-Newman Classic last November.
“We have a great field of teams for the Bearcat Classic this season,” Roberts said. “They all play a different style of basketball. This event will present a tough challenge for us to start the season and will also be fun to watch.”
The Bearcats hit the road for the first time in the regular season on Nov. 19, as Lander travels to Bristol, Tenn., to face King. The Tornado won the Conference Carolinas Tournament last season and earned the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament Southeast Regional.
Lander hosts CIAA opponents Fayetteville State and Livingstone on Nov. 25-26 in the Finis Horne Holiday Classic. Livingstone, who fell to the Bearcats in Greenwood last year, played in the CIAA Tournament title game.
“We are hosting the Finis Horne Holiday Classic again over the Thanksgiving Break,” said Roberts, “which is very special to me because we are honoring the legacy of Coach Finis Horne. I don’t think this season could honor that memory any better than with the field of teams we have coming into Greenwood. There is going to be some very close and exciting games that weekend.”
The Bearcats begin the month of December at home against rival Erskine before traveling to Wingate on Dec. 5 to face a Bulldog squad that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season.
Peach Belt Conference play begins on Dec. 17 as Lander travels to Montevallo, another NCAA Tournament participant. The Bearcats follow with a trip to North Georgia on Dec. 19.
Lander travels to Columbia to face the South Carolina Gamecocks on Dec. 27. South Carolina played in the NIT last season and finished the year with a 25-9 overall record. The Bearcats wrap up non-conference play on Dec. 29 with a home contest against Limestone.
“Our non-conference schedule is going to challenge our team in every way possible in order to prepare us for conference play and hopefully beyond,” Roberts said. “Our road games include playing two teams that made the trip with us last season to the NCAA Tournament (King and Wingate) who are extremely well coached and will always be a tough game.”
January will see the Bearcats play six of nine conference games at home. Clayton State (Jan. 4), Georgia Southwestern (Jan. 7), Flagler (Jan. 11), NCAA Tournament participant Columbus State (Jan. 14), Armstrong State (Jan. 21) and Francis Marion (Jan. 28) all come to Greenwood, while Lander travels to Young Harris (Jan. 9), UNC Pembroke (Jan. 18) and USC Aiken (Jan. 25).
“Peach Belt Conference play will always be tough, challenging, and very fun to watch,” said Roberts. “Hopefully, by the time we get to conference action, our non-conference schedule will have prepared us for the rigors of conference play.”
The Bearcats begin the second half of conference play against Augusta at home on Feb. 1. Lander travels to Flagler on Feb. 4 and Armstrong State on Feb. 8, with a home game against UNC Pembroke sandwiched in between on Feb. 6. The Bearcats host USC Aiken for Homecoming on Feb. 11 before embarking on a two-game road trip to face Francis Marion (Feb. 15) and Augusta (Feb. 18). Senior Night will be held on Feb. 22 as Lander hosts Georgia College in the regular season finale.
“I’m excited, our staff is excited, and our players are excited about this season and the challenges it will present,” Roberts said of the 2016-17 campaign. “Our kids are working hard right now in the pre-season getting ready and I have been very pleased with their focus, approach, and enthusiasm. It should be a good season and the Bearcats are going to be ready for it.”